9# Life update: Christmas and travel

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you had a wonderful day with your family and friends and got spoilt.

My Christmas was relatively quiet this year since most of my family are having an icy Christmas in Europe. Meanwhile, large parts of Australia has been burning. Luckily where I live there are no bush fires and the last couple of days have cooled down and been quite rainy. So I only had to set the table for five and food preparations were much less stressful for this pregnant mama. Despite the limited number of guests, our tree was taken over by large amounts of presents this year. Anything we needed for school for the new year or items we needed and found on sale went under the tree. So you can imagine for a 4 year old, opening all those gifts first thing on Christmas morning was very exciting.

I won’t shock you with how much stuff O ended up. When we lined everything up to take a photo with her I was kind of shocked how much she accumulated from her grandparents, aunts and uncles, us and Santa. But I will show you what I received. So everything was handpicked by me except for the Braun Multi Quick 9. I told Marco I wanted a stick blender so he researched the best one he could find. It was a nice surprise to get a model with some many different features.

There are still a couple of presents that are on their way. The first is the Seed & Sprout Eco Starter Kit which came as a free gift with the Braun Multi Quick 9. It includes 1 x Organic Cotton Pocket Tote, 5 x Organic Cotton Mesh Produce Bags, 6 x Reusable Stretch Lids, 1 x Plant Fibre Dish Brush with replaceable head, and 1 x Reusable Straw & Cleaner & Carry Pouch. I’m pretty excited about this since I don’t have of these reusable items, except for the straw.

The second thing is the e-book Erica Adler’s The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep, which is being released on the 2nd of January 2020. I recently discovered Fresh Erica on Youtube on the Goodful channel. She is a professional meal prepper in New York city. I just love watching her videos and seeing how she puts together the most delicious-looking dinners and lunch for her clients. I’ve never been into meal prep since I have plenty of time to make everything fresh, but I’m getting interested in this since I know I have another baby on the way, as well as school lunch to prepare for next year. I’m sure Marco will also be excited to have something more interesting for his work meals.

On Christmas Eve, O and I made some Scandinavian Christmas cookies. They were Pressed Butter Cookies from the Beatrice Ojakangas’s The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. I have never made pressed cookies, but I did buy some cookie presses. I didn’t expect the cookie dough to be so soft and sticky. After about the 8th cookie, O and I got into a good rhythm of dusting the cookie presses with lots of flour before filling them with dough and pressing out the cookies. They aren’t perfect but they were homemade.

This year Santa got one of our Pressed Butter Cookies, a glass of our favourite Vitasoy soy milk and one carrot for his reindeer. I figured we didn’t want to overfill him or his reindeers, since they would be eating something similar in every other house they would be visiting.

On Christmas day we started with these delicious Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls (minus the raisins) from Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli. I have made her Pumpkin scrolls a long time ago, but this was the first time for this recipe. They were so delicious! All the evaporated cane sugar and cinnamon that I used in the filling caramelized inside and on the bottom of the scrolls, making them that much more decadent. I was able to make them the day before and bake them first thing in the morning. This is much easier and gave us time to open presents and make an early start on lunch prep.

My lunch menu was very simple this year. It was centred around a Pork Loin stuffed with apples, rosemary and sage that I bought from my local organic butcher. It was served with Thyme roasted vegetables of garlic, carrots, celery, and onions; Maple roasted brussels sprouts, Hassleback potatoes and sweet potato with homemade breadcrumbs and Pecorino; and simple cut salad. Everything turned out pretty good. My only issue was that my pork loin didn’t have any crackling. None of my knives were strong enough to break the skin, so I wasn’t able to score it. I really should have called my brother, who is a chef to ask him what to do. We spoke later that day and he gave me some tips for next time. Everyone was a huge fan of the hassleback potatoes and brussels sprouts, which is not something you would normally see on a Serbian dinner table.

For dessert, I made a Summer Berry Pie à la mode from Chloe’s Kitchen. I made the dough the day before and let it warm up prior to putting it together. I also defrosted and strained the frozen berries, since they are moist enough without added juices. My latticework was a bit rushed so it didn’t come out as pretty, but I don’t think anyone noticed. Everyone loved it, especially my borderline diabetic father-in-law and blackberry hating child. It wasn’t very sweet since I had used Evaporated cane sugar in the dough and none for the filling. But with a scope of vanilla ice cream, it was sweet enough.

So that was my quiet little Christmas. How was your Christmas this year? What did get? What did you eat?

Oh, I nearly forgot. I’m going on a trip in a few weeks to Tasmania! I’ve never been to Tasmania, so I’m super excited to explore this island state. I’ve heard the food is amazing and the scenery is gorgeous. We will do a seven-day road trip from Hobart, to Queenstown, Launceston, Port Arthur and back to Hobart. There will also be a few other stops in between of small towns. So excited to do my last trip before the baby comes.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone! Some of you may be celebrating Christmas or Christmas Eve today. In Australia it’s Christmas Day, so I will be spending the day with family.

During this past month I haven’t been able to post anything on this blog, do Christmas shopping and prepare for today, as I have been very unwell. After initially getting a virus, I recovered, then my daughter got it and she recovered. However, then I got a mutated version which lead to a viral and bacterial infection. So I have been bedridden most of this week. However, today I am feeling well enough to be around people and enjoy one of my favourite days of the year.

Christmas Presents

Unfortunately for my family they won’t be getting any presents from me today. I normally start doing my Christmas shopping in November but I was a bit late to start this year and then I wasn’t able to do any. I guess I’m also not feeling as materialistic this year. In saying that Santa and Marco did leave me some presents. I got a these gorgeous two dresses from Baby Lemonade. The cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat. I am so excited about this book after watching her series, Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix. As for colouring books I finally got Johanna Basford’s new book World of Flowers and Emelie Lidehall Oberg’s Fairy Tales Colouring Book. I am a big fan of both these ladies work, so I knew eventually they would be joining my collection.

Christmas Colouring

Over this past month I planned to do as much Christmas colouring as I could. I didn’t do as much as I would like to since I wasn’t feeling up it, but I did about nine pages in a few books. Today I will just share a couple page, since the rest are from Johanna’s Christmas. I will do a book review and flip through, to showcase that book in the next few days.

The very first picture I did for Christmas colouring this year is from one of my recent books that I had yet to start. This Christmas Angel is from
Creative Haven Beautiful Angels Coloring Book, by Marjorie Sarnat. I coloured her with Prismacolour and used white gel pen for some of the details and cover some of the black lines. The paper in this book is quite good, but it was a little challenging to blend too much with Prismacolor. I also find most of the pictures are quite busy, so I tried to just reuse the same colors. I am not too sure about the flowers and the pink, but I prefered not to use red. Overall I’m quite happy because the original sketch is quite flat so I think I bought a little dimension to it.

The next picture is from ESCAPE Collage Art by Marty Nobles. This is my second picture in this book and the perfect Christmas image. The paper in this book is a little different. It is thick but its closer to a old children’s colouring book. I do find that soft Prismacolor pencils work well, which is what I used. I just found it challenging when layering for animal fur. It took me a while to do this one as well, as I wanted the right colors that would be harmonious and more old fashioned rather then bright and modern. My background is a bit strange, but I had to give it a little texture. The snow dots where actually already drawn in the picture, so I just used a white gell pen to bring them out. I don’t mind this picture so much now its done. What I reallly like about this book is that you can focus on different sections, which don’t take too long to complete.

Marco’s Birthday Feast

The last thing that I will share with you today was Marco’s birthday dinner, which was a week before Christmas. If you remember last year I made him the Feast of Seven Kingdoms. Well I didn’t go that overboard this year. Octavia had just gotten better and I was on day one of my second bout of illness. I took a couple of short cuts, but I tried to make everything from scatch. We didn’t have a huge amount of guest, so there was plenty for food for that night a couple days of leftover.

So when they arrived to served this platter, which included Proscuitto di Parma, Organic Nitrate Free Legham, gerkins and Rice Croquettes. These croquettes are my Nonna’s specality, which she makes at every family event. I finally tried my hand at making them. I also made a couple gluten free for my nephew. According to Marco mine were really good, but not as good as Nonna’s since she fries hers a bit longer.

For the dinner I served homemade Papardelle with a Traditional Bolgnese sauce. I used this recipe from Food Nouveau and it was pretty good. The traditional ragu uses butter and milk, white wine and much less tomatoes. I cooked it for three hours and it was just so full of flavour. I think the secret is really pushing the meat to carmelise. Since I’m not in the habit of using milk I did use lactose free, hoping that it wouldn’t affect anyones allergies. I also made homemade Gnocchi with pesto and topped with Pecorino Romano. I normally make my own pesto but I used a good quality organic brand to save time. I also made Baked Tuna Canneloni, which had Fontina cheese in the bechemel and filling. Everyone was surprised to really enjoy this one. I also made a green salad and sauted kale with raisens (forgot the pine nuts). For bread, since Serbian’s need their bread I made Focaccia. My sister and brother in-law actually have their own Pizza restaurant, so I was able to use their dough to save time. I added lots of EVO to the dough and a salt brine and let is rise a couple of times. I should have probably split the dough in two, so that it would be more crispy and not as high. Nobody cared, they actually really liked it and there was really not much left at the end of the night.

Lastly for the birthday cake, I purchased this as an impulse buy from a the French bakery, Jocelyn’s Provisions. It was a small Chocolate Sour Cream Cake Small Round, topped with white cholate ganache and sprinkled with
candied violets.  It was extremely rich, but really delicious.

If you made it this far down let me know what you did for Christmas? Any special art projects, cooking or eating endeavours?

Merry Christmas: gifting and feasting

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy holidays to everyone! This is my absolute favourite holiday of the year. It’s a day of good food, lots of presents and enjoyable family time. It’s a day when everyone is happy, generous and relaxed and when we can finally catch our breath as the silly season comes to a close.

I started my day at 4:30am when my daughter came into my room to sleep. She was actually quite late because we were up late making Christmas cookies. We made three batches of cookies to share with our family and for Santa.

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The first batch were Pillowy Pumpkin Snack Cookies, from Angela Liddon’s new cookbook, Oh She Glows Every Day. I love the flavours of pumpkin and spices for Christmas. They seem so cosy and warm and I like to pretend I’m not living in the heat of summer. The recipe was only for 11 cookies, which didn’t seem like enough. Since I ran out of light spelt flour, I thought I’d try another recipe from the book, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. I still had plenty of fresh pumpkin puree, so swapped that for the majority of the peanut butter. Then I realised I only had 12 more cookies. So by that stage, I now ran out of maple syrup, pumpkin, oats and honey (from a double batch of Lemonsweet, I made earlier). Frantically I found another recipe on the Oh She Glows App for Crispy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie. I have made those before and they taste amazing. I had to swap the oat flour for plain flour but they still turned out just as delicious. I can always trust Angela’s amazing plant-based recipes to make something that will wow. Everyone the next day was really impressed with the flavours of each.

Octavia was very excited to leave out cookies, soy milk for Santa and her Magic Reindeer food and carrots for the reindeers. This is actually the first year she understands what is Christmas, who is Santa and that he’s bringing presents if she’s been a good girl.

She was so excited the night before that I’m surprised she didn’t remember at 4:30am when she woke up. She actually didn’t get up until 8:30am, which is very unusual. Once I reminded her it was Christmas she was back on board and couldn’t wait to see what was under the Christmas tree. She was very spoilt this year. Her favourite things right now is Doc Mc Stuffins and Rapunzel. She got a few Disney toys and books from the franchises, as well as a Djeco Red Riding Hood puzzle and some new goggles (so she can stop stealing other peoples). She also received some beautiful organic Purebaby clothes couple of Vilac puzzles, Penny Scallan backpack, a wooden cash register and a Vtech Digi Art Creative Easel. She’s been so spoilt I’m not sure she even knows what to play with firsts.

I took this photo after we had opened up all the presents and she was in her Christmas bests before we left for lunch. The little reindeer on the tree is the ornament she chooses for this year.

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