Category Archives: Christmas

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child has been running for nineteen years and is an initiative of Samaritan’s Purse, a relief and development organisation operating in Eastern Europe, Africa and Central Asia.

Every year the UK sends over a million Christmas boxes to children from ages 2-14, in seriously disadvantaged circumstances in the most desolate of places where it would be easy for them to think that the world has forgotten them.

Individuals all over the country get a shoe box, cover it in wrapping paper and fill it with small gifts of toys and sweets, educational supplies, wash kits, gloves and hats, little trinkets etc appropriate to the age and gender of your selected category.   They give you a list of the sorts of gifts that are welcome and those that are inappropriate..  A donation of £2.50 to cover the logistical expenses is popped in an envelope and placed in the box (or you can donate online) and the box is then dropped at a collection point near you such as a school, college or shop.  These are then collected and taken to major distribution points and thence to the people in need.

It’s hard to imagine how little some of these children have; many are orphaned, living in terrible poverty or in refugee camps and every day is a struggle, and the boxes full of surprises give them hope and remind them that they have not been forgotten.  I always put a Christmas card in the box addressed to ‘My dear friend’ to let them know that a family in the UK is sending love to them and sharing a bit of our own good fortune.

There is still time to do a box.  This charity operates in the United States and other European countries – it’s not just in the UK.  We get so much pleasure from choosing the things to go in – why don’t you have a go?

If you’re not sure where your local collection point is log onto their website at or telephone them on 0870 011 2002 / 01392 455036 and they will give you all the information you need.


Filed under Children, Christmas, Slider

Baked Apples stuffed with Mincemeat

Like me, I bet you have at least half a jar of mincemeat left over from Christmas.  Now’s the time to use it up.  Baked apples are a wonderfully comforting pudding and can be served with fresh cream, crème fraiche, custard made with custard powder or Creme Anglaise (made from scratch).  This recipe is dead easy and quick to make.


1 x ovenproof dish
1 x apple corer or sharp knife

1oz / 30g butter
4 cooking apples
4 Tablespoons of mincemeat
2 tablespoons of honey or golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 180 / 360 / 4
Grease the dish with a little butter
Remove the cores from the apples
Place the apples in the dish
Fill the centre of the apples with the mincemeat
Dribble the honey or syrup over the apples
Put a little blob of butter onto each one
Put a couple of tablespoons of water into the dish
Bake for about 45 minutes or until the apple is nice and soft


Filed under Christmas, Food, Leftovers, Recipes

Leftover Stilton (or the cheese that broke the camel’s back)

In which is demonstrated the uses for leftover Stilton Cheese in Cauliflower or Broccoli and Stilton Soup, Leek and Stilton Soup, Cauliflower or Broccoli Cheese, Huntingdon Stuffed Pears and Stilton and Nut Mousse.

* * *

If, like me, you have been left with a chunk of Stilton large enough to set up in business as a purveyor of fine fromage, you will, by now, be staring at your cheese plate with a mixture of admiration and fear.  On Christmas Eve, I went to Welton’s in Great Bowden to collect my Christmas order of a small Pork Pie, some Black Bomber, some Brie and a modest amount of Colston Basset Stilton.

A proportion of the Stilton was consumed at Christmas Tea with a chunk remaining that was manageable by a single adult over a period of a week.  But as luck would have it, I was given a massive chunk by Sister the Second who had been over-serviced by her supermarket.  It is sitting in the fridge glowering at me like The Cheese in the Railway Carriage so evocatively described by Jerome K. Jerome.

I was going to spin this out over a couple of days, but that would be too much like the Stilton. 
This is what you can do with it. 

HUNTINGDON STUFFED PEARS  have been featured earlier.  Click on the link for the recipe

CAULIFLOWER OR BROCCOLI CHEESE  use the cheese sauce recipe in the link but substitute Stilton for Cheddar. It’s rich but gorgeous. 


1 x medium saucepan
1 x stick blender or ordinary blender

1oz / 30g butter
1 medium onion – finely chopped
1 medium cauliflower or largish head of broccoli – broken into florets
1 pint / 600ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tblspn mixed herbs or a bouquet garni
½ a medium potato – peeled, diced and cooked
½ pint milk
4oz / 120g Stilton Cheese

Melt the butter in the pan
Add the onion and fry gently until soft
Add the cauliflower or broccoli, herbs and stock and milk
Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetable is soft
Allow to cool slightly, add the potato and remove the bouquet garni if using one
Mix to a smooth puree with the blender
Stir in the cheese until it has melted

** Post post note:  Leek and Stilton also make an excellent soup.  Cook 2 large, finely sliced leeks in with the onions then add the stock and proceed as per the recipe.


8 x ramekin dishes – greased & with a circle of greaseproof paper in the bottom
1 x medium saucepan
1 x whisk

1oz /30g butter
2 level tablespoons plain flour
7floz / 200ml milk
7floz / 200ml vegetable stock
1 sachet of gelatine
40z / 120g Stilton cheese
2 eggs – separated – whites whisked to form stiff peaks
¼ pint / 150ml crème fraiche
2oz / 60g walnuts – chopped

Melt the butter in the pan over a medium heat
Stir in the flour to form a thick paste
Gradually whisk in the milk and stock until it thickens and starts to bubble
Remove from the heat.
Sprinkle over the gelatine and whisk until it has dissolved and is thoroughly mixed in
Add the cheese and stir until melted
Whisk in the egg yolks and season to taste
Fold in the crème fraiche with a metal spoon
Then fold in the whisked egg whites and gently stir in the walnuts
Spoon the mixture into the prepared dishes
Chill until set
Serve with a green salad


Filed under Christmas, Entertaining, Food, Leftovers, Recipes

Gone Walkabout

By the time you read this I will be in London.  After a lovely, relaxed and indulgent Christmas Day, we are meeting up with my family in Marlow and then staying a couple of days with the Aged Parent.   The Father of My Children brought the turkey; he was charged with obtaining said item and naturally left it to the last minute.  The last turkey in the shop (!) was brought to the house on the back of a flat-bed trailer.  Boy the Younger felt obliged to bring out a pair of crutches whilst warbling “God bless us – every one!”  It was delicious.   I will be taking food parcels to all and sundry in the South.

I am also taking our laundry as the washing machine is still frozen solid.

I hope you’re all enjoying your break, and many thanks for all your good wishes.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas, Family and Friends

Sunday Poem 68

Mr & Mrs R and the Christmas Card List – by Connie Bensley (1929 -)

Shall I cross them off?
It’s twenty years since we last met.

Of course Mr R and I once thought
we were made for each other –

Ah, that heart stopping moment
by the kitchen sink, when he took off

his spectacles and fiercely kissed me.
But all that lasted less than a week

and what I recall more vividly
is Mrs R’s good advice:

Always plunge your lemons in hot water
before you squeeze them.

One more year perhaps.

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Filed under Christmas, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Merry Christmas!

May I wish all my readers a

Very Merry Christmas

and a

Happy, Healthy and Prosperous


May we send good wishes to all whom we love

And to those who have no one to love them


Filed under Christmas

Free Gift Tags

When the festive season is over, don’t immediately throw away your Christmas cards or take them for recycling.  Sift through them and select ones that can be cut  up for gift tags for next year.  Cut them straight or use pinking shears (serrated edge scissors?) to make a crinkly edge.

Either put a hole in the top with a hole punch and thread a bit of glittery string or wool through them, or just put a bit of sellotape across the top side and it can be flipped up like a hinge.  Any that are not suitable can be recycled in the special card bins and the remaining cut up bits just go in with the cardboard recycling

I haven’t bought a gift tag in years.


Filed under Christmas, Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Re-use Recycle

Some Last Minute Christmas Tips & Ideas


If, like me, you’ve left everything to the last minute, here are a few Christmas tips and ideas for food, cards, presents and activities.

If you’ve only just made your Christmas Cake, feed it with a teaspoon of brandy three times a day for the next week, then apply the marzipan.  Leave it overnight to dry.  Buy a ready mix packet of Royal Icing Mix and spike it all over.  Supermarkets now have some super and classy-looking ready-made decorations, so pop one of those on the top.

If you’ve left it too late to post your Christmas cards abroad, go out with your camera and take a photograph of something Christmassy.  E-mail this with a short note, and a grovelling apology for your wretchedness, to all your foreign or ex-patriot friends and family.  This could also work with other friends if you’ve really messed it up.

If you’re really stuck for a present for someone, most supermarkets now have a fantastic range of gift cards for both local and larger High Street shops.  I think vouchers are a great gift, especially for difficult teenagers for whom there is absolutely no chance of getting it right unless they’ve given you a list.  Monsoon, HMV, iTunes, book shops, cinemas, restaurants etc – you can’t go wrong.  Click on these links to High Street Vouchers and  The Gift Card Centre and see what’s out there. Fed up with buying expensive wrapping paper that just gets ripped off and thrown away?  Wrap your gifts very neatly with newspaper and tie up the parcels with thick brightly coloured ribbon.  The ribbon can be rolled up and used again and so can the paper.

Can’t think of a gift for an older female friend or relative?  In this cold weather, skin really suffers.  Some really nice hand cream, eg. Crabtree & Evelyn, Molton Brown, Aveda, Floris, and The National Trust does a lovely range of flower scented hand creams and co-ordinating products.  It will be well received, I can assure you.

Men can be terribly difficult to buy for, particularly if the chaps in your life don’t have any discernable hobbies or interests.  Again, vouchers for HMV or a favourite clothes shop will never go to waste, but the following sites have some good ideas.  Presents for Men or Find Me a Gift could give you some clues or what about buying them an activity gift to get them interested in something?  Also a decanter and a bottle of something nice to put in it would surely bring a smile to any bod’s face.  A local antique market would be a great an inexpensive place to start or many high street jewellers sell them now.

Don’t be afraid to ask people what they want.  My family doesn’t see enough of each other to know what we have in our houses and we want to spend our money carefully on something the person really needs or would like as a treat.  Get everyone to make a list and then you know you’ll get it right.  This isn’t cynical and horrid, it’s practical and sensible at a time when people want to spend their money wisely.


Don’t tear your hair out worrying about making Christmas Lunch for the family.  Think of it as Sunday Lunch XL!  It doesn’t have to be a great extravaganza; after all the point of having people over is to share Christmas with them, not to show off how clever you are in the kitchen.  Planning is the key and prepare as much as you can in advance. 

Starters – an unusual soup can be prepared the day before and reheated. Smoked Salmon with some coloured salad leaves and a twist of lemon will never be sneered at or failing that, buy some pre-prepared salmon mousses wrapped in smoked salmon and pop them on a bed or rocket.  Lovely. 

Pudding – Christmas Pud can be reheated in the microwave then served with fresh cream or brandy butter.  If some people don’t like Christmas Pud, make a trifle or make/buy a special ice-cream dessert.  A good cheese board with nice savoury biscuits and fruit takes no effort and can be brought to room temperature while the dinner is cooking.  More importantly, allow people to help you.  There are no prizes for being knackered and grumpy because you feel pressured and put-upon.

Christmas Tea – most people will still be stuffed from lunch so don’t go overboard.  Have a cold collation prepared: cold turkey, nice ham, a bowl of salad and a choice of dressings, some good bread, crisps, Christmas Cake, Mince Pies.  Alternatively buy a selection of party nibbles from a shop and dig in.  Again, get people to muck in and help.

If you’re going to be flying around in the style of a fly with a blue bottom, the trick is to think ahead.  Make (and freeze) or buy a curry sauce and make sure you have some rice in, then on Boxing Day or the day after, if you can’t face any more cooking, a turkey curry can be knocked up in 20 minutes.


Christmas can be a time when people can get grumpy and dyspeptic if not carefully managed.  Think about having a walk before it gets dark to allow the grown ups to walk off their lunch and to let the children run off a bit of steam.  Everyone will feel better for it and it breaks up the day.

Have some games planned that everyone can join in with and have a laugh.  Charades or Give Us a Clue can involve the whole family as can Trivial Pursuit.  Heads, Bodies and Legs is easy for little ones and more fun than you’d think, likewise Consequences, where everyone writes a line of an agreed story and then passes the paper round and everyone writes the next line etc.  Kerplunk had us all in  stitches last year as did the game where someone sticks the name of a person on your forehead and you have to ask questions until you guess who it is.

I would also suggest that you discourage the children from sitting in front of their new computer games all day.  It’s rather bad manners to ignore everyone else like that, the game isn’t going to go away.  Take the opportunity to make the day something out of the ordinary and have a bit of fun!


Filed under Christmas, Community and shopping, Family and Friends

True Christmas Cheer

I just burst into tears when I saw this.  But then I’m a sentimental, seasonal old Hector….


Filed under Christmas, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

How to make a Christmas Ham

I really love Christmas.  I love Christmas shopping, I love the decorations, I love buying a new decoration every year to put on the tree.  I love designing the Christmas cake and making the Pudding.  I love spending at least one day with my lovely family (in whom I am well pleased) eating too much, drinking too much, playing games, laughing till we cry and watching everyone open their presents.

Sadly, my house is too small to host Christmas for everyone anymore and I miss the military catering exercise that goes with a large gathering.  But one thing I like to do, even if I take it to someone else’s house, is a home-cured Christmas Ham.  It’s really easy to do, it just requires several stages and by crikey it’s worth it.  The process is – cure it, boil it, glaze it, bake it.

1 x large pot – big enough to submerge your ham and ideally with a lid
1 x sharp knife
1 x clean oak log (optional)
You might need some cling film
1 x roasting tin

½ a ham – on the bone
approx 6 pints of dry cider
10 peppercorns
2 bayleaves
Some stock vegetables – eg carrots, leeks, onions
8oz clear honey
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

Put the ham in a large pot with the peppercorns and bay leaves and cover completely with cider
Put the oak log on the top to hold it under the cider
Cover the pot securely and leave for three days, topping up the cider if necessary
Strain off the cider, rinse out the pot, then replace the cider and the ham
Add the stock vegetables and bring to the boil
Reduce the heat then cover and simmer for about 4 hours
Remove the ham and let it cool – discard the cooking liquor and stock veg
Mix the honey and mustard together into a paste
Carefully remove the skin, leaving the fat and place in the roasting tin
Score a diamond pattern into the fat, taking care not to cut right through the fat
Cover the whole thing in the honey and mustard mixture
Bake in the oven, pre-heated to 180 / 350 / 4 for about 1 ½ hours until the glaze has gone a rich, golden brown
Leave to cool and serve
Bask in the love and adulation of those who eat it


Filed under Christmas, Family and Friends, Food, Recipes, Seasonal

Sausage Free Stuffing

I had a request from Lady B the other day for a stuffing recipe that did not involve sausagemeat.  Lady B is having a Jewish friend to lunch but I think for all of us, Christmas Lunch can get a bit over-porked, even if one is having a turkey or a goose and it’s nice to have a light stuffing.  Can I just say at this point how hard it has been for me to resist the urge to descend into a crevice of ‘Carry On’ style double entendres.  But resist I did.

 Ladies and Gentlemen, I have not one but two recipes and here they are.  By the way, both recipes freeze well in a sealed container, so you can be really organised and make it in advance.


1 x large-ish saucepan
1 x grater

8oz / 240g chestnuts – already peeled and cooked then roughly chopped
2oz / 60g onion – finely chopped
1 garlic clove – finely chopped
2oz / 60g butter
6oz / 180g fresh breadcrumbs
2oz / 60g suet
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon of dried)
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 lemon – juice and rind
3 eggs – beaten
you may need a little milk or stock if the mixture is too dry

Fry the onions and garlic in the butter
Add the breadcrumbs and suet, stirring well
Then add the chestnuts, herbs and lemon
Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes
Take the pan off the heat, stir in the eggs and season if you wish
If the mixture is a little dry, add the milk or stock until it has a slightly sticky consistency

SAGE AND ONION STUFFING  WITH WALNUTSThis one is especially good for goose, as it absorbs some of the fat, but if you’re having a turkey, you may want to add an ounce or two (30-60g) of melted butter.  You can use fresh or pickled walnuts for this.

1 x medium saucepan
1 x mixing bowl
1 x grater

8oz / 240g onion – coarsely chopped
2 chicken livers or 1 goose liver if you can get one
8oz / 240g fresh breadcrumbs
2oz / 60g oatmeal
1 cooking apple – peeled, cored and finely chopped
3oz / 90g stoned prunes – chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage (or 1 tablespoon of dried)
1 egg – beaten
1 lemon – juice and finely grated rind
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
6 walnuts – roughly chopped

Put the onions and the liver into the pan with a little water, just enough o cover them
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes
Drain off the liquid, take out the liver and chop it finely
Put the breadcrumbs, oatmeal, apple, prunes, onions and sage into the bowl and mix together well
Stir in the egg, lemon, nutmeg, walnuts and liver.
If you are having turkey add the butter at this point and stir in well.


Filed under Christmas, Food, Recipes, Seasonal

Meaty Mincemeat – the gloves are off

Right. I’ve had enough of this namby-pamby mincemeat with nothing but dried fruit and sugar!  Let’s put some meat in the recipe!  No, really, let’s put some meat in the recipe.  Originally mincemeat was just that – a well spiced condiment containing, amongst other things, minced meat.

It started off as a savoury dish in the 15th century but as sugar became more widely available, it gradually crept sweetly towards the end of the meal.  It was also a good way of preserving meat and although mine has never stayed around long enough to find out, it can certainly be left for a month in a sealed jar and probably longer.  You can use lamb or beef – I prefer lamb because it’s lighter – but whichever you choose make sure it’s good quality meat with no sinewy bits and nice and lean.

You mustn’t be afraid of this recipe; many people find mincemeat somewhat too sweet anyway, and whilst this version is pleasantly sweet, it leans towards the spice rather than the sugar.  Also, it is virtually impossible to detect the meat so there is no need to be squeamish.  A few years ago I took a warm plate of these mince pies into the playground at school and handed them round.  They were received with great gladness and only a few stupid people wrinkled their noses when they found out what was in them.  Why do people do that?  If I’d fed them minced kittens I could understand it… blah blah blah…

1 x large mixing bowl
1 x vegetable peeler
1 x grater

1lb / 480g minced lamb – broken up finely
1lb / 480g dark brown sugar
8oz / 240g apples – peeled cored and chopped
8oz / 240g raisins
8oz / 240g stoned dates – finely chopped
2oz / 60g suet
1 small orange – juice and grated rind
1 lemon – juice and grated rind
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 good slosh of brandy (apple brandy is really nice in this too)

Mix it all up together in a bowl
Spoon into sterilized jars and leave for at least a week or preferably two before using.

You can sterilise jam jars in the microwave. Quarter fill the jam jar with cold water, put the lid on, shake the water around the jar, then remove lid and empty almost all of the water out. Microwave  for 1 minute. Everywhere the water has touched will be brought to boiling point and sterilised. Pour out the water, take care as the jar will be hot, and use for jams etc


Filed under Christmas, Food, History, Recipes, Seasonal

A Wartime Christmas Cake recipe

Last year, I shared with you the Christmas Cake recipe that my Grandmother used.  Click on the links below for that recipe, as well as information on how to ice and marzipan your cake, plus recipes for Christmas Pudding and Mincemeat.  But keep checking the blog, because I’m going to go radical with the Mince Pies very soon (she added mysteriously…)

This year, I’m going to give you a Wartime Christmas Cake recipe, ideal for the Forties Fetishists among you, but also quite interesting as a comparison.  My dear friend, Lady Salisbury gave me this recipe that she remembers her mother making when she was a child.  Consult last year’s recipe for tin-lining instructions.

1 x large mixing bowl
1 x 8”/20cm cake tin – lined as above
A wooden spoon, or if you insist on being modern, 1 x electric mixer

5oz  / 150g margarine
3oz / 90g sugar – saved from your ration
1 tablespoon treacle or golden syrup – whichever you can get
2 eggs – fresh not powdered if possible
8oz / 240g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1-1 ½ lb / 480-720g dried fruit – whatever you can get hold of
A little milk

Pre-heat the oven to 140 / 1 / 275
Cream the margarine, sugar and treacle.
Beat in each egg for 8 minutes
Sieve the flour, baking powder and spice into the bowl and lightly fold into the mixture
Stir in the dried fruit
Add a little milk, if necessary, to obtain a dropping consistency.
Place the mixture into the lined tin and make a dent in the top with a spoon
Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours
It is cooked when a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean.

                                                                             *   *   *   *   *
Rich Christmas Cake 2009

How to Apply Marzipan to your Christmas Cake

How to Ice your Christmas Cake

Christmas Pudding 2009

Mincemeat for Mince Pies


Filed under Christmas, Food, Recipes, Seasonal

Off we go again – but with heels on

Happy New Year to you all!

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted for a while, but Christmas has been a joyful, but hectic old time and this is the first day that I’ve had a moment to myself for nearly three weeks.  I have also finally caught up with the Lost Sleep that goes hand in hand with the week leading up to Christmas.  Having woken briefly for The Archers, slithered downstairs just long enough to boil an egg and make soldiers, then return to bed to almost finish the Andrew Martin book (Murder at Deviation Junction) I was given for Christmas, I feel thoroughly refreshed and ready for action.

Action, in the immediate sense, meant tidying the midden that was my bedroom and photographing three pairs of shoes.  I need to explain this.

I love shoes. I am not a frivolous woman; my interests in life tend towards the intellectual, the artistic and the practical and I am passionate about many things.  But shoes are one girly fetish to which I submit with joy. Except in extremis, it matters not whether you gain or lose a few pounds,  your shoes still fit.

Oh yes

I have nearly sixty pairs of shoes and boots ranging from a clomping pair of ex-army yompers through sensible black pumps to the sluttiest pair of 5″ red suede stilettos you have ever seen (a gift from Lady Somerset).  In order to enjoy them to the full, I keep them all in boxes, stacked on a bookshelf in my bedroom, each with a photograph carefully pasted on the front for ease of identity. It really speeds up getting dressed, I can tell you!  Practical you see, practical.

Sadly, I don’t get as many opportunities as I would like to wear the really slutty ones, but I know they’re there.  Waiting in their boxes, for the time when, having run an appraising eye over the serried ranks of foot-soldiers waiting for duty, I fix a resolute eye on the perfect pair – perhaps The Pewter Wedges, perhaps the Black PVC Platform Boots – and say “You are the Chosen Ones.  Come forth and dazzle your public!”.

Actually, I may not have had quite enough sleep after all…


Filed under Christmas, Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Merry Christmas to You All

The Wartime Housewife wishes you all a very Merry Christmas.


Filed under Christmas, Uncategorized