Chocolate Orange Delight

Day 3 of the Christmas Blogging Challenge! This time: My favourite Christmas recipe, mine being a Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate.

Hot chocolate is something I have throughout the year, but around Christmas time it becomes just that little bit more special. This could be because of Terry’s Chocolate Orange – a default gift at this time of year. This is such a simple recipe, and it is a great way to make use of those chocolate oranges you have building up.

Ingredients:

Ingredients
As you can see, I went to Tesco.
  • Terry’s Chocolate Orange
  • Milk of your choice, I use semi-skimmed
  • Whipped cream
  • Marshmallows
  • White shimmer pearls (like those teeth-shattering silver balls, but white)

 

Method:

  1. Pour a mugful’s worth of milk into a saucepan, and place the saucepan over a medium heat on the hob.
  2. Take your nearest sledgehammer to break up your chocolate orange, then add it piece by small piece to the milk. You will want to make sure you are stirring steadily with a wooden spoon, not only to make sure the chocolate melts in properly, but also so the milk doesn’t settle in one place and end up burning against the bottom of the pan.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with doing a few taste tests along the way, just to make sure there’s the right ratio of chocolate to milk suited to your preferences. Personally, I have a disgusting sweet tooth, but for
    some people more than a few segments can be a bit sickly.
  4. Once your chocolate has all been melted into the milk, and looks like this…
    Melted chocolate…you can pour it into your selected mug, ready for decoration. I don’t want to be a hot chocolate dictator, free expression of edible creativity is very important, but I’ll let you know how I usually do it.
  5. Start with a layer of whipped cream, setting the scene like the first blanket of snow on Christmas morning.
  6. Add some fluffy, white marshmallows to really capture that winter wonderland look. Side note: It is recommended that you eat a few marshmallows as you go along, you know, to test them and make sure they’re up to scratch.
  7. Scatter on a few pearly balls for a bit of crunch and shimmer.
  8. Finally, if you have any chocolate left over, grate it, and sprinkle over the whipped cream, because there’s no such thing as too much chocolate at Christmas.

Finale

And there you have it, a Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate, perfect for when you’re snug and warm on an evening, curled up in front of a Christmas film that has been repeated for the third time that day. So when you unwrap your 15th Terry’s Chocolate Orange this Christmas, you’ll know exactly what to do with it! Enjoy 🙂

Finished product
This was devoured far too quickly.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Day 3 Nomination: Zoel Hernández 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Blogging

Problems with Writing Christmas Cards

When it comes to the Christmas holidays, I always say “I’m going to get a lot of writing done.” And I’m right, I do. Just not always the sort of writing I had in mind. Whilst there may be a lack of short stories being created, rest assured my pen is busy writing something else – Christmas cards.

There is a lot of debate over whether we should still be sending Christmas cards in 2015. Some treasure the tradition, some think it’s outdated, and the rest are preoccupied with more important world issues. This post is not going to be taking part in that ferocious discussion, I personally have no qualms with giving Christmas cards, but that is not to say that writing them is a task without hassle.

Here are my top five issues with writing Christmas cards…

  1. Playing match-up
    The best thing about Christmas cards? The fact that they come in packs. But when it comes to actually designating which card out of the four designs in the box should go to which person, it can be tricky. You have to make sure it appeals to the person, for instance:
    ‘Right, I’ll give this one with the penguin to Grandma, she loves animals. And then this sparkly one can go to Aunt Jill- no wait, she won’t like the glitter, it will make her cats sneeze. Okay, she can have the non-glittery design. Wait, that’s the penguin one! That means I can’t give it to Grandma, they will inevitably compare cards. Back to the drawing board.’ You see? It takes planning.
  2. Writing to an acquaintance
    Sometimes you receive a card from someone difficult. You know the type – you ask about their weekend after they held the door open for you, but you wouldn’t invite them to your eggnog get together with the clan. Now, their card is sitting pretty up on your shelf, already preening with the smugness of being sent before yours. Now you just have to reply, inviting many an etiquette issue. Addressing it brings many internal questions – ‘Is ‘Dear’ too formal, too intimate? But if I just put their name will they think I’m a writerly slob?’ Then you start to reconsider sending them a card at all, it would just be a disgraceful burden on their festive cheer. But of course after pulling yourself together, you realise you can just copy whatever greeting they used. Smart.

    Writing Christmas Cards
    This image is extremely misleading. This lady looks far too cheerful to be writing Christmas cards.
  3. When the card steals your line
    What a beautiful set of Christmas cards you just bought, a nice range that will be perfect for all your family and friends. So you whip out your pen and the address book is sitting dutifully by your side; you mean business. But that’s when you open the card and see it – the pre-printed message. Smack bang in the middle of the card reads “Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! With love,” in an overly cursive script that somehow takes up half the page. You’re at a loss. That was what you were going to write. You desperately try to think of anything you can add, but you come up dry. Might have to rethink that writing career. After an afternoon of deliberating, you end up writing something utterly synonymous to the printed message, sign your name, and move onto the mulled wine after that mental workout.
  4. Unrequited card giving
    Let’s say, for example, you’re at a Christmas gathering. You’re wearing a ridiculous Christmas jumper and a pair of novelty antlers that are beginning to give you a headache, and then someone starts to do the Christmas card rounds. Everyone is forcing season’s greetings on each other, and then you notice that nice colleague you exchange pleasantries with occasionally coming towards you. You look at your own pile of Christmas cards, knowing full well that a card with their name on it isn’t there. Why? Simply because you didn’t write one for them. They hand you a lovely card with a heartfelt message, making you choke up a little. They hang around, looking at you with innocent expectancy all over their face which then crumbles when they realise you have nothing to offer in return but “thanks, buddy.”
  5. Finding the time
    Before anything else, you need to make sure you have set aside a chunk of time for the ordeal of Christmas card writing. A way to properly speed through is to already know who you’re sending cards to, instead of thinking on the spot. There is an efficient tool for this aspect. As I’m sure is the case with many people, in particular my mother, there is The List. You must obey The List and attend to its every bullet point, as it holds all the names worthy of one of your Christmas cards. It also helps you decide if the card to your old school friend should be addressed solely to them, or whether you should tack on ‘and family,’ because, as the list shows, you can’t remember the names of their children. The List is exhausted every year and can only be subdued at the end of the festive season with another tick by each name that build up like tallies. The List always makes its revival in early December, never to be truly defeated. A real time-saver though!

Hopefully you have already written your cards for this year, and you can avoid these dilemmas for another twelve months. If not, power on through and good luck!

Have you encountered these Christmas card issues in the past?

My Favourite Christmas Tradition

Day 2 of the Christmas Blogging Challenge!

WARNING: It is not advised that this post be read by those who have not yet met the cynicism of growing up and have not abandoned the belief that Santa really does reside in the North Pole.

I have read a couple of people’s favourite Christmas tradition posts and they are all really lovely and individual, and some even touch on profound. Mine isn’t so much unique, but it is definitely the part of the day that, even though it is repeated each year, has me most excited. It is the part that hopefully most people experience on Christmas – waking up – then followed by me and my younger brother going into my parents’ room to open presents.

I have experienced it three different ways:

  1. When both my brother and I believed in Father Christmas
  2. When only my brother believed in Father Christmas
  3. When neither of us believed in Father Christmas

My brother is henceforth known as ‘Rob’ (short for Robert) due to a clever little reason –  it is none other than his name.

Scenario Number 1

I had the classic child’s response to Christmas: I couldn’t sleep. I would lie awake with increasingly itchy eyes, fidgety body and an even more restless mind. Nowadays, this is less of a precious feeling, but then it was the sign of a really good tomorrow. Eventually by some unfortunate happenstance, I would fall asleep, despite trying to will the night to go faster so that I could wake up and see if Santa had visited.

I would wake up early, often when Rob would come knock on my door and see if I was also up at 4:30am. He would ask if he was allowed to open a present at this hour, to which I responded with older-sibling knowledge: we have to ask Mum and Dad. So, much to my parents’ delight, we would knock on their door and have a half-asleep mother watch us unveil some chocolate coins from our stocking with unadulterated joy before we could go back to bed.

Later, at what was deemed a more appropriate time to be awake, Rob knocked on my door again, and we would go into my parents’ room dragging our sacks behind us – which at this point in our lives were almost as big as us.

Scenario Number 2

I was a bit older now and I had grown accustomed to staying up later, reading into the night against the wishes of my parents. I found it easier to resist the urge to sleep, meaning I was still awake when my parents stopped to fill our sacks before they went to bed. I had warned my mum to be extra quiet, and she had assured me she was so good at it that we wouldn’t hear a thing. I would hear the rustle of paper and the creaks of floorboards, making my heart clench a little. I remember thinking it was so loud and I was terrified Rob would wake up and find my parents frozen in panic on the landing as he put two and two together and came up with a ruined Christmas. Fortunately, my mum had kept her word, and managed to get away with it all without Rob stirring, leaving me able to finally stop worrying and get some sleep.

When I woke, it was my mum and Rob who I heard on the landing – I had slept in past the usual, ridiculous early start. When we took our sacks into my parents’ room and began to open presents, I made sure to thank Santa very loudly for everything that I got, and lived through the excitement of my brother making remarks like “aw wow, how did Santa know I wanted this?”

Scenario Number 3

I am now 20 and Rob just turned 17, so we are well aware that the shadow of a plump, bearded man with a luxurious red velvet hat was cast by our wonderful parents. We no longer write a letter to Santa and leave it on the fireplace, but we both still meet up on the landing with smiles of excitement on Christmas morning to take our presents into our parents’ room.

We still unwrap the gifts with childish enchantment, but now we can thank our parents properly and give them the hugs they deserve!

I would say this is my favourite tradition because even though it seems like the most uneventful part of the day and it has changed a lot over the years, it still comes down to me and my brother being kids together 🙂

What is the first thing you do when you wake up on Christmas morning?

Day 2 Nomination: Authordom, or There About. Join in!

12 Days of Christmas Blogging

 

I’m My Landpeople’s Santa Claus

Red has never really been my colour and my jolly laugh is sub-par, yet I have never felt more like Father Christmas than when the first day of the month swings by. Not because this is the day I take my flying sleigh out for a whirl or because I tend to my eight pet reindeer – those things are just a regular part of my schedule. I’m talking about when a sizeable chunk of money is dragged away from me, leaving my bank account in a bit of a tantrum. This can also be known as paying rent.

I’m sure everyone has experienced it – whether it’s renting a flat or paying off a mortgage, it can be painful. Especially around this time of the year. Christmas is when I am trying to focus my spending habits on buying wonderful gifts for loved ones and yet I seem to forget that each month my rent will be taken from me.

I will have bought some presents on the 30th November, clustered them together in their gift bags, and scrunched colourful tissue paper around the sides in an attempt at gift-wrapping. I then wake up the following morning, 1st December, with a spring in my step remembering what bargains I bought and the discounts that came with them.

Thanks to the blessing that is online technology, I am able to type in a few passwords and access my online banking to survey the damage. Shock horror – what I find missing is not the amount I had previously totalled up by hoarding the items’ price tags. The amount of money absent causes me to flinch in a way that could be described as violent. Had I really gone that crazy? Surely novelty socks can’t costs hundreds of pounds?

Alas, not to worry, I had just had a moment of idiocy, and the missing cash was just the rent waving goodbye like it does every month. Honestly, some months, I keep better track of my period than these regular payments, which is saying something.

But in a way, whilst it is sad to see it go, the money that leaves me in December is just another form of Christmas present. I really put the ‘Santa’ in Santander. 

This cash finding a new home with my landpeople is just one reason I am their Santa Claus…

  • I’m giving them what they want
    Whilst I’m sure some comfy slippers and M&S vouchers are taking up the majority of their Christmas lists, getting that rent money will also be a high priority – and I can provide that for them. They can then spend it on all sorts of Christmas treats for themselves – their own mortgage, dental floss, whatever takes their fancy.
  • I have to deliver by a certain time
    If Santa didn’t get down each chimney in record time to make sure everyone had a gift for the 25th December, then I’m sure his reputation would have suffered by now. He keeps to a tight schedule which he makes sure all his elves adhere to, which is admirable. Our situations are comparable in that we must both deliver on time, otherwise all hell will break loose. Luckily in my case, setting up a standing order really takes the pressure off.
  • I have to deliver a hefty load
    Whilst Santa might have to lumber a huge sack of presents around with him, the worst that will happen is he will do his back in, which can soon be rectified by a nice bath and maybe a massage from Mrs Clause. I’m sure once the night is over and he is left with a deflated sack, he has a feeling of tired satisfaction. I, on the other hand, have very different feelings after so much as slightly emptying my account.

Whilst these are all powerful points, a difference that has to be brought to attention is the fact that Santa has a lot more days off than me. He only has to perform one night a year, which sounds lovely but is simply not an option for some of us. So if you think about it, this is something I have over on him – I’m just a gift that keeps on giving. I only wish I could tack a decorative tag onto my hundreds of pounds to really spread the festive cheer!

Are you anyone’s personal Santa Claus?

Fun Linguistic Fact

“You’re fired.”

– A phrase that reminds you of that unfortunate day you were terminated from your job and left you cursing your boss until they were sure to be damned to hell for all eternity. It can be pretty unsettling.

However, the origin of this phrase puts today’s connotations to shame, as it was first recorded in 1871 in the form of “fired out.” This referred to the act of casting someone out of the local community by setting their humble abode alight, leaving them homeless with a minimal chance of survival.

Over time the exact semantics of this phrase have adapted to more modern societies. This means that whenever we hear it now, we no longer have to worry about our homes perishing in a blazing inferno! Instead, we all get a brief mental image of Lord Alan Sugar… Something I never thought would be the preferable option.

My Favourite Things about Christmas

This is my first post in the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging challenge by ScaleSimple, the beginning of what looks like is going to be some fun Christmas blogging!

On with the task of Day 1; to list my favourite things about this festive holiday…

  1. Being happy together with family – I would have to say this is my favourite thing. Not that my family isn’t happily together the rest of the year round, it’s just there’s a certain energy around Christmas that lets us laugh at the silliest of things and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the mundanity of the everyday.
  2. Singing Christmas songs – I am no pure talent when it comes to singing, but the jollity in coming together and belting out overplayed cheesy songs, even if it’s out of tune and with the wrong lyrics, is always so much fun. Plus, when done in a public place, it can help you bond with a complete stranger.
  3. Christmas jumpers – A trademark sign that you’re a Christmas enthusiast – allowing yourself to be wrapped up in an itchy jumper with gaudy stitching and most likely an overuse of sequins. I love them. Christmas jumpers are one of the few things that improve the worse they get.
  4. Christmas lights – I love lights in general, so when big colourful Christmas lights come down from the loft, everything seems to get prettier. I think one of my favourite instances is seeing them in trees outside at night.
  5. Presents – Both giving and receiving are highlights for me. I love to see what people get me because it gives you an insight into how well they think they know you. This also works for giving gifts – I like to try and match a perfect present to the person I’m buying for.
  6. Christmas Eve – There’s the anticipation of the following morning, meaning that whilst you know you should really get to bed early you still can’t bring yourself to sleep. But the build up of excitement is worth the odd yawn in the morning.
  7. Christmas dinner – You can have turkey, roast potatoes, vegetables, and the rest whenever you like throughout the year, and yet they are always more exciting on the 25th. Especially after all the bloody effort that goes into perfecting the timing!
  8. Christmas crackers – What great inventions, even if the paper hat somehow ends up on the floor and everyone groans at the terrible jokes. At least the tiny items stuffed into the centre are going to come in use. I mean, who wouldn’t be thrilled by a crocodile keyring that doubles as a bottle opener? My particular favourite bit – the fiery smell of the snap in the middle.
  9. Special Christmas episodes – You can really tell ’tis the season when TV programmes start to show their specially made Christmas episodes, allowing you to have a brief rest from your own day and enter the scripted and dramatised events of someone else’s.
  10. Christmas parties – Whilst you may sigh and roll your eyes at the mere suggestion of yet another occasion to watch your relatives get just a little too merry, Christmas parties are actually something I really look forward to. They usually incorporate all of the previously stated favourite items on this list, creating a lovely festive concoction.

Okay, I’ll leave it at ten for now, otherwise we may be here until… well, Christmas.

Would you add anything to my list? Or remove anything?

Day 1 Nomination: Books and Hot Tea. Get involved! 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Blogging