I know that for most people, Christmas is about family, and giving and receiving presents, and kids, and traditions, but for me, it’s primarily about two things: food and television. OK, that’s overstating things slightly – I do all the other stuff too. But 2016 has been a long hard year of work, as well as nerve-shredding current affairs, and I’m really looking forward to a few days off, a box of Quality Street, and the television remote to hand!
All things being perfect, I might be watching Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, and the festive episode of EastEnders on a Panasonic Ultra HD 4K TV, with a box of Hotel Chocolat or Fortnum and Mason chocolates on the go. But I’m happy enough with the simple things in life, and a good film and a chocolate treat are good enough for me!
As always (Timehop confirms that I’ve been going on about this on social media for years), I’ve been highlighting my trusty Christmas Radio Times to make sure I don’t miss a thing. If we’re being completely honest, there’s not an awful lot on – there’s a few classic films that appear only at Christmas time, as previously mentioned, and there’s an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Defence that I’ll be watching (I’d watch Toby Jones read the phonebook). Everything else is the pretty much the same old stuff you’ll see every year, but nothing will ever dull my enthusiasm for the Christmas television guide. I even got half of my colleagues on the case this year, even one who said she didn’t get it!
So while I will be enjoying a carol service on Christmas Eve, and dinner, board games, presents and fun on Christmas Day, I’m very much looking forward to a few days to myself with my trusty Radio Times!
Lauren Graham feels like a celebrity you could know. She’s amazing at what she does, but she doesn’t feel as though her life is so completely out of step with my own; she easily feels like someone I could grab a coffee with. This is probably due in part to her role as everyone’s favourite television mum, Lorelai Gilmore, but it’s an impression further strengthened for me by reading her memoir, Talking as Fast as I Can.
Now seems the perfect time for this book, not least for all the publicity opportunities, but because it is bookended, more or less, quite perfectly by Graham’s two experiences of working on Gilmore Girls, first time around and for the recent revival. Her memories of the latter are helped by the fact that she kept a diary, and the reader is treated to excerpts of this as she writes about how it felt to return to the role that so many people hold close to her heart.
Her experience of the original run of the series is less well remembered, which is a shame. For the purposes of the the book, instead of reaching back into her memories, Graham rewatches the series and comments on it, almost as though she wasn’t there. We get the odd insight, but for the most part, this is slightly disappointing.
All in all, it’s an enjoyable memoir, and one that I love because of my huge affection for Gilmore Girls, and for Lorelai Gilmore, a fondness that extends to Lauren Graham. But those hoping for juicy gossip from behind the series, particularly the original series, are sure to feel a little disappointed.
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
First published: December 2016
Provided by publisher
Album : Love & Hate by Michael Kiwanuka
Release Date : July 2016
Singles : Black Man in a White World, Love & Hate, One More Night
My Favourite Tracks : Black Man in a White World, Cold Little Heart, The Final Frame
This album has popped up on so many ‘Best of 2016’ lists that I thought it was about time I had a listen. I know he is critically revered, but aside from the odd song on the radio, he isn’t someone I’ve listened to an awful lot.
This is a great album, as everyone is saying. Even for someone like me, who just listens to music but doesn’t necessarily understand it all that well, I can hear just how great this album is. The first track, lasting ten minutes, and going for five minutes before we even get any vocals from Kiwanuka, is stunning, and sets the tone for the rest of the album.
This is exactly the type of album that I started this challenge for, to push myself out of my comfort zone slightly, and listen to things that I wouldn’t usually reach for on Spotify.
Today I am excited to have a guest post for you. Nicola from For the Love of Jars has shared some of her top tips for a wonderful Christmas! Don’t forget to head over and check out her lovely family blog for more advice about enjoying the good things in life!
10 ways to have the perfect Christmas – without the stress!
I have these books…
I love reading through them, it’s a sure fire way to give that Christmas tingle and feel that first buzz of excitement as we approach the festive season. However, they do create a considerable amount of pressure with their 8 week countdown and lists of things we should have done weeks ago!
It seems to me that in this digital age of super technology that managing Christmas should be getting easier. I regularly hear about people getting ‘so stressed’ about their Christmas planning, staying up until the small hours wrapping, shopping at 2am to avoid the crowds or queueing for hours in shops to get the best bargains, booking last minute hair appointments, outfits for that ‘Christmas do’, Christmas cards with that dreaded Christmas letter, organising Christmas get-togethers, planning New Years Eve Parties…the list goes on! I am sure there are people that can totally do all these things and begin their Christmas planning in July, I know of people that do all their Christmas shopping in the January sales, but for me I start panicking about it around mid-November and actually start doing something about it in early December.
So what is the solution, surely there is more to Christmas than stress and panic? I decided to think about the things that were really important about Christmas and put together my 10 ways to have a perfect Christmas – without the stress!
- Don’t spend more than you can afford – we all know it’s about giving and not receiving but that doesn’t mean Christmas has to bankrupt us. There’s nothing worse than spending a fortune at this time of year and then paying for it for the whole of next year. The amount of gifts some people buy is ridiculous and most of the time the presents aren’t really things we want or need. A few years ago we made the decision to just buy presents for the children in our family. It was a huge relief, I love giving presents, but would much rather just spend quality time with my family. If money isn’t an issue for you then go mad and buy presents for everyone but remember, times are tough for a lot of people and Christmas is just one day and not worth getting yourself into debt for.
- Watch a Christmas movie – I love a Christmas film…and I don’t think there are many I haven’t seen! Christmas 24 started back in October so you’re never short of choice! Grab yourself a hot chocolate and some popcorn, smoosh under a blanket with family, friends or loved ones and enjoy!
- Have family time – There are so many activities that you can do over Christmas so pick a few and make time to do them. Go ice skating, visit Santa, go to a carol concert, attend your local Christmas lights switch on. It’s all about having fun together and making the most of the time of year. Don’t exhaust yourself by trying to do it all and whenever you can, stay local. No sense in travelling half way across the country to see a Santa that is supposed to be ‘amazing’. There will always be a brilliant one local to you somewhere so check out the reviews and stay close to home.
- Prepare meals in advance – if you’ve got family coming for several days then think about getting some easy meals prepared in advance and put them in the freezer. As with point number 4, you really don’t want to spend the whole time cooking and miss out on the fun.
- Christmas cards – If you’re going to write Christmas cards then you might as well start them now. Write 5 or 10 cards a night and before you know it they will be done. However, if you don’t have time to send cards then don’t sweat it…just don’t send any! Send an email, send a text, send your wishes on social media. Ok it may not be as personal as a card, but it’s one less thing to do and more time to spend with your family, which is what it should be about after all!
- Get help! – If you are hosting Christmas, Boxing day or a Christmas party then you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Get your guests to bring a contribution and ask friends or family members to come early to help you prepare. Preparing things together can be half the fun – I’ve spent many a Christmas morning peeling sprouts and parsnips with my siblings and it’s now become part of the tradition. Always ask for help…there’s no sense in leaving all the work for yourself and then missing out on the fun.
- Decorate! – Decorating your home for Christmas is something we can all enjoy and something that definitely helps to make a perfect Christmas. Let your kids join in and don’t get stressed about it! I put a separate tree in my kitchen for the children to decorate and do my best not to adjust the trimmings once they’ve finished!
- Shop online – It may seem obvious but it still astounds me how many people actually go to the shops to get their gifts and food! Get online – you often get better deals and delivery is regularly free at this time of year. If you want to get your food shop delivered then get online and book your slot! It certainly saves you time and often saves money as you won’t be tempted by things in the shop that you don’t need.
- Turn off the TV – This might be alien to some, I know that many people spend Christmas afternoon and evening sat in front of the TV falling asleep. Since I was a child the television has always been banned on Christmas day (apart from The Queen of course!). We use the time to play games and be sociable – it does everyone good to have at least one day a year tech free.
- ENJOY IT! – Just don’t get stressed about Christmas! If you are struggling for time to do something then either don’t do it, cheat or ask for help. There is so much pressure on us to make the perfect Christmas and really the things that really make it perfect are the people we spend it with.
I hope some of these suggestions make this year your most perfect Christmas ever!
Album : A Very Kacey Christmas by Kacey Musgraves
Release Date : October 2016
My Favourite Tracks : Present Without a Bow, Ribbons and Bows, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
A Very Kacey Christmas is actually the album that gave me the idea for doing this album a week blog post – I saw that she was releasing it and I saved it for the last week in November to listen to it!
It’s an excellent addition to the plethora of Christmas albums that have come before it. From the seasonal standards like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Let It Snow and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, to the original songs written by Kacey herself. These are some of my favourites on the album – I love the classics but the new songs are great. Present Without a Bow features Leon Bridges, a gospel and soul singer whose voice is just a delight (I’ll be exploring his albums throughout the year, I’m sure). A Willie Nice Christmas is a fun track featuring Willie Nelson, while Christmas Makes Me Cry is a more melancholy look at the festive season. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas is the earworm from the album, and it’s a lot of fun!
Kacey Musgraves is a country singer, but to me, this isn’t a country Christmas album per se. It seems to be just be a collection of songs that Kacey loves, along with those she has written for the album. It’s helping to get me in the festive spirit, and I know that some of these tracks will be upgraded to my regular Christmas playlist for many years to come.