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Tis the season to be…

Posted by Mum About Town
Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Taking on a festive role, at this time of year, involves making a list of those you really 'need' to gift. Basically Thank YOU packages for those who persevere with our offspring and their ludicrous spelling, others who put our homes back together after an overly-sociable weekend or he who delivers weekend newspapers when none of my housemates want to walk down the road in their PJs. But, what I'll now call tactical giving, is reaching an all-time peak... mostly because our gifting competitors are ensuring the how to show your appreciation bar is unbearably high.

The way I see it, there's an opt IN or opt OUT tick box system going . If I opt in, I'm going to end up spending more on the form teachers, the music teachers, our drycleaners (not my idea, His) than I will do on my nearest/dearest – because, in all honestly, Father Christmas only half heartedly drops by our gaff on the eve of the turkey-eating marathon. Plus, I'd need to immediately buy shares in Jo Malone, Space NK or even setting up an affiliate marketing programme with JohnLewis.com to enter this gift-rat-race.

Opting out has its own set of risks: will the teachers think I'm only semi-grateful? Or will I look like the meanest, tightest, not in the least bit involved mum if I simply fling a bottle of something strong their direction – in exchange of their detailed school report and exhausted faces?

So I've decided that my logic is to be instinctive and personal. Gifting doesn't need to be excessive. In fact, the more excessive, the more uncomfortable so while the most curious of mothers – laden with more gifts than Santa – totter up to the school gates, I'll hide behind their reindeer and watch the teachers squirm.

A Christmas Message

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 04 December 2015
Christmas is a magical time of year when happy memories are often made, but the festive season can also be a source of great anxiety caused by the extra workload, financial pressure and anticipation of potential family disputes.

The responsibility of hosting Christmas can be overwhelming, as we are expected to produce the perfect meal, beautiful table decorations, gleaming cutlery and sparkling glassware. A way of lifting some of the pressure would be for each family member to contribute so everyone can enjoy the day. Perhaps one could prepare the starter, another cook the main, and another prepare dessert. Don't worry if anything goes a little wrong, as it should be fun just being together round the table enjoying each other's company. And do remember, everything is enjoyable in moderation. Too much alcohol could ruin the day, not only for you but for those in your company, and try not to over indulge in the seasonal fayre, to avoid any unnecessary ailments. After the festive lunch, instead of settling down to watch television, perhaps you could enjoy an invigorating walk with the family.

The purchasing of presents at Christmastime can be extremely stressful. Organisation is the key to avoiding any last minute panics. Shopping online can make life so much easier, by avoiding huge crowds and having to deal with heavy loads of shopping. Work out what you really need, and stick to a budget. If you are concerned about the expense, consider writing some gift vouchers, which cost nothing. Adults could be given personal vouchers for your offer of babysitting, house cleaning, ironing or gardening. Edible treats wrapped festively would be well received. Or, if you can knit, perhaps a cosy woollen hat and scarf. For the children, how about making some mini family albums, as children love looking at family photographs. Everyone would be sure to love these thoughtful personal gifts.

If you feel torn between invites during the festive period, try to choose the fairest option and perhaps suggest one member hosts Christmas this year, and the following year another takes their turn. If there are any unresolved issues amongst the family, agree to not discuss these until the New Year, and focus on the children as top priority, particularly in the case of those from broken relationships. Christmas can remind us of those we have lost, so try to celebrate their memory by raising a glass to them, or if your grief is too painful, allow yourself some time out for recollection.

If you know of anybody who is likely to be on their own at this time, give them a friendly phone call, and if you're able to extend a festive invitation to them, even better. If you are facing Christmas alone, perhaps consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter which would help make a difference to someone's life and provide you with company.
Focusing on the traditional side of Christmas, having realistic expectations, enjoying the festive treats and relaxing together will bring a sense of closeness at this special time of year. Just being with our nearest and dearest is all most of us need to create the perfect Christmas.

Thankfully the majority of us will enjoy what Christmas brings, but for many the time of year makes no difference to their suffering. Whatever the problem is, or however difficult things may seem, no one has to manage alone. There is always someone to offer help and support at the end of the telephone.

Here are some useful free phone numbers to have in case of an emergency situation. Please note these services are available 24 hours every day, including Christmas Day:

Alcoholics Anonymous: 0800 9177 650 www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

ChildLine: 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

Domestic Violence: 0808 2000 247 www.refuge.org.uk

Samaritans: 116 123 www.samaritans.org

Silver Line: 0800 470 80 90 www.thesilverline.org.uk

Pork pie

Posted by Nigel Brown
Nigel Brown
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on Thursday, 13 December 2012
They're a picnic classic.... but pork pies are also the perfect finger food for your Christmas celebrations.

nigel dec13

Ingredients

Hot water pastry

  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 125ml water
  • 110g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt beaten egg for glaze

Pie filling

  • 450g minced pork
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Method

1. To make pastry, slowly heat water and margarine/butter in a saucepan. Once the fat is melted, boil for 2 minutes. Put flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the seasoning and egg yolk into the well, cover with some flour and quickly pour in the contents of the saucepan, stirring continuously. Once cooled, knead into a ball then leave covered for 30 minutes in a warm place.

2. Separate about two thirds of the dough into five balls, each around the size of a billiard ball. The other third of the dough will be used later for the lids. Make each pie casing by moulding a ball around the outside of the bottom of a pint glass. Stretch the dough up the glass for around 1.5 inches so that the pastry is reasonably thin. The pastry is easier to remove if the glass is coated in flour first.

3. To make the pie filling, simply mix all ingredients together.

4. Fill the pastry casings with the pork mixture. Roll out the remainder of the pastry using the pint glass if you don't have a rolling pin. Cut out lids using the top of the pint glass as a pastry cutter. Place lids on pies, sealing around the edges with some water. Using the point of a knife, make a hole in the centre of each lid to allow steam to escape.

5. Cook at 180 C / Gas 4 in the centre of the oven for around 1 hour, glazing with a beaten egg yolk occasionally.

6. After cooking, leave to cool before eating. For a special touch, pour a small amount of warmed, reduced stock into the hole and cool in a refrigerator to allow the jelly to set (To make the stock, try boiling some pork stock bones for a few hours until most of the water evaporates off. After cooling a jelly should form, this can be poured into the pies).


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