Steph and Elaine from Dust and Dreams Photography with their two spaniels, Lola and Finn.

It was the eve before Christmas in a far-away land.

With no snowflakes or eggnog or a red-nose Rudolph who rants...


The wildest wind was blowing and clouds could be seen,

making way for a shy moon to light our farmhouse Christmas tree...


It's little Finn's first Christmas and time for Santa to meet, this chocolate eyed spaniel lazing at our feet.

With his stocking at the ready and no time to eat, Finn was hoping that the elves packed his giant doggy treat....

With glühwein and orange, with mistletoe at the door. With gingerbread cookies and random stockings on the floor...

We waited and waited until the candles lost their light... we wondered if Santa lost sight on his flight.

We could hear a gentle murmur, faint sleigh bells in the night and Lola woke up Finn with a bark of delight...

Cause Santa was coming, heading right to our home... will he fit down our chimney or leave it alone?

With clanking and screeching and a bump in the night, it seems that they broke the sleigh, that they might just again take flight

But the winds bowed to Santa and his giant red sleigh, it gently whistled past the house to keep the curious cattle at bay...

And Santa dropped a present right on the floor, left it right there for two spaniels at our red barn house door...                                            

- Elaine Van der Merwe-Louwrens 2022

A golden cocker spaniel playing with Christmas tinsel.

When we are not travelling, being in our little old farmhouse for the holidays is the ultimate treat. A luxury like no other. Would we consider ourselves homebodies? Probably not, but we are more than just a little content to spend our time at home over the festive season instead of rushing to some beachy holiday destination.

Maybe it is the crowds, maybe it is our love for a more traditional European Christmas that make us happy to stay home…

Our love of the smell of glühwein and orange and pine needles {courtesy of our pine tree standing in the studio this year}. We love hanging Lola & Finn’s stockings by the fireplace and filling them with curious treats for these two spaniels. 

And there are always a great deal of controlled baking chaos, mince pie shaping and just all around magic making...

Whisking cookie batter.
The delicious inside of a Christmas fruit mince pie.
My grandmother's old, handwritten recipe book.

Of course our festive season always starts with Steph’s birthday!

A HUGE celebration in this household and the one time a year that I will attempt baking a cake. This year it was the Cookies & Cream Cake we stumbled on online at Broma Bakery and it was a real hit & so easy to make. The cake did however need some embellishment beyond the normal and so “Syd” was born… with one eye and furry paws he is the very distant cousin of the abominable snowman. A cookies & cream belly, pretzel filling and a coat of espresso fur made Syd the quintessential cosy companion for a rainy-day birthday celebration.

A cookies and cream birthday cake decorated like a one-eyed monster.

And then Christmas came...

We rarely cook on Christmas day; instead we spoil ourselves with a brunch.

This year, reminiscent of our time in Copenhagen. A steaming bowl of oats, with chia and pearl barley. Laced with good old caramel treat, fresh summer pears, nectarines and a hint of pistachio. Hot chocolate in our Christmas mugs because Finn insists on licking off the frothy milk clouds and how could we say no...

A stroopwafel and some THIRTEEN Peru El Paraiso single roast coffee a little later… just to tie us over until a lazy lunch…

the main event:

A slow late lunch underneath our fruit trees next to the greenhouse: a medley of bitesize flavours; from hummus to roasted artichokes, a touch of Italy with bocconcini… some lemon and freshly cracked peppercorns. Blueberries. Black forest cold cuts,brie, watermelon and bubbles. Chicken prego's roasted over the coals.


And leftover dessert: the malva pudding & mousse filled chocolate Santa’s that we could not possibly finish last night… the toastiness of the Lotus Biscoff crumbs with the malva pudding leaving us a little sleepy… A great excuse for nap-time next to the Christmas tree


Honestly the easiest dessert to make with not even a handful of ingredients:

  • Hollow chocolate Santa's.
  • Malva Pudding { we used some my mother made for us but you can either make your own or buy }.
  • Lotus Biscoff Cookies - just smash them into crumbs.
  • Chocolate mousse { yes, we cheated and bought a tub}.
  • Pistachio - optional.

Method: So this was our own "invention" so to speak and originally we were going to cut off the top of the Santa's hat and stuff him right from the bottom up. However, we realised there was no way to eat this is in the way we intended it to be eaten so came up with Plan B!

Steph carefully went around the edges of each Santa with a knife, splitting it at the seam and effectively creating little "Santa sarcophagus"...

Once opened; they were so easy to layer. We filled the bottom half of the Santa: Malva pudding - Lotus Biscoff crumbs - Chocolate mousse - Pistachio dust... and then we just added the top half of each Santa like a lid... and voila!

Elaine’s current festive reads:

The first: My slightly worn copy of The Night Circus, is one that I pick up to read every year. And especially over the holidays it always adds even more magic to the air.

Second in line is a tiny volume I picked up in a magnificent bookstore in a town fringing the Brecon Beacons in Wales while photographing a wedding there in 2019. It is J.R.R Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas. Sprinkled with curious characters, handwritten letters and wonderful drawings this book is a delight and perfect for reading a few pages on a lazy Sunday morning…

Lastly, the latest addition to our extensive book collection and the current favourite: Ankaret Ilhaam. This book has my heart. Written and illustrated by our darling friend Annie Brooks it is not only enchanted but the illustrations are wondrous and detailed and the story {written in poem form} is heartfelt, enchanting and a little tragic.

FRom us to you:

May your home be filled with joy and light... and that special magic that the festive season brings!!