Wednesday, December 12, 2012


"Christmas where the gum trees grow,
There is no frost and there is no snow,
Christmas in Australia's hot -
Cold and frosty is what it's not!
When the bloom on the Jacaranda tree is here,
Christmas time is near."

—"Christmas Where the Gum Trees Grow", Australian Christmas carol

Being on the cusp of “the season to be jolly” has stirred reflections of my many Christmases past. The best gift I’ve ever received cost nothing. It remains fashionable (with me, anyway - in some quarters, unfortunately, it's gone out of fashion); and, the gift I was given so long ago has lasted throughout my life – to this point in time, at least. Hopefully, many kilometers remain in my tank – even if these days I’m a little slower in traversing the metaphorical highway! I've purposely lowered my acceleration rate because I'm not in a hurry to go anywhere these days; but I always increase the rate when I'm on my way back home. There is no need for concern!

Back to the gift...I admit there have been times I’ve unintentionally lapsed into complacency and overlooked the gift I was generously given when I was but a wee child. Hopefully such occasions are few and far between. For the times I’ve unconsciously slipped up, I consciously apologise – even though I can’t pinpoint to whom I extend my apologies, or why, when or where said indiscretions occurred. It’s a given, of course, that I’ve had my “moments” just like everyone!

By this stage in my post, I bet I’ve given you the gift of confusion!

The gift to which I refer is the gift of good manners; a gift handed to me by my mother and grandmother when I was very young.

I was taught not to start eating my meal until everyone was seated at the table with their own meal in front of them. I was taught never to stuff my mouth with food; and I was taught never to speak with my mouth full; nor chew with my mouth open. Whew!

It’s a bit like trying to rub your head while patting your stomach!

Elbows were banned from the table during eating. Permission had to be asked and given to leave the table; I was told I must never rise from the table until everyone had finished eating. At the end of a meal my knife and fork had to be placed closely together in the middle of the plate; never left askew or otherwise; looking like a dog's breakfast or a Chinese laundry on a Sunday morning!

Often, when I worked in restaurants, I purposely refrained from clearing away diners’ plates if they’d not correctly replaced their cutlery at the end of their meal. If they’d failed to do so, I’d ignore them for quite some time before finally attending to their needs; and then I’d purposely make a point of placing the knife and fork together into their rightful place; simultaneously feigning surprise: “Oh! I didn’t realise you’d finished eating!”

There are times the customer/diner isn’t right! Don’t be fooled into believing otherwise! It isn't so!

Reaching across the table was forbidden. If I needed something that was out of my reach, I had to ask politely for it to be passed to me; or, in some cases, say nothing at all, and just do without. I was taught to take what was nearest on the platter, even if it was the smallest and least enticing morsel! To covet and take possession of the largest, more delectable fairy cake etc., particularly if it was furthermost away on the serving plate was strongly discouraged!

I was taught never to interrupt when another was speaking; a feat extremely difficult to achieve at times if the speaker boringly drones on forever and a day! I do interrupt myself if I’m guilty of that offence; but that’s permitted!

A huge “no-no” was/is not putting the chair back upon leaving the table. To this day I notice there are so many people who fail to replace the chair with its seat politely placed under the table where it should be - and when this happens, I grumble and mumble away to myself...with no food in my mouth, of course!

And most important; to never blow one’s nose on the dinner napkin! Don't laugh...I've seen it done...unfortunately! Although you may be hankering for a handkerchief, the dinner napkin is not one - it’s not done - ever!

This Christmas give edible treats of your own making; have fun preserving and baking!

Rhubarb Chutney: Put 500g chopped rhubarb in saucepan with a drop of water; add 200g brown sugar; cook on medium until softened. Add 6 finely-chopped spring onions, 1tbs thyme leaves, 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 100g cherry tomatoes and 1 garlic clove; cook 5mins; add 200ml red wine vinegar, juice and zest of 1 lemon. Simmer 2hrs, until most of liquid has evaporated; check seasonings; cook; store in sterilized, airtight, jars.

Christmas Spiced Peaches: Put 450g sugar, 300ml white wine vinegar, 1tsp whole allspice, 2-inch cinnamon stick and 1-inch fresh ginger, thinly-sliced in saucepan; heat gently; stir to dissolve sugar; bring to boil; reduce heat; simmer 15mins. Halve and stone 450g each peaches and plums; add to syrup; gradually bring to boil, stirring; reduce heat; simmer 20mins; stir occasionally. Remove from heat; remove fruit with slotted spoon; reserve syrup; discard cinnamon. Fill jars to 1-inch from top; boil syrup a few mins; pour over fruit; seal jars. Keep for up to 3 months in cool, dark place. Serve warm with ice cream or room temp with ham etc.

Rocky Road Cake: Roughly crush 1 pkt Marie biscuits, ending up with chunky pieces. Melt together 400g milk chocolate and 100g butter on low heat; when melted, mix in 1 tin condensed milk. Remove from heat; add biscuit crumbs, 1 bag marshmallows, 200g glace cherries, some chopped nuts, raisins or sultanas and other chopped, dried fruits; whatever suits your taste. Tip into tin lined with cling-wrap; flatten out; chill to set. Grab hold of plastic wrap to assist removal from tin.


  1. We were also taught to share, and of the value of please and thank you. Dinosaur/grumpy old woman that I am, these seem to have slipped by the wayside.
    Some twenty plus years ago we started making Christmas cakes to give to friends and family. It has become a bit of a monster - this year I made eighteen of various sizes. Just the same there is a great deal more love in a home-baked cake than in a gift which may or may not be either wanted or needed. (I also make shortbread).
    I will have to give your recipes a lot of consideration. I do not feel like more cooking at the moment - but they do look enticing. I love rhubarb with a passion - and we have a small crop in the garden. Mmmmm.

  2. Hi EC...rhubarb is very plentiful up here on the mountain where I live; and there's rows of it growing on this property here as well. My landlords grow it and sell it at the "Green Shed".

    I'm giving a couple of Christmas cakes as gifts this year, too. I'm contemplating making a couple of gingerbread cakes as well...later on next week, perhaps.

    I'm the original "Grumpy Old Woman"...I was born this way, I think! lol You're not alone! ;)

  3. Those peaches sound good.

  4. Hi Cosmo...they do! But I'm eating so much fresh stone fruit at the moment, I've not time to preserve any. This season's stone fruit are the best we've had for a few years, I reckon.

    I'm eating so many of them,I'll start looking stoned, soon!

  5. On this side of Mother Earth, it is winter and the temp was 28 degrees this morning with crusty frost on the ground to crunch as I walked Maggie. Thus saying, I enjoyed the tree photo and poem. Hard to imagine a flowering and warm Christmas.
    This is truly one of the best post you have done my girl. I always told Puppy that there would always be someone better looking, someone with more money and someone smarter, but if he took his manners with him, he would be remembered
    better than others who did not. I know he got tired of me saying as he would leave the car when he was small and I would ask "What do you not forget to take with you?" He would reply "Manners." Sometimes he would grumble the reply but I was always happy to hear others tell me what a polite young man I had as a son.
    I think I will get him to read this post. I wish everyone on earth could read this one and LEARN.

  6. Thank you, Lady Di - your comments are appreciated. I'm sure Puppy is forever grateful to you for what you taught him when he was young. I'm sure he's still learning much from his benefit. Miss Kitty Justice rules! :)

    Yep! We down here Down Under are used to our summer Christmases...the surf, pools, garden hoses, watermelons and barbecues get good work-outs...but there are some who still do the full-on hot Christmas lunch with all the obligatory trimmings. I used to be one of them...but since about seven or eight years ago, I got wise in my old age...and now I have platters of cold, delicious seafood. I always have a leg of ham lurking about, though!

    Thanks again, Miss Kitty!

  7. The 'season to be jolly?'
    You were not at the shops in the freezing rain!

  8. And I wasn't at them in the searing heat, either, Adullamite! Bah!

    Make yourself some eggnog...have a few rums...then you'll be feeling jolly! Ho! Ho! Ho!

    Put on your long-johns and then don your Santa suit...then you'll be feeling jolly warm! Ho! Ho! Ho!

    Put another log on the fire! :)

  9. Was doing just fine and enjoying your post until the forced mental picture of Adullamite in long johns. Oh, well. :) I remember receiving most of my lessons in manners from my older sister. Little by little. Of course, American table manners are a bit different, but the learning was worth-while.

    "Good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them", so the quote goes. I think it is more than that, though. Perhaps at the core of civilization itself.

    Nice post.

  10. Obviously, Adullamite hasn't read my reply, Relax Max! lol far as I'm concerned good manners will never be out of fashion. As you say it's respect not only for one's self and for is much more than that. It should be a way of living; a way of existing...and it should come naturally.

  11. That was certainly a great gift.

  12. That it was, Pat. :)