Sunday, 17 December 2017

Feeling Festive

Last year we were in New York on the run up to Christmas and so we were unable to go to the Carol Service at Manchester Cathederal. We love this Christmas tradition so I was pleased when I managed to get tickets and we went last Monday. It really gets you in the Christmas spirit and feeling festive.

As it was my birthday the week before, Pizza Express had sent me a code for a free bottle of Prosecco, bottle of wine or four bottles of beer. We decided to catch the tram into the city centre and have a meal at one of the many city centre branches before the service. David, myself and my dad all went to the branch just off Peter Square and had the free bottle of Prosecco (£23.40 worth). We ordered a portion of dough balls to share but these were forgotten by the waitress so instead we plumped for the dough ball dessert. The snowballs were hot and delicious with a sprinkling of icing sugar and cinnamon and served with salted caramel dip.

The service was fabulous as usual and as always rather eclectic. The brass band is simply brilliant and everyone seems to sing their hearts out to the traditional carols. What makes me smile is the choice of songs by the various community groups who have a turn. Some Enchanted Evening? and The Rythm of Life? Both sung beautifully by an extensive and animated female choir in red and gold spangle dresses. They were just brilliant and really entertaining. 

There was a poignancy to a quartet from the Halle Orchestra who played the Oasis track Don't Look back in Anger. It has become the song for Manchester after the Manchester Arena bomb earlier this year. At the same time there was the use of the bumblebee as the symbol of Manchester. Many of us have the bumblebee logo on our work email signatures. Proud to be a Mancunian.

I bought fresh cranberries (reduced price off course) from Marks & Spencer on Thursday and made fresh cranberry sauce on Saturday morning. It is the easiest sauce in the world to make and tastes far better than a jar from the supermarket. Fresh cranberries, brown sugar and water or orange juice. I had a half jar of orange & cinnamon flavoured sugar in my pantry so I used this. Ten minutes on a low simmer and some of the cranberries have burst and some stayed whole, which makes for a great texture. I keep a supply of kilner style jars in my garage so used two of these and some white & red ribbon to finish. The jars had been bought full of pate or chutney and once used I peeled the labels off the jars, washed them and kept them for later use. Easy Peasy.

Waitrose have had a number of half prices offers on each weekend in December. We have already bought half price Christmas cakes and this Saturday it was half price fresh desserts. Waitrose are pretty famous for their Heston Blumenthal range so I could not resist the quirky Brussels sprout dessert. At the full price of £16, I thought this was outrageous and a rip-off. At the half price of £8, I still thought this was cheeky but after a discussion with David, we decided to blow the budget for Christmas and treat ourselves. It's tucked away in the spare fridge for next week. I think there's an element of showmanship in it and it made the front page of the freebie Waitrose magazine.

I've been working my way through my collection of Christmas films and so far have watched The Santa Clause (1, 2 & 3), Scrooged and The Nutcracker. What a Wonderful Life (black & white and colourised versions) and White Christmas are being saved to watch next weekend. I have quite a few more to watch during the week too.

The Christmas scented candles have been lit and at the moment Christmas Cookie is favourite. I have a large jar and tealights lit most evenings in the lounge. The scent and glow from them is lovely. So restful.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Well this is embarassing

Well this is a bit embarassing......I've not written on my blog for nearly two months. It felt like just a couple of weeks because I've been so busy. I looked at it just the other day and realised how neglectful I've been and then felt a bit too embarrassed to write another post. But I do love writing my blog, so what the heck, here's my first post in a while.

So the Christmas tree is up, the presents wrapped, the cards written and posted. I'm nearly organised! I have had Christmas tree envy looking at beautiful flocked trees all decked out in whites, golds and silvers on Instagram. Do I spend money on a new tree or do I get out my tradional tree and decorations in greens, reds, silvers and gold? The traditional tree stayed as I do love red and green as I think they are such festive colours.

I have a 7ft fake tree which comes with cinnamon sticks, fir cones and red berries already attached. I have a set of multi-function white lights that we add next and finally the decorations. These have been picked up over the years and many have been bought new but second hand on carboot sales, I love my knitted festive cupcakes the most, which I bought last year.

The three wreaths that we own we're put up last week. I have a huge cranberry one in the front dining room which reminds me a little of a massive red polo mint. This came from Marks & Spencers in the January sales around 10 years ago.

The two wreaths in the lounge are from Costco and we're both bought on clearance. I love the simplicity of the one that lights up. We have two settees in the lounge and so have a wreath over each settee.

I bought these adorable embroidered red felt cushions last year and they add to the festive feel in the lounge. I bought four so I have two on each settee. I love the large wooden buttons that fasten them on the back.

I've bought nearly all my food for the season too. This year (the first in 12 years) I am not hosting which is a welcome break for me. We have been invited to our family in Leeds (thank you Mum!) so will be heading up the M62 on Christmas Day with the car laden with presents and overnight bags. I'm just hoping that everything fits in my car. I'm helping by providing two large Christmas puddings and a gorgeous Christmas cake from the Fiona Cairns range at Waitrose. All Christmas fruit cakes were half price last Sunday so we were there at opening time and bought three. One large one to take with us and two smaller ones for my Dad and me. We've also bought the champagne and bottles of cava to take too. I know that Prosecco is very fashionable at the moment but I'm a dry cava girl through and through.

We are planning on having our own Christmas dinner on the following New Year weekend. For those who read my blog on a regular basis, you'll probably remember me buying a fair few turkey crowns from M&S on the reductions counter, so I have already taken the largest one up to Leeds, still frozen and in a freezer bag for Christmas Day. It should have been £46.64 but I paid £10. I have four more which were all 10% of the normal price, so we will be having a £35 turkey crown which has cost me £3.55. These have been frozen for 9 months as they were bought at Easter.

They taste fine and the texture is good too. I have been freezing turkey crowns like this for the last few years after my sister told me she did this. I was a bit cynical at first as I always bought a fresh one from Costco but after trying it one year with some trepidation, I realised I could hardly notice a difference apart from the turkey skin being not as crispy.

I've been buying chipolata sausages and sausagemeat & sage/onion stuffing from the reduced counter over the last couple of weeks so have these ready in my freezer along with ready prepared spiced red cabbage. I just have fresh fruit and vegetables left to buy really, so I feel fairly set and ready.

How are all your preparations going on?

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Olu Deniz Holiday - Week Two

Publishing a post yesterday made me feel so much better. I feel like I have got my blogging mojo back.

We spent a fair amount of time just chilling on holiday by relaxing by the pool, reading, sleeping and chatting together. It's the simple things in life that cost very little but pay back so much. One of our favourite day trips was to visit the Help Beach Bar & Yacht Club in Fethiye. We used to visit the Help Bar & Restaurant in Olu Deniz but found out via Facebook earlier this year that it had closed down and moved to a bay just outside Fethiye harbour. A little bit of research on line and I found they provided a free boat shuttle service in the morning leaving Fethiye harbour at 11am and returning at 6.30pm.

We did the trip twice and enjoyed it so much both times that it will certainly be on our list if we return to the area again. The beach was beautiful soft sand and was surrounded by a pine forest. There was Ibiza style chill out music playing in the background - not too loud to disturb my reading or a conversation but just loud enough to enjoy.

The food was as fabulous as ever and there was a choice of places to eat - under the shark infested wooden roof, on a wooden deck out front in the shade, directly on the beach in big squashy comfy settees or in the cabanas dotted around the cove and in the forest. We chose the wooden decked area on both occasions with the view out to sea.

At this time of year the beach became shady at around 5pm which was just perfect for moving to one of the settees and ordering a cocktail. My favourite was a Long Island Iced Tea whereas David just wanted a chilled beer. The sun was starting to set at 6.30pm and we got some great sunset views from the boat as we gently crossed over the bay towards Fethiye harbour on our return journey.

We ate at some wonderful restaurants with Mosiak Bahce in Fethiye being a favourite. We have eaten here before and love the city centre settings but the feeling we are out in the country as the tables are outside set under ancient olive trees. Delicious food, cheap but tasty wine and great service.

By the end of the holiday the evenings were getting cooler and I wore my short denim jacket over my summer dresses to keep the chill at bay. We found a lovely restaurant called The Festival which had a log fire burning inside and instead of sitting outside under the stars we plumped for a fireside table to toast ourselves.

In no time at all we were on our journey home and back to reality. This was our last holiday for this year (although we have one more weekend away booked) so I now have to wait until next June for my next dose of sun, sea and sangria with another family holiday to Tenerife.

Can you believe the day after we got home we were up early to go car booting? More about that in my next post.

If you can't wait for next post then you can follow me on Instagram @themrsdanvers.