Russian Caramels

Russian Caramels

Russian Caramels are quite easy to make, provided you don’t get distracted! The mixture does need to be stirred constantly. Even stepping away from the saucepan for a few seconds will lead to it burning on the bottom.


60g butter

2 Tbl golden syrup

1 cup white sugar

395g can condensed milk

2 tsp vanilla essence


Prepare a square or rectangular cake tin with baking paper. Spray or smear saucepan with cooking oil, and add butter, golden syrup, sugar and condensed milk. Stir constantly over medium heat as it comes to the boil, using a wooden spoon. Turn the heat down to low and keep the mixture bubbling away whilst stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or until it starts to thicken and come away from the bottom. Remove from heat, and add vanilla. Pour into prepared tin and leave at room temperature to cool. Cut into squares and refrigerate.

Rum Balls

Rum Balls

Rum Balls are so easy to make! They are a lovely addition to a home made gift basket or to take as a hostess gift.


1 cup raisins, chopped

1/2 cup plain flour or almond meal

1/2 cup cocoa

125 g melted butter

2 Tbl rum

2 ts vanilla

Coconut to coat

Combine all ingredients. Roll into balls and coat in coconut.

White Christmas Crackles

White Christmas Crackles

This White Christmas Crackles recipe adds a splash of holiday season colour with the addition of pistachios and dried cranberries.


2 x 180g blocks white chocolate, broken up

80g dried cranberries, chopped

img_174980g pistachios, chopped

100g rice puffs


Line a tin with baking paper. Set chocolate over boiling water until melted. Set aside for 5 minutes and stir until smooth. Add cranberries, pistachios and rice puffs. Stir until well combine. Spoon into prepared tin, and refrigerate. Once set, cut into squares.


Home made vanilla

Home made vanilla

To make vanilla, simply pour vodka over a vanilla bean. That’s it. What could be easier? Use an interesting bottle or jar if you are giving it as a gift. Make it a month or so ahead of when you need it. Home made vanilla darkens as the weeks pass, and gets better with age.

Simplifying Christmas: Rethinking menus

I hope that my previous posts on rethinking gift giving and rethinking gathering have provided you with some useful ideas for simplifying and reducing the stress of Christmas this year. This week we are rethinking menus.

As a guest, who hasn’t felt seriously over-indulged during the holiday season? I for one love food and am prone to excessive consumption at this time of year (actually… other times as well!). As the host there is always the tendency to overcater. And we’ve all been to those lunches where the table is groaning under Continue reading    

Simplifying Christmas: Rethinking gathering

Last week on the blog I challenged you to rethink gift giving as a way of simplifying Christmas and reducing the stress of the holiday season. This week we are talking about ‘gathering’. There are 2 aspects of gathering with others that are commonly identified as major sources of stress. The first is negotiating family expectations. The second is the large number of social events that all seem to occur in the weeks leading up to Christmas. These can be ones that you are invited to attend, or that you feel you should be hosting.

Here are my ideas for rethinking gathering in order to further simplify Christmas.

Negotiating family expectations:

Families often feel an enormous sense of obligation to spend a gruelling day travelling from one gathering to another. This is often in response to pressure from each sets of parents (who may not reside together) and sometimes multiple grandparents. There are some who insist on seeing the family ‘on the day’. Then, if it simply can’t be squeezed into Christmas day, the family faces the unenviable Continue reading    

Simplifying Christmas: Rethinking gift giving

What actions do you take that transform you from serene to frenzied?’


This is the question that arrived in my inbox recently, courtesy of Beth Dargis from My Simpler Life. It really caught my attention because it arrived during the same week that people started talking about the number of Fridays until Christmas break.

You could substitute other words here to suit your personal tendencies. Like ‘from calm to overwhelmed’. What I find particularly interesting about this phrase is the order of the key words. It makes the refreshing assumption that we are mostly doing ok but that we sometimes get ourselves into a frenzied state. And it suggests that preventing the shift from a desirable to an undesirable state is within our control.

It seems that just the word ‘Christmas’ itself sadly transforms many people from whatever state they are currently in to ‘frenzied’. As the year speeds to a close and the ‘countdown to Christmas’ begins in earnest, stress levels start to increase. The pressure is on to shop for gifts, plan menus, cram in gatherings & end-of-year Continue reading    

Early spring in the garden: It’s a bit like life!

Spring in the Garden

Early spring in the garden is a transition time that sees some things come to an end as others are coming to life. The broccoli that I planted too closely together during winter did reasonably well. After harvesting the heads I continued to pick the side shoots. Since then the chickens have been allowed into the bed. They’ve been feasting on the leaves, cleaning up bugs, and turning over the soil whilst I think about what to plant there next. My second bean crop had some sort of wilting disease so had to be pulled out. The snow peas are doing well. I hope to be able to pick a handful every couple of days. Only 1 of the zucchini plants grew from seed so a small harvest is possible just once or twice a week. They are lovely tossed into curries, steamed with some broccoli, or grated into zucchini and smoked salmon fritters.

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Continue reading    

Chicken sadness

This is the second in a short season of posts to update you on my home and garden projects. You may have read recently about the completion (finally!) of my wallaby cross-stitch, and up next on the blog will be a post about early spring in the garden.

But for now, an update on our girls. We had some chicken sadness recently, losing our 2 newer girls to a dog attack. The owner, who we know from the neighbourhood, rehomed the dog within 24 hours. His family were devastated to Continue reading    

Wallaby cross stitch – an update

I thought you might enjoy an update, over the next few weeks, of home and garden projects that I have been writing about since I started this blog.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may be curious about where my wallaby cross stitch is up to.

In an earlier post, I wrote about this very intricate cross stitch project which I had been working on sporadically for several years. I dubbed it the never-ending wallaby. Finally I finished it, getting it framed just in time to exhibit in the Mudgeeraba Show. I was so happy to get third place! Up close it’s not the neatest of jobs and that would have been well evident to the judge. From a distance however it looks great, and at least it’s completed and on the wall!










I love to have craft projects on the go, and as well as continuing to knit dishcloths and do scrapbooking, perhaps I’ll get back on to the cross stitch tablecloth I bought in Austria in 1999!

What crafty things are you working on at the moment? And what have you finished recently?

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