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The Genial Hearth
I’ve just put the kettle on, join me for a cuppa and a chat.

Archive for December, 2007

Carnival Catch-up

Carnival of Homeschooling
I wasn’t keeping up particularly well, so I’m simply noting that the 103rd and 104th Homeschooling Carnivals are up. I haven’t yet read them, but I’ll be back to check them out once life starts being a little less hectic:-)

Auld Lang Syne

For the benefit of those joining us this evening (there’s been a request that we do the circle thing, and sing—at least for ‘Little’ Midnight:-) ), here are the words for Auld Lang Syne. I’ll print out a couple of copies to have around. (I don’t know that we’ll do much more than the first verse and a chorus… but it never hurts to have the lot:-) ) I’m going to assume that most people have at least a passing familiarity with the tune…

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’t in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stoup
And surely I’ll be mine
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gies a hand o’ thine,
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

ETA a link to the Wikipedia entry (which includes that other verse we were talking about—although it seems to appear quite consistently as the last verse, so I’ve added it here), with both a pronunciation guide and translation.

Homemade Christmas

I didn’t take the handmade pledge this year, but I did seriously consider it. Actually, thanks to books and DVDs I probably wouldn’t manage particularly well:-( But it certainly influenced my thinking (as well as it being something I think is worthwhile for the kids to do). So there were several things that we did make.

Obviously, the kitchen I blogged about earlier today (BG loved it—when she could get to it… my two were also rather taken with it:-) ), and the little apron I made for BG (like the one Puggle got last year).
BG and Bilby also were fortunate enough to recieve beanbags that Puggle made (there’s actually a fifth one, purple, but apparently it’s currently behind the piano—that didn’t take long!) He did quite a lot of it himself, almost all the overlocking, a little bit of the sewing (both of these on my lap), all the pin removal and thread snipping, and the filling of the bags with beans. He was very pleased with them, and I think both the girls will really enjoy them when they get past all their other presents! I had thought of putting rosemary or lavendar in them to make them scented, but just didn’t get to it in the end. They’re a pretty good project for using up appealing scraps—just two twelve centimetre square pieces of fabric.

Bilby HandPuggle handPuggle made the Rocky Road for family, and he and Bilby also made handprint Christmas decorations for friends and family. In general, I think that decorations are a great Christmas present for the grandparents… there is a specific purpose, they typically ‘have a home’ and they’re often small:-) These were pretty straightforward (although, it was a bit of a challenge to keep Bilby’s fingers spread out sufficiently to be star-like!). They also have a cute litte rhyme on the back, which includes the date—I can post it if it’s helpful to anyone. I did the cutting out, but other than that, Puggle did almost everything on his.

Advent CalendarThe project that probably occupied most of my time was Bilby’s Advent Calendar. This was rather more complex that Puggle’s, because each pocket is individual, and shaped. I actually haven’t quite finished it… I still need to quilt about half the stocking pockets and some other things near the bottom. I just got it to the point where it should be ok for a while.

ShirtsThe final project I was working on was two shirts for Puggle. Once again, this is a great project for using fabulous material (they’re not small enough for scraps, but it takes just over a metre). I found some gorgeous quilting cotton to use. I’ll be doing more of these! (Actually, I guess the final project is actually the one I have yet to make. I’ve promised Paddington a shirt from fabric of his choice… we’ll need to go and choose that soon:-) )

I’d like to try and focus on birthdays being handmade (certainly for the kids)—I think that may also be logistically more achieveable:-) My dad got a copy of the current Australian Toymaker magazine for Christmas, and I’ve put forward some ‘suggestions’ for later birthdays:-) I have some ideas for Puggle’s next birthday, and I may (if we can work out where to put it!) attempt to make our kids a kitchen for the next Christmas. I enjoy the making:-)

ETA I can’t believe it! I forgot to include the Christmas cards (photos of the family) and Chrismas Calendars! The calendars have a page of photos per month (just the children… I use photos from that month the previous year… it’s a great way of using some of the many photos we take:-) ). The actual calendar page for each month includes important dates—family birthdays and the like… and Paddington’s one has friend birthdays as well. Last year’s were so popular, I felt a certain amount of pressure to do them again this year:-) Fortunately though, it’s a single document printed multiple times (aside from Paddington’s inserts… but the calendar bits are the easy bit now… just move them on from last year, change the font if needed, check a couple of dates and add in new babies:-) )

BG’s Cardboard Kitchen

(This is a fairly image heavy post!)



One real advantage of having my brother work away is that it means we’re having ‘Second Christmas’ today. That means that I didn’t have to be sorted for their presents to the same deadline as everyone else:-) Which has turned out to be a very good thing for his daughter:-)



She has recently been displaying keen interest in their kitchen, and keeps pulling things out to use. It seemed that it was a good time to give her her own kitchen. And I had time to make it:-)



I decided to go with cardboard because we had plenty of boxes, and her mother is great on de-cluttering… so something that could be used up and then discarded seemed like a good idea (they don’t have a lot of space).


kitchen—microwave, oven, stove

I took 11 nappy boxes (basically cabinetry), and four other large boxes (the ‘wall’ and doors), plus a collection of smaller ones (a couple of ‘tray’ style came in very handy for the freezer drawer and ice-cube tray, and drawer). I also used 4 tins of spray paint (2 of the green, 1 violet and one silver—so that the fridge, stove, dishwasher and microwave would match the real kitchen:-) ), a pie dish and some alfoil (the sink and draining rack), 4 corks (stove/oven knobs), 2 small medicine bottles, a couple of bits of dowel (they made the taps) and a dozen velcro dots. And of course, glue and masking tape.

kitchen—sink, dishwasher, drawer

kitchen—fridge, pantry

There’s another post coming to collect all my research images together (not specifically for this, I am intending on building a wooden one for my kids and have been mulling over ideas for a while), but I basically played around with the boxes until I got something that seemed to work (and checked that it would fit in the back of my brother’s car:-) It’s smaller than his swag, so it should be right:-) ) It’s about a metre and a half wide (57 inches), about a metre high (39 inches), and about 35 centimetres deep (14 inches).

All up, I think it took a little more than a dozen hours of hands on construction. There were a few gaps in the middle, so things had time to dry, but it seemed to go together quite quickly.

There are definitely a few things I’d do differently! I’d make a point of looking at the rough cut doors before trimming to size and mounting them—there’s a couple where the better side is on the inside:-( I think I’d also make the pantry not quite as deep (more like the microwave) and continue the bench around in front of it. That would also make the corners a little more robust. I would like to have put a couple of shelves in the oven, cupboard and dishwasher—and maybe a sliding tray in there as well. It would have been better if I’d done a better job of avoiding over spray on parts of it.

All up though, I’m pretty pleased with it. I’m particularly fond of the colours—especially the arrangement of the ‘stainless steel’ and purple… I hadn’t planned on including a dishwasher… it just ended up lending itself to its inclusion… and it really ‘finishes’ the cabinetry:-) I’m also really pleased with how the splashback ended up—probably less than a minute to paint (although rather longer to cut the stencil:-) ).

I’m looking forward to seeing her reaction this evening:-) We’re also giving her one of the aprons I make, and my sister has got a collection of small saucepans and cooking utensils… My brother knows this is what’s coming, and is hoping it distracts her from the real thing—he’s a little possessive of his kitchen:-)


Puggle had a nightmare this evening:-(

“I couldn’t pick the rosemary for Granny, because the pot plants kept moving. I don’t like it when they move!”


The last couple of days, Bilby has been much more demonstrative:-) If you ask her “Can I give you a kiss?” She leans in so that you can. If you ask for a cuddle, she snuggles in and puts her head on your shoulder:-) It’s very cute:-)

No walking yet… so no dress at Christmas time… but she continues to get more and more stable. I think that in a lot of ways the crawling is still quite new, so that is suiting her at the moment.

Chocolate Simplicity Cake

Someone was asking about simple cake recipes, and I realised that even though I took a photo in May (!) I still hadn’t actually blogged my family’s bog-standard cake (we use it for every occasion—fetes, cake stalls, birthday cakes, you name it…)
Chocolate Simplicity Cake
So, without further ado, may I present the
Chocolate Simplicity Cake (I think it was originally from a Snowflake flour recipe book and is correctly titled ‘Simplicity Chocolate Cake’—but we never call it that!)

1 cup Self Raising Flour (that’s about a cup of plain flour with about a teaspoon of baking powder, I believe)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup (125 mls/4 fl oz) milk
a couple of drops vanilla essence
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs

Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat really hard for 3 minutes. It does make quite a ‘wet’ batter. Pour into a greased cake tin and bake in a moderate oven (180˚C/350˚F) for 30-40 minutes.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Boxing Day

44.2˚C (111.5˚F)!

Today we hosted my traditional Boxing Day Morning Tea. Not as many people as some years, I know the heat kept a few from coming. We did have a great time though:-)

I’ve had a couple of naps since people left, and drunk much ice… I feel much more human:-)

I am looking forward to nothing tomorrow! (Well, I guess I should get a move on with BG’s present… but that should be fun—and I have time to do it:-) )

Christmas Day

So hot🙁 (40.7˚C… or 105˚F)

Although, fortunately our house is pretty good in the heat—and we have the air conditioning for when it gets unbearable. Even better, we didn’t have to go anywhere until after the heat of the day!

At 6.45 Puggle joined us in bed, saying that he’d put his chippies in the drawer! (I guess we’ll until 7.30 thing…) I was more than a little bit sleepy, so I didn’t pay much attention.

When we eventually emerged, it turned out that he had gone into the loungeroom and quickly investigated his stocking (the bit that ‘Father Christmas’ does), found the chippies (small packets of crisps from a multipack, divided amongst the stockings), and put them in the same drawer he did last year. He’d only found a couple though, so when he eventually reached the others later, he raced them to the drawer as well! He’s eaten some today (after checking how many he could have in a day…) but the bag still has some in it!

Everyone got something from their wishlist, and something that they hadn’t thought of—Paddington even got two copies of something not on his list (admittedly, one of them was shared with me)… A copy of Maggie Beer’s beautiful ‘Maggie’s Harvest’… it really is something he’ll love though… so not a surprising choice at all:-)

We spent most of the day at home, watching the kids open presents (we opened ours, but we didn’t have quite the number that they did!), eating brunch, and watching the kids playing (well, we did manage to get in a game of Stacrobats… I think it’ll be a good choice, but it’ll take Puggle a little while to ‘get’ it:-) Then we headed to my folks place for Christmas dinner, with those of us in the city (we’ll do Second Christmas later in the week when the mine-workers return:-) ). More unwrapping:-)

I was pretty pleased with how the food worked out… I planned for brunch, so that we could eat ‘real’ food, as well as snacks (in the end, I’m not altogether sure that Puggle ate much at all…). I made Breakfast Muffins. (A slice of crustless bread, pressed into a muffin tin. Chop half a rasher of bacon up, for the bottom, top with half a cherry tomato. Add an egg, top with a little cheese. Bake for 15/20 minutes at 200˚C.) I also had these Banana and Oat muffins prepared last night, to cook this morning (I halved the sugar, used mostly wholemeal flour and added craisins. I think the sugar could still be cut back some more! But they were pretty good.) I cooked them in the mini-muffin trays, which was a good choice. It made them beautifully snack-able:-) They could probably have been cooked for a little less time though:-) Paddington made Fruit Frappées (blend fruit and ice… he used to do them regularly when we were going out… but we don’t have the Ice Shaver anywhere accessible at the moment, so it’s been a while… we may have to get it out again:-) ), and our guests brought a platter of fruit, and Berry Coconut Muffins. There was always food, so we didn’t feel hungry… but there was no ‘push’ to overeat—so we were able to enjoy our dinner:-)

The wine glass tags for the crackers went down well:-) They are definitely a straightforward gift idea for the future:-)

I had my usual post-turkey nap when we returned home… (shocking headache… somewhat lessened now… I’m thinking it was the beginning of the heat—mere weeks ago I was wearing wintery clothing on occasion!)—I should have gone to bed then.

I should definitely go to bed now… I’m expecting we’ll see hordes tomorrow (Boxing Day Morning Tea… a reminder that if you’re local, you’re welcome… anytime from 10 until about 5)—hopefully not all at once! (I have just remembered that we left presents at my folks place… they were minding some… I’m not going to worry about them tomorrow though, so apologies:-( We’ll see most of the relevent people at MustSeeMovies, and the rest at New Years… we’ll take the slack road tomorrow:-) )

Blogging Advent—Monday 24th

We read ‘The Nativity’ illustrated by Julie Vivas. This was a nice easy activity—the rest of the day has been non-stop!

Last night I finished Bilby’s Advent Calendar, and tonight once the rest of the presents were wrapped, I finished Puggle’s shirts (I did my first ever blind hems… don’t recommend it for a curvy edge:-( Certainly not for the first time).  Puggle finally finished the last of his cards, and we wrapped up the Rocky Road. My sister came by and gave me a hand to do the crackers. So they’re all finished.

All that’s left for me now is to prepare the breakfast things, so that they require minimal attention… and then go to bed. Puggle will be out at precisely 7.30, if this morning is any indication! (He came in at 7.30—the time he is allowed to leave his room, to get his Santa sack, to set it out… and then filled it with presents from under the tree:-) )

I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a safe and happy Christmas, enjoy your families—I’ll see you on the other side:-)

Blogging Advent—Sunday 23rd

As part of his gift for family, I thought that Puggle could make Rocky Road. It’s a pretty good task to let him do himself. I gave him the bags of marshmallows, glacé cherries and glacé ginger, and while he cut them up, I started making the hats for the crackers. He broke the chocolate up a bit, I microwaved it, and he poured it. He then distributed half the ‘stuff’ over the chocolate, and prepared the next batch of chocolate (on reflection… I should have either melted all the chocolate at once, used a new bowl, or cleaned it out between batches—it caught:-( ). He began spreading the rest, but then decided he’d run out of energy (all that running at Jungle Gym:-) ), so I finished up and put the remainder of the chocolate over the top. It’s now in the fridge, and we’ll cut it tomorrow (it’s going to have to live there… I think the heat has arrived:-( ).

Today’s actual task was to make the Plum Pudding. This morning we assembled all the ingredients and left it standing for the day. It’s boiling away now—when I don’t have to be in the kitchen to feel the heat!

(For future reference, the pasta cooker is not really big enough to cook the pudding, it’s rather a tight fit:-( Sadly I didn’t think to make many notes like this last year, and I can’t find the kids stockings… I have their sacks, and Paddington’s and mine, but the ones I made for them? Aren’t in any of the places I’ve looked so far… I only have one more possibility:-( )

Kitchen Help

Puggle knows his way around a kitchen!

And we both got OJ in bed this morning! (Only, we always add water to his, so he did the same for ours… and it didn’t taste much like orange:-( But both he and Bilby relished it!)


Week 4, Christmas Block

Hmmm… We did a lot, but not the planned reading/art viewing/music. I think I’ll need to re-think the whole Christmas Block next year…

Technically next week is Break Week, but as it’s the week of Christmas, there won’t be any catching up done!

This will be the last bar one post on our ‘school’ year. In the next couple of weeks I’ll do some overall reflecting, and then begin working on next year’s plans.

Blogging Advent—Saturday 22nd

We made Fruit Mince Tarts. It did take until bedtime, but we got it done:-) (I decided I really did need to attack the garden with a whipper snipper—not finished, but getting there.)

I gave up on making my own fruit mince (should be done early in November, so it has time to meld properly), and I used pre-rolled sheets of shortcrust pastry, so they’re not proper Fruit Mince Tarts… but I’m a step ahead of last year:-)

I’ve found my pudding recipe, so I’m all set for tomorrow:-)

Blogging Advent—Friday 21st

Today we wrapped presents! Not quite all of them, but lots (including Puggle’s present for Bilby and BG, which he finally finished… I’ll post about them after they’ve been opened:-) ). Puggle was so much more useful than last year🙂 He’s had practice with sticky tape, and we have a decent dispenser:-)

We got all the finished cards posted. Paddington brought home more so that we should now be able to finish writing them.

Puggle was quite worried when we went out to post the cards that the cat might be in the house and might ‘open the presents with his paws, and play with them!’ I pointed out that if any presents were open, we would probably be asking him about it:-)

Then we spent time outside digging holes:-) All in all, a productive day.

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