Every year. Every year Dad manages to leave buying something until Christmas Eve and so there’s a mission task sent out to Rachel and me for the day. As if it isn’t hard enough trying to get everything else sorted, staying calm enough to attempt shopping on the one day shops should be empty is not one of my skill sets.
Today’s song? All I Want For Christmas Is You! Quite appropriate given the last minute shopping expedition I am already away out on. Yes, as this post goes live at 9am, I will already be in the town centre running around the shops. But before I continue, let’s all admire the penultimate song in our countdown!
Dad loves to try the trick of “In two days time, this will be on sale. Why don’t you sell it to me for the sale price now?” It is honestly the cringiest thing ever. So today’s blogmas is all about how to survive the shops today!
Get up and out early. The sooner you get to those shops, the sooner you get to come home again. Plus, the early bird catches the worm. Want to beat the crowds and get the best parking spaces? Be there the minute the shop opens.
Have a list. This is a standard of mine, but it is essential on Christmas Eve. You do not want to be roaming from shop to shop with no idea of what you’re buying. Know what you’re looking for and don’t get distracted.
Set a limit. This applies to both price limit and time limit. You don’t want to overspend, and a few places actually up their prices on Christmas Eve in the hope of catching you out. Similarly, if you get into town for 9am, you don’t want to spend all day browsing. Set a time limit and stick to it.
Be nice to the staff. Trust me, they don’t want to be there any more than you do. Most places no longer give one and a half or double pay to people working Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. It’s not their fault you left shopping until last minute, just like all those people in the queue in front of you.
Have patience. Queues and traffic are going to be a nightmare. What did you expect? Take a deep breath and try not to swear under your breath unless the person really deserved it. Then you have my blessing.
I think that’s all I can think of. Do you have any tips? How many of you are heading shopping today?
Before I forget, come join Jordanne, Francesca and me on the GRLPOWR account from 11pm for anyone who’s excited for Christmas!
Wow okay time is flying by now and we’re fast approaching the big event, yet my shopping list doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. Anyone else with the same problem?
It’s for this reason that I start planning extremely early. In fact, the book I now use for jotting down blogging ideas used to be my presents book! During the year, if I thought of anything I could buy for anyone, I would write it down on their page in the book. Anything I had done would get highlighted so I couldn’t accidentally double up on presents.
But I’m getting sidetracked… again… Who’s ready for today’s Christmas Countdown song? Today we have Sleigh Ride – the original version without singing! Maybe something to leave on while you continue reading?
The images are lovely!
So, where was I? Oh yes, presents! I suppose it’s now safe to say I had Nuala for Secret Santa (since we exchanged presents back during our Christmas dinner), and I’ve now got a rough idea of what I’m buying everyone else.
Rachel has been asking for a mermaid tail blanket a lot recently, and with no one else in the family having a clue where to buy them or how I decided I would pick one up for her. I bought her this in purple and in the biggest size possible so it came to a total of £15. Now normally I would go all out on Rachel but this year I plan on keeping it simple so have bought her some Tinkerbell pyjamas.
Mum is always difficult as her birthday is exactly a week before Christmas. She dropped a few hints that she would appreciate some new pyjamas and so Rachel and I have got her some nice ones from Marks and Spencer. I would show you them, however Rachel is doing the purchasing and I am giving her money when I get home tonight!
Dad is another difficult person as he never actually gives you any help with suggestions. This year, we’re getting him hard soled slippers as these are the only type he wears and his current ones are wrecked. Again, we’ll put something with these, but he is banned from getting chocolates or sweets from us since his winter wardrobe seems to have come down from the attic about 3 sizes too small! In fact, maybe we should get him a new shirt that actually fits…
Granny H is always at ours or at least with us on Christmas Day and so for years Rachel and I have joined together to buy her a present. Like Mum, Granny’s birthday is in December so we tend to leave her Christmas present until after her birthday but this year we were prepared. Rachel went shopping with her to buy stuff for Mum, and Granny spotted a bag that she really liked so Rachel managed to sneak back and buy it.
Granny B is simple and yet difficult. You know those people who are happy with anything to the point that you don’t actually know what to buy them? Well we’re still struggling to think of something so please please please if you have any suggestions for an 85 year old woman then they would be greatly appreciated!
Nuala‘s secret santa present was a fruit infusing water bottle and an artist sketching set. Nuala’s brilliant at drawing or sketching or whatever you call it, and I would love to be able to showcase some of her artwork for you all sometime, but that’s why I went for these two.
Wow that’s a small present list this year. The past couple of years we’ve have my aunt, uncle and cousins with us so we’ve have another 5 people to buy for so this year looks a little strange. I have bought presents for Jordanne (and Leon) and Cesca but I went a little crazy and have actually forgotten what all I bought!
As we start Day 6 of Blogmas (that word still looks funny), I decided to share my Christmas Dinner with you all and how I prepared for it, cooked it, and just the general fun I had on Sunday. It was a magical day, and it really set the mood for Christmas Day! All that would’ve made it better is snow…
And yes, I just had to put in a bit of Michael Bulbé. While cooking, I found it very helpful to have some Christmas music playing, and a large glass of wine to hand! So without further delay, here we go:
Being paranoid about forgetting something, I started my shopping list back around the 14th of November. To do this, I found it best to sit and make a meal plan. The actual planning can be the slowest part for me as I have to think everything through fully to make sure it’s all gluten free for Nuala, no tomatoes for Jason, and not too creamy for me. I think Mary might actually be the easiest to feet out of the 4 of us… that’s a strange thought… Anyway, I’m getting distracted! To plan my meal, I wrote it out as if we were are a restaurant. That way, I could go through and see exactly what I was cooking. The next step for me was to write out the individual shopping lists for each course, before finally combining the lists into the ultimate food shop, remembering to omit the things I already have in the flat. All this can be seen below.
Now, I like to use Tesco Delivery, but you’re free to go shopping or try a different supermarket, but if you were to use Tesco to buy all these items as I did, You could expect to spend about £72 to feed four people with plenty of left overs. This would work out at roughly £18 per person for a 4 course meal plus whatever’s left over.
Once again, I found myself at the planning stages. Yes, I had all my food on its way, I had fully planned the food, but the next step is to figure out timings. This is crucial when it comes to cooking a dinner of this style and size. I like to work backwards in this situation ie figure out out what time you would like to be sitting down to each course, and subtract times from then to figure out when each thing should be done. It also helps, especially when in a student flat, to figure out which dishes will be needed for each course, however I won’t bore you with that side of my planning. Just know that it took me a good three hours to figure it all out, especially tying to work out how on earth I managed to fit them all in the oven last year!
Now, as you can see from the schedule attached here – christmas-cooking-schedule, for a dinner on Sunday I started preparation on Friday. This may seem a little stupid to you but the terrine I decided to make as a starter was actually a 3 day thing. If you’d like to follow my schedule, feel free. However, below I have included the 4 courses, their required ingredients, and how to make them. Hope you enjoy!
Starter – Pork Terrine
200g skinless duck breast
200g skinless chicken breast
150g pork loin fillet
2 crushed garlic cloves
3 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp oil
250g thin rindless streaky bacon
1kg sausage meat*
150ml double cream
4 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp tarragon
1 tbsp thyme
salt and pepper to season
Mix the duck, chicken, pork, garlic, brandy, 2 tbsp thyme, oil and pepper in a large bowl. Cover this and leave it to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
Drain the meats and cut them into small chunks before browning them on the stove. Season, and then leave to cool.
Grease a loaf tin (roughly 1 litre in size), and arrange the bacon on the base and sides – double layering the base, and leaving enough over the sides to fold over the top.
Soften your sausage meat with cream and the rest of the herbs before mixing in the now cold meat. Scoop this into the loaf tin, pressing down well, before covering with more bacon over the top.
Heat your oven to 180C (for a fan oven) and double wrap the top of the terrine in foil. Place the loaf tin in a large deep-sided roasting pan and pour boiling water up to half way.
Bake for one hour before removing from the oven and leaving to cool. Place this in the fridge overnight.
Place the tin in a pan of just boiled water in order to soften the bacon. Once softened, you should find it easy to remove the tin from the terrine.
Slice and serve with salad.
The next part is the fun part. Ever watched your parents stress on Christmas Day and wonder why? It’s because there are so many elements to the main course and half the time they aren’t even eaten! Here’s how I prepared the main course:
1 turkey crown (most come with it written on the side how many it serves)
1 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp thyme leaves
Preheat your oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Our oven is a little strange with temperatures so I always adjust the temperature to match the oven. Only you know your oven so go with your gut instinct!
Mix, in a small bowl, your maple syrup, orange juice and thyme. This is your glaze.
Put your turkey crown in a roasting tray – piece of advice, a disposable one is perfect for this and you’ll appreciate it when it’s time to do the dishes. Generously brush the skin with the glaze. Season well with salt and pepper.
Pour chicken stock into the roasting tin around the turkey up to a depth of around 2cm (roughly 500ml). Again, depending on the people you’re cooking for, you might want to check your stock cubes to see if they contain gluten!
Calculate your cooking time. Allow 20 minutes per kg plus an extra 70 minutes. Of course, a lot of the turkey crowns now come with this already calculated and written on the packaging so check there to save yourself any calculations!
Place your turkey tin in the oven and remember to re-glaze every 20 minutes or so. As you can see, I’ll be setting timers for everything!
When time is up, remove your turkey from the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. To check your turkey is cooked through, check the juices are running clear.
Roast Potatoes – Now this is one that you can easily cheat – buy a pack of ready made and shove them in the oven! However, as a family we always have homemade roasties on Christmas Day. And with Nuala being unable to eat the ready made ones, I get the fun of making my own!
approx 650-700g potatoes. Maris Piper work best in my opinion
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp flour (gluten free in my case)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 200°C (notice that here’s your first problem – two different temperatures for things that need to be done at the same time!) and peel and half your potatoes. For larger potatoes, you may wish to quarter them.
Put your empty (yes empty) roasting tray in the oven to preheat.
Parboil your potatoes for 8-10 minutes on the hob in a large pot of boiling water.
Drain your potatoes and dry them, before tossing them in the mix of flour, oregano, turmeric and salt and pepper.
Pour your oil into the hot tray and stick it back in the oven for 5 minutes. Allow your potatoes to sit out in the open during this time as it helps crisp them slightly.
Add your potatoes to the oil and toss them so they’re fully coated in the oil. Roast for approximately 40 minutes, remembering to turn them half way, and take them out when golden and crispy.
Mashed Potato – Again, this is something you can cheat by buying the ready made stuff. Alternatively, you can make your own in advance and then shove it in the microwave for 10 minutes before serving!
900g potatoes (can use the same ones as above!)
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Peel and cut your potatoes, same as in the roast potato section.
Pop them in a pot and pour in enough water to cover them.
Add a pinch of salt and bring the water to the boil. Once boiling, lower the heat so it’s simmering until the potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes) and drain.
Return the potatoes to the pot and add your milk and butter.
Using either a masher or an electric beater, mash the mix until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Carrots and Parsnips – Now, at home we tend to have this mashed and so it’s cooked the exact same way as the mashed potato recipe above (without the milk and with extra butter) however as a flat, we prefer the roasted vegetables.
2 tbsp oil
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Peel your vegetables and preheat your oven to 220°C. As with the roast potatoes, put an empty tray into the oven to heat.
Slice your vegetables into halves or quarters, so they are all a similar size.
In a large bowl, mix the oil, honey and mustard. Add your vegetables and toss thoroughly to evenly coat the pieces.
Place them on the hot tray and roast for around 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Note: I tend to cheat for this and instead, I only mix the mustard and the honey, before adding the vegetables to the same tray as the potatoes! Saves on dishes, and means I save a little oil!
Brussel Sprouts – the bane of all Christmas dinners. Who actually enjoys these? And yet I couldn’t count it as a Christmas dinner without these! So here’s how I make them slightly more tolerable.
15 sprouts halved length-wise
1 and a half tbsp butter
1 and a half tbsp oil
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in the oil in a pan over a medium-high heat.This is where I miss my gas hob at home! Do this until the butter is ‘foamy’
Reduce the heat a little before adding the garlic. Cook this until it is lightly browned and then take it out and bin it (yes really)
Add sprouts cut-side down, cover and cook without stirring on a medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes.
Serve them up!
For the Gravy, Pigs in blankets and Stuffing I would recommend just buying ready made or powers that you just add water to for the gravy and stuffing. It saves a lot of time and hassle! Follow the instructions on the packaging and keep quiet when people compliment your skills on these three things!
Dessert – Chocolate Mousse
The penultimate course! Our flat is filled with a strange mix. Nuala can’t eat anything glutenous, Jason tends to like most things but can be quite straight when telling you his opinion on something, Mary isn’t a fan of mixing sweet and savoury, none of the three of them like Christmas pudding, and I really am not a fan of cream. So we’re a bad bunch to make dessert for! This is why I settled on a nice mousse.
200g dark chocolate
2 tbsp brandy (optional)
3 egg whites
50g caster sugar
100ml whipping cream
Grate 50g of the chocolate and set it to one side.
Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl before stirring in your alcohol if you are using it.
Whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks.
Spoon in half the sugar, whisk into stiff peaks again, add the rest of the sugar and whisk again.
Whip your cream in a separate bowl.
Fold your melted chocolate into the egg and sugar mix. Once fully folded in, fold in the cream and two thirds of the grated chocolate.
Spoon the final mixture into individual cups and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.
Serve with the remaining grated chocolate sprinkled on top, and if you’re feeling fancy add a strawberry or some raspberries!
And finally – Citrus Crush.
This has become a traditional pudding that I make. Actually, while writing this post I’ve just realised that I need to find new dishes to serve the mousse in as I had planned on using the dishes I use for citrus crush! Whoops… Anyway, this is a recipe for what can only be described as something somewhere between a sorbet and a slushy but it is so so tasty!
250g caster sugar
2 grapefruits (halved)
4 oranges (halved)
2 limes (halved)
Dissolve the sugar in the water in a pot on the hob. Remove the sugary water from the heat and leave to cool.
Juice the fruit and sieve the juice into the now cooled sugar water.
Pour this into a container, roughly pour in 2-3cm in depth but I find this doesn’t overly matter.
Freeze this for 2 hours. Remove, and ‘fluff’ (I mash) it with a fork.
Return it to the freezer and now fluff every half hour between now and serving. I tend to forget so I don’t think it overly matters but just as long as you give it a chance to fully freeze. Mash it before serving though!
And that brings us to the end of a very long Christmas Dinner Recipe! I hope you find it useful, and if you do decide to try making it let me know how it goes!
So this wasn’t an original Blogmas post, and while writing it I had no clue what day to put it on. But I was listening to Christmas music, and having a moment of pure Christmas spirit, when I found myself daydreaming about my dream house at Christmas. I’m very aware I have never described my dream house to you, but trust me when I say that it would be incredible at Christmas.
As I’m sure you’ve realised now that you’re reading, this post is Day 5 of Blogmas! And in keeping with our Christmas Song Advent Calendar (I should really think of a catchier name for this…) today we have one of my favourite songs of the season. It’s bouncy and sounds so happy, and it distracts you from its anti-war message that actually never is out of touch with modern day life. There’s always some war somewhere with soldiers wishing they were at home for Christmas!
But now, onwards with the dream decorating!
To start with, I would love a white pebble-dashed house with a red front door and a stained-glass window above it in the shape of a semi-circle. It would also have a large door size window beside it to allow light into the hallway. So to decorate the outside, I would put up a light up snowman something like the one below (found here) beside the front door. Another simple thing that can’t be ignored at Christmas is the wreath on the door. Now, I am actually very fussy about my wreaths so I’d probably go for one like this.
snowmen on Amazon
wreath from Dobbies
Now, I would love a big hallway that I could put a tree in. I don’t mind whether or not it’s a real tree, but the one in my hallway would be a very traditional one. Think warm-white led lights, gold and red baubles, pine cones, some fake snow, and a fairy sitting on the top of it, and the tree would be on a white, glittery, circular sheet to give a snowy effect. Under here, I would store presents to give to friends and extended family so that as they left after visiting, I could hand them their presents on the way out. I’d then replace them with any presents I received. The rest of the hall would be decorated with a string of fairy lights around the top of the room that I could hook Christmas cards over! Although, thinking about this, I would probably have to hole-punch the cards and hang them from ribbon (again, gold and red to match the theme) so that they weren’t a fire risk and so they could be read slightly easier. Any pictures in the hallway, and the large mirror I would have up, would have a sprig of mistletoe or holly above them just to add a bit more festivity to the area. The hall table under the large mirror would have a nativity set sitting on it, and there would be tinsel intertwined around the legs of the table.
In the living room, the bigger of the two and therefore the one kept mainly for hosting, would have a tree in the window. This tree would have all the other colours of baubles on it, multicoloured fairy lights, and a star resting on top. Of course, this one would also have the candy canes, chocolates, and crackers on it too. I can’t even begin to list the variety of novelty decorations I would love on it but basically anything that didn’t count as a ‘classic’ or traditional decoration would be on this tree. Here, I would keep some fake presents just for decoration, as well as any presents for unexpected callers. Did someone mention unwanted presents? It’s not regifting, it’s recycling! The fireplace would have a long garland draped over it, and a bowl of my homemade potpourri in the middle. Of course, what fireplace would be complete at Christmas without stockings hanging from it? Little snowglobes and other ornaments would sit on the tables. I’ve included a few links at the bottom to the room decorations shown below.
In the smaller, cosier living room, I would have my Disney tree. Now. My parents, when they first got married, collected a lot of Disney Christmas decorations (look out for some of them in a later post) and I have always looked at them longingly. I am well aware that Rachel and I are going to have to split them when the time comes to divvy up our parents’ things, but in my dream home, and on this tree in particular, I would have every hanging Disney decoration ever invented. Again, this tree would be covered in multicoloured fairy lights, but underneath it would be all sorts of Christmas toys and teddies. In both this room and the previous one, I would have fairy lights strung around the room to hang cards from. This would also be the room where I would proudly display all my advent calendars! A girl can never have too many, can she? And since money is no object, you can bet I would have as many different calendars as I can possibly put up. However, I would have one refillable calendar that I would put an activity or task in so that each day I could aim to do something either for someone else or Christmassy. Again, I would have a garland and stockings on the fireplace in here, and more little ornaments resting on coffee tables, but I would also have mistletoe and holly hanging from the bookcase in the corner.
My study, well technically it’s just a mini library but shush, would have a small tree sitting on the desk, and just little ornaments dotted around the place. I’d have Christmassy throws on the seats, and Christmas cushions on the window seat that I would of course have. The dining room would have a Christmas tablecloth over the table, and festive cushions on the seats. There would be more fairy lights around the ceiling, and lots of little candles everywhere in both these rooms. I would have a yule log centrepiece with a long advent candle in it. The placemats and coasters would all be Christmas themed, and there would be more little ornaments dotted around the place. In the kitchen, all the crockery would be replaced with Christmas themed crockery. Cutlery would all be either plain silver or have red plastic handles. Again, there would be a festive tablecloth, and Christmas tea-towels around the room. I’d have little baubles dangling from the cupboard handles, festive smelling washing up liquid, and Christmas cookie jars would replace the standard utensil jars on the counter.
In the bathrooms, I would have Christmas toilet roll, and festive hand towels to match the festive soaps. I would definitely have the Santa toilet sets that you can now find in all the random shops and online, and in any bathroom with a shower curtain, I would replace the curtain with a Christmas one! Is there anything else you can do to decorate a bathroom? Each bedroom would have a mini Christmas tree, either on the windowsill or on the dressing tables. Of course, there would be festive bedding and curtains to match, and fairy lights around the ceiling again. Finally, outside I would have a snow machine, creating my dream of a white Christmas daily.
How would you decorate your dream house? I feel like I’ve missed so much but I genuinely can’t think of anything else right now!