Sunday, December 29, 2013


The final photos for the year. 
I haven't taken as many photos this past week, with Rob home we have been enjoying the girls together rather than capturing them. Of course there were photos on Christmas day, but mostly they were of the girls together.

Maggie: a new hat and dress for Christmas.
Elisabeth: the xylophone Rob bought them has been a success, they've even hit the keys a few times!

Joining in with Jodi at Che & Fidel. Already looking forward to a new year of images and trying to use the dslr each week. 
I hope to be back with a final review of 2013 on Tuesday. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hut Christmas 2013 - the big day

It may just go down as one of my most favourite Christmas days ever, despite not meeting up with family for the traditional lunch feast (my family is overseas and Rob's were having a quiet Christmas.) It meant we didn't have to rush, and with two babies who need feeding and naps at regular intervals it was a relaxing day without an agenda.

But it also felt right this year to be just us. We had an early Christmas lunch on Sunday with Rob's elder daughter, the girls excitedly helping her to open presents, and enjoying the books she gave them.

When the girls woke early on Wednesday for their first feed I got Rob to pop a few presents from us in their stockings. After their birthday we kept their gifts simple for Christmas, a read, a wear and a play each. He brought them into our bedroom. The girls were still a little sleepy.

A cute pair of suede slippers each and a pink onesie. The girls were sure they were edible.

Claudia wasn't really impressed.

The girls like their breakfast as soon as they wake, snacking on bananas, peaches, ham and a little cooked egg yolks. Rob and I settled for ham and fried eggs with coffee.

The dogs added to the festive ambiance as I had tied a bell to their collars. We could hear them jingling all day, which I love.

We decided to bathe the girls as they had smeared egg yolks all over their faces (the joys of baby led weaning!) They get quite excited by their big girl baths, splashing, chatting and babbling away. The day was already warming up so we let them play for awhile before wrapping them up in white towels to dry and dress.

We continued to open gifts, slowly getting through the pile. Rob looked quite sheepish about a box for me. So he should, it was a hand held vacuum cleaner!

Luckily he made up for it with 500g of Belgian chocolate, some Italian Torrone and a gorgeous marble pear.

I must admit I thought he would do that, so I returned the favour with new socks and jocks. 

The girls understand the presents are for them, and are interested in the wrapping and the very tasty gift tags! 

But it was so exciting they did need a nap!

The day was sunny and warm. We drank coffee and tea, listened to Handel's Messiah on the radio, rang family to wish them a Merry Christmas. Eventually the pile of presents under the tree all ended up unwrapped and spread over the table. We were all spoilt. 

By now it was lunch time. So we ate a simple salad with some cheese. The girls were happy in their high chairs, looking out the open bifold doors. 

I quickly made up Maggie Beer's almond and cumquat pudding and set it on the stove to steam for 4 hours. Then we retreated to the bedroom where it was a little cooler. At first the girls were so excited they just sat on our bed laughing and flapping their arms in delight. It was so lovely to see, and Rob and I both were taken back to last Christmas in the NICU, to our first cuddles with two tiny premmie babies. Last year we dared to hope that we would spend a second Christmas with them, and to see them happy and healthy together at home is the best gift we could receive. We are so grateful for our two miracle babies. After a feed from me the girls fell asleep between us and I even snoozed til 5pm. 

It was still warm so we packed up the girls and the dogs and drove to a nearby dog beach. The dogs chased sticks (and some poor little dog!) and we waded in the surprisingly warm water with the girls in our back pack carriers. It really was a serene evening. 

Back home we ate another salad with some cold ham, the girls munched on cold potatoes and a little ham too.
My pudding was unveiled and covered in the candied cumquats I'd made a few days previously. For a gluten free adaptation it was pretty good!

After one last cuddle and feed the girls were ready for bed, and Rob and I after reflecting together on our day fell asleep not long afterwards.

How was your Christmas? 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hut Christmas 2013 - Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to wish you all a very Merry Christmas from all of us at the hut.
We had a perfect day. I will be back to share a bit of our day soon.
Hope your day was just as lovely.

Marian xxx

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hut Christmas 2013 - Christmas Eve

As a child Christmas Eve was as exciting as the big day itself. My mother's family being Hungarian traditionally celebrated on the Eve of Christmas. The five of us children grew increasingly excited during the day, wondering about what would be under our grandmother's tree and all the treats we'd eat. We would all take turns to shower, Mum would iron our good clothes and around 7pm we'd make our way to my grandmothers. For most if my life she lived two houses down the street. Then she moved into the flat behind our home, so we didn't have to go far. 

She always had a real pine tree, that would have only been set up and decorated a few days before. Old fashioned glass baubles and icicles hung between the wide spaced branches, lollies carefully wrapped in crepe paper for enjoying later on, and fine tinsel artfully draped. Underneath would be gifts from my grandmother, aunt and uncle. We loved that we got to start Christmas early! 

But presents had to wait. First we would snack on pretzels, peanuts and potato crisps. Fizzy drinks were freely passed around. The dinner was usually cold chicken, ham, salads, and hard boiled eggs. As there were quite a few of us, we usually sat on chairs with our dinner perched on our laps. 

Then it was time for our presents. We loved that part. A new toy or some clothing, we would sit about admiring our gifts while the adults chatted.

Dessert was often a pavlova (not very Hungarian!) As young children we were allowed to stay up later than normal (probably 9.30-10) and then we went home to get ready for bed and put our pillowcases out on the end of our beds for Santa to fill. Often we were very excited and took a while to fall asleep!

Since my grandmother passed away a few years ago the Christmas Eve party has faded. The last few years we have headed north to spend Christmas Eve with Rob's parents. Usually a duck ballottine and a bottle of champagne starts our Christmas off together perfectly.

This year we have stayed at home. The girls really need to be getting ready for bed around 7, which makes dinner time a bit tricky! Today we had another slow day. Rob mowed the lawns, I set the table with roses and candles. We opened a bottle of bubbles, and enjoyed a glass while the ham baked in the oven, and we watched the girls try to climb up the book shelves! We ate a simple dinner of glazed ham, steamed pink eye potatoes and sugar snap peas from the garden. The girls were pretty good, sitting in their high chairs, and enjoyed mash potato, peas and a little ham, but were a bit over tired so I am typing this on my phone while I feed them to sleep. 

Rob also made a gluten free mince tart with that well matured fruit mince we made last year. I'm hoping to enjoy a slice in bed!

Happy Christmas Eve to you!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hut Christmas 2013 - baking and food

We woke up on Saturday morning and consulted the cook books for baking and food inspiration. Stephanie Alexander's glazed ham was chosen.

We baked a gluten free version of her Christmas cake on Saturday too, so we will have to see what we think of that. 

We were quite relieved to track down our ham today after a morning in town yesterday (the farmer's truck broke down delaying delivery at the market). 

The days have been grey, cool and drizzly, so we both did some baking today, Rob made a gluten-free version of his Mother's shortbread recipe and I made some gingerbread and candied cumquats. 

On Wednesday we'll eat ham with some vegetables or a salad, and I'll make Maggie Beer's almond and cumquat pudding (converted also to gluten free) with home made vanilla custard ice cream.

What is on your Christmas menu?


Maggie: no doubts about their parentage, she loves butter, she is totally blissed out here.
Elisabeth: we have one Macpac baby carrier, and find it easier to put babies into than the ergo, and it takes up a lot less space in the car then the big double tractor pram! We rang up about this one on gumtree and despite the $50 price tag the lovely lady gave it to us. We gifted her a bottle of bubbles. The girls love to look around.

Joining in with Jodi at Che and Fidel.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hut Christmas 2013 - gravlax

We would normally cure a side of ocean trout for Christmas Day, but as we just did it for the girls birthday party we didn't think we should double up!

Nothing could be easier to prepare for the big day. We started the birthday gravlax on the Tuesday night prior to the Sunday, and we thought it was perfect, but three days is fine.

Purchase a piece of fish (about 1kg of salmon or ocean trout), then mix equal amounts of sugar and rock salt (about 500g each), with some crushed garlic cloves some fresh dill and lemon (or lime) juice. Place half of the mix underneath the fish in a big glass Pyrex baking dish, cover the fish with the rest and pour over about 75ml of vodka (or gin or vermouth). Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge with something heavy on top (cans or full bottles of tonic water). Half way through your curing turn the fish over and return to the fridge. We serve it with fresh rye bread and yoghurt cheese. If you would like to try the yoghurt cheese place  1kg of Greek yoghurt in a colander lined with muslin. Mix in a teaspoon of salt and leave to drain overnight in the fridge.

On the day, wash off the curing mix from the fish under the tap. Pat dry with paper towel. Check for any bones (they are easier to remove once the fish is firm and cured) and slice as thinly as you can. We serve it on a bed of dill (or fennel). Mix some horseradish (fresh or from a jar) into the yoghurt, slice your bread and enjoy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hut Christmas 2013 - wrapping done

Oh I start off keenly. I buy my wrapping, ribbons and tags in bulk from the Wrapping Paper Company (, choose a colour scheme and run with it! Out come my Kikki.K reindeer stamps and the tag production line starts. 

This year I went with silver kraft paper, black and white reindeer themed belliband, and red ribbons, twine and tags.

It starts off fun. I carefully fold the edges into crisp lines. Tie perfect bows. But after awhile as the pile to wrap seems to grow rather than decrease, I get a little over it! Especially when the sticky tape doesn't stick to the silver paper.

But it's done for another a year. I think it looks very smart under our tree.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hut Christmas 2013- decorations are up!

Sorry about the break in Christmas posts. 

Finally on Tuesday I decorated the hut. It doesn't take long. The tree is all ready, we just pull it down out of the loft and plug it in. I added a few new decorations this year, some cute clay angels, another red reindeer, some red wooden hearts and of course the Swedish Santas.

The paper honeycomb decorations are quick to put up too.

A few Santa hats in the breezeway brighten up that room.

Both Maggie and Elisabeth are intrigued by the red baubles.

Hoping to get some baking done over the weekend.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Birthday week and party

On their actual birthday, we had a very quiet day. We woke up after snuggling and their morning breast feed headed out to the living room. Rob made them a mini stack of pancakes each, we topped them with a candle and sang Happy Birthday.

The girls had a stack of gifts waiting to be opened, but we found they quickly lost interest, so we savoured gift opening all day and the next. They loved the wrapping and ribbons best!

Rob headed into work eventually. We had a quiet morning together, the girls napped and then we ate lunch.

Rob came home with their favourite dinner. Steak and pink eye potatoes. They are so good at eating, and love to feed themselves. Now they are in their new high chairs, we can actually enjoy our dinner too. Using both hands is quite a novelty after 8 months!

We headed to bed together not long afterwards. 

After a restful day, party preparations swung into action. We had invited some of the NICU nurses we got to know over the 16 weeks in hospital, some friends and family. As usual my job is to plan and organise, poor Rob I hope he didn't feel too hen-pecked. We went for a casual lunch menu.

Ocean trout gravlax with Pigeonhole molasses and rye bread and horseradish yoghurt cheese.

Slow roasted (24 hours) free range pork shoulder (Berkshire from Bruny Island via Vermey's), served in buns, slaw and apple sauce.

Lemon coconut cake with cream cheese frosting birthday cake.
Triple chocolate brownies (both normal and gluten free)

Rob had started the gravlax on Tuesday night. On Friday I baked the brownies.
Saturday was a big day. We were up at 6am, juggling baby feeding and wrangling with our various tasks. I picked some fresh flowers to arrange. The week before I had decorated the room with rainbow fabric bunting and my favourite (signature) honeycomb paper decorations. I chose an array of flowers in the colours of a rainbow, red roses, orange and yellow lilies and poppies, green Blechnum fern fronds, blue and purple delphiniums, blue Nigella and pink ranunculus.

I quickly made up the Annabel Langbein lemon and coconut cake. The recipe is super easy and made a large cake and two smaller smash cakes.

Then it was Rob's turn. He started Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 24 hour slow roasted pork shoulder. After rubbing in a paste of chili, ginger, garlic and oil into the scored skin, it went into a very hot oven for half an hour to start the crackling. Then the oven was turned down and the pork turned over and you cook it as low as the oven will go. Rob then headed outside to mow the lawn, and scythe the sides of the driveway. I made the cream cheese frosting for the birthday cake, but decided to ice the cakes on the day. We fed the girls early, and were feeling smug about just cleaning the house (I'd been doing some of it amongst baby wrangling) and some more food preparation. Then the power went out. Not only do we lose power, we also lose running water. Rob headed off to do some last minute shopping and pick up hot chips for tea. With the furniture rearranged, no power and the kitchen in disarray it felt like we'd just moved in, as we sat eating our chips on the floor.

The power came back on after an hour and a half, and I admit I headed to bed with the girls for their last feed, whilst Rob stayed up to cook. Apple sauce to go with the pork and a creamy coleslaw.

The morning started early, feeding babies, and Rob picking up fresh bread and buns, and ice for drinks. Despite forecasted showers, it was sunny and warm with a breeze.

I gave the girls a wash while Rob did a final vacuum and mop, then I tried to get the girls to sleep. Poor Rob headed outside alone to tackle a cheap 6x3m marquee I had bought. Of course the breeze picked up. I watched uselessly inside under breast feeding babies and rushed outside to help as soon as they were asleep. But the frame had twisted and kept unclicking as soon as you let one section go. After one last attempt with the gaffa tape, we baled, took it apart and decided we'd be cosy in the hut.

Our friends arrived then to give us a hand with the last minute prep. I passed the babies over and headed off to have a much needed shower. With the marquee debacle behind us, we got back on track, Rob and our friends slicing the gravlax, fresh rye bread, and mixing the drained yoghurt with horse radish. Meanwhile I fed the girls a quick lunch. Rob cleaned up too and we were all ready when the guests started to arrive.

More presents to open for the girls.

The hut is set up well for parties. We turned the breezeway into the bar.

The main room opens up and creates lots of space for sitting and serving food.

The gravlax had cured perfectly to a ruby colour.

The pork was ready, I love these photos of Rob and our friends chatting as he carves.

The slaw and salad a perfect accompaniment to the tender meat. 
Soon guests sat around inside and out munching happily on pork-filled buns. 

The girls even sat in their high chairs and munched on some meat.

Next course needed some final prepping, but soon the cakes were ready.

Ready for "happy birthday" to be sung and blowing out their candles. The girls listened as we all sang and then we helped blow out their candles.

Then the real fun began. We put them in their high chairs and placed a mini cake infront of each them. At first they looked confused, then Elisabeth plunged her hand into the cream cheese frosting and quickly transferred the handful to her mouth. Maggie used a different technique, she face planted the cake, licking the frosting and creating a frosting beard. They had all of us in fits of laughter as they continued to demolish their cakes with their individual styles (they didn't actually eat much cake!)

Eventually we cleaned them up, but they had had a fantastic time! 
As most guests left a few others arrived and we sat and relaxed as both girls fell asleep on the window seat. Everyone remarked how laid back the girls were, and I admit they were happy to be passed between guests for most of the afternoon. 

We headed to bed tired but very happy.
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