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Christmas Trees are coming! Be Prepared this December

Types of Christmas Trees

There are various types of Christmas trees available, and you must choose the one that is perfect for your home during the holiday season. There are various types, as you will see below:

Nordman Fir

The Norman Fir Christmas Tree barely drops its needles, making it the most popular choice in Modern times, due to the safety issues related to children and pets, and the sharp Christmas tree needles. They come in a range of shapes and sizes, and their needles are a lot fleshier.

Norway Spruce

The Norway Spruce Christmas tree, brings the classic smell of childhood to your home. Its needles do drop a lot more than other varieties, but it more than makes up for that with its beautiful smell, and really traditional tall and narrow shape.

Potted Christmas Trees

The Potted Christmas tree is a great choice if you would prefer your tree to last longer than just a few weeks, as potted trees are more likely to live on through the year, and be fine to use again a year later. The come in both varieties, the Nordman or Norway Spruce, and are often a little cheaper.

Where to buy a Christmas Tree

You can normally buy Christmas trees at your local garden centre, or check online for your nearest Christmas tree farm. Sapcote Garden Centre, Leicester, LE94LG, 01455 274049, (http://www.sapcotegc.co.uk/christmas/christmas-trees) has a range of Nordman Fir, and Norway Spruce Christmas trees for sale, and the price is the same as 2012.

Christmas Books 2014: best music books to read

Kate Bush was born with it, says her brother
Kate Bush was born with it, says her brother Photo: Beverley Goodway/Rex Features

‘Thinking, dreaming, hoping, waiting patiently, Cathy was never hurried,”
writes John Carder Bush beneath a beguiling photograph he took of his
sister, Kate, as a little girl and republished this year. There she is at
eight, chin in her palm, gazing out from beneath a tweedy man’s hat.
Patience: her brother says she was born with a gift for it, while fans have
been forced to develop ours, waiting up to 12 years between albums. This
year she rewarded us by delivering her first run of live shows in 35 years. Before
the Dawn
was a magical mix of wild imagination, playful theatricality
and intimate, homespun pleasures and the same elements are all evident in
Cathy (Sphere, £26).

Carder Bush first published 500 hessian-bound copies of his book after the
release of her 1985 masterpiece, The Hounds of Love, and they became hugely
collectable. Now the book is accessible to all: beautifully presented, with
a detail of each image first glimpsed through a window in the preceding
page. He kitted her out in goatskins and kaftans, cavalry boots and sword
and snapped her twirling deliriously around the garden of the family’s
17th-century Kent farmhouse. The dreamtime mythology of her work begins
here: the child has a woman’s work in her eyes.

Meanwhile, Madonna (just two weeks younger) got glossier treatment in a savvy
coffee table book by pop critic Caroline Sullivan. Getting her subject’s
priorities almost in order with the subheading “Ambition. Music. Style”, Madonna
(Carlton, £25) gives a crisp, British take on her life and work, selecting
images that press home Madonna’s provocative allure. Thirty years after Like
a Virgin, we’re reminded she was no feminist in the Eighties, when she said
most of her friends were men because she struggled to find women who were
“worldly wise and intelligent” enough for her, although her last album,
MDNA, saw her finally collaborate with other female artists: MIA and Nicki

Sullivan is right that with her focus on fame over music Lady Gaga is
Madonna’s real challenger, but a cheerleading biography, Beyoncé:
Running the World
(Coronet, £16.99) by Anna Pointer, makes a solid,
on-message case for the Texan singer as the reigning Queen of Pop.

In the glut of big, visually beguiling music books published this year I’ve
been most impressed by Ryan White’s atmospheric Springsteen: Album
by Album
(Carlton, £30) and I wallowed in the moody photos of the Cure
in Andy Vella’s Obscure (Foruli Codex, £30) and grinned at the
quirky shots and anecdotes in Bleddyn Butcher’s A Little History:
Nick Cave & Cohorts, 1981-2013
(Allen & Unwin, £18.99).
Butcher’s relationship with Cave grew out of an NME feature about three male
“dissolutes, mavericks, outsiders”: Cave, Mark E Smith and Shane McGowan.
The Pogues’ frontman was a huge fan of Cave’s so naturally met him bearing a
packet of Kraft Cheese Slices and two litres of cheap wine.

Jimmy Page had less care for the budget when he published 500 leather-bound
copies of his photo-led autobiography in 2010, priced at £445 each. This
year Jimmy Page (Genesis) was finally re‑released at £26, although it
has now sold out again. Second-hand copies are going for around £50 online.

The art of rave culture – less Day-Glo than retrospective shorthand has it –
is celebrated by Chelsea Louise Berlin in Rave Art (Carlton, £16.99).
Those nights of elation and alienation off the M25 were before the internet,
so Berlin was sorted for paper fliers, fanzines, comics and postcards and
while most ravers surely left theirs in a field in Hampshire, she lovingly
preserved them and reproduces the best here.

Scott Gutterman’s John Lennon: the Collected Artwork (Bantam,
£30) takes readers on a journey from the Beatle’s early, childhood doodles
to his mature, rock star doodles. Although he went to Liverpool College of
Art, it’s unlikely we’d be studying his attempts at the challenging Japanese
sumi-e style of drawing if he hadn’t become a music star. Yet there is a
rude and revealing energy to his art. As Yoko Ono writes in her
introduction, John “always brought fresh air” to any medium he was working
on. Even when he was just mooning at us.

The current poster boy of the UK troubadour scene, Ed Sheeran, says he’s too
young to write his autobiography. Apparently unaware that the Rolling
Stones’ frontman famously had to return the advance on his memoirs when he
realised he couldn’t remember the Sixties, Sheeran says those are “for
people like Mick Jagger who is 70 and has really lived”. But he has put out
the rather charming
Ed Sheeran: a Visual Journey
(Cassell, £18.99) featuring nearly
50 sketches by his childhood friend Philip Butah, alongside earnest (if
rather unrevealing) text by the redhead himself.

You can flick through the Sheeran book over a cuppa; I’ll be dipping in and
out of the sumptuous Nick Drake: Remembered for a While (John Murray,
£35) for years to come. Compiled and edited by Cally Callomon and his sister
Gabrielle Drake, this authorised companion to the wistful genius with a
troubled mind includes contributions from friends, collaborators, critics
and family, including painful extracts from the diaries of his parents in
the days preceding his overdose of antidepressants in 1974.

Amy Winehouse is remembered by her mum, Janis, in Loving Amy (Bantam,
£9). Her frank and tender reflections on a girl who always “vibrated on a
different frequency” give a truer picture than other biographies. The
similarly self-destructive tendencies of the first British artist to make it
big in a beehive and black eyeliner are painfully catalogued in Karen
Bartlett’s well-researched Dusty: an Intimate Portrait of a Musical
(Robson, £20 ).

If after this you need a little pick-me-up I recommend Viv
s Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music
Music Boys Boys Boys
(Faber, £14.99), the former Slits guitarist’s
brutally honest account of a punk life and how she survived it.

Staying with punk, John Lydon’s collar-grabbing Anger
Is an Energy
(Simon & Schuster, £20) gives a vivid
account of the poverty and social limitations that led to the Sex Pistols’
snarl of fury. Looking back on one event aged four, he writes: “It’s quite a
thing to carry a bucket of miscarriage and you can see little fingers and
things in it – and have to flush it all down the outdoor toilet.”

Lydon’s bandmate Glen Matlock has also collected stories and memorabilia from
the Pistols’ 1996 tour in the Filthy Lucre Photo File (Foruli
Codex, £20).

This year’s heavyweight heritage autobiographies include Carlos Santana’s The
Universal Tone
(Orion, £20) which is great on the music but a little
overburdened by its subject’s spiritual quest. Although he’s interesting on
his idiosyncratic drumming, Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Daddy”, Mick Fleetwood,
gives a rather plodding take on his band’s extraordinary soap opera in Play
(Hodder & Stoughton, £20 ).

Fill your anorak pockets with the geeky details of recording with the Beatles,
Stones, Dylan, Led Zeppelin, the Who and the Eagles in producer Glyn John’s
endearingly dry, resolutely non-dirt-dishing Sound Man (Blue Rider
Press, $27.99).

Finally, the year’s quirkiest books include Neil Young’s
Special Deluxe
(Penguin, £25) in which the Canadian waffles about his
eccentric conversion of a 1959 Lincoln Continental into a more
environmentally friendly vehicle. I preferred the technical obsession of
Brian May’s biography of his guitar: Brian May’s Red Special (Carlton,
£19.99). You could practically build your own using this as a manual. Just
make sure to ask your mum for your childhood shirt buttons: you’ll need them
for the dots on your fretboard.

Christmas Trees

The best foodie Christmas presents

Spanish tapas restaurant Brindisa’s hams are the stuff of legend, and rightly
so. This 7kg ham from Aragón is cured for a minimum of 14-16 months, and
comes with a stand, knife, and a DVD showing you how to carve your ham like
a pro. Prices start at £115, brindisa.com

Christmas Trees

The best Christmas presents for the technological home

By Rhiannon Williams and Matt Warman

6:30AM GMT 27 Nov 2014

From razors to washing machines, domestic appliances are smarter than ever
before: whether that’s a toothbrush with an app to tell you where you’ve
missed or a robotic vacuum cleaner with a remote control, the overall effect
is to edge us all slightly towards the ideal home that has been long touted
but even longer in coming to fruition.

Many of these appliances work by simply connecting existing devices to the web
– they will, in future, also talk to each other. When that happens, an era
of machine-to-machine communication will truly come to fruition: when one of
those machines is a fridge and the other an Ocado delivery van, the days of
running out of milk may truly be over.


Second only to coming home to a house that smells of baking, walking through
the door to the sound of a boiling kettle is a rare delight – and now that
can be your home, any time, day or night. The iKettle is controlled via an
app, so whether you’re on the bus or at a bar, you can make sure it’s ready
just when you are.

Second only to coming home to a house that smells of baking, walking through
the door to the sound of a boiling kettle is a rare delight – and now that
can be your home, any time, day or night. The iKettle is controlled via an
app, so whether you’re on the bus or at a bar, you can make sure it’s ready
just when you are.

Neato Botvac 85

For the days when life seems too short to be pushing a vaccuum around, the
Neato Botvac is on hand to whizz around your floor unaided. Simply schedule
a clean for the rooms you want cleaned, and watch it navigate its way around
your home using its laser mapping technology to avoid obstacles. Better
still, it charges itself by returning to its charging base when running low
on battery.

Bowers & Wilkins T7 Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker


Bowers & Wilkins’ first Bluetooth speaker is a stylish affair – featuring
a 1970s-esque honeycomb design and two auxiliary bass radiators to amplify
and enrich the level of bass. Boasting an 18 hour battery life, the T7 is a
subtle addition to any dinner party.

Nest Learning Thermostat
(includes installation)

Take charge of your thermostat with Nest – the easy-to-use little gadget
aiming to revolutionise the way we warm in our homes. While heating may not
be particularly glamorous, Nest certainly helps to take the irritation out
of fiddling around timers, while helping you save money.

Drop Connected Kitchen Scales

Drop is a Bluetooth-enabled kitchen scale that intuitively guides you
step-by-step through finding, making and sharing delicious dishes with the
help of a connected iPad app. You’ll be at the top of your baking game
thanks to interactive recipes, simple ingredient substitutions and smart
ingredient scaling.

Braun Cooltec CT5cc

It may not have an app to tell you where you’ve missed but this shaver uses a
specially developed cooling plate to soothe the skin during dry shaving.
Waterproof to 5m, you could use it in the shower, or while snorkelling.

BenQ W1070+ projector

Providing excellent image quality and beautiful depth of colour, the W1070+
builds on the success of its predecessor the W1010 as the best affordable
projector on the market. The sound from its built-in speakers is
surprisingly impressive, although 3D glasses do need to purchased

Dyson AM05 Hot+Cool

When putting the heating on is a bit much – or not enough – then just heating
a single room is often the most efficient way of getting comfortable.
Dyson’s latest fan heater uses what it claims is the world’s most advanced
motor to do that, to your specified temperature.

Samsung W9000

However did washing machines survive without an Android-based touchscreen?
There’s no need to worry now, as this model from Samsung claims – via its
own app if you want – to be far more intuitive than those traditional knobs
and dials. It also automatically decides which dose of detergent to using,
even freeing up space in your cupboards.

Oral-B Smart Series Pro 6000 Electric Toothbrush

Oral-B’s first interactive toothbrush uses Bluetooth 4.0 so the brush handle
can communicate with a dedicated app to deliver real-time brushing
suggestions and track progress. The makers even claim “it can respond to
personalised oral care needs and improve brushing efficiency for a healthier

Christmas Trees

Protests as former far-right leader Tommy Robinson addresses Oxford Union

  • Union sparked anger by inviting the controversial figure to speak
  • Protesters gathered outside and shouted at 32-year-old as he arrived
  • Mr Robinson gave a speech about the roots of his former EDL group
  • The ex-convict claimed he had been ‘gagged’ by probation officers


Richard Spillett for MailOnline

05:20 EST, 27 November 2014

09:08 EST, 27 November 2014

Former far-right leader Tommy Robinson controversially appeared at Oxford Union last night – and told students fears over racism led to child abuse in Rotherham. 

Mr Robinson was the leader of the English Defence League – a group that been accused of inciting racial hatred and ‘Islamophobia’ – but he stood down last year.

His invitation to speak at the famous university had been criticised by his opponents and 200 people signed a petition calling for the event to be cancelled.

Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson spoke to students at Oxford University last night

Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson spoke to students at Oxford University last night

His appearance has been criticised by opponents, who claimed the Union was 'encouraging fascism'

His appearance has been criticised by opponents, who claimed the Union was ‘encouraging fascism’

A group of protesters – holding anti-fascist and trade union banners – stood outside the prestigious union last night and reportedly shouted abuse at Mr Robinson as he arrived.

Mr Robinson, who was jailed for mortgage fraud earlier this year but is out on licence, claimed he was given a list of things he ‘couldn’t say’ by probation officers.

The 32-year-old – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – told MailOnline: ‘Even though I wouldn’t have been breaking any laws, I was told I would be taken back to prison if I spoke about the police.’

He insisted the atmosphere inside the union was ‘civilised’ and he was not heckled during his one-hour, twenty-minute speech.

Mr Robinson told students about the roots of the EDL and claimed it was a response to the ‘religious intolerance’ of some Muslims in his home town of Luton, Bedfordshire.

Talking about recent child abuse revelations in Rotherham, he said: ‘Fear paralysed Rotherham’s police force, the media and the politicians. The police facilitated the rape of children for 20 years because they were afraid of being called racist.’

He claimed Woodhill Prison, where he was sent after being jailed in January, is an ‘ISIS training camp’ where ‘the radicals are running the wings’.

Mr Robinson insisted that, despite protests outside, the atmosphere inside among students was 'civilised'

Mr Robinson insisted that, despite protests outside, the atmosphere inside among students was ‘civilised’

Mr Robinson is the latest controversial guest of the union, which previously invited Nick Griffin to talk
Mr Robinson is the latest controversial guest of the union, which previously invited Nick Griffin to talk

Mr Robinson is the latest controversial guest of the union, which previously invited Nick Griffin to talk

The union, which has previously hosted BNP leader Nick Griffin, had been strongly criticised for allowing Mr Robinson to appear.

A letter by Oxford Unite Against Facisim stated: ‘By inviting Tommy Robinson the Oxford Union is contributing to a climate of Islamophobia which only encourages fascists onto the streets of Oxford.

‘The Oxford Union should not be giving racists and Islamophobes the prestige of speaking at their institution and we demand Robinson’s invitation is withdrawn.’

But students at the university have taken to Twitter to defend the decision, insisting the talk was in the interests of free speech.

Some students on the social network this morning stated that they did not agree with Mr Robinson’s views on Islam, but were pleased to they had heard him speak.

Xmas Holidays

BBC programes face axes as they look for £400m more in savings

  • A new report on BBC efficiency said an extra £400 million had to be cut 
  • The Corporation has already saved £1.1billion a year by sacking 1,000 staff
  • £35million has also been shaved off the £229million spend on ‘talent’
  • It came after criticism of high salaries including £6m for Jonathan Ross 
  • Director general Tony Hall previously announced the end of BBC3
  • Now, BBC4 is under threat as part of the new cash-saving measures  


Alasdair Glennie for the Daily Mail

19:18 EST, 26 November 2014

09:00 EST, 27 November 2014

The BBC is saving £1.1billion a year more than seven years ago after slashing 1,000 staff and top ‘talent’ – but could still have to take the axe to programmes, its finance director has warned.

Publishing a new report on ‘BBC efficiency’, Anne Bulford said the corporation still needs to find an extra £400million a year by 2017 and ‘the challenge to avoid having to cut content is very real’.

The cuts included £35million a year from the £229million-a-year talent budget compared to five years ago, after widespread criticism of high salaries paid to top stars.

Anne Bulford, pictured, said the BBC needs to save an extra £400 million a year before 2017

Anne Bulford, pictured, said the BBC needs to save an extra £400 million a year before 2017

The departures of Susanna Reid and Jeremy Paxman have helped reduce the annual BBC talent budget

Former BBC presenters prompted anger when their salaries were revealed, including the £6million a year reportedly paid to Jonathan Ross before he moved to ITV in 2010.

Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman was also thought to be earning more than £500,000 before he left this year – with the highest-paid ‘talent’ now thought to be stars such as Graham Norton and Jeremy Clarkson.

The departure of Susanna Reid, who departed for ITV and a reported £400,000 salary in April, has also helped trim BBC budgets. 

But because many of the other cuts that were made to date – including more than 1,000 redundancies and a string of property sales – were one-off savings, bosses are expected to target the BBC programming budget next to save more cash.

The BBC’s director general Tony Hall has already announced plans to axe youth channel BBC3 and make it online-only, angering many of his own TV presenters.

But according to an insider, bosses are prepared to make further ‘tough choices’ in order to save more money, meaning services such as the arts channel BBC4 could also find itself under threat.

BBC director general Tony Hall has already announced plans to axe BBC3 and now BBC4 is under threat 

BBC director general Tony Hall has already announced plans to axe BBC3 and now BBC4 is under threat 

A source said yesterday that it is ‘increasingly likely’ that other stations and programmes will be slimmed down or cut as the corporation puts further pressure on its budgets.

Although no plans have been drawn up, the BBC would prefer to make a few dramatic cuts, such as by axing an entire channel, than to make many smaller savings to programme budgets.

Miss Bulford, who is paid £395,000 as the BBC’s managing director of finance and operations, said: ‘Many savings delivered in this charter period come from structural or one-off initiatives that can’t easily be repeated, making it more likely that content and services will be impacted if the real terms value of the Licence Fee continues to be reduced.’

In recent years, the BBC has repeatedly come under fire for wasting money. The controversial IT project known as the Digital Media Initiative was axed by Lord Hall at a cost of £100million to the licence fee payer.

And the corporation was castigated by MPs after a report by the National Audit Office discovered it had handed out £369million in severance payments to its staff over eight years.

Stars such as Jack Whitehall, left, have already criticised the decision to axe BBC 3

Stars such as Jack Whitehall, left, have criticised the decision to axe BBC3 and make it online-only

However, Miss Bulford argued that the BBC’s efficiency ‘compares well’ to Government departments and boasted that it is ‘on track’ to achieve £1.5billion in savings by 2017.

To save more money, Lord Hall will introduce a ‘compete or compare’ strategy that will force programme makers to slash their costs and compete with independent production companies.

The decision to axe BBC3 – which is expected to save around £100million a year – must be approved by the corporation’s governing body before it can go ahead.

Stars including comedian Jack Whitehall and DJ Greg James have already criticised the idea in public. In 2010, the BBC was forced to abandon plans to axe Radio 6Music after its stars organised a vocal public protest.

Xmas Holidays

Candles on a cake st

This is so easy to do. Go with your standard white tablecloth setup, use your favorite dishes, silverware, and napkins, then simply accent it all with flower centerpieces and elegant candles! You can do this for Easter, christmas, or any family gathering. Simply replace the flowers with those that match the season!

Xmas Holidays

How to cook the perfect Christmas lunch

The truly great magic of christmas is where it falls amid the seasons: the final farewell bid to autumn is made at the close of November swiftly followed by the mighty push through December to the big day itself. For sure, there are the presents and the parties and extraordinary cavorting during the preceding weeks, but it is the keenness of the cold and the great change in the seasons that so defines the quite magical reign of winter. And, oh my, how the appetite is quickened for Christmas foods so steeped in tradition for, come winter’s call, the kitchen is the true heart of the house. Here all is warmth and cheer, so, when the final preparations are made and the food is carried through to table, all there is to do is sit, fill your plate, fill your glass and raise your voice to join in the sheer and utter marvellous joy of good things well done for all.

Potted crab

Potted crab

Potted crab.
Photograph: Romas Foord for Observer Food Monthly

This is best done the day before as it’s a delightfully messy affair. Brilliantly, once done, the dish needs little more than taking to table with a heap of toast and a riot of ravenous attendees. It is worth noting that the great flakes achieved by cooking and picking your own crab make the effort so very worthwhile, unlike those awful pre-picked alternatives that are no more than a lure to the Dark Side.

Serves 6
cock crab
1.5 kg, alive and kicking
coarse sea salt
4 heaped tbsp
unsalted butter
ground mace
½ tsp
freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp
red chilli
1 large, mild
lemon juice
1 tsp
2 tbsp
flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp, chopped
a drop or two

Pick a pot that fits the crab most generously. Fill it with cold water, enough to fully cover the crab and a good bit more. Add in the salt, set the pot on a moderate heat and slowly bring it to the boil. Let the crab cook for 5-6 minutes, then remove with care onto a tray and allow to cool.

Once cooled, pull away the claws, then crack the crabs and remove the upper body shell away from the legs.

Spoon the brown meat into a bowl and reserve, then set to with a pick to get all the white meat out. Once done, pick through with a little extra care to remove any adhering shell, tediously unwelcome in the finished dish.

Choose the handsomest dish at hand. I like very much the way a dear friend serves this by laying it flat in a thinnish layer on a large wide serving dish. It suits this very well.

Melt the butter and infuse with the mace and ground pepper. Check the chilli for heat, as too enthusiastic a kick-start might be misconstrued. Chop the preferred amount of chilli fine and add this to the pot.

Put the white crab meat, lemon juice, Manzanilla, chopped parsley and Tabasco in a bowl and mix very well together. Beat the brown meat until smooth. Mix all this together retaining a quite coarse texture. Pour in the butter, mix coarsely and then spoon out on the dish. Allow to set then cover with cling film and pop in the fridge.

The turkey


Photograph: Romas Foord for Observer Food Monthly

Ah, turkey, once a marvel of a brave new world. This rather wonderful wild bird contributed much to fortify dishes such as wilderness stew and succotash, which saved many a pilgrim who landed in Plymouth Bay. Happily, still in the here and now, there remain pioneering good folk who rear beautiful turkeys of excellent quality to grace the Christmas table.

The very best weight for a very good turkey is between 5-6kg. Exceed this weight and the cooking becomes perilous, the bird losing all its goodness as its sojourn in the oven becomes a reign of terror.

Serves 12-15
For the turkey
unsalted butter
250g, softened
several large sheets of tin foil
large enough to cover the bird comfortably with the inevitable required big scrunchings around the edges

For the stuffing
2, large
dried coarse breadcrumbs
curly parsley
6 great heaped tbsp, picked, washed, dried and finely chopped
thyme leaves
1 tsp
1 tsp
a quarter of one, grated
sea salt
1 heaped tsp
freshly ground black and white peppercorns
1 heaped tsp
best hens’ eggs
3 large
unsalted butter
250g, softened
white wine
a large glass

To make the stuffing, grate the zest of both the lemons, then juice just one.

In a big bowl, tumble in the breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, thyme, marjoram, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix these well, add in the lemon zest and juice, then the eggs, mix this well, then finally add the butter and mix thoroughly. Put to one side.

Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Clear the decks then sit the turkey in an appropriate roasting pan. Put the stuffing in the bird and then sew it up or use skewers to seal the stuffing inside.

Slather the butter all over the bird, then layer the sheets of foil on top until the bird is fully covered. Lift the tray to the oven and set the turkey on its way.

After 30 minutes at 180C/gas mark 4, turn the oven down to 150C/gas mark 2. The total cooking time is 2½ to 3 hours.

It is worth taking the bird from the oven every 45 minutes, lifting the foil and basting it with the deliciousness gathering in the bottom of the tray. The glass of wine can be poured over the bird on the final basting.

This is a good moment to check the cooking and also to remove the foil and return the bird to the oven for a final blast to ensure the skin browns well, too. Insert a skewer through the thigh and should the juices flow clear then tis done. A light-pink tinge colouring the juice is easily rectified should you opt to eat the breast first, returning the legs to the oven to finish cooking to follow on a second plateful.

It is worth bearing in mind that a very good rest will finish cooking the bird under its blanket of foil, say 20 to 25 minutes. But that is a chef speaking who cannot abide the prospect of a parched bird, deprived of its goodness.

NB All the deliciousness gathered in the bottom of the tray will be used along with the giblet gravy.

David Williams’s wine match for the turkey

Fuligni Ginestreto Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy 2012
(£20.95, leaandsandeman.co.uk)
Competing strong flavours, sweet and savoury, are the hallmark of the classic Christmas dinner. This robust but elegant Tuscan red will survive the assault and lend its cherried acidity to cut through the richness; the same producer’s Brunello Riserva 2007 is a still more suave choice if your budget stretches to £66.

Cumberland sauce

A Christmas feast is unthinkable without this accompaniment to the turkey. It is even better with the leftovers the day after. With this in mind, make a larger amount. It remains the very best use of redcurrant jelly.

oranges 4
redcurrant jelly
8 heaped tbsp
English mustard
2 heaped tsp
ground black pepper
a large pinch
sea salt
a small pinch
good port
a large glass

Carefully peel as many thinnest strips of peel as you can from the oranges. Slice these very thinly. Fill a small pan with 750ml of water, bring this to the boil, add the orange strips and boil for 1 minute, drain them and repeat, this time boiling for 3 minutes.

In a bowl, put in the orange strips, jelly, mustard, pepper and salt.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring the contents all the while until the jelly is melted and consistency quite smooth. Once done, add the port and continue thus for a further 7 or 8 minutes.

Tip the sauce into a clean bowl and cover until cool, then cover well and refrigerate. This sauce keeps well, covered, for a fortnight.

Giblet gravy

As with the Cumberland sauce this gorgeous tradition can be made the day before. As gravy goes, this is the very, very best and a great favourite.

Serves 12-15
from the turkey
onions 2 small, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 small, peeled and chopped coarsely
a stick, coarsely chopped
a pig’s trotter
chicken wings
parsley stalks
a small bundle
bay leaves
1 clove
black peppercorns
white wine
a great big glass mixed with a glug of sherry

The day before, set the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Remove the turkey giblets from their natty little baggy hidden inside the turkey.

Take a frying pan and warm over a moderate heat. Pour in enough light oil to just cover the surface. Place the giblets in the oil and fry gently until very well coloured.

Turn the giblets with care, then add the vegetables and colour these well also. Then brown the wings as best you can. Once done, add these to a pot with the pig’s trotter, parsley stalks, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns and wine. Tip the oil in the pan away and then add some water to lift up any residual delights adhering to the bottom. Add this result to the pot, then add enough cold water to just cover the contents. Put on a tight-fitting lid, using a sheet of tin foil to ensure a good seal, if required. Place this in the oven and reduce the heat to 140C/gas mark 1.

Let it cook through the night (around 10 hours if at all possible) and take out at about 9 o’clock in the morning. Have a peek but the stock should remain undisturbed. If there is a quiet spot on the cooker where it may continue cooking on the gentlest heat for a while longer, go ahead and do so.

Just before you take the turkey out of the oven for the last time, strain the stock into a clean pan, bring it gently to the boil and skim away any rising matter. The stock can be put to one side.

Strain the gravy from the turkey pan into a large pot and give this a quick simmer to spoon away any rising detritus. Put the two gravies together, taste and adjust accordingly.

Roast potatoes

Those who would prefer a goose for Christmas and have wisely stashed one elsewhere for later in the hols, always a good manoeuvre, will have bought a good few jars of goose fat. No, not one but a good few.

There is something about even cold ham in the holidays with roast potatoes, and the best roast potatoes are made with dripping or goose fat. We shall assume goose fat for this feast, as the beef will more likely appear at the new year. And roast potatoes cooked in goose fat require plenty of it. Brilliantly, much that remains in the bottom of the pan after use can be strained into a pot and reused several times thereafter.

Serves 6-8
2.5 kg
goose fat

As this feast is supposed to be abundant, it is always wise to pop a few extra potatoes in the pot. Rarely if ever are these left over.

Peel and wash the potatoes thoroughly until the water runs clear. Place them in a pan and along with the addition of a pinch of salt bring them gently to the boil. Simmer the potatoes for 30-35 minutes until they are just cooked through, then lift them carefully onto a roasting tray that’s big enough to take them all laid out evenly.

Tip enough goose fat into the tray so the fat reaches up the sides of the potatoes by at least a centimetre. Pop these into a blasting hot oven – 220C/gas mark 7 to 240C/gas mark 9 – and leave undisturbed for at least 15 minutes. Start gently moving the potatoes around if browned well, ensuring each side is crisp and coloured gold. Turn the oven down to between 180C/gas mark 4 and 190C/gas mark 5 and turn the potatoes every 10-15 minutes until done. This should take 45-50 minutes.

Lift the potatoes into a handsome great dish and keep warm. Strain the remaining fat into a pot for the next time.

Sprout tops

Sprout tops

Sprout tops.
Photograph: Romas Foord for Observer Food Monthly

Sprout tops are the beautiful leaves of the more familiar Brussels sprout and have a wonderful flavour. They do much to dispel the rather tarnished reputation of Brussels sprouts and, of course, The Christmas Lunch. They are well worth seeking out.

Serves 6
sprout tops

Their preparation could not be simpler. Separate and remove the leaves. Cut the heart in half, wash thoroughly, then cook in boiling water at the last minute until tender, bright and beautiful, ready for draining and dotting with butter.



Photograph: Romas Foord for Observer Food Monthly

I generally find the butcher who sells the best birds usually has the best chipolatas, and as, frankly, there is enough going on in the kitchen over the yuletide, a bag of ready-made and, for that matter, well-made sausages from a butcher who prides himself on his meat is to be thoroughly applauded.

Serves 6
pearl onions
unsalted butter
Agen prunes
sherry or Madeira

A pleasing way to serve these is in the time-honoured tradition of the sausage, just cooked in a frying pan. As their name suggests an Italian origin, likely served with onions, then gently cook the pearl onions in a frying pan with the butter until golden and soft. Then add the Agen prunes between the onions and let this cook gently with the sherry. In a separate pan, fry the chipolatas until coloured well on each side, adding a drop of Madeira or water if they stick. Tumble the prunes and onions over the sausages and mix well. Add a few grinds of a peppermill. This will sit happily for a while during the readying of the rest of lunch.

Clementine sorbet

Clementine sorbet

Clementine sorbet.
Photograph: Romas Foord for Observer Food Monthly

Finding the best clementines through December has become rather a good game. A really good clementine is a most delicious treat, and to be rewarded by being stuck in the big toe of a Christmas stocking seems somewhat unjust. Squeezed into a glass of iced Campari perhaps? Much more the thing. This estimable fruit has several pleasing uses but not least as a sorbet for such a feast as this. The small nod to St Clement’s is most pleasant.

Needless to say, enthusiasm can be made more so by the addition of prosecco and vodka to make a delicious sgroppino, a very good addition to a Christmas bash.

Serves 6-8
golden caster sugar
clementine juice
600ml, freshly squeezed
1, juiced
2, juiced

Stir the sugar into the clementine, orange and lemon juice in a pan over a gentle heat until just warm and the sugar is dissolved.

Cool, then pour this into an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This sorbet is at its very best churned only an hour or two before serving.

If an ice-cream maker is not at hand, the sweetened juice can be frozen and then attacked with a fork to make a granita.

To make sgroppino, have everything ready. Pretty glasses in the freezer give a stroke of dash. Open a chilled bottle of prosecco, tip one large scoop of sorbet for each person into a cooled food-processor bowl. Add a good glug of frozen vodka for each person and then a similar sized measure of prosecco. Whizz for a blink of an eye and pour into the frozen glasses swiftly, then serve just as fast … for the second round.

Steamed spiced fruit pudding, custard and cream

Steamed spiced fruit pudding

Steamed spiced fruit pudding.
Photograph: Romas Foord for Observer Food Monthly

There is little point in competing with Mum’s Christmas Pudding but, should fortune not smile and that pudding not be with you on Christmas Day, then maybe this rather lovely old recipe might please. This pudding can be cooked a few days in advance and, indeed, will be all the better for it.

Serves 4-6
syrup or your favourite marmalade
1 tbsp
plain white flour
fresh white breadcrumbs
golden syrup
dried apricots
75g, cut into small pieces
dried figs
75g, cut into smallish pieces
ground mace
1 tsp
ground cinnamon
1 tsp
ground allspice
1 tsp
crystallised stem ginger
10 pieces, grated
ginger syrup
2 tbsp
plain flour
2 tsp
bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp
1 large, organic or free range

Rub a steamed-pudding basin with butter. Cut a disc of greaseproof paper large enough to fully line the inside of the basin. Place a generous spoonful of syrup in the middle of the paper or, if you wish, a spoonful of your favourite marmalade.

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix all together thoroughly until the batter has achieved a soft dropping consistency. Spoon the batter over the pool of syrup or marmalade.

Cut two large discs of greaseproof and two discs of foil and use these to cover and seal the edges of the pudding bowl. Tie a piece of string around the bowl to secure the paper and tinfoil. It is vital that not a whisper of steam be permitted egress to the pudding within.

Place the bowl (foil side up) on a plate in a pan of simmering water, the water needing to come half way up the side. Let it cook for 2½ or 3 hours, checking every now and again to ensure that the water is still halfway up the side of the bowl.


Now, custard is a wonder that cannot be denied. This lovely sauce can be made before setting sail with the whole feast, and left to sit in a suitable, sealed bowl over a pan of warm water, the cook having a care not to let it be too hot to avoid it splitting.

Serves 4-6
good quality, creamy milk
vanilla pod
egg yolks
golden caster sugar
1 tbsp
double cream

Warm the milk with the vanilla pod over a gentle heat, then let it sit and infuse for at least 10 minutes. Stir the egg yolks with sugar until mixed but not frothing. Slowly pour the warm milk over the yolks, stirring all the time until smooth, then return to the milk pan and place on a gentle heat.

Stir the sauce gently until it thickens to the consistency of cream and remove from the heat. Pour the cream into the custard as soon as it is off the heat. Pour the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl and cover with cling film.

Make holes with the tip of a very sharp knife 4 or 5 times to let any steam whisper through. Place the bowl over a pan of warm water and put to one side. Come the moment, warm through and stir gently before serving. The bucket of really naughty thick Jersey cream in the fridge might be enjoyed by all as well.

Jeremy Lee is head chef at Quo Vadis, London, W1; quovadissoho.co.uk

This article was amended on 25 November to include the oven temperatures for the turkey.

Christmas Trees

The Outside of Our Home, Christmas Home Tour 2014, Part 1

  Welcome to Part 1 of Our christmas Home Tour, The Outside of Our Home!!!

 First,I want to Thank Jann, over at Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olsen, for featuring my post, Sled and Outside Florals Re-Do!, from last week’s Share your Cup Thursday Party!

Thanks so much , Jann!!

Please stop by and visit and link up to this great party!!

Now back to the Tour…….

The front of our home is pretty much decorated the way it has been for several years but I have added some things, changed some things and re- did a few things……..

As you walk up the 13 steps from our parking lot to our row of townhouses, this is what you see……

  Looking up from the Parking Lot……

 I have had those large wreaths for years………

 I have changed up the ribbon bows a bit and added shatterproof balls to them over the years…..

The slate you see hanging on the back of the park bench was bought at Salvation Army for $5.00, brand new and still in original packing!

And now back to the Front Porch……

As you walk on to the Front Porch, this is to the left…….

 Remember I live in a row of 10 townhouses and my neighbor’s Porch and mine are connected…….

Again, I have used faux and real greenery cut from Trees on the side of our road to fill some pots and this urn……

The Happy Holidays sign was once hung above the front door but is now displayed here…..

There is a flameless candle on a timer in this lantern that I bought at a church flea market in the Summer.

The pine cone ornament on the Lantern is from Dollar Tree…..

I did a new floral arrangement in this tin stocking for this year……

And I gave the”Let It Snow” sign that this cute penguin is holding a fresh coat of red spray paint…..

I have had the garland around the door and railing for years but this will be it’s last season as it has seen better days……..

I will be buying new garland on Clearance this season for next year……

I bought the “Welcome to Our Porch” sign over the Summer….

I made the wreath on the Front Door many years ago …….

Looking at the Porch……

The wooden reindeer on the side of the sled was made by my oldest son in Cub Scouts many years ago…..

The Weeping Mortar on the front of the house allows me to hang things on it ……

The chair is left out on the Porch because that is where Joe smokes……

I re-did all these floral arrangements this year…….

My youngest son made this sled in Cub Scouts also many years ago……

This is my childhood sled and it has graced my porch for over 25 years…..

This wreath not only has lights on it but at night, a spot light shines on it…..

In the corner of the porch sits a Santa Birdhouse and a chippy angel…..

 I left the lantern lights on this tree in the corner of the porch that is here year round, added another set of lights and just added a bow on top…..

 The bells on the railing are from Dollar Tree…..

So are the large Snow Flakes…..

There are lights on the garland and net lights on the entire railing…..

Again, I filled the pots with real and faux greenery….

The flower bed under the Living Room window….

New this year is the sled leaning up against the window…..

I spray painted it this year……

If you want to read about this make over, please click HERE……

I placed these lighted Trees in the urns….

The flower bed in front of the house….

My park bench……

Again, faux and real greenery in this pot by my decorative Mailbox…..

Decorated with a simple bow and pine cone ornament….

A new Christmas flag bought on Clearance last year….

So that’s what the front of our home looks like for this Christmas Season …..

And this post was supposed to end here………


Snow changes EVERYTHING………..

On November 26th, we ended up with a total of 7 inches of Snow from the Nor’Easter that hit the East Coast

These photos were taken as the snow started to fall…..

 And by the afternoon…..

  The snow on the shrubs makes the Angel look like it’s got larger wings!!

 Looks a LOT more like Christmas with a bit of SNOW, doesn’t it?????

 I hope you will come back for Part 2 of Our Christmas Home Tour when I share how the Front of Our Home looks with 7 inches of Snow and all lit up at night with all that snow!!


A Debbie-Dabble Christmas

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Thanks so much for stopping by today and every day that you take the time to visit with me!


Christmas Trees