Thursday, 29 November 2012

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Top 5

Following on from my Halloween Top 5 movies, here's my favourite 5 seasonal films to watch in front of the fire on cold evenings, preferably with lots of nibbly food and mulled wine. And no, my Top 5 doesn't feature Die Hard.

1. Elf - The ultimate Christmas movie. I love the stupidity, the hilarity and the magic of it. This movie has the best lines EVER and is the start to Christmas for me. I'll be watching it this weekend with my niece - she's never seen it before so I hope she loves it.

2. Love Actually - I've actually watched this already, as it starts 6 weeks before Christmas (so I had to watch it then.. just because.) I think it's the Britishness of this film that I love so much, especially the stiff upper lip of Hugh Grant's Prime Minister. And of course, the clever intertwining stories of love all over the world. Because love, actually, is all around.

3. The Grinch - No explanation necessary!

4. The Holiday - Not quite a firm family favourite, but can you really go wrong with a film which has Jude Law and Jack Black? I didn't think so! Although I can't imagine ever being away from home at Christmas, I guess I'm kind of inspired by the story line. Although I'd still pick the quaint English cottage over the plush LA place. Plus, Jude Law and Jack Black are in it...

5. A Muppets Christmas Carol - THE SONGS! There's nothing better than singing at Christmas. And as Buddy the Elf would say "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." Anything Charles Dicken's did is good in my book, but it's even better when the Muppets are involved too. Light the lamp, not the rat!

There's only one more day in November, can you believe it? What are you doing to get yourself in the Christmas mood?

Monday, 26 November 2012


I always feel sort of lost around Christmas time, remembering my Grandparents and how much I miss them. My bedroom is an attic room, meaning family photo albums are never too far away. Tonight was one of the rare nights that I had to get them out and have a look through. I believe my interest in photography stemmed totally from my Grandad, and it seems that my love of scrapbooking and documenting also came from him - a lot of the photos have notes on the back of them or written alongside. The photos below are full of history - their European holidays, family Christmasses, and beautiful scenery - and there's boxes more where they came from.


It's amazing what you can find a couple old cardboard boxes - including an invitation to my Grandparents wedding.

Sarcastic notes on the back of beautiful postcards.

And highly embarrassing photos of me and my sister one snowy morning.

Keep your family close this Winter. x

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Calm Before The Storm

This is my last quiet weekend before Christmas! From here on, every week is packed with festivities. We're going to the theatre to see The Woman In Black, I'm doing another floristry course to make a door wreath, Ash's band have a couple of gigs lined up, we're seeing Mumford and Sons and taking a trip to pay a surprise visit to Ash's Mum in Essex. Plus we have a lot of Christmas shopping to do!

I can't believe how quickly it's coming around. My iPhone is full of notes for Christmas presents, I've pinned a load of recipe ideas, and I've got a small pile of presents mounting up in a corner of the bedroom. I'm thankful for this quiet weekend to relax and prepare for my favourite time of year.

And what's on the top of my Christmas list? Fall Out Boy's Take This To Your Grave record.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Now Playing

One of the gifts I gave Ash for his birthday was Marley, the Bob Marley documentary. Even in the first half an hour I'd learnt so much about him, the music of Jamaica where ska and reggae originated, and where Bob grew up in Trenchtown seeing music as his way out. I guess that old school passion is still flaming in modern ambitionists who don't use X Factor as a way to get to the top.

One of my favourite quotes ever was by Bob Marley - "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.' This is Trenchtown.

They say it's hard to speak,
They feel so strong to say we're weak.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Flavoured Vodka and Cranberry Sauce

It's officially less than 6 weeks to go until my favourite day of the year. I am the most festive person I know. I love the food and drink of Christmas time, and it's even better when you can share it.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking of those recipes which need time to soak or set. First up, cranberry and orange vodka.

You will need:
1 litre of vodka (own brand will be fine as you'll be flavouring it)
300g cranberries. Fresh or frozen (defrost first)
1 orange
150g caster sugar

(Note: I got a 1.5 litre bottle of vodka and decanted half a litre in to another bottle. This frees up space for adding the fruit, syrup and shaking!)

This is the easy part - and the reason it requires forward planning. Add your cranberries to the bottle of vodka and leave for 3 weeks, shaking the bottle whenever you remember to.
After 3 weeks, your vodka should be a lovely pink colour! Sieve out the cranberries (but don't throw them away) and pour the vodka back in the bottle. I tried a bit at this stage and found it far too bitter for my sweet tooth, so I thought a simple sugar syrup would help sweeten it up.
In a jug, squeeze the orange over the sugar and add 200ml of boiling water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and allow to cool. Using a funnel and a tea strainer over the top to catch any orange flesh, pour the syrup in to the bottle and give it a bit of a shake. And that's it!
In the end it goes a lovely pinky orange colour. If you like you can decant the vodka in to pretty bottles and give as gifts, but as we will probably drink it at home I've kept it in the bottle I made it in.

Serve straight ice cold as a between-courses indulgence, or in a tall glass with ice, lemonade or ginger ale and a wedge of orange.

I have also made some Limoncello which is gorgeous, and I will share that recipe another time. Have you ever flavoured vodka before? You can probably do it with just about anything. I think a peach vodka would be great in Summer cocktails.

Next up, the cranberry sauce.

What I didn't mention before is this sauce is slightly alcoholic! I got the recipe from an old Heston Blumenthal handout, and altered it slightly using the cranberries from my vodka.

You will need:
300g of vodka soaked cranberries
Rind of 2 oranges, juice of 1
100g fruit sugar

Heat up the cranberries in a saucepan for a few minutes until they begin to soften, stirring constantly to break them down. I actually used a potato masher to get the consistency I wanted. Add the orange rind and juice and combine with the fruit sugar. Simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes until the mixture becomes quite soft. Allow it to cool in the saucepan and store in an airtight container or sterilised jam jar in the fridge. Done! The vodka in the cranberries really adds a tartness to the sauce, a grown up addition to the table. Serve at room temperature alongside your Christmas turkey, or in the leftover sandwiches on Boxing Day.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

National Anthem

It seems like we've finally decided to book a trip of a life time!  Setting big challenges like this - mentally, financially, and geographically - is what makes me thrive. I love to get my teeth stuck in to a new project, and planning 3 weeks to America in Spring 2014 might be exactly what I need. I don't know a lot about America so I'd appreciate any travel tips!

The font used on the picture above is one I made myself with the iFontMaker app on iPad. Coolest thing ever. I'm going to try making something more curly for my photography website.

I'm shooting my last wedding of the year tomorrow. They've been together since secondary school and I'm honoured to be doing their photos.

On Saturday it's Ash's birthday, so we're looking forward to some good food, cake, and a few rums.

My soundtrack for this evening - pampering, ironing, charging batteries and relaxing.

The Gaslight Anthem - National Anthem (Live at Reading)

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Lately I've Been

Drinking Margaritas


Listening to the Gaslight Anthem. Dressing for Halloween.

Loving my first Modcloth purchase (damn import taxes!)


Painting glittery nails. Hanging out with my niece.

Watching fireworks.

Enjoying a random snow flurry.


Eating toffee apples. Wearing my favourite shoes.

Embracing winter.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Mulled Cider with a Sloe Gin Kick

Last year before watching the local firework display - which we can see perfectly from our bedroom window - I made some mulled cider. Tonight was the night of the 2012 local display so I recreated my recipe.. sort of! In a couple of weeks we'll be going to Wells Carnival and I plan to make enough mulled cider to fill a couple Thermos flasks to keep us warm for the night!

Here's my home made mulled cider recipe - with a sloe gin kick.

You will need:
A litre of cider (any will do as it'll be boiled up! I used Thatchers Gold.)
200ml of sloe gin
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks or a tea spoon of ground cinnamon
Half a dozen cloves
A couple of slices of orange
A tea spoon of muscavado sugar or honey to taste

Pour your cider in to a large pan with the cinnamon and cloves. Allow it to heat slowly, stirring every few minutes, until it comes to a slight boil. This should take about 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat, add the orange slices and sloe gin, cover and allow it to simmer for another couple of minutes.

Ladle the cider in to mugs! And that's it! It's so warming and spicy, the perfect winter hot-cocktail! Be careful though - adding the sloe gin at the end means it doesn't burn off any alcohol content. I am definitely writing this with a woozy head :)