About Beer – Spiced Ales for Christmas drinking!

My husband is really into craft beers, and loves to share the delights of handcrafted brews with anyone who will listen.  I, on the other hand, don’t really have a large vocabulary of adjectives for beer. So here is a combined review/commentary style thing about my favourite style. Spiced beers. What better time of year than christmas to explore the deliciousness of these. A very good place to do that in Brisbane is The Scratch. You can pretty well find all of these there.

My original experience with spiced beer started many years ago with the first release of NZ brewery’s Monteiths Summer Ale. A delicious and refreshing slightly gingery beer, great for a drinking session on a hot day. With an obvious limited  one, these beers have expanded my understanding of how spices can be used and applied in different ways.   I’m just sharing what I’ve discovered, and I encourage you to get behind smaller breweries like all these ones to try and support their artisan craftiness.

Lobethal Bierhaus – 7.5% Christmas Ale from South Australia.  Apart from the label being awesome, it‘s like drinking a delicious christmas pudding. It is rich and sweet, with more chocolatey style to it. It is less spicy than the Taieri George, but well balanced. The heavier alcohol definitely warms your heart, and would be so perfect sitting by the fire on a snowy December night in the Northern hemisphere.

Nogne O God Jul –  American Strong Ale from Norway, 8.5%. OK, so I’m not really one for dark beers, but this made me say WOW. In fact, this very beer played a part in turning my tastes to the darker variety. It’s sweet, caramel, cakey, delicious, and hints of spice flavours, although I don’t think there is any actual spice used in the brewing.

Emersons Taieri George – 6.8% Spiced Ale from NZ. This is like a big fat mouthful of gingerbread. It’s delicious. Darker and thicker in body, sweet like a biscuit and spicy like ginger, nutmeg and cloves. You can’t help but feel all cool and christmassy drinking this. Its a shame we’re in 30 degree heat here in Brisbane!

Norrebros Julebryg – 7% Danish Spiced Ale. This one is light in body, and not too sweet. You could taste more yeasty characteristics, but after the first couple of mouthfuls that mellows out. The spice flavour was very subtle.

Red Hill Brewery – Christmas Ale 8.3% Victoria, Australia. This one wasn’t so much traditionally spiced, but the hops they used were more the driver for spiciness. As a hoppy ale, it was great. But for me, the traditional spicy flavours of ginger, cinnamon etc are the drawcard for a ‘christmas ale’. If you don’t like those flavours, but want to get into the christmas spirit, then this is for you!


Christmas Present Ideas – anti landfill and pro awesome.

My mission this christmas has been to remain stress free, reduce landfill, stay a bit healthy, not spend too much money, and try to buy ethical type presents, locally made, or not from the big stores. I’ve got a few ideas if you need some last minute ones! Some of this has been inspired by things that I have got, would love to get, some ideas from awesome friends, and other inspiration I’ve found around the place.

– A theme park fun pass
– Swimming lessons
– Music or dance classes
– Sports stuff – equipment or memberships
– A set of things to make a little garden
– Handmade/locally made games or toys
– Books – you can get loads of second hand books at op shops for not much money!
– Crafty type things – a set of paints and canvas, or a craft pack made up with papers, pencils, glue, bits and pieces.
– A (real) musical instrument
– A camera
– A home made voucher for a day out or sleepover with 2 friends (good school holiday entertainment)
– Work out with other parents a night where you could get a bunch of kids together for a party, and give them homemade tickets to it! (might be a bit daggy for teenagers, but I’m sure 7,8,9 year olds would love it)
– Movie vouchers
– Outdoor activities like a mini pool, play table, swing set etc

– A restaurant voucher for a local restaurant
– A night in a hotel
– Art lessons
– Movie tickets
– A set of things to make a garden
– A 10 coffee voucher for someone’s favourite cafe
– The BEST present I have seen lately was a secret santa gift given to some friends. It was a gorgeous drawing of the two of them done on an old music sheet. OMG so thoughtful and lovely!
– Cooking lessons
– An array of homemade treats. There are so many possibilities here, just spend an evening. Making jam doesn’t actually take as long as you think, here’s recipes for Blueberry Jam, and Almond Butter.
– A beauty therapy voucher
– A massage voucher
– A painting you’ve done yourself
– A drawing you’ve done yourself, put it in a frame from the op shop
– Tickets to a concert, footy, or other event
– A family photo shoot from a budding photographer, or local business
– Music. Always a good gift, but maybe safest to get an iTunes voucher, or be sure of their tastes. A home made mixed tape is a great idea!
– A magazine subscription
– Locally made jewellery or homewares

Here are some great places in Brisbane that I’ve found inexpensive and lovely gifts:

The Trading Circle is a lovely shop in Paddington with handmade toys, jewellery etc all for the cause of helping women get out of poverty and build their entrepreneurial skills.

Biome is one of my favourite shops! Eco friendly homewares, makeup, books, toys, kitchen items and more. I love it. is a great place to find gifts, but you’d probably need to do that TODAY to make sure it gets to you in time.

There are so many restaurants around that you could get a voucher from. We chose Reserve Restaurant in Milton.

Beauty therapy for the girls! Everyone loves a facial, or a manicure. A voucher is such a practical present, and supports your local businesses too! Flourish Beauty in Bulimba is a gorgeous exclusive salon where the lady in your life will be pampered. 🙂

There are loads of people in the world who need our money and support more than Uncle Fred’s need for a metre of chocolate. Try these places for poverty fighting and original gift ideas.

I hope this can provide inspiration to someone. Feel free to post your other ideas for a better christmas!

Easy Christmas decorations – homemade wrapping paper

Today’s Christmas craftiness began with a potato and an old book, and ended with creative and cute gift wrapping!
I love collecting old books when op shopping, to use for a myriad of purposes. This is another thrifty way to cut down costs of Christmas and make it more personal.
I carved some rough star shapes into a potato, ripped some of those old book pages I so love to use, got out some paint, and here you have it. Stamp the potato in the paint, I used green, red and gold. Then go crazy on your recycled vintage paper. I wanted a rough and natural style, so the stars aren’t always distinguishable in my pattern, but you can definitely be more meticulous. Easy peasy, and another great one for kids to help with. My gift tag is an old Kikki K bag cut up, and some cute brown twine will top off the natural design. Have fun!




Xmas Present #2 – Cinnamon Almond Butter

I’ve been busy again this week, creating home made gifts. This is one of my faves, so if you get one of these, you know that you’re dearly loved by me. Its soooo easy, a thrifty christmas present, and nutritious and delicious. I usually do a regular version just sweetened with honey, but this is a bit special for Christmas. Delicious on toast with slices of apple. That’s my personal favourite way to eat it.  Here’s how you do it!

Cinnamon Almond Butter

Almonds. It doesn’t really matter how many you do, I did about 1.2kg and got 6 x 250ml jars.
Coconut Oil
Brown Sugar
Pinch of salt

If you like a nice toasty roasty flavour, then put your almonds on a tray, lather them in coconut oil, a bit of the cinnamon and sugar and toast them in the oven for about 15mins. Set aside to cool.


Then, put them in the food processor and blitz! Well, add brown sugar and cinnamon to your taste, and turn the machine on. Depending on how good your machine is, it may take 15 mins or an hour. You’ll need to scrape down the sides pretty regularly, and just keep going until all the oils come out and its nice and thick and goopy.

Put it in a nice airtight jar, put a label or a tag on it and you’ve got a healthy eating christmas gift!