T'was the week before Christmas

20 December 2010
The last weekend before Christmas - it was slowly busy and relaxed here.  I worked on the book on Saturday and kept yesterday as a pottering around the house day. The rain poured down most of the day, but there was cricket on TV,  I had recorded Dr Findlay (naturally), and with knitting in my hands I was happy and content.  In the afternoon, I phoned the lovely Duck Herder and connected a voice to the blog.  It's very reassuring to me to have my idea of a person confirmed by a voice to voice chat.

With the exception of growing food, there is nothing more basic and simple than knitting (or crochet).  It has changed little over the years. It's still the gently, repetitive winding of yarn around two sticks that produces warm clothing or practical little items like tea cosies, dishcloths and baby wipes.

I am knitting for my Etsy shop.  Those above will go towards making gift packs of soap and a cotton cloth.  The green I'm working on now is a very soft organic cotton and I still have enough, in the green and natural colours, to make several cloths and tea cosies.  I'm using vintage needles that are lovely to knit with.  They were given to me by a friend's mother who can't knit anymore but wanted her needle collection to go to someone who would use them.  I am definitely using them and often think of her learning to knit with these needles way back in the 1930s.

Are you making ginger beer with me?  Here is my jar.  It's got tiny bubbles coming up in the mix and you can see them in the following photo around the outside of the mixture.

I added more ginger and sugar each day, stirred and covered it and left it to do its magic.  I'm hoping to bottle mine on Wednesday afternoon so it will have a couple of days to ferment on the bench in the bottle before we cool them down for drinking on Christmas day.  Take the cover off your jar and look at the mix.  Can you see any bubbles?  If so, your mix is fermenting and that's exactly what you want.  It should smell either of ginger or slightly of alcohol.  A bit of alcohol does develop in this and sometimes you can smell it at this stage.  But don't worry, it's a tiny amount and it's safe for the children to drink.  Make sure your spoon is scrupulously clean when you do your mixing, you only want the beneficial yeasts and bacteria in this.

I should have done this a month ago but I finally made our Christmas cake.  It's the "deliciously moist fruit cake" recipe from the old Australian Women's Weekly Cake Cookbook.  I've never made this one before but it's a real beauty.  Traditional Australian fruitcake is derived from the Irish and UK fruit cakes of old.  It's full of fruit and nuts and laced with brandy, sherry or whisky.  I soaked our fruit in some of the delicious Asbach brandy Hanno brought back from Germany with him.  When the cakes were out of the oven, I poured another quarter cup of brandy over the hot cakes to produce a moist delicious cake.  Hanno and I test tasted the little cake last night and it's one of the best I've even made and although a fruit cake can be kept for three months, I know these will be gone by next week.  

I hope this week will be a wonderful one for all of us.  Please don't undo all the good work you've done during the year by going nuts on your Christmas shopping.  I haven't been to the shops at all and we're making do with what we have here at home for our Christmas lunch.  Our pantry, freezer and stockpile are all full so it will be delicious and simple without any worry or mad rush.  What special things are you doing this week?


  1. This week will be full of baking and jamming with my mom. She has a freezer full of berries and was just waiting for an extra pair of hands to help out. Christmas music blasting in the background of course!

    Stephanie :)

  2. cute cosies!

    i'm making christmas gifts with inexpensive felt and yarn, and having a blast while i'm at it!=)

  3. We celebrated the coming of Christmas by mucking around with our hair.
    Dreadlocks for the youngest and pink touches for me. Now we're ready to par-tay!

  4. Rhonda may you and Hanno have a lovely Christmas.

    Your Christmas cakes look and sound wonderful.


  5. Slow and steady wins the Christmas race here too. Relaxing lead up to the day and all within budget. Merry Christmas to you, Hanno and the family, cheers, Sonya

  6. I think your advice to not go crazy is good Rhonda...it is SO easy this time of year to get caught up in the frenzy and hit the stores along with everyone else...I am happy to say though, that except for some little stocking stuffers (socks, toy cars, candy) I bought for my kids, I didn't go shopping at all this year. We ordered them one book each online, and then we are making a few gifts for each child. It's been so fun and relaxing to make things instead of fight the crowds shopping!

    We're not done yet though, so both my husband and I will be working on finishing up the gifts this week. And I'll be making a big batch of gingerbread men with the children, and making bird feeders on the 21st as we always do.

    I love this time of year...so many fun activities to do if you're a homebody!

  7. It's working with my husband all week for me but I have left the Christmas preperations in the safe hands of my children. They are all organised - way more than their mother...sigh. Next years Christmas will be a much simplier one. We are concentrating on homemade/handmade gifts avoiding the commercial side of Christmas. I have blogged about it for anyone interested.
    Best wishes for a lovely Christmas Rhonda and Hanno. May the New Year bring happiness, peace and a sense of rightness. Thank you for all your words of wisdom over the years Rhonda.

  8. Good morning Rhonda,

    I am looking forward to a very quiet Christmas this year with Just the big fellow, my Dad and I celebrating at our home. This will be our first Christmas spent at home in 40 years of marriage. Not having children of our own we have always been the ones to travel to our relatives for Christmas, so this will be very special for us. Also to attend our own church on Christmas Day will be lovely as well. I am keepin the presents simple this year. as retirees we need to watch the pennies a little more now.

    Blessings Gail

  9. This week I will be doing some baking and we'll be doing some grocery shopping to make sure we have sufficient for our visitor coming to visit and so we can make Christmas lunch. Will be mostly what we normally eat, except we'll make some desserts to go along with it.

    I absolutely avoid major shopping over this time because the shops get so crowded and I hate crowds.

    Your Christmas cakes look wonderful!

  10. Thank you for yourThis week I shall be sewing the pink and cream knitted squares together for my two year old grandaughter`s "cuddly" blanket.

    Your knitting project got me going again after I had knitted nothing for twenty years. Now I have moved on to making children`s jumpers and cardigans and have joined a craft group in our village. So, thank you Rhonda Jean for your inspiration!

    We are deep in a snowy landscape, here in southern England, so Christmas will probably be a traditional white one this year.

    Best wishes for a happy and relaxing Christmas.

  11. I'm enjoying the snow (its rare for us to have snow that stays more than 24hrs) - and that I can stay at home rather than having to travel / go anywhere.
    I'm so glad that we've stocked up and don't need go out 'present buying'.

    I'm looking forward to putting up some decorations, cooking some good food and having a really simple and easy Christmas - just me and my partner Sam.
    We can entertain ourselves playing music, as we're both musicians, and watching the odd film and still get to socialize - online and by phone.
    It's been lovely not to be part of the Christmas hype and to have time to appreciate the beauty of the snow .. and a bit of quiet time.
    This may be the best Christmas ever!
    Hope you and Hanno have a great Christmas. The cake looks great.

  12. Hi Rhonda,

    I love the fact that you're making items with needles passed onto you from that far back. It's all so 'connected' from one lady who also put her time and love into the things she made to you.
    Thank you for the timely advice to not go mad at the shops....I think I could have but will now remember the restraint that I've shown all year and try to keep on path.
    Have a good day,

  13. I'm putting the finishing touches to some handmade gifts, have to do some food shopping, as my son and his girl are coming up from Sydney. I don't eat meat or diary, so I like to get in a few carnivore foods for them :)

    I have a pudding ready to make, and that's it really, I'm staying home and painting some cute old side tables I picked up at the op shop.

    And Rhonda, I'm using at last the first time soap I made from your instructions, have already gifted some, and have more wrapped prettily ready to give. It turned out very nice, I made half plain, and half with rosemary essential oil, which is nice, not too strong as I wasn't sure how much to use. Even my ex hubby's mother said her skin's looking lovelier since using it...she's 86!

  14. Rhonda I posted a thread at the forum last night about not undoing the good work of the year this week -- great minds think alike. :)

    We are working this week including today but I have put in place measures to ensure the pace doesn't become frenetic and so that we eat well.

    That green cotton looks lovely, what brand is it please?

  15. Rose, it is an American cotton - the well known Lions brand called Nature's Choice organic cotton. It's an 85 gram ball.

  16. I'm working all this week so I'm leaving most of the decorations to the children - we don't put up our tree until the weekend before Christmas day and I'm a little bit late with it this year!

    I did all my gift shopping during the year as I detest the last minute mad rush and we are also seriously downplaying the whole 'get lots of presents' ethos now. The kids will still have a stack of presents from their grandparents and a couple from us but my partner and I are not getting any and putting the money towards house renovations instead.

    We also had a family vote about Christmas dinner and it turns out everybody secretly hated the traditional meal so we decided to have our favourite - lasagna with garlic bread and pumpkin pie to follow - off trays on our knees while we watch a family film. The kids are never allowed to watch TV during mealtimes so they are beside themselves at what they perceive to be a wildly decadent treat. The lasagna is in the freezer, as is the pie crust, and this is the least stressful Christmas for me that I can ever remember!

  17. Plans for the week:
    Monday: Spring clean the kitchen, very over due!
    Tuesday: Spring clean the lounge and bedroom
    Wednesday: Clean out my mobile office, (the car)
    Thursday: Buy 2 point of lay pullets for my daughter for Xmas, might buy one for me as well.
    Friday: Shop for last minute food and cook, cook, cook. Pick up daughter number two from airport.
    Even though Christmas is at daughter number one's house, I have offered to supply all the food.

    Hope you and all your readers have a fabulously relaxing Christmas.

  18. Hello Rhonda: First thing your fruit cake looks absolutely delicious I would have a hard time waiting for it to cure. Your knitting is very nice I like the colours.
    I hardly believe that Christmas is next weekend. We will keep it simple and invite a family for dinner that has no place to go. That is what it is all about. Family and sharing. Merry Christmas to all.

  19. Lovely crochet Rhonda. They remind me my grandmother. She used to teach me how to knit every winter. I don't knit often anymore but your pictures made me want to do it again. Your fruit cake looks so yummy. Homemade one is the best I think. I baked fruit cake just like that for my own wedding. It was delicious and fun. I practiced the cake many times before the wedding and my husband tested the taste many times. I better bake it again sometime soon. We will have a relatively quiet week this week until Friday afternoon. We'll make some roast chickens on Friday with our beloved kettle BBQ and bring them to the family get together on next day (Christmas day).

  20. I discovered your blog last week, when I was looking for Australian blogs! Great work - I really like your life philosophy and hope I can adopt it in my own life soon.

  21. This weekend we had our holiday party. It was a baking party since I finally have an oven that fits more than one tray and that isn't completely gross. I like to do participatory parties where guests are welcome to join in the cooking during the party. It means that I'm not stressing about getting things done before the party, and I think it prevents boredom during the party. My little cousins loved putting together the homemade potstickers using the empanada press, and one friend brought over everything to make the best apple pie ever! It was a lovely beginning to our Christmas week that continues with Yule in two days, then driving home to New Mexico for a relaxed no-gift-exchange family Christmas.

  22. This week I am hoping to knit every spare minute to finish up Christmas gifts. 3 gifts to go! I had a sewing marathon last night and produced 3 gifts in 4 hours - I just started sewing a couple of months ago. They didn't come out perfect, but they are pretty good, and I'm so pleased. Also this week I need to make peppermint bark, rice cream, chocolate chip cherry bread (our traditional Christmas morning breakfast), and almond cookies. Phew! With 2 babes underfoot, I'll be very busy.
    Merry Christmas!!

  23. I haven't been shopping either , other than for supplies. I made jars of cookie and snack mixes to send to our children's families in PA (we moved to KY 7 yrs ago) along with a Christmas card and "coupon" for a week's "Bed and Breakfast stay and Home-cooked Meals" at our house as a vacation for them. I am knitting for the youngest daughter who lives near, a hat and scarf, and a hat for her little one. We will probably also pick up a game or some interesting toy for him. That's going to be about it for our Christmas. Oh, Hubby also suggested we give each other new eye-glasses as we both need a pair :)
    I did make a couple new sets of ornaments for our tree this year.... cinnamon stick bundles tied with plaid flannel strips, and dried orange slices that look almost like stained glass when hung in front of one of those twinkle lights.
    Merry Christmas to you and Hanno!

  24. I've always wanted to make a cake like that. It looks lovely, and sounds so yummy. Could you be persuaded to share a recipe?? :)

  25. I love your dishcloths! there are so many things on my 'to knit' list and dishcloths are one of them so that I don't have to buy any from the supermarket.

    We too are having a nice easy build up to Christmas as I personally feel the consumerist hype of the season goes against what it truly is about.

    Emma :)

  26. Merry Christmas to You Rhonda and Hanno!! Thank you for your words of wisdom!!! This week i´m making cookies and writing christmas cards and mostly enjoying beeing a homebody!!! I´ts really cold outside and I hate crowded shops. I´m trying to change our christmas to a more cosy, less materialistic christmas. My brother hit the spot with me when asked what he wanted for christmas he said: Some time with you and your family dear sister! :)
    Best regards

  27. Rhonda--I love the look of your Christmas cake and totally agree that it wouldn't last long with me. Would love the recipe too! But, as I'm the only fruit cake lover in my house, this week I'll bake our usual "Happy Birthday Jesus" sponge cake instead. Our kids used to love blowing out the candle years ago. My son & his girlfriend just baked a lemon tart yesterday which was really just lemon curd in a "Tennis Biscuits" base. They also made lemonade--all from our own lemon tree's lemons. I speak about you so often that my family said that "Rhonda would be proud"! It was so good that it was "all gone" in 1 tea time! We're hosting a cold sliced gammon/potato salad/green salad lunch with friends on 23 Dec around the solar-heated pool. Xmas Day lunch will be with extended family at in-law's retirement home. Gifts are books, Xmas tree ornaments, jewellery or sarongs made by local craftsmen, and cash (so teens & others can buy own clothes & music & computer-related stuff!). I am not very crafty myself, but was happy to see again the stuffed-felt-stitched Xmas tree ornaments that I made when our teens were little. If I did craft, it'd be cross-stitch as the ones I've made for others in the past seemed flop-proof! We've already attended several Carol Services, filled food bags for the unemployed & school support staff, and will have church worship service on 25th.

  28. Just letting you know Rhonda I think you need a licence to be able to sell soap to the public and public liability insurance which makes it costly and prohibitive for many. I suggest you look into it before going ahead selling just to be on the safe side with many people these days finding themselves being sued for the smallest thing.


  29. Thanks Rhonda for the information about the cotton. I just saw some the other day when I was looking for some natural mohair. I'm always on the look out for a better fiber than I'm using for dishcloths.

    And I'm fixin a ham for Christmas. It is what we call "city ham" here as opposed to "country ham" or if you are from the mountains "old ham". I mostly want it for the trimmings and bone so I can season beans. We Kentuckians are big on beans and cornbread. :)

  30. Like the others I do agree your advice in marvelous! We have to keep steading and truly enjoy the season.

    I am at the tail end of the gift buying. I didn't have a completly homemade Christmas this year but purchased unique locally made gifts for everyone. I am cooking a very small dinner, only my family unit...my two kids and my husband and myself. It will be really nice although I will miss my in laws greatly this year.

    I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas holiday and enjoys the season.

  31. Dear Rhonda,

    I'm working most of this week until Christmas Eve. But in between, I am trying to finish a few hand made gifts that will go to friends and family. I still need to get a few ingredients for the Tamales my sister and I are making for Christmas and for the bread pudding that will be served too.

    I can't wait to see all your items in your Etsy shop and wish you the best of luck on that.

  32. I have made two items I discovered on your blog, soap and dishclothes. My friend in New Mexico said my olive oil soap was better than the bar she bought in Greece this fall (your recipe).
    DH and I will be house, horse and dog sitting for a few nights this week on the top of the mountain; we live straight down from them in the hollow. Lots of snow here.
    Evey in the West Virgina mountains USA

  33. I do love the sunshiny yellow bowl you mixed up your Christmas cake in!

  34. I love the color of the green yarn you are knitting into a dishcloth! This week we are in Southern California visiting grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I did do some Christmas shopping in November, but most of it was online to avoid crowds, taxes, and stores. We opened small gifts with our boys before coming down here, but the focus for most of December (for me) has been baking, learning to knit, and reading books. I did just finish a hand-appliqued and embroidered tea towel for my mother-in-law, and even though it took more time than shopping for something for her, I know she will enjoy it much more, and it will be a one-of-a-kind item that was rewarding for me to make as well. I look forward to checking out your Etsy shop!

  35. I am making matching pillowcases for all of our extended families. All of the cousins, aunties, etc. It has been a lot of fun picking out the fabrics out of my stash and for those that I couldn't find, going to the fabric store and finding what I wanted there. I have been teaching my daughter to measure, cut, and sew, so we are having a blast.

  36. i may have missed a posting or 2 but what is the name of your etsy shop? id like to take a look :)

  37. I love your blog. I used to do all these things too. Life. Kids and their uni fees begged me to go back to work full time for a corporate company that does not care if I like baking or sewing etc.......I long for the day I can get back to the simple life! During Christmas we moved house. It was crazy and hectic but I managed to stay sane and even find some quiet moments just to be. Look forward to your new year blogs



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