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Merry Christmas And My ‘Twelve Tips Of Christmas’

#### I will be back on Friday 10th January 2013 ####

Enjoy your New Year!

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Over the weekend my dad and step mum came for a Christmas dinner.  I thought it would be nice for them to have a few Christmas treats with the meal.

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I made some Christmas crackers for the meal and each cracker had a little present inside, a joke and a hat that I made.  You can read how I make our Christmas crackers here.  I love homemade crackers as you can tailor the presents or even the jokes to the person you give them to.

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My eldest daughters also iced the Christmas cake, putting marzipan underneath it.  It’s the first time she has ever iced a cake and I’m so proud of her as she did a great job.  She even made some icing snowmen and presents to put on top with Santa and his cottage.  My youngest daughter stuck them all on the top of the icing:

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My eldest daughter also made some holly, but unfortunately there just wasn’t anymore room on the cake.

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The Christmas pudding that I made back in November went down well.  We lit the the pudding before we ate it as usual:

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I made some mince pies for us all to eat with coffee after our meal.  If you need a recipe for mincepies there is a good one here to use….these mincepies freeze really well too.

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I’ve got to say we ate so much and felt like we couldn’t eat again for a week!

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Important Santa Message:

Just before I carry on, this is a reminder to anyone with small children.  You can ‘track Santa’ delivering his presents all around the world on Christmas Eve by using this website.  My daughters had hours of excited fun watching him go from country to country when they were smaller.  It’s a free site so it’s really worth a look.

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My Twelve Tips Of Christmas:

I try to think of Christmas dinner as just a posh ‘Sunday Roast’, as this way I don’t get stressed about cooking it.  As it’s nearly Christmas day I decided to write some tips to help with cooking a Christmas dinner.

So below are my ‘Twelve Tips Of Christmas’ .

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Remember that Christmas Dinner is just a ‘posh’ Sunday roast.  If you have never cooked a Sunday roast dinner before, then don’t be afraid to ask your guests for help.  You will find they will not only be happy to help, but it also gives ‘grumpy’ relatives no excuse to moan about the meal.

If you have a frozen turkey, make sure it has fully defrosted ready for Christmas day.

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Don’t make the classic mistake of finding that your roasting tin is not big enough for your turkey…check before.

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Try and plan a starter that you can make the day before.  Soup is easy to make on Christmas Eve and it reheats quickly the next day.
There is a nice rec
ipe for Spicy Parsnip Soup here.  

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Prepare your vegetables the day before.  Peel potatoes, squashes, carrots, parsnips and they will be fine kept in water overnight. Some washed and prepared vegetables can just be kept in plastic food bags overnight in the fridge e.g. Brussel sprouts, cabbages, swede, cauliflower florets and broccoli, etc.

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Consider using a steamer to cook your vegetables if you have one.  It is more economical as you can cook more than one type of vegetable at a time, which also means you can cook a larger selection of vegetables.

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Before Christmas day, decide what time you want to eat your Christmas dinner and then work out what time you need to put your turkey in the oven.  Work out all your other timings too e.g. plan what time you need to par-boil your roast potatoes, cook your vegetables etc. and write it down, so you have nothing to worry about on Christmas day.  

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Lay the table the night before, so it’s one less thing to do on Christmas day.

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Don’t forget that if you are cooking larger volumes of vegetables than you are used to cooking, then they may take longer to cook.  If your vegetables are cooked too early, keep them in the saucepan with a lid on – it’s surprising how long they stay warm for.

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If you want to warm your plates up and you have no room left in your oven, fill the sink with hot water and submerge the plates for a few minutes.  Take them out and dry them ready to serve your dinner.  Or you can put them in your dishwasher and run a ‘quick cycle’ (but do make sure they will be ready for when you need them),

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Your food will stay warm for longer if you put it on your table in serving dishes with lids.  It also looks more festive too on Christmas day.

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To avoid the skin on your turkey shriveling as it cools, baste the turkey as soon as it comes out of the oven.

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If you aren’t lucky enough to have a double oven, cover your turkey when it is cooked with foil and a couple of tea towels. Leave it in a warm place while you roast your potatoes, (it will easily stay hot for an hour) and it will help the turkey retain moisture.

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I hope these tips help.

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I have decided to take a small break over Christmas, so I can spend time with my family.  I’m sure you will understand.

I will be back on Friday 10th January 2013

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Just before I finish writing…..

Don’t forget that you can buy all next year’s wrapping paper, Christmas cards and even your Christmas pudding for 2014 in the January sales.  There are usually nice gift sets etc. that you can buy cheaply and store for birthday presents throughout the year.

We bought our artificial Christmas tree seventeen years ago in the sales after Christmas, for a fraction of the price it should have been and it still looks as good as new today.

However, please remember that “a bargain is only a bargain if you wanted in the first place”, so take a list with you and stick to it.

Don’t forget that the on-line shops have their sales starting on Boxing Day and some even start on Christmas day!

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And finally…

Our Christmas’s now are cheaper than all our Christmas’s past, but I can honestly say they are also better.  I think that homemade Christmas’s come from the heart and give lovely memories in years to come.

Thank you for your support over the last year and I hope Santa brings you everything you dream of for Christmas.

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HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

Love from Mrs Thrift

Homemade Christmas Crackers & Secret Santa

Secret Santa

Just before I talk about crackers, I thought I would talk about my husbands ‘Secret Santa’ at his office .

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Secret Santa is a traditional part of the Christmas festivities. Work places, schools and colleges across the UK exchange anonymous cheap Christmas
gifts.  As you only buy one gift, it is a fun, low cost way to take part in the festive season.  Some families even do this now to save money.

No one is really sure when or where Secret Santa originated  from, but it is thought the original Secret Santa was
an American philanthropist, Larry Dean Stewart (1948 – 2007). He spent 20 years doing random acts of kindness for people throughout the year.  People soon cottoned on to his ‘Secret Santa’ idea, seeing it as a way of exchanging cheap Christmas gifts anonymously.

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People usually set a limit to the amount of money that is spent on a gift, but sometimes this can still be expensive.  My husbands work place came up with a good idea to keep the cost down:

Each person is given a budget of £2 to buy the daftest, most obscure thing that they can find, to make people laugh .

You may say this is a waste of £2, but they have such a laugh when they are opening their presents and they still talk about some of the presents for years to come, which shows it is £2 well spent.

I think this is a really great idea.  Please let me know if you do a Secret Santa in a different way too.

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Christmas Crackers

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Christmas Crackers are a British tradition dating back to Victorian times.

Tesco Crackers £9.93

Tesco Crackers £9.93

In 1847, Tom Smith invented the cracker after admiring the French sugared almond, wrapped in coloured tissue paper.   So he introduced them to London but they were not as popular as he had hoped.

For a few years he worked hard to develop the sweets into something more exciting. But it wasn’t until one evening when he was working in front of his fireplace that the great idea came to him.  One of the logs on the fire made a loud ‘cracking’ sound and that gave him the idea of putting a strip of paper in the sweet to make a ‘bang’.  He knew children would love the noise and loud bangs were said to frighten evil spirits too.

At the turn of the century, Tom Smith produced crackers not only for the Christmas season but also to celebrate every major occasion from The Paris Exhibition in 1900 to War Heroes in 1918 and The World Tour in 1926 of Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales.  He tailored the contents of each cracker in each individual box.

Sainsburys crackers reduced from£10 to £5 until 18/12

Sainsburys crackers  £10.00

It soon became a firm favourite at parties with toys and hats added to each ‘cracker’.
By the end of the century it was well established as a traditional holiday custom and now every Christmas, virtually every household in the UK has at least one box of Christmas crackers to pull, with their Christmas dinner.

Asda crackers £7.00

Asda crackers £7.00

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I make our Christmas Crackers:

Homemade crackers are fun and cheap to make and you can personalise them to suit each member of your family.  Also, you can use colours that will enhance the look of your dining room table and impress your guests.

This is how I made mine:

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Christmas Crackers

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Tissue paper

Kitchen roll tube

Cracker snaps (these can be purchased from craft shops, eBay, amazon etc.)

Ribbon

A joke (there are loads of jokes on the internet – I used this website)

A small gift (e.g. a small chocolate)

Sellotape

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First make a hat by measuring a length of paper to fit an ‘average head’ and then cutting the tissue paper in triangles.

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Sellotape the hat together .

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Fold it ready to go inside the cracker.

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Cut the cardboard tube the size that you want your cracker to be.  Cut a piece of tissue paper so it will wrap around the tube once.

Put your cracker snap, gift, hat and joke inside the cardboard tube.

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Wrap the tissue paper around the tube and stick it with Sellotape.

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Tie up each end tightly, with a ribbon.

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You can decorate your cracker in whatever way you want.  I print off name tags to stick on mine, as my gifts are tailored to individual members of my family.  I also cut an old piece of tinsel and stick that on the crackers too, to make them a bit more glamorous.

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I think they look super and everyone always comments on how special the homemade crackers are and they are really cheap and fun to make.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.