As Henry Heke would say "Jingle Bells"! This Christmas was awesome, however for me personally also a tinge of sadness, our first year without our beautiful Nan with us as she sadly passed away in March.

The Heke whanau packed up and departed for Australia this Christmas off to Perth to spend time with Henry's eldest son and whanau as we prepared for his wedding on December 30. I envy those people who can afford to fly with their families in business class, all that leg room and special service. I won't say which carrier we flew with but I've learnt my lesson trying to save money, next time I'm flying direct (just like Henry told us to).

Perth is beautiful, the weather was hot, the beaches were safe and our kids were happy, what more could you want on holiday. I drank more water in two weeks than I think I drank in two months in New Zealand so my skin with its tan and all that water is the healthiest it has been in ages. Christmas day was perfect, no stress, yummy kai and happy kids and parents.

I had to have a giggle to myself, in my whanau I'm the one that makes our Christmas ham, I can't remember for how many years I've been doing it now, but that's my job - the ham and pavlova. I received a text message while I was in Perth, "sis, how do you make a ham, what's the glaze? What temperature do you cook it?"


That reminds me of how important equipment is in the kitchen. I did the ham in Perth but my stepson's oven wasn't working properly and I'm wondering why is this ham taking so long. Then Zion says "oh yeah the seal was broken so we pulled it off and we are waiting for a replacement" so a ham that would normally take me 40mins was now taking double the time and not reaching the higher temperature to get the edges all crispy. Everyone said the ham was yum, but I the ham perfectionist was feeling gutted as it wasn't up to my standard.

I returned home to my garden which now has zucchini the size of watermelon, sweetcorn almost ready to pick and kamokamo which is late but flowering so I can't complain. I think I'm going to have to pickle the zucchini this year, will be my first time pickling but I hate to waste good food and I think bottling and pickling food will make me feel very Martha Stewart lol.

•Monique and Henry Heke were contestants on reality TV show My Kitchen Rules and had their own food show on Maori Television, Tradition on a Plate. Their column runs fortnightly.