ON THE COVER Your Christmas Problems Sorted
We’ve the answers to your Christmas dilemmas, so all you have to do is enjoy the big day!
I LOVE HAVING A REAL CHRISTMAS TREE BUT EVERY YEAR IT SEEMS TO BE ALMOST BARE BY THE BIG DAY. IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO STOP IT FROM SHEDDING ITS NEEDLES?
David Mitchell, Real Christmas Tree Buyer at Wyevale Garden Centres, says the trick is to take time when selecting your perfect tree to make sure it stays fresher for longer.
“Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your tree – they are all cut around the same time, so buying early means you have the widest choice.
“The colour of the needles should be a dark green and should feel waxy to the touch, not dry. Stroke the tree to see if needles come off easily!
“If you’re concerned about needle-dropping, choose a variety of tree such as the Nordman Fir, which is known to retain its needles.
“Keep your Christmas tree fresher for longer by chopping a few centimetres off the bottom and soaking it in a bucket of water outside, either overnight or for as long as possible, before bringing it inside.”
MY CHRISTMAS CARD LIST HAS GOT OUT OF CONTROL AND THE THOUGHT OF SITTING DOWN TO WRITE THEM ALL SEEMS LIKE A REAL CHORE. WHAT CAN I DO?
As the years go by, it’s easy for Christmas card lists to get out of hand! Make it less of a chore and more of a fun festive event by taking a leaf out of Lorraine Kelly’s book.
“Every year, I write my cards while watching It’s A Wonderful Life or Scrooge with Albert Finney. That way, it’s enjoyable rather than a chore.”
Alternatively, why not send some people on your list e-cards this year? There are some great ones to be found online now – we love the range on WWW.JACQUIELAWSON.COM. It’s £9 for an annual membership but you can send as many as you like for the whole year – bargain!
If you work in a large office, why not let people know you’re making a donation to charity this year instead of sending colleagues Christmas cards? It cuts down on your list and is a great way to help a good cause, too.
MY NEIGHBOUR HAD HER HOUSE BROKEN INTO ON CHRISTMAS DAY LAST YEAR AND THEIR NEW CHRISTMAS PRESENTS WERE TAKEN. WE’RE GOING AWAY TO STAY WITH RELATIVES THIS YEAR – HOW CAN I MAKE SURE OUR HOME IS SECURE?
Chief Superintendent Colin Gall, Divisional Commander for Fife says, “We would urge homeowners to ensure their doors and windows are secured appropriately whenever you go to bed or leave the property unoccupied. If you do have presents under your tree, then please make sure these are not on open display for others to view and keep all other belongings of value stored safely out of sight. Advice can be obtained on our website at WWW.SCOTLAND.POLICE.UK.”
I CAN’T FIT EVERYTHING IN THE FRIDGE – HOW CAN I KEEP EVERYTHING CHILLED?
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a fridge packed to bursting point! Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help.
Firstly, a week or so before, go through your fridge, getting rid of any out of date food you’ve forgotten to throw away.
Remove cans and bottles of wine – they can be stored elsewhere and chilled on the day by placing them outside or in a bucket of ice cubes.
Organise the items so you know where everything is without having to pull all the contents out, and repackage items if necessary to get rid of any bulky packaging. Lakeland has a great selection of products to help you put your fridge in order. We love their Fridge Binz, priced from £12.99, and their Freezer Fine Tip Permanent Markers, £2.99.
I WANT TO MAKE COCKTAILS FOR MY GUESTS ON CHRISTMAS DAY BUT NEED SOMETHING THAT IS SIMPLE TO MAKE, BUT LOOKS IMPRESSIVE!
◆ “Large format serves that can be batched ahead of time will ensure there is little effort required and also becomes a centre piece showstopper,” says, Calum Lawrie, mixologist for Copper Dog Whisky at the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside. “This recipe can be served either hot or cold. For the hot version simply warm through on the hob with orange slices and cinnamon sticks before ladling into heatproof cups. For the cold alternative, refrigerate before adding ice, orange slices and cinnamon sticks when serving up.” Recipe: ❆ 350ml Blended Malt Scotch Whisky ❆ 75ml Spiced Berry cordial ❆ 2ltr Pressed Apple & Ginger juice
A FEW UNEXPECTED GUESTS USUALLY STOP BY ON CHRISTMAS DAY AT SOME POINT. WHAT TASTY NIBBLES CAN I KEEP ON STANDBY?
Mark Reid, Head Chef at Brown’s Hotel in London, has some great advice when it comes to creating tasty treats in a flash.
“It’s worth keeping a packet or two of mini croustade shells in the cupboard and some skewers.
“At Christmas I normally prepare a few extra pigs in blankets, using cocktail sausages and a bit of cranberry sauce or Coleman’s English mustard.
“The croustade shells are like little tart cases and you can put anything in, hot or cold like sprouts sliced and blended with a touch of cream and walnuts, delicious but also great for using up leftovers.
“Cheese is normally plentiful at Christmas at home so a medium to hard cheese like Cheddar cut simply into 1cm cubes and with another cube of an Opies pickled walnut on a skewer is a great nibble that requires no cooking and only moments to prepare.”
WE’VE GOT ALL THE FAMILY COMING TO STAY FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS AT CHRISTMAS AND I’M DREADING THE BIG CLEAN.
Sue Moore, President of Bright & Beautiful professional housekeeping services, says the key is to tackle the cleaning bit by bit rather than all on one day.
“Mid-December is for decluttering! Tidy magazines, books and gadgets away. Go through old toys and clothes to give to charity.
“The week before, clean windows and skirting boards and prepare guest rooms. Deep clean the bathroom and tackle kitchen jobs that you don’t do daily such as washing cupboard doors and cleaning out the fridge.
“The day before, vacuum and mop floors, clean the bathroom, polish mirrors and taps, replenish toilet rolls and put out fresh guest towels.
“On Christmas Day empty the bins, spot check bathrooms, plump up the sofa cushions and do a run round to pick up any rogue clutter!”
MY DAUGHTER’S BOYFRIEND IS VEGAN – WHAT CAN I COOK HIM?
“Chances are a lot of the dishes on your table are already vegan or only need little tweaks, such as using vegetable gravy in place of a meaty one or olive oil instead of animal fat to roast potatoes,” says Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for The Vegan Society.
“You can buy a ready-made vegan Tofurky roast in Holland & Barrett or make a delicious nut roast for a centrepiece.”
Mark Reid, Head Chef at Brown’s Hotel in London, has another idea. “Roast field mushrooms in a good quality olive or rapeseed oil and garlic with thyme and rosemary and then blend white breadcrumbs in your food processor with soft herbs like parsley and chervil. You can even add a nut like walnuts or hazelnuts and then bake.”
I LOVE FRESH FLOWERS, PARTICULARLY AT CHRISTMAS, AND WOULD LIKE TO PUT TOGETHER SOME SIMPLE DISPLAYS FOR AROUND THE HOUSE. I’M A TOTAL NOVICE – WHAT CAN YOU SUGGEST?
Jonathan Moseley, celebrity florist and Florismart ambassador, has some great ideas.
“One of my favourite Christmas-time blooms is amaryllis. They look brilliant in tall glass vases mixed with glittered birch twigs, or with some silvery-grey eucalyptus.
“For another classic vase arrangement, get 20 velvety red roses (Grand Prix is an excellent variety) and choose a straight sided glass vase. Pour 5cm of water into the vase and add the rose stems before filling out the space by pouring in some cranberries or malus (crab apples).”
AARGH, THE TURKEY WON’T FIT IN THE OVEN! WHAT CAN I DO?
Tim Stamp, Head Chef at Ye Olde Bell in Barnby Moor, says that often turkeys are too big for domestic ovens.
“Turkeys are quite large birds but if you have bought a bird that’s too big for your oven, don’t panic. I’d suggest boning down the breast and taking off the legs. Essentially you are removing the carcass (the breastbone and the backbone) but the leg and wing bones remain intact. If you haven’t done it before or are a little unsure, it’s easier than it sounds, and there are plenty of tutorials online.
“For cooking I’d recommend mixing butter with lemon and thyme and then stuffing under the skin to ensure it keeps its moisture when cooking.
“The good news is that by boning down the bird, your cooking time will be reduced so you have more time to get on with other jobs. Just make sure you reduce the time according to the weight.”
ANY TRICKS TO MAKE MY TABLE SETTING LOOK FESTIVE WITHOUT TOO MUCH EFFORT?
Samantha Jones, Giftware Buyer at British Heart Foundation, advises keeping it simple with plenty of personal touches.
“Adding simple personal touches is an easy way to set the tone and mood of your festive table setting.
“Start by selecting your theme and incorporating statement pieces such as our stunning crystal candle holder or sterling silver penguins (available to buy at WWW.BHF.ORG.UK/ SHOP) to create a magical affair. Surround your candles with delicate seasonal foliage and rustic berry branches to wow your guests.
“Bring to the fore that festive charm by paying attention to little details such as creating handwritten name tags or placing a personalised Christmas card on each seat to make your meal truly special.
“Finish your look with plenty of lights or create your own centrepiece with easy to find acorns or pine cones which can be spray painted in glitzy gold and silver to complete your elegant look.”
Christmas cards should be a joy – not a chore! Choose well…
Spiced and delicious!
Remove bulky packaging
Get all the family to help
Pigs in blankets always go down well
Cut it down to size