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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Memories of Christmas 1994


Most of the decorations on our tree have some particular significance, in that they were handmade or given to us by friends or family, or they formerly belonged to people who are no longer with us. These four mini stockings that come out every year fit into the first category. They were cross-stitched by yours truly 21 years ago, in 1994, as you can see from the designs on two of them. I must admit that I haven't done much cross stitch since. This inspired me to look for photos of Christmas 1994.


Here is our younger son admiring his grandparents' tree and the pile of presents below it at Christmas that year. If you click on the photo and look closely you can see at least three of my stockings hanging there for the first time.

In 1994 my parents Jean and Ian Cruickshank moved permanently from Canberra to Wamberal on the Central Coast of NSW. They had bought the house a few years earlier and had used it as a holiday home up until then. We usually spent Christmas with them. Here are the cook and her assistant in the kitchen, which was always spotlessly organised and ultra tidy  - unlike mine, there was no such thing as a 'jumble drawer' in Jean's kitchen! It looks like she is about to cut up pumpkin ready for roasting, together with potatoes, parsnips and brussel sprouts for a hot Christmas dinner, regardless of the outside temperature.


 I think that year we may have gone to the family service at the local church on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas morning after present opening was over and all was tidy, we would enjoy a drink with one of Mum's lovely mince pies before roast dinner was ready to be served.

In the afternoon we might have gone to the local beach at Spoon Bay for a dip, or perhaps this was a photo taken on Boxing Day, when we always went out somewhere for a picnic, taking with us Mum's NZ style bacon and egg pie for lunch.

Christmas tea was also a fairly 'set menu', with things as a dressed ham, rice or potato salad, hard boiled eggs, green salad, meringues and Christmas cake on the menu. The party hats come from the Christmas crackers, the remnants of which you can see on the table. On the walls behind are paintings by my uncle Graeme Morrison and my grandfather's cousin Charlotte Petrie, which I now have hanging on the walls here. I also have one of those Royal Doulton picture plates. My sister has the other one, and I'm 'minding' Uncle Graeme's painting for her until she can work out how best to get it over to NZ, as well as the little wooden side table with ingrained decoration that you can see on the left of the drinks photo, bought by Jean and Ían in Florence in the 1970s.


The house itself is still there in Dalpura Rd Wamberal but it has been altered so much as to be barely recognisable. Ian passed away in 2000 and Jean moved elsewhere, renting the home out until she decided to sell a few years later, but it was then discovered that the basement had sustained quite major structural damage. This may have occurred as a result of the earthquake that struck Newcastle in 1989, and had worsened since that date. With a grim warning that some kind of collapse could occur at any time, we felt we had to give the tenants notice and were just happy to secure a sale at well below what would otherwise have been market value to some builders who were able to assess and fix the problem.  Luckily Ian did not know about all this! 

So here is our tree this year, with those little 21 year old stockings adorning it, together with other mementoes, such as the fairy on top that was made by my late sister-in-law. The rocking horse that belonged to Jean is patiently awaiting the next visit of a grandchild.


 We won't be spending Christmas itself at home this year, but we're having a pre-Christmas tea this coming Saturday with three of our four children and their partners, and the fare will be similar to that served by Jean in 1994. Most of the meal will be cold, which will suit us just fine, with the temperature forecast to reach 41 degrees C. 
                                                                   Merry Christmas to all!


  1. So many things in your post remind me of the things we do at Christmas - or used to do, anyway. Christmas Cracker Crowns. Mince pie (with hard sauce?). We had mince & pumpkin pies at all the family gatherings when I was growing up. Unfortunately I'm the only one who likes mince pies in my own family & since I have to watch my sugar intake, they're pretty much out of the question anyway - darn it. And going to the beach on Christmas seems a bit odd to me as we've been experiencing temperatures in the 20s & 30s here. But long ago I had an Australian pen-pal & that's when I first learned about the seasonal differences between our counties. Last, but certainly not least, are your clever cross-stitch Christmas stockings. My Mom knit stockings for everyone in the family - including grand & great-grand children & they stretch forever! :)

    1. No, no sauce. These are just little inividual sweet pies dusted with icing sugar that you eat while balancing a glass of bubbly or some other drink in the other hand. Marilyn has a good recipe for them and I'm planning to make a batch today.

  2. Your descriptions of all the foods make my mouth water. I used to make make cross-stitched and other types of ornaments, stockings, dolls, etc.for Christmas--last time 1988!

  3. Oh, and I left out brandy snaps, a New Zealand specialty. I must admit I buy them even though I have the recipe and even a special little wooden roller to make them with, but my Mum always made her own. Filled with whipped cream, they always look great. Google to see photos.

  4. What wonderful memories you have shared. I still have decorations made years ago too and it’s lovely to get them out and remind ourselves of how they began. It’s a shame we can’t view them all year round really, but then I’m sure we wouldn’t apreciate them so much.

  5. The brandy snaps sound wonderful. My uncle Henry like mincemeat pie best of all for Christmas, that and chocolate covered cherries. I'm planning to make 1 pie this year for remembrance.

  6. Lovely memories to look back on, especially with your family photographs. I too used to be a cross stitcher and my little cross stitch stockings come out every year on the Christmas tree. I cannot imagine the heat of 41C!! Here in Scotland we are experiencing one our mildest Decembers around 12C., so no chance of a White Christmas. We need all the colourful decorations to brighten up the rather gloomy, grey, damp skies.

  7. We eat mincemeat in bowls with a drizzle of hard sauce and squirt of whipped cream. I guess we're a bit crude about it, skipping the niceties of pie crusts and all of that. My sister in law's recipe is so good that I haven't got sufficient words for the praise it deserves. Only five more days until MM...mincemeat!!!! Love your cross stitched stockings and the descriptions of your holiday celebrations. Lots of you really eat Christmas cake? Wonderful post...put me in a Christmas mood.

  8. Yes, I am just about to make a recipe called Last Minute Christmas Cake, which I've made before and is pretty good, if you like fruit cake that is. It lasts well. I also forgot to mention plum pudding, which we eat for dessert at Christmas lunch with brandy sauce and whipped cream, the way you eat mincemeat. Lots of Australians like seafood such as lobster and prawns for Xmas but we don't usually have them.

  9. As my wife is English I get the benefit of two holiday traditions. Mince pies came out of the oven yesterday and are now locked up in a secret place for safekeeping from our dog and 26 year old son. Both are incorrigible food thieves but the dog is the smart one.
    Best wishes for a joyful holiday!

  10. Hard sauce! Oboy, that was better than anything else to eat on Christmas! Here in Maine, we have temperatures in the low 50s -- an unbelievably warm day for us!

  11. A wonderful Christmas; memories and pictures to cherish.