Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Eve

Christmas Decorations

I enjoy Christmas. I like the decorations and the preparations...and the cooking. I do find, however, that it goes on too long. If I put up the tree at the beginning of December, I would be fed up with it by Christmas, so I refuse to put up the tree and decorations more than a week before Christmas - and even then I am more than likely to want to take it all down again on New Year's Day.

Mark gets very grumpy putting up decorations - particularly the lights - so this year I put everything up on my day off, while he was at work!

Christmas tree decoration

Every year I fill Mark's wooden advent train with chocolates and one or two gifts. This year I bought him this gorgeous hand-felted cat in a Christmas stocking. I am a big fan of Etsy and found this little fella from Felt In Devon - it's so soft and very cute. I think Mark likes it too (he's such a big softie) as he's been pointing it out to anyone who comes to visit.

felt cat tree decoration

Talking of cats and trees, Max has adopted his usual Christmas snoozing place...on top of the gifts! This big box is his favourite this year.

Max under the Christmas tree

Westonbirt Arboretum: Enchanted Christmas

It has become a Christmas tradition for us to go to Westonbirt Arboretum's Enchanted Christmas. The trees are illuminated in lots of ways - there are disco balls and bubble machines, things that project images of visitors' faces on to the trees, machines blowing smoke rings, lights that are triggered by the sound visitors make, lights that look like fire and fireworks, delicate fairy lights, festive stalls and snow machines. it was a bit wet and muddy so I didn't take a tripod and the photos are not great, but hopefully they will give you an idea.

visitor's face projected on a tree

lights and smoke

fairy lights

multi-coloured tree

archway of lights
We are friends of Westonbirt and, as well as frequent walks there, we have been to a number of events and concerts and have never lost the car in the dark...until Friday! I felt so foolish as we traipsed through the mud looking for our car. The other downside was that Friday was the only day we (and Mark's parents) could make it to the arboretum, which meant that we missed both the annual Christmas street party and the final Bristol Audit Commission Christmas party. So many people left last week and the week before as they came to the end of their redundancy notice, it will be very strange and quiet when I go back in the New Year. The saving grace is that I will have a lot to do before I also leave at Easter, and I suspect the next three months will fly by.

 Christmas Cooking

 Well, the cooking goes on. Two friends at work each asked me to make them yule logs...and I had already said yes before I remembered I hadn't actually made one before. I had made swiss rolls and roulades, so was confident it wouldn't be a problem. I went through my many cookery books and googled a bit and found that Nigella's yule log recipe was well reviewed and very similar to the Hairy Bikers' recipe, so it seemed like a safe bet. Not only did the yule logs give me the chance to try making meringue mushrooms (another first), but I tasted the bits I trimmed off to roll up the cake and it was so yummy I made us one too, for when Mark's parents came over.

yule log with meringue mushrooms

Another Nigella recipe I like to make is her fir tree cake - the tin was pricey but friends and family have borrowed it over the years, so it has been worth it. This year I added cinnamon essence and ground cinnamon and some lovely red and white polka dot candles and teacup crackers.

cinnamon fir tree cake
We lit the candles and then served it yesterday with a warm berry compote and double cream. As we are spending Christmas Day with Mark's family, we had my family over yesterday for a Swedish-ish Christmas celebration. I had intended to make rice pudding with a warm cherry sauce (which the Scandinavian Christmas book says is Danish), but there was just going to be too much food, so I skipped the rice pudding and used a mix of fruit rather than just cherries. Note the lovely Scandinavian mugs in the background (a birthday present when I was in Sweden earlier in the year).

fir tree cake with candles

Some of the the Scandinavian food was great - the gravadlax and herring in mustard crispbreads to start, the gammon joint with quince syrup, the spiced red cabbage and Annika's recipe for mandelmusslorna (little almond cakes baked in little individual pretty shaped tins - Annika sent me a selection of the tins). However, I was not keen on the sherry-cream sauce for the meatballs (I prefer a tomato sauce) and the jury is out on the Jansson's Temptation. My family seemed to like the creamy things more than I did - perhaps I have just lost the taste for cream.

meatballs with a sherry and cream sauce

I made a selection of little cakes and gingerbread (and cheated with some punschrulle and chokladboll from Ocado's Swedish Shop). I had intended to make the gingerbread horses more like Dala horses, but ran out of time and energy.

Scandinavian-ish cake and biscuit selection

Homemade Christmas Gifts

I like to give homemade gifts as much as I can, so made rocky road, gingerbread and stollen. Of course, gingerbread is just not gingerbread without edible glitter!

glittery gingerbread baubles

 This year Mark's brother is bringing his friend and her two daughters for Christmas. I haven't met them before and wanted to be able to give the two girls a little something. Hopefully these fairy peg-dolls will be well-received. They were certainly good fun to make!

Merry Christmas

Whether you are celebrating today or tomorrow (or not celebrating at all and just making the most of some quiet time), I hope everyone enjoys a happy and peaceful Christmas! Mark and I have a quiet day planned today...just a little baking for tomorrow's Christmas lunch with Mark's family.


  1. What a marvellous cake!

    I am glad you liked (most of) the Scandinavian Christmas food - actually my personal favourite is Jansson's Temptation :-) - and the gravad lax of course!

    The trip round Westonbirt Aboretumn looks wonderful - so nice to get away from all the food for a little while, don't you think?

    We cannot have the christmas gifts under the tree, because one eager little dog steals them... he is totally convinced that they are all for him!

    I hope you are having a lovely Christmas Day! Hugs from Sweden!

    1. I think part of the trouble with the Jansson's was that I have never had it cooked properly, so do not know what it is supposed to be like - perhaps next time I visit I could be cheeky and ask if you would cook it for me?

      I have been very impressed with the cats' gift wrapping abilities. This year they gave Mark latte glasses and spoons (to go with his Tassimo coffee maker), they gave Mark's parents a calendar and some hot chocolate powder and they gave me a bottle of Marc Jacob's 'Daisy' eau de parfum - all beautifully wrapped and tied with ribbon.

      Talking of ribbon, a very nice Swedish lady gave me a gorgeous pair of earrings and Rio really loved the curled ribbons around the box.

      I will write properly about Christmas, but it was very nice - pin the nose on the reindeer, pass the parcel, singing the 12 Days of Christmas (with all the actions). Lots of fun!