My family aren’t big on Birthday’s but one thing we do celebrate with full fervor is Christmas! Things have changed now that we’re a bit older but we still have some Christmas traditions that have played their part every year. Seeing as it’s Christmas Eve, I thought I’d share a few with you.
For a lot of people, the start of Christmas is marked by seeing the Coca Cola advert, or opening the first door on their advent calendar. For me it is when we pick up the tree. We always have a real tree from an independent grower that lives in the back of beyond (Ulpha). I love the drive up there, it reminds me just how beautiful the Lakes are, especially in Winter.
You get to wander through the forest to pick your own tree and he will come along with his axe and chop it down for you. Then you can pick a tree for next year, put a tag with your family’s name on it and watch it grow!
Fast forward to Christmas Eve (tonight) and we’ll all be staying over at my Parents. My Sister will wake Matt and I up ridiculously early but Dad will save us with a bacon sarnie and some fresh coffee.
Then we start to open our stockings, normally with a glass of champagne in hand. They’re full of lots of little surprises but they always include a huge red apple and an orange. That might sound strange to you but it comes from when my Mum was little and her Aunt in Canada would send over a box of huge apples at Christmas.
Next we get started on opening the presents in our sacks.Most are surprises, but there’s a few things we’ll get every year: my Dad will get Walnut Whips, I’ll get Turkish delight. It takes us ages to get through the gifts because everyone wants to know what each other has got. By the time we’ve finished, the living room floor will be covered in wrapping paper and we won’t know where to start with the tidy up.
My Mum tends to pick my Nanna up as soon as it is a reasonable hour, normally about 10am. Dad pours her a little tipple and we watch her open all her gifts and open the ones from her.
Christmas Dinner is turkey with all the trimmings around 1pm. My Aunty and Uncle have a farm so the turkey normally comes as a gift from them along with some of my Auntie’s home made goodies.
Dad will massively over cater and something will probably be forgotten but it’s always delicious. We’ll stuff our selves silly and retire to the living room to try out our presents and no doubt slip in to a food induced snooze.
Once we’ve recovered, Matt and I will head to his Mum’s for Christmas dinner number 2 and to exchange presents. I love the fact we get to do it all twice! This is our first year in my parent’s new house. I’ve had 23 years of celebrating Christmas in our old house so this is the start of a new era I guess! How will you be spending tomorrow?
It seems everyone is posting Christmas Cookie recipes this week so I thought I’d jump on board and give you my almond and vanilla cookie recipe. There’s no fancy icing to tackle or strange techniques, just plain, simple baking.
300g raw cane sugar
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g flaked almonds
Line two baking trays and preheat the oven to 175°C
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
Beat in the egg and vanilla essence.
Sift in the flour and bicarb and add the flaked almonds.
Squeeze and knead to work the flour in, then roll in to small balls. (The dough should make about 25)
Space out on the baking tray (they’ll expand) and flatten slightly.
This year I decided it was about time I learnt to tie pretty bows to dress up my gifts. After an hour on youtube I’d tried 3/4 different styles and mastered none. Then just as I was about to give up, I found one that I could almost do, in my own way, so I thought I’d share a little tutorial.
Now, some may say I’ve cheated- this is more how to cut and staple a pretty bow than to tie one. But it’s simple and looks impressive when done. So, here we go…
Cut the following lengths from 1inch thick ribbon:
3 x 10inch
2 x 8inch
1 x 4inch
Twist both ends to the middle and staple. Repeat for all but the smallest – roll that one up.
Group each size and staple together
Finally, staple them all together and you have a pretty bow!
I think they look really effective, even on plain old brown parcel paper. Let me know if you try them!
Line a large baking tray (in fact even a lasagna dish will do)
Set up an easy double boiler by floating a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Break your milk chocolate in to chunks and pop it in to start melting. Stir every so often until silky smooth.
Pour in to your baking tray and give it a little shuffle so that it spreads evenly. Do the same for the white chocolate.
Once you have both layers of chocolate in the tray, take a fork and swirl away to create a slightly marbled effect. Rather “zen garden” isn’t it?
Call in the kids. Pop the candy canes in a zip lock bag and arm them with a rolling pin. They’ll have a great time smashing up the candy and you can reward your assistants by letting them dive in to any chocolate that’s left in the bowls.
Sprinkle your candy all over the top and leave to set. Then it is time to choose your team: perfectly cut shapes or crazy shards? I prefer the crazy shards look and snap mine roughly by hand. If you want to try something fancier, a firm press on a cookie cutter should do the trick.
These will keep in an air tight box in the fridge for 2 weeks. I’ll wrap mine up in some polythene and tie with a pretty bow. They’ll make the perfect stocking fillers for my family.