Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas Gifts for Grown ups

Is it me or is it MUCH harder to find gifts for the grown-ups in your life?  Men especially are difficult.

Books use to be my standby, but now the men in my life have e-readers an download books as they need them.  If they have a hobby, interest or collection it’s easier.   There are many online vintage and antique shops, if you don’t have one in your town, and something vintage  is often much more interesting than its modern counterpart. 

If vintage or antique is to pricy, think thrift, handmade or recycled.  Sometimes having a $5 or $10 cap can make for more creative presents – My man likes playing cards, and I found a vintage set of canasta cards at the thrift shop for $2 – in the box with instructions!  He also wears ties at the office, so I am keeping my eyes open for a vintage Hermes on ebay, and failing I found a Christian Dior Tie at the thrift shop for $1.   Dad was telling me about the dinner tables of his youth, where everything was served in dishes and tureens at the table, so I found a ceramic tureen at the thrift shop ($10).  My brother wears traditional cuffed shirts everyday, and he loves to play darts, so I found some great dart shaped cufflinks on etsy.   Cuff links are also easy to find at most thrift shops.

If you have time hand made biscuits, mince pies or preserves are always welcome.  I have a girlfriend who makes Christmas cakes for her friends and neighbours each year, and bakes them in a terracotta flower pot.  Easy and they look great.  

Flower pot Christmas Cake Recipe

  • Chop 1 1/2 kg mixed fruit and combine with 1/2 cup sherry/brandy/rum/whisky, allow to soak overnight
  • Mix together 2 tbsp marmalade or apricot jam, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 5 eggs and 250g melted butter
  • Mix in 1 1/2 cups plain flour and 1/2 cup SR flour, sifted
  • Line 4 terracotta pots measuring 12cm across tops with heavy foil or baking paper. Spoon in 3/4 cup of the mixture into each pot and level
  • Decorate with almonds and cherries before baking. Bake in a very slow oven for 2hrs
  • Allow to cool in pots on wire rack, then wrap with cellophane and tie with a pretty ribbon.  You can also add a packet of seeds to ribbon so recipient can plant seeds after they have eaten the cake.

An alternate recipe, if you don’t have overnight to wait is the Queensland Christmas cake.  It is very moist and may not work in pots.

Queensland Christmas Cake Recipe

  • 1 medium tin crushed pineapple with fruit juice (or chopped fresh)
  • 500gms of dried fruit of choice (apricots, sultanas, apple etc) – diced
  • ½ cup Sherry
  • 1 cup juice of choice
  • 125gms butter
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • Place all together in large saucepan and boil for 5 mins. Let cool for ½ hour or so
  • Add 1 ½ – 2 cups of SR Flour, 2 Large beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    Mix all together. Place in a lined and greased large spring tin.  level the surface.
  • Bake in a slow oven (around 160  C) for  about 1 to 1 ½ hours.  Allow to cool in tin.
  • Ice and decorate as desired (quick icing below) or decorate the top with blanched whole almonds and halved glacĂ© cherries before baking  (drizzle a glaze of 100 icing sugar and a bit of water over the top for extra appeal).  
  • PC200013  cake  

Quick Christmas Cake Icing Recipe

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups (440g) icing sugar, sieved

1. With an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the lemon juice.

2.  Add the sieved icing sugar and beat on low speed until smooth.

3. Use to ice your Christmas cake immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge.


Another great homemade gift is Homemade Baileys Irish Cream.  Popular both for Christmas and New Years, and really easy to make if you have a blender.

 Homemade Baileys Irish Cream Recipe

  • 1 cup cream  (light or heavy depending on how rich you want it)
  • 400g tin sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup Irish whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee  or strong espresso
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup (or nutella)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence


  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and set on high speed for 30 seconds.
  2. Bottle in a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. Shake before using.
  3. Will keep for up to 2 months.
  4. Some recipes use 3 eggs instead of the cream, which is yummy, but will only last a few days in the fridge.  Try it if that’s not an issue at your place!

If you have a bit too much of the mixture for your bottles, try this Irish cream fudge .  It makes 16 squares, which you can package in clear cellophane an tie with a bow.  Looks great on a vintage plate.

Irish Cream fudge Recipe

  • 400g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 400g can sweetened condensed milk
  • 75g butter, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur
  1. Line a 5cm-deep, 8cm x 26cm bar pan with baking paper.

  2. Combine chocolate, condensed milk and butter in a saucepan.  Stir over low heat until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in liqueur.

  3. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until set. Cut into squares. Serve.

  4. Store uncut fudge, covered, in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

My best bought last minute gift is magazine subscriptions.  These are great, especially for family and friends interstate.  Often the subscription will start with the next issue, so either grab a current issue and ad a card, or print a photo of the mag an put it in the card.

Car magazines such as Wheels or Top Gear are great for most teenage boys and men, or variations such as Classic Cars or Hotrods if you know their specific car interest.  The ABC has a range of magazines including cooking, collecting, gardening and music.  My personal favourite Australian Magazines are the vintage/recycled/eco magazines Peppermint ($44 for 4 issues) and Frankie  ($57 for 6 issues, or digital $14.95 for three issues).   I also subscribe to the digital version of Vintage life magazine from the UK (£14.99, about $30 or £60 for 10 paper issues).

peppermint   frankie   vintage life

For those who truly do have everything, why not get them a donation in their name?  Oxfam Unwrapped have great cards to send with your gift, from $12 guitar lessons for children in Vanuatu, to a $495 buffalo.  World Vision and WSPA also run similar programs this time of year, and you can adopt an animal at  WWF for around $15 a month, and get a cuddly toy and info pack included.unwrapped-banner

Now to sample that Baileys….

Have a great Christmas.

Deb xx


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Friday, 16 December 2011

School Christmas Concert


Is there anything better than a Christmas concert at the end of school?


Well, learning the words might help!  


Merry Christmas,

Deb xx

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Retro Christmas Gifts for kids


Since my last post I have had the flu, recovered, gone back to work, flooded my ebay storeroom and attended numerous Christmas concerts and school awards ceremonies.  This means not have only have I not been blogging, I have virtually no Christmas gifts organised!

What to do?  Although I love thrift, not all my family agrees vintage, recycled and environmentally friendly is the way to go.  My eldest two want an i-phone  and my youngest son a remote control something.  Miss ten is getting is trip to Melbourne to stay with Grandma, so she only needs something little, and Miss six dearly wants a toy santa.  Her soft toy collection is already to large to fit on her bed, but she says she will donate some if a toy santa arrives.

Personally, if I can’t buy vintage, retro or vintage inspired is the next best thing.   Here are some lovely vintage inspired toys and games I’ve found online.


A table tennis set to convert any table – I saw one recently on "Manor House', where the  father and son played on the enormous dining room table.   This set is under $30 from Vintage Nostalgia

At $35 this retro robot also from Vintage Nostalgia is so cute (and cheaper than true vintage which are around $400 upwards)– will this count as remote control?!


If you are in the US, or have a birthday you need a gift for in 2012, Tin Toys is a great website with a huge range of robots, and other toys including merry go rounds.  They also have glass and tin tree ornaments, such as these cute glass robots from Japan.


In the past I have bought automoblox for my children.  They are wooden pull apart cars with plastic detail, and be interchanged to create new vehicles.  Suitable for ages three and up and price from $20 to $80.  A new model this year is the hot rod, which I think is vintage inspired, available from Rudy and the Dodo.  Even my daughter wants this one!


Vintage Nostalgia also have a lovely paper doll set.


These are sturdy stand up cardboard dolls, with clothes, and sells for just under $50.  If you have a colour printer and time, you could make your own.  Downloadable original 50s and 60s  dolls can be found at Betsy McCall.

jan doll   dec doll

I really want to try these!

Board games are always great over the holidays – we love this retro snakes and ladders based on a 1920s version.  I got mine in a fantastic toy sop in Lygon Street, Melbourne, but you can also find it online at Birchalls.


For a popular stocking filler, slinky’s are always good – they were invented in the 1940s so are definitely retro.    They can be found for about $10 at most toy stores, or online at Peanut Gallery, which also has a great range of environmentally friendly and some retro toys.  The tin kaleidoscope is about $12.

220px-Slinky_ad_1946      slinky   kal

I have even found a vintage santa toy – on Etsy of course!


So I have put my orders in - I just hope it all arrives in time!

Happy shopping, Deb xxx


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