2016 – The Wrap Up

Wow… so that was 2016… probably one of the craziest years of my life.  I don’t think any other years of my life have had quite as many extreme highs and lows, and the list has once again been there through it all.  I am really glad that this year I chose to include some of my more deliberate holiday adventures.  I like that it has given me a reason to document them properly and that now I have them sitting right here to look back on whenever I want as many of them have a blog post just for them.

What about the rest… well that’s here too.  Some have links, and some I will tell you about right here, including the ones that didn’t… but they are all there ready and waiting for you to read all about…

  1. Start 2016 somewhere outside of Australia – completed: 01/01/2016
  2. Make a summer fruit platter in a watermelon – completed: 19/02/2016
  3. Send 12 hand written cards/letters – completed: 23/04/2016
  4. Make a lolly cake – completed: 31/11/2016
  5. Rearrange a space – completed: 17/02/2016
  6. Play my flute – completed: 29/12/2016
    This year was the first year in a long time that I have missed Christmas caroling, I didn’t miss it enough to get my flute out during caroling season, but I did get it out this week and play some carols.  It was really nice to play again and to know that I haven’t lost it.
  7. Go to Disneyland – completed: 24/01/2016
  8. Find out is our house has a legit hidden fireplace
    I am pretty sure that we do… but I have no proof and while my intention was to just kick a hole in the wall and find out what was there, some other things came up and I will have to wait a little longer to find out for sure. 
  9. Visit something older than colonised Australia – completed: 14/01/2016
  10. Have tea in London… Queen optional – completed: 19/01/2016
  11. Do a ridiculously cheesy tourist photo with a famous tourist attraction – completed: 22/01/2016
  12. Go to a country I have never been to before – completed: 02/01/2016
  13. Find a geocache – completed: 06/04/2016
  14. Hide a geocache – completed: 06/04/2016
  15. Watch the Prince of Egypt – completed: 18/03/2016
  16. Go in the 2016 Melbourne Marathon festival somehow… 5, 10, half or full
    When the 2016 Melbourne Marathon was on I was 23 weeks pregnant and running was even less of a strong suit than it was earlier in the year.  Maybe next year.
  17. Be a Victorian tourist and go somewhere all the tourists go – completed: 09/07/2016  
  18. See my bestie face to face – completed: 18/01/2016
  19. Get back in the pool and swim at least 5 times
    I am not really sure why I didn’t swim this year… I really enjoy it, I think that maybe it’s the thought of the effort of bathers, towels, public showers and goggles… sometimes it all just seems too hard.
  20. Go to the Zoo – completed: 03/02/2016
  21. Make some kind of festive seasonal dish – completed: 02/12/2016
  22. Use the fire pit – completed: 19/02/2016
    Not only did we use it, but there a perfect circle of dead grass where it was.
  23. Go skiing or snowboarding or tobogganing – completed: 03/01/2016
  24. Do you want to build a snowman? I do – completed: 04/01/2016
  25. Go Camping – completed: 04/04/2016
  26. See some Northern Hemisphere stars – completed: 06/01/2016
  27. Run with at least 3 different people – completed: 27/02/2016 
  28. Make a photo book or our Europe Adventures – completed: 29/12/2016
    Just sitting there waiting for the Christmas budget to cool it’s jets before we print it.
  29. Save money each pocket money
    It was not a good year for our fiances… well Dave’s pocket money card might be ok… but mine not so much.
  30. Go on a bush walk – completed: 05/04/2016
  31. Go to a farmers market – completed: 27/03/2016  
  32. Make some meringues – completed: 03/10/2016
  33. Learn how to spell meringues without having to check it every time – completed: 03/10/2016
  34. Keep my emails under control – no extreme amounts of notifications on my phone – completed: 31/12/2016
    Not at all times, but for most of the year I made a special effort to keep the notifications under control.
  35. Get and keep my photo storage under control – completed: 29/12/2016
    This is one I am really proud of, I love our photos and I am a little paranoid about losing them, but now I have them all backed up and safely stored, I just have to keep these backups up to date. 
  36. Sew something – completed: 30/12/2016
    Let’s not get too excited I repaired a jumper of Dave’s and pair of my pants, but I had to get the sewing machine out and use it to do so… that counts as sewing.
  37. Do some trivia – completed: 05/06/2016
  38. Bake some snacks – completed: 02/10/2016
  39. See a musical – completed: 13/05/2016   
  40. Read 16 books – completed: 20/11/2016
  41. Do a water aerobics class
    I am putting this in the same category as swimming, the whole idea was just too much for me this year.
  42. Do a spin class
    So I don’t really have an excuse, I left it too late and then when I could do a class again, I just didn’t want to.  Bikes and me… maybe we will never be.
  43. Have a BBQ Wednesday
    I wish we had, I really do, but we didn’t.  BBQ Wednesday’s seem a lot harder to organise and make happen than they ever did before.
  44. Go to a state of Australia that I haven’t been to before – completed: 03/04/2016
  45. Touch my feet to some red dirt – completed: 06/04/2016
  46. Clean up my iTunes playlists – completed: 29/12/2016
    Yep all clean, lots deleted and hopefully just the good ones left… I’ll just have to work my way through them again and check.
  47. Visit another international thermal pool – completed: 07/01/2016
  48. Clean my car more regularly
    Nup… it is really dirty and will be until next year… I really need to clean it more often. 
  49. Sort out my 2014 and 2015 scrap books – completed: 12/12/2016
    Turns out there were a few more years that I hadn’t done, but they are done now too… Now I just have to do 2016.
  50. Try at least 2 new park runs – completed: 12/03/2016
  51. Keep my apple things updated properly – completed: 31/12/2016
    This actually took a lot more work than this little list item implies, but it is done.  Laptop, iPad and iPhone.
  52. Go to Inverloch at least 5 times – completed: 15/12/2016
    I am not really sure what to say about this, I went down there 5 times… and really I should do it a lot more often.
  53. Swim in the Ocean
    I really wish I had done this too… but it just didn’t happen, when we were at the beach it was too cold, but when it was hot, we were no where near the beach. 
  54. Have high tea – completed: 09/07/2016 
  55. Walk to the end of a pier – completed: 30/10/2016
  56. Get some Fro-yo – completed: 11/02/2016
  57. Go roller skating
    Also a no for 2016… even though we live right near a skating rink… turns out I am just not that passionate about skating.
  58. Ride a bike – completed: 17/01/2016
  59. Have some pasta/ pizza/gelato in Italy – completed: 01/01/2016
  60. Have some processed meat in Germany – completed: 05/01/2016
  61. See the Myer windows – completed: 21/12/2016
    Dave and I spent a night strolling around the city checking out all the Melbourne Christmas fun… and that includes the Myer windows… but because it was a beautiful night and we went at peak time… I just looked through the very long line and Dave read the book to me.
  62. Go to a place I can’t pronounce – completed: 06/01/2016
  63. Do some more work as a teacher – completed: 29/02/2016
  64. Take a photo with an English Guard – completed: 20/01/2016
  65. Take the Eurostar – completed: 22/01/2016
  66. See an Emu – completed: 05/04/2016
  67. Experience the outback – completed: 04/04/2016
  68. Follow through on the date box again – completed: 27/12/2016
    Each year these seem to get harder to fit in, but always more important than they were the year before.
  69. Go to Sherbrook forest – completed: 09/04/2016
  70. Be on time… it’s time
    I don’t think I could honestly cross this off, but I am getting better and I am definitely making more of an effort to be on time.
  71. Have another Star Trek Movie Marathon – completed: 29/12/2016
    We had planned on doing this a little earlier in the year, but it didn’t quite happen, so this week I sat down and watched the two first movies back to back… which counts as a marathon.
  72. Make my own dumplings – completed: 28/11/2016
    With a trusty Donna Hay recipe which is always delicious.
  73. Be confronted by WWII – completed: 11/01/2016
  74. Go on a Gondola ride – completed: 01/01/2016
  75. Visit a real life old time castle…. like one that would inspire Disney – completed: 08/01/2016
  76. Visit at least 4 museums –  completed: 12/01/2016
  77. See the Berlin Wall – completed: 14/01/2016
  78. Taste some dutch cheese – completed: 16/01/2016
  79. Have a Shakespeare moment – completed: 02/01/2016
  80. Do a 3D jigsaw – completed: 21/09/2016
  81. Ride a Camel… or at least see one in Uluru – completed: 05/04/2016
  82. Have one of those epic milkshakes – completed: 09/04/2016
  83. Have a Random Acts of Kindness week
    This should have happened, and I even started a couple of times, but either forgot about it or started missing days.  Either way it didn’t happen.
  84. Go on  a Road Trip – completed: 06/05/2016
  85. Have a wardrobe purge – completed: 29/01/2016
  86. Do another Pinterest project – completed: 19/12/2016
    This year I made some DIY Pinterest Christmas gifts, including some sprinkle candles and something special for my friend Pheebs.  I like Pinterest!
  87. Help change something at home – completed: 20/11/2016
  88. See some carols by candle light – completed: 11/12/2016
    Thanks city of Monash, they were fun and I learnt that ‘Boomeranging’ fireworks is the best.
  89. Get a massage – completed: 23/11/2016
  90. Keep getting closer again
    I did for most of the year, but the back half of the year has not been great for my weight goals… but I have had some other things on my mind and I can try again next year.
  91. Make the most of my gym membership
    I don’t think I could honestly cross this off either… I have used the gym, but not as much as I could have or should have… I am going to put this with no. 90 and say I will try again next year.
  92. Get my menu planning and home cooking game on – completed: 31/12/2016
    I may have taken me all year… and I may not have written anything down, but at least I now think about what we could cook and plan ahead if I need to go to the shops… which is such an improvement from where I was that this is getting crossed off.
  93. Spend some time in the Old testament (Study at least 2 OT books) – completed: 29/12/2016
    This has been really good for me to do, I think I often forget about how much God has packed into the old testament because I spend so long focusing on the new one… but this year I have studied the book of Daniel and Judges and it has been really interesting.  I have learnt a lot more than I thought I would and I am hoping this is just the beginning.
  94. Eat something from out veggie garden – completed: 22/02/2016
  95. Play some badminton – completed: 28/12/2016
    So despite the very hot weather this week Dave and I went to the oval across the road and played some badminton, just for a few minutes because as well as the heat the wind had a mind of it’s own which doesn’t work well with a shuttlecock.
  96. Make sure I remember my secret list – completed: 29/12/2016
    I don’t think I could honestly say I have achieved my secret list, but I definitely thought about it, especially as the year has been coming to an end which is all this list asked me to do.  The secret list was just one to remind of the perhaps more important things that don’t often make it on to the regular list as they are hard to quantify, but that doesn’t make them less significant.  It included a reminder to slow down, work on my communication and to make time for God, Dave and myself in my sometimes way to busy life.  I have really liked having these little side goals to help me focus on the bigger picture.  We only get a short time on earth and I want to make sure I am making the time I have better and not worse for myself and those around me.
  97. Run 5km without walking
    Another thing I wish I could have crossed of the list but just like number 16 my motivations changed and it just didn’t happen.  It is still something that I want to do, but I think it is going to take a little longer than I had hoped.
  98. Have the parentals over for dinner… all of them… separately
    Well we did have them all over at different times but not for meals.  Well, sometimes we had a mid-meal…. like afternoon tea or morning tea and sometimes even lunch, but not a deliberate dinner.  I have certainly seen them all more this year than last year, and after this year will continue to see them more.  Their strength and support has been invaluable and I am truly blessed to have all 7 of them in my life. 
  99. Be more domestic – completed: 29/12/2016
    So given that Dave is the more domestic one in our household, he was the judge of this one and he says, and I quote “this was your best year so far”… a pretty overwhelming ‘more’
  100. Take Dex on a Doggy Adventure – completed: 07/10/16
    So the photo isn’t great but we took Dex to visit his friend Abe when we went to visit our friends Dust and Jess… he had a great time.  

So there you go… another year of listing done… and I think I have done pretty good… well actually I think this is my best attempt yet with 84 things crossed off.

Here’s to 2017… may it’s list offerings bring even more joy than 2016’s.

The Gingerbread House

Ok, so this blog is being written because even though this year I made my third gingerbread house (not this year… overall), every year it feels like I am starting again from the very beginning.  This year before I started baking I spent all morning looking through the internet and my cookbooks trying to remember which recipes I had tried and liked and despite my efforts, I just couldn’t remember… so now that it is done, I have decided that this year, instead of just posting a picture of the gingerbread house I am posting everything, the recipe, the template and the things that worked and the things that didn’t, so that next year I might save myself some time, stress and probably money.

Each year I like to make something slightly different from those I have tried before… except in 2014… where it appears I didn’t make one.  Anyway, so far my gingerbread creations have been a basic house, a few little houses and a village:

gingerbread-houses

This year I made a mixture… I returned to some of the houses from 2013 and added in a few new elements… a Christmas tree and a sleigh.  After all the searching beforehand I ended up returning to my trusty Donna Hay back catalogue where I pulled out the recipes for basic gingerbread cookie dough… which I used for my sleigh and tree and the recipe for the houses as well as the template from Donna’s website.

The Houses:

Ok, so lets start with the houses… because lets face it… they are the most important… Donna Hay’s Recipe comes from Issue 72 (Dec/Jan 2014 page 139) and the recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

Gingerbread:
1.2kg plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tsps bicarb soda
1 1/2 cups (265g) brown sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
380g unsalted butter, melted
1 2/3 cups (580g) golden syrup
icing sugar to decorate
Icing
4 cups (640g) icing sugar
3 eggwhites
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
1 tbsp lemon juice

 

 

 

 

 

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 180°C.  Place half the flour, bicarb, brown sugar and ginger in a large food processor and pulse until combined.  Add half the butter and golden syrup and process until the dough comes together.  Transfer to a large bowl.
2.  Repeat with the remaining dry and wet ingredients.  Add the two batches of dough together and knead until smooth and combined.
3.  Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.  Using your fingers, press each piece into a 37cm x 25cm Swiss roll tin. Smooth the top with the back of a metal spoon.
4.  Bake in 2 batches for 12-15minutes or until golden.
5.  Transfer gingerbread sheet onto a large chopping board and start cutting out the shapes while it is still hot using a metal ruler and a sharp knife.  Don’t forget to print out the template found here.
Donna Hay suggests the following order:

Sheet 2 & 4:
• Large house walls
• Front of small house
• Back of small house
• Small house roof
• Small house walls
• Chimney
Sheet 1 & 3:
• Large house roof
• Front of large house
• Back of large house

 

 

 

 

6.  To make the icing; place the sugar, egg-whites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer and beat for 4-5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
7.  Add the lemon juice and beat for a further 2 minutes or until well combined.
8.  Use a piping bag to use decorate the house with the icing and glue the houses together.  I used the icing recipe as my glue and for my own free style decoration rather than the prefect and very beautiful lattice design intend… as my decorating skills just aren’t that good.

Notes:
Initially I was worried that the pieces for each house were quite hard and tended to snap rather than break of nicely when cooled.  However, once assembled and no longer trapped in an air tight container, the gingerbread softened enough to break and eat, but not enough to collapse… which turned out perfectly, despite my initial concerns of broken teeth.

I only have a small oven, so I needed to cook the sheets of gingerbread all separately, and because I took a little longer preparing my dough, my oven was well and truly at temperature before starting.  I had to keep a close eye on the sheets and the more I cooked, the less time they required as my oven is also not as good at keeping temperature without going over as I would like.  So make sure you keep watch as you need all of the sheets to get all of the parts so some burnt sections can make it tricky to fit all of the template in… plus they taste and look pretty average.

The glue is also very good, it sets quickly and holds well, but once set is still able to be broken with ease for consumption while remaining strong enough to hold the untouched parts still in place.

The Sleigh and the Tree:

Okay… so once the house was done I started on the sleigh and tree.  For both of these is used Donna Hay‘s ‘basic gingerbread cookie dough’ recipe which can be found online here, or if you are bit lazy like me… I have done the non-lazy thing and typed it out, just in case I lose my copy of  Issue 78 (Dec/Jan 2015 page 156) or the website changes.  Anyway the recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

•  125g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
•  ½ cup (90g) brown sugar
•  ⅔ cup (230g) golden syrup
•  2½ cups (375g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
•  1 teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda, sifted
•  2 teaspoons ground ginger
•  1 teaspoon mixed spice

Method (Emma’s modified version):

gingerbread61.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2.Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6−8 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until pale and creamy.
3.  Add the golden syrup, flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and mixed spice and beat until a smooth dough forms.
4.  Roll the dough out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 5mm thick and then use the sleigh template (see below) and star cookie cutters (see tree assembly below) to make the pieces required.   If there is some left over use a gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut out men from the dough, re-rolling the dough as necessary.
5.  Bake on trays lined with non-stick baking paper for ~8mins or until golden (Donna’s recipe was for a gingerbread man wreath, so this is where the instructions get a little messy, but I left my oven hot from the gingerbread house and cooked for shorter time, but they turned out perfect, you just have to watch them).
6. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Sleigh Assembly:

The sleigh template I used can be found here, it is one that I found thanks to Pinterest and I used the template to cut out the shapes before baking them.  I used the left over house ‘glue’ (icing) to put the sleigh together, using large candy canes as the sleigh’s runners as suggested by the blog.  The sleigh requires some holding while the glue sets as my pieces warped a little in the over, and the candy canes will only support the whole thing once it is just that… one piece.

Tree Assembly:

For this one I googled a couple of things to get the idea but didn’t follow anyone’s instructions so to speak.  I made the tree using different sized star cookie cutters.  I got a set of 5 sizes from my trusty k-mart and made ~4 of each size, so that I would have at least 3 good ones for my tree (I also made some extra ones for eating with the left over dough). Once the cookies were cooked, I used glue which I used green food dye to turn green to layer the stars on top of each other in height order. At the very top of the tree I used a small star cookie standing up to make a tree topper (with Davo’s encouragement I dyed some icing yellow just for a better star effect).  This actually worked out much better than I thought it would, and was the most popular component on movie marathon day.

Once all the bits were together and decorated, this is how it turned out…

gingerbread3

Pretty good if you ask me!  Well at least not bad for an amateur.  Hopefully I will remember that I wrote this blog and save myself some time next year… Oh and this also crossed no. 21 ‘Make some kind of festive seasonal dish’ off the list.

Ok so there you have it… I am going to go and eat some of the left overs.