Blogmas Day 22: Baking Disaster

In my quest to do as many Christmassy things as possible within the next 3 days, today I thought I could try and make a new tradition. I’ve seen these delicious looking Chocolate Torrones all over my Pinterest feed; it looks like a block of chocolate with whole hazelnuts in, what’s not to love?!

So I thought I would try and make one of these this afternoon. In my head, I thought this might be something I could incorporate into my yearly festive traditions, I could make one of these every year and it could be a centrepiece on our Christmas table.

To cut a long story short, it didn’t quite turn out like that. I started off well, I had all my ingredients ready and things were going smoothly- I was melting chocolate, using it to line a loaf tin to get the signature Torrone shape, and everything was going well. But whilst I was melting my chocolate, with my festive music on in the background, I completely forgot the tray of hazelnuts I was roasting. As soon as I opened the oven, a smell that reminded me of burning popcorn filled the kitchen, as well as a thick cloud of smoke.

This was how they turned out!
They looked so perfect before…

So that was the first mishap. The second one came soon after, when I’d put the tray of half burnt hazelnuts on top of the stove whilst I was trying to work out how to salvage the situation. I was still melting some chocolate using the hob very close to the burnt hazelnuts, and you can probably guess what happened next… the baking paper I’d put the hazelnuts on caught fire! Thankfully it was only the corner of the paper which had caught fire, so it didn’t touch the hazelnuts, although it probably wouldn’t have made much difference to them!

This may all sound rather dramatic for a bit of baking, but this was not the perfect new tradition I was planning on making! I did manage to salvage a few hazelnuts from the wreckage and add them into my Torrone, which is more like a big block of chocolate (which will still definitely get eaten within a matter of moments), but I think I’m going to take it as a sign that I should stick to gin cocktails and chutney!

See you tomorrow,

Anna

Blogmas Day 21: Festive Pick Me Up Playlist Tag

I have been tagged by the lovely Charlotte from theoutspokenblonde to take part in the Pick Me Up Playlist tag, and like Charlotte, I wanted to make it festive themed, so here we go!

The Rules:

  • Link back to ‘Pick Me Up Playlist’ creator – Laura Spoonie
  • Tag the blogger who nominated you – theoutspokenblonde
  • Mention how music helps your Mental Health
  • List 10 songs that you would consider to be a part of your ‘Pick Me Up Playlist’ (optional: mention a little bit why each song is on your list)
  • Tag 10 other bloggers to join in with the ‘Pick Me Up Playlist’ Challenge

I always find it so interesting to hear what music other people listen to, so I am very excited to take part in this tag. I wrote in my Blogmas Day 16 post about using music as a festive mood booster, so I also love the fact that this tag focuses on how music helps your mental health.

I am always happiest when I have my earphones in, when I can just shut out the world for a bit. I don’t feel like I’ve started my day off right until I’ve been able to put my earphones in and strut around, so music really helps my mental health, particularly in the mornings when I know I can be a bit grumpy! I find that music definitely has the power to lift your mood, even by just a little bit, so I want to share with you the festive songs that make me feel good:

  1. Michael Bublé- It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas- this song signifies the beginning of Christmas for me. Any Christmas song sung by Michael Bublé instantly makes me feel 1000% more festive.
  2. Coldplay- Christmas Lights- I love this song, it’s one of my favourites. I think the piano is so calming and atmospheric, and just makes me think of cosy evenings in when it’s dark outside!
  3. East 17- Stay Another Day- I don’t know why this is a Christmas song, but the video is so good that I had to include it in this list!
  4. Mariah Carey- All I Want For Christmas Is You- a song that needs no explanation, it never gets old! You know whenever you hear that twinkle at the beginning of the song that it’s about to get full-on Christmassy wherever you go!
  5. Bing Crosby and David Bowie- Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy- the perfect classic, traditional song that everyone goes quiet for when it comes on.
  6. Ariana Grande- Santa Tell Me- I know this is more like Christmas pop rather than the traditional ones, but I could listen to this on repeat for hours. I think it’s such a good song to have on in the background when you’re doing a bit of Christmas baking, because you can sing along to it at the top of your lungs while you’re eating cookie dough straight from the bowl!
  7. Nina Nesbitt- Oh Holy Night- this is such a beautiful version of this song, it gives me shivers when I listen to it!
  8. Sam Smith- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas- this is another one that I found on the Spotify Singles Christmas playlist, and it’s just brilliant and echoey and cosy; all the good things.
  9. George Ezra- White Christmas- I spoke about how much I love this song in my blog post the other day, but I had to include it on this list because it’s so good!
  10. Lily Allen- Somewhere Only We Know- I don’t think this one is technically a Christmas song but it was on the John Lewis Christmas advert a few years ago and ever since then, every time I’ve heard it it makes me smile and think of Christmas decorations and twinkly lights.

So those are all of the songs which are getting me through the festive season- I haven’t been blogging for very long, so instead of tagging other bloggers to do this tag, I’d love to hear in the comments which Christmas songs give you that instant burst of happiness, or which really help your mental health.

See you tomorrow,

Anna

Blogmas Day 11: Gingerbread Loaf

This is my first bake of Blogmas… what a momentous occasion! I’m really surprised that this is the first bit of proper baking I’ve put up on here, particularly during Blogmas. If you read my Blogmas Day 3, where I rambled about running out of time to do all the baking that I wanted to a few days ago, you’ll know that I was planning to do loads of baking, all in one day. It’s taken a lot of motivation to get up off the sofa, but I’ve finally gotten around to doing it. 

*In my best Masterchef contestant voice* So today, I have made an iced gingerbread loaf, complete with some little gingerbread people around it.

I found the recipe for this gingerbread loaf online, I think it was on the BBC Good Food website, and then I freestyled with the icing. It was a risky move, I know, because I really wanted to make a salted caramel icing, but I couldn’t find any salted caramel in the supermarket and was so distracted with the idea of where I was going to place my gingerbread people on top of the loaf that I couldn’t be bothered to make my own salted caramel. Instead, I made a golden syrup frosting and sprinkled in some sea salt, which I thought was a close second to my original plan.

I really love this gingerbread loaf, because it’s packed with ginger and allspice, which are two of the most important aspects of any good Christmas bake. When the loaf was cooking, my kitchen smelled like a Christmas grotto!

This loaf also makes me imagine a Hansel and Gretel style world, where the loaf is a little village, and the icing is like mini mountain peaks. All the gingerbread people are gossiping and chatting whilst the snow (icing sugar) starts falling around them…I’m probably a little overtired if you can’t already tell, but this is what came to my mind as I was decorating it earlier!

See you tomorrow,

Anna     

 

Blogmas Day 8: 5 Ways to Stay Calm in Amongst The Festive Chaos

Real talk for a moment. Christmas is wonderful and exciting, but it’s also quite stressful. Your lifestyle changes for the whole month of December- you’re expected to go to lots of social functions and be around lots of people, there’s the emotional and financial stress of finding the perfect presents for your friends and family, and you feel like you need to stay happy all the time because it’s December, which is supposed to be magical.

But sometimes it’s all a little too much, and you’re just not in the mood. You are totally allowed to feel this way, it’s normal, so here are 5 pieces of advice that I have to help you survive the festive season:

1) Keep your routine- this is so important. Make sure you’re meeting all your needs before you do all the festive extras. If you’d normally go for a walk on a Sunday afternoon, don’t shun it because you have a million other Christmassy things to do. Your needs come first, everything else can wait.

2) Remind yourself that this stress is very temporary- December is just one month, and it’ll all be over soon, so if Christmas isn’t your thing, or if it’s becoming overwhelming, don’t worry, just count down the days until January!

3) Have a day off if it’s too much- you are allowed to pick and choose the parts of Christmas that you like, so why not just eat your advent calendar chocolate then forget all about it being December for the rest of the day?

4) Prioritise the fun bits- if you feel ready to get back into the festive spirit, then put your favourite Christmas film on, and put on a pair of fluffy socks, and just let yourself enjoy it-leave any stresses about buying presents until tomorrow.

5) Take each activity for what it is-  there is no expectation on you to have a ‘perfect’ Christmas, you’re totally allowed to just observe each activity for what it is, whether it’s the nice dinner you eat on Christmas Day, listening to people singing Christmas carols, whatever it may be. You don’t have to over-complicate it. Take note of how your senses are interpreting each of these things, and just see how it makes you feel. You might really enjoy it, you might hate it, either way is completely cool. 

So if you’re stressing, just take five minutes to yourself, re-read these 5 pieces of advice and remember that everything is fine and you’re doing a great job.

See you tomorrow,

Anna

Blogmas Day 6: Christmas Tree Foraging

Blogmas Day 6: Christmas Tree Foraging

I feel like I’m a bit late in the game showing you my Christmas tree, it’s already the 6th of December! The reason for this is because as much as I love everything about Christmas, I don’t put my decorations up until it is officially December; I stick to the same rule with listening to Christmas music too. Don’t get me wrong, nothing brings me more joy than seeing a picture on Instagram of someone putting their tree up in mid-September, but I like to stick to December so that I don’t peak too early.

Anyway, this year, when December finally dawned upon us, we wanted to try something new. We visited a Christmas tree farm, which was a cool but weird experience. I’d heard of a Christmas tree farm before, but I’d never actually thought about what it would look like- it’s just lots of Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes in rows, which doesn’t sound too strange in theory, but it really threw me!

When you arrive at the farm, you’re given a tag to take around with you, so that you can pop it on the tree that you would like. 

Luckily it was quite quiet when we went, so we just ambled around for a while with our tags, talking very seriously about how full each tree was, and trying not to look too suspicious as we sniffed them to see if they smelt like proper Christmas trees (don’t judge me, you have to for scientific purposes… and heads up, the ones with pine cones smell the best).

We didn’t actually choose any of the trees that were still growing, but we chose one which had already been chopped down (that just sounds so horrible though, doesn’t it?!), and I even netted it myself.

We had a slight issue when we got it back… it seemed to be so much bigger than when we saw it at the farm- there’s only a few centimetres between the top of the tree and the ceiling, and I don’t know if you’ve seen the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but it felt like the part in that where they un-net their tree and it’s so big that all the branches smash through the windows in their living room! Luckily ours wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it’s still a mighty tree.

I know that lots of people have a theme for their decorations, some people even change their theme annually, but we don’t really have a theme that we stick to rigidly. Our mix of Christmas decorations is a bit of everything, mostly red, green and gold decorations, as well as a string of white lights, but there are definitely a few wildcard baubles in there. I mean, in my dream home, I would love for everything to be copper and navy themed, but we take more of a rustic approach here!

So here are a few close up pictures of my our tree- I would have loved to have got the whole tree in there but I couldn’t get it all in the frame at the right angle!

If you haven’t already got your decorations up, happy decorating to you!

See you tomorrow,

Anna

Blogmas Day 4: Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate

This idea has been in my mind for a while now, ever since I saw the chocolate oranges come out in the supermarket…that’s when you know the good stuff is coming! I’ve also spent the last few weeks totally immersed in Blogmas planning and writing essays, so I’m going to treat myself to a nice hot chocolate and you should too! What you’ll need:

  1. Terry’s Chocolate Orange (as much as you fancy, I went for 6 segments)
  2. 350ml milk
  3. Marshmallows (Christmas tree shaped aren’t mandatory, but are preferable)
  4. A festive mug

All you need to do is warm up the milk in a saucepan until it starts bubbling away, then take it off the heat, add the chocolate orange in, and stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted and your kitchen smells amazing!

Final step, decant the hot chocolate into your mug and add the marshmallows on top. You could always add some squirty cream to the top if you want. Voila, enjoy!

See you tomorrow,

Anna

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Blogmas! : Day 1

Hello lovely festive reader!

As the title of this post explains, it is December 1st, which means that it’s finally time to dust off your Santa hat, bulk buy the mince pies and justify every lazy decision with the phrase ‘it doesn’t matter, it’s Christmas’! The festive season has arrived, and I’m excited for every minute of it.

So I am taking on the challenge of Blogmas- I will be making a lot of food, doing some festive decorating, and trying out some new traditions as well as the old tried and tested ones, every day leading up to Christmas Day. And I’ll be documenting them here for you to come along with me for the triumphs (fingers crossed!) and fails (there will be some, without doubt).

IMG_0148.jpg
My festive breakfast!

So, to start with, I wanted to ease into Blogmas by showing you what I had for breakfast this morning- of course my Blogmas was going to start with food- what else would you expect?

I really love the novelty of all the normal foods you buy suddenly being turned into festive shapes, so the fact that my crumpet this morning was shaped like a Christmas tree was a definite highlight of my day.

In other news, I have spent the rest of my day preparing some upcoming Blogmas posts with Michael Bublé blaring through my earphones, we’ve dug out the Christmas decorations (it was a dusty and painful experience trying to rummage through the damp garage), and I had a gin and tonic at 3 o’clock this afternoon, because hey, it doesn’t matter, it’s Christmas!

See you tomorrow,

Anna