Saturday, 29 December 2012

Magic Yule

Littletree woke up on Christmas morning to find some special surprises under the tree! So we snuggled in for breakfast in bed and the great unwrapping

72 presents - unwrapping

There was a Spirit Hood from our wonderful friend Miri (check out her awesome hand-crafted hoods HERE). This one was made especially for Littletree, in a scruffy cat style – absolutely perfect for her.

70 presents - spirit hood

A special friend sent a pair of binoculars – really good ones! Littletree is so excited about it.

71 presents - binoculars

From AquaCat she got two crystals, a ruby heart

73 presents - ruby heart

and a clear quartz crystal ball

76 presents - crystal ball

From me Littletree got something she’s been ogling for a long time – a Swiss Army Knife – especially with a magnifying glass.

75 presents - swiss army knife

So much joy and excitement!

Then we got up and made egg nog for brunch – extra special with local eggs and organic cream

77 eggnog

So rich and so YUMMY!

78 eggnog

Even BooBoo got a tiny bit as a special treat. He said MRAO!

80 eggnog

We relaxed, played some games, watched a video, and then had our Epic Christmas Seafood Feast

82 lobster

Lobster and prawns and big salads!

84 feast

Littletree went out in the afternoon to play with some neighbourhood kids while we cleaned up, and of course, rounding off the day with home made Irish Cream and tiramisu.

Happy Day!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Epic Christmas Baking

Getting ready for our epic Christmas feast, Littletree and I spent the day baking. See – I knew it would be a bad idea to introduce her to baking; now she’s hooked. And the worst part is she can read the recipes herself now. Oh, what have I done!?

First things first – making gingerbread dough… because that is the first step in the creation of a gingerbread house.

58 gingerbread

59 gingerbread

60 gingerbread

The dough turned out nicely, and left to sit in the fridge for a few hours.

Meanwhile… we made tiramisu

67 tiramisu

I love tiramisu, but it’s quite a process to make it all from scratch – lots of different mixing bowls and layers to prepare, but it’s always worth it.

69 tiramisu

Once that was in the fridge to set, we got out the gingerbread dough and started rolling it out. We discovered a great tip – roll the dough between sheets of baking paper.

I found a nice stencil online for the house shapes, but it was so ridiculously not to scale… that turned into a nice geometry lesson; Littletree had to get out a ruler and calculate the measurements and angles.

Then we discovered that the best way to cut the shapes and transfer them onto the baking tray was to actually leave the dough sandwiched between the sheets of baking paper and cut it out with scissors. Works a treat, and easy to put right onto the baking tray as-is!

61 gingerbread

After the shapes were baked and cooled, we had the epic mission of making up royal icing (epic because in the humidity, my icing sugar had solidified into a solid rock and I had to grind it by hand with a mortar and pestle back into powder form.

And then came the assembly!

63 gingerbread house

After a quick lesson on how to properly handle an icing bag and nozzle, I stepped aside and let Littetree have at it.

62 gingerbread house

Despite a few sticky accidents learning experiences, she got the hang of it, and the gingerbread house was made beautifully, complete with a cat on the roof.

65 gingerbread house

For some reason, I never took a photo of the finished product… but none of it would have been possible if not for AquaCat coming round to do all the dishes

68 dishes

All set for an epic feast!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Crafty Christmas

Littletree has got the giving spirit and wanted to give all of her friends presents for Christmas. Rather than going out and buying stuff, Littletree got inspired to get crafty.

She took some simple headbands and glued on little jewels and fabric flowers


After making a few of these, the results were very impressive


Then she wrapped them up to give to friends.


As if that wasn’t enough, for an encore, she got out her beading kit and made a few pairs of earrings


I’m so impressed!


And Littletree is really proud of her efforts too :)


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Miracles Every Day

As we lit the eighth candle last night, I talked with Littletree about the miracle of Channukah - about 2000 years ago, the temple was destroyed and the people needed specially prepared sacred oil to keep the sacred lamp burning. But in the ruins of the temple, all that remained was one little jar of oil; barely enough to last for one day, and it would take eight days to make more.
By a miracle, that small jar of oil lasted for eight days - long enough to make more, and to keep the flame burning.

28 channukah 8th candle

For me, this is a true story; one that I've experienced in my real life. So many times I've been in the communal kitchens at Rainbow Gatherings, where communal vegetarian meals are prepared for sometimes up to 5,000 people twice daily.

33 channukah 8th candle

The whole shebang is run by volunteers, without any structured leaders, workers or organisation. Everything from the collecting of donations, the writing of shopping lists, the shopping, the storage, the kitchen hygiene and the food preparation is done by self-appointed volunteers.

31 channukah 8th candle

And sometimes we get into the kitchen to prepare food for hundreds or thousands of people, only to find that there's no oil left to cook with.
So I get an empty oil bottle, and I go around the whole festival to people's individual camp sites, and ask: can anyone donate a little oil from their personal food stash.

36 channukah 8th candle prism

Even just a splash of oil, every little bit helps. Some people don't have oil, some people can just spare a little, some people give up half a bottle... but I always return to the kitchen with enough oil (or salt, or potatoes, or whatever) to make the meal for everyone to share.

35 channukah 8th candle prism

It's a true miracle. When people work together and share as a community, everything is possible.

34 channukah 8th candle

Chag Sameach.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Christmas Popcorn

Littletree is pretty excited to be celebrating Christmas this year – she decided to decorate a tree, so we found a fallen branch outside and set it up for her to decorate

10 Christmas tree

We don’t have all that much in the way of decorations, and not much of a budget to buy any, so we took a tip from my lovely friend Gramma Miri (who makes the most amazing custom-made Spirit Hoods) and made Popcorn Garlands to decorate around.

The first step being, of course, making popcorn

03 popcorn garland

But as these things do with Littletree, everything turns to science. She observed the popcorn popping, and wanted to know how it works. YouTube delivered some fine slow motion shots of popcorn popping, which, of course, led us down a slow-motion videos rabbit-hole

But we did eventually make it back to popcorn, and naturally there has to be quality control.

04 popcorn

Rigorous scientific testing of every aspect of the popcorn…

05 popcorn

Littletree finally stopped eating long enough to actually thread some onto string and make garlands

06 popcorn garland


07 popcorn garland

And it looks great on the tree

08 popcorn garland

Monday, 10 December 2012

Potatoes are cool

Remember a couple of months ago Littletree got a kit to make a liquid-powered clock… (here)

Well, she’s been experimenting with it, trying all sorts of different things that she can run with cranberry juice, and then trying what other things will run the clock other than juice.

Littletree asked if we could do a potato, and I'm thinking, hey, why waste a perfectly good potato when there's half a lemon already cut open in the fridge. So she tried a lemon, and it works.

She asked again if she could try a potato, and I thought, hey, why waste a perfectly good potato?I said, “why not try an orange - we can cut up an orange into eight segments, and you can use 2/8 for your clock, and eat the rest for a morning snack” (her current favourite morning snack is an orange cut into eights, much of which is eaten while playing around with fractions).

And Littletree said, "yeah, but I want to try a potato". “Why a potato?” I asked.

Because potatoes are cool, for no reason.”

02 potato clock

And incidentally, using zinc and copper electrodes in sequence, they can power a small digital clock.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

We survived without having kittens

Home school group organised a trip to a local shelter of the Animal Welfare League (which is a no-kill shelter) – we went with much trepidation on my part; how on earth would we get away from there without bringing home a cute kitty or puppy?

There was ominous thunder in the sky… okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a smidge; it might have even been a warm, sunny day. But the prospect of seeing endless cute, cuddly cats was daunting, knowing how much Littletree loves cats.

We were subjected to the standard “school group tour”, which was fine; an extremely effusive woman talked it up with the kids about responsible animal care and some of the work the Animal Welfare League does


The kids even got to sit for a demonstration on dog training


Which might have been interesting, had they not all been itching to see the cute baby animals!

The moment we’d all been dreading anticipating finally came:



please can we take one home, please…


Refusing to melt before Littletree’s imploring puppy-dog eyes, we moved on to the cat cages


And finally, the ultimate solution hit me – I can easily make it home without getting a cat: just leave Littletree there. She is a werecat after all!


(It should be noted that I started making this post several weeks ago, and something went funny with my computer, and then I forgot about it until now when I thought to look at my draft posts folder – and I did adopt Littletree from the animal shelter and bring her home; not just for Christmas, but for life!)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Faerie Night Light

Littletree’s experiments with chemistry have joined up with her recently-found interest in low-light photography (which we talked about here).

She’s been experimenting with luminescent chemistry, and we’ve been learning a lot about the stuff that goes into glow sticks, and things that glow in UV light, like the quinine in tonic water.

The latest fun thing to do has been making faerie nightlights by breaking up glow sticks and emptying them into jars. The effect is awesome, especially with mixing different colours.

And then Littletree gets to experiment with low-light photography and painting with light.