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!

My Weekly - - Contents -

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

Ve­gan de­light

Cut it down to size

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