Monthly Archives: December 2009

How to mix Gumnuts with Cinnamon

Some months of the year evoke more memories than others don’t they? When I was a child I used to love sitting at the kitchen table with my mother making clove pomanders in December. My little fingers had to work hard to push the spiky cloves into an orange but the resultant decorations were well worth it. Mum was a firm believer that they also kept silverfish at bay, but I’m not so sure. No matter its application, the rich scent of that little circle wafting from the table smelt, well, “happy” to me. To this day, I always think of my beautiful mother when I see a jar of cloves, let alone smell them. And together with cinnamon, nutmeg (or mace) it evokes memories of good times, home as haven and the tingling feeling that Christmas is not far away…

Many pot potpourris have the same effect on me. Considered a bit old fashioned by some, my kids and I still love making the occasional batch, because it is dead easy to do and there are no particular rules as to how one goes about it.

Given I am always looking for a way to mix the outdoors with the indoors, I devised an Australian twist on a Christmas potpourri using Gumnuts as one of the main ingredients:


You will need to head outdoors and find a good selection of dried gumnuts, (or other interesting seed pods), a handful of orange leaves (and if possible orange flowers) and then head back inside and find:

 1 firm orange
 1-2 teaspoons or Orris Root powder
 a few cinnamon quills
 a teaspoon of ground nutmeg
 a handful of cloves
 drops of orange blossom oil
 drops of cinnamon oil


 Dry the orange leaves and flowers on a cake rack in a light airy spot for a week or so until crisp to the touch.
 Slice the orange into thin rings around ½ cm in width. Rub with some orris root powder. Place on a cake tray in a cool oven (around 120 degrees Celsius) until the orange has dried and become crisp without burning. Remove and cool completely.
 In a decorative bowl of your child’s choice, combine the cinnamon quills, cloves, gumnuts and dried orange leaves, flowers and segments. Now gently transfer the mixture into a large paper bag and add the orris root powder. Hold the bag closed and gently toss the ingredients so the orris root is distributed evenly. You really should store this away for a month or so, but we’ve never had the patience for that.
 Empty the contents of the paper bag back into your bowl and sprinkle with a few drops of each of the essential oils. Every month or so, you might need to add a few more drops of oil.



Filed under Art and Craft, Australia, Family, Kids, Outdoors, Play

What I’m giving the kids this Christmas? Nothing…

A rerun of a post I wrote in December last year. Still as accurate this year…..

In Australia, for many, December means celebrating Christmas, hot days, gifts, reconnection and relaxation, family, more hot days and approximately 9 weeks of school holidays. We’re a month into summer and the heat can be oppressive. If you’re lucky and have access to a pool, beach or outback dam, the summer break invariably means much time spent cooling off in the water, perfecting the ultimate ‘bomb’ or dive, hunting for sea creatures in the sparkling depths of rockpools and seaweed forests, or catching yabbies in a muddy dam using nothing other than a bit of string and some pongy meat.

However, unless you shut out all forms of media during December, it can be frustrating to have the festive period defined by mainly European and North American media viewpoints of what the season is. Reindeer, snow (and the associated activities the white stuff brings), hot baked dinners, holly and mistletoe, mulled wine and egg nog all abound, to name just a few. Here in Sydney, these Christmas “markers” repeated in our mainstream media just seem plain silly (and lazy on behalf of the Australian media). Every now and then I’ll see a token picture of Father Christmas on a surfboard but that’s about it.

So I thought I’d share what the summer break means to me and my family. Firstly, school has finished for the year and will not return until some time in February. There’s no homework for up to 9 weeks (a personal favourite of mine); endless stretches of warm days, sea breezes and late nights spent attempting to avoid manic and hungry mosquitoes, whilst watching reruns of ridiculous, yet highly entertaining B-grade movies.

It’s spending most of the day in our bathers eating a vast range of summer fruits such as peaches, nectarines, mangoes, lychees, rambutans, strawberries and raspberries and then washing the sticky juice off your arms and legs whilst running under the sprinkler in the nud. (regardless of age). The rules are relaxed on who sleeps where and at what time one goes to bed. I often wake in the gentle, quiet hours of early morning to find my children sleeping on the couch or verandah with our puppies – it’s a delightful amorphous mass of arms, paws, the occasional snort, whiskers, twitches and general loveliness.

It’s getting up early before the day becomes too warm to walk the puppies but forgetting to change out of your PJ bottoms. And then the flooding sense of relief as you meet other people on the harbour track who’ve done exactly the same thing. It’s the daily opportunity to head to the beach, and later that evening curl up in bed with the salt still scratching your skin; waking the next morning with salt-encrusted bed-head. (This is another favourite of mine as I’m CERTAIN it has to be good for you).

There’s a BBQ to be had every other day, entertaining friends who casually drop in clutching a fine bottle of chilled wine whilst shaking the sand from their toes. There’s fresh seafood to eat, books to read, summer quizzes to ponder in a newspaper that offers little else at this time of the year.

It’s watching with delight as my children take the “shortcut” and scale the backyard fence to go play with their mates. Summer break means that beach cricket will be played, Lilos will be burst, Aloe vera will be applied to “Coppertone” bums and bathroom scales will be pushed under the vanity until January 1st.

And whilst my family doesn’t observe any particular religion, this time of year will inevitably find us lying under a Moreton Bay Fig in Sydney’s iconic Botanic Gardens listening to Christmas Carols whilst flying foxes screech overhead.

What I like best of all though? Sydney’s summer break affords me the perfect opportunity to remind my children of how to do “nothing” and actually enjoy it. Without the distraction of school or work, the likelihood of over-structured time or prescriptive play is reduced tenfold. With no formal learning, no rushing here or there, we find ample opportunity to unplug, reconnect with each other and spend way too much time outside in the sun enjoying all that playing outdoors has to offer. I am convinced that this is the best Christmas gift I can give my children.

To all, a happy festive break. Whatever it means to you and however you celebrate, I hope it brings much joy wherever on our beautiful planet you might be.


Filed under Australia, Family, Food, Health, Kids, Outdoors, Parenting, Pets, Play