Christmas 2014 has been a truly joyous one and I hope you all had a fabulous time as well! For me the festivities started just before December and it is only in the last few days I have had some moments to myself - and not nursing a hangover - to reflect, photograph and write about my Christmas. Christmas was particularly exciting in my household, because for the first time in several years we were hosting it. I took on the role of table settings, decorations and homemade crackers which meant most of December saw me crafting, planning and organising. Despite the added pressure, it was a truly wonderful Christmas, and we all felt a great sense of pride that our family enjoyed it as much as we did.
During my spare time, I volunteer at my local charity shop so sorting through the endless boxes of donated christmas decorations and filling the shop with sparkling dresses meant I was covered in glitter remnants before I had even bought my advent calendar. Watching the decorations fly off the shelves and going home to happy customers was as enjoyable as opening up a mysterious box like the one pictured above.
You're never to old for a chocolate advent calendar.
I started testing out some Christmas lunch variations back in September, freezing whatever I could in preparation. Some things were deemed too ambitious and contemporary for a traditional Christmas lunch whilst other slight changes went down a treat. This lunch I made for my boyfriend in the lead up to Christmas day allowed me to test a few things out. And hey, he's still alive!
Dec the Halls!
In my house we believe that if you're going to decorate the tree, you've got to do it right. That means Christmas carols playing in the background and an endless supply of mulled wine. We have three trees to decorate, one for the living room, another snowy woodland tree that sits in front of the window and a third that twinkles in my bedroom. Then, we just go a bit overboard with the rest of the house (: We have only recently moved so getting out the decorations and assigning them to new areas of the house was great fun.
When the lights work!
This is my bedroom tree in front of my fireplace. It's small but pretty and I chose blush, purple and blue decorations for it. The glass chandelier drops looked particularly lovely twinkling in front of the fairy lights.
A festive message hanging on the kitchen door.
Gold stars, shimmering acorns and a precious photo of our darling Coco last year at Christmas. Words cannot describe how much she was missed this year.
The downstairs tree - gold, plum and green were the colours this year and it certainly looked beautiful.
This was my favourite decoration of the year, which I purchased from a charity shop for a couple of pounds. Its such an unusual tree decoration but the colours, raw silk fabric and intricate bead detailing make it a beautiful piece.
The Nibble Platter
We laid out nibbles in the form of chocolates and nuts for relatives to snack on whilst lunch was being prepared. We also had little trivia games and puzzles out around the room for the guests to keep themselves entertained, but they weren't needed at all!
Chocolates, nuts and ferro roches are a must have for the Christmas nibble platter but I also added some Christmas chocolate medallions that I made the night before. To make the sugared cranberries, I simply coated them in maple syrup before rolling them around in granulated sugar and serving them in a champagne saucer. I just felt so christmassy every time I saw them on the table.
The Gift of Giving
This is the third year I've wrapped up presents with rustic, vintage paper and decorations. Last year I used vintage music paper and silky red ribbon, but this year I decided to go for something even more traditional. I honestly think brown paper packaging tied up with string is strangely underrated. It provides a neutral palette to add colours and decorations, and has such a charming, old-fashioned element to it. I had been collecting various charms, bells and foliage to adorn the presents months in advance and these are some of the gifts I gave to loved ones. For leafy decorations, I went to places like Hobbycraft where they stocked wreath making supplies such as jewelled berries and gold pine cones which I attached to the paper with string. The hand painted wooden heart tag is actually a tree decoration from a pack of 20, and each one makes a pretty addition to wrapping.
My sister Zoe is a big fan of cookie dough, brownies and Oreos so as part of her present I bought the necessary ingredients to make 'Slutty Brownies' which is the devilishly irresistible creation of Kevin and Amanda. I wrote out the recipe, tied it all up together and presented it to my sister who nearly hyperventilated at the prospect of baking the worlds most sinful treat!
As always, I made my own cards this year and took a great deal of inspiration from Pinterest. With so much to do in time for Christmas, I decided on these extremely simple and easy cards to create. My boyfriend loved his fingerprint reindeer card, the button decorations suited my sister perfectly and the christmas door card was for my mum.
You may recall in a past blog post that my family and I agreed not to do presents this year, and instead we channeled our money and time into something far more special; family days. Over the course of December, we devoured numerous cheese boards, had game nights, movie nights, meals out, cocktails, explored Christmas markets in various cities and spent as much time as we could together creating unforgettable memories. Come Christmas morning, my sister and I weren't expecting anything underneath the tree, so when we came down stairs to this we were like a pair of children. My mum being the sweetheart that she is, couldn't resist spoiling us again.
Opening my presents in my gorgeous silk robe from Anne Wiggins London which is the epitome of luxury, and Chase in her Christmas attire too!
Mum chose traditional wrapping paper with tartan boxes and velvet red ribbon, which looked so pretty.
Chase was busy trying to find her present, and was surprised with a stocking full of treats.
In the evening, we all opened up our presents with the rest of the family. I was immediately given the role of present distributer which proved a poor decision by all when I disappeared every 5 minutes to refill my glass with mulled wine.
Setting the Table
The colour scheme for the table setting was rustic gold, cream and blush with hints of silver. Mum arranged a basket of velvet cream flowers and crystallised branches on top of the cabinet and hung the most charming East of India 'Merry Christmas' bunting from the beams. Shabby chic plates and cutlery were laid out on top of a beautiful antique table cloth, with a candelabra in the centre. Everything came together beautifully!
It's always been something I've wanted to do, but with the mad rush of Christmas I've never even come close to finding time to making my own crackers. I've always begrudged paying £40 for a set of crackers that contain, at the very best, a pocket mirror or a bottle opener. We all shout out what popped out onto our laps and make jokes about the irony of certain items (I've ended up with a lipstick holder a worrying number of times). But the novelty soon wears off, and the cracker contents is left on the table and quickly forgotten about. So, I figured, why not fill the crackers with really special items this year. Things that will be enjoyed much like the presents under the tree.
I set myself a budget for the contents, visited craft stores and Paperchase to find the perfect shades of blush and gold tissue paper and began crafting. I bought a 'make your own cracker kit' from Waitrose which included jokes, hats, snappers and the card that forms the cracker itself. Despite assembling one cracker, ribbons and all, and realising I'd left out the contents, it was a surprisingly simple process. The Waitrose cracker was pretty enough, but I wrapped it up in the tissue paper, wrote out a little tag and tied it up with ribbons.
The crackers also acted as name place cards and looked beautiful on the table. They were enjoyed by everyone and the gifts were a welcomed surprise!
Here are some of the items included in the crackers; jewellery, hand cream, eyeshadows and miniature bottles of alcohol such as a whiskey for the men. So that I could enjoy cracker pulling as well, my sister and mum secretly put some earrings in mine which put a big smile on my face. Along with a gold hat, and the obligatory joke each cracker also included brussel sprout chocolates! These were definitely not crackers that you yanked at across a table full of food, so instead everyone carefully pulled theirs. Although an explosion of sequinned stars may not have been the best idea.
My Grandad, who is the most notorious former head boy in the family received this badge, which considering it came from his Grand daughters, is truly a badge of honour.
The Greatest Feast of the Year
Our Christmas dinners are rather traditional with a giant roast turkey and as many trimmings as we can fit on the table. It's greedy and obscene and I look forward to it all year.
With two vegetarians in the family, I experimented a little with the potatoes to ensure they were just as crispy without using goose fat. I found that giving them a good shake before roasting them and pouring over melted butter (the full fat, sinful kind) several times whilst roasting on a high heat worked a charm! I glazed the parsnips and carrot twigs in maple syrup instead of honey this year too, because I much preferred the warmer tones of the maple over the sickly sweet honey. Another triumph were the sage, chestnut and apple sausage meat balls that I made back in September. The recipe for those can be found in Annie Bell's 'Gorgeous Christmas'. Believe me when I say, they are heavenly. I've already frozen another batch ready for up and coming sunday lunches!
Alongside the Christmas pudding and my sisters yule log, I made this chocolate orange and marmalade cake topped with broken Terry's chocolate orange that I coloured in a shimmering gold. It's the third time I've made this cake, and its still one of my favourites. The recipe can be found in the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, and I will be posting it on my blog in the future. My mum ridiculously provided seven different types of cream to go with the desserts, and my Grandma made a trifle, Christmas cake, chocolate mousse and a lemon tart for the evenings buffet. Afterwards, we all crashed out on the sofa, vowing not to eat another bite. We all failed.
Christmas is and always will be my favourite time of the year and this post sums up why; family, love, friends, parties, food, champagne, chocolates, crafting, decorations, carols, glitter, giving and appreciating. It is the most wonderful time of the year!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year!
Find me else where (: