12 Lists of Chrstmas: 9 Reasons Why It's Better To Stay In On New Year's Eve

2011 was a bit shit. Actually a lot shit. In the run up to New Year's Eve last year, my friend K and I kept saying things like, 'Oh well, whatever 2012 throws at us, it won't be as bad as this year'. As it turned out, 2012 could throw a lot of shit at both of us... Another problem was that we both went to New Year's gatherings, and both spent the hour leading up to 12am trying (unsuccessfully) not to cry.

So, this year ,the rules have changed. No going out. No parties. And definitely, definitely, no tempting fate by saying stupid things about the year ahead. We're just going to have a low-key night in.

This is why it'll be better than a night out:

No crowds.
It's OK to cry. Let's face it, I probably will.
No being sober and bored while everyone else is drunk and 'hilarious'.
No waiting for a train home.
No pressure to have the best night EVER.
I can wear my onesie.
I can eat myself stupid.
It'll be much cheaper.
I won't be exhausted the next day.

Am I a boring old lady? Why, yes I am. Am I sort of proud of this? Of course.

What are your plans for New Year's Eve?

12 Lists of Christmas: My Year In 14 Photos


12 Lists of Christmas: 12 Things I Learned in 2012

It's OK to be British. Apart from anything else, we can put on one hell of a show. While we're on the subject, I also learnt that sport can be inspirational. Actually, screw it, it's great to be British.

I'm actually quite good at being single. I'd never really been a single adult before this year (well, not since I was 19 anyway) and although I knew I'd made the right decision, I was more than a little daunted by the thought of being on my own. I needn't have worried though; it turns out that i actually quite like my own company, and the freedom to do exactly what I want.

Hospital admissions can be positive things. This year I managed to have one that wasn't as bad as I was expecting, and one that actually helped. I know.

I'm really very horrible to myself, in myriad ways. I already knew this, I guess, but my therapy has brought home to me just how mean I am to myself. Hopefully next year I'll learn that I'm able to do something about it...

I can make an awesome Christmas cake (and go on and on about it).

Berlin is an awesome place. I want to go back. Does anyone want to buy me a plane ticket? Please?

I have a fabulous group of cheerleaders.

Going to gigs is awesome, and was a pleasure well-worth rediscovering. I used to love going to gigs when I was at uni, and I'd sort of got out of the habit. This year I made much more of an effort to go and see bands, and I'll definitely be carrying this on next year...
People are often more understanding than you expect, and if they're not... Well, that's their problem.

Twitter is awesome and I probably can't live without it. Ditto blogging. And Pinterest. Well, I probably could live without Pinterest, but I don't want to.

Life doesn't run smoothly. You sort of have to embrace this fact.

12 Lists of Christmas: The 19 Best Bits of 2012

January: Starting out on my own again. To be honest, January was difficult, but I made an important decision and it turned out to be the right one. It was the beginning of the beginning.

February: Going to London Zoo for my friend Jen's birthday, and thereby doing something fun on a difficult anniversary (for both of us).

March: The beginning of March was a little (a lot) traumatic, but it ended well, with me settling into my new house, getting tattooed, being treated on my birthday, and spending a weekend visiting my brother's new flat in Canterbury.

April: Going to Westward Ho! with my parents and @lipstysalter.

May: Enjoying the unexpected bout of sunshine and taking the kids at work on a lovely trip to the park.

July: Floating on the lake in Barlinek, and catching up with my lovely friend Marta.

August: Wandering around Berlin and discovering a new favourite city!

September: Watching Paralympic athletics in the Olympic Stadium.

October: Having a lovely half term catching up with my friends and my brother (and salivating in the Harrods Food Hall).

November: Seeing The Killers at the O2.

December: Being loved, supported and encouraged by my fabulous friends and family as I went through another bad patch, but one that demonstrated that I might have actually learnt something from my past experiences. Deep, eh?

12 Lists of Christmas: 13 Ingredients That Create Dessert Magic

It's been well-documented on this blog that my cooking skills leave a lot to be desired. Or at least, I think they do. I'm probably more 'won't cook' than 'can't cook'. I do, however, make an OK desert, and this year I volunteered to make the Christmas deserts (move over, Mother Teresa, this is a serious display of generosity...)

As well as the cake I made a trifle and Rocky Road. Neither are exactly complex, but they are awesome. Here's what goes in:


Swiss roll with jam (but definitely no cream).
Tinned peaches.
Strawberry jelly (made with the juice from the peaches).
Double cream (whipped).
Flake (crumbled).

Put it in one layer at a time, shove it in the fridge. Easy peasy.

Rocky Road

350g Plain chocolate.
190g Melted butter.
A tin of condensed milk (get the light one if you like, but to be honest you're shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted).
Marshmallows (mini or chopped up).
Digestive biscuits (broken).

Mix it all together. Put it in a lined tray. Shove it in the Fridge. Cut it up. Even easier.

What were you expecting? Creme brulee and a twice-baked souffle? Ha.

12 Lists of Christmas: 13 Presents of Note

Giving is lovely, isn't? The excitement of planning what you're going to buy, finding it, lovingly wrapping it, and then waiting with excitement for your loved one to pluck it from under the tree and gleefully unwrap it. Ah, that warm festive glow.

Yep. Giving is great. But receiving... Receiving is the shizzle, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a big fat liar.

Here are some lovely gifts that I was very lucky to get from my family this year:

Christmas socks! Tucked into my Christmas onesie for ultimate festive impact.

Chritsmas-themed Babysitters' Club book (unsurprisingly they meddle in some family's private life and demonstrate that they've all very good friends), a book about Berlin (for reminiscing/planning future trips) and the Man In Seat 61 book (for fantasizing about the Trans-Siberian).

Sea Salt bag, owl necklace (which co-incidentally complimented my Christmas day dress), and a reversible, bird-themed, Fat Face bag.

Series one of Modern Family (if you haven't seen it, give it a try) and a Costa giftcard.

Two very appropriate notebooks from my brother and his girlfriend.

More Cath Kidston mugs for my ever-expanding collection.

I really do feel ever so lucky... What was the best present you gave/received yesterday?

12 Lists of Christmas: 14 Awesome Foods That I Only Eat At Christmas

Happy Fricking Christmas!

All that preparation, spending and excitement will soon be over.... It feels a bit shit doesn't it? FEAR NOT! I will be bringing you 12 days of LISTS! Christmassy, New Yearsy lists!

I do love a good list (in case you hadn't guessed) so I'll get straight to it...

14 Awesome Foods That I Only Eat At Christmas

Those mini pretzel things that are shaped like fish.
Those German soft ginger biscuit things with icing on.
Roast turkey.
Cold roast potatoes (as buffet food).
Satsumas produced from the toe of a stocking.
Advent calendar chocolate.
Yule log.
Elizabeth Shaw mint crisps.
Mince pies.
Pigs in blankets.
Rock hard stuffing balls that you only get with the school Christmas dinner.

Rest assured, this post is scheduled. I'm currently eating my own body weight in all of the above foods, and drinking as much wine as it takes to make my Grandma's boyfriend seem amusing. Not really, I've given up drinking again (which sucks).

But yeah, Happy Christmas. Have a drink for me.

The icing on the (Christmas) cake.

The making, feeding, and marzipanning is done. Time for the fun bit. Icing! 

Before I show you the pictures, I should probably confess that I cheated a bit. My Mum did the hard work (covering the cake with the icing and making it smooth), all I did was cut out some shapes with cake cutters and do a bodge job with a bit of ribbon... 

Still, I'm nothing if not a glory-hunter, so here's the finished product:

I have a bird tattoo and sheep are my Mum's favourite animals.

I'm pretty proud of our Christmas baking skillz. Assuming we don't poison anyone, we'll have to make it an annual event.

Happy Christmas To Me!

So... A few of the gifts I was planning to give can no longer be given for various reasons, so I did the only reasonable thing and, erm, kept them for myself. 

Lego Key Ring/Torch


The Soap and Glory set I actually bought specifically for me. I love their stuff and Boots had the set for £27, down from £60. AND there's coupons inside. Would have been rude not to. 

Yep, this is definitely an example of sound financial planning.

Happy Christmas! 

7 Reasons Why I Suck At Being A Girl.

Confession: I am rubbish at being girly. Here's why:

I've never had a bikini wax. Either from myself or a professional.

I've never had a manicure.

Or a pedicure.

I can't walk in heels. Not so much, 'I can't walk in five inch stilettoes,' more, 'I literally cannot lift up one foot when wearing a two inch wedges'. It was a new year's resolution to learn to walk in heels, but I have failed miserably.

I can't do eyeliner flicks. Or eye shadow. Or lipstick. Or 'filling in my brows', whatever that actually involves.

I've never spent more than £15 on a handbag.

I'm actually quite proud of all of the above (except the eyeliner flicks, because I think they actually look quite cool).

Shit my Gran says.

Part of me feels like writing a long and rambling life-update type post, but the more sensible part of me keeps reminding me that I need to get on with tidying my house. I bloody hate that sensible part. Anyway, my house is a tip, so instead of a proper post I'm going to share some of my Gran's recent linguistic gems. Here goes (read them to yourself in a Lancashire accent): 

"He were sweating like a boiled cock!"

"Ee, she's getting a hefty wench!"

Feel free to incorporate these phrases into your everyday lexicon. You are welcome.

Weekend Wanderlust: London Christmas Lights

I'm never going back to Oxford St at Christmas again. I think it was mostly spending half an hour sweating in Primark in my coat/scarf/jumper/Ugg boots that traumatised me. The lights, however, were very pretty... Weirdly, the daylight photos of the decorations have come out better, so please excuse the lack of twinkling lights!

Carnaby Street


Regent Street

Oxford Street

I didn't make it to Covent Garden because I was desperately in need of a sit down by about 6pm (because I'm basically an old lady). I will get there before Christmas though...

Makes: Christmas Cake

A couple of weeks ago my Mum and I attempted our first ever homemade Christmas cake (I know, I know, we are rubbish). When I suggested trying to make one this year I was mostly excited about the decorating (and the eating), and a bit nervous about the actual cake making. It turned out to be much easier than we'd imagined though, and (trust me) if we can manage it, then anyone can! 

Here's how we did it (adapted from this recipe):


500g mixed dried fruit 

  • 100g dried cranberries 
  • 150g dried apricots, chopped 
  • Zest of two oranges and juice of one large orange
  • 100ml brandy, plus 4tbsp extra 
  • 175g unsalted butter, diced 
  • 200g soft dark brown sugar 
  • large eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 100g ground almonds 
  • 200g plain flour
  •  ½tsp baking powder 
  • 1tsp mixed spice 
  • ½tsp grated nutmeg 
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1 CD of Christmas classics


    Put on apron and pose for awkward photo in the mirror.

    Put Christmas CD on. Realise that first track is 'Stay Another Day' and skip track.

    Grate orange to get the zest, and accidentally grate finger in the process. Scream in pain when juicing the orange using said finger. Laugh bitterly at your own stupidity.

    Place the mixed dried fruit, dried cranberries, apricots, orange zest and juice and 100ml (3½oz) brandy in a large saucepan and very gently bring to the boil. Stir in the butter and, once it has melted, simmer gently for 10 minutes. Put nose over pan and inhale deeply.

    Remove from the heat and leave to cool while your Mum prepares the tin, with a level of precision and commitment that will astound you (seriously, she measured the sides with a ruler). Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/gas 2. line the base and sides of a greased 20cm (8in) round cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment so that it comes about 5cm (2in) above the tin. Take photo of aforementioned tin.

    Stir the brown sugar, eggs and ground almonds into the fruits, and then sift in the flour, baking powder and spices. Mix gently until the flour is no longer visible.

    Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth over the surface. Place in the oven for 45 minutes before reducing the temperature to 140°C/120°C fan/gas 1. 

    Lick bowl. Lick spoon. Remember that licking wooden spoons feels a bit gross.

    Continue to cook the cake for a further 1½ -2 hours until the surface is deep golden and firm to touch. insert a skewer - if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. if not, then continue to cook for a further 10 minutes at a time. To prevent the surface becoming too dark, cover loosely with foil.

    Notice that 'Fairytale of New York' is playing and turn CD up. Try to sing along. Discover you don't know 80% of the words. Compensate by dancing enthusiastically.

    Remove the cooked cake from the oven and pierce it with a skewer. Slowly pour over the 4tbsp of brandy until it has soaked in. leave the cake to cool in the tin and, once cold, take out, remove the parchment and wrap tightly in a layer of parchment and then in a layer of foil.

    Come back drunk from pub and admire your good work. Come dangerously close to dropping cake on the floor.

    Store in a cool, dark place until Christmas (or up to 3 months), and 'feed' it with brandy every two weeks.


    Slightly Sinister Pop Covers

    I'm currently loving slightly sinister indie band covers of pop classics. Yes, it's an obscure thing to be loving, but loving it I am. Here's my favourites:

    The Futureheads: Meet Me Halfway
    Actually, it's not that sinister, but it's a great version and I do bloody love The Futureheads.

    The Maccabees: I Drove All Night
    Love this; for me it completely changes the tone from dedicated boyfriend to obsessed stalker driving all night.

    iLiKETRAiNS: Last Christmas
    Seriously, no-one does sinister like these guys. And it's festive. 

    What do you think? I can't be the only person in the world who loves a sinister pop cover. Can I? OK, so I might be, but feel free to humour me and leave a comment.

    Weekend Wanderlust: The Bristol Channel

    OK, it's not exactly Cornwall. It's muddy, and rocky, and a little but smelly, but you know what? I don't care. I love my little bit of the Bristol channel. I love watching and listening to the waves, and breathing in the air. And I love that I can go to the beach and be the only person there (you wouldn't get that in Cornwall). There's something so relaxing about being by the sea in the town I grew up in. 

    This is a place that I will always truly love.


    Fun fact: the Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world. I bloody love a good fact.

    Weekend Wanderlust: Harrods Foodhall

    This post needs very little introduction, so I'm just going to let the food porn commence:

    Apologies if that's made you hungry... Looking through the photos has given me a massive chocolate craving!  I love living so close to London, and I do manage to go into town quite a bit. My phone battery died just after I'd taken these photos so I don't have any other pictures of my day. I'll take my camera with me next time, I promise! 

    In case you're wondering, I didn't buy any white alba truffles. Only £7000 a kilo though, what a bargain.