Three Merry Berry Mocktail

Three Merry Berry Mocktail

A delicious nostalgic Christmas spiced Berry mocktail
Serves 2
Ingredients:
For Spiced honey syrup
90 ml water
60 ml light runny honey
2 inch piece of cinnamon
Small pinch cinnamon powder
2 star anise
2 cloves
For Mocktail
2 strawberries
4 raspberries
4 blackberries
½ teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon lime zest
10 ml lime juice
25 ml spiced honey syrup (made to above recipe)
60 ml Innocent apple juice
150 ml Innocent apple and Raspberry juice
60 ml soda water
Crushed Ice
For Decoration:
2 strawberries
2 blackberries
2 raspberries
2 star shaped sparklers
2 straws 8 cm long or to fit glass
1 tablespoon pink sugar crystals
1 teaspoon spiced honey syrup
For Serving:
2 orange slices
4 raspberries
4 blackberries
2 serving glasses
60 ml soda water
Method:
Make the spiced honey syrup.
  1. In a pan add the water, cinnamon stick, cinnamon powder, star anise, cloves and honey.
  2. Bring the mixture to boil, once boiling reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until all the honey has melted.
  3. Remove the honey syrup from the heat and leave to cool.
  4. Once syrup has cooled strain it into a clean jar. Measure out 25 ml for the mocktail and refrigerate the rest for future use
Making the mocktail.
  1. Hull and roughly chop 2 strawberries and put it into a cocktail shaker, add 6 raspberries and 6 blackberries, orange and lime zest.
  2. With the help of a wooden muddler crush the berries.
  3. To the crushed berries add the apple and raspberry juice, apple juice, 25 ml spiced honey syrup, the lime juice and ice. Shake the mocktail and double strain it to remove any seeds.
To Serve:
  1. Take two serving glasses, coat the outer rim of them with the honey syrup and dip them in pink sugar crystals to form a pink  rim. Shake off access sugar.
  2. Dice two strawberries and add them to the 2 glasses.
  3. Add two whole raspberries and two whole blackberries and a slice of orange to each glass
  4. Gently pour the prepared mocktail to the glass and top it with some soda water.
To Garnish:
  1. Decoratively cut two slices from the 2 remaining strawberries and perch a slice onto the rim of each glass.
  2. Thread 1 raspberry and 1 blackberry to the star shaped sparkler, place the end of the sparkler into a straw and place the straw into the mocktail.
Light the sparkler before serving and enjoy Three Merry Berry Mocktail whilst listening to Christmas Carols or sing your own…...
On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me Three merry berries, 2 bags of spice and a lime in a citrus tree…..

Snowflake Lemon Shortbread

Rich melt in the mouth shortbread with a lovely citrus zing.

Preparation time- 20 minutes
Chilling Time- 30 minutes
Baking time – 10-12 minutes
Makes 22

Ingredients:

180 grams / 6 oz plain flour
60 grams / 2 oz sugar
120 grams /4 oz  butter
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon milk

Icing:

4 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon water approx

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F
2. In a bowl cream together the sugar and butter.
3. Add the lemon zest, milk and flour and make a dough.
4. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
5. After the dough has chilled, roll it out on a dusted surface and cut out snowflake shaped short bread.
6. Place shortbread on baking tray and bake for 10-12 mins until slightly golden.
7. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
8. In a bowl sieve the icing sugar, add the lemon juice and littlewater to form a thick dropping consistency icing that holds shape when piped.(The amount of water to add is approx and make sure the icing is not too runny otherwise you won’t be able to pipe with it.)
9.Make  icing bag  from greaseproof paper.( See the video here.)
10.Fill the cones with prepared icing and ice the shortbread with the icing.
Allow the icing to set for few hours before wrapping the short bread in cellophane for gifts.

 

Christmas Cake Pops (Eggless)

 
Delectable little Christmas pudding shaped cakes on sticks, coated in chocolate and edible decorations.

Preparation time – 2 hours
Cooking time- 30 minutes
Chilling time – 45 minutes
Makes 18

Ingredients:
For Cake
420 grams / 14 oz Plain flour
240 grams / 8 oz Sugar
60 grams / 2oz Cocoa
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Baking powder
½ teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda
75 ml Sunflower oil
1 tablespoon Apple cider vinegar
250 ml Water
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
 
For Butter cream
60 grams / 2oz   Unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon Vanilla essence
240 grams / 8oz Icing sugar
 
For Decoration
Cake pop sticks
Ready to roll Fondant icing in white, red and green
240 grams / 8 oz Milk chocolate  candy melts
 


Method:
 
1. Preheat oven to 180 º C / 350 º F.
2. Grease a 10 inch x 15 inch baking tray and keep aside
3. In a large mixing bowl sieve together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add the sugar to the flour.
4. In jug add the oil, water, vinegar and vanilla and mix together.
5. Make a well in the flour and gradually add the wet ingredients.
6. Gently fold the mixture taking care not to over mix.
7. Pour the batter in to greased baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes. Check if cake is done by inserting a skewer in the cake, if it comes out clean the cake is ready.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool.
9. Remove the cake from baking tray and cut off the crusts from all four sides. Cut the cake into  small pieces and put it  into a food processor and whizz to form crumbs. Transfer the cake crumbs to a large mixing bowl.
10. In a mixer add the butter, vanilla and icing sugar and whip the butter cream till smooth and creamy.
11. Add half the butter cream to the cake crumb mixture and mix well to form dough like consistency. (Reserve remaining butter cream for future use)
12. Divide the mixture into 18 parts and roll each part into a ball. Place the cake balls onto a baking tray.
13. Melt a  small handful of the chocolate candy melts in the microwave. Dip approximately 1 cm of each of the lolly stick into the melted chocolate and push it into the ball of rolled cake, repeat for remaining balls to form lollipops.
14. Place the cake pops into the freezer for 30 minutes to set.

To make decoration:
15. On a flat surface dust with icing sugar and roll out the white fondant to approximately 2mm thickness. Using a 1 inch flower shaped cookie cutter cut out 18 flowers.
16. Roll out the green Icing and using a holly leaf cutter cut out 36 holly leaves.
17. Pinch the red fondant icing into small red balls the size of peppercorns and keep aside
18. Melt the remaining chocolate melts in the microwave.
19. Remove the frozen cake pops from the freezer and in turn dip each pop into the melted chocolate. Tap the cake pops gently to remove any access chocolate and leave to set up right. (Push the chocolate dipped cake pops into a block of polystyrene to keep them up right whilst chocolate is setting.) Repeat for all cake pops and once they are all coated place in refrigerator for chocolate to set for 5 minutes.
20.  Once chocolate is set, decorate the cake pops. Wet the back surface of the white fondant flower and place it on top of the cake pop. Wet the back surface of the holy leaves and place two opposite each other on top of the white flower, finally wet the centre of the two holly leaves and place three red fondant berries. Repeat for remaining cake pops.
21. Leave the decoration to set before eating.

 

 

Christmas Walk Innovation

As a kid I used to ponder the logistics of Santa’s task. One man and over 6 billion people to deliver to all over the planet. How did he manage to get all around the world in one night? During my following years as a nurse I also used to listen to many people review their lives. Watching “A Christmas Carol” brought on a particularly contemplative mood for me this year and I decided to review my past, present and future around London on my own Christmas Carol.

I was always told that Santa was magic and that anything was possible for him. With so many chimneys, mince pies and various drinks to consume it is no wonder that his Body Mass Index is on the high side. He consumes more calories in one night than most people do in a lifetime. On Christmas Eve I decided to dress up as Santa again and make a few people smile around London. So, I called a couple of like-minded friends, Nicholas and Hitesh, and off we went with a free hugs sign and a few smiles.

Eighteen years ago I left my job in the city – an experience that saw fun and happiness drain from my life. I worked in a monotonous job in the documentary credits department of a Japanese Merchant bank. We decided to walk through the city at the beginning of our walk. This would be our walk into Christmas past. Our Christmas Carol had begun.

As we handed out our first hugs of the day in the city we were approached by a very stern security guard. He informed us that we had no permission to dress up and would have to leave the premises. We did almost manage to make him smile as we offered him a hug, though he did warn us that he may not respond too nicely if we did. We smiled and walked on through the streets of the city, with most people ignoring us. However, there were several who managed a smile and a group of tourists who did call us across the road to claim some free hugs. For me it was a reminder of how soul-less I felt in my city-job years.

We then ventured towards Bond Street and a livelier atmosphere. Here we were stopped more frequently as people queued for hugs and photos. This represented our walk of Christmas present. It felt good and we had a lot of fun in the process. During just a few hours we were stopped and hugged by people from all over the world.

People from Scotland, Ireland and Wales stopped, as did those from France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. Others stopped from China, Taiwan, Thailand, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, India and Pakistan. Representatives hugged us from Mexico, USA, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, The Soloman Islands, Tonga, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Mauritius.

We truly experienced the magic of connecting with people all over the world in one night. As we walked through the streets of London we sang songs, hugged people, had  children run up to hug us and spread the magic of Christmas to us. We were given free chocolate by a homeless guy, free mince pies from a lady in a restaurant, offered a free ride by a chap on a bike-taxi and given a free gift by one lady. The feeling of connecting with people from all over the world is my walk of Christmas future.

Nothing beats the feeling of smiling, feeling good, singing and making people laugh. I managed to miss the last train home to St Albans. Normally, this would be a semi-traumatic experience, but not as Santa. Tubes were still running on the Northern line, so I went to High Barnet instead. On the way I was stopped and asked for more photos and I had a sing-a-long with a group of high-spirited friends returning home.

As it turned midnight I found a social gathering of friends in Barnet, who I hadn’t seen for a while. I spent the next few hours with good friends, feeling great and was given a place to stay for the night.

On Christmas morning I was picked up by my sister and taken off for a great day with my family. I am feeling very grateful for being alive today.

Image reproduced from http://www.zeroco2.com

Christmas Indian Style

Bringing in the catch in Cochin

Bringing in the catch in Cochin

We resolved months before December that Christmas was going to be different. Instead of driving 200 miles up the A1 from London to Yorkshire on a dark, wet Christmas morning, we’d be being chauffeured on a warm, bright sunny day up through the tea plantations to Munnar in Southern India. We hoped to leave all the Christmas trappings behind in London. Did we succeed? Well partly . . .

Christmas Eve was spent in the Brunton Boatyard Hotel overlooking Cochin’s harbour. It was wonderful to have a bath and watch the boats out of the window at the same time.

The bath at the Brunton Boatyard

The bath at the Brunton Boatyard

A sunset cruise seemed the ideal way to finish the day but we didn’t anticipate the extra guest, Santa Claus, who boarded the boat with us. Although the day had been warm and sunny, it was an overcast evening and the sunset was somewhat disappointing.

Whilst changing for dinner, there was a knock on the door. I expected the housekeeper wanting to turn down the bed with a ‘pillow chocolate’, but no, it was a group of stanta hatted, hotel staff singing carols and delivering invitations to their Christmas Eve gala dinner which they’d been setting up in the garden grounds all day.

Hotel staff singing Xmas carols

Hotel staff singing Xmas carols

We declined politely as having read marvellous reviews of the Malabar House Hotel, reputed to be one of the best boutique hotels in India and its ‘classy, movie star cool’ restaurant, the Malabar Junction, I’d booked a table well in advance from England. I envisaged a small, luxurious, intimate restaurant and was therefore rather shocked to be led into a large, open-air courtyard set up with enough tables and chairs for 100 people. We were led through the gathering diners to a small table at the front beside the stage where three musicians were playing traditional Indian music.

At least this group played traditional Indian music

As we waited for everyone to arrive, we looked at the menu on our table to discover a six course set dinner (veg or non veg) which included roast turkey in mushroom sauce with rosemary roast potatoes and ‘our special Xmas pudding with vanilla sauce’. As we settled down with a reasonably priced bottle of Grovers Estate wine (made in India in conjunction with the French), Santa Claus arrived and introduced the Anglo-Indian choir of Fort Cochin who sang traditional carols throughout the evening. Once I’d got over the shock, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

Following an early Christmas Day breakfast of dosa and sambal we left at 9am for the four-hour drive to Munnar. Although it was only 80 miles, the roads were narrow, steep, winding and rutted but the scenery was amazing.

Tea Plantations

For Christmas Lunch we squeezed into a small café recommended by our trusty guide book and chose potato curry (Rs 6) and beef fry (Rs 25). We sat surrounded by locals and soon realised that everyone was eating with their fingers. Fortunately we’d ordered a couple of chapattis which we used in the absence of cutlery, to scoop up the curry as we hadn’t managed to perfect the technique of rolling the rice into balls with fingers. With a couple of fresh lime sodas, our lunch came to less than a pound.

The traditional Christmas afternoon walk was through Eravikulam National Park with its spectacular views of the Western Ghats. We were also fortunate enough to see, albeit at a distance, a couple of Nilgiri tahr a rare, but almost tame type of mountain goat.

A walk in the park

A walk in the park

Our hotel for the evening was the Government run Tea County Hotel and although not as luxurious as the other hotels on our trip, it was perfectly comfortable and didn’t appear to recognise Christmas. We sat on our terrace to watch the sun go down over the hills in front of us and opened the duty free champagne we’d been carrying around with us since leaving London. As it got dark, all the shrubs and trees lining the long driveway were lit with small fairy lights, their only concession to Christmas and a truly spectacular sight.

A buffet dinner of various curries, followed by the lighting of a bonfire which toasted us in the cool, hill-top air was a marvellous end to a very different Christmas.

How to Survive Christmas with the In-Laws

Like any good girlfriend I try to impress my boyfriend’s family as much as possible.  Helping in the kitchen where need be, not swearing or smoking or drinking too much.  Basically the exact opposite of how I actually live my life!  The festive period is no different.  If anything you have to be on better behaviour as there will be a gaggle of family members all waiting to converse with you.  One or two family members is fine, that you can handle.  In laws mum and dad is doable, its when there are 18 family members, wives, girlfriends, kids, dogs and the dogs kids all waiting to see if you embarrass yourself!

in-laws party

My biggest fear and always has been is not so much being caught smoking or swearing.  Its having one too many Chardonnays over dinner.  Not having enough carbs with dinner as you ate carbs on Wednesday and then bitterly regretting it.  After a few glasses of fizz and picking at carrot sticks, feeling light-headed  you then proceed to suddenly think it’s a good idea to tell your boyfriends mum how good in the sack he really is!  Getting drunk in front of the In Laws is like getting drunk at your Christmas work do. Mortifying.  You have this glowing report in front of his family, sweet, kind, well spoken and a bit on the shy side, until you neck too many snowballs.  Note to self, stick to a 3 drink maximum throughout the whole evening, gorge on the buffet Barbara has prepared and try not to flirt with his dad too much.  Don’t wear anything too short or tight and run the risk of getting unwanted attention from his uncle or dad (especially after a few advocaats).

Once you have managed to stay sober and grope free you just need to managed the types of conversation which are going to be thrown at you.  Remember your boyfriend isn’t going to be with you the whole evening so you need to know how to hold your own without him holding your hand.  I find that the general topics they will throw at you will be about work and family life.  If you’re in a job you hate, don’t tell them that as they will wonder why you haven’t don’t anything about it.  When asked do you enjoy working for the call centre at age 30?  Politely tell them that while there is a recession on you feel lucky to even have a job at all and that you are pleased to contributing to society in these tough economic climes.

When you swap gifts and you are presented with a size 16 dressing gown from M&S, smile politely and tell her that you may be able to fit into this after Christmas.  Remind yourself to not get her another bottle of Chanel.

One topic of conversation which will defiantly get thrown at you (especially if your boyfriend is off talking to his weird cousins), is the subject of marriage and babies.  This is dependent on how long the two of you have been together and weather you have been drinking too much earlier in the evening or not.  When approached with ‘so you’ve been together a few years now any plans to have children or get married?’  It’s like the dreaded question when neither of you are planning anything like that!  You can never give them the answer that they want to hear.  Yes we are planning on having a baby in around 6-8 months and to have a wedding before that so as we don’t have a bastard child.  What you really want to say is, F-off were happy as we are thank you and there is more to life than soiled underwear and having your make up tipped into your Mulberry bag.  Giving up your independence for the next 18 years is not something you would generally like to plan and if you wanted to do it then you would have done it by now.  But instead you tell them it’s something you’ve talked about but you’re not planning anything just yet.  You then have that conversation with your boyfriend a few weeks later and ask why after 4 years of being together there’s not even been a mention of a ring.

With all this under your belt his family will be putty in your hands.  With any luck they will love you as much as he does (some more than others!).  Just remember to stay sober, eat the food provided and smile sweetly at the stories which are being told!  No smoking, heavy drinking, shouting or falling down! Behave like a lady at all times and things should go smoothly and save the scrapping for New Years.

Image reproduced from guardian.co.uk

A Victorian Christmas – Part 1

How did the Victorians celebrate Christmas? Julia Wood – City Connect’s Features Writer on Art & Culture - looks at the Victorian Christmas and finds out the truth behind the nostalgia and tradition…

Christmas is a time when not merely individuals, but culture itself, turns reflective and introspective. It is a sentimental free-for-all, in which nostalgia reigns supreme and the hankering after Christmases past, in the times before cars and computers, is too great to resist. At the centre of such hankering is the iconic Victorian Christmas, in which there were several feet of snow and people drifting around in fur-trimmed red velvet capes to the sound of Christmas carols.

In reality, the Victorians’ weather was similar to ours: mild and rather disappointingly unseasonal. The concept of snow at Christmas was in fact, borrowed from the eighteenth century when there was a mini ice age and the Thames froze over.

Yet our fascination with this Victorian ideal of Christmas, with its frosted landscapes and crackling fires continues and is responsible for the plethora of period dramas gracing our screens at this time of year. I think, in particular, of adaptations of Charles Dickens, whether repeats or new dramas, such as the BBC’s Great Expectations, starring Gillian Anderson as the cobwebbed and querulous Miss Havisham.

Indeed, one cannot imagine Christmas at all without Charles Dickens. The novels of Dickens, a key Victorian figure, epitomise what we consider to be the quintessential Christmas. This is particularly true of A Christmas Carol, which helped popularise the tradition of Christmas and its associated festivities.

The Victorians invented much of the iconography we now associate with Christmas. It was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who brought the Christmas tree to England, and the Illustrated London News in 1848, produced a picture of the Royals, gathered around a lavishly decorated Christmas tree. Subsequently, the public followed in their wake and every Christmas tree in the land was adorned with candles, sweets, fruit and gifts.

Christmas Card, designed by J.C. Horsley for Sir Henry Cole, 1843

Back in 1843 Henry Cole commissioned the first Christmas card, which depicted some people around a table, and contained a Christmas message. Although the prohibitive cost of these cards meant that they did not catch on straight away, children were encouraged to make their own Christmas cards. However, the rapidly advancing industrial age made it possible to utilise colour technology to produce Christmas cards at a faster rate, which had the effect of reducing the price and by the 1880s the sending of Christmas cards was a highly popular tradition. In 1880, 11.5 million cards were produced and we see the first intimations of the commercial machine Christmas has now become.

Another Victorian invention is the Christmas cracker. In 1848, British confectioner Tom Smith discovered a new way of marketing sweets. He took the idea from a visit to Paris, where had seen bonbons wrapped up in paper that was twisted at either end. Smith produced packages that were filled with sweets and which snapped when pulled apart. By the late Victorian period, these had evolved into parcels containing small gifts and paper hats.

As with all things Victorian, the Victorian house at Christmas was lavishly decorated and much time and effort spent on decking out the house using elaborately woven evergreens around fireplaces and doors. As Christmas became more popular, these decorations assumed a more significant position in the house.

Read Part 2 of Julia Wood’s “A Victorian Christmas” on 30 December 2012 exclusively on City Connect.

Images reproduced from telegraph.co.uk and vam.ac.uk

Sleeping on Ice

An ice bed

A night in an Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland seemed like an unforgettable way to celebrate a special birthday.

The adventure was eagerly anticipated but tinged with trepidation. It was impossible to imagine sleeping in temperatures of minus 5 degrees on a bed made from ice.

We opted for the unconventional husky sled transfer from Kiruna airport to the hotel in Jukkasjarvi. I’d had visions of an elegant sleigh pulling us gently along with us all being ensconced under fur rugs. The reality was very different.

The huskies getting ready

On leaving the small airport terminal, we were greeted by loud barking huskies and taken to a nearby shed to prepare. We donned enormous all in one ski suits over our normal ski clothes, black terrorist type balaclavas topped by ‘Deputy Dawg hat’ with furry ear flaps. Black leather boots and long leather gauntlets completed our outfits. Our luggage was put into enormous sacks and transported by road in the vans which had delivered the dogs. We were not an attractive sight and apart from height, you couldn’t tell the four of us apart.

Not a glamorous look

We sat astride the long, low wooden sledge in height order with the tallest at the back, our feet tucked on the runners. The twenty dogs got into position: in pairs and in line according to experience and age. With a ‘mush, mush’ we were off. The dogs were obviously very fit and ran surprisingly fast. In places the track was rutted or steep and it felt like being on a roller coaster.

There was snow everywhere and the scenery was breathtaking. After 40 minutes, my toes started to feel chilly and I was grateful to see the hotel in the distance. It was absolutely stunning.

Checking in at reception

On the introductory tour, our guide told us that each year the hotel is sculpted from ice cut from the Torne River. Everything, including walls, ceilings, chandeliers and beds are made from ice.

The ice chapel

The ice chapel

There was even a chapel for weddings with a difference and translucent sculptures everywhere. The unique ice suites were all different and sculpted by different artists. One had a telephone box, another life size statues of the four Beatles. Our suite was amazing; a ‘room’ within a ‘room’. It included a small hall with ice benches covered by reindeer skins and a staircase leading to a mezzanine bed.

The carving of an animal

Day visitors are banned from rooms at 7pm and we were able to open our duty free champagne, which was obviously well chilled, in the privacy of our room. Dinner in the main hotel was excellent with desserts served on plates made from ice. Fortified by nightcaps from the Absolut Icebar we felt that we couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer.

We changed in the warm area and walked the short distance to our ice room dressed in pyjamas with snowsuits on top. After safely negotiating the stairs, we shed our snowsuit and boots and wiggled into our double sleeping bag (with individual liners) without standing up because the ceiling was four foot high. Not the easiest of tasks! Probably because of the effort involved, I slept considerably well despite waking at one stage feeling rather warm and claustrophobic!

We were woken up at 8am and served hot lingonberry juice in bed. The adventure was over. We had survived and thankfully my main fear had not been realised: I hadn’t needed the loo in the night!

The hotel information was absolutely right: it was an “ice-night to remember” but probably one not to be repeated.

A Victorian Christmas – Part 2

In the second part of her look at the Victorian Christmas, Julia Wood examines the customs and traditions the Victorians started which we continue today. Click here to read part one of this article…

Until the Victorians, the giving of presents had been a New Year tradition but this tradition was moved to Christmas to reflect the significance of the Christmas festival. Because they were small, modest and relatively light, these gifts were usually hung on the Christmas tree. However, the giving of gifts quickly became more central to Christmas, the gifts became bigger and people bought rather than made them. The increased size and weight of the gifts made it impractical to hang them on the tree, so they were placed underneath it.

Although the notion of the Christmas feast has its origins in the mediaeval period, it was during the Victorian era that the meal we have come to associate with Christmas first began to emerge. Mince pies were originally made from savoury meat and not from fruit but in the Victorian era recipes without meat began to accrue popularity, giving us the mince pies we know today.

Meats such as roasted beef and goose had been in vogue until the Victorians, who added turkey to this repertoire, at least in the wealthier echelons of society but by the early twentieth century turkey had become the main Christmas dish.

Although the first collection of carols was published in 1833, four years before Victoria came to power, the Victorians also revived and popularised carols, setting old words to new tunes.

What is more, the Victorians have bequeathed to us, the notion of Christmas as a family time, with all the festivities such as eating and parlour games centred upon the family.

However, Victorian society was at the nadir of consumer culture and people did not have the presents they have today. Even the children from wealthy families would have been unlikely to receive more than one present and many gifts were hand-made rather than shop-bought. Popular amongst wealthy children were Dutch dolls, a doll’s house or the newly emerging teddy bear.

Without television or computer games people played socially interactive games – parlour games like Charades and Blind Man’s Buff and of course most houses would have had a piano around which the family would gather to sing popular songs.

In our socially isolated times, many people live alone and the insular nature of television and computers makes social interaction less likely, even for those with families. There is, it seems a warmth and conviviality about the Victorian Christmas, or at least our perception of it – which we find irresistible. The past, and especially Christmases past, exude a luxurious and sumptuous comfort. Perhaps we feel people were happier then, in spite of consumption and the workhouses and the crippling poverty in the slums where people often slept six to a bed.

An internet search for anything about Victorian Christmas will turn up a wealth of sites advertising Victorian ‘Fayres’ and Victorian themed Christmas events. Perhaps this is simply because we have inherited our notions of Christmas from the Victorians, who did, after all, invent it. Or perhaps Christmas simply brings out the sentimental traditionalist in everyone.

Image reproduced from michellehenry.fr

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 23

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 23: A multi vitamin and mineral supplement is a great decision at this time of the year. The work/party/organisational pressures can quickly take their toll and suddenly we can be struck down with a virus which is no fun. Try Nutrishield’s daily pack – a great and well-researched combination of essentials.

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 22

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 22: Last minute Christmas shopping should always include a present to yourself! How about a beautiful big handbag? That way, you will have plenty of space for saviour snacks which keep hunger at bay.

Top choices: mini oatcakes, cold meats and hard cheeses, cold boiled eggs, cooked chicken portions, 0% fat Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit, raw baby vegetables, small pots of hummus, bags of nuts and seeds, yoghurt smoothies, fishy sushi, sachets of miso soup.

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 21

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 21: 2lbs of muscle weighs the same as 2lbs of fat but muscle is denser so you look leaner. Try resistance training (lifting weights) for 20 minutes a day. Don’t worry about bulking up too much or getting muscle where you don’t want it, it is a great all-over fat buster.

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 20

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 20: If you can’t function without your morning latte, ask for it to be made with soya milk to keep your blood sugar balanced for longer and avoid cravings. And, while you are waiting in the queue pick up a piece of fruit and a small bag of nuts for snack attacks later in the day.

Get Santa

Get Santa
Get Santa is one of those inevitable Christmas movies that come out at this time of year.

Although this one strays from the usual road by having Santa crash into someone’s garage. Tom (Kit Connor) discovers Santa in his damaged shed with the reindeers on the loose.

Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) needs all the help he can get to make sure he can return to Lapland and complete his job.

This movie is on a par with Nativity 3, with crude jokes and adults with peas for brains. You can see what’s coming miles before it appears on the screen.

I don’t understand the current need to show Christmas movies containing such stupid humour. Just what was the target audience for this film? The kids or adults who behave like kids?

The whole thing was pretty pointless. I’m not even sure who thought of a movie where Santa crashes. I mean why? Also why do we need to see Santa going to jail? What was that about?

The storylines are boring, why is there a motley group in the prison? It was like that IKEA advert where the kitchen is spinning, there’s absolutely no reason for it, you’d never ever want a revolving kitchen so who designed one?

The main problem is this film is competing with many other similar films, one mentioned above. Like its counterparts, the script relies too much on crudeness and silliness to fill the time slot. This film also was slightly darker in tone.

The director does know about Christmas? It Didn’t appear so at all! I wouldn’t like to spend Xmas dinner round his place that’s for sure! Where’s the message about Christmas? If there was one in this offering, it got lost in amongst the inane poop jokes!

The only redeeming feature of this film is Jim Broadbent’s portrayal of Santa. The man shows why he’s a great British asset.

4/10 from me. Jim Broadbent solely saves this film from a much lower score.

If Santa gets presents from someone (as he gets all of ours!) He doesn’t need help, but a decent film writer!

Image reproduced from atgtickets.com
Trailer reproduced from IGN

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 24

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 24: Forget the fat busting, go for broke and have fun! As long as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day don’t turn into a two week-long gorge you can throw caution to the wind for a few days. Merry Christmas!

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 19

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 19: Tired of hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Don’t fret. If you can’t face food first thing in the morning or time is against you just ensure that you have something for elevenses – half an avocado stuffed with a mix of tinned salmon and salsa is a delicious, nutritious and filling solution.

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 18

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 18: Dates abound at this time of the year and if you have a sweet tooth they are the cat’s pyjamas! They are so sweet that satisfaction is guaranteed with just two or three and if you aim for the ones stuffed with almonds or pistachios you get the ‘protein extra’ which blunts the sugar spike – a great wee snack for a sugaraholic!

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 17

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 17: Christmas is getting perilously close and you are probably feeling the stress! Cereal bars are a brilliant, quick and portable snack but many have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut! Go for Nine bars and Food Doctor bars.

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 16

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 16: It takes around 20 minutes for the brain to get the ‘nutritionally-satisfied’ message from the stomach so have a nourishing snack (light soup and a small mixed salad is a good combo) when you get in from work and wait. You will eat a lot less at your evening meal.

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 15

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 15: Difficult to believe but lemons and limes promote alkalinity within the digestive system and prevent acid build-up which increases fat accumulation. Get them into your foods and drinks wherever possible – a warming mug of hot water with lemon and ginger is a great and cleansing way to start the day.

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 14

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 14: Ever tried a wheat-free day or two? You will be amazed at how much looser your waistband feels. Much of the wheat now grown for global consumption is light on digestion-friendly fibre and can cause bloating which is nothing short of a disaster when you want to get into those skinny jeans! But, you have to read the food labels – wheat is everywhere!

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 13

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 13: Do you suffer from SAD at this time of the year? Countries where the most fish is eaten suffer the lowest levels so ‘up’ your consumption and if time is tight mash some tinned sardines onto a few oatcakes for lunch today and reap the fat busting, calcium-rich benefits.

Fiona’s Christmas Countdown – December 12

Have Your Christmas Cake AND Eat It!

Fiona Kirk’s Christmas Countdown to Fending Off The Festive Flab

Nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk (fatbustforever.com) is on a yuletide mission with her fabulous fat busting daily tips to help YOU body swerve the festive pounds this Christmas.

Fiona Kirk

Each day, from now until Christmas Eve, Fiona will be helping YOU to party hard whilst eating to love your waistline during the holiday season and into 2013!

December 12: Many fruit yoghurts are heaving with sugar. Go for 0% fat Greek yoghurt and add your own fresh fruit and a few nuts or seeds or sling the whole lot into the liquidiser, blast, strain and flask it for sipping throughout the day.

Win Tickets to Ideal Home Show Christmas 2012

City Connect has teamed up with simply.food – the blog written by our Food Writer Nayna Kanabar – to offer readers the chance to win a pair of tickets to the Ideal Home Show at Christmas 2012 taking place at London’s Earls Court on 14-18 November. The Prize Draw closes on 30 October so don’t delay entering to win this fantastic opportunity to visit the Show for FREE!!!

Back for its second year and hosted by celebrity ambassadors such as Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Suzi Perry, Myleene Klass, Olly Smith and Gino D’Acampo, the Ideal Home Show at Christmas will offer six, extraordinary shows in one which include: Interiors & Furnishings, Home Improvements & Outdoor Living, Technology and Gadgets, and Gifts and Decoration ideas, as well as Fashion & Beauty and Food & Drink, combined to give you style and advice on how to dress your home in time for the holiday season.

This year’s event will see a series of themed room sets, a new and unique Christmas Craft Theatre which offers a variety of workshops and advice on how to decorate your homes’ interior, from making your own decorations, table settings to Christmas cards and wreaths, as well as Home Improvement ideas for those last minute jobs around the house.

There will also be a Traditional Christmas Market with gifts and crafts that cannot be found on the high street, as well as a variety of seasonal recipes and festive food and drink from a range of highly acclaimed chefs across the Food & Drink section. If that wasn’t enough to wet your appetite, there will also be the chance to indulge in a 3 course tasting menu at the Winter Restaurant.

For fun and festive entertainment visit our special Dancing on Ice Skating Rink where all the family can enjoy a skating session, a bandstand filled with Christmas Choirs and live performances by a range of West End Musicals, which will celebrate the start of the Christmas season and provide a great festive day out for the whole family.

Featuring over 600 exhibitors the Ideal Home Show at Christmas offers an unrivalled range of products and all the inspiration you need to make your home feel welcoming and inviting this season.

TICKET PRIZE DRAW
For your chance to WIN one of 5 pairs of tickets, simply click here and follow the instructions to enter the prize draw. Closing date for enteries is 30 October 2012 at 6pm.

Good luck… but if you don’t win one of the pairs of tickets you can always book tickets online at www.idealhomeshowchristmas.co.uk or call the Ticket Hotline on 0844 209 7330.