With Twelfth Night this weekend drawing an official close to Christmas, holding with tradition we took down all of our decorations and lights.
I spent the best part of day negotiating my way through what seemed like a whole forest of pine needles and tissue wrapping dozen upon dozen of baubles and a multitude of assorted festive nic-nacs.
Of course with a more than occasional pause to snaffle essential nourishment, in the form of the remaining Christmas chocolates. For surely they had to be eaten promptly for would it not have been “bad luck” to allow these to linger forgotten in the house beyond Twelfth Night too?
This week we will put up our Christmas tree. When it comes to decorating, I have a very strict (some might suggest something of a control freak) approach, and we only hang white lights teamed with silver and gold baubles.
However, inspired by the Louboutin 2012 tree, I did wonder if a radical new theme should be introduced?
Or perhaps, I will just keep my fingers crossed for a beautiful new pair of shoes under the tree instead.
According to an article which I read recently, the average mother spends an absolutely staggering, eye-popping 304 and a bit hours (or if you prefer, nearly 13 days) preparing for Christmas:
288 hours shopping
4.19 hours wrapping presents
3.03 hours decorating the house
9 hours cooking Christmas dinner
Having written, reviewed and re-written my festive “to do” lists and menus, I have decided to shave at least 20 minutes off my Christmas dinner cooking time this year, by forgoing criss-crosses on the bottom of sprouts.
Instead this weekend I used the “time saved” (plus some…..) individually piercing an extra large bag of cranberries for an all-essential bottle of festive gin!
Whilst I am in constant awe and openly envious of anyone who can seemingly effortlessly create beautiful home crafted items, it has become abundantly clear that although I can whip up a cake or a batch of biscuits, craft is another matter altogether. I have in the past been known to attempt to pass off my own crumpled glue splattered efforts as those of my children – this is no longer a viable option since anything they now produce is vastly superior than mine! So, to avoid any further embarrassment I generally give craft an extremely wide miss.
This week however, buoyed up by Christmas spirit and encouraged by Pinterest (yes, I should know better), I made my very own cinnamon stick wrapped candle.
Suffice to say, my attempts at wielding a glue gun were a sticky disaster, leaving in its wake a number of scorched partially melted candles and a nicely blistered finger. So instead, I deviated from the suggested method and improvised with a couple of elastic bands, which I “craftily” hid behind the ribbon.
And my “best efforts” may have caused a fair bit of mirth from my daughter as she looked on whilst I attempted to twist and mangle the dough into shape – only to provide me with a perfect how to tutorial once they were baking.
But, hot from the oven definitely delicious.
For this Pretzel recipe you will need:
1 ½ teaspoons fast action dried yeast
175ml warm (not boiling) water
¼ teaspoon pouring salt
½ teaspoon sugar
280g white bread flour
1 egg (beaten)
1 – 2 tablespoons rock salt
Makes approximately 10 – 12 pretzel buns
Measure the yeast and warm water into a small bowl. Allow to stand for 10 – 15 minutes until it is creamy and starts to bubble.
Transfer the yeast mixture to a large mixing bowl together with the pouring salt, sugar and half of the flour. Beat well (I used my Kitchen Aid fitted with the dough hook, but you could beat my hand).
Add the remaining flour gradually and continue beating until combined and a sticky dough forms.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and put in a warm place to prove for about an hour / until the dough has doubled in size.
Grease and line two large baking sheets and pre-heat the oven to 230C / 450F / Gas Mark 8.
Once the dough has proved, turn it onto a lightly flour surface and divide into 10 – 12 equal pieces.
Roll each piece into a long thin stick and twist to form a pretzel shape (or as in my case, your interpretation of one!).
Place the pretzels on the prepared baking sheets. Brush with the beaten egg and top with rock salt.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes or until risen and golden brown.
Since yesterday was 1st December and there are now only 22 sleeps to go (and counting), putting up our outdoor Christmas lights this weekend was, in my opinion, absolutely compulsory!
As I mentioned last year, the hanging of Christmas decorations and lights and the aligning of trees has a tendency to become something of, to put it kindly, a “tussle” or, more bluntly and certainly more aptly, an all out domestic war zone. Hanging our outdoor lights, doesn’t so much mark the start of the festive season but more signals the start of “open season”.
This year to add fuel to an already simmering raging fire, I had kindly bought and sneaked into the house an extra 300 lights. And am slightly ashamed to admit that I did dash out at the weekend for a further 100 when no one was looking my way!
Over breakfast on Saturday morning I sketched out my desired configuration, then leaving the lights laid out in the front porch retreated fast…..and left my husband (or perhaps more aptly given his “happy smiling face” my Christmas Grinch) to get on with the job…..
From past experience I have learnt better than to try to assist with the hanging of the lights, and certainly know there is no value to be gained from passing comment on how they have been hung.
And, at the end of the day when switched on they lend the house a lovely Christmassy sparkle and if I squint and tilt my head just a little you can almost imagine that the bulbs are neatly lined up and pointing in the same direction!
I would love to be able to boast about how I donned my pink spacesuit and jetted off on a nail biting mission to Mars! Or, casually throw into the conversation, that if I were to tell you, then I would of course have to kill you…..
Prone as I am to exaggeration, and as much as I would like to think that anyone might believe me, I am aware that the chance of either of these very “plausible tales” being remotely credible, would be pushing the boundaries for even me.
Truth be told, after my lovely long summer of essential relocation time off, I went back to work at the start of November and have found myself juggling a little more than anticipated. Simply put, I dropped the blogging ball for a few weeks.