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Published on January 3rd, 2015 | by Ann Rickard


Christmas Day At The Rickards

Are you as glad as I am that it’s all over?  Now Christmas Day is done and dusted and New Year’s is well out of the way (it went unnoticed by me, in bed at 9pm, didn’t even hear a firework) we can march forward into a new year with a clean slate and hope in our hearts.  (Sorry, didn’t mean to get lyrical so soon.)

I had looked forward to Christmas very much in 2014.  The entire family was to be under my roof and even though that meant lots of adult children, their partners, and 6 grandchildren under the age of 6, it would be all the more fun.  And so it was…but….

Christmas Day

The present opening caused mayhem.

I had scoured my recipe books for new Christmas Day lunch treats.  Not for me a turkey, not even the usual roast pork, I wanted something different, something fancy.  So I turned to Gordon Ramsay, ’cos no-one does fancy better than him, and downloaded a recipe for roast chicken with tarragon butter and chick pea stuffing.

 I even had a trial run the week before Christmas to ensure the recipe worked, and yes, it was the juiciest most succulent chicken imaginable, even though the chick pea stuffing wasn’t a success.  (I had to mix chick peas with chilli and seasoning and stuff it into the chicken and then stick a lemon up the chicken’s bum to hold it in.)

Christmas Day

Time out for a little run in the boat with just one of the grandchildren.

 The lemon helped keep things moist but when squeezed over the chick pea stuffing (when removed from the chicken of course) it was rather tart.  But let’s move on.  I also sought a recipe from Valli Little for a simple but fabulous terrine.  So a moist tarragon chicken and a sophisticated terrine supplemented by the ubiquitous ham the man Geoffrey insists on buying every year and stashing for weeks in the fridge in tea towel…you could say I was fine Christmas fettle.

Christmas Day

The terrine doesn’t look so magnificent now, this is just a tiny piece left over but you get the idea.


Daughter Dallas with her baby Billy.

Pre-Christmas my pantry was bulging with foods it is not used to being home to.  Bags of chips and nuts and jars of pickles and olives and sundried tomatoes and roasted capsicums.  And in amongst all this gourmet bounty, somehow my pistachios got hopelessly lost.  Couldn’t find that big packet of pistachios for love nor money even though I enlisted the man Geoffrey (a very good searcher, he can always find my glasses) who could not locate them.  So back into the crowded supermarket I ventured yet one more time (I averaged three visits a day during the pre-Christmas rush) for another expensive packet of pistachios and finally I made the terrine two days before Christmas.Christmas Day

 It was one of those recipes that was simple, all the ingredients in together and mashed up, but then you had to put it in a loaf tin lined with prosciutto and flap the prosciutto over the top and then put the whole thing in a water bath and cook it slowly in the oven for hours and then when it was out and cooled you had to put it in the fridge with a great big brick on top of it for 24 hours.  Quite the process, no?

So on Christmas morning, all I had to do was make my Gordon Ramsay chicken, a potato salad, a green salad, a cous cous salad, and get the brick off the terrine and set the table and Bob was going to be my uncle.

The Gordon Ramsay chicken required a quarter a kilo of butter (yes, I’m not kidding) laced with tarragon to be carefully pressed and pushed and cajoled under the skin of the breast and legs.  Quite the procedure, yes?  But I did it, all the while, six little children running amok around the house, hyped up on chocolate and sweeties and half-crazed with Christmas present fever.  

Christmas Day

This is all that is left of the Valli Little chocolate cake but it still looks good, no?

Christmas Day

This is a picture of the cake from the recipe book. Elegant, no?

Christmas Day

The lovely son Steven with his daughter and nieces before he fell in the river.

So, all my lovely food for Christmas Day, given so much thought to, so lovingly prepared after much deliberation, a lot of recipe hunting and an obscene amount of shopping, was almost ready to go out on display on Christmas Day when the children, still crazed from too much chocolate and excitement took the hyped-up level up another notch and amongst all the general mayhem…really big time mayhem…one of my daughters said “these children are hungry let’s make them a cheese sandwich.’

Christmas Day

Mimi with Matilda,Rio and Shaya

Well, lost the plot a bit I did.  A cheese sandwich!!!  And there was my Gordon Ramsay chicken with the lemon up its bum waiting to be carved and my Valli Little terrine looking resplendent now with its brick removed and its layers of prosciutto neat and military like, and the chocolate cake looking like it belonged in a Parisian patisserie.  A cheese sandwich!!.

Christmas Day

The beautiful daughters, Jessica and Dallas…no saying which one ordered the cheese sandwich.

Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, right at the moment of my culinary distress, our lovely son, Steven with his 20 month old daughter Chloe in his arms, stepped onto a lower part of our jetty which had been under water for a few years and unknown to us was so sodden it was like cardboard, and fell right through it into the river. Very shaken he was.  He could have broken his leg and drowned his daughter…and missed out on my Gordon Ramsay chicken with the chick pea stuffing and the lemon up its bottom.  

Christmas Day

The lovely son Steve with Chloe…rescued from the river.

Christmas Day

See the lower bit of the jetty where one of the planks was rotted through? And the sad lonely dog…he does not like Christmas.

After that crazy day, the festive season was a blur of chocolate smeared on the cream suede couch, iridescent pink icy poles embedded into the carpet and a thousand lollies stuck on the tiles and every towel I owned in sodden heaps by the pool and ….oh, you get the picture.

Christmas Day

They can make as much mess as they want…love them dearly. That’s Jacob, Tilly, Shaya and Rio…Chloe is out of picture as his 10 week old Billy.

The next day things didn’t get any better when one of the children obviously threw a towel or toy down the toilet and blocked it.  But failed to report this.  And all the other children kept using the toilet until…well…the situation was shitty enough without me going into more detail.

Christmas Day

Jacob, gorgeous boy, but not when he spills a bottle of bubbles on the floor.

 I stayed well away, crying tears into my Valli Little chocolate cake with the glace cherries and the pistachios.  

The mayhem continued all through Boxing Day and into the weekend and all I could do was pick things up from A and put them into B and then back again and open another bottle of champagne.

 The bins were overflowing (all my empty champagne bottles didn’t help) and there was not a centimetre of glass throughout the house that was covered in a sticky hand print.

The final straw came when Jacob, the three year old upended an entire bottle of bubbly soapy stuff (one of his Christmas presents, you know a bubble blowing thingie) onto the tiled part of the floor and then started slipping dangerously on it and then started screaming to which I added my screams and everyone came running to see what was going on and started slipping in it.  It was like an ice rink.

So –  as much as I love my grandchildren…really I do, really, really…next Christmas, the man Geoffrey and I will depart these shores very much alone…Thailand is looking good, maybe a villa in Bali, or perhaps a white Christmas somewhere.


About the Author

is a Noosa (Australia) local and author of six successful books, all humorous travel narratives. In 2005 Ann won the prestigious ASTW’s Australian Travel Writer of the Year and in 2007 she won the ASTW Travel Book of the Year. Ann takes a culinary tour to the South of France in June every year . Ann writes travel, dining and columns for the Sunshine Coast Daily and is the Life editor of the Noosa News. Ann also maintains a well read and popular blog site. Ann’s travels have seen her explore cuisines all over the world.

8 Responses to Christmas Day At The Rickards

  1. Adele Clarke says:

    Hahaha Ann – so enjoyed reading about your Christmas – sooo similar to many that we have had. Just remember the grandies grow up and at some stage become civilized and what will their memories be of you and Christmas at your place? F.U.N. Think back to your childhood Christmas’s – yeah I know I can’t remember mine either – but it’s the impressions that last – good or bad!
    Have just finished reading Liz Byrski’s ‘Gang of Four’ – received it as a present and couldn’t put it down! It begins on Christmas day with Isobel glaring at the naked, uncooked turkey in the fridge and wishing herself far away……sound familiar?
    We have 4 beautiful grandies (and another one on the way) and I just love time with them – there will come a day when they don’t want to spend time with us wrinklies so I am lapping it up while I can.
    Totally love your great sense of humour and can identify with nearly every crisis you experience!
    Keep the posts coming & let me know if you still need that house sitter in June.
    xx Adele

  2. Denny Kenny says:

    What a wouldn’t give for a Christmas with my grandchildren…you are so lucky. I currently live in Cape Town and really miss Australia and my family (married to a Sth African). We had a wonderful lunch at a winery called Groot Constantia and ate in the 330yo slave’s quarters which has been turned into a restaurant (incredible spooky atmosphere). The winery made Napoleon’s favourite wine which he had shipped out so I can vouch for the wines! It was a great day and experience BUT now I have done that and lived here for 18 months its time to start thinking about returning home to the Gold Coast. I thought we could just ‘up’ and come back but our new family member (West Highland White Terrier) who is Sth African will have to undergo all sorts of tests to comply with Australian law so its going to be a VERY long 6 months until I can hold my grandchildren! The other alternative of giving up our dog is not an option as I’m sure you would understand.

  3. Lorraine Arndell says:

    That was such a funny Christmas story Ann, no doubt repeated all over the land in similar fashion by Granny’s doing their best to convince themselves they had a marvellous time. I laughed at the ending because my hubby said why do they not take themselves off to one of those incredible holidays she often speaks of and leave us to house sit for you and spoil the wee doggie. Dream on sweetheart I said the kids will be there to take care of things for them and have a holiday themselves. Love those stories keep them coming and Happy New Year.

  4. Julie says:

    Dear Ann, a chaotic Christmas but when you look back you know that it was worth it!! Little kids are not easy to round up and tame, but I bet that they enjoyed themselves with ecstasy!
    Lovely house, a water view, family and food – the blessings are many.
    Would you really like to be away at Christmas?
    This year I celebrated as part of an extended family – new “boyfriend” his sons and new grandson, my daughter and granddaughter plus an assortment of dogs. Each adult had a food responsibility and we kept it simple. A lovely day under the market umbrella on the deck, good food – no hassle.

    I have had many Christmases in Germany, and while the snowy view is lovely, the food never grabbed me, and the vibe was different.
    Happy New Year Ann, keep the posts coming – I can relate to the various issues well!

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