Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve reflections and a chestnut soup

Christmas eve!  It has been busy. I've made nut roast, cranberry nut buns and chestnut soup.  Presents have been wrapped with the help of our sticky tape dynamo, Sylvia, and more are yet to be done.  We've been sitting watching Carols by Candlelight on the telly with some festive punch.  The tree is lit with coloured lights.  I am taking a moment to get this post done while Sylvia helps E with present wrapping.  Here are a few random photos and thoughts from Christmas this year.

Brandy Raisin Macarons at Cacao at the GPO
Some bizarre sightings of Santa Claus this year
  • Santa on a jetski salt and pepper shakers - see in a shop
  • Santa in sleigh being pulled by a dinosaur in a local garden- heard on radio
  • Santa breathing dragon's breath in Hong Kong display - relayed to me by my friend
And it seems that cars are now believing themselves to be Santa's reindeer.  This year has seen the new phenomena of people attaching reindeer antlers to their cars.

Melbourne Town Hall
Why do we have to queue and pay to see Santa in Melbourne's major department stores in the city.  Sylvia is not old enough to want a photo with a strange man with a beard but she would have enjoyed seeing Santa.  But I will not pay and queue for the sight!  Where is the spirit of Christmas?

Santa climbing the Eiffel Tower on our tree
I love our Christmas trees but others do it differently - some alternative Christmas trees I have come across:

Miss Marples tearoom, Sassafras
Among all the joy, spare a thought for the sadness Christmas brings.  The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has made international news.  However, there have been some notable sad news that have more meaning for me:
  • Ian "Molly" Meldrum has been in a coma after falling from a ladder while preparing the house for a Christmas party.  My best wishes for his health.  He brought so much music and enthusiastic into my childhood.
  • George Whitman died last week.  He resurrected the English Language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company in Paris after Sylvia Beach's first incarnation closed.  I visited the store on my first trip to Paris and was offered accommodation there.  Unfortunately at the time I was too naive to realise it was a genuine offer.
  • Bruce Ruxton, former RSL president, died this week.  He was no role model for me with his right wing views but he was always there with a news bite through so much of my childhood.

For each high profile death and sadness, there are many of us with our own private griefs.  I know of those among fellow bloggers and others in my life who will face this Christmas lacking someone or even something that matters deeply.  Or there are those like "vegan alone at Christmas".  My thoughts go out to everyone whose Christmas isn't the jolly merry event that the media likes to portray.

Dinner tonight was a relaxed affair of Celery and Chestnut Soup (recipe below) and Cranberry Nut Buns (recipe to come - thanks Kari).   It is similar to other chestnut soups I have made - velvety and flavoursome.  I was relieved by the end of the day that it was simple and quick.  I had already been the shops twice - used up my walnuts intended for the nut roast when I made the buns and I also used up sour cream so I got inventive and served it with brandy cream.  Surprisingly this sweet cream worked but is not essential.  I am sending the soup to Ricki for her Holiday edition of Wellness Weekends.
Here is a nativity scene from Melbourne's city square.  Nothing fancy yet the kids loved it.  Sylvia has been very excited by Christmas and especially baby Jesus.  I've seen her running around the kitchen yelling, "I want Jesus", because she was impatient about getting the Jesus figure out on the advent calendar.  You can see below how much dolly loved it too.  She sat in the highchair this morning to view the calendar.

We have had a couple of hot days over the last few days.  Sylvia got out her woollie hat yesterday before we went swimming.  In fact it was so hot that her a new plastic sparkly hat half-melted in the hot car while we were doing our supermarket shopping.  Tonight we have had a thunderstorm but it has dissipated quickly.  I am not sure we have seen the last of it but the weather is forecast to be 30 C tomorrow.

Sylvia now asleep.  All the presents are wrapped.  A mince pie is left out for Santa.  The table is set for breakfast tomorrow morning.  I wish everyone a merry Christmas, a great feast and a happy and safe holiday.

Celery and Chestnut Soup
Adapted from The Great Big Vegetable Challenge
serves 4-6

1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, crushed
4-6 celery sticks, sliced
1 carrot peeled and chopped
400g tin of chestnuts
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt flakes
3 cups stock
juice of 1/2 an orange
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons brandy cream, or yoghurt (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan (I used a stockpot).  Gradually add onion, garlic, celery, and carrot as you chop them.  Gently sweat until softened.  Add chestnuts, potatoes, salt and stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Puree with a hand held blender.  Add orange juice and pepper to taste.  Serve with brandy cream or yoghurt as desired.

On the Stereo:
Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Volume VI: Christmas


  1. Happy Christmas to you and your family Johanna. See you in the New Year x

  2. Beautiful--and thanks for submitting to WW. By now you've probably already opened our presents, so Merry Christmas!! It's just past dinner on Christmas Eve, so I'm off to watch It's a Wonderful Life and appreciate my sweetie and furry girls. Much love to all of you over there! xo Ricki

  3. I hope you had a beautiful, beautiful Christmas Johanna! And thank you for the chestnut recipe, as I just discovered a box of vacuum-packed chestnuts that I bought for the stuffing I made *last* Christmas!!

  4. Merry Christmas Johanna, and to your family :) I'm so glad you made those buns - I hope you liked them! - and share your musings on Christmas and the sad time it can be for some. I hope your day was at the opposite end of the spectrum.

  5. Merry Christmas Johanna. I hope you, E and Sylvia have had a lovely day, and that it's been more relaxed than your manic-sounding Christmas eve!

  6. Thanks for these wonderful reflections on Christmas - hope yours was a good one this year. I like the sound of the cranberry nut buns!

  7. I hope you had a lovely Christmas, Johanna! I love chestnuts and this soup sounds just perfect for the season! We can extend it one more day, can't we? :P

  8. Lovely post Johanna. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas.

  9. What a lovely glimpse of your Christmas Johanna! :D I've seen so many of those reindeer antlers on cars lately whereas there weren't any last year! Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family :D

  10. Thanks Shaheen

    Thanks Ricki - I am a little jealous of you finding time to watch it's a wonderful life - love the film but haven't had much time to watch films this christmas with Sylvia's unsettled sleeping

    Thanks Hannah - wish I could find vaccuumed packed chestnuts - tins of them are the best I could do and they have lots of weird jellied stuff around them that I had to wash off - chestnut soups are great - I have a few on the blog if you are looking for ideas

    Thanks Kari - just posted the buns - they were lovely - yes our christmas was mostly good this year - always people who are missed as I get older but I appreciate spending time with those around me

    Thanks C - have felt like I have collapsed in a heap now Christmas momentum has ceased

    Thanks Cakelaw - it was a lovely one

    Thanks Joanne - I had many plans for my chestnuts but the soup was an excellent easy Christmas eve dinner - our christmas season goes til 6 jan in our house so yes it is easily extended :-)

    Thanks Quince poacher - nice to hear from you - hope you had a great christmas too

    Thanks Lorraine - I laughed so much at the first car with antlers that I saw and then I keep seeing them

  11. I love the reindeer car antlers! And the red nose. I want to get a set. A belated Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and happy new year Johanna!


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