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Christmas time…


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide  carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos… this is my vision of Christmas, growing up I loved to listen to Nat King Cole sing this song on our record player… we always had Christmas with family ate a huge roast turkey dinner, with Brussels sprouts (which I hated by the way… what was I thinking), drank snowballs, a treat as it contained a little alcohol… shhh don’t tell anyone, and opened presents all day long, or at least that is what it felt like back then.

 Now I’m an adult I love the tradition of Christmas but I also love to be different, a few years ago we took our family to Florida and California for Christmas, oh how magical it was… there is nothing like Christmas Day in Disneyland, Christmas music blasting out everywhere you go, decorations like you can only imagine and children running around in pure delight… I haven’t mentioned the torrential rain, the sea of ponchos and the crowds, because I didn’t see any of that… it was pure magic in my eyes and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Boxing Day was much slower, sunshine, swimming and drinking cocktails in an adirondack chair in Downtown Disney with Silver Bells being sang away in the distance… my brother could never quite see the vision of a Christmas not spent at home, but to me Christmas is exactly what you make it whether at home or away… I’m hoping his Christmas cruise this year will let him see my vision of A magical Christmas no matter where you are.


Santa Monica Pier, CA … Christmas 2005


Disneyland, Anaheim CA… Christmas Day 2005

This year was much more traditional for us… a few years ago we decided that we would put names of all the older members of our family in a jar, this included Paul and I, my Mum and Dad too this year… each person only bought for the name that came out of the jar, and we set a budget to spend too, this didn’t include Blu, Mabel and of course Florrie and Tate, they still got presents from everyone.  It gets harder and harder each year to think of presents for everyone, we all buy everything we need all year, life is so much more different from when I was growing up, we all have phones, laptops, clothes, toys that we just buy all year, so how do we make it special for that person we are buying gifts for… well the name in the jar gives you the opportunity to really think about that person, I must admit I was not very good this year but Jordan who pulled ‘Mom’ out of the jar really thought about what I might like, we had a little Antique shopping afternoon, he walked silently with me and just observed all the things I touched and loved… I was so delighted with his gifts he really put thought into each one… Kit Kats and mini Twix bars, because he knows they are my favorite, natural face wipes and Lush complexion soap, all natural just the way I like it, then my favorite and Florries too an old typewriter, taking me straight back to my childhood… he then gave me a card with money in it, just in case I didn’t like anything… well guess what Jord, your gift was so thoughtful, I love it… thank you ❤️

I am not usually a fan of going to the shops on Christmas Day, those poor people that have to work instead of being home with their families, but I was naughty this year, I’ve been running around so much organizing the day an hour in Starbucks with just my Mum seemed the perfect way to wind down before the festivities began, so that is exactly what we did…

Of course I can’t be too traditional, so I added a spin on the food… with our Thanksgiving feast just a few weeks ago I decided to change things up for Christmas… an Aussie style BBQ for breakfast, eggs, sauasages and warm bread, of course there was some smoked salmon too, then later in the day we had a gigantic charcuterie board, baked ham and fresh cooked dill butter salmon, cheesecake, mince pies and lots of chocolate… all of my favorite things… and as it turned out everyone else’s too!


After presents were opened, food was eaten we drank the best mulled wine I have ever had, made by Jord courtesy of Jamie Oliver and everything was cleared away, we opened the game Dom had bought us all… there is nothing like a good game of Cranium to inspire the creativity in you, or not in my case… we drew, acted, thought a little and drank more alcohol, ate more chocolate but mostly we just spent time with each other… peace, love ❤️ and happiness.

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‘Joy to the World…’

I always feel that this time of year is chaotic, the shops are full of crazy people filling their carts with anything and everything they can find, they spend as much money as they can on their loved ones… well my friends that used to be me, but not this year, I’m simplifying my life, I have set a limit for each child, all year they get things they need, I do not need to break my bank account to prove I love them with gifts and possessions, there are more important things in life like experiences, family time and love.


I want to teach my children about giving, not just about receiving, I want them to learn that this season is not just about what they want or need.  I don’t think anyone of my children actually need anything, they are loved, we live in a nice house that has running water, heat and a new kitchen (wink, wink), each one of them has a closet filled with clothes and we eat good healthy meals, most of the time, anyway.  In addition to all of the basics of life we have phones, iPads, computers and a lot of the luxuries in life many people just dream of… so I ask myself what can I really buy each of them that they don’t already have in one form or another…


What we do need from time to time is a vacation, not just a trip away but a vacation from just our day to day life, a day trip to the zoo, an hour in a coffee shop sipping a hot drink and just talking to each other, or even a longer stay in a new place, somewhere to rewind, relax and recharge… and all these things are really what Christmas should be about, not who spent the most money.


My plan this year is not to get stressed, my two younger children have been told Santa can only give five presents to each child, big or small, so Florrie wants a Baby Alive doll, Baby Alive diapers, a kitten… and then she struggles to think of anything else, Tate wants a Tonka cement truck, that is all… so really five gifts each is more than enough.  My teenage daughter’s list is the most difficult and the longest, trying to make her understand has proved the hardest, her list of four makeup products is $200 in itself, that’s without the rest of the list, usually I would stress myself out getting every item on her list but this year she has had to prioritize the things she wants most, and Blu is easy, computer games, a couple of items of clothes, even an IOU for future games that are coming out next year and he’s done.


As for my older children, well a few years ago we all decided to put names in a hat and just buy one larger gift for the name you pulled out, at first I was opposed to this but as time has gone on it has simplified my Christmas a little so I just have to think about Lewis this year, of course he is the most difficult to buy for, I just need a few hints… now if I can ignore everyone else asking me for ideas for their person it will be truly easier for me to concentrate on my one present I have to buy.

We will also be donating a gift this year at our local library, I feel we are truly blessed and there are so many people out there who are not as fortunate as our family… whatever your plans this Christmas, just remember the most important part of this festive time of year is spending time with your loved ones, not money, and if you can’t get that most wanted gift it really doesn’t matter, it will all be forgotten this time next year and they will want something else… just have FUN 🎄🎄🎄

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Happy, Happy Holidays to one and all!

Christmas grocery planning and shopping is always a favorite pastime of mine… NOT, but I’m getting there, which is always a good start, the planning is done, now onto the shopping… Luckily Paul is off tomorrow and is coming with me to get the food, always a mammoth task with so many hungry mouths to feed in our house!

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Having a large family makes planning my menu especially for the holidays an essential, it’s a mammoth task that takes time and precision, especially when you are a home cooking person, not using convenience foods as much as possible! I’ve started my week today with some ingredients I already have in, I like to include baked goods in my menu too, and this week I’m going to be experimenting with using some gluten free flours to add to my dairy free change outs I now use in some recipes, it’s taken my brain a while to adjust to thinking dairy free where I can, but I’m slowly getting there!

Brownies are becoming a hot favorite in my house, I’ve discovered that melting some butter in a large cast iron skillet for baking then making the batter in the pot I melt the sticks of butter in makes brownies not only a success but it’s oh so easy with little to clean up… Easy quick and delicious, but this week I’m planning on trying to use the recipe and make it gluten free… I love experimenting with recipes to make my life easier! We have a new store opened near us, their selection on flours is fantastic and cheap too, so I’m heading in there to see what they have and what I can save on!

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We are not great traditionalists in our house, I like to mix it up for Christmas now and then, my absolute favorite thing to do for the holidays is go on vacation, I love being away and just doing something completely different, a few years ago we spent our Christmas and New Year in Florida then California… Best Christmas ever, but when times are tough you have to vacation at home for Christmas and make some traditions for your family! One of our new traditions is making our own mince pies, I prepare the mincemeat in advance and then Paul and Mabel make the pastry and bake the pies on Christmas Eve, I of course supervise with a glass of wine from the sofa! Mincemeat is one of those things I always bought in a jar until a friend told me how easy it was to make your own fresh and delicious, so now each year I whip up a batch ready for Christmas Eve baking!

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Another tradition we have steered away from in recent years is the traditional turkey dinner, oh no I hear many of you say, but after cooking Thanksgiving dinner just a few short weeks before, my need to repeat the process is not there! This year though we having a little bit of tradition with a baked ham, but apart from that I’m going for easy to prepare and little to do on the day itself!

We still call the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, always a true Brit, no matter where we live, our Black Friday left over sandwiches will be transformed into a Boxing Day treat this year too! Of course whatever the celebration there has to be a cheeseboard, a new favorite a large bucket of Trader Joes popcorn and lots of chocolate this and that… Oh I forgot something we’ve always had at this time of year is satsumas, mandarins or clementines… Vitamin C to ward off those dreaded Christmas bugs… That’s about it, our Traditions in a nutshell!

Now for my menu for the next week…

Thursday…
Tortilla soup and cornbread
Friday…
Chicken and fennel soup… Focaccia bread
Saturday…
Pumpkin pasta bake
Sunday…
Chicken pot pie and baked potatoes
Monday…
Sausage tortellini soup and a Mac and cheese
Tuesday…
Rotisserie chicken warm chicken salad

Christmas Eve
Pizza night with a huge cheese board
Mince pies

Christmas Day
Breakfast… Muffins and bacon rolls
Ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, Cesar salad, pumpkin lasagne
Chocolate Victoria and strawberry cake
Apple crumble and whipped cream

Boxing Day
Leftover sandwiches
Brownies

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This year of course is Tate’s first Christmas, I’ve hardly had time to decorate the house with this little bombshell in my life, at 9 months old he is into everything and anything, so Paul put the tree up and that’s as far as we have got… It is what it is, it’s far more important to enjoy my time with him before he grows up and that is happening so fast already!

Whatever you have planned for the Holiday season… take a deep breath, breathe and remember the most important thing of this season is family and loved ones, not the chaos that is in the shops right now!

Happy Holidays!

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Happy New Year!

This day every year brings reflections of a year gone by… I have not viewed 2013 as a very good one until yesterday when I made a short video of a the year of our lives, as I browsed through the many, many photos taken in the last year I realized that although at times in the year things were hard and sometimes sad, there have been many days in between that more than outweighed the bad days, the days we smiled, laughed and just had a great day, the sunshine, the birthdays and the first day we had a little window into the new life growing within me… So my New Years resolution for 2014 is going to be focussing on the good things I have in my life and not dwelling on the not so good, along with my usual trying to be more organized and being better with spending money!

Christmas was a quiet affair this year, well as quiet as it can be in my house, lots of food and presents, but most of all I got the much needed rest I was craving, a few days in watching movies and catching up on a messy filing system on my computer of photos!

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So on this last day of 2013, I want to thank everyone for reading these crazy ramblings of this soon to be mother of 8 children, but most of all I want to wish each and every one a very Happy and Healthy New Year in 2014… And just remember that for every bad day there are many more good days to come in between!

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This is my 28 week ultrasound photo of a new little man in our lives… Now that Christmas is over it’s time to concentrate on his arrival into our already crazy family… I wouldn’t change a thing, maybe just a tweak here and there!

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The Magic of Christmas…

In this crazy world of bigger and better, must haves and technology, I really do believe we have forgotten the true meaning and magic of Christmas… As people crowd into the shops, they lose all sense of decency, manners and just plain respect… I was listening to some of the old Christmas songs on Lite Fm, my favorite at this time of year, I was listening to the words and I realized that Christmas really isn’t about the huge pile of presents we get, but really it once was a magical time of year, with warm glowing lights, trees tall and bright, food, family and love… We really have forgotten these values as we barge from one shop to another trying to get as many presents as we can… Well my advice to you all, is stop, take a huge step back and look around you, we should take more value in the love we have, just because we get the biggest present or spend the most money doesn’t mean we are the best person, it’s all about love, family, friendship and life… And just remember those that are less fortunate than ourselves… True Christmas magic is only held within and can only shine through when we are truly happy… Gifts come and go, next year there will always be something bigger and better to buy!

On that note… I am spending this last Sunday before Christmas at home… I got up extra early yesterday to get into the mall before the dreaded crowds of people appeared, we arrived outside the Mall at 8.30am, 30 minutes later than I had planned, but still I got a perfect parking place right outside Macy’s, Starbucks was quiet and civilized, we left after getting everything we needed just as the crowds began to appear. So today is a quiet make the mince pies kind of day, the home made mincemeat is made and in jars, my Mum has just made the pastry and everything is ready for the putting together of the tiny pies!

Dinner is cooking in my new Ninja slow cooker, for the first time in a very long time we have lamb… Costco’s had a very good deal on a joint of lamb, so I found a recipe crock pot lamb, so far it smells delicious… Together with baked potatoes cooking away in my second slow cooker!

The weather is very mild for December in New Jersey, all the snow of last week has melted away, so I’m guessing all hopes of a white Christmas this year are gone, still I’m not moaning as I am enjoying the milder temperatures… Long may they continue!
Merry Christmas to one and All!

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Festive mumblings…

Christmas organization…
Where to begin… That is the question, my head cannot or will not function to get a list of food and other items needed for the festivities of the next week, so I thought rather than ramble on about this and that I would write down my thoughts right here and try to make sense of the jumble that is my brain right now…

I finally managed to get the last item on Mabel’s list yesterday, a cardigan from Abercrombie, I refuse to pay full price when you just know it is going to be discounted sooner rather than later, and that was last night, it was not quite the 40% off, but 30% was good for me and now I can check off all presents bought… Finally!

The other thing on my check list yesterday was gifts to England… yesterday I placed my Amazon orders, ok they will not be there for Christmas Day but they will arrive next week and in my book that is still the Christmas season to me… So done and checked!

Last thing I needed to do was my Christmas cards… I know they are going to be extremely late, but I have a resolution for this… They are now Happy New Year cards, and now they won’t be late… I uploaded the photo, chose the card, ordered the cards… Done, or so I thought until I got a phone call from Costco… I had not cropped the photo properly, so now first job of today… Redo my cards!

The last thing on my Christmas check list… FOOD, the dreaded grocery shop is looming… This is where my head is confused and muddled, so here goes…

Menu plan for the Christmas week

Tonight – mulligatawny soup with fluffy rice and chicken

Saturday – broccoli pasta, chopped garden salad and sausages

Sunday – green risotto with bacon

Monday – beef kofta curry, rice, beans and peas

Christmas Day – bacon sandwiches
lasagne… A family favorite and a ham, another family favorite
Sausage rolls
Minced pies

Boxing Day – spending the day with friends

Things to make… Mincemeat for mince/jam pies, cookies, bread, sausage rolls

On a last note… I was speaking to a friend in England yesterday, she recently sent me a photo of home made mincemeat for her mince pies, she was telling me how easy it was to make, and that she will never buy jarred mincemeat again… So here goes, this morning I will attempt to make some mincemeat too!
Mary Berry mincemeat recipe using butter… so good for vegetarians!

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Bah Humbug…

Christmas comes but once a year and with it brings a lot of cheer… This may have been true once upon a time, but the sad truth is Christmas is now all about crowds of people everywhere you go and money, money, money! I find myself longing for the first week in January and a sense of normality back in my life… Errands like running to Target for tea bags used to be quiet and simple, no lines of people with their carts full of toys!

Christmas should be about the joy of giving a simple gift, but instead we go crazy to give the newest gadgets, fanciest boots and most expensive games to our children… I am as guilty as the next person for doing this, Blu and Mabel want an iPhone 5 and a mini iPad, and I would go to the ends of the earth to get this for them, but in my heart of hearts I wonder what will they want to get next year as they seem to have everything and they are only 11 and 13!

I look at my 18 month old Florrie, so innocent and unwanting and I wonder what this modern world with all it’s iPhones, iPads and all sorts of branded products is doing to us!

With my soap box moment over, I will move onto more normal December topics… Menu planning is at it’s best with my new fridge/freezer in place and organized, I am not over shopping and using everything in there before I restock up again, it worked well last week and then inspired me to do the same with my pantry cupboard, so now that is organized and only stocked with products we need… Lets see how long I can keep it looking this way as I’m loving being organized for once!

The house reorganization is coming along now, with my parents being here to help out I feel like I am finally making progress, the rooms as they are now are working out well for us, the dining room table is now a much used item in our house, the comfy sofa by the kitchen is a permanent hang out for my Dad now and Paul is loving his new work from home office situated conveniently next to the kitchen so he can have his many cups of Tazo Tea throughout the day… Project change the house around… Done and successful!

My menu plan for this week

Saturday – tomato and lentil soup with grilled panini’s
Sunday – chicken pot pie with steamed broccoli
Monday – endive and ham gratin (James Martin), homemade rolls and a green salad
Tuesday – veggie and lentil stew, grilled spicy sausages and chili, cilantro dough balls
Wednesday – cheesy turkey sausage slow cooker spaghetti and garlic bread
Thursday – potato and bacon gratin (James Martin) with steamed cauliflower and broccoli
Friday – chicken Posole (Mexican stew) breadsticks and salad

So far this week we are completely on schedule for every meal, thanks to my Mum being here to help!

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