Book Update

Christmas in Wattle Lane, the third novel in my Wattle Lane series, is now finished and has been passed on to my lovely editor and proof reader.

In this third instalment, Neave and Lily prepare to celebrate their first Christmas in the Wattle Lane Guest House. As they make vintage-themed decorations and bake Christmas goodies, a guest arrives with a strange aversion to Christmas, while next door, at Wattle Lane Keepsakes, Angeline relives some emotional memories from her past as she makes a very special scrapbook album for her daughter.

Now it’s on to the all-important book cover. Christmas evokes so many wonderful images that it will be hard to choose one to best represent the Christmas spirit of Wattle Lane – handmade paper snowflakes, vintage ornaments, or maybe some yummy Christmas fare…

Vintage Christmas Cards

I have been collecting vintage greeting cards for three or four years now, browsing antique shops, visiting stamp and postcard shows, and poring through boxes of old cards when the Cartophilic Society fair visits our local town. I love the vintage pictures of a bygone era, and the handwritten sentiments inside or on the back of the cards.

 

vintage Christmas cards

The oldest one I have, that is dated, is a Christmas postcard from 1907. Wonderful to see how the women are dressed!

vintage Christmas card

 

I have a collection of Easter, birthday, Christmas, and New Year cards sent from a father, stationed in Italy during the Second World War, to his daughter back home in New Zealand. I think it is so lovely that his daughter kept the cards all these years.

vintage greeting cards

 

Postcards were hugely popular in the early twentieth century, when improved printing technology meant that high-quality colour images could be mass-produced cheaply, and postcards were cheap to send. For a few years, postcards replaced the earlier, elaborate, Victorian-style Christmas cards. Sometimes the postcard would show a portrait of the sender, along with a festive greeting.

 

vintage Christmas cards

 

By the 1920s, the traditional folding Christmas card and envelope had returned.

vintage Christmas cardsI save a lot of my own cards that I receive and wonder if, one day, many years from now, future generations will look at them with fondness and feelings of nostalgia for a time gone by.

 

Christmas Recipe Scrapbook

This year I decided to put my favourite Christmas recipes together into a little scrapbook album to save looking through my cookbooks every year searching for recipes. Most of the recipes are ones I have adapted from others over the years.

I made the album by cutting squares of cardboard and covering them with scrapbook papers. Then I punched holes in them, tied them all together with festive green and red ribbons and embellished the front cover with letters, ribbon and charms.

These are some of the pages and recipes from the album.

Christmas Recipe Scrapbook

Recipes

Vanilla and Cranberry Cupcakes

150 g butter or dairy-free spread
150 g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cranberries
150 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line muffin pan with paper cupcake cases. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla and cranberries. Add sifted flour, baking powder and salt alternately with milk. Divide mixture between cases. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool, then ice with vanilla frosting and decorate with red and green glace cherries.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

 Vanilla Frosting

100 g softened butter or dairy-free spread
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
1 Tblsp milk
Red and green glace cherries to decorate

Mix butter, vanilla, icing sugar and milk to a spreadable consistency. Spread or pipe onto cakes.

Vanilla & Cranberry Cupcakes

Christmas Fruit Mince

2 cups sultanas
2 cups cranberries
1 cup raisins
Grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and grated
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons brandy

Process sultanas, cranberries and raisins until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. Spoon mixture into a screwtop jar and refrigerate. Will keep up to 3 months.

Christmas Fruit Mince

Christmas Fruit Mince Tarts

Pastry

3 ½ cups flour
½ cup custard powder
4 tablespoons sugar
250 g butter or dairy-free spread
1 egg yolk and water to mix

To make the pastry: Sift flour and custard powder. Stir in sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add beaten egg yolk and water. Mix to a stiff dough. Chill for 30 minutes.

To make mince tarts: Roll out pastry to 3mm thickness. Cut out rounds and line 24 greased patty tins. Place 1 tablespoon of fruit mince in each shell. Roll out remaining pastry and cut out star shapes. Place a star in the middle of each tart. Brush stars with beaten egg. Bake at 180ºC for 20 minutes. Dust with icing sugar when cold.

Christmas Fruit Mince Tarts

This chocolate fudge cake recipe is one that my mother used to make when we were children and she still makes it today. Delicious!

Chocolate Fudge Cake

450 g plain digestive biscuits, crushed
200 g butter or dairy-free spread
200 g white sugar
50 g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
Nuts or dried fruit (optional)

Mix cocoa with a small amount of cold water to a thin paste. Place butter, sugars, eggs and cocoa in a saucepan. Stir continuously over a medium heat until butter has melted and sugar has fully dissolved. Add vanilla essence. Add heated mixture to crushed biscuits and mix well. Press down firmly into cake tin and refrigerate until set. Cut into pieces.

If desired, nuts or dried fruit can be added before adding the biscuits. Ice with chocolate icing or sprinkle with icing sugar.

Note: If using dairy-free spread, you may need to add a few more crushed biscuits to the mixture so that it will set properly.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

These stuffing balls are good for vegetarians as they can be cooked separate from the meat. The recipe makes 6 balls. They are nice cold the next day too!

Sage and Apple Stuffing Balls

25 g butter or 3 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 egg, beaten
4 slices bread, crumbed
¼ cup chopped fresh sage leaves or 2 tablespoons dried sage
Salt and pepper to season

Gently fry butter, onion and apple for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in breadcrumbs, sage and beaten egg. Season with salt and pepper. Form into balls. Brush with oil. Bake at 180ºC for 30 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking.

Sage and Apple Stuffing Balls

I added a pocket to the back page for slipping in extra recipes and notes.

Christmas Album Pocket

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a time of traditions. They are a part of our lives growing up, and then after we leave home, we form our own over the years, with our families, our partners, and our friends. Traditions have an air of excitement, fun, comfort—something to look forward to, something we can rely on. They often involve decorating a tree with ornaments that have been handed down through generations, pieces that have been made by children and hold a special place in our heart, or simply decorations that have been accumulated over the years. Decorating the tree can be a fun and special time, pulling out boxes that have been stored away for the year, unwrapping the decorations from the tissue paper and releasing memories that lie dormant from one Christmas to the next.

We always put up our tree at the beginning of December so that we have a whole month to enjoy the festive atmosphere it brings to the room. Each year, Nick and I buy a decoration to hang on the tree, or to stand on the mantelpiece or the hearth. It has become one of our traditions, choosing it together. We often find one at a Christmas craft fair, or sometimes at the Trade Aid shop, handmade by somebody in a foreign land. We never have a theme for our tree, and nothing is colour co-ordinated. It is an eclectic mishmash of traditional, contemporary, and whimsical pieces collected over the years.

Every year, Nick’s family in England send us an ornament to hang on the tree. We have many of them now, and when we look at them, we think of his family celebrating a winter Christmas on the other side of the world, while we celebrate ours in the middle of summer!

Another tradition I have is to do a Christmas craft each year. I make either a decoration to hang on the tree, or something to decorate the room. Over the years I have made an appliqued wallhanging of carolers, a felted Santa, beaded angels, a cardboard nativity set. This year I made up a Kaisercraft wooden kitset advent calendar. The calendar can be decorated to each individual’s taste with colours, scrapbook papers and embellishments. I painted the box with gold paint, used traditional Christmas images on the drawers and a contemporary picture of Santa in a hot air balloon for the back panel of the box. It is a mix of my traditional taste and Nick’s contemporary taste, but I thought the images worked well together. I printed out the numbers on the computer for the drawers. Now all I have to do is to buy some treats to put inside them!