Do you have a proper night time ritual? As part of my new 2017 promise to myself to live a more thoughtful life, I’ve decided that stumbling into bed after too many glasses of wine is just not going to cut it. The lovely chaps at John Lewis have launched a brand new wellbeing campaign for 2017, to encourage us all to be a little kinder to ourselves: to exercise, recharge, and nourish our bodies, and it’s inspired me to take a look at my night time beauty routine. January is a great time to try new skin and hair care as there are often loads of lovely gift sets in the sale too – the perfect way to try out something new and discover some new favourites before buying the larger sizes.
And so, after my big 2016 roundup, let’s move swiftly on to 2017, shall we? What does this year have in store? Lots of happy times and adventures I hope. As you know, I’m a huge Disney fan: I adore everything from the theme parks to the beautiful cruise ships. It’s such an exciting year for Disney magic, with so many new Disney travel adventures to choose from. I thought you might like a sneaky peek at a few of the things I’m really looking forward to in 2017. So if you’re planning adventures for next year now, I hope this helps give you a few ideas too:
2016 has been wonderful and awful all at once. For us as a family, the beginning of 2016 was really just spent thanking our lucky stars that Mr E finally got a job after quite a few months of being unemployed, and was also the year we finally started to get things finished around the house. We’ve had the usual teenage ups and downs: a (minor) car accident, drunken evenings, arguments and girl troubles… but nothing too terrible, thank goodness. In the big wide world, however, and outside of my lovely family, 2016 has been a year of tragedy, sadness and some shocking moments, culminating in the death of the voice of my teenage years, George Michael, and the fabulous Carrie Fisher, making us all pretty keen to wave it goodbye. It has, though, as this fabulous article in The Pool recently pointed out, had the strange side effect of making us all care a little more; it made us a bit more aware of the suffering of others and increased our capacity for empathy. And for that, I guess, we have to be grateful.
What. A. Year. I’ve got plenty more to say about the joy and sadness that was 2016 in my first piece of 2017 (for us, as well as everyone else, it seems, it was a year of huge highs and massive lows), and my plans for 2017. But for now, I want to stay with the joy and take a look back at the highlights of a year of travel and adventure. Here’s my 2016 roundup.
I love this lazy time at home between the hustle and bustle of Christmas, and the excitement of the New Year. We’re lucky, nobody is working and we’re all enjoying spending time at home together, watching films and eating too much chocolate. Yesterday we went to the Royal Albert Hall with my Dad for the Christmas Spectacular. It was wonderfully festive – there was a bit of ballet, a bit of opera and some modern classics like John Williams’ incredible Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Today we’re just pottering at home (see what I did there?). I wanted to share this really lovely, easy recipe with you. It’s a half rye/half strong white flour mix (I find rye a bit overpowering), scented with oranges (or at this time of year, leftover clementines) and sweetened with honey. I think 2017 is the year we’re all going to be embracing our homes and families, simplifying our lives and counting our blessings, and pottering in my beloved kitchen, baking those I love a delicious, home made treat comes high up in my priorities. Here’s how to make my orange and sultana rye bread:
We all absolutely adore Christmas, but the funniest thing is that while we were all sitting around the fire, Christmas Radio Times on hand to pick the best Christmas movies, sipping on a Baileys, talk actually turned to planning for the summer holidays. I was telling them that the fab villa holiday company, Villa Plus had asked me to talk about our holiday plans for next year, and, as a family with older children, it’s sometimes difficult to pick a holiday that suits everyone. As we were chatting, it was interesting to hear what the boys want from a family holiday. Whereas Jim and I really both want somewhere comfy to lounge and read a book and some sunshine, the boys have different ideas:
So here it is, my very last post before Christmas! I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years now (I know!) and every year, I say the same thing: if you’re cooking the Christmas lunch – and getting stressed about it – remember it’s your Christmas too. I’ve got loads of tips here to make the day as stress free and laid back as possible for you, so you can enjoy your Christmas day with your family and friends. So find a quiet corner, Treat yourself to my perfect frozen whipped cream hot chocolate, grab a notebook, have a read through and take few minutes to make a plan. And remember, it’s basically just a big roast dinner, and this guide will help you do most of the work on Christmas Eve so you can spend as much time as possible with the family, and as little as possible in the kitchen on the big day!
You can’t have Christmas without a Christmas ham. This recipe works with ANY sized joint. Multiply it up and down as you see fit and as suits you. I think ham makes a wonderful Christmas feast. This recipe makes a delicious sweet, salty, softly textured ham that’s fabulous hot with creamy mashed potatoes, or cold with chutneys and cheeses and a hunk of crusty bread. I always cook one the week before Christmas, and always end up having to cook another one because it gets scoffed! This spiced and glazed Christmas ham is poached in Coke, and you really can’t underestimate the delicious, caramel sweetness that it infuses into the meat. It’s better for your ham than your teeth, that’s for sure!
I guess as a writer, I should be more creative than most with my language, but when it comes to food, I’m pretty stuck with the old favourites and find myself describing things as ‘delicious’ and ‘nice’ probably more often than I should. According to new research by Sainsbury’s, as a nation, we now spend an average of something like 16 hours a week planning, talking, and thinking about food (that’s almost six years of our adult lives) and yet despite this, we’re still using the same old words, with most of us using about six to describe their meals each week. My lovely chums at Sainsbury’s love their food, and to expand our foodie vocabulary, they’ve enlisted lovely linguist Susie Dent to help them create ‘The Taste Dictionary: 101 ways to describe each mouthful’. The dictionary includes some fabulous words, like ‘lickerous’ (meaning: sweet and tempting), and my own favourite: ‘uliginous’ (yoo-lij-uh-nuh s – say it slowly – it almost oooozes…), meaning creamy, soft and smooth to taste. So to celebrate my new favourite word, how about trying the very epitome of uliginous food, a soft, creamy, luscious (ooh, there’s another one!) chocolate and peanut butter mousse, decorated with some salted peanut brittle, for a little crunch.
I love a good surprise, so when John Lewis very kindly invited me to team up to choose a surprise gift for a fellow blogger, I was delighted. I was teamed up with the gorgeous Sam Squire, the uber stylish blogger behind mens fashion and lifestyle blog ImSamSquire. My boys are obsessed with Sam and particularly love his cool outfit shoots and I wanted to put together a really stylish mens grooming kit that would impress Sam, as well as give you a few last minute ideas for gifts for the stylish man in your life
From Boston, we drove south, through some utterly beautiful countryside, to get to our next destination, Plymouth. Plymouth, Massachusetts is a hugely famous and historically important town, well known for being America’s Hometown – the place where the Pilgrim passengers of the Mayflower first settled. It’s a gorgeous place, full of pretty, colourful houses, wide, tree-lined residential roads and beautiful beaches. Our destination, The Mirbeau Inn & Spa, took us by surprise, though, as we drove up the windy road, and came face to face with a pretty French style Chateau. The glowing, ochre manor house, inspired by the soft colours of the paintings of Claude Monet, even has elegant gardens and water features inspired by Monet’s own garden in Giverny. It’s a breathtaking sight, and the experience only gets better as you’re greeted by a polite doorman, who won’t let you carry a thing.
I’m so excited to share this recipe with you. We’re a huge fan of chilled, filled pastas. They’re absolutely great to have tucked away in the fridge, so convenient for last-minute meals and feeding unexpected guests (or hungry post-pub revellers). They’re so simple and quick to prepare (they take less than three minutes to cook) and are such a great way to feed the family this Christmas – completely stress free and absolutely delicious. It’s authentic Italian pasta – the ultimate quick and simple comfort food, and this whole dish takes literally minutes to prepare. I’ve teamed a pack of Giovanni Rana Simply Italian Creamy Mozzarella & Smoked Pancetta Ravioli with a tasty sage butter, some pan fried shredded sprouts and some crisp, smoked pancetta.
I love the idea of making Christmas cake. Honestly, I do! But I never seem to manage to bake one in November or whenever everyone else is doing it, and even if I do, it then gets lost in a cupboard somewhere and I forget to feed it and take care of it (it’s ‘Fluffy’ the sourdough starter all over again). This lovely cranberry, apricot and orange Christmas cake recipe is full of delicious fruit, and even better, you can just make it the week before Christmas (or even Christmas eve) and it will be delicious and moist and scented and Christmassy, even if you do nothing at all to it.
I seem to have left all my Christmas shopping until the last minute this year. I think it’s because I’ve been having such good fun baking. Thank goodness for the interwebz where you can still find loads of last minute gifts for teenagers, with something to suit even the pickiest teen. And if, like me, you’re going to struggle to afford a brand new PlayStation 4 Pro (basically the only thing on Sam’s Christmas list this year, but at £350 not going to happen, unfortunately), I’ve hunted down some great gifts that will keep any type of teenager happy.
Some people are just REALLY DIFFICULT to find presents for, don’t you think? Let’s face it, we’re all lucky enough to have more or less everything we need, so we have a bit of an unwritten rule in our family that gifts have to be useful (and/or useable), and I think edible gifts fit really well into this category, so when Ryvita Thins set me the challenge of creating a Christmas gift hamper, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. If you have friends and family that are real foodies, this is such a lovely idea: a gift of inspiration, and the starting point to easy Christmas nibbles if they’re entertaining over the festive season (or just lovely snackage for in front of the TV if they’re not).
How flipping lovely is Christmas baking? I’m never happier than when I’m in my kitchen, surrounded by twinkly lights, my new kitchen Christmas tree, and the delicious scent of Christmassy cinnamon wafting from the oven. I make so many mince pies over Christmas (Mr E is a big fan) that I tend to buy an absolute ton of mincemeat. However, it’s really lovely – and easy – to make your own. Homemade mincemeat makes great presents for friends and family and you’ll be surprised how delicious it tastes compared to the stuff from a jar (which I always zhuzh up with a load of booze and extra cranberries anyway).
- En suite inspo on a budget March 24, 2017
- The best rides at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida March 21, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: Mother’s Day beauty with M & S March 18, 2017
- Soft iced buns with chocolate orange drizzle March 16, 2017
- Celebrating Mother’s Day with John Lewis March 14, 2017