Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas .!!!

Here  in Australia, at least in our home we have very relaxed casual Christmas celebrations.
We both grew up in the country and our families  have celebrated Christmas in similar fashion, so it has been only natural to continue  the few traditions that we had  as children.
We both came from families that didn't have a lot and we were discussing the fact that my husband said that he had never had a photograph as a child with Santa(He was from a family of  11 children, living in the bush with hard working poor parents.) I likewise came from a fairly low income country  family of 5 children and I have in my possession only 1 photograph of myself and Santa.
This is me above, when I was about 5 years old on a  trip to Sydney to pick up my brother from school(my brother is deaf and had to attend a special school about 6 hours from our home).
These photos were just a luxury that  my parents   couldn't afford on a regular basis.
As we have had our own children,we came to realise the expense, some years we had photographs done , but mostly  we didn't.
My daughters now insist on having their daughters photographed with Santa for future record.

These are our two beautiful grand daughters, the older one is really nervous of Santa, so he had to trick her a little and hide behind the chair and then just pop up for a photo.
When my children were young and we  visited their grandmother
for Christmas we would  go up to the small pine forest on the property and cut ourselves a tree, this was always a big adventure.
Now days, living on the coast, most of the time we have an artificial tree ,hopefully once we move to the farm full time next year , once again we will  return to having a lovely real tree.
Christmas here is very casual, up early, open gifts, bacon and eggs for breakfast , and then getting ready for our wonderful lunch, some times eaten outside  in a shady area if cool enough, but  usually eaten inside with the air conditioner blasting away  to try and cool us all down.he pic directly  below is  my Mum and I seated with my sister in law behind.

Sometimes we stick with tradition and have a hot meal with all the trimmings, but mostly in our house hold we prepare the day before and have cold meats, seafood and salads.

This year, we  went with the cold option, and were blessed with lovely cool weather and misty rain, so we took the outside option, and set  up our tables and chairs and welcomed 18 lovely people for Christmas lunch and had a wonderful day.The photo below is myself, Nanny Jane and Grandma  Jane. Grandma Jane is my daughters' mother in law . Their whole family joined us for lunch this year.Grandma Janes' sister Rachael gave us these cute aprons to wear. Our shared grand daughter's name is Holly.
After lunch here on the coast we tend to just sit around, rest ,relax and  chat, but out in the country we usually go swimming, or cray fishing or other cool down types of activities as we are usually in 30-40 degree C heat.Last week here we had 40 + temps so we purchased a small wading pool for our grand daughter to cool down in. She  and her pop had a lovely time.
Last year out at the farm we found a lovely spot near  a dam and all had a lovely relaxed afternoon.

We even caught this haul of crayfish  as a bonus.
Other years we have spent Christmas with  our daughters who have  a pools, which made for  a very relaxed Christmas.

The table above was set for a very relaxed ,Christmas breakfast out on my daughters back verandah.
The highlight of this year was watching our 3 year old grand daughter open  her gifts. One of her most favourite things that she received was a book called"We are going on a croc hunt", she just loved it.
Also her Uncle had flown across from Perth WA and her brought her a "Peppa Pig',which she loved.

I hope and pray that  everyone has had a wonderful Christmas. we have for sure.
This will  most likely be our last Christmas  at this house , which is a little sad,this is where we have mostly raised our brood and it will be a little difficult to let go. But move on we must and look forward to what the future brings.
I wish everyone a  belated Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2014.
We are heading to the farm this week  and will do my next post from there. We have received little or no rain and the place is looking fairly forlorn. I will take some photos and show you all how dry it is.
Take care every one,
Until we meet agin,

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Bread and butter cucumbers.

We tend to celebrate happy hour a lot(maybe too much) when we are up at the farm, not so much here on the coast.
People tend to pop over up there for a cuppa  or  a drink, and I just can't resist putting out a plate of nibbles. I  tend to  sway more to the cheeses and pickles,olives ect and most of our friends and neighbours  seem to enjoy those type of snacks too.
One of the most popular ones is bread and butter cucumbers. I got the recipe from my next door neighbour Stasia, who is  Polish, she  and her husband Rolf who is German  have shared some wonderful recipes  and food with us over the last 15 years or so that we have been neighbours.
We planted a small raised bed of bush type cucumbers this year and they have produced very well, this is the third batch of bread and butter cucumbers that I have preserved from them.

For this recipe, I slice up 4 kilos of cucumbers on the mandolin and also slice up 2 kilos of onions and add to the cucumbers in a plastic or stainless steel container, I then add  1 cup of salt in total(I divided my cucumbers and onions into two containers, so adjust to what ever you decide to do)
I set the containers aside and leave to soak overnight.
Next morning I drain the cucumbers and onions and rinse them under cold running water to  reduce the saltiness, and pack them into my freshly washed mason jars.

In a large stainless pot I then  make the sweet brine solution, this consists of:
10 cups of white vinegar,6 cups of white sugar,3 teaspoons of celery seed,3 teaspoons of yellow or brown mustard seed, and 3 teaspoons of turmeric.  This is brought to the boil, cooled a little and poured over the cucumbers.

Once  the jars are full, I then de-bubble and adjust the liquid height leaving a final head space of about 1/2 inch. I wipe all the rims with a paper towel soaked in white vinegar, place lids, that have been simmered onto the jars, and cap with  the bands to finger tight.

Once this is done, I then place all the jars into my trusty electric water bath and  adjust water level so that the jars are covered by a couple of inches of water, place the lid on and set to hold boil. When it reaches  boiling point, I hold it at that level for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes has elapsed, I then turn off the  water bath preserver, remove the lid and let the jars sit for a further 5 minutes. Next I remove all the jars out onto a towel covered bench to protect it and the jars from heat shock.

 When the jars have all made that lovely popping noise, you know that they are all sealed, but you must wait  24 hours and then remove the bands.

After removing the bands, washing them and storing away until the next preserving job, I then washed the jars, and will  soon label and date them and store them away with my other delicious preserves in the pantry.
This makes over 40 pint  jars of these that I have preserved this year, I am fairly sure it will be the last as our cucumber garden is on it's last legs, and we will probably now only pick fresh eating cucumbers until the end of the season.
We have had a really productive  year here on the coast, and hopefully next year we will have a more established garden up and running at the farm as we  spend more  time up there and less down here.
These  pickles will be popular fare over the Christmas  holidays and my supply will quickly be eaten into.

So until we meet up again,
Best wishes to you and yours,
Stay safe over the holiday period,

Monday, 16 December 2013

A little train journey

Since my youngest daughter, her husband and my grand daughter  relocated to the south coast i have on occasion travelled down to visit or babysit so that they could  attend  certain functions.
Sometimes we travel down by car, but mostly I go down by train. It takes me about four hours with a train change in Sydney.As my husband is a long term rail employee, we are fortunate to be able to travel the public transport system for free.So I find train travel a real stress free luxury that  I indulge in as often as I can.
Last week my daughter asked if i could travel down  this last weekend just gone to babysit while she went to a Bon Jovi  concert in Sydney. I decided to travel by train and take a few photos along the way to share with you all.
I am happy to go down as  my husband was away working and we arn't heading up to the farm until the end of this week.
So,I boarded the  electric express service to Sydney from our local station which is about 10 minutes drive from here.It is a very pleasant trip down the coast, passing, crowded  townships, and lazy coastal villages and lovely waterways and hilly terrain, all very picturesque.

A fair part of the way the rail line follows the old highway and the new expressway down the coast. It travels past many lakes and major rivers and even the ocean at times. the little old house in the photo above is one of my particular favourite  places that I look out for on each trip. It is some bodies weekender that is only accessible by boat, what a lovely little spot to have a holiday, but still not all that far from major services.
Excuse the quality of the photographs, as they were taken through dirty train windows that were moving along quite fast.
This lovely little spot is called Hawkesbury River Marina, a quaint little out of the way place on the hawkesbury River where you can stay in accommodation  or  go out on boat trips. One such trip which we have done is called "The Riverboat Postman", you travel the mail run on the boat around all the islands in the area  and have a lovely buffet lunch while on board( a really relaxing enjoyable day)
As you approach Sydney Central Station,you pass by the beautiful old "Mortuary Station".
This beautiful old building was  opened in  1869 and was built to facilitate the transportation of the deceased to local cemeteries for internment.It has recently been restored to it's former glory.

At Central station I changed trains to then travel on the south coast line towards Wollongong.
Central is a lovely old railways station, which officially opened around 1906, replacing an earlier Central station.Central has about 26 platforms, some above ground and some below ground,it is Sydney's main rail terminal.
As we headed down south the surrounding country is beautiful, passing over large viaducts and  alongside beautiful coastal towns.

After arriving at my destination, I had a lovely lunch with my daughter and grand daughter,put my daughter on the train and then spent the afternoon and night with my beautiful little girl.

We had a ball, we read books, and played fairies, and watched Scooby Doo(The current Favourite) and cooked her favourite dinner of sausages, corn, mashed potato and peas.
She slept like a log, and I couldn't resist an early morning photo of my sleeping beauty.
We met my daughter off the train about lunchtime, and spent a bit of time together and I  started back on the return journey about 3pm.

The above are a few more shots of the beautiful scenery that I get to see from the train on the return journey, the centre one is especially beautiful(you come out of a long dark tunnel, and just as you exit, that is the view immediately to your left.) Breath taking,j ust so much  glorious scenery every where.
I arrived back at my local railway  station around 8pm that night,tired and weary, but full of joy  from my great  little expedition.
Hope you have enjoyed my little trip with me, it has been a pleasure to have you along.
Take care every one out there,
until we catch up again,