christmas decorations

It may feel like autumn has only just arrived, but before we know it winter will be knocking at the door, bringing chilly nights, cosy coats, and – of course – Christmas. It’s never too early to start planning ahead on how to make the most of the festive season. Especially when you’ve got the little ones to think about. It’s a truly magical time of year for children, and there’s so much you can do to make it even more memorable for them.

Letters to Santa

This can get your kids beginning to think of what they would like from Santa. Though the chances are they’ll probably have a number of different drafts before November rolls around. If you have a fireplace, you could leave the letters in the grate and tell your kids they’ll magically be delivered to the North Pole overnight. It creates a little bit of spark, rather than getting them to write it down and saying you’ll put it in the postbox.

Festive Baking

festive baking

Getting the kids in the kitchen is a great chance to make some family festive memories. After all, Christmas is known as a time for carbs and indulgent eating. A fun activity, which is so easy to involve the children. You can keep it simple and bake biscuits, and leave plenty of time for decorating them. You could see who can make the best Santa in icing. Or make the biscuit in the shape of a tree and get silver ball bearings. You’ll probably end up enjoying yourself as much as the kids.

Lights

christmas lights

Christmas brings so much joy during dark and dreary winter. Homes across the country light up, and everything feels that little bit cosier. So why not get your own home involved with this? You can go beyond the fairy lights on the tree. Cox & Cox offer a fantastic range of both indoor and outdoor light decorations. They’re perfect for bringing a little extra sparkle into your home this festive season. Whether you want to go for strings of stars for the ceiling or a reindeer for the garden, you’ll find a perfect piece.

Homemade Decorations

There are some families who are meticulous when it comes to the tree. There are certain colour schemes, strategic ornament placing and tinsel is a no. It tends to sap the joy from it. You and the kids could spend an afternoon making your own Christmas tree decorations. It could be as simple making a cotton ball snowman or cutting felt into stars. These pieces will soon become treasured traditions – things you’ll hang up on the trees in many years to come and remember the afternoon you’ve spent making them. A Christmas tree should reflect the family of the home that’s it in.

Disclosure: Collaborative post

 

Christmas family traditions

Christmas. I can’t believe it’s almost upon us, only a matter of days now and it will all be over, however it is and always will be one of my favourite times of year and one where I enjoy our Christmas family traditions most. I guess each of us have different ways of celebrating but for me it evolves around family, food and fun.

Christmas has always been special family time for me, when I get together with my mum, my brothers and the people I love most. Christmas is an occasion that I start planning in advance.

Hang on a minute, when I say advance I don’t mean January. I won’t even think about it in September. For me the planning will not commence until the Halloween decorations come down and I will admit to getting annoyed when I see Christmas decorations in the supermarket in September.

Christmas family traditions

First I have to think of my family in Italy who work over the Christmas season and can never join me. I buy their gifts and cards and post them well in advance to be sure they arrive in good time.

I ask the twins to write a Christmas list but this isn’t set in stone as they continue to add and subtract items through the course of November, however by the end of the month I have a good idea of the ‘big’ present they are after.

I start to keep an eye out for gift ideas in magazines, online ads, supermarkets and my favourite stores, I have learnt that if you see something and like it buy it because when you return it won’t be there.

By mid December I have most of my gifts and I start to wrap them up in the evenings when the girls go to bed.

I prepare Christmas Eve parcels for the girls.

I prepare Christmas stockings for them.

I organise a visit to Santa. This year we met him at Dreamland and the girls took their autograph books with them.

Next my thoughts turn towards the kitchen and everything I will need to see me through the four days of festive fun. In fact that is exactly where I am now, writing lists and menus and jotting down ideas. What’s on the menu?

Well this year I want to  start with a vintage prawn cocktail, it’s been deconstructed on Masterchef but I’m going for a classic but adding my favourite – avocado into the mix and possibly some finely chopped chilli for a kick to the proceedings. Next it’s traditional roast turkey with all, and I mean all, of the trimmings.

And of course I finish with a Christmas pudding served with brandy butter, custard and cream.

christmas pudding

I have my own home made Christmas cake to enjoy in the afternoon, the girls will help with some home made mince pies and I always treat us to a box of chocolates, this year Hotel Chocolat has caught my eye.

Finally it’s Christmas Day night, everyone is full to the brim, champagne has been drunk, special bottles of wine and liqueurs too, the odd cup of tea to balance out the digestive system and at a certain point it’s time to get out some ‘bits and pieces’, some snacks. A cheeseboard with our favourite cheeses, a pork pie from Melton Mowbray, pate and crisps with dips.

It certainly is a time to celebrate in our house at Christmas.

Homeserve have launched a video “A Very Homeserve Christmas” which you can see below and they asked me to tell you how we spend our Christmas, is it similar to yours?

 

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Homeserve

 

mulled wine recipe

It’s Mulled Wine time of year and I cannot fail to remember the times we used to prepare cauldrons of it to hang on a tripod in the hotel courtyard and wait for our cold guests to return after a day skiing on the pistes. A recipe for mulled wine that goes back a century and is still as satisfying today.

Mulled wine dolomites

The sight alone of the tripod with it’s log fire under the cauldron is enough to make you smile and as the guests arrived they’d gather around and accept a small cup of mulled wine allowing it to warm them up from head to toes.

mulled wine

Chatter would commence, stories of the day’s skiing, funny things that happened, achievements that were made, who had mastered the snowplough and who had attempted a black run for the first time.

Laughter could be heard as people relayed how their partner had ended up skiing backwards or completely misunderstood the ski instructor with embarrassing consequences

These were the moments of the holiday that sealed our guest’s love for our hotel, Club Hotel Alpino and our resort Folgaria, after a few glasses of mulled wine they’d head up to their rooms to get changed and later the conversation would flow easily as a bond had been made.

So when I see bottles of Mulled Wine for sale in the supermarkets, these are the memories I am filled with, good times.

mulled wine tripod

Lindeman’s Shiraz

However, we used to make our own and it is so simple. Lindeman’s have a delicious Shiraz that suits this recipe perfectly and seeing as the grapes are grown in the hot Australian sun you are adding good health and sunshine to your mulled wine too. Throw a couple of steaks on the barbie!

It’s good for you!

In case you needed an excuse to treat yourself to a delicious glass of mulled wine then please take note of the medicinal qualities of some of the ingredients…

Lindeman’s Shiraz – adds sunshine to your drink

Cinnamon stick – Antiflu properties

Cloves – antibacterial

lemon – antiseptical and good for the respiratory system

Orange – vitamin C

Apple – 1 a day keeps the doctor away

As if you needed that excuse! Cin Cin! as they say in the Dolomites.

 

Recipe for Mulled Wine from the Dolomites
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A recipe for Mulled Wine direct from the Dolomites to warm you from head to toe.
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of red wine, Lindeman's Shiraz
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 100g sugar
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a pan and heat slowly until it is warm but not too hot.
  2. Serve in small cups or mugs.
All photos of vin brulé in Folgaria at Club Hotel Alpino with the kind permission of my daughter in law Oana Dascalul

Find more information on Club Hotel Alpino, the perfect family friendly hotel in the Dolomites.

Find more information on Folgaria

chocolate salami

When I lived in Italy one of my favourite things to make, not just for Christmas but throughout the year, was a chocolate salami.

I guess you could compare it to our rice krispie cakes in that they are easy to make, the kids can help and everyone loves them. The original recipe is chocolate, biscuits and raw eggs but I’ve found a way of eliminating the raw eggs and also over the years, have tried to add extra ingredients to make them more interesting. I’ve tried dried apricots, raisins, sultanas and lots of different nuts too.

The adult version also has 3 tbsp brandy which have been omitted here as I wanted the children to be able to eat it too. The brandy can also be substituted with port, rum or your favourite tipple. Baileys? Mmmmm.

They are the perfect afternoon treat with milk, or naughty but nice in front of the television when the kids are all in bed. In fact thinking about it you cold even substitute the biscuits for rice krispies.

Chocolate Salami
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A simple recipe to follow that is adaptable for all the family and delicious too. Chocolate Salami
Author:
Recipe type: Sweet
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 18
Ingredients
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 400g chocolate - I used a mixture of dark and milk
  • 200g dry biscuits - I used Nice
  • 50g pistacchios
  • 75g dried cherry and cranberry mix
  • 25g silver pearls
Instructions
  1. Break the chocolate into small pieces, place in a glass bowl and add the butter. Set over a pan of simmering water, gently stir until it melts and is smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in all the other ingredients mixing well.
  3. Cover and chill for 1 hour until firm and pliable.
  4. Divide the chocolate mixture into two, place each half in the centre of a large piece of clingfilm.
  5. Fold the clingfilm over the mixture and mould the chocolate mixture into a salami shape about 5cm thick.
  6. Roll up the salami in the clingfilm and twist the ends to seal it. roll on the work surface to make sure the sausage is evenly round and chill for an hour until firm.
  7. You can roll the sausage in icing sugar for a more salami like effect and tie with string too, mine never makes that stage as once out of the fridge it starts to be eaten.
  8. To serve slice into 1 cm rounds with a sharp knife.
  9. Can be made and frozen, defrost overnight.
 

names of santas reindeers