Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baking and making the day away...

There are definitely Christmas-related smells.
For me, it’s spices: ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon and ground cloves. Sometimes even nutmeg. It was heady in my kitchen over the weekend, as I baked the most beautiful pumpkin pies; and it made me smile today, as I introduced the kids to their first Christmas baking experience – a tradition that I’m hoping to encourage within our small family, complete with all the smells, mixing, taste testing and patient waiting that goes along with it.

Our lovely Aunt and cousin have a yearly baking tradition that we were keen to get involved with; and this morning we smelled and mixed, and measured and tasted our way through Grandma’s boiled fruit cake recipe (laden with rum-soaked fruit, nuts, stewed prunes and piles of zesty peel), and a big batch of sticky, moreish rum balls.

I watched the kids mix at the table, standing up on their chairs – absolutely engrossed in the step-by-step process going on around them; best-loved carols played on in the background, spices measured out teaspoon by teaspoon, and once the lid was lifted, the strong smell of the soaked fruit filled the air. It warmed my heart – sharing this with family, and introducing it to Judah and Lou. Coming from a family of the most amazing cooks, the love of cooking and of food is something I’m so keen to weave into their young lives.

The weather turned cool and windy this afternoon, and as I tidied up, I eyed an ice-cream tub full of cherry tomatoes from the garden, which we can’t seem to eat through fast enough. And after a full, sweet day of happy cooking and comfortable chatter, I felt ready (and inspired) to do just a little more.
Relish, perhaps?
Thank goodness for Steph from Mon Petit Poppet, who luckily had posted a recipe not too long ago. The tomatoes were cut up in a flash, generously salted and peppered, and are, as I type, roasting beautifully in the oven.

Don’t you just love productive cooking days?

How was your day today?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Making Christmas Ours...

This year, I’m making a pumpkin pie for Christmas Day desert.
And perhaps even a lemon tart, loaded with fresh seasonal berries.
There’ll be lazy after-dinner swims in the pool, iced tea in tall glass pitchers, old (sometimes scratchy) jazz records being played, and a string of lanterns glowing on the verandah.

I’ve been thinking about starting our own family Christmas traditions a lot lately – you know, the things that you do every year as a family (isn’t there just a loveliness in things that stay the same over time?), and the things that we’ll look forward to with delicious anticipation. The small things that will make Christmas our Christmas.

The babes are old enough now to be swept up in magical things, and we’ve been discussing Santa’s job (and whether Santa enlists the help of fairies to help him out), and all the childlike things that go along with it. Judah has decided that he wants to leave a present for Santa, which I readily agreed to – and Lou suggested that the reindeer might like some honey on toast, along with the traditional carrots and apples. Who doesn’t like hot-buttered honey toast?

Dave and I have been brainstorming ways to make the magic of the season real for them both. Inside, on our bright Christmas morning, there’ll be a note left from Santa, footprints leading out from the fireplace, and a pile of string-wrapped presents stacked under the Judah-decorated tree. The plate of homemade goodies that the little ones will make the day before, will have proved too much of a temptation for old St Nick; and outside, the reindeer feast will be all but a memory. There may even be some sparkly glitter in the place where they rested – evidence of their magical pit-stop.

As we lean towards the loveliness of Christmas day, the kids have begun making their presents for the people they love most in the world – with my help, of course. Their drawings are very person-specific, and done with such care and sweetness; some of them have been transformed into small artworks, some have been set aside for more intricate projects in the New Year. But most importantly, they are all wrapped up in the idea of giving to people, and I can’t help but smile at their enthusiasm.

Do you have Christmas traditions that you’ve brought into your family from your childhood? Or have you created your own special family traditions?


Image from here.