Friday, 28 December 2018

Christmas - cheesmas tree, food, presents and random thoughts

I hope you had a great Christmas (or relaxing break if you don't celebrate).  Our was a good one, filled with lots of good food but a bit subdued because Sylvia was sick.  One of my fine achievements before Christmas was to make a Cheese Christmas Tree or a Cheesemas Tree.  It suited my energy levels!  So here are some photos of food, presents and a few random thoughts at the end.

We made gingerbread men for Sylvia's class Christmas party.  We kept a few of the good ones aside which Sylvia decorated with icing and M&Ms.  She then arranged them on a silver plate, wrapped in cellophane, tipped more M&Ms in and tied up with silver ribbon.  We decided it looked quite professional!  I am not sure what her teacher thought.  My sister who is a teacher says she gets so many chocolates it isn't funny!  Teacher presents are hard but I think homemade at least has a bit of heart in it.

Life has been so busy that we hadn't made pancakes for ages.  On the Sunday before Christmas we had a lazy day starting with vegan fluffy pancakes, layered with nutella and topped with raspberries and Smalt cold smoked maple syrup.  Sylvia was wary of the smoked maple syrup but we were both really impressed with how good it was with the pancakes.  They were so filling that I was glad she helped me with the stack.

On the Saturday before Christmas we bought lots of fancy cheese so we could make the Cheesemas tree.  This is not an original idea.  They are all over the web.  However we still had to think about what cheeses to use.  It probably would have been good to have a softer cheese but by the time I was done, I had only used about 5 of the 9 cheeses.  We are still up to our elbows in fancy cheeses.

Working out how to do it was fun.  I had some really green olives which were quite murky coloured by the time I got them out so I turned to some asparagus instead.  The whole thing was quite a mess with all the chopping and arranging. 

Sylvia decided to do her own tree.  I liked how she arranged the rice crackers around it.  I did some arrangement of crackers beside my cheesemas tree but my board was not big enough for it.  Sylvia has pointed out that one of the crackers on my photo below is the wrong way round.  I had a lovely lunch from the cheese board and then put a lot of cubes in the fridge that we have been nibbling at.

Below is the snack mix that we opened for the cheeseboard.  The little crackers were great with little chunks of cheese and of course the pretzels were important for the trunk.  I also ran out to the garden to chop some herbs for that Christmas sparkle.

It is very hard to avoid all the Christmas products in the supermarket.  One of the best packages was the Cadbury chocolate biscuit selection.  We don't buy many of these biscuit boxes so I quite enjoyed deciding which biscuit to choose.  However we are still making our way through them so today they had to go in the fridge to avoid them melting on a 36 C day.

Something I rarely buy is Christmas cake.  I always enjoy some of my mum's cake.  So this year I decided I would make my own.  Then I was honest with myself about having no time for it.  (Just like the gingerbread house we were going to make before Christmas also fell by the wayside though the dough is still in the fridge hoping for an opportunity before New Year).  And I found some Rhubarb Christmas Cake at the farmers market.  At $22 it wasn't cheap but it looks lovely and I am looking forward to opening it.

On Christmas Eve Sylvia was not well and had a few naps and then fell asleep without too much excitment about Santa.  We didn't find time to drive out late to see local Christmas lights after the summer sunset, nor did she have the energy for us to see the Christmas lights in Geelong (both of us were asleep by 9pm on Christmas Day).  But she did occasionally ask if she could open a Christmas present early.

And even though Sylvia was under the weather on Christmas day, she still had a lot of excitment for giving and receiving presents.  She got lots of fun stuff: slime kit, chocolates, a NanoRoom Cat Room Set, ice cream scoop, lunchboxes, Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls, tree decorations, a diary, a garden kit, magnetic cat hooks, a new cat drink bottle etc,

The slime kit from my parents was a great hit.  Sylvia couldn't wait to start making slime.  Literally.  I think she made a few in the afternoon before crashing .  Then she made more the next day with her cousin.  I was less enthused at having to clean it off furniture, clothes and even her cousin's hair!

E and I received some lovely presents.  Chocolates, shortbread, socks, books, a calendar, erasers, a computer cord, a lovely Christmas apron and a cute snowman decoration.  Also not pictured is a soda stream which is yet to be set up.  After an early night on Christmas Day, I was up early (for me) at 6am and had a lovely time reading Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales in my parents' quiet house.

As for the food, as usual we ate well with lots of family traditions being honoured.  I made an overnight version (which I will share) of my cranberry nut rolls to eat withe jarlsberg cheese for Christmas Day brunch.  I didn't remember to get cranberry sauce or oranges for juice.  Luckily I had a couple of oranges that we had used for pith.  We combined the juice with some passionfruit drink and soda water.

As usual we opened presents and had brunch at home before heading to my parents for more presents, Christmas lunch and a sleepover.  My mum had set up a lovely cheese platter for nibbling while we opened presents.  My mum set up a table for 15 or 16 with a fancy new centrepiece.

I made my usual Christmas nut roast to eat with a dollop of cranberry sauce alongside my mum's roast potatoes, roast pumpkn, peas and my sister's cauliflower cheese.  It was a delicious lunch complete with pulling crackers, wearing ill fitting hats and telling terribly jokes.

For dessert there was pudding and custard, cheesecake, pav, berries and individual trifles.  All delicious.  My niece amused me by eating her pav with a shovel from a Christmas cracker!  We also had punch (a mixture of tropical juice, ginger ale with some mint and strawberries on top).

My mum and dad had friends over in the evening and my dad's family visit for a late lunch on Boxing Day.  Lots of leftovers were enjoyed with some salad and bread.  As always, I was glad to eat my nut roast while others ate turkey and ham.  We had a laugh at some of the Christmas presents.  The drone that drowned in the river.  The hats that were too small.  And the odd socks (it seems to be a thing to sell socks that don't match).

We still have nut roast and lots of sweet food.  Below is a sample of sweet food.  Included are the chocolate mince tarts and the panforte that I made on Christmas eve.  Not included are my mum's caramel tart and Christmas cake,  and my aunts toffee date pudding.

Now here are a few random moments:
  • I was happy to hear a nut roast was part of Christmas dinner in the Miffy rabbit cartoon Christmas special.
  • I loved the UK Christmas No 1.  We Built this City on Sausage Rolls is just brilliant and lots of fun to watch.  Good one LadBaby.  And the profits go to charity.
  • One bizarre part of the holidays was catching up with family and friends whom I had not seen for ages and hearing too many holiday accident stories.  A broken foot from scrambling over rocks at Kakadu.  A broken nose and split lip from a fall in Dubai airport en route to UK and a badly dislocated shoulder and lots of bruises slipping on rocks on the way back from a waterfall in Hawaii.  Ouch!
  • As usual we enjoyed watching some British Christmas adverts.  The John Lewis advert with Elton John receiving his piano is just beautiful and the Irn Bru Snowman advert is disturbing.  I keep having the line "he nicked my Irn Bru, he's let go of my hand" in my head as the boy falls from the sky.
  • Sylvia borrowed a graphic novel from the library that she told me was about a detective called Eggnog Holmes.  It turned out to be Enola Holmes but I wish it was Eggnog Holmes, which is so much more amusing.
  • I was pleased to stumble upon the gorgeous story of the Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell.  I sometimes would listen to it with my parents on the radio but have not heard it for years.
  • There seemed to be lots of articles about being thoughtful about the way we celebrate Christmas - or perhaps I was more in tune to them.  One that I really liked was Dreaming of a Green Christmas: here are 5 ways to make it more sustainable in the Conversation.

How to make a Christmas Cheese Tree

You will need:

One large chopping board or flat platter

About  50-100g of cheeses - these should be different colours and textures.  I recommend a red leicester, a camambert or blue cheese, some good cheddar (we like a smoked one), swiss cheese, a cheese or two with add ins like herbs or dried fruit.

Assorted vegetables (I used cherry tomatoes and raw asparagus) and pretzels (unless you want gluten free).  You could also use pickled vegetables, olives, sundried tomatoes, dried fruit or fresh fruit such as grapes or chopped apricots.

A few fresh herbs - I used basil, parsley, thyme and chives from the garden

Small star cookie cutter, if you have one

Crackers, to serve.

How to assemble:

Chop the cheese into dice, going for smaller ones for the top layers.  Chop vegetables or other add ins into dice.

Arrange cheese, vegetables, pretzels etc on platter or chopping board in contrasting lines of descending width so it resembles a tree.  Check that it is shaped nicely along the sides.

Place some pretzel sticks (or vegetable or pickle sticks) for the trunk.

Use star cookie cutter to cut a star for the top - we laid a few stars on top of each other to give the star lots of points.  We used sliced swiss cheese as it was easy to cut into a star without crumblng.

Finely chop herbs and sprinkle over the tree and around.

Put any extra cheese cubes in a tub in the fridge or serve alongside in a bowl.  Serve with crackers.

On the Stereo:
White Christmas, Bing Crosby


  1. Love your cheesemas tree, we must have been thinking on similar lines aroudn the Christmas tree as I made something similar but with pinwheels! Very easy, but effective. I have to admit though we have not indulged in much cheese over Christmas, but then we have the New Year!

    PS I made your gingerbread cookie recipe, it was a hit and so was the Chocolate 'salami'.

  2. Thanks for sharing your lovely Christmas. It looks like an amazing time was had by all. I bought Simple for myself, and look forward to trying out some of the recipes.

  3. I love your beautifully arranged food pictures and a very happy belated Christmas to you and your family. The present photos are fun and it sounds like a good day was had by all, illness aside.


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