Festive Thursday: An Easy Christmas Craft & Recipe Ideas… #FestiveThursday

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Welcome to Festive Thursday where I’m going to be sharing with you all my Christmas endeavours, including the books I’m reading, the films I’ve watched, gift ideas I’ve found, and any festive events I’ve attended. Because, well, I LOVE CHRISTMAS SO HARD.

I’m not really a crafty person and get bored easily, but there is something about Christmas which compels me to make things. Or try to, at least. Here’s what I’ve been making in the last few weeks. They are both easy, and don’t require anything too complicated so if your Christmas spirit is waning, why not give one a go!?

Glitter Tree Decorations

I’ve made these a few times now, and they always come out great – and different every time. They are very simply glitter pony beads placed in cookie cutters and melted down n the oven for around 30-45 minutes, depending on the quality of the beads and how many you use. This year I used little zinc-plated nuts so you can thread them and hang them on your tree. Or in your window. Once cooled they pop out of the moulds pretty easily.

The beads do give off some fumes, so perhaps not suitable if small children are around. Simply use an extractor fan or open the back door for a while. And once your beads are melted, keep the oven on with the door open for a short while and bob’s yer uncle.

Cinnamon Shortbread

I’d never made shortbread before and didn’t realise how easy it is! Like ridiculously. And dangerously. I followed this traditional recipe but added some ginger too. And I made a cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top (simply mix brown sugar with ground cinnamon).

They were seriously delicious and they will be the first thing a make when I get to my parents house tomorrow, too. I think this time I’ll decorate with icing instead.

 Currently Reading

I was really looking forward to Georgette Heyer’s A Christmas Party, but I couldn’t for the life on me get into it so I replaced it with this one, which I’m enjoying and almost finished.

christmasatrosieRosie Hopkins is looking forward to Christmas in the little Derbyshire village of Lipton, buried under a thick blanket of snow. Her sweetshop is festooned with striped candy canes, large tempting piles of Turkish Delight, crinkling selection boxes and happy, sticky children. She’s going to be spending it with her boyfriend, Stephen, and her family, flying in from Australia. She can’t wait.

But when a tragedy strikes at the heart of their little community, all of Rosie’s plans for the future seem to be blown apart. Can she build a life in Lipton? And is what’s best for the sweetshop also what’s best for Rosie?

 

Recently Watched

I finally gave in and watched Elf…it’s got to be one of the best. I can’t stand Will Ferrell in anything else but he’s great in this! I also watched Gremlins and Home Alone. Christmas films are the best. I’m saving A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Frozen and Santa Claus -the Movie though. They definitely need to be watched with the family. 🙂

Blog Break

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post I’ll be taking a break over Christmas and into the New Year. I’ll still be posting & hosting This Week in Books, and will probably do some yearly round-up posts because they’re always fun, but my usual schedule won’t be back in action until January sometime. Thanks for all the comments, shares on Social media and for generally being awesome. 

All that’s left to say is Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays…etc. I hope you all have a lovely time. And if that’s not possible, at least get through it unscathed 😉 

xmas

 

Festive Thursday #2: The Christmas lights switch on & Winter Wonderland

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Welcome to Festive Thursday where I’m going to be sharing with you all my Christmas endeavours, including the books I’m reading, the films I’ve watched, gift ideas I’ve found, and any festive events I’ve attended. Because, well, I LOVE CHRISTMAS SO HARD.

The Funtimes

I missed last week’s post because, well, I was just being too festive and didn’t get time to write it. Soz. But on the plus side –  Happy 1st of December!!!

Last week the festivities really started. On Thursday I went to my old town (I moved but it’s still my town, OK) for the Christmas lights switch-on/ opening of the Christmas market. I donned my favourite Christmas jumper, had my first mulled beverage of the year and tried on silly hats – it’s tradition – and it was glorious.

The mulled wine was good, the hog roast was spectacular, but the entertainment was sorely lacking. Unless we somehow missed it all. There were too many people to even see who was turning the lights on but it was certainly someone no one has ever heard of. The giant nutcrackers were a welcome addition to the decorations this year, however.

Despite the wetness of weather, fun was had. Christmas has begun my friends.

Then on Saturday my parents came to visit and we went to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. I LOVE WW! Sure, it can get really busy and annoying, but the atmosphere is always great. And I love that they have so many bands and artists playing for free. Most of them are so-bad-they’re-good, but that just adds to the fun.

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This year I actually booked tickets for things for the first time. The Magical Ice Kingdom was definitely impressive and beautiful, but it was a lot smaller/quicker than I expected. The Cirque Berserk modern circus was great though. I went all out and booked us a VIP box which came with champagne and chocolates and my parents loved it. It was a welcome break from sitting in the cold too. Highly recommended.

The Books

Last week I finished two festive reads.

thegirlwhosavedxmasJOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF MAGIC

If magic has a beginning, can it also have an end?

When Amelia wants a wish to come true she knows just the man to ask – Father Christmas.

But the magic she wants to believe in is starting to fade, and Father Christmas has more than impossible wishes to worry about. Upset elves, reindeers dropping out of the sky, angry trolls and the chance that Christmas might be cancelled.

But Amelia isn’t just any ordinary girl. And – as Father Christmas is going to find out – if Christmas is going to be saved, he might not be able to do it alone . . .

And:

thechristmastownDonna VanLiere, New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

My review of the Matt Haig book is here, and the other one will be up on Monday.

The Films

I think it’s important to save certain Christmas films until closer to the time itself, but there are SO many that are good, but wouldn’t be too sacrilege to watch before December.

The ones well and truly off my before December list are Elf, Home Alone, Muppets Christmas Carol & Santa Claus the movie. I’m sure there are more but they are the most important.

Last week I watched Krampus: The Christmas Devil (not the recent one) which was truly terrible, and then The Santa Clause – the one with Tim Allen. I love this film and totally think it gets overlooked! Go watch it and feel the festive wash over you.

In other news, I have done about 60% of my shopping and made a start on the Christmas booze cabinet, but more on that next time. Winning all round.

How have you been preparing for Christmas this week?

Next week – more Christmas market fun, I get crafty…and my attention will turn to FOOD!

Festive Thursdays: So much festive!

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Every Thursday I’m going to be sharing with you all of my Christmas preparation, the books I’m reading, the films I’ve watched, gift ideas I’ve found, and the festive events I’ve attended. Because, well, I LOVE CHRISTMAS SO HARD.

I didn’t manage to post last Thursday, but to be honest I didn’t do much anyway, other than making a mini Gingerbread House and watching Frozen four times in two days. No, really.

Anyway, on to this week’s rundown…

1. Christmas Cakes (stage 1)

As I mentioned in my first post, I’m putting together some Christmas hampers to give as presents this year. Everything is going to be made by yours truly, with the exception of the baskets/boxes (which I don’t have yet), and the jars!

This week, I made a start on making individual Christmas cakes by soaking the dried fruit in a whole bottle of cherry brandy, and a glug of honey brandy to boot. It smells amazing, and after a week I think it’s ready!

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I know some people soak their fruit for months but I don’t think it’s necessary. I pour brandy over the cake afterwards anyway. More booze than cake is my motto at Christmas! This is the recipe I’ve roughly followed over the last couple of years. It’s one that doesn’t require soaking at all, but I still do.

Hopefully I’ll have stage 2 – baking & decorating – done for next week’s post.

2. Chilli & Apple Jam

I’d never made jam before, or even chutney, but was assured it’s quite easy, and it really was!

I wanted a ‘jam’ that was spicy to suit my Dad and Brother’s tastes, but was also Christmassy, so I combined two different recipes – this Nigella one, which is so simple, and I added some clove-studded apples to the mixture as it boiled, which I’d seen in a different recipe I was tempted to try.

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I also used a few different types of chillies and preserving sugar instead of regular. At first I thought it wasn’t going to set, but after an hour cooling, and 30 mins in the fridge it firmed up and is a perfect consistency. The only fail – it only filled two of my jars so I had to make some more. But it was so easy it didn’t matter!

For the second batch, I added a whole lemon to the chillies (instead of the apples) and blitzed the whole lot. And I ran out of preserving sugar so just used regular. It came out just as good, and the lemon tastes really great with the chilli. This one’s my favourite. I might have to keep one for myself!

3. A Christmas to Remember

I read, and pretty much devoured this book! My review will be up on Monday, hopefully.

ng4Everyone loves Christmas – don’t they?

Carrie Blake loves her job as a nanny but, while her friends are settling down, all of Carrie’s spare time is spent with other people’s families. Though it breaks her heart, her New Year’s resolution is to embark on a new career and fix her love life.

As Carrie starts her last job, she’s sure she’ll be going out on a high – the house is amazing , the kids are adorable, and she’s in charge of decorating the tree!

The only problem could be her boss… single-dad Adam Fletcher might be both handsome and successful, but he’s always working. Doesn’t he realise he’s missing out on precious moments with his son and daughter?

As Adam’s family arrive for Christmas including his sensitive sister, Sharon, and his fun-loving elderly Grandpa, Walter, Carrie realises that she might just have found the perfect allies in her quest to persuade Adam to loosen up. There’s still time for Carrie to make this the best Christmas ever… after all, Christmas is the time for miracles, isn’t it? Let the festivities begin!

I also posted my review of Dying for Christmas – an altogether different kind of Christmas read!

4. Christmas 24 and the rest!

I’m such a sucker for those made-for-TV Christmas films. Seriously, I can’t get enough. Most of them are terrible, but in a really good way. And now and again you find some that are actually great, in nothing but a great way!

This week however, I watched One Christmas starring a very old and scary-looking Katharine Hepburn and THE FONZ. Sounds great right? Wrong. It was so, so bad, and not very festive at all. Avoid!

5. Miscellaneous Festive Funtimes:

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This week I also bought a new Christmas jumper which is AMAZING and I bought some red candles in the hopes that I’d find a cheap candelabra thing to put in the window but I couldn’t find one. Any ideas for my candles? There’s always wine bottles I guess. Bit boring though.

Up Next: More festive reads, my Christmas cake progress, and hopefully salted chocolate & cinnamon fudge gets added to my hampers. And I’m going to an ELF Quote-A-Long at my favourite cinema. Yessss!

Merry Festiving!

Festive Thursday (part 2)!

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We should be used to this by now shouldn’t we!? Christmas happens every year. We say we are are going to be prepared and not stress out but every single year December just seems to fly by without warning.

It’s not like I have loads of things I HAVE to do at Christmas, my mum practically does everything, all I am in charge of this year is the Christmas dinner starter and the pigs in blankets, but there are always too many things that I want to do in the lead up to Christmas but never get round to, because it goes so bloody fast!

I did cross making Christmas pudding vodka off my list this year at least. But I didn’t get round to making a Christmas cake, or gingerbread, and I haven’t even watched A Muppet’s Christmas Carol yet. I know, disaster right!?

I did however attend London Santacon which is quickly becoming one of my favourite days of the year. That is me bottom right, I have no idea who that other Santa is.

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Here’s the low-down on Santacon from http://:www.santacon.co.uk :

Santacon is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious celebratory parade of Christmas cheer, goodwill, and fun. It is not a membership organisation, just a traditional event in London, created by whoever wants to take part. There is no particular reason to dress up in Santa suits, run around town, give gifts, sing songs, have strangers sit on our laps, and decide who is naughty or nice – but it’s a lot of fun – so Santa does it anyway. Everyone loves Santa and Santa loves everyone!”

Memorise these answers to important questions that may arise:
Who’s in charge? “Santa!”
What organization are you with? “Santa.”
What are you protesting? “We’re not protesting we’re celebrating.”
Why? “Because it’s Christmas!”
How did you get here? “A sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.”
Where are you going next? “I’m only allowed to tell you if you wear this hat and buy me a beer.”

Top 5 Christmas Films:

1. Santa Claus, The movie – (No, not the Tim Allen one although I am also a fan of that.) Me and my mum nearly always watch this on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, in our pjs, lying on the sofa. Bliss.

2. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol – I broke my own tradition this year by failing to watch (and sing) this while I’m wrapping presents. But do not fret, a viewing is on the cards.

3. Home Alone – This is what I actually watched this year when I was wrapping my presents, and according to my Twitter and fb feeds, I think the whole of the UK was watching it too.

4. ELF – Or ELLLLLLLLLLLLLF as I like to call it. This has been a steady climber to the top of my list. Every time I watch it I love it a little bit more. Even though I usually hate Will Ferrell films.

5. Gremlins – It’s between this and Die Hard. Both of them aren’t always thought of as Christmas Films, and are obviously quite different to the rest but they are awesome, and definitely ARE Christmas films.

Others worthy of mentions are Bad Santa for the lols, Narnia for the magic and Black Christmas from the rubbish slasher remake. And one that I have shockingly never seen – It’s a Wonderful Life. This year has to be the year! And I went to see Frozen last night, it was AMAZING. One of the best Disney films I’ve ever seen!

Bookwise:
I recently finished (and enjoyed) Starry Night by Deborah Macomber. You can read my review here.

Next up is The Night Before Christmas:
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All Lydia’s ever wanted is a perfect Christmas…
So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like a dream come true. She’s been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies – all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card. But her winter wonderland is ruined when she finds herself snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger. Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year..

If you missed part 1 of my festive antics, you can see it here.
I’m not sure if I’ll be posting next week or not, it depends on how much time I get so I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas/Holiday/Family time etc!