Christmas today

Safety for children

child sitting on a tree branch

Climbing a tree is an acceptable and healthy risk, but not everything children want is safe enough

Whether it is from advertising or simple interest, kids will ask for all sorts of things for Christmas (and birthday) gifts.

There may be many reasons to decide against a particular item for you child (price, values, practicality, appropriateness, and so on) but one I have been reminded of this week is safety.

Considering safety of a gift request

This week, a mother contacted us about not wanting mention of a mermaid tail in her daughters’ Love Santa letter as she had decided it was not appropriate for her daughters.

I know very little about mermaid tails so I am not saying they are or are not dangerous.

But the point is valid.

If you don’t think your child’s gift request is not safe or appropriate, then that is your decision and the child should not get that gift.

Choosing what is safe

At one level, safety depends on the specific child. That is, the child’s age, personality and physical abilities will impact on what is suitable for that child, and that takes someone who knows the child to make that decision.

Certain things are clearly not safe and thus easy to decide against – like small Lego pieces for a baby or guns for any child, for example.

Whereas other things may be less clear. So to decide if something is safe enough to give to your child (or the child in your life), here are some suggestions:

  1.  do some research online – if you know little about the item, it is hard to judge it so find out what it is, what’s it made of and so on.
  2. look at the age group it is suggested for
  3. find out what other people think of the item and what experiences they have had with it – ask parents you know but also look for some online reviews. even if you disagree with a review, it may give you some questions to ask or information about the item’s feature.
  4. think about whether you would have used and enjoyed it when you were that age – this can help you view your child as a person rather than as your ‘baby’ who needs to be protected
  5. If you can, go and touch and try the item. Does it feel sturdy or likely to fall apart? will it put the child high above the ground or travelling fast? Does the packaging and instructions promote dangerous activities?

Saying no to the child

If you decide a gift is not safe, what do you tell the child?

I think it helps if you don’t promise anything so you don’t have to back track :)

Beyond that, I tell my children that I don’t like a potential gift and give them a reason. I may simplify it to suit their knowledge, but I let them know to maintain their trust and get them thinking . It also means that I have already set the expectation that I won’t get it later nor allow them to buy it themselves a few months later.

How do you tell your children you have decided against them having something they would like?

Love Santa letters

Just to compete the above story about mermaid tails…

Santa understands safety and works hard to never give children toys or gifts that are not safe. And when Santa writes to children he never promises any particular gift will be given because he knows things may change between writing the letter and Christmas Eve.

As each Love Santa letter is individually adjusted, it was not difficult to remove any mention of the mermaid tails for the girls mentioned above, keeping everyone happy and safe.

Bubbay – Christmas book review

Bubbay – A Christmas adventureCover of 'Bubbay a Christmas advdenture'

by Josie Wowolla Boyle
illustrated by Fern Martins
Magabala books, Broome, 2012

Age group: primary school

Coming across a lovely picture book that is very Australian (without any clichéd cute animals dressed as Santa) is a nice treat

The story

Bubbay is a lonely boy fending for himself in the Aussie Outback. On Christmas Eve, he feels sad to have no family, no house and no Christmas tree. At this point, the story gets magical with Bubbay’s Grandmother’s spirit leading him on an adventure to collect special things so Bubbay can earn a special Christmas.

The story is a little  detailed for pre-schoolers but is enjoyable for lower primary children. It is beautifully illustrated with simple, detailed paintings. Australian animals are included in a way that hints at the Dreamtime and characteristics of those animals (eg mentioning a Bower Bird’s home), thus inviting further discussions and learning.

My review

Front cover of BubbayMy only disappointment was that Bubbay sat back on Christmas Eve to watch reindeer flying by instead of boomers, but reindeer may well work better for a wider audience.

I was able to predict the ending early in the book, but it is still heart-warming – and children wouldn’t see the obvious coming as easily as I, so this doesn’t detract from the story at all.

Definitely a beautiful book to add to any child’s (or adult’s!) Christmas or Australian book collection.

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits [recipe]

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits on a plate with tinsel

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits

While these biscuits don’t look or sound very Christmassy (other than by adding colouring to them or icing with Christmas colours like I have), they feel like a Christmas treat to me!

I think it is because the passionfruit flavour is a hint of summer and the texture is like shortbread (which I associate with Christmas).

These are fairly easy to make so are suitable for young children to help with – and I bet Santa would enjoy a few of these on Christmas Eve!

 

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs castor sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 Tbs passionfruit pulp (1 – 2 passionfruit)
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 Tbs cornflour

{Makes about 40 biscuits}

Mix the butter (softened butter makes this easier!) with the sugars and vanilla essence.

Mix in the passionfruit pulp then add in the flours.

Christmas passionfruit biscuit ingredients mixed together in a bowl

The mix is browner than most biscuits because of the brown sugar.

It forms a stiff mix, not quite like a pastry dough – and it looks a bit sticky.

Put a little plain flour on your hands then roll small bits of the mixture into balls (the flour is enough to stop them sticking to you).

Floured ahdn holding a ball of passionfruit Christmas biscuit dough

Turn a sticky blob into a ball…

Put the balls on a greased tray or tray lined with baking paper (I’ve tried both and neither seems superior to the other).

baked passionfruit Christmas biscuits on a greased tray and a baking paper lined tray

Greased tray or baking paper – the choice is yours!

Push down on each ball lightly with the back of a spoon to make them flatter. Note these biscuits don’t spread very much so you don’t need a lot of space between biscuits.

Bake at 160°C for 13 – 15 minutes.

Cool on the tray before serving, icing or storing.

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits on a white plate for serving

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits – they look simple but taste divine!

Some additional notes…

Why use the different flours? Well, corn flour and coconut flour are gluten free so these biscuits are lower gluten than most biscuits. The coconut flour also adds protein and fibre so these biscuits are lower carbohydrate than you’d expect. It also gives a slight hint of coconut to add to the summery effect.

Why brown sugar? It is less processed so healthier than white sugar of any type.

I melted some white chocolate and added colouring to cover some of my biscuits. I love the crunch of the set chocolate but I found it did overwhelm the passionfruit flavour a bit – they still were yummy and melted on the tongue though!

A child's ahnd reaching for the last passionfruit biscuit on the plate!

What my children and friends thought of the biscuits…

I am thinking of making batches of these with my kids this year for them to give to kinder/school teachers as Christmas gifts.

What will you do with the biscuits you make?

And I’m curious, if you are from the northern hemisphere, would these feel Christmassy or would you prefer them in summer?

Egg Shell Ornaments

When I was a child we use to make egg shell Christmas ornaments for the tree. Does anyone remember these?

decorated eggs in a basket

Children’s drawings on egg shells can be quite beautiful

They were super easy to make, the worst part was blowing the inside of the egg out YUCK!!!!!

The process

An adult usually mama would give us all an egg raw of course, we would have to be outside for the first part of this project.

We would take a small nail, and very carefully punch a hole in the top and bottom of the egg.

Then we would gently press our pucker lips against the top of egg with the hole in it. We would then blow really hard into the hole.

Usually it would take us at least three good blows to push the yolk and white out of the other hole at the bottom of egg.

Once we had that done we could go back inside, and decorate the outside of egg with paint or glitter.

Just whatever we wanted to do with it was fine. We would use thread inserted in the hole to hang our ornaments.

 

* Image courtesy of 123rf

Christmas has arrived – have a great one!

From Santa and the Love Santa Elves, please have a safe and very

Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful day today and remember to share a little Christmas magic with as many people as you can.

And Happy New Year!

Children dressed as Santa's helper and Christmas fairy dancing

Dance your way through a very Christmas, just like Santa’s helper and the Christmas fairy!

The night before Christmas – for aviation people…

Sorry, I don’t know the original source of this but as someone works with planes, this made me laugh!

I hope others enjoy it too – Merry Christmas!

The night before Christmas (aviation style)

Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp,

Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ. 

The aircraft were fastened to tie downs with care,
In hopes that come morning, they all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots,

While peak gusts from three two zero reached 39 knots.
I sank behind the fuel desk, now finally caught up,

And settled down comfortably, resting my butt.

When over the radio there arose such a clatter,

I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow,

Asked for clearance to land at the airport below.

Santa in a blue Christmas plane

He barked out his transmission so lively and quick,

I could have sworn that the call sign he used was “St. Nick”.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Sure that it was only Horizon’s late Dash.

Then he called his position, and there could be no denial,

“This is St. Nicholas One and I’m turning on final.”
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

A Rutan sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer.

Cleared for the ILS, down the glideslope he came,

As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:
“Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun!

On Comet! On Cupid!” What pills was he takin’?

Those last couple of fixes left the controllers confused,

They called down to the office to give me the news.
The message they left was both urgent and dour:

“When Santa lands, have him please call the tower?”

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking,

Then I heard “Exit at Charlie,” and “Taxi to parking.”

He slowed to a taxi and exited Three-Two,

As he came down the taxiway the sleighbells’ jingle grew.

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk,
I had run out to him with my best set of chocks.

He was dressed all in fur, which was covered with frost
And his beard was all blackened from Rotax Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale,
And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn’t inhale.

His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly,

His boots were as black as a cropduster’s belly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old fool,

And he kindly informed me that he needed some fuel.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his toes,

Let me know he was desperate to powder his nose.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,

And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom with a sigh of relief,

And then picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log,

That with Rudolph, he could land in an eighth-mile fog.
Next, he completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear,

Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, “Clear!”

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk,

He called up the tower for his clearance and squawk.
“After departure fly heading three two zero,” the tower called forth,
“And watch for a Luscombe inbound from the North.”

Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed thru the night,

“Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight.”  

Santa in sleigh pulled by 6 boomers1

 

* Images courtesy of Love Santa and 123rf

Christmas pudding balls [recipe]

Christmas pudding balls on plate

Complete Christmas pudding balls – they didn’t last long on the plate in our house!

I came across a recipe for dough balls which looked yummy and adjusted it for taste and to make it more Christmassy.

It is easy to make, doesn’t need to be cooked and could be a nice snack to leave out for Santa, on a plate to take to a function. I’m finding these quite handy to send along to the kids’ Christmas parties at school and scouts because they are quick and easy and kids love them!

I don’t think they quite fit the nice gift category but that could just be me :) Try the recipe and let me know if you’d give them as a gift…

Christmas pudding balls

100g unsalted butter (room temperature or almost melt it in the microwave to make it really soft if kids are helping you cook!)
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoons red food colouring
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup fruit mince (or dried mixed fruit plus 1-2 tablespoon of liquid*)
1 cup plain flour
125g white chocolate
1/2 teaspoon green food colouring

mixing ingredients for Christmas pudding balls

An easy recipe for little people to help with – although you may get a bit of flour splatter around the kitchen!

How to make Christmas pudding balls

Cream the butter and sugar.

Mix in the essence, red food colouring, cinnamon and flour.

Stir in choc chips and fruit mince.

Form balls of dough. I found it needed some moisture to really hold together and be able to roll it – dry fruit alone will be fairly crumbly and impossible to roll (forming shapes is ok) thus fruit mince or some liquid is required.

Put them in the fridge to harden – I left them for a few hours but half an hour or so is probably enough. Note they taste much better at this stage now when just mixed :)

Melt the while chocolate until liquid. Then add green food colour.

Christmas pudding balls created and ready for fridge

It’s not easy to make neat balls with this mix, so be comfortable with a rustic effect!

Dip each ball into the green chocolate and place on a tray.

Put back in the fridge for the chocolate to set, and for storage. Enjoy!

* You could use a liqueur or some orange or cranberry juice

Double Christmas treats [recipe]

Delicious Double Christmas Treats

These Double Christmas Treats are made of two layers and taste absolutely divine, ad are surprisingly moist, too.

Looking through Pinterest a few weeks ago, I came across an image which I really liked the look of. It had two layers but looked like a cupcake/muffin – something a bit different, I thought, plus two parts meant I could get my two littlies involved a different stages…

Unfortunately, the image was not linked to a recipe but a sales page for the most over-priced cake mix I’ve ever come across.

So I created my own version, adding Christmassy touches and I am very pleased with the results of this one!

Double Christmas treats

These do take a bit of time, especially if you have little helpers, but are SO worth it!

It would make a lovely Christmas Eve activity with the kids – there’s plenty to sample and still have a nice snack to leave out for Santa :)

Child cracking eggs into bowl

My three year old calls herself a ‘good egger’ and enjoyed making these treats…

brownie mix in muffin cases

First layer in some muffin cases, ready for cooking

Adding layer two to Xmas treats

Cover the lower layer with the biscuit mix – this photo shows the top layer on the back row and lower layer only in the front row.

cooked double Christmas treats

Double Christmas treats fresh out of the oven – a light brown top is what you are after.

Ingredients

180 g white chocolate, chopped plus about 100 g for decoration at the end
375g unsalted butter
420g smart sugar (or castor sugar as an alternative)
100g raw sugar
4 eggs
100g macadamia nuts, finely chopped
415g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
150g dried cranberries
1/4 cup mixed dried fruit
food colouring (optional)

Making Christmas double treats

Melt white chocolate and 150g butter.

Once it has cooled a little, mix in 220g (1 cup) smart sugar. Then add 3 eggs and mix well.

Stir in chopped macadamias and 115g (3/4 cup) flour.

Grease large muffin pans – prepare 24 large muffin holes.

Half fill muffin holes with mixture and put aside.

Preheat over to 185°C.

Cream raw sugar, 225g butter and 200g (bit under 1 cup) smart sugar.

Beat in 1 egg.

Mix in orange zest and juice.

Mix in 300g (2.5 generous cups) flour and bicarb soda.

Gently stir in cranberries and dried fruit until mixed throughout the dough.

Add a spoonful of mixture on top of the brownie mix in the muffin tins. You may need to use fingers to spread the biscuit dough evenly.

Place muffin trays into oven for 16 -17 minutes – the biscuit top should be lightly brown all over.

Leave the trays to cool completely before removing from the muffin trays.

Melt remaining white chocolate, add food colouring if you wish, and drizzle over the cooled Double Christmas Treats.

Once the chocolate has set, they’re ready to serve…

Decorated double Christmas treats

I tried a variety of decorating styles on my Double Christmas Treats…

 

Cooking notes…

  1.  If you undercook them, the bottom layer will be very sticky. Simply turn the treats upside down and serve with ice-cream as a pudding!
  2. You can use a skewer to check the treats are cooked – you are looking for crumbs from the lower layer. But be careful crumbs from the top layer don’t mislead – thus watching the time is  better judge.
  3. Finely chopped macadamias gives a lovely chewy, moist texture. A few bigger pieces are ok but it is worth getting them chopped well.

    Finely chopped macadamias

    It took a while to chop the macadamias this fine, but it gives a better result.

  4. To add some green to match the red cranberries, you could swap the mixed dried fruit with pistachios
  5. You could cook this as small slabs and cut into pieces. But given the layers, cooking it as one big slab would probably result in the bottom being undercooked or the top burning.
  6. I used silicone muffin tray and some individual muffin cases – both worked equally well.
  7. I had a little left over biscuit mix so made a few biscuits as well – they take a bit less time to cook though.

 

Gumnut wreaths – craft for kids

Red and gold glitter on gumnuts and gum leave wreath

Red and gold glitter on gumnuts and gum leaves – a beautiful Christmas display!

 

I just had to share this craft idea! Being so Australian I thought it would fit beautifully on this site, too!

 

I helped at my children’s kinder the other day and all the children were busily making some Christmas wreaths, and loving it. I was impressed with the great results but also that they were so very Aussie, well within the children’s abilities and also so much fun to make.

Although be warned if you try this at home because it took me ages to vacuum up all the glitter afterwards!

 

 

Making gumnut wreaths

I didn’t see this bit, but the kids were given cardboard rings which they stuck together, with a loop of ribbon sticking out one end. I think they are double to be stronger, and it makes attaching the ribbon neater.

They painted this double ring green and left it to dry.

I then was there to watch them stick on gum nuts of various sizes, along with gum leaves and even sticks if they wished.

They also had some red felt leaves (which does add colour on the green background) but I think I prefer just the gumnuts, leaves and glitter – or is that just me?

Once they were happy with their arrangement, they sprinkled glitter over the top – first letting it stick to the excess glue already on the wreaths, then adding dobs of glue where they felt more glitter was needed.

gumnut wreaths drying - kids Christmas craft

Some of the gumnut wreaths made by kinder children – aren’t they beautiful?

As they dried, I got some photos – I think they are beautiful Christmas wreathes, don’t you?

Once they come home from kinder, there will be one hanging with pride on our front door!

Kinder children writing to Santa

I helped at my son’s kinder this morning and was given the very appropriate job of helping the children write their letters to Santa :)

Each child wrote “To Santa Love from {name}” from pre-written cards to help them know the letters to use.

In between the to and from bits, we also wrote a request for a gift. Some of the children did this themselves (once I wrote out the words on scrap paper for them) while others needed my help writing those bits (they are only 4 or 5 years old!)

letters to Santa written by 5 year olds

Kinder children writing letters to Santa with care and pride – lovely to watch.

The children worked hard on their letters and it was a delight to watch them, and participate with them. One child was so pleased with his letter he kept coming back to get it, fly it around the room and show it to everyone he could get to stand still and look!

Letters are being sent to Santa – and copies kept as part of the collection of work being given to parents at the end of the year. I for one am pleased to know we will have a permanent record of what my son wrote!

Have you ever received (or at least seen) letters your children have written to Santa at kinder or school?

If your child is yet to write to Santa, don’t forget we have a template to help them get started and write a nice letter to Santa.

Whip up a delicious Christmas trifle [recipe]

One of my husband’s favourite desserts is trifle so I played around with it and made a more Christmassy version. It seemed to work – there was nothing left in the bowl afterwards anyway!

So here’s my recipe…

Love Santa’s Christmas Trifle

Bowl of Christmas trifle

My Christmas trifle, all ready to be served and enjoyed…

  • 1 cake – make it or buy it as suits your time and tastes. Plain, lemon and orange are nice but I used a cinnamon cake to get the Christmas scents involved
  • about a cup of cherries – halve them to remove the pits
  • 4 kiwi fruit – cut into chunks about 2cm cubed
  • a punnet of strawberries – hull and quarter them
  • half a honey-dew melon – cut into chunks of about 3 cm cubed
  • 1 litre of custard – make it brandy custard if you like. It adds to the Christmas flavour and is pretty low alcohol but it’s not for everyone
  • 500 ml (one packet) of set red jelly
  • 500 ml (one packet) of set green jelly
  • 1/3 cup cranberries (dried or halved fresh ones) for garnish
  • 1/3 cup of pistachios for garnish (adds a nice green tinge to the top)

Christmas trifle recipe

1. Cut the cake into pieces – 3 – 4 cm cubes fits nicely on spoons but it can all be rough. A sprinkling of a liqueur over the cake is nice (especially if you use a stale cake like the traditional recipes call for) but optional – brandy, Frangelico or Cointreau are the most Christmassy choices.

2.

making the layers of trifle in a glass bowl

Trifle is made in layers – my beautiful glass bowl doesn’t photograph so well though unfortunately…

Put about half the cake in the bottom of a glass bowl. Does it have to be a glass bowl? Technically, no, it will taste just the same in any type of serving dish but the visual impact will be lost if you can’t see the layers before you serve.

3. Break up the green jelly and put about half of it on top of the cake. Sprinkle half of the fruit over the jelly.

4. Break up the red jelly and put about half of it over the fruit.

5. Pour half the custard over the jelly.

6. Repeat – cake, green jelly, fruit, red jelly, custard.

7. You could top it all with whipped cream (I didn’t as I don’t like it!)

Garnish with pistachios and cranberries. Or make the top layer pieces of jelly as in my photo below – very quick and easy.

Serve immediately or the next day, but keep it in the fridge.

red and green jelly topped Christmas trifle

Red and green jelly on top of the custard is a simple presentation option

Other Christmas trifles

Do you have any other Christmas trifle recipes? Or do you just stick to the traditional type of trifle, whatever the occasion or season?

I came across another recipe, which uses egg nog and glace cherries. Their additional of banana and pineapple would give it a summery taste, I think.

Ribbons on a Christmas tree

Christmas tree covered in sports ribbons

Liz also supplied us with a photo of the ribbon-decked tree – I think it looks great!

We have small Christmas trees in the kids’ rooms, which they love:)

This year, a bit of ahead of me getting out the usual decorations, my daughter decided to decorate the trees.

She grabbed out some school sports ribbons and other sashes to use instead of tinsel. It actually looked quite effective and is a nice acknowledgement of her sporting achievements over the year (she was just after the colour and instant gratification, but I liked the display of her achievements!)