December 24th – Christmas Eve!

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Well, we’re here! We made it to Christmas Eve even though the excitement sometimes made it feel like we’d never make it. In the words of Kermit the Frog “There’s only one more sleep ’til Christmas” – how are you holding in the excitement? I know I’m having a hard time!

I can’t believe it’s here already and I also can’t believe I managed to think of 24 blogs about Christmas – it was pretty tough at times. I hope you enjoyed reading them!

Christmas Eve as a child was always full of anticipation and pretty much just waiting until I could go to bed and wake up on Christmas Day. My sister and I had stockings to put at the end of our beds. We would put out a mince-pie and a white wine spritzer for Santa (what can I say? it was the 80’s!) I never twigged that that was one of my Mum’s tipples and that she’d probably be the one drinking it….. call me naive but I believed in Santa! I think I used to put out a carrot for the reindeer too.

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Later on I would find myself working the majority of my Christmas Eves. In retail Christmas Eve means an early close (usually about 4/5pm) and then all hands on deck to prepare the store for the Boxing Day sales. It’s hard work and not easy to manage if everyone isn’t fully there in mind – it’s hard to keep a load of 18-20 year olds focussed on the task at hand when they want to go and see their friends in the pub! The years I wasn’t working Christmas Eve meant I was working Boxing Day instead, so I wouldn’t get the extra family day. I would plan a Christmas dinner for Gary and I to eat on Christmas Eve evening.

I used to always insist on watching The Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. Over the years this has changed and now we always watch The Holiday and The Polar Express. This year will be no different and tonight, after dinner I’ll put on my cosy pjs and watch Polar Express whilst drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. I’m so excited!

What are your Christmas Eve traditions? Have they changed over the years?

So all that’s left is to wish you lovely lot a fantastic Christmas Day. I hope it’s a day full of love and family (and lots of yummy grub!) – stay happy, blessed and most of all stay safe.

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Happy Christmas!!

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December 23rd

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Today is Christmas Eve Eve.  It’s always been my favourite day of Christmas, maybe because it’s the ‘underdog’ Christmas day. It’s almost Christmas Eve but not quite so the excitement is building. There’s no tradition associated with it other than an impending sense of something amazing is about to happen.

It also happens to be my Niece’s birthday and I never get to see her because I’m always working on her birthday – usually until some ridiculous hour like 10pm. This year I get to see her and I’m super excited.

I’m going to write about Christmas Eve tomorrow – it seems appropriate – but today I want to comment on Christmas Day.

As I said Christmas Eve has its own traditions, Christmas Eve Eve is about anticipation and that last push before the holiday. Christmas Day I find is always somewhat of an anti-climax and as a result is my least favourite of all the Christmas days. What? I hear you cry. I realise this is a weird thing to say especially coming from a Christmas fanatic like myself. But hear me out. The build up to the day is so full of wonderful excitement and anticipation. The magic of Santa coming, buying the perfect gift and the secrecy that comes with it, seeing friends, parties, the food, the decorations. But once the day is there you know there’s none of that wait any more and the next day all the decorations have a slightly tarnished look about them. I like to take them down as soon as I can after the 25th and I’m eager for the new year to start.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Christmas Day. Spending time with family and giving them the gifts I’ve spent so much time thinking through. I hope you see what I mean? But there is one thing I adore about Christmas; the calm that seems to spread over everything. There are fewer people on the streets and the roads, and every one has a serenity about them. You know that everyone is in their homes preparing food, laughing, singing and doing exactly the same as the family in the next house. The world seems quiet. Businesses are closed so there’s nowhere to go (except for pubs but the same things are going on inside them too!) and you have no option but to enjoy the company of those you’re with.

I’ll never forget a couple of years ago when Gary and I were making the short drive from our house to my parents. As we passed the only other car on the street I looked inside to see the driver who looked exactly like Santa. I must have exclaimed out loud and possibly pointed at the guy because he looked delighted and started laughing as he drove past. He must have know who he’d reminded me of.

I hope you know what I mean when I describe this Christmas calm I feel. I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, and not everyone celebrates with other people at this time. It’s not always happy and it’s not always successful, but surely everyone can sense the Christmas spirit on the day? And if you never have, maybe this year you will 🙂

Happy Christmas Eve Eve!

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December 22nd

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This Christmas has been unlike any other for one reason – I’ve been very very lazy. I was thinking back over my lifetime of Christmases and I think that ever since I was old enough to write my own cards or buy my own presents to hand out I’d been planning Christmas since about October.

When I was at school I would do my Christmas shopping in the October half term because who has the time to do it at the weekends or evenings? School always ran right up to a few days before the big day and you needed to have your gifts to give to friends by then anyhow. Then once I’d left school I went into jobs that had retail hours, so I again had to plan ahead in order to get everything done. Years later I usually had a meal planned for Gary and I on Christmas Eve if I wasn’t working, so then there was food shopping to factor in.

This year I’m not working retail hours for the first time in 11 years and I have all the time in the world to shop, buy, wrap, plan and write cards. As a result I left it until yesterday 😀 It’s been amazing not having to be über prepared and have everything prepared early. I’ve really enjoyed a stress-less nonchalant approach to christmas this year. I could never understand how people could leave things so late, but now I realise that if there’s no rush then there’s no stress. Bootiful! And it’s giving me time to enjoy everything else!

On a fairly unrelated note, I saw this recipe on The Vegan Cookie Fairy‘s blog and thought I’d share it – it looks amazing!

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December 21st – Let It Snow

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Let’s talk about the weather. I must say that when I was younger I loved the snow, and longed for a white Christmas, but most of my life Christmas Day has been clear and crisp and mild. In fact I can’t think of a single Christmas Day when it rained. We’ve even had some amazing Christmas Day sunsets.

I seem to remember it being snowy every year in the winter when I was very little. I can see the street I grew up on, all white and mushy, in my mind’s eye. But for the longest time I remember the weather being nothing special.

For the last few years we’ve had snow around Christmas Day but never on the day itself. I remember some very stressful Christmas weeks in retail working extra long shifts because my staff couldn’t make it into work, and crawling home in the snow trying to get through a 20 minute drive and it taking hours. For some reason when it snows everyone panics and becomes an idiot on the road. It’s fairly entertaining, just not when you want to be out in it!

This year the newspapers were saying we should expect the worst wintry weather in history. Snow storms to end them all. Thankfully this hasn’t happened (yet) and it’s remained mild. We just have very strong winds and a fair bit of rain.

I’m a fan of snow but only when I don’t have anywhere to be – though I would admit I really would love a white Christmas Day.

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December 20th

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There’s one thing missing this Christmas, and it’s something I never thought I’d ever miss: Christmas Carols.

When I was a kid I went to church with my parents and there were obviously Christmas Carol concerts, and Christingles. Then at school I was always in the choir so we had a few concerts to sing carols at every year. As I’ve gotten older, they’ve disappeared from my Christmas time traditions.  But this year I’ve kinda missed listening to them and hearing people sing them. I’d hoped that one of my nieces might have had a concert that I could go to, but nope. Maybe next year!

I’m not really sure what my favourite Christmas Carol is…. but I’m partial to this one and have great fun trying to work out all the different parts. It’s very complex. Enjoy!

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December 19th

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Every year, in the UK, there’s a battle – for Christmas number 1 single. In the most recent years it’s been monopolised by The X Factor, but when I was a kid I remember always listening to the Radio One top 40 with anticipation to find out what it was.

From the grid below (starting from the year I was born) you’ll see that it was around 2005 that the X Factor began to dominate that title, but before then there was quite a mix!

Year[19] Artist Song Weeks at
No. 1[10][19][20]
1983 The Flying Pickets Only You 5
1984 Band Aid Do They Know It’s Christmas? 5
1985 Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone 2
1986 Jackie Wilson Reet Petite 4
1987 Pet Shop Boys Always on My Mind 4
1988 Cliff Richard Mistletoe and Wine[nb 3] 4
1989 Band Aid II Do They Know It’s Christmas? 3
1990 Cliff Richard Saviour’s Day 1
1991 Queen Bohemian Rhapsody” / “These Are the Days of Our Lives[nb 2] 5
1992 Whitney Houston I Will Always Love You 10
1993 Mr Blobby Mr Blobby 2
1994 East 17 Stay Another Day 5
1995 Michael Jackson Earth Song 6
1996 Spice Girls 2 Become 1 3
1997 Spice Girls Too Much 2
1998 Spice Girls Goodbye 1
1999 Westlife I Have a Dream” / “Seasons in the Sun[nb 2] 4
2000 Bob the Builder Can We Fix It? 3
2001 Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman Somethin’ Stupid 3
2002 Girls Aloud Sound of the Underground 4
2003 Michael Andrews & Gary Jules Mad World 3
2004 Band Aid 20 Do They Know It’s Christmas? 4
2005 Shayne Ward That’s My Goal 4
2006 Leona Lewis A Moment Like This 4
2007 Leon Jackson When You Believe 3
2008 Alexandra Burke Hallelujah 3
2009 Rage Against the Machine Killing in the Name 1
2010 Matt Cardle When We Collide 3
2011 Military Wives with Gareth Malone Wherever You Are 1
2012 The Justice Collective[nb 4] He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother[18] 1

I think the first year I really remember the importance of the Christmas number 1 was the year Mr Blobby hit the chart, because I hated it so much! Before then I just remember Christmas songs hitting the spot, and not really understanding what it meant. That year we had a little disco in my classroom at school and Mr Blobby was played – ick! It’s nice to see a lot of the more recent songs are charity based, and in the last few years campaigns have been put in place to boycott the X Factor single winning. In 2008 Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah very nearly toppled the X Factor version due to mp3 downloads counting as sales in the chart, and the following year Rage Against the Machine won their campaign and hit number one with Killing in the Name – very festive!

I’m a fan of a festive number one. Cliff Richard, Band Aid, call me old fashioned but if you’re not singing about Christmas it doesn’t really work! This year’s contenders are The X Factor winner’s single, Highway To Hell by AC/DC (another Facebook campaign to boycott X Factor), Leona Lewis’ Christmas single ‘One More Sleep’ and Somewhere Only We Know sung by Lily Allen (for the John Lewis advert) amongst the standard popular singles.

Who will it be? We’ll know in only a few days! I hope it’s something festive 😀

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December 18th: Friends

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Last night I was able to have my first girly get together at my new house. It was exciting because being able to host in a house which is comfortable, and mine was amazing but also because it’s Christmas. I got some food in and the girls brought some bottles and we listened to music and set the world to rights for a good few hours.

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Christmas is all about friends and family, and I loved having the girls over not just to chat but also to spread Christmas cheer and just be together. This is a great bunch of girls! We have to meet again soon though, because one of our group was unable to make it – gotta put that right!

Last weekend I was able to travel with one of my best friends to London to visit another bestie, at her home. We met up in Covent Garden, had lunch and then went for a walk around seeing the lights and shops. It was wonderful to spend quality time with them both and it felt all the more special because of the festivities.

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I’m loving the social side of Christmas, and often find it frustrating when people say they want to meet up and then if I don’t arrange it myself it doesn’t happen. This hasn’t happened this year, as people are making the effort to contact me. That makes me feel that they’re real friends and want to see me. Friendship works two ways and this Christmas I’m really appreciating all the friends I have and counting my blessings that they’re in my life.

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December 17th: Walking in a Winter Wonderland

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This year I have visited Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland twice already and I would gladly go back. Having been for two years previously, but never with Gary and never a night, we decided that we needed to give it a visit. So two weekends ago we hopped on a train and traipsed with the crowds to check out this year’s offering.

We turned up at about ten to 5 and were turned away by police warning us that it was so busy it would take about 2 hours to get to the front of the line, and it was so busy that we’d be shuffling through the crowds to get anywhere any how. So we turned back and went to some other places in London before coming back at about 8pm. By this time the crowd has dispersed but it was still very busy.

We weren’t disappointed by the food offering – food from everywhere, but mostly Germany as it’s a German market, duh! We had already eaten dinner by this point, not knowing if we would make it back into the place after being turned around to start with. I’ve had the bratwurst and red cabbage there before though, and it’s amazing! Gary and I spotted a lot of places we wanted to try, but as soon as we saw the sweetcorn stand we knew we had to buy. A massive corn cob, boiled and then painted with melted butter and sprinkled with salt. It was outstanding!

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We carried on walking around and headed towards the Giant Wheel which looked amazing against the black night sky.

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There was a fun fair next and more food stalls, bars with live bands and market stalls. It’s a very festive place to be, with Christmas music playing everywhere. We headed up to the Bavarian Village which I’d been to before, but only in the day and it sounded amazing inside. We didn’t go in, needing to head back for our train. We had such a great time, and will definitely be going back next year. I only realised afterwards that we’d missed the Ice Rink and I would have loved to go and watch the skaters. Next year perhaps.

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On Friday, for my work Christmas party we packed up early and I headed to Winter Wonderland again! It’s a great place to go with a group of friends. We grabbed some pints and headed to see what was what. The rain started pretty lightly as we were heading in, but soon it was coming down heavily and we escaped into a Carousel bar. The bar was in the centre of a moving carousel and you stood around it. It was a great laugh singing and dancing as the world spun around you. Then we moved onto the Bavarian Village where you could get steins (2 pints) of beer and there was a live German band playing, followed by a very entertaining middle-aged German man named Joseph who really got the crowd going. You could buy food and drink inside and it was dry and very warm so we spent about 2 and a half hours inside before heading out to try some of the rides before they closed. A great time was had by all!

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Winter Wonderland is the kind of place that groups of friends, family, young and old can appreciate and there’s something for everyone. I’m so glad I’ve been able to visit not just once but twice this year, and I can’t wait to visit again next year!

Have you visited Winter Wonderland or a German Market this year? What’s your favourite thing to do there?
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December 16th

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One of my favourite things about Christmas is most definitely watching movies. I have a strict list of movies that I have to watch this time of year, and I’m very particular about which ones can be watched at which points in the lead up to Christmas. Now that it’s just over a week until Christmas, it’s perfectly acceptable to watch them, and so, perfectly acceptable to write about them! So here goes:

Serendipity is vaguely about Christmas and so acceptable to watch in the lead up to the main week. As is When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail – but then I’m happy to watch these all year round 🙂

The Holiday is one of my favourite Christmas films of recent years. Gary likes to watch this as close to Christmas as possible, so I can see this being one of our Christmas Eve movies this year. I love the mix of US and UK in it, and how it makes it seem like everyone in England lives in little detached cottages…… of course we do! But it’s funny and sad and adorable and the kids in it are amazing actresses. Definitely one to watch if you haven’t already.

I saw Love, Actually for the first time last year and it’s made it onto my Christmas movie list this year. I don’t normally like British movies but am a fan of Richard Curtis’ films and had never seen this thinking it seemed too mushy. Well it is in parts but it’s done very well and the actors are great – I’m partial to a Hugh Grant film too. I was pleasantly surprised by this, and so I’ll have to try to find the time to watch it this year – it’s like 2.5hrs long……

Home Alone and Home Alone 2 HAVE to be on the list. The score alone is a Christmas staple in our home (John Williams), but the movies are amazing and always have you glued to the screen no matter how many years you’ve watched them.

The Muppet Christmas Carol used to be my ultimate Christmas Eve movie, but has been replaced (by a movie I’ll tell you about in a minute) but it’s still a huge favourite of mine. I know most of the dialogue and the lyrics to all the songs. Recent versions of this film omit the soppy and badly sung song in the middle from Scrooge’s Mrs. I know some people miss it (or didn’t even know it existed!), but I’m glad a decision was made to scrap it. It won’t be long before I’m putting this movie on for its annual spin.

Bernard and the Genie is another Richard Curtis film, and one that no one has usually ever heard of, but it’s a huge favourite of mine. At about 70 mins long, it’s kind of a tv movie, but not to me and my family. It’s completely of its time, set in the 90’s with a lot of 90’s celeb cameos, but if you can get hold of a copy please please watch it. Alan Cumming and Lenny Henry and Rowan Atkinson are fabulous in it.

Of course there are some movies I don’t mind watching that I haven’t mentioned yet: Scrooged, I saw Elf for the first time this year which wasn’t bad, It’s A Wonderful Life, but none compare to those listed abover. Now for my ultimate Christmas movie. The movie I HAVE to watch on Christmas Eve and only on Christmas Eve. On the big screen with all the room lights off and the Christmas lights on…..

The Polar Express *is* Christmas. The music (Alan Silvestri), the story, the visuals. I would love to have seen it in 3D at some point. It’s a cosy, feel good movie with everything you’d want to get you in the mood for Santa visiting. I just LOVE it.

So those are my favourite Christmas movies, what are yours? Do you have any really hardly known favourites?

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December 15th

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The time has come. With ten days until Christmas it’s about time I wrote about food!

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Food is one of the best things about Christmas. All the spices and roasted foods, comforting and wonderful to smell. Chestnuts are a big favourite of mine. I never really had them until I met Gary but it was a standard thing for his family. Cut a notch into each one, pop into the oven and soon you’ll have a wonderful warm snack. It’s fun to crack them open and then you get to eat what’s inside!

I also find I’m now fond of Stollen, despite hating fruit cake or anything with raisins inside. It’s sweet, soft and usually has lots of marzipan and icing sugar. What’s not to love?!

This time of year I’m partial to the odd mulled wine and a cocktail or two, but my favourite Christmas tipple is a snowball. That’s advocaat and lemonade. It’s fairly old-fashioned but so yummy. I like to have a few while I wrap the Christmas presents!

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Something I’ve discovered this year is butternut squash, and after having it for the first time about a month ago I scoured Pinterest for more recipes. I found this amazing one from The Vegan Cookie Fairy, for roasted butternut squash and chestnuts. It has sweet shallots and thyme in it too. We made it a few nights ago, and even though it was for 4 people we ate the whole lot. It was amaze-balls! You should try it if you like butternut squash, and it was so easy to make. I’m even considering making some to take to my in-laws for Christmas Day.

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This time of year I also love party food, and in my family celery sticks with Primula is a bit of a tradition in Christmas evening’s buffet. Anything you can eat with your hands is okay with me! I love Wenslydale cheese with cranberry, Quality Streets, maple roasted parsnips, and even the odd brussels sprout. It’s all good!

Darn it, now I’m starving……

What’s your favourite food at this time of year?

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