Happy Ramblings: December 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wishing you a Happy New Year for 2015

Best wishes and Happy New Year for 2015!

I hope that this season has brought you and your family joy, peace and blessings. May the New Year be the brightest yet!

Lots of love

Rose x

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A walk through my vegetable patch

It has been a strange Summer in Auckland this year, cooler and cloudier than normal. This means that my vegetable plants are very confused.

Usually by now I have an abundant crop of tomatoes forming, including cherry tomatoes. However they are only just starting to flower now.

The grape vine at the back of the vegetable patch is full of lush new grapes. I think we will have a bumper crop this year if the blackbirds leave them alone.

My sweetcorn is growing well and the pumpkin plants have turned into giants, they are escaping the vege patch onto the lawn and over the compost heap.

The cabbages are still growing, though getting a little bit munched by caterpillars. And the celeriac in this bed are doing really well. I will have to trim off the side leaves that are growing parallel to the ground now to make the celeriac roots grow nice and plump. I love celeriac soup!

The Goliath snow peas are growing huge. The plants are over 6 feet tall. I have been harvesting the snow peas over the past 5 days and they are delicious. I used some to make the cold salad for my Boxing Day feast. I also used the 2 courgettes which I picked for this salad.

I noticed today that there are some flowers starting to open on my beans....yaaay!

My cherry tomatoes are growing slowly but surely. It is time for me to trim off the bottom leaves to prevent mildew from setting in. These are bush tomatoes, so I won't be cutting off the laterals as this is where the tomato fruit will form.

This is my little strawberry patch. The blackbirds have been enjoying them as much as I am, so I bought new netting to cover them over. But now the slugs have moved in so I will need to pinch some of dad's beer to make some beer traps for them.

I have more celeriac growing behind the strawberries against the garage wall. These ones are growing slower than those in the other patch even though they were planted at the same time.

My lemon grass is growing really well. I planted it last year using a couple of stems of lemon grass from the supermarket after rooting them in a jar of water. I didn't think that it would work, so I was pleasantly surprised.

There are still some vacant patches of soil in my vege garden, so this weekend I will be sowing more to fill the spaces up.

I love gardening.

Lots of smiles.

Hugs Rose x

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Boxing Day Feast

We have been eating non-stop for the past few days.

It started with a yum char lunch at the Grand Harbour restaurant in Auckland, totally delicious, and ended with a cold meal for our Boxing day dinner. A real feast for us.

I decided to experiment with ingredients for a cold salad and made this one by grilling sliced red capsicum and thinly sliced courgettes.

Then I thinly sliced a few garlic cloves and grilled them with oil for 3 minutes to make garlic chips.

I also used snow peas which I had picked fresh on Boxing Day and boiled for 5 minutes, then cooled the snow peas in cold running water to stop them from cooking further.

These were all arranged on a platter and sprinkled with the little garlic chips.

Finally I squeezed a little lemon juice over and drizzled it with Italian red wine vinegar made by Acetum (aceto di vino rosso selezione).

We had rollmops and salted herrings.

And I made a clotted cream sauce using leftover clotted cream, wholegrain mustard and a squeeze of lemon juice. I wasn't sure if this combination would work, but it was mouth-wateringly yummy, if I may say so myself, and went really well with smoked salmon.

We also had a potato salad made with new potatoes, capers, gherkins, fresh dill and chives from the garden, green olives and mayonnaise.

There was a small selection of meats, prosciutto, mortadella and Calabrese salami, which we bought from Farro, my favourite delicatessen.

Mum made a lovely olive focaccia and dad made a green salad with avocados.

And this was followed by a cheese board which included emmenthal, Old Rotherdam gouda, roquefort and Jarlsberg cheeses.

It was a very relaxing meal, made slowly over the afternoon and eaten leisurely. Bliss.

Now it is time for dinner again. Leftovers from yesterday. I will have to get out in the garden to exercise all of this feasting off.

See you soon


Rose x

Christmas dinner at my sister's

We had another amazing Christmas feast at my sister's house this year. We started off nibbling on melon wrapped in prosciutto, pistachios and home made olives that my sister grew. Then we had smoked salmon, hot smoked salmon, garlic prawns and mussels with a garlic aioli sauce. Yum!

This was followed by a mouth-wateringly delicious roast beef and a roast ham, served with a dish of asparagus topped with sliced snow peas, leeks and chopped boiled egg. A salad of potatoes, and new green beans and a roast pepper, cherry tomato and basil salad.

For dessert we had a lovely lemon syrup cake.

Plus a yummiest limoncello trifle. Both of which my sister's friend made

After the leisurely meal we sat in the sitting room and were served mini strawberry pavlovas, panforte, mini mince pies and Lindor chocolates while we opened our Christmas presents.

It was a really relaxed and pleasant day with lots of chatter and laughter.

I wish the same for you.

Lots of love this holiday season

Rose x

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa sack surprise - presents for myself this year

With great anticipation I opened my Santa sack this Christmas Eve, I couldn't wait until Christmas morning.

With the Christmas money and birthday money, that I was given last Christmas and birthday, I bought little gifts for myself throughout the year to put in my Santa sack. It is always a surprise for me when I open my Santa sack to see what I put in it, especially things that I bought earlier in the year. This just shows how good my memory is lol.

I have a rule that once I put something into my Santa sack, I am not allowed to take it out again until Christmas. And definately no peeking, or feeling the santa sack to remind myself of what is in it throughout the year. This meant I had some duplicates this year which I will put back in the Santa sack for next year :)

The contents of my Santa sack were:

- 2 pairs of fluffy bed socks from Marks and Spencer

- a bar each of Bennett's lemon and passionfruit chocolate

- a bar of white chocolate with dessicated raspberries in

- a box of Bennett's assorted chocolates

- 3 Lush batch bombs ("Golden Wonder", "Father Christmas" and "Snow White Batch Ballistics")

- 4 L'Occitane bubble baths (Pivoine Flora, Verbena, Rose 4 Reines and Lavande)

- 2 L'Occitane Savon Bonne Mere soaps

- a L'Occitane Pivione Flora Peonie chaped soap

- a Fioentino Rosa soap

- 2 Body shop soaps (Satsuma and Strawberry)

- a Michel Design Works Lemon Basil soap

- a L'Occitane Cinnamon Orange soap

- a Citrus heart-shaped soap

- a Bennett's chocolate frog

- a Michel Design Works book notepad

Phew, that is a lot this year! I have a really big smile on my face.

Now I can't wait until Christmas Day tomorrow to give everyone else their presents. I always want to give Christmas presents as soon as I wrap them.

I hope that you have managed to spoil yourself a little this Christmas and if not this year, then next year :)

Have a safe and Merry Christmas,

Love Rose x

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My teal and silver vintage Christmas tree

Teal and silver vintage baubles are my favourites. I would love to have enough to fill a large white Christmas tree, but I don't have any more room for one. I am more than happy with my little table-top tree though.

This year I found a little silver vintage angel for the top of my tree and that makes my tree complete. I decided to put this one in the sitting room instead of my bedroom and have surrounded it with blue, white and silver Christmas cards to carry on the theme. It looks lovely and wintery inside now while the weather is hot and humid outside.

I have bought all of my Christmas presents now and listened to Christmas music while I wrapped them. It really is starting to feel like Christmas. All I have to do now is some grocery shopping and bake one more cake. It is great to feel so relaxed at this time of year.

I hope you are having fun preparing for your Christmas celebrations like I am.


Rose x

Russian fudge recipe for Christmas - Yum!

On Sunday morning I made my favourite Russian fudge specially for Christmas. It is really easy to make and delicious. Not so good for the weight though, but, well, it is Christmas after all!

This batch is for a freind and I packed it in a Christmas tin that I bought from a thrift shop. Just perfect for this little treat.

Here is the recipe:

125 g unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons Golden Syrup
200 g sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence (don't use the artificial kind)

Place all of the ingredients, except the vanilla, into a heavy-based pan. Warm over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until all of the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes, until it reaches 120 degrees C (softball stage on a sugar thermometer).

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla essence. Beat either with a spoon or an electric mixer, until the fudge is thick and creamy and no longer glossy. Pour quickly into a greased 20 cm cake tin. Mark the fudge into squares and break into pieces when it is cold.

N.B. I always use a sugar thermometer when making my fudge as I am not very good at guessing when it is ready.



Rose x

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My red and gold Christmas tree with candles

Usually I decorate my tree with white lights, but this year I decided to have real candles. I bought the candles on Ebay from Germany and the little candle holders from Latvia on Ebay. I was so excited to find them.

We used to have real candles on our Christmas tree when I was little and living in England. They were so magical to look at, it is such a lovely memory. I won't be lighting these candles as it isn't safe to do so, but I just wanted the effect.

I added to my vintage collection of spun cotton characters this year (also bringing back childhood memories). I am slowly building up my vintage/antique Christmas ornament collection year by year. Some of the decorations I have collected date back to the 1920's or earlier. I have mixed these with modern favourites too.

Happy Christmas preparations.

See you again soon.

Rose x

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I made my Christmas cake earlier

Usually I make my Christmas cake around 3 days before Christmas because I am never organised enough with my Christmas preparations. However this weekend I used my "Last Minute Christmas Cake" recipe early.

It is such an easy cake to make, it takes no time at all. This is a lovely moist and light fruit cake. I haven't acquired the taste for rich fruit cake yet, so this one is perfect for me and is always eaten quickly by the family. Just wonderful with a glass of Damson liqueur or Port. My mouth is watering thinking about it. I must put Damson liqueur on my Christmas shopping list, yum!

Further details on how to make my last minute Christmas cake are here and here.

If you don't want to ice the cake it can even be made on Christmas morning and is ready to eat once it has cooled. But when using Royal icing and marzipan you need at least 3 days for the icing to dry and set. You can make the cake longer in advance if you want to feed it daily with brandy before icing it.

Happy baking

Until next time


Rose x

Monday, December 15, 2014

Getting Ready for Christmas - Deck the Halls

After being missing for 3 years my little green Christmas tree, with the hessian base, was found by Dad in a box in one of the sheds! Dad has a habit of putting things away like that and most are never found again. I had thought my little Christmas tree had been packed by accident with a large tree which I had given away to a thrift shop. I never thought that I would see it again, so you can imagine how delighted I was to have it back.

I decided to put my little tree in the hall this year and to decorate it simply using little red and gold baubles. Then I put tree-themed Christmas cards next to it. I save my Christmas cards each year and love to display my favourites in themes like this. Maybe I will get more cards for my Christmas tree collection this year.

I hope you are having as much fun decorating your house for Christmas as I am.

See you soon.


Rose x