Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Snapshots

I always enjoy the idea of winter. I like cuddling up by the fire, wrapping up in woolly jumpers, stuffing my face with mince pies, and being able to work from home in my pyjamas because of icy train tracks. (Especially that last one.) But on rare days where the sun shines through the bleak midwinter, I light up like a Christmas tree suffering from seasonal affective disorder. A brief cloud burst is all it takes to make me realise that when the world is grey, I feel grey. I like sunshine, and blue skies, and warmth on my face. When that isn’t an option, I use Christmas as a nicotine patch for summer.

Gem's tree 2014
Gem's Christmas Cake 2014
Christmas with a control freak can’t be an easy affair, and after countless tinsel based tantrums the rest of my family can’t so much as spy a misplaced bauble without shooting me a panicked sidelong glance and rushing to fix it before I explode like some kind of meticulous monster. I told my extremely dubious looking little sister that I didn’t mind what colour scheme we did this year, and managed to last about two whole minutes before admitting defeat and also admitting that we would be having a “natural, rustic theme with red and gold highlights”. I am not proud of myself. But you can’t deny it looks nice. (Well, you could deny it, but you would need to be confident you could take me in a fight.)

After the decorations are hung and the cake is iced (and the bowls are licked) getting outside into the cold is my idea of heaven. Ashridge is my favourite place for autumn colours, wintery walks, and a café full of home cooked snacks. Ted enjoyed getting his paws filthy, but didn’t very much like watching me and Rhys eat mince pies and hot chocolate. I’ve missed them both a lot, so an afternoon catching up with one and letting the other lick my face (I’ll leave that to your imagination to decipher) was seriously lovely.

Ted in the woods

Ashridge mince pie

Ted and Gem

After that there’s nothing much left to report other than wintery sunsets, evenings in front of the fire, cuddles with my cat, snoozing in my Christmas bed set, and chain smoking my White Company ‘Winter’ scented most-delicious-smelling-candle-in-all-the-land.

Sunset from Gem's bedroom

Bird decoration

My Cat

White Company Candle

Boat decoration

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!



Christmas in London, in November

On the morning of the 1st of November, when most people are nursing their post-Halloween hangovers and swearing at their alarm clocks, I’m bouncing out of bed and diving to my wardrobe in such a state of frenzied excitement that you’d be forgiven for wondering if I were still drunk. Why, you may ask? Well, it might say on your calendar that November the 1st is All Saints’ Day, but in my diary it is something far more magical: Christmas Jumper Day.

My Christmas jumper is pretty much the best thing ever.

My Christmas jumper is pretty much the best thing ever.

Halloween is nothing more than a grubby memory (although if you’re anything like me you might still have the vague hint of whiskers drawn on your face) and it is perfectly socially acceptable to move on to the next, and in my opinion the greatest holiday of all. And in my house, that holiday is not confined to December the 25th. The festivities start in November with Christmas jumpers and – even more exciting – Christmas shopping.

So I was a very happy bunny (or polar rabbit) indeed when a family outing to Fortnum & Mason was suggested. And as Fortnum’s fortune had it, we arrived just in time to witness the unveiling of the Christmas window displays, complete with carols, mulled wine and – say it in your best impression of Brian Butterfield – mini mince pies.

I spent about 10 seconds looking at this and 10 minutes chasing trays of mulled wine...

I spent 10 seconds looking at this and 10 minutes chasing trays of mulled wine…

Sadly I was too busy stuffing my face, ahem, I mean, enjoying the festive atmosphere, to take many photos of the fun outside the store. But once inside, I focused my attention and my lens on the visual cacophony of Christmas spirit.


A harvest of fruit in the form of baubles.

Like a woman possessed I dragged my family to the third floor, and followed the smell of cloves to a veritable Santa’s Grotto of Christmas delight.

Clove and spiced orange scented tree.

Clove and spiced orange scented tree, smelled so good I wanted to roll in it.

Apparently I just kept saying “I’m so happy”. It’s possible I was a little bit drunk from the free mulled wine. Or perhaps slightly giddy from the Christmas-scented pot pourri.


I can’t imagine the staff at Fortnum’s can ever get depressed in the midst of all this.

In many areas of my life I’m not a fan of ‘traditional’, but when it comes to Christmas, hues of gold, red, and green make my heart happy.


It looks like beautiful Christmas candy doesn’t it? Good enough to eat!

And when it comes to fairy-lights I have absolutely no self control at all. When my room isn’t decorated for Christmas it sports three sets of fairy-lights. Three! I worry about my carbon footprint… until I turn them on, and then all my worries vanish as if by magic.


If your life lacks sparkle then pay the third floor of Fortnum’s a visit.

We had booked in to The Cavendish Hotel’s restaurant, The Petrichor, handily situated behind Fortnum’s, to ensure that the warm and fuzzy feeling in our hearts was extended to our tummies. My gorgeous little sister works at The Cavendish, and the rest of us were keen to try out the restaurant that she had been raving about. The name Petrichor means ‘the scent of rain on earth after a dry spell’ – isn’t that beautiful? The incredibly attentive staff sat us at the best table in the house, and hovered around us with warm olive bread until the food arrived.


Fennel & dill cured Scottish salmon with horseradish meringues, watercress jelly, confit beetroot, and honey grain mustard dressing.


Breaded goat’s cheese & beetroot salad with carrots, radish & beetroot vinaigrette. (If there’s one thing I love more than cheese it’s cheese with breadcrumbs.)


Scottish pan fried salmon steaks, with smoked haddock crushed potatoes, crispy skin and spinach veloute.


Suffolk chicken roulade with braised baby gem, king oyster mushroom, chorizo and truffle hollandaise.


Aldwych goat’s cheese, rocket leaves, roasted pine nuts, sun blushed tomatoes and garlic crouton. (You know I’m a sucker for a goats cheese salad.)


Vanilla Alaska with vanilla sponge, meringue peak, orange sauce and candied mint.. (Absolutely wonderful. Sort of like a delicious cloud melting in your mouth.)

If you ever find yourself getting peckish in the vicinity of the Cavendish then I highly recommend a visit. 

And then, just when I thought I couldn’t feel any more Christmassy in the first week of November, I saw the John Lewis Christmas advert. It immediately became my favourite advert of all time. If you can watch it without wanting to cry then I don’t think we can be friends.

Festive Flump

Having slumped nicely into the yearly festive flump – or holiday hole for the less jolly among us – I am finding it incredibly tricky to do any uni work at all, eat anything other than canapés and cake, or keep my eyes open unless someone props me up in front of a television screen. But my train tickets back to uni are booked for a week from now so the Christmas bubble is soon to be popped by the fat finger of reality, and if I don’t acclimatise during the next seven days there’s a real risk that I may get the yuletide version of the bends. (This is a very serious, painful, and sometimes fatal condition where tiny baubles form throughout your body.) So I thought I’d write about the last week in a final desperate attempt to cling to the past before I have to start eating cereal rather than mince pies for breakfast again.

My first Christmas with Boyfriend’s family was, as far as I’m aware, strangely embarrassment free considering the amount of alcohol involved. Honestly, I’ve been to flat parties where there was less alcohol. It was amazing. During the course of the day I had Champagne, three different kinds of white wine, dessert wine, toffee vodka, Jägermeister, and rum. Dinner was completed by everyone around the table necking back a large shot of vodka, pulling back the tablecloth and starting a beer pong tourament which, by 2am, had descended (via Jäger, wine, and rum) to the murky depths of Prosecco pong. Boyfriend and I finally crawled (literally) into bed at about 4am. Frankly it made my freshers’ week look sort of pathetic in comparison. I’m going to have to spend the next year practising throwing ping pong balls into cups so I can avoid waking up on Boxing Day feeling worse than the turkey.

I spent the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve clutching my head and trying to coax myself into thinking about alcohol while experimenting to see how many carbs it’s possible for one very small girl to consume.  (The answer is, a lot.) Having spent last New Year’s Eve locked out of a party in a Little Red Dress and a strop, I was determined to enjoy myself at the end of 2012. Taking my own advice as per avoiding LRDs, I ended up spending most of my night in a LRJ – a Large Rudolph Jumper. I did not plan to wear a comedy Christmas jumper for the only compulsory night out of the year (I wore it over a mini skirt and a very sparkly, quite see-through top) but I am glad I did. My LRJ made me happy to spend a large amount of time chatting with some of my best friends in bed, rather than trying to actually go out in London. Going into London to watch the fireworks on TV was a vast improvement on going into London to watch them in person. At midnight we were not standing outside in the cold and wet, but standing inside, still cold and wet but not because of the great British weather but because we were covered in Champagne.

Me, my friends, and my Large Rudolph Jumper

Me, my friends, and my Large Rudolph Jumper.

Judging from the jump from extremely sexy dress to extremely amusing jumper, I will probably spend next New Year’s Eve wearing a bin bag. But, as the key to enjoying NYE is to do everything you can to lower expectations, I will probably have a fabulous time in my bin bag.

So that rounds up my first full year of writing on here, and looking back it has involved the occassional political rant but has mainly just been about the embarrassing stuff that happens in my life. 2012 was a painful year for my pride but hopefully made for some good reading. Let’s hope my 2013 is just as full of awkward moments.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Good morning children! It’s Christmas!

I’ve been a lucky girl this year and have already had some wonderful presents from a few special people who put up with me on a regular basis: the Jaguar E-Type and the snow leopard were especially appreciated*.

My Christmas present to you lucky readers is the promise that, as I’m spending today with Boyfriend’s family for the first time – all 26 of them, children and dogs included – and that there will be copious amounts of food and alcohol present, I’m sure to embarrass myself in one way or another. And I’m definitely going to write about it, provided I don’t sink back into a chair and stay there forever like something from the second Pirates of the Caribbean film, but covered in mince pies and bits of wrapping paper rather than barnacles and seaweed.

Anyway, on that positive note, I need to make sure that my vegetarian dinner is coming along nicely and put on lots of lovely makeup so as not to scare Boyfriend’s younger cousins.

Love and goodwill to all!


*toy Jaguar E-Type, ‘adopted’ snow leopard from WWF

Xmas Excess

(Disclaimer: some of you may think this post is just an excuse to advertise my Christmas list. You would be right.)

My Christmas list. (Boots: Topshop. Penguin dress: Sugarhill Boutique. Jacket: River Island.) I’d also like a solution to global warming and world peace as well. Obviously.

Considering that I’m a shopoholic who enjoys family, food, decorating and drunkenness it is unsurpring that Christmas has always been my favourite day of the year. I love everything about it. Everything. Not just the great bits that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside either; all the Xmas excess which most people hate still makes me as jolly as Saint Nic himself. Maybe I am just a child of consumerism, but Christmas stock appearing on shop floors in October and eating so much that you can’t move, look pregnant, and have to diet for weeks afterwards is fine by me.

‘Whoah ho ho’, you might be thinking. ‘The 21st Century capitalist Christmas message according to Gem? Turn yourself into a walking, talking Pac-man and consume everything in sight. Jesus who?’

Not the case. Even if you wrap Christmas up in a nice bundle of capitalism and stick some decorative consumerism on top, you can’t help but get to Christmas Day and rip all the crappy wrapping aside to reveal the whole point of it all. Not money, not necessarily even religion – love. Being with your loved ones, and enjoying each other’s company. It doesn’t matter if everything isn’t perfect: if your cat has played ping-pong with the expensive baubles or if your Christmas pudding explodes (true story) because – cliché alert – all you need is love. And apart from anything else, an exploding Christmas pudding makes a far better anecdote than any intact dessert.

So if you feel that Christmas is simply about capitalism then, well, boo you. You wouldn’t know Christmas spirit if it put on a pair of reindeer antlers and hit you in the face with a bowl of brandy butter.