Some Ideas For A Christmas That Won’t Cost The Earth


“Because normal human activity is worse for nature than the greatest nuclear accident in history.” 
~ Martin Cruz Smith

Hello, Lovelies!
I’m blogging this morning with fire in my heart. 2019’s energies are nearly here (they actually kick in on December 26) and among other things the energy of 2019 supports conscious engagement with the environment, so let’s start by doing our best to have a more conscious Christmas and then flow that effort into all we do in the coming year, and for the rest of our lives. 

Here are my top tips for a Festive Season that doesn’t have to cost the Earth:

1. Get Thrifty and Re-Use – Choose quality over quantity. Create a box in which to store all of your decorations. Re-use them every year. Use the same tree (if it’s not a real one), the same tinsel, the same ornaments. Stop buying new ones. Just stop. You don’t have to compete with what all the advertising and Better Homes shows tell you. At Christmas task someone to save all of the re-usable ribbons, bows and other paper or packaging. Store them too and re-use them throughout the year when you wrap other gifts. Keep postal packaging and useable bubble wrap and plastic and re-use it. Stop feeling like everything has to be new. That’s so last century!

2. Consciously Avoid Plastic – Stop feeling virtuous about recycling and just stop buying plastic. Especially as throw-away or short-time use gifts. As of 2017 there were over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic in the world. Once created only about 9% is recycled, but even recycling doesn’t remove plastic from our environment – it just gets converted to other plastic products. So much of plastic is designed for single use, or to be discarded. Then it ends up in landfill or our waterways, where it pollutes our fresh drinking water or breaks down into smaller particles, killing wildlife and eventually entering our own bloodstreams from the food and water we consume. JUST STOP using glitter, party balloons, plastic holiday banners, plastic plates and cutlery and cheap plastic ornaments. In 2017 there was enough discarded plastic in the world TO COMPLETELY COVER A COUNTRY THE SIZE OF ARGENTINA. Yes, I am shouting. Imagine where you live completely covered in plastic. Now understand that it’s already happened and it’s up to us to start making different choices.

3. Choose Gifts With The Planet In Mind – (Did I mention avoid plastic?) Please don’t choose gag gifts that will create a laugh and then end up in landfill within the first week. Think about the life of your gift after you give it and the impact it will have on the environment. Experiences are great. Think movies or adventures. Food, wine, books, a houseplant. A subscription. Items that last such as jewellery. Hand-crafted items. Ceramics, glass, wood, metal, paper and card. Consumables in thoughtful packaging. Time together. Sharing meals and moments. Knowledge, courses, online courses. Gifts that help others live mindfully on the earth are great too, such as keep-cups for their coffee or metal lunch boxes.

4. Wrap Your Gifts Mindfully – Use a new tea-towel and some fabric ribbon or string, use flowers, use a glass jar with a lid, use a beeswax impregnated cloth that your gift recipient can then use instead of plastic wrap in the kitchen. Find some vintage tins or canisters at the local thrift shop. Use lengths of fabric. Use paper. If using ribbon make sure that it is fabric, not plastic. Re-use packaging and ribbon you’ve received previously, including florist decorations and plastics.

5. Buy Your Festive Food At the Farmers Markets – It’s local, it’s fresh, and there will be much less packaging. Also think about using your own containers or conscious environmental choices and go to bulk stores for as much as you can, so that you can avoid generating more use-once plastic food packaging.

6. Make Or Bake Some Of Your Gifts – There are so many good ideas for this, and it can be a fun family activity or one you look forward to. Crafting and making things is good for our soul. Not your scene at all? Buy from someone who loves to make and bake. Problem sorted!

7. Teach Your Kids That It Actually IS The Thought That Counts – a return to some old-fashioned values about giving and receiving and manners is not such a bad thing…

8. Stop Competing With and Judging Yourself By Advertising and Reality TV – It’s okay to re-use. You don’t need a new outfit. You don’t have to be ‘seasonal’, ‘fashionable’ or ‘cutting edge’. You don’t need a constant flow of new stuff. That’s all just consumerism. Live by your own values and standards and feel good about that.

9. Don’t Go Into Debt For Christmas – Especially don’t go into debt to impress other people. Let’s live with more honesty. Stop putting all that pressure on yourself and on others with these crazy holiday season expectations.

10. Make Do – It’s an expression your grandparents probably used but it’s not so common these days. What can you re-purpose? Does it matter if you have to use the camping table in the loungeroom covered with a green sheet to make enough seating space for all the kids? How cute can you make a fallen branch look for a Christmas Tree with some homemade decorations?

Navigating Christmas Without A Loved One


“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 
Anne Lamott

Christmas is not always an easy time. There are many of us for whom Christmas brings stark reminders of families broken, loved ones lost, and empty chairs at our tables.

If you are navigating Christmas this year while also grieving loss or going through great struggle I want to reach out to you. In the midst of the barrage of happy Christmas movies, fairytale endings and Hallmark Moments I want you to know that I am sorry for your pain, and the hardship this time of year can bring. Please also know you’re not alone. There are many of us whose hearts hurt at Christmas, even as we celebrate, because of loss. If your grief is raw and new it’s also okay to put things on hold, to do things differently, or to let the anniversary days like Christmas slide by unacknowledged until you are ready to face them again.

I’d like to share something I do at Christmas that may be useful for you too. I have found it helpful and healing to make a private little Christmas Altar each year. This way I remember the dead, the absent, the lost. An altar is simply a small dedicated spiritual space that is meaningful to you in some way.

On my altar I place fresh flowers, a candle and some favourite crystals. Things that bring me comfort, and a sense of sacred. Then I place photos or objects that represent a loved one who will not be at my table. That way I can still have them near me, and I can flow love to them and have them be part of my life over the festive season.

The beautiful big owl in the photo above was given to me one Christmas by my friend Angela. She passed away a few years ago. It will be central to my display.

I’ll place a tiny wooden boat for my brother, and a ceramic pelican for my dad. A sparkly stone for my sister and roses for my mum and all of the women in her family who have shaped and grown and loved me. My family all live far from me. But now they are here on my altar even if they cannot be here in person.

I’ll add a photo of Ben’s parents from when they were young, and pictures of my grandparents too. I have cupcake-shaped candles for my darling Kate, who passed away too soon in 2010 ( I went back to her facebook page last night and was lost in there for an hour reading her old posts and laughing at what a dag she was and crying cos sometimes I still miss her more than breathing), and Julie who passed away in 2014. My Grandparents, all now passed, are here in photographs too and I will place a glass of sherry, Christmas Cake and some gingernut biscuits out because these are all the things they would have loved to eat, and later I will eat some and think of them. On Christmas Day I will play The Twelve Days of Christmas by the Ray Conniff Singers, because my Pa used to play that for us every year, and shed a few happy-sad tears.

It’s not the same as having them at my table, but it’s the next best thing. People coming to my house will think that I have simply gathered flowers and candles and photographs and a few ornaments together, but for me it is something healing and emotionally significant that helps me to feel the reassuring weight of my loved ones around me.

Perhaps making your own Christmas Altar will help you this Christmas too.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole ❤ xx

Simple Christmas Baking and Treat Recipes

“Christmas is a tonic for our souls. It moves us to think of others rather than of ourselves. It directs our thoughts to giving.” B.C. Forbes

 

It’s less than a month until Christmas, but there is still plenty of time to whip up a tasty treat or two to share with friends, to gift, or to make your own Christmas a little more yummy.

One of the things I love about food as a gift at Christmas is that it is something almost everyone appreciates, and it is a consumable so it won’t add to the growing mountain of plastic waste, pointless gag gifts and credit card debt.

When you share your gifts think about using wrapping and packaging that won’t cost the earth. Go find an old tin or some pretty old china at the Thrift Store, or wash and reuse glass jars with a circle of bright fabric or paper tied over the lid to make it festive. Cardboard, paper, ribbon, string, fabirc, waxed cotton and flowers from the garden all make great packaging and decoration too.

Here are some of my favorourite Christmas cooking ideas. All of them are easy, quick and well-tested by at least one of my Christmas Elves (Ben, Rufous, Cafe Dog, the neighbours or the staff of the Bangalow Post Office!) and me. Just click on the link to go to the recipe.

Macadamia Shortbread Recipe

 

Easy Fruit Cake Rum Balls

 

Festive Fudge Recipe

 

Heavenly Chocolate Brownies

 

Gluten-Free No Bake Yummy Slice

 

Last-Minute Christmas Cake Recipe

Five Minute Fudge

 

Easy Peach and Vanilla Jam Recipe

 

Prize-Winning Coconut Ice

 

Green Goji Bliss Balls (Healthy but AMAZINGLY GOOD!)

Much love, Nicole  xx

 

 

I have a Christmas Gift for You!

“They always gives me bath salts,” complained Nobby. “And bath soap and bubble bath and herbal bath lumps and tons of bath stuff and I can’t think why, ‘cos it’s not as if I hardly ever has a bath. You’d think they’d take the hint, wouldn’t you?”
~ Terry Pratchett*

(*Apologies, because I’ve actually used the Terry Pratchett quote once before but I love it so much that I decided to use it again!)

 

Christmas Gift?

I do.

I have a Christmas Gift for you.

I’ve been working on it on and off all week.

But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning, when just like Santa, I will sneak in on stocking-ed feet and pop it up here on the blog for it to find its way to your inbox or screen.

You don’t even have to leave me milk and cookies. Or sherry and fruitcake. Or carrots for the reindeer. Or whatever it is you usually leave for Santa and his team.

Yay!

Lots of love from Nicole and her Magical Unicorn Dogs <3 xoxo

 

PS – Actually the Magical Unicorn Dogs protest. They love treats!

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My Christmas Eve Gift to Myself

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“Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun.”

~ Miguel Angel Ruiz

 

We’re having a simple Christmas this year. Just my husband and I, Nurse Bert and Cafe Dog. For most of the day anyway. Our little farm-house is filled with love, badly wrapped gifts under a small lopsided tree with dodgy tinsel and over-sized baubles, and a fridge full of good food – more than enough to share.

Christmas has not always been an easy time for me. Family stuff. You know how it is. But a few years ago I decided to reclaim Christmas, to see it as an opportunity to spread ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all men’.

Starting first with myself.

Today, Christmas Eve here in Australia, I’ll walk on the beach, swim in the ocean, take some time for myself, count my blessings, hug my husband and my dogs, and top up my gratitude tank. Breakfast in the Bay (that’s Byron Bay!) and a good coffee or two. That’s my gift to me.

Then I’ll be ready for sharing the Christmas Spirit with others.

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We’ll be dropping off our goody bags of homemade festive fudge, coconut ice, rich fruit cake and other tasty treats to all of the people who’ve helped and supported us this year. The library ladies, baristas and wait staff, the market vendors, the excavator man, and the bush mechanics, and the man who is always fixing our mower/chainsaw/everythingfromtheshed.

We’ll call on a few elderly friends to make sure they are okay, and take them a little parcel of Christmas cheer.

This afternoon I’ll make a pot of tea and sit on the veranda with my journal, reviewing the year that was, and being thankful for all I’ve come through, and all that has cracked my heart wide open. It’s been a big and challenging year, but a good one too.

I’ve told our friends we’ll be home all day tomorrow, apart from an early morning beach swim. Bless them, they want us to have time alone. So we will. But late in the afternoon a few will drop by, despairing of the loneliness and emptiness that has been their day, and we’ll gather them around our table. A couple of friends will come here needing a debrief after the family Christmas they just endured. Our home and our arms will be open to them. There is always enough food here to share. Enough love to go around. For so many this is a difficult, fraught time of year. I want to be able to give our friends a safe place to land, and somewhere they can feel welcome, affirmed and loved.

But today, Christmas Eve, this is my day for me.

A day to breathe deeply and surrender myself to the ocean.

A day for lattes and love, and so many cuddles.

Peace in my heart. Good will towards myself. Me first, so that I can then share that same energy with others. For me, that’s the true spirit of Christmas.

I’m holding that space for you too.

All my love, Nicole xx

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Quick Christmas Macadamia Shortbread Recipe

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“For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.”  ~ W.J. Ronald Tucker

 

This is a super recipe. It’s rich and buttery, and the lovely crispness of the shortbread goes perfectly with a cup of tea. I like their rustic style too. It speaks of kitchens and aprons and being made with love. (If you prefer your biscuits to look perfectly perfect rather than rustic, see note at bottom of page.)

These shortbread make a an easy and thoughtful home-made Christmas gift, and are good to have on hand when friends pop by for a visit.

The recipe can also be made gluten-free or vegan very easily – simple substitutes are listed below.

Shortbread Ingredients:

250 grams butter (1 cup), 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup icing sugar (powdered or confectioners sugar), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/3 cup cornflour (cornstarch for my USA friends!), 2 and 1/3 cups plain flour, 1 cup of chopped raw macadamia nuts, 1/3 cup of raw sugar (optional).

This works fabulously well with gluten-free flour. If you’re vegan or dairy-free use your favourite butter alternative.

Hint: use level cups of flours and sugars rather than generous ones.

Method

Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Shortbread:

Melt the butter over low heat. Cool slightly.

Sift icing sugar, sugar and cornflour into a large bowl. PS. How cute are these stackable little duck measuring cups that my Nana gave me many years ago? I totally adore them!

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Pour over the melted butter. Beat until thick and creamy. You could use a spoon or hand beaters but I use my trusty electric beaters.  The thickened mix will be the consistency of thick custard. Be patient. It takes a minute or two for the magic to work.

shortbread

Then add in the sifted flour. Mix until combined. The mixture will be crumbly and moist. Add the macadamia nuts and mix well to distribute them evenly.

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Cover a couple of oven-proof trays with baking paper.

Place the raw sugar into a small bowl.

Take a teaspoon of mixture and roll it into a ball. Press the ball into the bowl of sugar, and then place the ball sugar side up on the prepared tray.

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Leave some space between each of the biscuits as they will spread slightly. Press the biscuits down gently with the tines of a fork. You could also use your hand to do this, but the fork tines make pretty marks.

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Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Leave on trays for five minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Package to give as gifts, or store in an airtight container to serve with your next cuppa.

Santa is quite partial to these shortbread as well.

Enjoy!

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Variations:

1/2 cup of macadamias and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips

1 cup of macadamias and 2 tablespoons chopped glace ginger

1 cup of chocolate chips

Or just omit the nuts and leave them plain

NOTE: If you are a perfectionist who cannot abide rustic-looking biscuits, make sure that your macadamia nuts are cut quite small. Divide the dough in half, roll into two cylinders, cover in cling wrap and pop in the fridge for an hour until firm. Now you will be able to slice perfect circles that give biscuits with no obvious lumpy bits. You may or may not wish to mar the perfection with fork tines or sugar.

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Waiting for Matooluff

Image from apps4kids

Image from apps4kids

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

It’s about this time of year that I start waiting for Matooluff.

When I was just a tiny little girl, maybe three or four, my baby sister and I stayed overnight at my grandparents’ house while Mum and Dad went out to a Christmas Party. Pa promised that while they were gone we would have a party of our own.

NicoleFluffyJacket

Before dinner Pa invited Nana, my sister and I into the TV room, a modest room at the front of their house. It was Pa’s lair – set up with his desk, a television and two chairs, and a wooden cabinet built into the wall that housed a radio, a record player and Pa’s bar where he made the Happy Hour drinks for he and Nana each night.

Pa made my sister and I pink lemonades in stylish glasses with little paper umbrellas poked into glace cherries on the rim. It was incredibly glamorous. There were also snacks – cheezels in a little crystal dish, and some cheese and biscuits in a wooden bowl. Nana and Pa drank scotch and ice with soda water from Pa’s special soda-making bottle.

Image from Kate Beavis

Image from Kate Beavis

Then Pa placed a record on the turntable for us, and I was mesmerised by a song about Matooluff bringing twelve days worth of incredible gifts for Christmas. Lords leaping, maids milking, swans swimming and partridges in pear trees.

The whole tune played out in my head in fantastical images.

When the song finished I asked Pa, “Who’s Matooluff?”

Pa thought for a minute, and then he said, “Santa’s most magical elf, of course.”

I heard the same song on the radio yesterday, and I was transported back to that time in my life where I’d wait in bed each night, hoping for Matooluff to turn up.

I’m still waiting, and I’m sure he’s out there somewhere. 🙂

Here’s the song, from the very album…

 

What to do if you’re on your own at Christmas

Image from DTSL

Image from DTSL

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” 
~ Mother Teresa

 

Christmas isn’t always an easy time. In fact it can be one of the hardest holidays of the year. Not every family is close, you might be a long way from home, some families are small – there might be only the two of you, or just you and your pets. Perhaps there has been loss or hardship during the year, a relationship breakdown, or the kids are spending Christmas with your ex.

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I thought I’d blog today about how I cope with Christmas, and how some of my friends do. We’ve all been able to turn a difficult day into something that works for us. Here’s how each of us will spend our Christmas Day:

Nicole: Orphan’s Christmas

My parents are divorced, my siblings scattered, and I’ve not had any kind of Christmas with my own family since 2000. I’ve also lived away from home in some very remote areas before that, and been too far away to come home over the holidays.

My Christmas now is an Orphan’s Christmas. I invite friends and neighbours who have nowhere to go, and we share a meal, play some music, talk and laugh and celebrate friendship and kindness. It might be 4 people, it might be 40. It might be someone we know well, or a backpacker or traveller who’s just passing through. What matters is that we each feel included and loved. These have turned out to be some of the best Christmas Celebrations of my life.

Since moving to the farm we start our day at sunrise with a champagne breakfast barbeque with the neighbours from across the river. We all drive down through the paddocks to the water with our eskies and chairs, they bring their barbeque on the back of a ute, Ben and I wade across the river at the shallow part and we cook up a storm.

Later we’ll call loved ones, and maybe go to the beach for a swim. I might lie around and read a book while eating tasty snacks.

This year we have a drinks and dinner drop-by, starting at 4pm. I’m sure I’ll keep you posted on how it all turned out and what was on the menu. (It’s a week away I keep telling myself – I’ll think about it in a few days time when I’ve finished work for the year.)

Always-Have-A-Dream-In-Your-Heart

Alice – Swank Hotel Retreat

Three years ago Alice lost her mum to breast cancer, and then her aunt, all in six months. Then her marriage failed. Most of her family live overseas. She works like crazy all year, and was wracked by sorrow and loneliness at the very thought of Christmas. The first Christmas she stayed at home and cried. It was miserable, but she needed to grieve and it didn’t feel right to be happy or to celebrate so she honoured that. She also turned down invitations to parties and other families’ Christmas dinners. Attending would have made her feel worse, rather than better.

The next year she knew she couldn’t face another Christmas alone in her apartment, so she booked into a luxurious suite at an inner-city hotel for a few days. On Christmas Eve she shopped in town, buying books, new silk pyjamas, bubble bath and fragrant lotions, treats from the patisserie, decadent boxes of chocolates. Then she went back to her hotel suite and bunkered down. Christmas Eve was a cable TV marathon with pizza and red wine. Christmas Day she went for a walk in the Botanical Gardens, drank coffee and read her book, and then retreated to her room for more book reading, baths, naps and room service. Boxing Day was more of the same. It was such a restful and enjoyable break that she’s done it each year since and looks forward to this gift she gives herself.

nap

Damien – Volunteer Christmas

Damien lost his young daughter to cancer and then his marriage broke up. That was twenty years ago. He’s been alone ever since. He works in Emergency Services and is always happy to volunteer to work on Christmas Day so that others can have time with their families. He’ll also do a stint volunteering at the local surf club. He doesn’t put up a tree, or do anything special for himself. But he feels that by working he is giving a gift to others. It’s low-key, and he’s happy with that.

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Michael and Louise – Puzzle madness

Louise suffers from severe chronic fatigue. She has multiple food allergies and intolerances to many chemicals and things like perfumes and deoderants. Going out at Christmas is a nightmare, and she’s usually too ill to enjoy herself anyway. Michael is Louise’s partner. His family live interstate, so he will talk with them on the phone. Since he became Louise’s full-time carer money is tight. Travelling to family is not an option.

Michael and Louise have made Christmas their own personal event. It’s not about the food, it’s about the fun. Michael will buy a few second-hand games for his x-box that they can start playing on Christmas morning. He also finds a monster jigsaw puzzle, which they set up on the kitchen table. They will not eat again at their table until the puzzle is done, which might take weeks. It’s something they look forward to all year.

Jigsaw_puzzle_01_by_Scouten

Marta – A Day of Reflection

Marta’s family are big drinkers. And it’s a family with a lot of tension, competition and unhealthy relationships. Christmas usually starts okay but then degenerates into fights and tears as the day wears on.  A few years ago Marta decided not to put herself through that anymore. Instead she spends her day at home, with a few carefully selected treats, a new journal and pen, and some music. She starts her day with yoga in her lounge room, followed by fresh fruit, good coffee and an almond croissant. Then she attends church quietly on her own. Later she meditates and writes in her journal. She does a year spread using her tarot cards and reflects on each card and what that might mean for her. She reads from a spiritual or self-help book she’s chosen and then spends the rest of the day thinking and planning for her year ahead. Dinner is a beautiful meal for one, where she takes the time to cook something special for herself – usually seafood, followed by a little pudding or chocolate something. Christmas has become a sacred time for Marta, and a day that has gone from being painful to nourishing.

journaling

Christmas is what YOU make it. And if you choose to step away from the idea of how it ‘should’ be celebrated and instead look after yourself and your own needs, maybe it can be a time for nourishing yourself and honouring where you are at in your life.

Not everyone has a perfect family. Not everyone even has a family. Sometimes life is hard, and we need to get through the best we can.

This Christmas I’m thinking of you, sending love, and holding the intent that the day brings you healing, rest and connection – whether you are on your own or in a crowd.

Bless ♥ xx

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Misty Morning Pre-Christmas Happiness

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“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
~ Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

Saturday morning, 22 December, 2012.  The world hasn’t ended.

Instead Harry the pup woke me up, and after a cuddle the dogs and I went for an early walk to pick frangipani to decorate the house. I’ve only been home since yesterday, after another round of doctors visits and such up in Brisbane, and our little cottage needs some fresh blooms and Christmas spirit.

The farm was shrouded in light mist, but it soon lifted and we were treated to an early morning balloon fly-over.

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Today, it’s beginning to feel like Christmas. Until yesterday I wasn’t even sure how this year’s Christmas might look… I’ve been mostly away from my precious farm, thinking more about health things than celebration.

But now it’s shaping up nicely. Today we’re going into the Farmers Markets in Bangalow to pick up some supplies, and we’ll meet friends for coffee.

Then after a few hours work for me today it’s tree and decoration time. (Nothing subdued about that around here – our place at Christmas always looks like a team of sugar-high five year olds were let loose with too much tinsel.)

I am a firm believer that Christmas is what you make of it.  It can be a difficult day for many, who are on their own, far from home, or estranged from family and friends.  We’ve always had an open-door policy for Christmas. For me the spirit of Christmas is all about inclusiveness and love.

I invited a few friends around to share our day. My girlfriend wanted to contribute something and rang me, needing to know what our theme was.

Theme?

Oh my, how that brought back memories of my mother’s over-the-top Christmas Extravaganzas with eleborate menus and colour co-ordinated place settings.

Theme?  Tropical! I decided.  Why not? Let’s ‘theme’ Christmas.

And then something magical happened. Another friend with nowhere to go, and then a few more… “Oh, yes,” I kept saying, “do come. It’s a ‘Tropical’ theme!” Everyone became engaged.  A Tropical theme? Pina Coladas. Hawaiian shirts, floral leis, shorts and sarongs and flowers in your hair. Perfect for an Australian summer Christmas. (Yes folks from the other side of the planet – we don’t do snow at Christmas time – we do prawns (shrimp) on the Barbie (barbeque) with mangoes and watermelon and refreshing fruit drinks. I would think the world was ending if we had snow here at Christmas.)

I am getting excited now. I am planning menus and decor.  OMG – I have turned into my mother!!!  (I am trying not to think to hard on that last statement. LOL!)

So this morning Bert’s busy collecting wood for the evening bonfire…

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Harry is busy sleeping after running around like a demented pixie…

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Ben and I are getting ready for a Tropical Themed Christmas – quite fitting for Byron Bay.

I’d better get the rum and fruit cake ready for Santa and leave out some dog biscuits? for his Kangaroos.

Simple Homemade Christmas Gifts – Scrub and Soak Recipes

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“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” ~ Peg Bracken

Christmas is too often a time of crass commercialism, stress and expense. (There’s a great article by George Monbiot on this very theme right here.)

But I do love the idea of gift-giving to the people I hold dear. I do like the concept of using Christmas to honour and thank the people who have helped and supported us throughout the year.

I make many of our Christmas gifts. Most of them are edible (try my Five-Minute Fudge, Coconut Ice, Easy Lemon Curd, Capsicum Jam – a sweet and sour delight that goes well with bread, cheese and meats, or Cherry Ripe Slice) but I also make organic skincare treats that are so wholesome you could actually eat most of them if you felt so inclined.

They are easy to make, cost very little, and are fun to create with the kids too! You can use also use recycled jars or containers to further cut down on costs, and to be environmentally friendly. You may prefer plastic for safety reasons. It’s really up to you.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Orange Scrub

This is a great scrub for sensitive skin, hands, faces and decollettes, and it smells so good, leaving your skin soft and lightly fragranced after use. Wet skin first and then rub a small amount of scrub in a circular motion.  Rinse well and pat dry. The oil in the scrub means you won’t have to moisturize.

Ingredients: 1 cup of dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup of macadamia oil (or you could use sweet almond or apricot oil), 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 3 drops of sweet orange oil.  Hint – To improve the keeping qualities you can also add the contents of two capsules of Vitamin E oil as a natural preservative. Just pierce the capsule and squeeze the oil into the mixture.

Method: Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix together well until combined. Add a little extra oil if it’s too dry. Spoon into clean jars, tie with a ribbon and make your own label. Don’t be alarmed if a thin layer of oil settles on the top – it’s a moist scrub.

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Coconut-Vanilla Sugar Body Scrub

This scrub uses white sugar, and is a coarser scrub. It is terrific for wintery (or lizard-skin!) arms and legs, dry feet and elbows, and to help prevent ingrown hairs after waxing or shaving. Once again, wet skin first before applying.

Ingredients: 1 heaped cup of white sugar, 1/2 cup of virgin cold-pressed organic coconut oil (if the oil is solid, stand the jar in a sink full of hot water – don’t microwave it!) , 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. 

Method: Place sugar and vanilla in a bowl and mix coconut oil in gradually until combined. The texture should be grainy and moist.  Spoon into clean jars, tie with a ribbon and make your own label. * The mixture may solidify a little in cold weather, but will still be easy to spoon out of the jar.

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‘Happy New Year’ Detox and Revive Bath Soak

This final recipe is for adding to a bath or foot soak.  The fragrance of this soak is fresh and clean, and perfect for adding zip after all that partying. The salts replenish your potassium and magnesium, the clay softens and cleanses your skin and the essential oils aid detoxification, mental invigoration and muscle relaxation. Use a couple of heaped tablespoons in a foot bath, and up to one cup in a hot bath.

Ingredients: 3 cups Epsom Salts, 1/2 cup of rock salt (larger crystals) and 1/2 cup of celtic or other natural salt, 3 tablespoons of French Green Clay, 25 grams dried rosemary (about 3 tablespoons), 15 drops of rosemary essential oil, 20 drops of grapefruit essential oil, 20 drops of lavender essential oil.

Method: Mix all ingredients until well combined. Spoon into clean jars, tie with a ribbon and make your own label.

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