Perfecting Christmas – Christmases Past

This week should have been me boasting about having a huge batch of cookies frozen in readiness for defrosting and baking for Christmas.  But it isn’t.  I’m way behind on my baking at the moment.  And also way behind on blogging. 

This blog is ‘live’ and I mean that I never have posts saved up.  It’s always something that has just happened that gets posted and I like that, but sometimes, like now, it causes me issues.  I am sitting here at 9.30pm instead of watching the football and this is my second time of typing this as my computer decided to do its own thing.  I really could do with a laptop so that I could type and watch the football at the same time!

But hey ho! On I go!  Our family is not as harmonious as it was.  My sister stopped talking to my mum about 4 months ago and it has created a lot of tension.  Its hard.  But it has caused me to think alot about our childhood (she is a year and a half younger) and whether it was as bad as she is making out.  I don’t think so. 

In fact we had fun.  And Christmases were always great fun.  We always had a real tree and were allowed to decorate it how we liked.  There were always mountains of presents and on Christmas Day we had fun as a family opening presents, eating and generally having fun. 

I must find some photos.  Maybe at the weekend.

And it got me thinking about last Christmas. Mum and I headed to New York for some Christmas shopping and fun and I looked through the photos last night.


The New York Palace Hotel where we stayed.  Possibly the most Christmases and pretty forecourt I have ever seen!

The Tiffany window. 

Rockafeller Centre




Perfecting Christmas

This week I have been so busy doing Christmas – like two days of shopping, that I haven’t got anything ready for this post at all. 

But I can say, that I am nearly 80-90% done with my shopping and all the cards are written and overseas gifts have been sent.  I am sure that this will be a ‘perfect’ Christmas if I can stay on top of the small bit of a list left and be ready to enjoy Christmas from the start of December.

Perfecting Christmas – Getting Organised

This is week three of Perfecting Christmas.  If you have missed the last two posts click here.


I love lists and my list for Christmas 2010 was compiled in Excel about a month ago.  I have a page for cards complete with categories for work, personal and overseas, a column for addresses and a tick box next to each name.  Then there is a present list which follows the same set up and a calendar for November and December (as well as the one I use everyday on Outlook) and then a to-do list.  It’s so nice to have the list that I can continue to refer to and update.  Ticking things off the list is a great pleasure and I have already begun to tick off presents to be sent overseas and items that have been purchased on line. 

 In order to get organised for Christmas and to hit my deadline of 1st December to have 90-95% of everything done (present buying, present wrapping and cards written out) I was keen to get started.  This week was organising week. 

 Up into the loft we went.  In total we brought down six large bin bags crammed with bits and pieces.  It was all laid out on my parent’s bed in categories so that we could survey what the past Christmases had left us with.


 The mammoth task of wrapping paper took quite a while to sort out as rolls of paper were caught in other rolls.  There are 19 rolls pictured below, and what with the two rolls that I have already bought it is clear that wrapping paper can be crossed off my list right now! 

 With a new colour scheme this year we will not require the red baubles so these were packaged up and placed back in the loft.  I am also taking some to work as our tree was a little sparse last year. The silver baubles and gold are back in the loft (stored separately) as I already have plans for these.

Then it was on to the garlands.  We have three in total.  The one for the front door was bundled up separately with its lights and more baubles.  Now it is ready to be sorted out straight from the bag without the need to search for extra items.   We had three wreaths and one has now been sent to the charity shop.  Silk flowers are also redundant and they too were sent for other people to enjoy. 

And it turned out that we have plenty of candle holders (and of course have some of these in the living room and hallway already) but it was good to see what we had and note that we did not need any more. 

Ribbons and tags were also organised and they have been labelled up and sorted out into respective boxes.  I find it easier to have a box of assorted tags, and one for ribbons and one for little ornaments for presents (bells and tiny baubles always look great) next to the desk where we do our wrapping and then everything is in it’s right place. 



As for cards, well we actually need more.  And that is now the next task I want to tick off my list.

Are you super-organised and already for Christmas from when you packed it away last year or do you leave it more to chance?

Perfecting Christmas – Plum And Almond Cake

It’s week two of Perfecting Christmas.  Last week I did Christmas Puddings and as we couldn’t wait until Christmas Day we ate one the other night.


Today it’s a plum and almond cake and I know that you may think that this has nothing to do with Christmas, but it is a good wintery cake and has cinnamon in it which is my idea of Christmas Heaven!  I plan to take this over to a friends house when I dress her Christmas tree for her.  In the meantime though mum and I had this while pouring over the Christmas catalogues.  I have adapted it (very slightly) from Mich Turner’s Cherry and Almond Cake recipe in her book Fantastic Party Cakes.

  • 140g self raising flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbs milk
  • 85g unsalted butter, melted
  • 25g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon for the topping
  • 350 g of tinned plums, stoned and chopped into quarters
  • 25g ground almonds
  • icing sugar for sprinking

 * 25g = 1oz

  1. Preheat oven to 180c.
  2. Mix the flour, cinnamon and 50g caster sugar together.  Add the egg, milk and melted butter and almond extract and beat until well mixed.
  3. Spoon into the tin.
  4. Scatter the plums onto mixture and press down lightly.
  5. In a separate bowl mix the butter, almonds and 25g caster sugar together with 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.
  6. Scatter this mixture over the plums.
  7. Cook the cake for 30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
  8. Allow the cake to cool and then sprinkle with icing sugar and the remaining cinnamon mixed together and serve.

I generously buttered and lined the bottom of the cake tin.  The cake mixture is very thick and easy to smooth out.


I drained the plums but not to excess.  The syrup that still coated the plums helped to caramelise the cake slightly.  Here it is with the almond mixture sprinkled on top.


The problem is, as soon as it is plated up, I want to eat it, which means the final photo is always a bit awful. But the cake is great.  You should definitely try it!