Archive of ‘Christmas’ category

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Bake the Perfect Christmas Cake

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Bake the Perfect Christmas Cake

By Nohreen Sloan, Spa Sweethearts WI Committee Member and food blogger at http://www.mrssloanqueenofscones.wordpress.com

Christmas has to be my favourite time of year. It’s not because of all of the presents (although that does help) but because it gives me an excuse to make. I get my Christmas craft on well in advance of December, making anything and everything from decorations, gifts, baked goods and pretty much anything else I can add glitter or tinsel to!

There’s a tremendous sense of gratification that comes from making, whether it’s for yourself or someone else, even more so when the item is edible! There are two food items that I think everyone should make at Christmas time; mince pies and fruit cake.

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Whilst mince pies can be quite easily done with pre-rolled pastry and jarred mincemeat, making a fruit cake from scratch can be a little more daunting. Here are a few tricks that will help you to get it just right:

– Tie a thick layer of newspaper around the outside of your cake tin. Put another thick layer of newspaper on a baking tray, and place the cake tin on top. This will prevent the edges of the cake from the heat of the oven and cooking too quickly.

– An electric whisk will make the process of creaming the fat and sugar easier, but using a wooden spoon will do the same job-it just takes a little longer. You can check if your mixture has been creamed enough by placing a little blob of mixture into a bowl of cold water. If the mixture floats, it has been sufficiently creamed (the process of creaming adds air to the mixture).

– Eggs at room temperature are best to use, as they will be less likely to curdle the mixture. However, if it looks as though it is beginning to curdle, add a tablespoon of the flour.

– Make sure that your cake mixture is level when putting it in the cake tin. Make indentations all over the surface of the cake mixture – this will prevent the cake from rising in the middle, and give a nice flat top instead.

– Before placing in the oven, fold a large piece of greaseproof paper (larger than the top of the cake tin), fold in half and cut a small circle out of the middle (about 2cm diameter). Placing this sheet carefully over the top of the cake tin will prevent the top of the cake from cooking too quickly, also helping to retain the moisture of the cake.

Amaretto and Orange Christmas Cake, with Cranberries and Cherries

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The recipe below is for a 9″(23cm) cake tin

Ingredients (stage one):

500g currants

225g dried cranberries

200g candied peel

200g dried apricots

150g raisins

100g glace cherries

75g sour cherries

150ml amaretto

zest and juice of 2 oranges

zest of 2 lemons

juice of 1 lemon

Method (stage one):

Wash, dry and quarter the glace cherries. Chop the apricots and sour cherries to the same size. Place all the dried fruit, amaretto, zest and juice into a pan. Bring to the boil, stir, cover and simmer for 5 mins. Pour into a bowl, cover and leave overnight.

Ingredients (stage two):

soaked fruit mixture (above)

275g dark muscovado sugar

275g soft margarine

5 medium eggs – beaten

275g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

50g ground almonds

150g chopped almonds

1 tbsp black treacle

1tbsp marmalade

METHOD stage two

Preheat your oven to 140c/120c(fan)/gas 1.

Grease and line a 9″ cake tin (see above)

Cream the fat and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the beaten eggs little by little, beating in well each time.

Fold in the sifted flour, salt, spices, soaked fruit mixture, chopped and ground almonds, treacle and marmalade until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling then indenting on the top.

Place your large piece of greaseproof paper with the hole over the top of the tin.

Bake on a low shelf for about 4-5 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Mine took about 5 and a half hours, but I checked at regular intervals after 4 hours of cooking.

Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool before removing from the tin. Carefully remove the lining paper and wrap up in some clean greaseproof paper, and then foil. Store in this way until you are ready to decorate.

If you wish to make the cake a little more boozy, insert a skewer into the base of the cake several times, and drizzle over (or brush with a pastry brush) a tablespoonful of your chosen liqueur once a week prior to decorating.

 

Looking after guests this Christmas

Looking after guests this Christmas

One of the best things about Christmas is the time spent with family and friends. We teamed up with AeroBed and asked Kate from My Family Fever to share the best ways to make your guests feel comfortable while they’re at your house. Here’s what Kate suggests:

It is imperative that guests get a sufficient and quality night’s sleep – sleeping on uncomfortable surfaces such as the floor or sofa or even a poor mattress can lead to pain and discomfort. In a recent survey by AeroBed , 55% of people said they would be happier to stay at a friend or relative’s house if the bed were comfier, with 73% of people saying that comfort is the most important factor for a guest bed.

An AeroBed, when inflated, provides a medium to hard sleeping surface that is constant and sturdy. It does not collapse like other air beds when you place your weight in a particular area and is therefore very consistent. In testing the bed it provided a comfortable and supportive sleeping surface, which is therefore likely to provide good reinforcement to the structures of the body. It was also useful that the particular bed tested was raised off the ground when fully inflated. This allowed very easy access on and off of the bed without putting any undue pressure on the low back or knees, which could occur if the height of the bed were lower.

It can often be difficult to get a quality night’s sleep when staying away from home, therefore here are a few tips for your guests that could potentially help:

  • Try to avoid sleeping on your front. The spine will never be in alignment in this position as one has to severely turn the head in order to breathe and usually the pelvis is in torsion with one leg lifted up.
  • Always have a pillow – or something that can be shaped into a pillow to support the neck. Even if sleeping directly on the floor, having a supportive headrest will immediately relieve the pressure placed upon the upper region of your spine – and where possible travel with your own pillow from home.
  • If suffering from any discomfort in the low back, place a spare pillow or cushion between your knees (if sleeping on your side) or under your knees (if sleeping on your back) to relieve the pressure on the lumbar spine area.

As well as providing a comfortable sleeping area, there are other things you can do to make your guests feel comfortable. Make sure you provide them with everything they might need during their stay, from soap and shampoo, to jugs of water and soft fluffy towels. Make the guest room as home-like as possible, and add in little touches to make your guests feel welcome, such as books to read, pictures on the wall, thick blackout curtains and clean fresh bedding.

Is there anything else you do to make sure your guests have a happy stay? We’d would love to hear your ideas!

For a chance to win a Comfort Classic AeroBed a set of luxury bed linen worth £300 enter our competition here. Ends 9am 31st December 2015.

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#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Prepare for guests

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Prepare for guests

It’s never too early to start planning for your Christmas guests; in fact, the earlier you begin the smoother the whole process will be. One of our Christy ambassadors, Love Audrey, seems to have got the knack of hosting down to a tee, and here are some of her top tips. If you have any words of wisdom to add please share them on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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  1. After what will no doubt have been a long and hectic journey, your guests will be grateful for the offer of a warm bath followed by a restorative snooze. Make sure their surroundings are soft and sumptuous with fresh linen and clean towels, the fluffier the better! Remember, everyone feels the cold differently, so give guests the option of extra blankets and additional pillows to ensure they get a good night’s sleep.

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  1. When you’re hauling countless gifts across country, it can be easy to forget the essentials, so consider leaving a stash of toiletries in the guest bedroom. Sample sizes of everything from toothpaste to deodorant could come in handy, but if you really want guests to feel cared for, a spare robe and some slipper socks would be perfect too.
  1. A well stocked bedside table adds another element of comfort to your guests’ surroundings. Fresh flowers, a pile of books or magazines and a box of tissues is a good start. A scented candle (don’t forget the matches) and easy access to a pen and paper might also be appreciated.

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  1. Keeping a few refreshments within easy reach is a good idea. Not only will it help alleviate any potential guilt if a guest feels peckish between meals, it also takes some of the pressure off you having to fix countless drinks and snacks on top of the usual Christmas catering. Try filling a tray with bottles of soft drink, biscuits, snack bars and maybe even the odd mince pie!

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  1. Nowadays, no one travels without their tech, so be sure to leave the Wi-Fi password somewhere visible. You could also invest in a universal charger, just in case someone forgets that vital bit of kit.
 

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… make your own Christmas cards

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… make your own Christmas cards

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Handmade Christmas cards are the perfect opportunity to show your loved ones that you care and can really help you get in the festive spirit. Many people are put off the idea because the idea of crafts seems time consuming and tricky, but these simple cards from our lovely blogger friend at Mathilde Heart Manech can be made in a flash. Despite their simplicity, the end result looks like you spent hours labouring, leaving all the more time for a cheeky glass of mulled wine and a mince pie (or two!).

You will need:

Washi tape in a variety of designs
Scissors
Card stock
Letter stamps and ink

Instructions

  • You’ll need five pieces of washi tape cut to your desired size (depends on the shape of tree you would like). Tip! Make a sample tree on a piece of paper to use as a template.
  • Stick to your card stock, starting with the base, leaving two spaces for your Christmas message.
  • Stamp your Christmas message inside the two gaps. Leave to dry.
  • Fill your card with lovely messages for loved ones!

For this and more crafty tips, check out our guide to a classic Christmas, and make sure you post the results on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

Christy’s Top Tips for a Cracking Christmas Celebration

Christy’s Top Tips for a Cracking Christmas Celebration 

Browns

With the Christmas party season approaching faster than Santa’s sleigh, it’s likely that you’re preparing to celebrate Christmas by organising a merry party for your friends, colleagues or family.

According to Browns Brasserie & Bar, 72% of people find that their biggest worry over the Christmas period is the fear of their festive celebrations flopping. To help ease your party planning woes, we gained some Christmas party advice from Laura Richardson, Chief Host of Browns (pictured).

In this post, we’ll give you insider tips and tricks on how to throw a rockin’ Christmas do that will have people queuing at the doors for their festive fix.

It’s Never Too Early To Plan

When it comes to planning your Christmas party, the sooner you start, the better. Laura says, “almost 7% of people start thinking about booking their table in January”, whilst this may seem too eager to some, you don’t want to miss out on your favourite venue through leaving it last minute.

Keep It Out of Office

If you’re arranging a party for your colleagues, steer clear of an office party location. Laura advises, “It’s increasingly difficult for people to let go of their ‘in-work’ mentality when they’re outside the office let alone in the same building”. To combat those office blues, choose a venue in a restaurant, bar or function room away from work.

Plan the After Party

For those who like to go hard or go home, pre-arrange a location, such as a bar, to head to after the party has finished. This will prevent your party goers from umming and arring on the night and keep everyone from going their separate ways.

Inform the Troops

Once you have planned the event, invite your attendees and ask them to RSVP. Your invite should list all the small details of the party including dates, times, locations, dress codes, menus, etc. If people can see you are organised, they are more likely to respond to your invitation, and you can gain a realistic number of attendees.

The Most Important Part… Have Fun!

“Setting out a couple of hours each week/month to focus just on planning, and when it comes to the actual night, you’ll have nothing more to do but grab a glass of bubbly and relax!” With those lasting wise words from Laura, go ahead and start planning the Christmas party that’ll blow last years out of the – albeit icy – water. And remember…have fun!

Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to planning your Christmas party? Share your festive celebration ideas with us on Facebook and Twitter, we’d love to hear from you!

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#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Treat Yourself to a Christmas Spa Break

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Treat Yourself to a Christmas Spa Break

Christmas, the time of year for gift giving, treating your nearest and dearest and… stress. In the midst of spoiling your loved ones during the festive season, it can be easy to forget about treating yourself.

What better way to do this than with a luxury spa break? We’ve hand selected our top 5 luxury spa hotels around the UK in the hope that we can help that holiday stress melt away.

  1. Seaham Hall

This five star spa hotel is perfectly located on the stunning Durham heritage coastline. Seaham Hall is 44,000 square feet of sheer luxury, with a 20 metre pool, luxurious hot tubs, 20 suites and 17 treatment rooms. We can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas time than treating yourself to a weekend in the lavish Seaham Hall spa, perfectly designed to wash away all your winter worries.

  1. Verbena at Feversham Arms Hotel

This boutique spa is perfectly hidden away from stress of the outside world. Located in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, this stunning spa features relaxing treatment rooms, a saunarium a unique monsoon shower and best of all, an outdoor heated pool, perfect to help put the rouge back in your cheeks during the Christmas period.

  1. Down Hall

If you’re looking for a festive themed spa getaway, then Down Hall located in Bishops Stortford is the perfect choice for you. You can spend your time relaxing in the mood-lit sauna, or receiving luxury facials and body treatments in their brand new treatment rooms. After you are fully pampered, you can finished off your day with Christmas-themed afternoon tea, what more could you possibly need?

  1. Black Swan

We’re back to the picturesque town of Helmsley, North Yorkshire, only this time it’s the 500 year old Black Swan that gets our recommendation. This historic hotel offers the perfect country getaway for those who want a change of scenery from a crowded city. Whilst here, you can get in the Christmas spirit by ice skating in the local town or singing carols in the church next to the hotel.

  1. Portavadie

Our final pick is an idyllic winter getaway on the scenic Scottish west coast. Portavadie features a state-of-the-art spa with the largest heated infinity pool in all of Scotland. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, Portavadie’s huge Scandinavian saunas with panoramic views of Loch Fyne certainly will. This truly unique spa will truly invigorate you ready to beat any Christmas stress.

Share your favourite Christmas getaway destinations with us on Facebook and Twitter, we’d love some extra festive inspiration!

 

 

#ChristyChristmas: Time to…. Celebrate Traditions, with Teapots and Twine

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a time for cosying up indoors and reflecting. This time of year often reminds people of their youth, and in our Christy guide to Christmas, we asked our friend Emma from Teapots and Twine to list some of her favourite Christmas traditions. Here are a couple of tips from Emma on how you can achieve that warm cosy feeling that nostalgic activities evoke, so  settle down under a blanket and find some inspiration for your own traditions.

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Writing a Christmas letter

A favourite festive tradition of mine is lighting a fire, putting on carol music and writing our annual Christmas letter. It is a special opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed and share snippets of family life with loved ones. I think that the key to a great Christmas letter is being positive, personal and avoiding the urge to brag. It is fine to share some of your successes, but better to do so in a humourous, self-depricating way that the British truly excel at. If you have children, they may enjoy being involved in composing your Christmas letter too. Ask for their help to create a fun quiz about your child and use this as framework for sharing your news, or ask each child to write down their favourite memory from the past year and pick a photo to accompany it. I think it is important to pass on the tradition of Christmas letter writing to the younger generation so that they learn more meaningful ways of communicating than via social media. They will love reading the letters back in years to come, so don’t forget to keep a copy for your family, too.

Watching it’s a Wonderful Life

This classic and heart-warming tale tells the story of small-town man George Bailey, who is mulling over his life on Christmas Eve due to his dissatisfaction at his ordinary life. Clarence, his guardian angel, intercepts and shows George what life would be like for his family and the residents of Bedford Falls were he not around.

And one of our own favourite traditions: Decorating the Tree

The custom of having a decorated tree in the home can be traced back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The tradition was first seen in the UK amongst members of the Royal family, but became more widespread amongst the upper classes after 1840, following the marriage of Princess Victoria and the German Prince Albert. The practice of decorating a tree in the home became widespread amongst all social classes by around 1920. Have you decided on a theme for your Christmas decorations yet?

Share your favourite traditions with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages, we’d love to hear from you!

 

It’s #ChristyChristmas Time!

It’s officially that time of year again, when festive adverts grace our TV screens, Christmas lights are switched on and retailers around the country are trimming up. The countdown to Christmas has begun, and here at Christy we are making the most of our favourite time of year by transforming our blog into a dedicated festive retreat.

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For the next seven weeks our blog will undergo a complete takeover, becoming your dedicated resource to all things festive. It is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know this Christmas; from how to wrap the perfect presents, to recipes, crafts and beauty tips.

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With the help of some of your favourite bloggers, industry experts and our own designers, we will be posting regular articles so that you are fully inspired and prepared to make 2015 your best Christmas yet. In the meantime, get a warming mug of mulled wine and download our guide to a classic Christmas for some more ideas.

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Be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages for some extra tips and treats along the way, and if there are any topics you would like to see covered on the blog just let us know, either by commenting below or getting in touch with us on social media.

Merry Christmas!

Love, Christy

 

Enjoy a Bumper Boxing Day this Christmas

With just one week left until the big day, we’re feeling completely festive here at Christy. We’ve enjoyed trying some new Christmas crafts over the past few weeks, thanks to the fantastic suggestions from our blogging friends who contributed to our Christmas guide. As our thoughts turn to Christmas Day and beyond, we’re also thinking about how best to spend Boxing Day.

Emma Farrow from Teapots and Twine suggests a wintry Boxing Day walk on page 7 of our Christmas guide. Emma says: “Escaping into the countryside for a Boxing Day ramble is a tradition as dear to me as the feasting and festivities that precede it. The midwinter landscape is bleak and rugged; a sharp contrast to the gaudy Christmas jumpers and flashing tree lights that pervade our homes. I find it uplifting to see so many neighbourhood folk trudging out in their wellies, rubbing shoulders with each other and exchanging greetings, in a society that often struggles to keep community spirit alive. After all the busyness and overindulgence of Christmas Day, a Boxing Day walk serves to stretch the legs, clear the mind and restore a sense of peace.”

Once you get in from the great outdoors, it’s always nice to cosy up with a film. We love old classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, but you might prefer something lighthearted like a stand-up comedy DVD or a more modern romcom.

Some of you may well be bidding farewell to guests on Boxing Day, while others will be welcoming newcomers into your homes, so it might be a case of a quick spruce and tidy before the fun starts all over again. As Love Audrey mentions in our Christmas guide, one of the most important things is to provide your guests with fresh, clean bedding and towels so that they feel right at home. Having a spare set ironed and ready to go before Christmas will make the turnaround far smoother than trying to wash, dry and change the bedding all on the same day. And a quick spritz of home fragrance or lighting a scented candle is a simple way to create a welcoming ambience for your next load of visitors.

How do you plan to spend Boxing Day? Share your suggestions via our Facebook and Twitter pages – we’d love to hear from you.

 

Christy Christmas Guide

The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner. Here at Christy we couldn’t be more excited to turn our homes into festive havens and in our excitement we had a thought – why don’t we share our love and knowledge of the festive season with our customers in a handy downloadable guide?

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We have teamed up with a number of luxury lifestyle and foodie bloggers to bring you The Christy Guide to a Very British Christmas, packed with everything from how-to guides to help you make your own cards, wreath and advent calendar, to snippets of interesting festive facts, brilliant recipes to impress family and friends, and details of our very favourite Christmas traditions.

The guide also includes a chapter celebrating our American cousins, and a few of their festive traditions – think perfect pumpkin pie, deliciously decadent grilled cheese and candy canes.

To download a copy of our guide sign up to the Christy mailing list, or click here.

 

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