Monday, December 31, 2012

Welcome New Year 2013

A nice tick.  Vintage Elgin pocket watch, 1920s era.
(from my personal collection)
 Wishing you a very happy welcome to New Year 2013.  It's almost here !

I hope any and all who have been enjoying end year holidays have had a fab time.  I know it is cold and wintry for those of you reading from your cozy dens and lounge rooms up in the northern hemisphere.   As you know, it is summertime here.  Rather warm and no rain, which is a pity (the gardens and vineyards would all like a little rain about now).  But the days are long and brilliant, with a lot of sunshine.
grapevines in an old cottage garden
in Angaston

Along my walks this week I snapped this pic of gorgeous grapes growing in a garden of an old house in town not far from here.  The vines are very old and are a small two rows, to side of the house, right beside the fence at the foot path (sidewalk).  This garden does not irrigate or water (anything) and it is possible the house is derelict and vacant (think so, never seen anyone living there).  We saw a bloke pruning them in winter though, so we will be watching to see what happens with the grapes on the old ancient vines in coming weeks.
"We want to be Jam"
Said the bowl of red raspberries and red currants

And summer's bounty from the Barossa Market tempted me to steal some of the red fruit I bought for Christmas dessert and make jam instead !  The dessert did not get shortchanged too much, I just picked something that was not only about the fruit !  The red raspberries were amazingly bright and fragrant.  To them, and on a whim I added red currants, little jewel like berries that had a burst of tartness to them.    And on Christmas morning I whipped up a batch of jam with the fruit you see here.  This is the joy of having all the stuff to make jams now, I have all the tools and can make up a batch fast and on a moment's notice.  I keep a variety of things in the pantry at the ready.  Besides that, just need good fruit and a bit of prep and off we go.

In this case the batch was small, because raspberries are never very inexpensive and I only had half kilo to contribute to the cause (had to save some of them plus a few red currants for the Christmas cake !).

Red Christmas Jam
The batch turned out amazingly well, 3 small jars all sealed nicely.  Labels put on jars--Kim's Red Christmas Jam.  All in time to tidy up and start a dark chocolate torte, before preparing the Christmas roast.

Amazing blushing apricots,
 for more Jam

Hiding inside the fridge was a bag of the most beautiful and largest apricots I have ever seen.  Thursday I got them out and let them come to room temperature, and took in their fragrance.  I cut and de-stoned (pitted) them  and prepared a vanilla bean pod too.  These became a batch of Apricot and Vanilla Jam.  Also delicious.

stainless steel funnel,
filling jam jars
Apricot Vanilla Jam.  

I have three more batches of jam to make in coming days.  Then will pick back up on that again on my return from the January work travel out.  Something to look forward to on my return.  The kitchen here likes being a good country cook's working kitchen (who knows what jams and preserves it has supported in its history ?!).

Happy New Year !!

Meanwhile, back to enjoying the New Year's arrival.  Toasting your health, good fortune, and happiness.  May 2013 bring all you hope and wish.  Cheers !

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holiday

little humming bird figure, atop holiday flowers
 Holidays have caught me so busy this year, I have been way behind on posting to this blog, and nearly everything else.   This year we have had a series of mini holiday get togethers with (some of) our grown children and other family members here in Australia.  It was nice to declare December a Holiday Tour sort of month.

Which makes this a quiet time now to enjoy the season.  I don't even have the tree up yet (today's list).  But the cards are out (maybe a bit of a delayed dispatch).  I was at the Barossa Farmer's Market this morning, at 730AM when they opened and got a big market bag full of stunning raspberries, farm fresh eggs, locally roasted coffee, jersey cow thick cream, organically grown garlic, fresh herbs, and my favourite golden yellow Roma tomatoes.  I was out in 15 minutes and back home (for a work meeting, amazing, but true--such is working world hours from this side of the globe !)  Our cooking will be simple and fresh this coming week.

Gorgeous flowers from Viva, displayed in glass cases
with old sterling and mercury glass
The thing that really signals to me it is now Christmas is to arrange some Christmas flowers.  I've always enjoyed this, but it probably has become more important for my southern hemisphere holiday celebration, given sunny weather and not always chilly enough to do rich baking.

I collected my stunning flowers from Viva Flower Store in Angaston just before midday.  This year I did not order any particular thing, but they knew I would be calling in to pick my flowers up.  They know I can't have any lilies, because Winston is a flower grazer (and lilies are very poisonous to cats).  I looked longingly at deep scarlet coloured Amaryllis in the shop, but a quick search on google confirmed they too are toxic to pussy cats.  I just cant risk it, he is a bit naughty around flowers and its a fair bit of trouble to keep them away from him.  Thankfully, Viva's owner Avril had put aside a stunning selection for me.  Rosey hydrangeas.  Pinky lisianthus that matched and some lime green pompom ball looking flowers on long stems whose name I don't know.  I added branches of green and gold coloured holly greens to the flowers and brought it all home to arrange.  With some holiday music in the background.

The finished arrangements are stunning and I snapped photos of them to share here.  Arranged on a greeny-gold hand sewn quilted table runner.  And some old sterling candle holders of my grandmothers, with the natural beeswax taper candles I love in them.  And mercury glass ornaments for extra glow and shine.  Plus cute little hummingbird ornaments that usually go on the tree, but look so cute sitting atop the flowers !

roast turkey, settling before carve up
 Now, it feels like the holidays are here.

Last weekend we roasted a turkey when Katy visited, as part of the December Holiday tour (she flew in from Sydney).  Turned out to be the best turkey I have ever made.  A fab recipe from the latest/current issue of Australian Gourmet magazine, Turkey with Cornbread stuffing.    The Cornbread stuffing was amazingly good too.  I made very few adjustments to either it or turkey recipe, and we all thought the finished meal was really great !

Cheers Katy !

It was fabulous having Katy here, for a weekend visit.  We did lots of holiday things...though with out a tree up.

Katy has full attention of Winston
and Maggie
She got some feline helpers while wrapping up gifts too.  The cats love ribbons, and quickly positioned themselves close by, so they could play with ribbon streamers being put on some packages.

The bright red standard
floribunda rose in
front garden

Our roses have had a jolly hurrah, though in the past week looking a bit tired of the run of hot days we are getting each week (over 35 C)  Here is the gorgeous red standard one in front, when it was at its full bloom best.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it.  Hope you enjoy a happy holiday break :)