We had a busy week at the Op Shop or rather a busy three days as Wednesday was the last day of trading until after New Year. There was a sale on and plenty of people coming in to take advantage of the bargains.
Wednesday though was exceptional for some of the customers we met. First were a family who had just flown in from overseas for a holiday only to find that their luggage had gone missing and all they had were the clothes they arrived in. They were delighted to find we had a sale on and were able to buy enough clothing to keep them going for the next few days for just ten dollars. What I especially liked about this family is that even after a tiring 13 hour flight and the loss of all their gear they were still determined to make their unscheduled shopping trip a positive experience and actually seemed to enjoy themselves choosing some new things to wear.
It was an unexpectedly cold and wintry day. We had several customers who came in to buy warm jackets and jumpers because the chill had taken them by surprise. Some were backpackers who are starting to arrive for the cherry picking season and I heard several different European accents during the day. A few also wanted necessities like cutlery, drink bottles and plates as they were camping.
The most moving visitor of the day was an elderly lady who came in to collect a hamper. Our manager, Juarne, had heard that she was in need of a hand over Christmas and as the goal of the Op Shop is to support the local community she slipped out to buy a few groceries and goodies which we packed in a hamper. Later the lady arrived and hesitantly told us what she had come for; when she saw the hamper her hand went to her mouth and she seemed to be fighting back tears. Both Karen and I offered to carry the basket for her as it was heavy but she said she’d be fine. As she left Karen darted to a shelf and picked up one of the wrapped gifts we had on sale and followed her out to give it to her. I went to the door and watched as she caught up with the lady and gave her the gift. They hugged and when Karen came back I said “That is what Christmas is about.” we hugged too and as we both felt a bit teary ourselves we suddenly became very busy rearranging items on shelves for a few minutes.
I am glad that we were able to do a kindness for someone as I have found it a bit depressing this year that so many people have said that they would be glad when Christmas is over. I know Christmas is hard for many people who have no money or are alone but when I hear people who have their families and enough food in the house say this it does make me a bit cross.
Finally though our day came to an end or so we thought. There were a few people in the shop at three o’clock, our normal closing time so we let them stay because we would be closed until after New Year, We brought everything from outside into the shop, locked up and left around three thirty. On the whiteboard outside the door was a message to say when we would re-open and giving phone numbers to call if someone was in need of help over the holidays. We had not gone far before Karen received a phone call asking if she could come back to the shop. We turned around and found three young backpackers sitting outside. We opened the shop and waited while they looked for clothing. Finally after forty-five minutes they were ready to leave and so were we. Our long day had come to an end.
What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas has always been my favourite holiday although I’m not religious. I have always loved the traditions whether it be Christmas Carols in the park, special food , decorating the tree or choosing and wrapping gifts (getting them is nice too.)
What types of food is associated with your holiday?
It is summer (supposedly) in my part of the world so Christmas lunch for many Australians is a much more casual affair and often held outdoors. Some people will have a barbecue either at home or even at the beach.
I’m British though so I like the traditional roast dinner and all the trimmings. That was difficult in South Australia where the summers are hot but a lot easier to enjoy in Tasmania where it is usually cooler.
I’ve been lucky to experience both versions of Christmas when we lived in Adelaide, seafood, cold meats, salads and a few glasses of wine with David’s family who are all Aussies and a roast dinner followed by my home-made Christmas pudding with my mum when she was with us and my sister. I also love rich fruit cake and mince pies which I only eat at this time of year.
Do you travel for your holiday?
Not any more. David and I used to spend all of Christmas day visiting first one family and then the other but that was only around the suburbs. I don’t travel out-of-state for Christmas. Naomi and I have talked about going on a Christmas cruise but when it comes down to it we would miss our pets who are a big part of our Christmas celebration. They all have presents under the tree too.
Is it a religious or spiritual holiday?
Not for me. I do like Christmas Carols and have occasionally been to a local Christmas carols service but while I know what Christmas is meant to be about I probably think of it more as a time of goodwill generally than following a specific religion.
Is there a gift exchange?
Absolutely. I’ve always liked to shop for presents and Naomi and I enjoy finding something that the other really wants. We like the element of surprise so even though these days we’ll ask “What do you want?” there will always be a small “surprise” item as well. As I mentioned our pets are not forgotten and there is a selection of wrapped dog and cat toys and treats waiting for them although we will probably enjoy unwrapping them more than the pets will. It’s nice to exchange small gifts with friends too just as a gesture of friendship.
How long does the celebration last?
For us, just Christmas Day although the leftovers will last longer. Boxing Day, the day after Christmas is a holiday too. I usually spend it watching the start of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and the first day of the Test Match on television.
Optional Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
Well obviously I am looking forward to Christmas. Naomi and I will do our celebrating on Christmas Eve as she has to go to work on Christmas Day. We’ve not seen each other for several weeks so I’m looking forward to the day. I’m looking forward to the week after Christmas when I will have a week off from the Op Shop and will go to Hobart to see the yachts arrive as I always do. I do the same things at this time every year but I like it that way.
The Geeveston Chrismas Parade is always held on a Friday evening early in December. It’s very much a community affair. It is organised by the local volunteer fire brigade and the participants are local schools, churches, clubs and businesses.
The day of the parade started out wet and I hoped that it would improve before 6:30pm when it was due to start. Although it is summer it is not unusual for it to be cold and wet on the night of the Christmas Parade.
As the Op Shop was putting a float in the parade we decided to keep the shop open late so that people could come in and do a bit of Christmas shopping before it began. I don’t usually work there on Fridays but Karen who works with me Mondays and was organising the float had volunteered to take over from the day time staff so I said I would go too.
The parade was to form up in School Road starting from the Fire Station. Between five and six o’clock our float and two or three others arrived in the school car park to be decorated. We had a few shoppers and lots of children running in and out. While Karen’s husband Ian and the older kids worked on the trailer that was to be our float Karen dressed her youngest son as Santa Claus. Soon after that it was time to form up for the parade and Karen and Jane, another of the volunteers got in the trailer with all the kids. I declined the offer to ride on the float with them as I wanted to take photos.Instead I rode down to the fire station in the car with Ian and then walked around to Church Street to wait for the parade to start.
An army band headed the parade to provide some music. The local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism “The Canton of Lightwood” came along in their costumes, there were fire engines of course, bicycles, motorised mini cars and even a ride on lawnmower.
After Santa Claus had been escorted to Heritage Park by the firies there was entertainment in the form of music from the brass band, a jumping castle and a sausage sizzle. Our group didn’t stay late because although the rain had stayed away it was quite chilly and the adults at least were happy to pack up the trailer and head for home. Later that evening we learned that the float had been awarded the prize for the best motorised float which pleased and surprised us as I don’t think anyone had given a thought to trying to win a prize. We just wanted to be involved.
And that’s how we do Christmas in Geeveston.
I thought that I would re-run this post again as it is my favourite recipe for mince pies.
I am not a professional cook. It’s not even really a hobby. The main time of the year that I bake is at Christmas because I love all the traditional British Christmas goodies and I get more pleasure out of making them than buying them as it brings back pleasant memories of past Christmases that I’ve shared with my family.
I love mince pies and look forward to having them every Christmas. The shops usually start selling them months before Christmas but I like to make my own. I do remember mum teaching me to make these when I was in my early teens and I took charge of making them for our family when I was about fifteen. I don’t think I have ever missed a year. I’ve experimented with various recipes. I used to make them with sweet short crust pastry but I’ve never been a very good pastry cook. When I was first married mum gave me the first Margaret Fulton Cookbook and in it was a recipe for mince pies made with biscuit pastry. I liked it so much I have been using it ever since. Every year my battered old book comes out and I make two dozen mince pies which is enough for Hubby and me and for my sister to have a batch as well. They can be frozen if you want to make them ahead of Christmas.
- 6 ounces (yes this is an old recipe) of butter. I sometimes use cooking margarine instead.
- 2 ounces (1/3rd cup) castor sugar
- 1 egg
- 10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder To my horror when I came to make these this morning I found I had no baking powder so as hubby was unavailable to go to the shop I substituted bi-carbonate of soda. Baking powder is basically bi-carb (baking soda) with some other salts in it so it will work the same way.
- 1 jar fruit mince. (The book has a recipe for home-made fruit mince but I’m too lazy to make it.)
- icing sugar
- Cream butter and sugar well
- Add the egg and beat well
- Sift flour with baking powder and stir into the mixture.
If you are lucky enough to have a food processor or mixer with a dough hook go ahead and use them. I don’t have either so I mix with my old Sunbeam hand mixer which I remember getting for my mum when I was about thirteen. There is a story to that but I’ll save it for another day. I mix the flour in with a knife and then with my fingers. This may be why I don’t make pastry too often. Still I’m better off than my grandmother. She did all her mixing with a wooden spoon or a fork. This Fork.
After mixing the pastry you knead it lightly on a floured board. At this point Margaret Fulton says chill the pastry for one hour but I have to admit I skip this step. I used to do it but I found the pastry even harder to handle chilled so now I just get on with it. I should mention that Margaret Fulton is an Australian and the recipes in the book are probably designed for Australian conditions so maybe if you are in a cool climate the chilling is not so essential. As I said, I’m not a chef. So chill or don’t chill as you please. If my dough is crumbly I sometimes add a tablespoon of cold water to the mixture too. I didn’t today though.
Roll out your pastry thinly and cut rounds to fit your patty pans. If you don’t have biscuit cutters a small glass is fine for this. Cut the same number of smaller circles for the tops. I digress from Margaret here and cut all mine the same size.
- Place your larger rounds, or just half of them if you made them all the same size, in greased patty tins and moisten the edges with beaten egg.
- Fill each pie with 1 heaped teaspoon of fruit mince. I like the English-made Robertson’s Fruit Mince best. I’ve tried other brands but you can’t beat this one in my opinion. One jar of it will make 15-20 pies, that’s what the jar says and it is true. Of course if you don’t like them really fruity it will go a lot further.
- Make a small slit in each pastry top or cut centre with a small star-shaped cutter and put into place on top of the fruit mince. Press edges together to seal the pastry.
- Brush with beaten egg to glaze.
Cook in a moderate oven, 350 Fahrenheit. I do them at about 175 Celsius for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar. Depending on how thinly you roll your pastry and the size of your patty tins you should get between 12-20 mince pies from this mixture. I tend to roll mine quite thick and I still usually get about 15.
Don’t forget to make a wish when you eat your first one for the year. We did a lot of wishing on things in our family.
More Mince Pies
- Mince Pies (bakingsane.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Mince Pies (bacailwithlove.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Fruit Mince Tarts (monsieurwag.com)
- Sweet pastry Mince Pies and Jam Tarts (journeytobeautifulliving.wordpress.com)
- Chef Dale’s Christmas fruit mince mini tart (blogs.abc.net.au)
Here is another post from 2014 when I shared some favourite Christmas recipes. I thought that I would share them all again this year for those that may not have seen them last time around. White Christmas is a great no-cook recipe.
Unlike the previous recipes in my Christmas Cooking series of posts White Christmas is a relatively new thing to me. I had never heard of it until I was well into my forties. It has become a firm favourite though and I sometimes make it to give as gifts to friends as well as for the Christmas goodie basket I give my sister. It is very easy to make and doesn’t take long. In fact it’s so easy you could hardly even call it cooking.
I have two recipes for it to share with you. One is made with copha and the other with white chocolate.
Go on, you have still got time to make some before Christmas.
Recipe One: submitted by austhome on www.allrecipes.com.au
- 3 cups Rice Bubbles
- 1 cup dried mixed fruit
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 1 cup dry powdered milk
- 3/4 cup of sifted icing sugar
- 225 grams copha
- drop of vanilla essence
Preparation:10min › Cook:10min › Ready in:20min
- Put 3 cups of rice bubbles, 1 cup of mixed fruit, desiccated coconut, dry powdered milk and 3/4 sifted icing sugar in a bowl.
- Melt copha in saucepan. Add copha to dry ingredients in bowl and mix well.
- Press mixture firmly into a biscuit tray. Set in a refrigerator. Cut into squares.
It doesn’t get any easier than that!
Recipe Two: White Christmas with white chocolate
Sadly I didn’t make a note of who came up with this recipe but it came from the internet, either from allrecipes.com.au or a similar site. It is delicious and my favourite of the two.
- 375 grams white chocolate melts
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 cup dried mixed fruit
- 1 cup rice bubbles
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 1/2 cup dry powdered milk – skim or full cream as you prefer
- 1/4 cup halved glace cherries (optional).
- Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water.
- Boil the cream in a small saucepan
- Mix the dried fruit, rice bubbles, coconut and milk powder into the melted chocolate.
- Stir in the cream and cherries and mix together carefully until well combined.
- Press into the tin and allow to set at room temperature (should take about an hour).
Cut into small squares with a knife dipped in boiling water.
This can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
I’m dreaming of more White Christmas:
- White Christmas – gluten-free & super simple to make! (de-briefme.com)
- Christmas Cooking For Kids (mademan.com)
- Christmas Crackles (smallthings101.com)
This is my favourite Christmas Cake recipe. I love rich fruit cake so I will probably make one this year. I’m not so good at cake decorating so I usually top mine with nuts but it is a very good cake to ice and decorate not just for Christmas but would probably work nicely as a wedding cake too as it keeps well.
This rich fruit cake is very easy to make and although I like to make it ahead you don’t really have to. It’s just as nice if you make it the night before Christmas, but do allow sufficient time for baking. I first found it in the Australian Women’s Weekly (published monthly) of November 2006 and I have been using it ever since. The measurements are in metric and I have included a couple of conversion charts as links for readers overseas.
Night Before Quick Mix Christmas Cake
The mixture will make either:
- one large cake in a 22cm round or 19cm square deep cake tin
- two smaller ones in either a 17cm round or 15cm square tins
- four small cakes in 12.5cm round or 9.5 cm square tins
- 475 gram jar of fruit mince
- 750 grams dried mixed fruit
- 125 ml/ 1/2 cup sweet sherry
- 250 grams butter/cooking margarine, melted and cooled
- 200 grams/ 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 4 eggs beaten lightly
- 300 grams/2 cups plain flour
- 150 grams/ 1 cup self-raising flour
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- blanched whole almonds, pecans, Macadamia and walnuts to decorate
Note: If you don’t have sherry you can use brandy or run or for a non alcoholic cake use 2 tablespoons of brandy or run essence combined with 1/3 cup of orange juice.
Read the instructions before you go any further. One or two of these things need to cool before you can use them and planning ahead saves time. Melt the butter and heat the fruit first. While you are waiting for them to cool you can prepare the baking tin as follows:
Line the tin with two layers of brown paper and two layers of baking paper. Extend the paper 5cm above the top of the tin. I have never seen brown paper being sold by the roll around here so getting brown paper is a bit of a problem. Usually my hoarding instinct saves me and if I get anything wrapped in brown paper during the course of the year I save it. A couple of years ago I was volunteering at our local radio station and one of the sponsors sent round some goods to be used as raffle prizes in brown paper bags. After the bags were no longer needed I asked if I could have them so I have a good supply of brown paper for the next couple of years. If you really can’t get any brown paper just use extra baking paper instead.
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius or if you have a fan forced oven 120 Celsius is fine.
Combine the dried fruit, fruit mince and sherry in a large microwave safe bowl and heat it, covered, on HIGH (100%) for 4 minutes, stirring once. Cool, uncovered, for half an hour.
Stir in the cooled, melted butter and sugar until combined. By the way if you don’t have dark brown sugar I’ve done it with light and it turns out fine.
Stir in the eggs and the sifted dry ingredients.
Spread mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.
In my recipe you can then decorate the top with nuts before putting it into the oven. If you prefer not to have nuts skip this step and you can ice the cake later.
This may vary according to your oven of course.
- For 1 large cake 3 1/2 – 4 hours
- For 2 medium-sized cakes 2 – 2 1/2 hours
- For 4 small cakes 1 3/4 – 2 hours
Remove cake from the oven and brush it with more sherry. Cover the hot cake with foil and wrap it in a large towel. Leave it to cool in the tin overnight.
- http://www.sciencemadesimple.net/conversions.html – convert metric to Imperial or US.
- Delia’s Classic Christmas Cake (acookbookcollection.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Cake Wrapping (allaboutgiftbaskets.wordpress.com)
- It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (or, how not to make a Christmas Cake) (mummetamorphosis.wordpress.com)
- Last Chance Foods: Getting a Start on Christmas Cake (wnyc.org)