Rob’s new hobby – a little history first

The Fuso just made it across 4,380km (2,730 miles)
Rob has bought himself a bus to convert to a motorhome. It is a 7m long Fuso. He has wanted to convert a bus into a motorhome since way before we started to build the caravan. The original idea was  for a full size bus. However, I put the brakes on that idea after many discussions, due mainly to the expense of buying a bus and let alone the cost of the subsequent conversion. Horrible person that I am. My thinking was that a person only takes a few weeks holidays in a year, so why spend so much money for something that depreciates, it would be just as cheap to drive and book motel rooms each year! Which was what we were going to do for holidays from now on. Yeah Right!

First a little bit of our history

I never envisioned spending more than a few weeks at a time in a RV. Rob had this dream of a big trip travelling around Australia. He proceeded to make our caravan which was a much cheaper option than a big bus, with my blessings. We were looking at retirement in 5 or 10 years and I really don't like holidays in a hotel even resorts. I was used to people actually talking to me and being outgoing and friendly. We weren't the pub or clubbing sort. So after a few holidays in resorts, admittedly in some marvellous locations, I knew that holidays in an RV of some sort was more suited to our personalities.

Caravaning is 'our thing'

We couldn't get a caravan made just the way we wanted, mainly to remove the boxy dinettes and replace them with recliner chairs. Even the major companies wouldn't touch it as the dinettes "are part of the structural strength of  a caravan."
So the concept of the wonderful Robbiebago was conceived. After a long 'pregnacy" of 10 months our big baby was born and we took it out for a trial run. First was a trial run on a weekend trip to a mate’s yard at the beautiful seaside town of Dalmeny on the South Coast of NSW, where I proceeded to blowup the cook top on my first meal and then 4 week trip to South Australia. You can read about our adventures and my misadventure in this early post!

I could handle 4 weeks no problem. Rob had made our caravan with 2 slide outs opposite each other in the lounge room/dinning room and there was no chance of getting cabin fever. However I wasn't so sure about 6 months in a caravan, even with the marvelous slide outs, but it is something Rob has always wanted to do and I am game to try anything at least once. As I said before I can't have it my way all the time. (Shh... don't tell him that I admitted that though!)

The Robbiebago Caravan

The trip  of a lifetime

Northern Territory

March 2010  was the start of the "big" trip. We quickly went across to Port Augusta, had a short trip down Spencer Gulf before heading up the Centre of Australia, taking in such places as Uluru, Katherine Gorge, Alice Springs, Darwin, Kakadu and our epic trip across the Aboriginal land Arnhem Land etc. We started our trip north with some volunteer work at Roxby Downs

Western Australia

Going west from NT for most of us travellers means going through Kununarra. There are just too many places to mention all of them here. However what I consider to be the highlights include the driving and walking around the Bungle Bungles, flying & jet boating over the The Horizontal Waterfalls, walking the picturesque Karajini National Park, swimming at  Ningaloo Reef, handling a sea hare at Monkey Mia, the magnificence of the famous Western Australia Wildflowers, seeing my first rodeo at Meekatharra  and the Pinnacles. We hadn't even started on Perth or south western WA let alone made our way back home and we had already been on the road for 9 months and we weren't ready to stay home just yet. We still had other places to see such as the food & wine heaven Margaret River area, Kalgoorlie and the Nullabour which were to take up another 3 months after a flight back home for Christmas and then flying back to continue our trip.

We loved being on the road

All up, it ended up being 15 months instead of the 6 month trip we had expected. We loved it all; the lifestyle, the travelling, the people we met everywhere and the volunteer work we did. Our wonderful Robbiebago caravan made it all possible. Not only did we have our our accommodation with us everywhere, but with the slide outs, it was roomy and we certainly never suffered from cabin fever even when confined indoors! With such extremely comfortable recliner lounge & chairs inside, we had to make ourselves get out to socialize with the other travellers, since this is a huge part of the attraction of caravaning for us.

Now you understand

Somewhere along the way, we became addicted to seeing our marvellous country and meeting the people along the way. We were going to keep travelling as long as our health and budget allowed us. We were no longer likely to just disappear into the blue yonder for just a couple of weeks in a year.
Hence when on our recent trip around Queensland, Rob got to talking and admiring some of the motorhomes we saw and the seed of an idea started to germinate once again. Hence we ended up buying a bus to do up. So come follow this new project as we rip the chairs out, gut it and start to convert a humble bus into a motorhome suited to our dream of travelling around Australia.

Lonely Planet Annual List

Photo Source: Hobart Docks at night
Wow. The secret is out! The world is finding out about our hot spots. Hobart, the capital city of the state of Tasmania, has made #7 on the Lonely Planet Top cities to visit.

The Sydney Morning Herald commented on the annual Lonely Planet lists. Online travel editor, Craig Platt reports that LP Spokesman, Adam Bennet mentioned that the choices are "our pick of where we believe travellers really should consider visiting in 2013."

Destinations make the list for a variety of reasons. Here are the lists. Note that Australia's Hobart rates #7 and New Zealand's Christchurch, just pips us at #6.

Lonely Planet's top 10 cities to visit in 2013 

1. San Francisco, US
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
3. Hyderabad, India
4. Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland
5. Beijing, China
6. Christchurch, New Zealand
7. Hobart, Australia
8. Montreal, Canada
9. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
10. Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

A trip to Tasmania is on our agenda

We are already working on our travel plans for Tasmania, including Hobart as our next major trip! Soon I will get to see for myself what Hobart has to offer the world. We intend to take our vehicle over in possibly November 2013 and spend several months
I have been to Christchurch before the earthquakes when it was both beautiful & charming. My 'adopted' son has recently been and came home with some fascinating photos of Christchurch's innovative & colourful shopping container shopping mall.

Horseshoe Falls

What about you?

Where are your favourite places you’ve visited and where would you like to go if money were no object.

Wineglass Bay

Bamie recipe – a simple Indonesian dish

Quick & Yummy Bamie
Bamie is a great one pan recipe, that is perfect for camping and caravaning. It is rather similar to Nasi Goreng. It is suitable for stir frying or cooking in one pan. I love dishes like this when camping or when cooking in my caravan or RV.

To the basic recipe you can add other vegetables, such as mushrooms, broccoli, leeks and bean sprouts, if you prefer. As with fried rice, you can use whatever you have to hand.

It is certainly one where you can kiss the cook in gratefulness. So come on get ready to pucker are going to love this one


1 Tablespoon Olive oil/sesame oil combined
300g premium mince
1 onions chopped
1 teaspoon ginger*
1 heaped teaspoons garlic*
½ capsicum – can use a tin if fresh is not available
100g diced bacon (cut off fat first!)
¼ cup dark soy sauce or to taste
2 carrots
¼ shredded cabbage
2 packets of 2-minute noodles (minus any seasoning)

Instructions Sauté chopped onion, capsicum, ginger and garlic in the oil.
Add mince and bacon. Cook well.
Add soy sauce to taste. Add remaining vegetables approx 10-15 minutes before serving, depending upon how cooked you like your vegetables.
Stir every few minutes. Add more soy sauce to taste
Cook noodles separately in hot boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and stir through met & vegetable mixture.
Add more soy sauce if desired before serving.

*For ease whilst travelling, I like to have the small jars on hand

A little goes a long way.

I find it to be quite a filling meal.
This dish was passed to me by my husband’s sister in law and it has become a family meal favourite. Thanks Marion. I owe you many kisses!

What is your favourite one pan recipe?

PS I think you pronounce it as Barm-ee!

Back in my days

If you are 30, or older, you might think this is hilarious! When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were "in the good old days". When they were growing up; We entertained ourselves outside for hours at a time, when we wanted to go somewhere, we walked... even uphill...  both ways....... yadda, yadda, yadda
Photo Source: Surya Prakash
I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way, I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that I'm over the ripe old age of fifty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a Utopia!

And I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don't know how good you've got it!

I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the darn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog first to find the book that would give us the info. There was always Encyclopedia Britannica!!

Photo source: Timeline Photos
There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter - with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there! Stamps were 10 cents!

Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us. As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to kick our butts! Nowhere was safe!

There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes! If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself!

Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and screw it all up! There were no CD players! If we were lucky, we had tape decks in our car... We'd play our favorite tape and "eject" it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless. Cause, hey, that's how we rolled, Baby! Dig?

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that's it!

Photo source: Aussiegall
There weren't any cell phones either. If you left the house, you just didn't make a darn call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your "friends". Think of the horror... not being in touch with someone 24/7!!! And then there's texting. Yeah, right. Please! You kids have no idea how annoying you really are. If your memory wasn't too good, you actually had to remember the phone number of the person you wanted to call and ring in each number one by one. If your memory wasn't too good or you were calling for the first time, then you had to get the right phone book and look it up. If you didn't have the right phone book, then you had to go down to the post office and ask to use their extensive collection of phone books!

And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your parents, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, the collection agent... you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances!

We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics!  You  had to get off your butt and actually had to use your own imagination!!!

You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on tele! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your butt and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!! There was no such thing as a remote...maybe your Dad told you to change the channel, that was the closest Dad had to a remote!!! Oh, no, what's the world coming to?!?!

There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-finks!

And we didn't have microwave ovens. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove! We actually had to preplan dinner and get the food out early enough for it to defrost naturally before cooking it. Imagine that!

And our parents told us to stay outside and play... all day long. Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort. And if you came back inside... you were doing chores!

And car seats - oh, please! Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on. If you were lucky, you got the "safety arm" across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling "shot gun" in the first place! However we did get too have some fun riding on the back of the truck or least we have something over you guys today!

See! That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled rotten! You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1960, 1970 or 1980 let alone anytime before!


The Over 50 Crowd

Edited and adapted from the original found on  Ozjokes

Lighting up Sydney's Christmas Tree

Join us at Martin Place on the 29th November for the Children's concert & to see Santa is going to ride in & help the Lord Mayor light up the beautiful Christmas tree in Martin Place for the first time this year.

Martin Place at Christmas
There will be an amazing line-up of music and entertainment, hosted by the X Factor’s Luke Jacobz before the big light up. The entertainment is geared specifically to children with Teddy Rock, Sydney Children’s Choir and Play School favourites Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima and Humpty attending the big party.

A fabulous showbag for the kiddies, which includes a cool flashing wand is available for a $2 donation. All proceeds go to the Australian Children’s Music Foundation.

Big Ted with his friends from Playschool
The whole evening promises to be fun, fun, fun, with fireworks and plenty more surprises on the night. So are you going to take your kiddies to Martin Place and experience the best that Sydney has to offer in all its glory this Christmas.

There is also a colouring-in competition for the kids for them to get stuck into in the meantime.
Click here for the competition details.

See here for the official announcement

Give thanks with a grateful heart


Photo source: Scrap book lady
The American tradition of Thanksgiving is a great time to stop and think of people and things in your life for which you are grateful. We wont be having a special dinner or anything. Though we are well and truly Australians (with a little bit of the Dutch influence from my hubby’s side) and we do not celebrate with a spcial dinner or anything, I think it is still a good time to stop and remind myself of the little things, and the big things, that make me happy.
God doesn't makes mistakes and this includes my deafness and some ugly things in my past.
So for myself being thankful, includes life itself, what has been has helped shaped who I am today.  And the knowledge that God will be with me in the future gives me comfort, hope and a sense of purpose. My life is meaningful.


I am thankful that all my children & grandchildren are healthy and love the Lord, That they have grown up into the wonderful people that each one of them are. I am blessed to have a wonderful daughter in law who clearly loves my son and is a marvellous part of our family. I am thankful that though they live so far away, that air travel is available and that have seen them 3 times this year. I am thankful that all my children are gainfully employed and to boot they are all in jobs that help others, a pilot, 2 as children’s ministers/carers and a fireman.

A recent trip home for a family reunion also reminded me of the blessings of an extended family.

Part of the extended De Rooy clan (Myself and Rob are 7 & 8 standing from the left )


Though I have lots of little things that can be frustrating such as recurring fatigue & frequent hay fever, it is relatively nothing compared to having cancer or chronic pain. I am thankful to God that my earlier brush with breast cancer was caught early and that an operation was all that I needed. I still find it hard to take it in that I actually had cancer yet didn’t need radiation or chemo, how thankful I am to the great medical advances in our country.

Travelling Grey nomads

Caravan camped at Yandina, Qld
I am blessed that I have the time to travel in a caravan around this great country together with my husband. We have seen so much on our road trips over the last 3 years, going up the centre of Australia through South Australia & Northern Territory and then coming down Western Australia.

Counting your blessings

The list goes on, as once you start to count your blessings you may be surprised to find that your cup overflows! Mine certainly does. Thank you God! So take time to reflect on what you're doing. Be grateful. Remind yourself what you love about what you are doing and why you do it. Create the opportunity to let your loved ones know that you are grateful to have them in your lives.

Two steps forward - one step back

O my gosh! We have been officially home for 2 weeks and I don’t seem to have gotten much done. I should say I have been home for 2 weeks, Rob has been home less than a week and he appears to have achieved more than I have in less than half the time. Good for him, but that's boo for me!

Maybe a small part of it is that I still suffer from fatigue and have had 2 days where I could hardly keep my eyes open... when they were open and my brain was functioning, it was then that I did most of my final editing for my recent "Christmas is coming" series... I can hardly wait for Christmas!

Running around & boring housework

Also there were/are 101 things that needed doing from visiting the dentist, staying overnight with daughter Camille, and lots and lots of washing and deeper house cleaning such as cleaning the floors, tidying the cupboards etc. I haven’t even started in the garden yet other than to pull the flower stalks off some pesky onion grass that keep popping up in one little corner.

I haven’t even started on the caravan yet other than to empty the fridge and freezer and bring in some items as I need them. Each time I need to go in the caravan for anything, I try to carry more things back to the house each time and put it away straight away rather than letting it become one more mess inside the house!!! There’s no point in wasting a trip nor adding a new mess to the slightly tidier house!

Lifestyle changes

It is sort of weird to get up, put on my slippers, grab a cuppa and walk all the way to my office corner in the middle of the house, to get online. I used to take about 4 steps to sit at the table and watch the sun come up over a different scene most mornings whilst waiting for the computer to load up. Sometimes the sun and scenery were just too tempting, and I just had to go outside and experience it and maybe take yet another sunrise photo. Now a days, it's just a few more steps... but it is still odd!

Sleep v action

Poor Rob, once he came home from his  4,000km cross country trek in 5 days with the ‘new’ bus, he desperately wanted to sleep in late every morning, but it battles with his innate desire to get stuck into the bus conversion.

Back to normal soon

The house is nearly good enough to go back to a regular housework routine and then I can stuck back into my Christmas preparations & crafts. I have this one new bigger project that I really want to stuck into. I have never done this type of craft before – and I would really like to do three of them eventually...

Thankful I can make things on the road

At least my crochet Christmas Stockings are done as well as my Chocolate Poinsettia Flowers. That’s what I love about crafting on the road! You can craft as you go. It can save a lot of otherwise wasted time!

 Footsteps photo credit: Bibba

Tooloom Falls

Now you didn’t think I had totally abandoned our travel notes, did you?  Tut Tut.

Travel is part of our lives now that we are retired. Even though we have arrived back home for the Christmas season, we will still be giving some caravan and travelling tips and as well as some travel notes. I have some BIG news coming shortly. But for now, let’s just get on with it!

The road down from Rathdowney to Woodenbong was very winding but it is a beautiful drive as far as the views of the forests including numerous very tall and straight trees. About 6 km south of Urbenville, you will find the beautiful Tooloom Falls with free camping. There’s the obligatory drop toilet which was very clean and with no odor. Camp fires can be lit taking into account the fire season warnings We stayed for 2 nights here. It is a lovely place looking over the water falls. It was very quiet other than the sound of the water falls. Just occasionally you could hear the logging trucks across the waterfalls as they went past with their precious logs.

There was 2 other motorhomes that pulled in later in the day but they were travelling together and mostly kept to themselves. There was another group of 2 campers, a group of older teens or young adults, that were making the most of their leisure time, I suspect at the end of the school or college year. They certainly didn’t want us 2 old fogeys interrupting their fun. They were pretty quiet and certainly weren’t disorderly or a problem at all.

So this left us to have some nice quiet days wondering around the water falls, playing cards on the picnic tables and such which were pretty much the order of the days there. Wonderful & beautiful! It was definitely worth some time out to come here.

Boterkoek recipe - a simple Dutch cake

This authentic Boterkoek (Dutch butter cake) was passed to me by my husband's Tante Wil, surprisingly it doesn't have any almond in it.

It is a very simple easy to make cake using few ingredients and it is a firm favourite with my family. It reminds me of shortbread but it is much more moist with a different taste and texture.

Source: JZ85/CC-by-SA-3.0



1 ½ cup of Plain Flour
175 g softened butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg


Mix sugar and butter by hand until creamy
Mix in the egg
Mix in the flour
Grease a 20cm tin
Press down mixture evenly
Shape top of cake if desired
Optional: Brush top with milk
Bake in 180o oven for 30 minutes in 2 loaf tins or 45 minutes in the long expandable loaf tin

Leave in tin for 10 minutes. But cut whilst warm.

Enjoy with a nice cuppa.

Christmas Chocolate Poinsettia Tutorial

It is only natural to want to decorate your home for Christmas to make it both inviting and festive. I love to make something each year.

Chocolate Poinsettia

In our house we tend to stick to basically traditional colours and lots of handmade ornaments as well as a couple of special pieces that have been gifted bought or made with love over the years & have meaning for us.

Today I want to show you how to make an edible chocolate Poinsettia. It is a wonderful way to gift a special chocolate. It can stand alone or adorn a present. I made them with the intention of using them for the plate decoration for my Christmas table.

Let me show you how easy it is to make it in the following  Christmas Flower tutorial.

Ideally you will need the Spellbinders Nested Flower and a cutting machine such as a Cuttlebug to cut your flower layers. However it is an easy enough shape to hand cut that doesn’t require a lot of accuracy. Email me if you want a PDF file of a hand drawn flower in 2 sizes if you are not confident to draw your own.

Most years I like to make a Christmas tree ornament and this year is no exception with a crochet mini Christmas Stocking. I have covered this on Tuesday blog here.

Chocolate Poinsettia Flower


For each flower you need the following:

  • Red cardstock
  • 2 large flower shapes and 2 medium flower shapes
  • Dark green, brown or another dark inkpad preferably not black
  • A sponge or dauber
  • Hot glue gun
  • A large stylus - a ball ended tool used for shaping card and icing flowers.
  • A soft mouse pad
  • Wrapped chocolate 
    The packet of wrapped chocolate I used for the centres.


Cut the four shapes.

Look carefully, the left flower has been sponged for shading

Using a corner of your sponge, dab onto the ink pad and rub the colour gently across the edges of the petals of each flower layer to darken them.

Shape the petals with a shaping stylus by rubbing each petal in a circular motion to curl petals up, leaving base pretty much flat. Do this for each layer. In the two photos above you can see how the petals are flat until I use the ball stylus. In the bottom photo you can see the ball stylus on the top right hand side.

When your flowers are shaped nicely, then glue the layers together off setting the petals for each layer.

Glue in your wrapped chocolate into the center and you are done.

A nice but optional extra is to cut a large flower shape in green cardstock and cut off 2 petals for leaves (or just cut 2 leaves from green card stock) and adhere to the base of the flower after pinching the tips in the same manner.

Yabba Dabba Doo - Your very own Chocolate Poinsettia flower

Chocolate Poinsettia Flower up close

Feel free to email me if you have any questions about the construction of this flower.

Linda Duke shows a different method of shaping the flower. She has an excellent video tutorial on her blog that inspired my flower, though I have made my own changes as per my methods above.

Chocolate Poinsettia in a presentation basket

Want more?

Would you like to see more Christmas foods and recipes? Leave me a comment or an email.

In the meantime make sure to check out other ideas for Christmas Decorations on Leslie's blog

Our Christmas Traditions

Aussie style Christmas

Christmas traditions in Australia tend to be different to our snow-covered northern hemisphere friends who rug up, sip egg nog and decorate alpine fir trees. I am sure my daughter, Benita, will making the most of her white Christmas in Canada this year and will come back with wonderful stories of the traditions there.

Up goes the Christmas Tree

Christmas traditions start for us long before Christmas Day. During all our Christmas experiences, we are constantly aware that the true reason for Christmas is centered around the birth of our Saviour Jesus. With him we have every reason to celebrate this wonderful time of the year. We don't completely deride Santa and all that, but it is only the side dressing, not the main course.

On 1st December, (or the weekend closest) we start setting up the house for Christmas. The tree goes up and all the various bits and pieces make their way to various locations. I have already been busy making plans and some Christmas crafts. Usually I can hardly wait to get cracking at it.

Benita makes a Gingerbread house

St Nicolas Day

My husband's parents are Dutch and part of the Dutch tradition is to celebrate Christ’s birth earlier in the month, St Nicolas Day. Now we tend to pick a day that appears to suit as many of his brothers and sisters as possible and have the extended party hosted in turn by one of his siblings. (My own parents have both died & my one sister lives a long way away and she has Christmas with her husband and his large family).
Generally speaking we would all bring appetisers & drinks to share. The main fare changes each year and is arranged by the host and then we split the costs to reduce the financial burden at an already cost laden time of year. It is a wonderful time of getting re-acquainted with all the nieces and nephews and now their little ones. I just love having little ones around at Christmas. It just seems that their wonderment is contagious and makes me appreciate the season through their eyes so much more.

Extended family gathers for a meal

Our Own Christmas

In the week before Christmas, we would drive around and look at the Christmas lights people set up in their yards and houses. We are heavily involved in our church and as such we are part of the huge Carols by Candlelight in the park where we will have in excess of 5,000 people turn up. My son is often part of the sound technician team and I am the craft coordinator for the 100 or so little kiddies we can expect to come to the craft tables. This will take a lot of preparations before the day and the whole day itself. It truly is a labour of love to see the pride in the kids with what they have made.

On Christmas Day

Christmas foods also form a part of our Christmas celebrations. Some are specific to Christmas time only.

Niece Casey made these delightful Santa Cupcakes

A long time tradition from my family is to have ham and cheese croissants for breakfast on Christmas morning frequently with everyone sitting on our big bed before quickly getting ready to head off to church. With 2 of our girls being Children’s ministers in their own churches, they are not able to join us until after lunch usually.

Lunch is the main fare Last year we BBQ’d marinated Pork Rib Racks which is something special for us and may become a new tradition in the years ahead.

As there are constant supply of appetizers such as veal croquettes, chicken dippings, salami triangles, mini quiches and such throughout the day, we well and truly do not need an evening meal. 

Sleigh full of Reindeer noses bags

Presents and Games

The afternoon is filled in with playing cards or board games as a family. When everyone has arrived we will pass out the presents for opening. If there are little children around, then they will be elves and Oma would be Santa's assistant who would give the elves the presents to pass onto the rightful recipient.

Handing our the presents

Boxing Day

Now that both our girls are working on Christmas Days and our son is available on call as a fireman, we have switched our main family celebrations to Boxing Day now.

We used to have a cold buffet often Leg of Double smoked Ham with Smoked chicken and salads. I guess that will now switch to Christmas Day... we'll see.

What are your traditions?

To see other Christmas Traditions, the go to Leslie's blog. Some of her followers have recorded their own traditions too!
More blogs to look at including some Christmas and thanksgiving posts can be found here.

Christmas Decorating

There's nothing quite like decorating for Christmas: nativity scenes, fairy lights, tinsel, candles, handmade ornaments and other decorations. All this combined with family gatherings and feasting, it is not wonder it is one of my favourite times of the year.

Christmas Themes

There are many different themes to choose from. Each year shops and magazines tempt one to go for this trend or that one. All look marvellous but remember they are principally designed to help you part with your money each year. Some like to change their themes every year or two and that's great for them.

Personally I like a traditional colour theme. I guess with red being my favourite colour, it is no surprise. As I am allergic to pine sap, we can’t have real trees. A large evergreen tree is central our main lounge room. I guess the height just makes it a dominating feature. We have a large house and I am tempted to have a second tree in the family TV room too, though I haven't gone down that path yet!

Glossy and glittered coloured baubles, handmade ornaments, fairy lights & tinsel ropes are all part of our tree. An assortment of handmade be-ribboned gift boxes are placed under the tree, some empty waiting for filling closer to the day.  This year I am considering making a tree skirt and mounting the tree up on a table for additional height since we have cathedral ceilings in the lounge room. I wonder why I haven't thought of that before???

Nativity sets

As Christ is central to our Christmas, it is only fitting that we have a couple of Nativity related items.
My most treasured item is the very cute “Precious Moments” nativity set we have had for years.
My treasured nativity set

We also have inherited a hand painted wooden nativity scene that was painted by my husband’s sister for their Mum who passed away in 2011.This is quite tall at about 60cm and stands at the front entry so it is seen as soon as you walk in the door.

My daughter helping her niece decorate the tree
I love to display all our handmade Christmas stuff. With lots of lovely glittery store bought cards available cheaply, I am getting less and less of the handmade versions each year. Boo Hoo! The handmade cards get special attention on the top of the fireplace. The rest of the Christmas cards are displayed on the wall in a metal card hanging wreath all together.

A handmade ‘snow’ wreath adorns the front door. It is getting a bit tired and so needs replacing soon. Maybe I will make a bauble wreath as seen on my Pinterest board here. It looks simple enough!

A cottage crafted padded Noel sign hangs just inside the front door to welcome everyone to our house at Christmas time.

A gorgeous gifted handmade country style Snowman adorns the top of our wooden dining table.

How to make your own Chocolate Poinsettia

Chocolate Poinsettia
Come back next week when I show you how to make this fantastic chocolate poinsettia that I used as part of my place settings at our Christmas table. They would make an excellent gift topper or just a lovely way to present a small gift such as a teacher gift.

By the way, the baubles you can see behind the flower are part of the handmade ornaments I made last year!

5 tips to Stress Free Christmas Parties

It is hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas is the time of the year to go all out as far as parties go.

Photo: Magnus Frankin
Some people love the idea of a house full of guests. Others prefer a small intimate gathering.

Here are 5 tips to help you host a party that suits YOU!

1. Stress free party planing

The key to a great stress free party is planing. For some people the mere idea of hosting a party will see them having panic attacks. The more thought you put into it and schedule the various aspects of Christmas planning, the calmer you will be. Remember, you are to enjoy the party too.

2. How many?

Decide where and how many guests you are comfortable about handling. Consider seating and adverse weather possibility.

3. Set a theme

Do you want to stick to the traditional red and green? Maybe you want to splash out and go for something modern like silver and purple or maybe silver and blue is more your colouring. What about going for a rustic or country theme? The ideas don't stop here. Google Images and Pinterest are great sources of inspiration.

Once you have your venue and theme set then you can start to do some shopping (or crafting) to tie it all together. Of course the boring fact is that most of us have a budget that we need to stick to. So before you head off to the shops, take a good look at your decorations and other stuff around the house and see if you can incorporate any of it into your theme. You can up cycle and recycle things around the house or from the op shops to fit in and still keep within your budget.  A can of paint, some paper and glue can transform many items to fit within your theme and your budget. Make a list of what you need and keep the list in your bag so you'll know what you still need to purchase.

4. Party Food or Menu

Party Drinks photo by 6S
No celebration is complete without food. Christmas party food was covered rather extensively on this post just a few days ago. So to put it in a nutshell.

  1. Decide your main course. 
  2. Add accompaniments; salads, vegetables or other. 
  3. Have food in reserve as a back up for unexpected or extra hungry guests - maybe they just love your food and want extras. Think of it as a compliment.
  4. Are you planing to serve nibbles and/or appetizers?
  5. Christmas drinks: a variety of nonalcoholic drinks is a good starting point.
 Consider spreading the load and cost by asking your guest to bring a plate and/or drinks.

5. Entertainment

Outdoor Twister photo credit
You don't always need to provide entertainment as such, maybe some quiet music in the background will suffice whilst people mingle and chat. Sometimes the theme will set the entertainment for the party.  Other times the party can be enliven with a couple of planned activities. If it is an outdoor party you might do a game of Boule or French Cricket or Outdoor Twister.

Charades are always popular especially if you make it a set subject range such as recent movies or popular singers.

One game we fall back on as a group is a large version of Pictionary using a Artist A frame to hold a large drawing pad/whiteboard.

Want more suggestions?

There are more ideas to be found via Leslie's blog Lamberts Lately.

Christmas Stocking: crochet one yourself

I have made a head start on this year’s Christmas gifts by making bits and pieces on the road. One thing I like to do each year is make a Christmas ornament.

This year one of my projects was to crochet these cute little Christmas stockings for my 2 adorable granddaughters and all my great nieces and nephews under 10.

I made these in honour of my mother in law who passed away just 12 months ago. She made the original ones for my kids some 25 years ago. We put a roll of lollies in each one and hang it on the tree for Christmas Day. I would like the kids to think of Oma each year when they get their lollies.

Tutorial available

If you would like the instructions to the Christmas Stockings, then just leave a comment below or send me an email.

Some of the stockings have tinsel thread in the outside colour to add that touch of glitz and glamour.

Available for sale

If you don't want to make these gorgeous stockings yourself, then you are lucky as I have made a bundle of the Christmas Stockings extra for sale. $5.00 each plus postage or 5 for $20 plus postage. Please email me if you would like to place an order.

Do you want craft tutorials?

I am also making other items, I will post them as appropiate when they are complete. I am not sure if there is enough interest to warrant making up tutorials for them. Are you interested in seeing tutorials available on this blog? Do leave me a comment with your opinions

Christmas Foods

Certainly Christmas is so much more than just the food. However eating food is a wonderful way to celebrate and bring people together to celebrate Jesus' birth.  I quite enjoy designing a menu and preparing the food for Christmas and its numerous parties, especially if I don't leave it until the last minute and stress out. That is why I create a list for this too!

Labour of love

To me it is a labour of love and I quite enjoy the creative aspect.  I would be devastated if I put all the time and effort into it and then they didn't get eaten up. Pity though there is nothing than the tasty memory left after they get gobbled up so quickly. I had already started browsing recipe books and the internet for ideas whilst we were still on our road trip. Christmas generally is a dieter's worst nightmare, but then you can select foods that fit into a healthy life style or you can take a few days off and get back into shape afterwards. I try to cover for both.

Banquet or BBQ

No matter whether you are planning a brunch, a banquet or a barbecue, the food and drinks are what ties your party together. So decide what your main dish is going to be.

Reindeer cake pop
Have you cooked it before or is it a new recipe you want to try out? You might want to make a trial run if it is a new recipe. There is nothing wrong with picking something you are comfortable with even if it is an old faithful, as undoubtly it will be a popular dish. Now build the rest of the menu around your main choice: vegetables or salads? Do you go for finger foods or are plates required.

Where possible make it eay for yourself and choose dishes that can be easily prepared in advance. Don't rule out convenience foods especially if you can add that special touch. Remember the guests are there for a great time and for your company. Ensure you have enough to feed your guests. Add a few extras for unexpected guests as well as those that enjoy their food. It is well worth planning carefully as running out of food puts a real dampener on a party and over catering is just a waste. I tend to have un -opened food such as crackers & dip that doesn't spoil quickly or food that can freeze if left over as a back up.

Our own intimate Christmas

As both our girls are Children's Ministers, they work on Christmas mornings, so we tend to leave the home celebration for the afternoon on Christmas Day, giving both girls time to  travel home and not miss out. This year, our 2 oldest children will not be able to make it at all and so we have decided to have our own Christmas party on Boxing Day with the two youngest adult children and some friends.

Nibbles and appetizers

I start off with nibbles and appetisers, some hot and some cold. Some sweet and some savoury.
Decorated cakes and cake pops have become extremely popluar these last few years. Last year I made cute reindeer cake pops as seen in the photo above following the guidelines here but using my own choclate cake recipe and simple Christmas tree cupcakes as seen here using the same chocolate cake recipe and decorated the cupcakes with royal icing and tinting & cutting using the cute little tree cutters I have.

This year I plan to make Dutch Veal croquettes. I know it is not a traditional Christmas fare, but it is something special and Christmas is certainly a time to celebrate the kids' Dutch heritage. While I am at it I maybe I should have a go at Ollie Bollen too - a Dutch fruity doughnut type of dessert.

Bringing it more in line with Christmas, I plan to make a Boterkoek version of a Shortbread Christmas Tree. I am also tempted to make a prettier version of my Mars Bar Christmas Trees. They were very popular last year.

My Main Fare

Being mid summer here in Australia with temperatures easily reaching 30 degrees or more, I am not going to slave in a hot kitchen on the day. (For my American friends - that's nearly 90 degrees F or more.)
DIY Fruit Platter Tutorial here
Accordingly our main fare will include cold double smoked ham and pineapple adorned chicken accompanied by various salads, such as Balsamic roast vegetable salad, Oriental noodle salad and possibly a pasta salad. The salads can also be made ahead with only the dressing (premade) and the crispy noodles being the last minute additions to the Oriental noodle salad.

Traditionally we top of dinner with fresh fruit salad and home made lemon cheesecake. This year I'd like to try one of the fancy ways of presenting the fruit salad that I saw on Pinterest.

What about some recipes? 

Boterkoek recipe will be on this blog this coming Monday. 
Cake Pops how to can be found on the Bakerella blog here.
Cheese and Fruit Platter Tutorial and other wonderful ideas can be found on my Pinterest Board dedicated to Food Ideas.

But I am in a caravan or RV

Then come back in a few weeks. I plan on showing you how to host a Christmas party and plan your menu with some cheeky cheats ways to get your friends & family going... "Wow! You did all this from in your caravan? I am impressed".

Questions or requests?

If you have any  questions or requests, then please make a comment below or send me an email.


Need more ideas?

This link here will take you to one of the Christmas party tables I created last year with more detailed photos of my Christmas Tree cup cakes, reindeer cake pops and Mars Bar Christmas Trees.

Late edited: As promised I have posted my Easy Christmas Menu. It is so easy, I am can make it from my RV kitchen. Go take a look to speed up & simplify your  own Christmas Menu. Do come back to let me khow how you went. I would love some feedback. Maybe you can make  next year's Christmas cooking better for all of us - at least give us some more ideas anyway.

Make sure to visit Lamberts Lately and see what wonderful temptations others have come up with so far this year.