Sunday, December 22, 2013


The “Season to be Jolly” is just around the corner; or, perhaps, as you’re reading this, the eagle has already landed (or Santa has); maybe Christmas has already been and gone. Either which way, this time of the year brings with it reflections of Christmases past.

The best gift I’ve ever received cost nothing. It still remains pertinent and up-to-date with me to this day. The gloss hasn’t worn off; it has lasted throughout my life. It remains untarnished, and has done so for most of the time, I think.   Hopefully, I have many kilometers remaining in my tank – even if these days I’m a little slower in traversing the metaphorical highway; but as I stroll along that highway I’ll carry the gift with me!

Being a flawed human being, I freely admit that 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; and I concede there were times, too, due to circumstances beyond my control, I deliberately disregarded the gift.  If one is pushed hard enough and often enough, it’s easy to do.

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; as I confessed above, I am not without flaws! 

Have I caused you to scratch your head in 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. For their generosity, I am eternally grateful.

I was taught not to start eating my meal until everyone else was seated at the table with their own meal in front of them. I was taught never to overstuff my mouth with food; and 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 for and given to leave the table; one must never leave the table until everyone has 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. A fork or a spoon could be placed in one’s mouth, but never ever a knife!

Table napkins were placed on one’s lap, not tucked into the collar or neckline of one’s clothing; and definitely not tied around one’s neck; at the risk of having your neck wrung! 

Often, when I worked in restaurants, I refrained from clearing away diners’ plates if they’d not correctly replaced their cutlery. If they had 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 putting the knife and fork into their rightful place – together, side by side, while simultaneously feigning surprise:

“Oh! I didn’t realise you’d finished eating!” 

There are times (often) the customer/diner isn’t right; don’t be fooled into believing otherwise.

Reaching across the table for food or condiments was, and still is, forbidden. If I needed something out of reach, I had to ask politely for it to be passed to me; with a “thank you” given in return.

I was taught to take what was nearest to me on a platter, even if it was the smallest and least inviting morsel. To covet and take possession of the largest, more delectable fairy cake, or the by far most enticing éclair, particularly if it was furthermost away on the serving plate, was strongly discouraged. 

I was taught never to interrupt when another was speaking.  This can be 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 said offence; but I give myself permission to do so.

A huge “no-no” was/is not putting the chair back in its rightful position upon leaving the table. I really hate it when people don't put their chairs back in under the table!

And, another most important issue; to never blow one’s nose on the dinner napkin; use your tissue! Although you may be hankering for a handkerchief, your table napkin is not one - it’s not done!

Better still excuse yourself from the table before doing blowing your nose…leaving the napkin behind! 

This Christmas give edible treats of your own making; have fun preserving and baking; or better still, if the coffers are low, and time has run out...your presence will be the best present of all.

Merry Christmas, everyone…I hope your Christmas, no matter what you’re doing; where you’re doing it, or with whom you’re doing it is relaxed and hassle-free.  Dump all angst at the door, and forget to take it with you when you leave. 

Spread the love and goodwill…not only throughout the coming Season, but forever more.

My thanks to all of you who visit my blog; for taking time to read it; and for your most welcome comments. I enjoy your come again!

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. 

Christmas Duck: Preheat oven 220C. Place 200g sugar, juice of 1 orange and 2tbs Cointreau in heavy-based pan over low heat; stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil; simmer 5mins or until syrupy. Prick skin of 1 whole duck; place 1 peeled onion and 1 sprig of rosemary in duck cavity. Sit duck on rack in roasting pan containing 150ml water; roast 20mins. Remove duck from oven; brush with some of the orange syrup; sprinkle with salt; roast 30mins; brush with more syrup; roast further 30mins; lowering oven to 200C. Cut 1 orange into slices. Dip slices in remaining syrup; lay slices on duck with 4 fresh rosemary sprigs; brush all over with syrup; roast a final 30mins. Cover loosely on platter; rest 15mins. Pour off fat from pan; place over med-heat. Add 150ml chicken stock and 1tbs Cointreau; deglaze; add any remaining syrup; serve with duck


  1. Loved this post!

    And I'm with you re the 'gift'. Manners cost nothing, after all.

    Merry Christmas, Lee! xoxo

  2. Thank you so much, Wendy. You have a wonderful Christmas, too...enjoy it to your utmost. Stay cool...stay safe...take good care. :)

  3. This was a gift I was given too. And am grateful. And still use both magic words often.
    I am also given the gift of reading, another gift I remain grateful for.
    Happy Christmas to you and your furry tyrants. Enjoy yourself. Love your recipes too.

  4. Lee, I loved this post when I read it for two reasons ~ it reminded me of all the things I was taught too AND you shared a couple of recipes. I think I will make the Rocky Road recipe for my son to take to his girlfriends on Xmas Day. There were a couple of ladies behind me at the checkout yesterday buying those biscuits and discussing a recipe ~ I reckon it would be a good chance it was this one. Thank you.

  5. Hi there, EC. My mates and I thank you for your good wishes. I've told them I have a couple of presents for them...I think they go searching for them after I've gone asleep at night! ;)

    Take good care, EC; and have a wonderful Christmas.

  6. Hey, Carol! The important things in life; the important values do stick with us, don't they>

    I think your son will certainly be giving "sweets for his sweet" if he gives her some home-made Rocky Road for Christmas!

    Have a great Christmas up there in Cairns, Carol. I spent a couple or so Christmases up there...and had a ball! All the best to you! :)

  7. I'm going to make the Rocky Road Cake over the holidays! It looks so good!
    Merry Christmas to you and a happy New Year.

  8. Hey there, Deborah...thanks for popping's nice to see you.

    Have a wonderful Christmas...and I hope 2014 is a good year for you, in every way. :)

  9. Thank you! My family is from the Midwest of America, where manners are important - seems to be a lost art these days.

    Chutney! I was wondering what the hell that was. No offense ;)

  10. I love a good chutney, RK. I used to make it a lot...and a lot of it, but I buy it ready-made these days. No offense taken... :)

    Good manners should never be overlooked...better over-used than overlooked.

    Thanks for dropping by, RK.

  11. Mrs N isn't keen on anything that Disney turned into a cartoon. So, no duck for Cosmo.

  12. I take it no mice, either, Cosmo?

    Chickens, elephants, princes and princesses would be out of the question, as well, no doubt.

  13. Manners? Shove that!

    Have a lovely Christmas, whatever you are doing in the sunshine! Love & Kisses!

  14. Thanks, have a great Christmas, too. Relax, enjoy and stay warm. :)

  15. I was given the gift of good manners like that, too. A wonderful gift.

    Merry Christmas, my friend.

  16. Thank you, have a wonderful Christmas, too...and I'm glad we've met up through blogging. :)

  17. I hope Santa has a great load of manners in his bag tonight and hands them out freely. Lord knows, they are sadly lacking these days.

    Merry Christmas, Lee!

  18. You're right, Lee - good manners are a precious gift. Love the recipes too. Merry Xmas to you and happy new year. xx

  19. How nice to see you, Serena. Thanks for your good wishes...and I wish a very Merry Christmas to you, too. Stay safe...stay warm. :)

  20. Hugs back to you, Pat. I wish you all the very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and I hope your 2014 is the best year ever! :)

  21. You were taught some very fine lessons. When did you decide to abandon the practice of them?
    I hope you-all are having a very Merry Christmas!

  22. Hahahaha! Behave yourself, Jerry!

    Have a very Merry Christmas, Jerry...all my best wishes to you and Arlynda. :)