Books for kids

It isn’t always easy buying books for kids, especially if you don’t have kids in that age group yourself. Reading the cover of a book doesn’t always give a good indication of the appropriate age group – and I know I don’t always have time to read a book before I let my kids read it let alone for every kids I buy gifts for at Christmas.

I was very impressed by a Dymocks catalogue not long ago as they did list the age for books aimed at kids.

For anybody else after age appropriate ideas, I found an Australian site listing some good books at a couple of ages – and asking for more people to add to their list so it may be bigger by now with luck.

Books are such a great gift but only if it meets the requirements of the reader. Do you give many books as gifts?

Christmas spirit of giving

I’m not talking about commercialism and gift giving, but the true spirit of giving at Christmas time. I don’t do enough of it myself, and I’m not sure just thinking about it counts for much, but I think Christmas giving is important.

What giving do you do at Christmas time? Do you see it as a burden in a busy time or something that is just worthwhile and a priority?

Here’s some of the things I’ve thought of – can you add to the list?

  • time for poor – serving Xmas lunch at a homeless shelter or helping hand out goods at a charity centre
  • invite lonely people to join a Xmas celebration with you
  • give to charity instead of giving token or joke gifts – a group I was in did this one year as we choose gifts for children and gave the bundle to a charity
  • give charity gifts
  • send cards to those not expecting it – maybe that shop assistant who smiled at you during your toddler’s tantrum, the nosy neighbour or a volunteer in your community (one you don’t deal with yourself)
  • smile and be nice to people in Xmas crowds – not always easy but give it a go!

Santa’s 20 cent biscuits (millionaire’s shortbread)

Some years ago, my daughter called the shortbread we made for Santa 5 cent biscuits (why? who knows! She was only 2 at the time!) We’ve now found a recipe for millionaires shortbread in a school book and this year we’ll make 20 cent biscuits 🙂

Make shortbread as usual  and let it cool.

Heat a tin of condensed milk with 25g brown sugar and 25g butter until it simmers – don’t leave it to sit or it’ll stick. Keep stirring as it cools and thickens.

Spread the caramel over the shortbread and let it cool completely.

Leaving Santa a snack of shortbread on Christmas EveMelt some good chocolate ( a 250g packet gives a generous covering plus a little reward for the chef!) and pour it over the top.

Cool, slice and put on a plate for Santa – or for me! Yummy and easy – what more can you ask for in a recipe!

Christmas needlework

There is nothing more loving and special as a gift than something hand made specifically for the recipient. Of course, if they are skilled crafters, the gift is truly valuable, lol!

If you are anything like me, there is no way you could sit down in December and start making some lovely gifts for people – who has that much time in December?

So this year I figure I might get started early by starting some craft projects now when I am relaxed (holidays are wonderful things!) I found a few needlework projects relating to Christmas but then I figured it didn’t have to have a Christmas theme to be a Christmas present, lol, so I’m going to ‘catch a falling star’ instead.

And I’m also looking for inspiration for a scrapbooking page that I may create as a hanging picture for my parents and in laws. Figure its a unique gift for people who just buy anything they want or need during the year!

5 cent biscuits (aka shortbread)

When she was very young, my daughter decided we were making “5 cent biscuits” for Santa. I have no idea where she got the name from or what it meant to her, but the name has stuck and we leave out 5 cent biscuits for Santa every year.

Everyone else (and us the rest of the year!) call them shortbread so I thought I’d share our recipe with you – it’s pretty simple and my kids have helped make them from an early age. Santa has started putting fun cutters in their stockings, too, so I guess he likes them making biscuits for him on Christmas Eve!

5 cent biscuits (shortbread) recipe

You need:

250g butter (or margarine)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/3 cup of castor sugar

2 cups plain flour

4 Tablespoons rice flour

You do:

Pre-heat oven to 180 Celsius

Grease an oven tray

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla (that means beat them together until they are pale yellow and fluffy)

add flour and mix

knead the dough well on a lightly floured bench/board

shape shortbread*

Prick shortbread surface with a fork

bake at 160 Celsius (yep, lower than the pre-heat temp) for 15 – 20 minutes

remove from oven when starting to colour


sprinkle with icing sugar, dip in chocolate or leave plain.

* you can roll out the dough and make 4 saucer-sized circles, cut into 8 pieces per circle OR you can let the kids use shaped cutters to make fun 5 cent biscuits. Individual biscuits cook a little faster than the circles.

Travelling across Australia

When I was 16, I spent my first Christmas away from my family (we did presents and stuff a few days early instead). Along with about 12 others from my scout district, I headed off to Perth for a Venture (this is a huge camp for Venturers, like a scout Jamboree. People travelled from across Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and more to attend, and we had a ball.)

We left on Christmas Eve, packed into two vehicles (a people mover and a 4 wheel drive). Christmas night we were in a place called Ceduna for our Christmas feast. To be honest, I don’t remember what we ate but we laughed a lot as we ate and I do remember what we drank. Our district leader wanted to give us a treat so bought us a bottle of sparkling wine; he also wanted to conserve our collective funds so he purchased some cheap Spumante. And spew-mante is definitely what we called it…

Over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we covered some 2890 km (from Melbourne to Norseman) and viewed some of the diversity of Australia – metropolitan Melbourne and Adelaide, rural Victoria, the Great Australian Bite and part of the Nullarbor Plain.

It was a very different Christmas for me – rough, no presents, sitting in a car for most of it – but I wouldn’t change it for the world as I saw so much of Australia and had a great time with friends.

In fact, now that I have thought about that trip again, I think we will have a travelling Christmas soon – probably next year.

An Aussie Christmas

I think my childhood Christmases were pretty Australian.

We spent the day at my Uncle’s house every Christmas. They lived right on the beach so in between food and presents, we’d spend the day on the beach – mostly I remember playing cricket for hours on end.

It was hot, sunny and great fun!

Regardless, we had the traditional roast meal – lamb, pork and turkey I think were there most years, with loads of veggies, followed by Christmas pudding and custard and/or cream.

Present time was a bit mad, but it was controlled enough that we all watched what everyone got before the next presents were handed out – made it more fun to prolong the pleasure and enjoy everyone’s happiness at their gifts.

The day was loud and seemed to last forever, and we hated going home afterwards.

A different day

When my parents first got married, my maternal grandparents realised there would be a clash of places to be on Christmas Day. So instead of making mum and dad choose between their families or splitting the day in half, my grandparents came up with a family celebration on the Sunday before Christmas.

The tradition has stuck and we’ve celebrated that way ever since.

And it has made life easier as mum’s siblings got partners, too, and then the grandchildren got partners, and people had interstate relatives… Not only does it reduce the stress of Christmas Day, it has allowed us to celebrate together before some went interstate to be with other family.

Works for us, anyway.

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