Coming up is the big, tree-selling day and not wanting to be knocked over in the rush, I went down to see John the Italian greengrocer to kindly ask him to set me aside a tree.
When I got there I saw he had a few scrawny and draught-affected looking trees that were knee-high to a grasshopper and had gaps where branches should have been. I said, ‘Thank goodness you’re getting some more trees in tomorrow, John, these are hopeless’. And he looked at me sideways and said, ‘Actually, we’re not expecting anything better tomorrow. This year they’re not coming from Victoria because the bloke wouldn’t deliver them. These are from New South Wales’.
I was horrified. ‘Well one of these won’t do, John, I want something taller than me and something that’s so bushy I can’t see the trunk’. Desperate times.
He said, ‘I’ll let you in on a little secret; they’re selling Victorian trees at Terrey Hills. If you can get up there, you’ll get a good tree’. I didn’t actually have time in my schedule for a hike up to Terrey Hills (almost an hour’s drive), but desperate times call for desperate measures and so I put the girls in the car (they love Christmas-tree shopping) and off we went.
As soon as I got there I was all smiles because I saw the most beautiful trees that would reach the stratosphere and were so wide you’d be struggling to get them through your front door. Excellent! So I chose a tree and asked the chap if it was available. It certainly was – for three hundred dollars. Recovering from severe shock I said, ‘Does it come decorated?’ which he didn’t think was very funny. Then another customer piped up saying, ‘It’s not too long ago that you could buy a really good tree for twenty dollars’. And I agreed with him.
We both had to sadly turn away from the glamour tree and settle for its poor cousin, the runt. Ruby and Rosie kept a good eye on it as we beetled back home to discover, typically, that there was no one home to help me carry it up from the car. I don’t know how I did it but I heaved it up the front steps and into the house where I lifted it into its stand filled with water. I had to leave it leaning against the wall as it takes that elusive extra person to properly secure it.
And while I waited for that extra person, I managed to decorate two more cakes. As my available time had been squeezed with long drives in search of a decent tree, I decorated these very simply. The first is an angel with stars on the sides of the cake. All the shapes were made with cookies cutters cut from white fondant then I used a paint brush to paint the shapes with gold powder mixed with a little vodka. The shapes were stuck on with lightly beaten egg white. I wanted the angel to be more of a feature so I painted around her edges with edible glue then used tweezers to edge around her with silver cachous. I’m giving her to a friend of mine who recently married and she wore a white and gold dress – the colours of this cake reminded me of her wedding dress.
The next cake was decorated equally as simply with a Christmas bell on the top with hearts on the sides. Before fixing the shapes onto the cake I brushed them with lightly beaten egg white then sprinkled edible red glitter over them. I edged the bell in the same way as the angel with silver cachous and I used an edible red pen to edge the hearts.
This cake is being given to good friends who through the year have had us over to their home many times. And they just celebrated their wedding anniversary so I thought the hearts were appropriate.
Then it was time to pick up Alfie from swimming lessons so I headed to the pool and when I saw him I told him I had bought the Christmas tree. He was disappointed I did the shopping without him but when we came home he said, ‘Can you put your hands over my eyes then lead me to the tree so it’s a big surprise’. You forget how exciting Christmas is to little boys and girls.
The recipe for mini-Christmas cakes and other decorating ideas can be found here.