There aren’t any children in our household, however that doesn’t stop us getting excited about Christmas. Christmas proper for us generally begins on Advent – this year, the 3rd of December. On that day, the tree gets erected, decorations go up and, if we’ve managed a bit of forward planning, the first door of the Advent calendar gets opened.
There’s a growing number of grown-up Advent calendars on the market – and there’s something for everyone – glamour pusses, real ale drinkers, coffee connoisseurs as well as the sweet-toothed. Here are three of our favourites…
- Christmas coffee advent by Perkulatte: £40, Notonthehighstreet
- Beer advent calendar: £74.99, The Pip Stop
- 24-day beauty advent calendar: £120.00, Selfridges
Many people don’t like thinking about Christmas until the beginning of December – I know I don’t! However, there are a few things that need to be prepared well in advance for them to be at their peak for the big day. Christmas cake, sloe gin, piccalilli and home-made mincemeat are just a few.
I’m very fussy about my mincemeat; I don’t like it to be overly citrusy – so, very little orange or lemon zest & juice and no mixed candied peel. In addition, it needs to be veggie – so can only contain vegetarian suet. The only way to ensure it tastes the way I like it is to make it myself. A very easy job and well worthwhile. It works out much cheaper than the cost of ‘luxury’ jars of the stuff in supermarkets. Once made, potted up and put away correctly, it stores unopened for years!
Save my luxury home-made mincemeat recipe to Pinterest!
Luxury home-made mincemeat
- 200g/7oz currants
- 200g/7oz raisins
- 200g/7oz sultanas
- 100g/3½oz dried cranberries
- 100g/3½oz figs, roughly chopped
- 100g/3½oz prunes, roughly chopped
- 30g/1oz blanched almonds*, roughly chopped
- 1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored & finely diced
- 300g/10½oz muscovado sugar
- 200g/7oz vegetable suet
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 3tsp mixed spice
- ½tsp cinnamon
- ¼tsp nutmeg
- 6tbsp rum or brandy
- 100g/3½oz butter, cubed
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- Put all the ingredients except the alcohol into a large saucepan over a low heat
- Stir to ensure the contents are well combined and the suet and butter have melted (about 10 minutes)
- Allow to cool completely before stirring in the alcohol
- Decant into sterilised jam jars - gently bang the bottom of each jar to fit as much of the mincemeat in as possible.
- Seal the jars immediately and store for at least a month before use
- *To blanch almonds, put them in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 1-2 minutes before draining through a sieve. Pat them dry on some kitchen paper or clean tea towel. You can quickly get the skin off one by one by pinching the broader, rounded end of the nut
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When it comes to most things H is for Home, Fudge shows little or no interest in proceedings. However, the arrival of a box of tasty treats from Webbox, meant that he suddenly wanted to get involved!
We started by asking for his feedback on their premium fresh chicken with garden vegetables. He was too busy eating to talk, but we got the distinct impression that he approved. It’s made from 100% natural ingredients – easily digestible protein, vegetables, beneficial herbs, mineral rich seaweed and slow-release carbohydrate energy in the form of brown rice – a complete food that provides just about everything required for a well-balanced diet.
A sample of the little snacks followed. The flavour combinations are very exciting – for example, the healthy treat bars – chicken with pea & blueberries and chicken with duck & cranberry. Something a bit out of the ordinary for our canine cousins. Delicious was the verdict again!
We’ve held some of Fudge’s hamper back so he has something to enjoy on Christmas Day. He’s got a three bird roast turkey kibble, pork chipolatas and ‘pigs in blanket’ treats too. A glass of wine and he’ll be sorted!
It never ceases to amaze us the speed at which Fudge
can demolish a bowl of food. You’d think we starve him, but we can guarantee that’s far from the case. We always get the, “is there any more please?” look. Thanks to Webbox there’ll indeed be more to follow in the coming days![disclosure*]
I was never very good at science subjects at school; I couldn’t get my head around physics and chemistry especially. I enjoyed doing the practical experiments – adding one substance to another to make a solution – it’s very much like baking. However, reading in a text book that combining H2O with NaOH causes a reaction that results in Na+ and OH- ions and lots of heat, was Greek to me.
Fast-forward 30-something years and I’ll now always remember that particular little nugget of chemistry. H2O (water) and NaOH (caustic soda) are essential ingredients in soap making.
Add them to vegetable oil with a dash of essential oil, whisk it all up… and magic happens!
Pour the resulting custard-like liquid into your mould or moulds, allow it to cool slowly for 24 hours and you get your lovely bars or block of soap.
The Christmas melt & pour soap making kit that we’re giving away contains moulds in the shapes of a Christmas tree, gingerbread person, reindeer, Santa Claus and an angel. As this kit doesn’t include caustic soda, it’s suitable for use by children with adult supervision.
I really enjoyed making my own soap for the very first time. Having the kit with all the ingredients pre-portioned meant that it was really easy and I was confident embarking upon the strange chemistry & alchemy! I now have the courage to buy all the ingredients in larger quantities and try out other oils and fragrances.
Some of the bars of vanilla soap I’ve made have now been wrapped up in tissue paper and tied with string ready to be stocking fillers for friends & family.
The Soap Kitchen melt & pour soap-making kit
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It’s the day before Christmas Eve and suddenly you’re realised that you’ve left someone off your list. But don’t worry, panic over – here are a few last minute Christmas present ideas from retailers who accept pre-Christmas delivery orders tonight!
Amazon even offers some of their Prime members delivery on orders placed on Christmas Eve itself… some even as late as 9:45pm!
Please note though, next-day or same-day delivery may not apply to all items on the websites.
A4 lightbox: £25
Express delivery: Order by Friday 23 December, 9pm
FUJIFILM Instax Mini 8 instant camera & 10 shot bundle – black: £59.95
Next day delivery: Order on or before Friday 23rd December, 8pm
Nest learning thermostat with installation: £279
Order by Friday 23 December. One-day delivery: Last order time for delivery by Christmas varies by item and location. Express Delivery: Last order time for delivery by Christmas varies by item and location. Availability is limited.
Luckies smartphone projector in copper: £22
UK Standard: Order by Friday 23 December, 8pm
Deluxe ‘Name a star’: £24.99
Order by Friday 23 December, 10pm
You may think that buying jewellery for Christmas or any other special occasion is an easy option, but it isn’t always. What’s their ring size? Do they prefer gold or silver? Are their ears pierced? Do they have a nickel allergy? Do they even wear jewellery?
Some of these questions can be answered through simple observation. If possible, rifle through the intended recipient’s jewellery box and slide some of their rings on to your own fingers to gauge the size of their fingers. Don’t get caught though – you may be wrongly accused of attempted theft!
When’s their birthday? Give an item of jewellery that incorporates their birthstone. Get something personalised such as the fingerprint charm featured here (#5). It’s double-sided, so you can have the prints of two people impressed together for posterity.
- Amethyst & moonstone necklace: Pia
- Citrine earrings wrapped in 14k gold fill: Etsy
- Stainless steel cufflinks with brown leather inlay: John Greed
- LucyQ triple drip bangle (Size 7.75) in rhodium-plated sterling silver: TJC
- Fingerprint oval dangle charm: Hand on Heart