All I want for Christmas….is Christmas!

Christmas hands-down is my favourite holiday of the year! Since I was a kid, Christmas has always represented something wonderful to me.  Even now as a fully-grown adult, I still get a little cray cray when I know Christmas is just around the corner! It’s a time of giving, love, and eating your entire bodyweight in desserts that have lovingly been dipped in rum, brandy, or any other manner of alcohol…I mean, what’s not to love? There are just so many examples of what I think makes Christmas one of my favourite times of the year, but I’ve done you all a favour and narrowed it down to just five….

Five reasons why I love me some CHRISTMAS!

1. Food.

Ok, I know this isn’t what Christmas is really meant to be about, and perhaps there’s some psychological reason it is also my ‘number one’ one this list, but seriously – Indulging in anything and everything you want just once a year really is a kinda magical event isn’t it? I love the roast meats, the ham, the delicious side dishes, and Lordy I love me some desserts! I know it may sound like I’m a gluttonous pig (I’ll accept that), but it’s not just about gorging yourself on lots of food, its more about sharing food at the table with family! Because let’s face it, in this day and age a family dinner is a rare thing so it’s nice that Christmas time is all about breaking bread with those you love! (P.s. I recommend wearing stretchy pants to allow for all that bread that you not only broke, but devoured in its entirety).

Just a simple Christmas meal…I hope there’s enough food!

2. Kickin it with your Nearest and Dearest.

Perhaps my favourite thing of all about Christmas, is its a pretty much guaranteed time of year when all of your family come crashing together and just hang out.  Coming from a split family, it’s a little more difficult logistically for us to see everyone on Christmas Day, but we sure do our darndest to make it work which sometimes means our Christmas Day is spread out over a couple of days to fit everybody in.  It can be exhausting, and it’s almost always stressful, but at the end of the day Christmas isn’t the same without family and friends and it’s kinda cool that we get to celebrate it over and over again!

Here’s a selection of the fruit-cakes that I’ll be kickin’ it with Christmas Day. No words really.

Family of Fruit Cakes

3. Singing along to Christmas Carol’s

Ok, this is one of my greatest joys at Christmas time, and I’m lucky that I married a fellow Christmas tragic because Trav indulges in my need to play Christmas Carols on high rotation at this time of year.  He even overlooks my severe Michael Buble obsession, which is a no-go zone for any other month of the year! Despite my years of having the Christmas Carols played over and over and over when I was employed in the retail industry, NOTHING can kill my love of Christmas Carols! I’ve even managed to find a radio station that plays only Christmas Carols on the weekend, so if you drive past a lady in a soccer-mum car who’s singing FA-LA-LA-LA-LAHHH! At the top of her lungs whilst stopped at the traffic lights, please feel free to roll up your windows and speed past, I totes won’t be offended!

Possibly the best Christmas Carol of ALL TIME! You know you love it.

4. Watching Christmas Movies (the good, the bad, and the hilarious)

This year, Trav and I decided we’d make it our mission to get through as many Christmas movies as possible.  We’ve watched so many already, some old, some new, some that we wished we’d never seen (Bill Murray in Scrooge – Seriously, the ‘feel good’ genre has never felt so BAD!) But my all time favourites are Love Actually, Elf & Home Alone, but there’s no denying that National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the best Christmas Movie of all time. We watch it every year, and it just never gets old! It’s a Christmas classic and if you’ve never seen it, then you seriously have not experienced true Christmas-themed hilarity!

Can anyone else relate to this scene?

5. Being Lovely

Christmas is a time of year when even the hardest of hearts should soften, and go out of their way to be all sweet and lovely to others! There are SO many ways that you can be lovely at this time of year: You can bake cookies, you can donate small change, you can volunteer. The best thing is, it’s not only perfectly acceptable to be sickly sweet at Christmas time, it’s actually expected! You can dish out a whole lotta lovely to your friends, your family, and even some random stranger who looks like they could do with their own helping of Christmas cheer.  It’s these small actions that can really make someones day and I think Christmas is the perfect time of year to go out and just be kind to one another! (Oh god, now I’m quoting Ellen! See what Christmas does to me?)

Here’s a way that I’ve been lovely this year: Donating time and money to the Rafiki Mwema Charity.

Rafiki Mwema Girls

Tell me, what is your favourite thing abut Christmas? Or are you a grumpy ol’ Scrooge who treats it like just another day of the year?

I Totally Baked! (Christmas Crackle Puddings)

Anyone who knows me knows that baking isn’t my strong point however when I heard two of my fave foodie bloggers Lauren from Create Bake Make and Lucy from Bake Play Smile had put together a recipe E-book filled with sweet delectable Christmas recipes, I knew that I HAD to buy one!  Don’t get me wrong, I love eating delicious Christmas treats, but I’m not a precise baker so my cakes/tarts/biscuits rarely turn out edible due to me ‘guesstimating’ what a cup of flower is and ‘improvising’ by using brown sugar instead of caster sugar….you get the idea!

Christmas Crackle Puddings

A cracker of a Crackle, if I do say so myself!

So Imagine my surprise when I attempted to make these gorgeous little Christmas Crackle Puddings and they actually worked, AND looked quite good too! (In my own, very modest opinion!).  Like always, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and I took my own liberties when it came to decorating my little puddings (Ie: One M&M per pudding simply wasn’t enough, and those little silver balls that I added were just sitting in my pantry begging to be strewn across the top of one of these bad boys!) but they were so simple to make, even I couldn’t stuff it up!

In fact,these little Puds turned out so well, I was actually able to take them to a Christmas BBQ and openly admit that I’d made them myself! A few people didn’t believe that they were mine….yep, they were that good! Not only that,they were all gobbled up so quickly that I wasn’t left with that awkward moment where you have to take your sad little creations home with you. Worst walk of shame EVER! Lucky for me, for once in my life I got to strut back to my car, empty platter in hand feeling all accomplished and up-myself. And that, my friends, is what Christmas baking is all about!

If you’ve still got Christmas baking to do, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of this little Christmas Recipe E-book so you too can be all smug and up-yourself at the next Christmas family gathering! If you’d like to win one I’m currently giving a copy away over at Pineapple Traders so pop over and enter for your chance to WIN!

The E-book I keep carrying on about!

This is the recipe E-book I keep going on about!

Tell me: What’s your favourite thing to make/eat at Christmas time?

My ‘Scatter Love’ Story: When Marns met Pam

Scatter Love Postcards

Scatter Love! image: Fat Mum Slim & Emma Kate Creative

I want to tell you guys a little story that I’ve been meaning to share with you since I first started this blog.  

The story is about my friend Pam.  Pam is my 70-something year old neighbour, who is full of sass, old-school attitude, and a heart as big the ocean. Pam and I have now been friends for about a year and I thought it was timely to tell you our story, since it all began with the original Scatter Love project that was dreamed up by two very talented ladies Chantelle Ellem aka blogger Fat Mum Slim & artist extraordinaire Emma Kate.

Now that the latest range of Scatter Love postcards are available {and cos it’s nearly Christmas and I love me a feel-good story at this time of year} I thought I’d share with you the original story of how Pam and I went from being slightly hostile neighbours, to the best of friends!

Here goes:

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Scatter Love project, its basically a pack of 10, beautifully designed post cards intended to be popped in the mailbox, sending messages of kindness and love to your friends, family, or even a stranger. This small act then ‘scatters love’ across the world, and good things happen!

Back in January when the first Scatter Love postcards were released, I bought some online andonce they arrived, I got thinking.  Who would really benefit from receiving one of these? I sent one to my Sister,  I sent one to my Husband, cos well, I even sent one to Violet, who was only 6 months old at the time.  I sent one out for each of the Grandparents and signed them from Violet because I fondly remembered sending letters to my own grandparents when we were kids.  After that, I sent a couple more to my  girlfriends, but ended up with one postcard left over. It was the one with the polka dots and a big cheery ‘hello’ on the front.

Eventually, I decided to do something a little bit out-there {crazy even?} and send one to our cranky old neighbour that lived over the back.  This lady had lived there long before we moved in 7 or so years ago.  She’d always been kinda rude, constantly sitting out on her back porch smoking. If she glanced our way she just stared at us. No wave, no hello, nothing! Her house was a high-set home, and it overlooked our back yard.  Anytime we were in the yard we kinda felt like we were being watched, so we didn’t spend a whole lotta time out there.  Unlike most sweet ol’ ladies, this lady just seemed a little bitter at the world.  I know that when we’d first moved in that there was another lady who was living there with her, however we hadn’t seen her in the last few years, so I’d assumed she’d either gone into a home or passed away.

Hello! Scatter Love Postcard

This is the Scatter Love postcard from the original series that I sent to Pam. Hello! image: Fat Mum Slim

So despite knowing nothing of our neighbour except what I’ve just told you, I wrote her a postcard.  I told her who we were, where we lived and drew a little stick-figure drawing of myself, Trav Violet and Minty. I told her that we often saw her sitting on her back porch and that if she felt like waving to us, we’d wave right back.  I sent it, and immediately kinda regretted (How awkward if she got it and STILL ignored us?). Too late! It was done, and I’d just have to wait to see what happened.

Imagine my surprise when a few days later I came home to find Pam at my front door! Yep, Scatter Love had worked its magic…

You can read the full story on the original Fat Mum Slim blog post here.

Eventually, I wrote to the lovely Chantelle to thank her for giving me the courage to do such a bold thing, and to show her that the project was really working in our little neighbourhood!  She responded almost immediately and asked if she post my story on her blog, which I of course agreed to (however f I’d know she was going to post my email verbatim  I’d have probably made more effort to fix any spelling and grammar mistakes) Once the story was published I received so many lovely messages and couldn’t believe how a simple post card could cause so much joy amongst so many people!

Pam and Violet up to no good!

Pam and Violet up to no good. As usual!

Chantelle also recounted our Scatter Love story at the recent Pro Blogger conference at the Gold Coast, and reported back that so many people were moved by our story. I was chuffed, but also kind of amazed at how a simple act of kindness could cause such ripples! Keeping in mind that I’m not some Mother Theresa type who set out to become life-long pals with my cranky old neighbour, I was just hoping to make it a little less awkward for us to spend time in our own backyard! Just goes to show how a small act can create big ripples though, huh?

If you guys haven’t bought some of the latest range of Scatter Love postcards, I highly recommend it! Not only are the gorgeous to look at (I’ve kept the Pineapple one to frame) but they are kinda life-changing as well! If you’d like to get your hands on a set you can buy them here.

So there you go! theres still some good in the world and it doesn’t take much to make it happen!

Disclaimer: There are still quite a few rubbish neighbours in the world that will never be your friends! For example one set of our neighbours allow their dog to regularly relieve itself on our front lawn…but let’s not go there and ruin the moment shall we?

Ps – Now that I’ve introduced Pam to you all, you can expect lots more blog posts with her as the topic, I think you guys are going to love her as much as I do!

xo Marns

Its moments like these you need Minty

I started this post over a week ago.  Only now after a week of crying and sadness have I been able to finish writing this.  I’m not going to sugar-coat it, it’s not a happy ending. It is however a sweet and funny story of the great love that we felt for our cheeky British Bulldog Minty.  I wanted to share with you her story so that you don’t take your own family pet for granted, and to acknowledge our sweet girls presence on this earth. We were so privileged to know her and now this post is dedicated to you, Minty. RIP little girl! xo Your Family

Our girl Minty

I started this post over a week ago…

I love dogs.  I always have! Since I was a kid I’ve pretty much always had a pet dog in my life. Growing up I was lucky enough to have lots of different pets, I also had a pet cat and a couple of pet budgies, but none of those ever came close to love and companionship that you feel with a pet pooch.  That’s why when I took our current furry friend Minty to the Vet today I knew that I wasn’t going to cope all that well if they told me she was sick.  And guess what. She is.

Minty, or ‘Minteesha Felicia Puppia Tokyo’ as she’s affectionately known around these parts is our family pet, and we’ve had her for about 5 years now.  She’s a chunky, white pure-bred British Bulldog who looks like a barrel and acts like a tiny puppy the size of a Chihuahua. When we first met Minty, she was living with our dog breeder Lisa.  We already had another bulldog at the time, Deirdre who had come to live with us a few years prior, so we already had a love for Bullies and their weird and wonderful ways. As soon as I laid eyes on the Mint Monster I was instantly besotted with her! She was a little weird looking, had yet to grow into her big boofy head and was clumsy! She was constantly running into things, much to our amusement.

When we first met Minty she was only six or seven months old and had already lived a colourful life.  When she was born, she had a hole in her stomach and some of her internal organs were on the outside of her body.  The Vet told our breeder that she probably wasn’t going to survive as she’d need a major operation to fix the problems and she was too small to live through it.  Lisa, being the worlds biggest dog lover insisted that the Vet at least try the operation as there was no chance she’d live otherwise.  Lo and behold, our little Minty was a fighter, and survived that operation against all odds.  When she came out of the theater they’d wrapped her up in little white bandages, all rectangular and white like a little Mintie lolly in its wrapper.  That was how she was christened with her name Minty and it’s stuck ever since.

When Mint was still a puppy, she struck more bad luck when she was run over by a car.  Once again, despite her injuries Minty lived to see another day, albeit with a few more bumps and bruises and with a little less vision in one eye.  When we heard her story, and the fact that she was needing a more permanent home, Trav and I just couldn’t say no.  We agreed she’d be good company for Deidre and we were excited to have another fur baby become part of our family.

The day we went to collect her to bring her home, I sat down to pat her and she immediately hopped into my lap, all 21 kilo’s of her!  She refused to budge, as though she’d decided that whether we liked it or not she was coming home with us! Her and Deirdre became fast friends. They got up to mishief all day long, and were spoilt rotten.  They went through countless beds, toys and kennels and became quite good at destroying things.  One night I awoke to a lot of noise outside. Was someone trying to break in?  I turned on the light and found Deirdre and Minty ripping planks of wood off their brand new kennel.  They’d pretty much dismantled the whole front side of the kennel with their teeth.  I couldn’t believe it! They didn’t even stop when I yelled at them.  This was after all their house, and their rules! Suffice to say that was the last kennel we ever bought them.

Sadly, Deidre passed away a few years ago of a suspected heart attack on a very hot day. She was my first baby, and it was heartbreaking to arrive home and find that she’d gone. I cried about it for weeks and still get a tear in my eye when I think of her. She was like our first child in many ways and taught us so many life lessons about unconditional love and responsibility.  Even though we still had Minty to think about, both Trav and I found it hard to face Minty after Deidre died.  The days after her passing both Trav and I found it hard to face Minty.  She reminded us so much of our beloved Deeds, and we both struggled to sit and spend time with her when we missed her naughty sister so much. Minty took it all in her stride and just continued to be all naughty and cute, and eventually were realised that she was missing her big sister too, and that she needed us as much as we needed her.

Since Violet was born, Minty has become even more precious to us, as the relationship between the two of them has blossomed over time.  Violet adores Minty and the two of them often get up to mischief when I’m not looking. Since Violet was a baby, Minty has watched over her and would always become distressed whenever Violet cried or got upset.  If someone came to the door when it was just Violet and I at home alone Minty would become protective and bark at whoever was there.  A few years earlier Minty had had a litter of pups herself and her old Mama instincts would kick in whenever Violet was around.  Violet had taught Minty to be patient, tolerant and gentle, terms that I would never have used to describe Mint in the past!

Violet & Mint

As Violet grew older, the two of them grew closer. Minty is often subjected to all kinds of abuse from Violet, who insists on sitting on top of her, pulling her ears, putting her fingers in her mouth and one time she gave her an impromptu rectal exam.  Poor Mint didn’t see it coming and Violet was bathed in hand sanitiser for weeks just to make sure! Despite all this, never once has Minty snapped at her, growled at her, or made any other notion that she’s annoyed by her human sisters invasive fingers.  In fact, Mint seems to understand that this little person is her best friend and she would always reciprocate by giving her wet kisses and following her around the back yard like a shadow.

I think this is why, when I noticed Minty hasn’t been herself this weekend that I really worried.  Minty wasn’t just our dog, she was our daughters companion and best friend and protector! Aside from that, she was also one of my babies.  I made an appointment for her to see the vet first thing in the morning, and after a quick consultation the Vet told me exactly what I didn’t want to hear.  Minty was sick. She needed surgery ASAP, and that surgery would be risky.  I did my best not to start bawling on the spot.  I thanked the Vet, booked the surgery and walked out of the Vet’s office.

As I sat in the car with Violet and Minty in the back, I couldn’t help but cry.  I felt sad for Minty, and sad for myself, but most of all I felt sad for Violet.  She was blissfully unaware that her puppy wasn’t well, and she’s too young to understand the complexities of losing a pet.  I tried not to think about it, but I couldn’t help but feel miserable on the drive home.  I tried to focus on the positives and tell myself everything would be fine.  I hoped that it would be.

V & Mint Kiss

I finished this post one week later…

I wrote the first part of this post when I first worried that something was wrong with our beloved Mint.  I didn’t admit it at the time, but now that she’s gone I can admit that I knew that things weren’t good.  I had that familiar gut feeling that Mama’s get when you know that something is wrong.  It doesn’t matter how much you try to ignore it, it’s still there.

After Minty’s initial surgery, the Vet had told us that despite her initial problems, that once he operated on her he found a multitude of other issues.  Turned out, our Minty, who was acting cool like nothing was wrong, was actually far worse that we’d imagined.  After a few days at the Vet’s she was well enough to come home.  Looking back now, I’m so grateful her last days were spent at home with her family.  After a few sleepless nights, for both Minty and myself, I still had a bad feeling that something wasn’t right.  We took her back to the Vet on the Friday and he agreed she wasn’t as good as she could be.  He asked us to leave her at the surgery for a few hours so he could do some tests.

A few hours passed, and my phone rang.  I knew before I answered it wasn’t going to be good news.  The Vet told us he’d have to operate again, and that it was high risk. I clearly remember the call: I was in Big W looking at Christmas lights at the time.  What a ridiculous juxtaposition of events.  I hung up the phone and waited for him to call back.  When the phone rang again, it was the Vet telling me that it was indeed worse than they’d thought, and that she’d passed away.  Even the Vet sound teary.  I just hung up the phone and bawled my eyes out, in the middle of a homewares store.  I didn’t care who saw, or that people were staring.  I was heartbroken.  Not only that, the feeling that I’d had for the past week or so had just been validated. I’d known this was how it was going to end right from the start.  And I hated that I was right.

Miss Minty and all her cuteness

Miss Minty and all her cuteness!

It’s been a week since I received that phone call.  Nothing much has changed, we’re still sad.  We’ve not moved Minty’s food bowl or bed, as its still feels too soon to do something so final.  I still come home and go straight to the back yard to see her.  I still have that fleeting moment of confusion when I don’t see her there, waiting for us at the back door.  Trav has commented that he often still hear’s her trade-mark panting from the back yard. I knew that I’d miss Minty, although always assumed we’d have her for much longer.

It’s the silly things that we miss the most.  Her licking the backs of your legs, which drove us crazy.  Her white fur shedding onto EVERYTHING. Her ability slip stealth-like through a tiny crack in the door just so she could sneak inside and hang with her humans.  Her smothering Violet in kisses whenever they were together, leaving Violet smelling like dog spit (that drove me crazy).  Her wee-ing on her bed, or anything else that wasn’t the grass.  I miss every single naughty, gross thing that she did. And feel sad about how mad it used to make me, when I realise that just having her around, being a total brat was actually a real privilege.

So for anybody who has a dog who is naughty and far from perfect. For anyone who’s dog drives them crazy on a daily basis, go and give then a big squishy hug and love them for all their faults. Because I guarantee that you’ll miss that behaviour when they are gone.  I know I do.

It’s super cheesy, but I have to say it: Its moment’s like these, you need Minty.

RIP Minty girl! We hope you’re happy up there in heaven, destroying stuff, licking people, and wee-ing on everything!

xo Marns

Violet

What’s for Dinner? (Disaster)

I decided I was going to make Spaghetti Bolognaise for dinner tonight. The last few days have been kinda rough so I wanted to make a family favourite that we could all sit down and enjoy with smiles on our faces and pasta in our guts.

Everybody knows that you don’t need to be a chef to make a good Spag Bol. In fact, it’s usually the staple dish that most pimply-faced teenagers perfect when they’ve been forced to move out of home. So keeping that in mind, plus the fact that I make mine in the Thermomix meaning that I don’t even have to chop or stir it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I had this one in the bag. Turns out, despite me having made this dish a gazillion times in the past…tonight’s version went a little awry.

First, I put all the veggie ingredients in the Thermomix and blitzed them so that my adult child (aka hubby) couldn’t taste the celery and carrot. I then added the mince, seasoning and spices and cooked the whole lot for 10 mins. While this was happening I got my Multitasking-Mama on and cleaned the kitchen, tidied away some  toys and marvelled at my own superwoman skills to get shit done. I’m amazing!

After finishing up with a few wipes of the kitchen counter, I heard the familiar Thermo beep and methodically went to add the remaining ingredients to the sauce.  As I was doing so, I glanced over to see the Un-opened packet of mince still sitting on the bench top. Farrrrk! Turns out I’d forgotten to put meat, also known as the staple ingredient. into my Spag Bol sauce.

For some people, this would have been enough to make them throw in the tea-towel and just get Chinese.  Not this gal! I’d had the week from hell and I was TOTES going to turn it around!  I filled the saucepan with water and went to put it on the boil.  As I did, I underestimated the weight of the saucepan and/or the strength of my wrist and instead poured the water all over my kitchen floor. Cue more expletives. It’s cool. I got this. I mopped up the water, added more to the saucepan, popped it on stove, and waited for it to boil so I could throw the spaghetti in.

I came back about 20 mins later, thinking the pasta would be ready.  It wasn’t. It was in fact still in the packet on the bench. Are you guys seeing a pattern here? Deep Breaths innnnnnnnn and ouuuuuuuuut.

Eventually, the spaghetti was cooking, the sauce was cooking, and I was in business Yo! I looked at the Thermomix to see how long was left of the timer. OH.SHIT. I’d just realised that I’d forgotten to hit the ‘reverse’ function on the Thermomix blades…meaning that I wasn’t just stirring and cooking the sauce….I was also slicing through it with razor sharp blades. Yup. Spaghetti soup here we come!

In the end, I dished up the now-cooked spaghetti and the soupy Spag Bol sauce along with the side of garlic bread that was ‘slightly’ burnt because I’d forgotten it was in the oven amidst the chaos. Of course, my wonderful little family scoffed down every mouthful like it was going out of style and no one said a word about the state of their meal (they’re well-trained).

Afterwards, I sat back and quietly congratulated myself on another culinary disaster success! I really am a woman of MANY talents. Let me know if you’d like me to share the recipe…?

Now it’s your turn: What’s your biggest cooking disaster to date?

IMG_7914-0.JPG