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Dress to impress?

What will you be wearing on Christmas Day? Do you ‘dress to impress’ or go casual?

How formal should we dress?

Smiling girl in a black with gold starsdress and red Christmas antlers headbandI see two sides of this – it is a special day and it’s nice to show respect to your hosts by dressing well, but it is also a day for being with people you care about so what you wear shouldn’t be the most important thing. Let’s face it, family should love you whether you dress up or go casually, but turning up in old gardening clothes is probably pushing it a bit far!

Obviously, the type of event has an influence – if you are picnicking on the beach or in a park you probably won’t wear stiletto heals or a formal outfit – but even so, there are levels of dressing up for most locations and situations.

And the weather is a factor – who wants to wear a suit on a 30° day? Poor old Santa is usually overdressed for the heat of an Aussie Christmas.

Peer pressure is always part of it – it can be awkward to be the only one dressing casually or formally – and families tend to have an established pattern or dress code.

So what do you wear?

I have relatives who buy a special outfit for Christmas every year – it gets used again afterwards so is not as decadent as that may sound! It makes the day special and makes them feel sparkling and excited.

I also have relatives who turn up in a t-short and shorts from their everyday wardrobe. They seem comfortable enough with this and being a bit ‘underdressed’ compared to everyone else.

Personally, I like to dress up a bit – it’s part of the celebration to dress myself, just like I decorate the house, wrap presents nicely and try to make the food above the ordinary, too.

How about you? Do you go casual or dressy? Do you change outfits between family gatherings on Christmas Day (if you have more than one, obviously!)?

Christmas choc-caramel tart ~ recipe

If you have a sweet tooth, you will probably enjoy this rich choc-caramel tart!

This is a decadent dessert to enjoy at Christmas functions, both formal and casual. After a large Christmas lunch, a small slice of this is probably plenty so you’ll get a number of serves from this tart.

It is Christmassy most through the colours, but the ginger and macadamia also add a Christmas flavour to my taste buds. I have made it with a chocolate biscuit base, too, which is also delicious but less Christmassy 😊

And while this tart looks quite fancy, it is actually quite easy to make.



  • 450g gingernut biscuits
  • 1/3 cup macadamias
  • 110g unsalted butter (melted)
  • 4 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 300ml thickened cream
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 350g tin of caramel filling (or some homemade caramel)


  • 200-250g large chocolate balls
  • red and green smarties


For the base, crush the biscuits and nuts. I like some small pieces for texture, but you can crumb them finely if you prefer.

Mix in the melted butter and cranberries. Put the mixture into your prepared tin (I use a 22 cm round springform pan, but you could use a flan dish or a slice tray). Spread it flat and about 3cm up the sides, then pop it in the fridge.

Break or chop the chocolate and butter into pieces and put them into a microwave safe bowl.

Heat the cream to almost boiling (a few bubbles around the edge means it is hot enough). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and butter. Whisk together to form a rich chocolate ganache. If the chocolate has not fully melted, place the bowl in the microwave for 10 second bursts until it is melted (watch carefully so you don’t burn the chocolate).

Spoon the caramel filling over the biscuit base.

Stir the chocolate mixture again – it is quite runny. Gently pour the chocolate over the caramel. I find It better to slowly pour it as I move the bowl around so it doesn’t disrupt the caramel layer.

Distribute the red and green chocolate balls across the top. Spread the smarties across as well but note they may not show on the surface depending on the depth of your chocolate ganache! Putting them on their side rather than flat will have more showing above the surface.

Pop the tart into the fridge for at least 4 hours.

For fun, serve with red or green whipped cream or ice-cream.


If the tart softens a bit while travelling to a function, you can pop this in the freezer for a while to help it set again.

Covered, the tart will last up to three days in the fridge so you can make it in advance.

You could try this with a milk chocolate, but I think it would be just too sweet. My kids don’t like dark chocolate, but they don’t even notice it in this tart!

More elf antics!

As December continues, so do our elves’ antics!

Since graduation, this is what our elves have been up to…

Collage of photos of CHristmas elf and baby elf enjoying some Christmas antics

Day 16 – Tinkles on the couch wearing a whoopie cushion costume! I thought it was cute and funny, but the kids said she had it wrong by being under the cushion!

Christmas elf wearing a red costume that looks like a whoopie cushion

Ginger was back sitting on the rainbow poppit, but with a lemonade and a cupcake. I’m not sure the kids spotted her on the poppit the other day so this was her way of trying again!

Baby Christmas elf and reindeer finger puppet sitting on a rainbow poppit with a cup of lemonade and a cupcake

Day 17 – What a helpful elf! Tinkles was busy sewing a ’15 years of growth’ badge onto a scout leader shirt – and had a scout shirt nearby waiting for more badges to be attached.

CHristmas elf sewing a badge onto a blue scout leader shirt beside a green scout shirt

Meanwhile, Ginger and her reindeer friend were hiding in our Santa advent calendar. They didn’t disturb any unopened doors 🙂

A wooden Santa advent calendar with a baby CHristmas elf and reindeer puppet poking out of some doors

Day 18 – Tinkles was sitting on our new bookshelf, reading Mr Christmas to Ginger and some friends.

Day 19 – Both Christmas elves were sitting on the front of a purple travel bag. The bag is for VicJam, a scout camp my kids are going on after Christmas.

I love how the elves are prepared with a sleeping bag and a roll or two of toiler paper!

The elves had written a note “We heard you are going somewhere – can we come too??”

Day 20 – Doctor Tinkles was checking on the health of Ginger and some other elves this morning! Which reminds me of a joke – why don’t you ever see Santa in hospital?

Christmas elf dressed in a doctor's coat sitting by a laptop with a queue of elves

Because he has private elf-care!

What have your elves been up to in the last week?

How does Santa deliver his letters?

Santa writes to a LOT of kids each year (which is why he gets us to help him, of course!) and kids love getting letters from Santa.

But once the letter is written, how does it arrive in a child’s little hands?

A pile of red envelopes being place in the slot of a red Australia Post letterbox

Kids getting Santa letters

Here are some ideas for how Santa letters are presented to kids around Australia…

  1. in the letterbox – sure, it’s an obvious answer but it works!
    Christmas elf lying in a green wooden letterbox with a letter
  2. in a letterbox within a Christmas display
  3. within the branches of the Christmas tree
  4. poking out of Christmas stockings or Santa sacks
  5. in the fireplace as if landed from the chimney (see, it’s good we’re in summer and the fires don’t get much use in December!)
  6. on the mantlepiece
  7. on top of a pile of presents
  8. held by a Christmas elf – maybe in the elf’s special place, or maybe wherever the elf feels like hiding that day…
  9. sticking out from a favourite Christmas book
  10. placed with an advent calendar (in, on or under it as suits the calendar type and size!)
    Love Santa letter poking out from under a chocolate advent calendar and leaning against a wooden Santa advent calendar.
  11. on the child’s pillow when they wake up in the morning
  12. slipped under the front door or a bedroom door
  13. on a table set up with Christmas decorations, and maybe a Christmas treat or two
  14. at the end of a treasure hunt of some sort – again, the elves may get involved in that!
  15. make it a message in a bottle – any empty bottle you find will do but in a new drink bottle or wrapped around a bottle of their favourite topping

Elves in school

Mostly this year we’ve been doing groups of elf antics instead of a daily report, but yesterday Tinkles made a special day with some changes…

So, in the morning, Tinkles was sitting at a laptop as the teacher in a class of Christmas characters and Lego minifigs.

When my son came home at lunchtime from his last day of school for 2021, the students were no longer sitting in rows but in groups chatting to each other. Tinkles had closed her laptop and written a note.

“Happy holidays!! Congrats on finishing year 7 (in a hard year)”

In the evening, my daughter graduated from primary school. When we returned home after the ceremony and dinner, we found Tinkles holding a new note. The students had formed an aisle and the ‘classroom’ was strewn with red and green lollies in celebration!

“Happy Graduation!! Congrats on finishing primary school.”

For all the children finishing school this week, or the last few weeks, and especially those finishing a significant year level, congratulations! Have a great summer holiday and merry Christmas!

Tinsel – Christmas book review

Tinsel ~ the girls who invented Christmas

by Sibeal Pounder
Bloomsbury Childrens Books, xx, 2020

Age group: 6 -10 years
Format: 320 page book, hard cover

A Christmas book with female heroes was a must read for me, and it didn’t disappoint.

The story

Two poor girls in London meet each, share a mince pie and change the world! Meanwhile, there are little details in the story that link to the more widely known Christmas traditions. So could it be that we have the Christmas Eve story all wrong? Did two girls invent Christmas instead of Santa?

My review

The book starts with a very sad Christmas image. Blanche lives alone under a bridge and spends the day counting to distract herself.

This particular Christmas Eve, she ends up meeting another girl, Rinki, who shares a mince pie with her. The two girls arrange to meet again, but Rinki doesn’t show and Blanche returns to her lonely existence. Blanche rescues an old horse, Rudi, and becomes a carter disguised as a boy.

Rinki does eventually meet up with Blanche. She has been adopted by two men and lives well. Teddy is a fashion designer and Jolly Garland is a ship captain – both careers are relevant to the story.

Without giving away the story, Blanche ends up at the North Pole living with some elves called Carol and a boy called Santa. Throughout the book, there are little links to our idea of Christmas that made me smile. Such as elves called Carol, a sailor called Jolly, a bully called Krampus and some magical paper called tinsel.

Blanche and Rinki work at their dreams despite Mr Krampus and being girls. They talk about admire strong women in history, including Boadicea.

There are some unexpected pieces in the story (like who are the two men and how Carol treated the sailors) but it all ends nicely of course.

It is a decent sized book so I had a chance to get involved in the story. This makes it great for fluent readers, but younger readers may find it more challenging to read it alone.

Pounder has also written the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series, which I haven’t read but some of those with Tinsel could make a good Christmas or birthday present 🙂

Would I recommend Tinsel? As a novel or Christmas book for primary school kids, yes I recommend it. It’s fun, has adventure, includes some interesting characters, and has elements kids will enjoy and/or relate to.

I also recommend it as a good book for empowering girls and recognising women’s contributions over time.

Another 7 days of elf antics…

It’s the 14th so that means we’ve had another 7 days of checking on our elves’ mischief

collage of photos of CHirstmas elves having fun with Santa, poppits, a whoopee cushion and more!

Day 8 – Tinkles was sitting with some junk mail this morning, circling items. I assumed they were items she wanted for Christmas, but my kids believe she was present shopping and that Tinkles is getting me some chocolate spoons!

Christmas elf sitting with a green texta and some junk mail

Meanwhile, Ginger was taking a ride on a toy turtle…

Baby CHristmas elf sitting on a green and blue toy turtle

Day 9 – We are building a Lego elf house as a family. Ginger has found it and put herself down for a nap on the top bunk in their bedroom!

Baby elf lying on the top bunk above other elves in a Lego chalet front of a Lego chalet with baby elf legs popping out

Tinkles was being productive making fruit mince with a mortar and pestle! Not a traditional technique (or mix of fruits to be honest!), but she is trying to help!

Christmas elf holding a pestle to mince an apple and some sultanas in a stone mortar

Day 10 – Ginger was found swinging on the Christmas tree with Santa!

It was after school that the kid spotted Tinkles – to be fair, she is a bit more obvious when coming into the house than from inside…

Day 11 – Ginger was on the window sill beside a little gingerbread house, with a couple of reindeer and snowflakes.

Tinkles was sitting innocently with a note for the children “For today’s treat, see Daddy’s feet”. So everyone visited Daddy in bed to find…

A Christmas elf with a note and a man's feet with multi-coloured nailpolish

Day 12 – The elves must have felt active overnight as they were both out for a ride … Ginger was astride a boomer while Tinkles was riding a hobby-reindeer.

Christmas elf on a hobby-reindeer in the leaves of a Christmas tree

Day 13 – Tinkles dressed herself as Santa, complete with beard! She sat beside Santa cuddling Ginger on our mantlepiece with a letterbox (maybe a hint to get letters to Santa sent urgently?)

Baby CHristmas elf sitting on Santa's lap while the elf is dressed as Santa in wrong sized boots!

However, her boots didn’t fit her properly so she left us a note “Ooops – I ordered my boots online and they don’t fit 🙁 But do you like my Santa suit?”

Day 14 – Game day today! Tinkles and a Boomer are playing hockey (a sport my daughter has enjoyed trying at school this term).

Christmas elf and kangaroo playing a game of hockey

Tinkles the CHristmas elf holding a hockey stick in front of a black puck

Ginger on the other hand had pushed through all the bubbles of a rainbow poppit.

Baby elf standing on a rainbow poppit toy

What have your elves been up to in the last week?

An underwater Aussie Christmas theme

This is my interpretation of a Christmas in Australia.

I made most of the decorations myself and I got some props from marketplace. My husband helped me with the lights and the heavy work. Lots of love and time invested in this and I wouldn’t be happier with the result. Merry Christmas everyone 😊.

underwater Aussie Christmas light display with Santa

The idea of doing an Australian Christmas came because I made some jellyfish decorations for my daughter’s mermaid party. I wanted to use them again and my husband said why not use them for Christmas?

So, I made the jellyfish using plastics bowls and shower caps from Kmart. To make the tentacles I used tulle ribbon. Each jellyfish has a solar light that I got from Wish.

The “reef” was made with glitter foam sheets that I got from a dollar store. I made the drawings, cut them and glued them to corflute (Bunnings).

The Santa was made the same way, and I got the image from the internet.

Santa in bathers and snorkle in front of a boat
The boat and the whale were dance props that I got from marketplace.

Most of the lights came from Bunnings, including the blue cascade one. The shark is from Kmart.A summery Santa and boat above a blue reef with fish - Christmas display

Most of the lights are solar except the blue lights that are led lights and the inflatables.

The penguin is from Aldi.

A white penguin with lights beside an inflatable round Santa and a large green bauble

I made the little fish lights using wire and copper wire solar lights.

The whole display was lots of fun to make 😊 And it still looks nice during the day, too.

Gifting money (part 2)

Image of some presents sitting on some Australian dollars with a toy SantaGiving money as a gift can be very practical, but looks a bit boring.

Last week, we gave you 7 different ways to present cash as a present beyond just shoving it in an envelope (with or without a card). But we have a whole heap more ideas for you to choose from!

Making cash more fun!

Here are some more ideas for gifting money creatively…

  1. put the cash into a bag and then cover it in cooled, melted chocolate! For more fun, make it into a dome or ball so when they smash it, the money is found.
  2. make a bonbon and put the money inside – along with a joke and token gift perhaps!
  3. give a gift of a jigsaw puzzle, pack of cards or a board game and pop the cash inside the box for them to find when they play the game. But make sure it’s something they will try reasonably soon!
  4. It sounds obvious, but how about putting the money into a piggy bank? A themed one is even better! They get to unwrap the piggy bank and have some cash for choosing their own present.
  5. I haven’t tried this, but you could freeze the money and give some cold hard cash for Christmas! Freeze water in layers, adding money in between to make it interesting. On a hot day, they may get their cash fast – or you could provide a hammer or small pick for older recipients so they can ‘dig for cash’!
  6. Hide the cash inside something so it is totally unexpected…
    1. roll it and place it where the batteries should go in a torch
    2. unroll a toilet roll and place notes in layers as you carefully reroll it (this will take time to get it looking right!)
    3. lay some on a flat rubbish bag then roll the bag (or linked bags) so it looks like you’ve given a rubbish present!
    4. cut a hole in a candle to tuck the money into
      Gifting money via green and red candles - the red candle has a $50 notes in a hole at the bottom
    5. Replace some chocolates in a box with some cash, maybe folded into a flower shape if you can manage it. Of course, the upside to this one is that you may have to eat some chocolates as you wrap your gift!
    6. tie notes to the supports within an umbrella so when it is opened, it is ‘raining money’ on their head!
    7. wrap notes around some crayons and place them back inside the box
  7. Arrange the notes so they resemble a bunch of flowers or a tree. This would also work if gave some vouchers as well
    Alternatively, tie notes to real flowers or leaves – you could then give a money tree! A cute way to give a Christmas tree gift as well as the cash, maybe?
  8. Fashion the money into a shape that represents what the money is for and attach it to a card or in a  frame. So form a car, house, animal, plane, cradle, or a instrument.
  9. wrap the money in layers of paper, like a game of pass the parcel. You can make it trickier with LOTS of sticky tape on some layers or a layer or two of cling wrap!
  10. spread the cash out as slices of pizza
  11. put the money inside a clear bauble and hang it on the tree! Or make some paper ornaments with a little pocket to pop the cash in, then hang them all over the tree
  12. pin the notes onto a Christmas wreath
  13. in between some cards of interest – Pokémon, football, cricket, etc
  14. Fill a salad bowl with notes (roll the $20 notes into balls as the tomatoes) and just offer them a salad for Christmas!

What other ways can cash be presented as a fun gift?

The Christmas Letter (movie review)

The Christmas Letter is a Stan exclusive movie that I watched last night.

title screen for The Christmas Letter showing the rooves of a town

Technical details of the movie:

An animated boy looking at a book with his bird

Henry reading about ways to send letters to Santa

26 minutes
rated G
Dream Logic Studios, Ireland

It is an animation movie narrated by Kate Winslet. I found it rather sweet. and certainly not too long.

An eight year old boy, Henry (James Quinn Markey) loves Christmas. He is very excited to find there are hundreds of ways to send a letter to Santa. With his best friend’s help and Mum’s encouragement, he decides to use the chimney method.

The chimney method of writing to Santa

Movie shot of two envelopes burning in a fire placeI hadn’t heard of this way to send a letter to Santa before. Maybe it is an Irish tradition?

Basically, you write your Santa letter as usual. At the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, you throw the letter onto the fire. The pieces of burning letter rise up the chimney in the smoke then come back together. The recombined letters then magically fly to the North Pole and arrive in Santa’s study.

Being summer and not having fires burning on Christmas Eve, I can see why this tradition never found much use in Australia!


The Christmas Letter movie

Frank the red breasted bird from teh animated The Christmas MovieHenry’s Dad is an astronaut and has left his son with the belief that helping others leads to happiness and wishes coming true. So Henry and his best friend, a bird named Frank, set out to hep others. Mum (voiced by Catriona Balfe) gets him helping at home first, but then they head out.

It is Christmas Eve, and Henry decides to share Christmas magic with others. Eventually he finds the one house in town without Christmas decorations. Miss Broom (with the voice of Fiona Shaw from Harry Potter, Killing Eve, My Left Foot and The man who shot Christmas) does not like Christmas and lives alone.

animated boy holding a sack at he top of a himney with a bird hovering near by.Henry refuses to give up and climbs down Miss Brooms’ chimney and starts decorating her house. He dislodged a Christmas letter from the chimney.

Miss Broom tells him about her Christmas wish many years ago that Santa did not grant. Henry gives up Christmas hope as well, and decides not to bother putting his Santa letter into the fire. I’ll leave the rest of the story for you to watch…

I like that it is short as it makes it suitable for young children’s attention span. It may not suit all kids though as they may not cope with Miss Broom’s assertions that there is no magic and no wishes granted by Santa. This is turned around, of course.

It is a simple story with nothing unsuitable for children. I’d say it is best suit for 5-8 year olds.


Olaf’s night before Christmas – Christmas book review

front cover of Olaf's Night Before Christmas which shows Olaf the snowman looking at Santa and his sleigh in the sky

Olaf’s Night Before Christmas

by Jessica Julius
Illustrated by Olga T Mosqueda
Paragon Books Ltd, Bath, 2015

Age group:
Format: 32 page picture book

I admit that I love Frozen! It’s a lovely movie and showcases non-romantic and genuine love above ‘meet a prince and live happily ever after’. Add in strong female characters and a cute snowman, and you have a winner!

So how I could not grab a story about Olaf and Santa?

The story

It’s Christmas Eve and not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, until a clatter wakes Olaf. With no idea what was happening, Olaf looks for the source of the noise. He is astounded by flying Svens and feet coming down the chimney, but eventually discovers Christmas traditions.

My review

The book is written as the original ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem. That is, the pattern of rhymes and overall story are copied, but there are a few adjustments to suit Olaf. Like the original, this book is done in the first person so it is like Olaf talking to us. And that helps convey Olaf’s innocence and inexperience with Christmas traditions.

I enjoyed the humour of Anna snoring, Sven smelling and Santa jiggling. Not to mention the irony of a snowman cosy in bed and shivering in cold air!

Olaf introduces himself to Santa and, as always, says he likes warm hugs. “He gave me a hug, such a wonderful gift” is one of my favourite lines in this book – Olaf is sweet and innocent, and appreciates a gift of love.

Mosqueda’s illustrations are clear and colourful. Somehow, they fit both Frozen and the Clement Moore story and imagery. The main story is enhanced by the pictures which then delve into greater detail (eg names on the stockings and feathers popping out of Olaf’s pillow.

Whilst knowing the Frozen characters helps, this book doesn’t require knowledge of Frozen to be enjoyed. There may be a question as to who Kristoff is (he has a stocking and Oaf thinks the sleigh is his at first).

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Would I recommend Olaf’s night before Christmas? Absolutely! It is fun, colourful and magical. Young children and those who like Frozen will appreciate this on their Christmas bookshelf.

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