Tag Archives: christmas

A photo a day in December: days 21-25

Click on any image to enlarge

Happy Christmas, if you celebrate it. As promised, some photos with actual sunshine and blue skies! And more cookie photos, because I am essentially a one-trick pony.

  • I believe these trees are called flame trees, at any rate they’re rather festive;
  • Pretty sure my grandparents have the best bathroom wallpaper;
  • Yeah, cookies, I know;
  • Graffiti-covered fence;
  • “Peace”.

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

Dinosaur with Christmas hat in West Australian Museum

Australia: it’s all about the festive dinosaurs

I feel like a dinosaur in a Santa hat with a tinsel garland pretty much sums up the Christmas season in Australia. Spotted this guy in the foyer of the Perth Museum. I know the tendency to dress up statues isn’t exclusively Australian (the Wellington Statue in Glasgow is world-famous after all) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in Turin.


Notes from my extremely glamorous life, It’s Nearly Christmas edition

I keep getting “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas” stuck in my head, except that line is literally the only line in the song that I know, and I’m not entirely sure of the melody.


I’m in Perth now. Overheard a guy telling his mates as I got off the plane yesterday, “It’s 38 degrees outside they reckon, if I were youse I’d take my jumper off now.” I can’t decide whether the heat is making it feel like Christmas. Certainly, the winter made it feel like Advent back in Torino, which it never used to. Am I shifting my cultural expectations? But I still can’t imagine it feeling properly like Christmas in the cold and dark.


You can tell I grew up Anglican because I think it’s perfectly reasonable to listen to an Advent carol that exhorts people to rejoice in a minor key, which, how is that even supposed to work?



Found myself in charge of decorations for a Christmas dinner last week. This is an odd choice of job for someone who used to live in a sharehouse where we celebrated Christmas by taking turns to wear the grinch hat — a Santa hat but black instead of red, and with “Bah Humbug” printed on the rim — and complain about the festive season.


Totally buying myself one for next Christmas.

“Whatever, I’ll just buy some cheap tinsel, throw it around the room, call it done.”¬† Well, I’m sure somewhere in Turin sells tinsel, but I still haven’t worked out where it is. We ended up with bunting. Which, in the end, why not? It’s festive. At least I didn’t buy the bunting that said “happy birthday”.

Meanwhile, A. and A. thought the lack of a Christmas tree was too much, and painstakingly taped ribon to the walls in the shape of a tree. With branches. And a star on top. Yup, they’re getting the “organize decorations” job next year.

I decided to play up my Antipodean-ness (Antipodeanity?) and made a pavlova for that Christmas party. I am a terrible blogger and didn’t take a photo of it, but you’ll have to believe me that it was a popular success, and not just because there was only one other person there who knew how pavlova “should” be.

Feeling flushed with success, I made another pavlova today to take to a party tonight. I can hear the meringue base cracking under the weight of the cream and fruit. I’m 90% certain it will be served up as Eton Mess. Bad blogger or not, I’m not taking a photo of this one, either.

And that is why sensible people stick to Christmas desserts that don’t have engineering considerations.

Macerating dried fruit

Bravery and baking.

I was reading a fantastic blog post the other day about how we shouldn’t tell women (and, I think, people generally!) what is brave for them. Which is so true! I moved to Torino not knowing anyone here and I wouldn’t call that brave, for me. Maybe it would be brave for you! I’m not saying it to boast. But for me at that time it just felt like an interesting thing to do.

On the other hand, here’s a story about how I felt brave about baking a cake. Continue reading

Postcard from Dusseldorf


Boxing day, I woke up early in Munich to hop on a plane to Dusseldorf. I had a 10-hour stopover there before flying to Beijing, Singapore, then Perth. Fortunately, even though I was a bit bleary from an early start, Dusseldorf is a lovely city to spend a day and the weather worked in my favour —¬†unlike Munich, it wasn’t snowing there that day, and was even sunny for a while.

The day made a relaxing break between a fun but hectic Christmas with family and a long flight. I spent most of the day down at the river, walking around to try and offset the upcoming hours of sitting on planes. Though I made sure to get in some gluehwein, too!

PS: More postcards from

Practical details for future reference: Dusseldorf airport has a left-luggage facility which is open from 5 am – 11 pm and is staffed (!) so I — rightly or wrongly — felt safe leaving all my luggage there, including my laptop, and went around town with just my wallet and phone. This made for a much nicer day than I was expecting since I didn’t have a heavy bag. The office is in carpark P3 and is signposted quite well. Cost was 3.50 euro/day.

You can either get the S-bahn into town every half hour from a stop right at the airport, or take the skytrain to the main airport train station and get a regular train into town — these seem to run more frequently. The train trip takes <10 minutes either way and costs 2.50 euro.

My third Christmas cake in 12 months.

I’ve made a couple of Christmas cakes since I’ve been in Torino. The first was last Christmas. I wanted a hands-on project to take my mind off a busy period at work — Christmas was approaching and it seemed a good idea to make something “from home” to share with my friends here, so I emailed my mum who very kindly sent me her recipe. (In contrast, the week of Christmas, I was in Australia and tried to oh-so-casually ask my Oma about her famous Christmas pudding recipe, but no dice. Every thing else she’s ever cooked, she’ll happily write out for me in her immaculate European handwriting, but that Christmas pudding is going to the grave with her.)

Last Christmas’ cake worked out pretty well, especially considering I couldn’t find all the right dried fruits. So when summer rolled along and some friends and I decided to have a Christmas-in-July party, I decided a second cake was in order. The idea of the party was to have an Australian-style Christmas while the weather here suited it, for the benefit of the poor lost Europeans who have such bewildering ideas like “Christmas is a winter festival”. So I made a more Australian-style cake, swapping in glace ginger for some of the dried fruit, another trick I’d learned from my mum. I wasn’t as happy with that cake as the first one — I should have tweaked the alcohol choice to match the ginger — but it was still a good summer picnic cake to take hiking and even to carry across to Slovenia with me on my vacation.

So it’s inevitable: now it’s chilly in the mornings and they’ve put the Christmas lights on, it’s time for another cake.

Pretty lights: a message from Comune di Torino to make a Christmas cake already.

Pretty lights: a message from Comune di Torino to make a Christmas cake already.

No ginger this time, but I’m using home-made mixed peel and sort-of raisins, and I’m planning on a 1-2 week soak for the fruit, inspired by the most touching story I’ll ever read about cake.

Go, read it, see if you don’t also end up with something in your eye, and a hankering for a nice, rich, Christmas cake.

Below is the recipe I use, as my mum very kindly typed up and emailed to me (I’ve included her comments).

Continue reading