Isaac Wade, Familuy Pic, UNE Life Board member and student

That time of year…

Blog and recipe from the team at, UNE Life, Functions & Catering

It’s getting to that time of year that we all need a break. This year has been especially tough. Its understandable that everyone is busting for a break, after a year filled with so much change and disruption. Here at UNE Life, we appreciate that everyone comes from different backgrounds and want to make this season about feeling connected, relaxed and a little indulgent – however that looks for you. So during your break, if you need to feel connected make sure you check out our socials and say hi if you need! Before the break, we reached out to a few of our friends, students and staff to help us answering four simple questions about how they spend their break’s!

You’ll notice that the things that stand out below are allowing yourself to take a break and spending time with people you care about!

This year has been a bit of a wild ride, but hopefully, we’ll be able to find some sense of normality over the holiday period. What does this time of year usually mean to you?

Fiona Murray – Ah for me, this time of year is all about the goods stuff, catching up on sleep, quality family time, beach and books!

Isaac Wade – Family and friends! My relatives are all pretty spread out around Queensland and New South Wales, and the holiday period is the only chance we really get to all come together, catch up, celebrate, eat and drink, the whole rigmarole.

I also typically go back to Brisbane for the holidays, which means an opportunity to catch up with old friends. Plus it means my birthday, so all sorts of exciting things happen around this holiday period in my world!

Tiarne Akers-Jones  – The holiday period is all about family for me. I am very lucky that all of my family are in NSW so even with COVID I will be able to see them all. We are all very spread out and do not see each other much throughout the year, so I love being able to see everyone for the holidays.

Leisa Reyner  – Christmas time, for me is going back to my hometown in Forster on the Mid North Coast, spending time with family and friends! It’s about an over the top lunch usually not served until well after lunch, haha, and of course, finished with a trip to the beach.

Matt Pine – The end of the year is always about family and friends for me. Let’s face it, life generally gets a little crazy in the lead up to the festive season, so taking some time out to catch up properly with your loved ones, and reflect on the year that was, is pretty important.

Paul Smith – I find it hard to switch off during the year. Even if I take a short holiday, I know that the world is still moving around me so I feel like I should be finishing a project or collaborating with someone or joining in on what’s going on. What I love about the end of December is that there is a kind of unspoken agreement for many people that things slow down on the work front and I can feel more relaxed taking a few days to recharge and not feel like I’m missing out on something. That’s one of the main things about the holiday period which I think is important otherwise we have the whole year on the go.

Kerry Lockeridge – This time of year is about relaxing, we always celebrate the day with family, and then go camping at the beach for a few weeks.

Alex CookIt means taking a break, spending time with family and friends and enjoying the summer months here in Australia. Beach, warm evening dinners, exploring new destinations, connecting with loved ones and celebrating the Christmas season!

Everyone has their own habits and rituals for the holidays, even if it’s just curling up and watching the same movie they always have. What are your traditions?

 Fiona Murray – We usually ensure we are pumping the carols on Christmas Morning! Also, every member of the family has to put on every gift they receive if the item is wearable. Some end up with multiple layers of t-shirts, jewellery, socks, jocks on and ribbons on – it’s a great laugh!

Isaac Wade – I hear about some of the crazy holiday traditions some families get up to, and I get a little bit jealous, to be honest! Our family has quite a typical holiday period. For me personally, it means a chance to have a few days of heavy shopping, browsing online, and getting a few things for myself, family, and friends.

Tiarne Akers-Jones  – The Jones side of my family all live in Trundle, so we rotate between each other’s houses on Christmas Day for lunch, which usually leads onto dinner. We have a big family, so we do Secret Santa every year. Our newest tradition started as us children got older. We also have a different theme each year – which is always fun. The picture is of us from 2019 where our theme was ‘Party Shirts’. It is so much fun and something different!

Tiarne Akers-Jones family Xmas 2019

Leisa Reyner  –  For my family, we’ve had a rule since I was a kid that we don’t open any presents until after lunch! Then since we left high school, we have had a tradition with our friends of Boxing Day beach cricket and a BBQ. Oh, and you can’t forget watching the Home Alone series at some point!

Matt Pine – The movie ‘Love Actually’ usually gets a re-run at some stage. It’s also a time of lots of good food (ok, sometimes too much), and finding a place to swim and enjoy the warm weather.

Paul Smith – Not really any specific rituals. I’ve found that most of my Decembers are a bit different. Although I always make a priority of seeing my family, this is not always around Xmas! In fact, I try where I can to clear that week of engagements and try to be in another part of the world. So my tradition is kind of to escape a bit. One year I was at an isolated hot spring in rural Japan and I don’t mind admitting that it was one of the best holiday periods I’ve had!

Kerry Lockeridge – Pictionary! Every Christmas day our family all get together and play Pictionary. It’s funny because my Dad is not a very good drawer and needs an artistic team member so we’re always a pair. It’s a running joke now that whenever he draws absolutely anything everyone always guesses “Is it a mushroom”?!

Alex CookI adore Christmas so you can catch me putting up my tree early, baking festive treats and singing Christmas carols in my car. Casually watching my favourite Christmas movies as it gets closer to the day – think Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation… Classic. My family also tend to get into board games more at t his time of year so that will be on the cards.

What is the food or drink you can’t skimp on for the holidays? Do you have a signature dish?

Fiona Murray – Mojitos taste like summer! So they are always on the menu, along with Pimms! You definitely need to eat as many prawns, mangos and as much ham as you can so that it takes you a good, 11 months before you start craving it again. Haha. Signature dish… I am a fan of personalised gingerbread men for each member of the family and the pavlova for dessert – yum!

Isaac Wade – We’re a big Italian family, and the one thing I can’t skimp on over the holidays is Cannelloni! Every year one of us spends a day with Nonna making dishes and dishes of Cannelloni for a family dinner. You best believe I’m stuffed after that.

I don’t have a signature dish, but my parents and I always send photos back and forth of new recipes we’ve made and loved, and so the holiday period is our chance to cook them for each other.

Tiarne Akers-Jones  – We are a seafood family, prawns are a must on Christmas Day. There is usually a few different prawn dishes – my favourite being garlic prawns, plus the usual cold meat and salad. There is usually a bit of beer and wine floating around as well.

Leisa Reyner  – Seafood! My Aunt, who is Swedish makes Gravlax – omg, that is one of my favourites!

Matt Pine – I get pretty excited about fresh seafood over the festive season, along with those traditional festive season desserts like pavlova and trifle.

Paul Smith – I tend to make cupcakes as my signature offering to gatherings and they work very well with full-on over-the-top Xmas decorations. I haven’t eaten meat or animal products for about 10 years so each year there are new plant-based holiday foods to try. It’s been fascinating to watch that market grow and grow. I also have an insane sweet tooth and my Italian mother will spend December baking biscotti and amaretti which I can’t turn down.

Kerry Lockeridge – For the last few years I’ve made frozen chocolate bombe. I make them individually in little bowls, with chopped up hazelnuts, Nutella, chocolate and other stuff, all frozen and we have them with custard. So yummy.

Alex Cook – Probably homemade shortbread and a Bailey’s on ice. Delish.

It’s such a busy time of year for everyone, what are your tips and tricks for staying on track?

Fiona Murray – We joke every year about Mums seasonal spreadsheet! Ha, it’s complete with who is doing what meal, which house we are in on what day and who is bringing what item. We pay her out about her level of organisation but we also all look forward to being so organised and knowing what’s going on as soon as work wraps up for the year.

Isaac Wade – While it’s a tip I often fail to utilise, closed-loop communication is important! If someone sends you an email or message to do something, respond to them regardless of whether you can do the thing right now. A simple “hey, I’m really busy today, can I get back to you later this week?” can go a long way in relieving peoples worries, and helps signal to that you’ve heard them.

Tiarne Akers-Jones  – Being around family can be amazing, but it can also be exhausting, especially if you’re travelling. I think it’s important to still take some ‘me time’ if you need a break. That can be as simple as taking a walk or listening to a podcast alone for an hour. I also studied in most Trimester 3’s throughout my degree. I really recommend to other students doing this to try to be prepared so you can enjoy a few days or even a week without stressing about your assessments or exam.

Leisa Reyner  – I think not getting caught up in the madness of the season, it’s about who you spend your time with – make the most of your time together.

Matt Pine – No doubt it is a challenging time, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the number of commitments that build up. I try to be organised by planning ahead and writing lists of things that need to be done. I also try to maintain some form of regular exercise for a bit of stress release. But often, the silly season wins out, and it’s just about getting to the end of the year in the best shape you can.

Paul Smith – With my friends and family I never want them to feel obligated to see me. There is a lot of pressure across December to ‘catch up’ with everyone in your life and we know that mental health risks are higher at this time. I of course, see family and friends but we need to respect our limits especially when travel is involved. I try to listen to what my social circle is capable of and never want anyone to go that extra mile if they’ve got a million other things to do and I’m lucky that people tend to not make me do that either.

There is a lot of pressure across December to ‘catch up’ with everyone in your life and we know that mental health risks are higher at this time.

Alex Cook – Learning to say no. Sometimes the pressure of this time of year makes us overcommit and say yes to stuff we really don’t want to do, nor have the energy or time to do. So learning to say thanks but no thanks, to protect your own wellbeing is pretty important.

Kerry Lockeridge – Start early! I like to be fully organised with decorations and presents and everything by the first of December. That way I can just enjoy the whole month without any of the stress. The shops get too busy and everyone is running everywhere, for me this is the time to kick back with my family and just have fun.

What ever you plan on doing with your time off, take some time out for you, perhaps indulge in some mindfulness. We’re looking forward to seeing you in the new year – Team UNE Life.


We want to see what your holiday cooking looks like, tag us @lifefunctionscatering
and we will share them in our stories over the break!

PS: If you’re in Armidale, don’t forget to drop into The Shop, we’ve just launched a little range of delectable pickles, relishes, and jams!