December 2017 Books

December-books

I didn’t actually realise that I hadn’t read anything in December that wasn’t a festive story, but they all were! I was trying to tick off ‘Read five Christmas books’ from my 36 Before 36 list, and with these and Last Christmas in Paris that I finished in November, I’ve ticked it off!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
This has been on my Christmas reading list for years, but somehow I have just never got around to it. This year, I reserved it at the library nice and early. In age old Poirot fashion, the story involves the murder of a wealthy old man, whose family have convened at their old family home for Christmas. It’s not the best Poirot story that I’ve ever read, but as ever, it involves a convoluted plot, plenty of red herrings and imposters, and a clever reveal. It’s well worth adding to your festive reading list for the future.

Christmas at the Dancing Duck by Daisy James
With a specific festive book goal in mind, I resorted to Kindle bargains when some of my library reservations didn’t arrive in time. This was one of those bargains, though that word suggests a piece of quality work for a small amount of money. I hate being overly negative, but this book was not for me. Granted, you have to expect a certain type of book when you’re dealing with a cover like this, but it was sloppily written, had annoying characters, and a silly conclusion that I saw coming a mile off. It wasn’t for me, sadly!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Horniak
Christmas books so often revolve around family coming back together, and not getting on, and that’s exactly what happens here. When Olivia returns home from Sierra Leone, where she’s been treating victims of Haag Disease, she has to go into quarantine with her family for a week. This is a family with secrets, who don’t actually seem to enjoy spending too much time together, so the forced proximity is not welcome. We get alternating points of view throughout the novel, so we are able to empathise with the family members, even if I spent most of my time wanting to knock their heads together. This isn’t a criticism however; I don’t have to like a character to find them well-written and engaging.

The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver
I bought this at the same time as Christmas at the Dancing Duck, and after that one failed to set my world on fire, I didn’t hold out great hopes for this one either. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the story of two sisters who have grown up mostly separately after the divorce of their parents saw them living apart. Ella has forged a successful career in London and lives well with her upper class husband, while Maddy, the younger sister, has lived in Greece with her mum, living a simple life as a waitress, but dreams of fame as a singer. Through a contrivance of events, the sisters swap places for Christmas, and have to work through their own issues, which thankfully are not all relationship and men related. It’s a predictable ending, and the story won’t stay with me, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it.

Books in 2017 – 41

36 Before 36 – Read five Christmas books

Photo an Hour #41 ~ December 2016

December’s Photo an Hour fell on one of those days (as Photo an Hours often seem to) when I was doing nothing. Last year’s December was odd for me in that I had a couple of entire weekends where I didn’t have any plans; usually the weeks leading up to Christmas fill up really quickly and I end the month feeling totally overwhelmed and needing to spend a week on my own to recover. But luckily that wasn’t the case this year, and this was one of those days where I had a festive day doing not a lot at all.

Zoey Fools Around Advent Jar

8am | Waking up and reading is my favourite way to start the day, particularly in the winter! At this point I was reading a book I’d bought from eBay called Zoey Fools Around, the first in a YA series I read when I was a teenager. I want to reread the whole series so I’m in the process of trying to find them all.

9am | My friend Anna made an advent jar for the four of us in our group; she put challenges and festive ideas into it for us to open each day. I cannot remember what day 17 was!

wrapping paper Spotify Christmas Playlist

10am | Doing some wrapping to get some last minute gifts sent. I hate wrapping. I’m rubbish at it!

12pm | I had a phone issue at 11 while I was in the village, so missed an hour – by noon I was back at home, listening to a typically cheesy Christmas playlist while Hannah and I cleaned the kitchen.

Library Books 14

1pm | For basically all of my life, Saturdays have been library day. I don’t go every single week, but it always feels like a proper weekend when I do. These are the books that I grabbed on this particular Saturday.

2pm | Settled in front of the television, watching Hustle, and trying to resist the urge to eat an entire packet of biscuits. I’m fairly sure I resisted.

Love Always, Santa Christmas Tree

3pm | Still in front of the television – didn’t I say it was a lazy day? – with a terrible Channel 5 Christmas film on. It’s called Love Always, Santa, and it’s awful, but Christmas isn’t Christmas without at least one terrible Hallmark movie.

4pm | It’s hard to be inventive when you don’t move for an entire afternoon, but the Christmas tree is pretty, so I shared a photo of that.

Smithy Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special Shepherd's Pie

5pm | Christmas truly isn’t Christmas without watching the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special.

6pm | Time for dinner.

Strictly Come Dancing Final

7pm | Last photo of the day, and unfortunately I obviously didn’t realise I was on an odd number! It was the live final of Strictly, and it was a total disappointment for me, because I did not want Ore and Joanne to win. Even though I knew they were going to.

January’s Photo an Hour took place this weekend, so my round up will be up soon, and February’s will take place on a date soon to be decided. If you’d like a reminder as to when it will be taking place, please leave your email address here, and I’ll send you a reminder a couple of days in advance.

 

Christmas is Coming

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!

radio

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!

*Sponsored Post*

Guest Post ~ Ten Ways to Have the Perfect Christmas

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!

pefect-christmas
10 ways to have the perfect Christmas – without the stress!

I have these books…

christmas4

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.

christmas3

  • 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!

christmas

 

  • 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.

christmas2

 

I hope some of these suggestions make this year your most perfect Christmas ever!

Fenwick Colchester

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the press launch of the new Fenwick store in Colchester. The store used to be known as Williams & Griffin, but was bought by Fenwick, who have eleven stores across the country. Williams & Griffin was known for being one of the last remaining independent department stores in the country, so I know a lot of people were disappointed to see it being taken over. But Fenwick are a family owned business themselves, and having taken a look around the store, I think the renovation and expansion of the old store will do a lot for Colchester high street.

The store looks amazing. It has been expanded by 50% to 120,000 square feet, and includes all the departments you’d expect to find in a department store; beauty, fashion, homeware, toys, stationery, and loads more.

img_2778

img_2742

img_2745

img_2747

img_2749

img_2750

img_2752

img_2753

img_2755

img_2757

img_2758

img_2760

img_2762

img_2765

img_2766

img_2768

img_2770

img_2771

 

As you can see from the photos, everything is brand new and shiny, and looks amazing. The Christmas shop is already open – I know, it’s early,  but once the schools go back as far as I’m concerned Christmas is fair game. It’ll be a great place to go for Christmas gift inspiration, so I’m looking forward to going and having another browse!

It really is a very nice addition to Colchester High Street, so it’s well worth a visit if you are in the area.

*I was invited to the press launch, and received a goody bag to say thank you. All opinions are my own.