Tag Archive | Advent calendar

Advent Calendar Day 8: Chilli Jam


Here’s another festive foodie gift, or a gift for yourself!


Chilli Jam

8 red pepper, roughly chopped
10 red chilli, roughly chopped
finger-sized piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves
400g can tomatoes
750g golden caster sugar
250ml red wine vinegar

Tip the peppers, chillies (with seeds), ginger and garlic into a food processor, then whizz until very finely chopped. Scrape into a heavy-bottomed pan with the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, then bring everything to the boil.

Skim off any scum that comes to the surface, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 50 mins, stirring occasionally.

Once the jam is becoming sticky, continue cooking for 10-15 mins more, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t catch and burn.

Cool slightly, transfer to sterilised jars, then leave to cool completely. Keeps for 3 months in a cool, dark cupboard – refrigerate once opened.


Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 1: Research


Can you believe it’s been two months since I last wrote a blog post? Sorry.

I’m working too hard; long hours, day in, day out… every day. I am enjoying the new job (most of the time), but it leaves me little time to bake or blog. It’s heart breaking because I feel that my life is running away from me.

Anyway… It’s December 1st and for the third year in a row, I’m going to try and bring you my Advent calendar to mark the 24 day run up to Christmas. Who needs chocolate behind a little window when you can have recipes and fun behind every post!


I’ve started flicking through my Christmas cook book collection for ideas and inspiration. I’ve also looked back over last year’s posts to remind myself of some great recipes.

I’d forgotten all about Sharon Hearne-Smith’s No Bake Baking book. Last year I made her flash florentines and substituted some of the fruit and nuts with others, as she suggested.


50g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown light sugar
50g creme fraiche
1 piece of stem ginger, finely chopped
150g nuts (I used almonds and hazelnuts)
100g cranberries
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g chocolate


I melted the butter in a medium pan over a low heat. I added the sugars and turned up the heat, stirring for 5 minutes until smooth and gooey.

Then I carefully stired in the creme fraiche, stirring over a high heat until the sugars dissolved and the mixture thickened.

I removed the mixture from the heat and stired in the fruit, ginger, nuts, bicarb and vanilla.

I dropped the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, flattening into discs and left them to cool in the fridge.


Once the florentines were set, I melted the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water. I allowed the chocolate to cool before spreading the back of each florentine with chocolate, popping it back on the tray and back in the fridge.


Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 14:


My cousin charspillane.com posted a great blog yesterday, so simply put… I’ve nicked the idea and her questions!

Do you like to stay in your PJ’s, or dress up for Christmas Morning
Pj’s…. All day if I could!!

If you could only buy one person a present this year who would it be?
A random stranger, share a bit of love and happiness….


Last year

Do you open your presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
Christmas Day at some stage… It tends to be after dinner now I’m a little older…

Have you ever built a Gingerbread house?
No actually…. Must find time to make one (not just buy one).

What do you like to do on your Christmas break?
Chill out and pig out!

Favorite Christmas meal or treat?
The main event itself! I love the whole turkey-ham-stuffing-cranberry-brusselsprout-pancetta-chesnut-roastpotato-carrots-parsnips-gravy-breadsauce meal!

What’s your favorite holiday movie?


Candy Canes or Gingerbread Men?
Oooh, spicy gingerbread please! Has anyone got a good recipe??

Have you ever made a Snowman?
Yes, but not recently. I remember making them when I was younger in London.

Which do you like better, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
Christmas Eve is always too busy running around, so I like the relaxing aspect of Christmas Day.

White lights, or colored lights?
I have coloured in the pantry all year round, but white ones on the tree please.


Mum and Dads

Have to loudly sing the chorus of Jingle Bells every time you walk into a room for a week or have to wear a Santa suit to school every day for a week.
What the heck, sing Jingle Bells!

Not celebrate Christmas this year or not celebrate your birthday this year
Hmmmmm, I prefer other peoples birthdays,  so I’ll leave mine and celebrate Christmas.

Have Frosty the Snowman for a friend or Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer for a friend
Rudolf would fit in really well at The Glen House!


Have mistletoe hanging in your bedroom doorway or have a large decorated Christmas tree in your bedroom
Misletoe please ;););)xxxxxxxx

Write a five paragraph essay about the meaning of Christmas or solve a page of Christmas-themed math problem

Have a job wrapping presents at the mall or have a job taking pictures of children sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall
I love wrapping pressies, but I’d only do it if people were nice and polite!

See the Nut Cracker or dance in the Nut Cracker
Oh cricky, I was rubbish at ballet! I think I only lasted a term or something… So I’d rather go watch it.


Be given €100 for Christmas to buy things for yourself or be given €1000 before Christmas to use to buy gifts for other people
Once again, give it away to others. If I’m REALLY honest, I’d give it to Childline, it’s struggling to stay open at night time in Ireland.

Have a nose that glows red like Rudolf’s or have pointy ears like an elf
Rudolf’s nose would be so cool!!

Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 24


Day 24 and tomorrow is Christmas, so I thought there was only one way to finish off my advent calendar, sharing my favourite poem famously know as ‘The Night Before Christmas’…


Visit from St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now Dasher!nowDancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flewWith the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,and filled all the stockings;then turned with a jerk,And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Merry Christmas!
Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 23


It’s been a long emotional day… And it’s Christmas Eve’s Eve! This Christmas Carol sums it up really…


Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth! Long lay the world in sin and error pining Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees Oh hear the angel voices Oh night divine Oh night when Christ was born Oh night divine Oh night divine

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming Here come the wise men from Orient land The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger In all our trials born to be our friend

Truly He taught us to love one another His law is love and His gospel is peace Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother And in His name all oppression shall cease Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name
(Adolphe Adam, c1847)

Two more sleeps…
Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 22


There’s a wreath on the front door of The Glen House, not that we use it (the door that is…)!

It’s natural, not fancy, and it blends in very well with the surroundings. It is made of traditional foliage with pine cones and crab apples.


It’s extremely traditional, as Christmas wreaths are usually made from evergreens and symbolise strength, as evergreens last even throughout the harshest winters. Which we might need, as I’m still hoping for snow!!

3 more sleeps!
Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 20


Yup, same old story…. Flu… Boring, boring, boring!

I had a nice visitor this morning, him and his mates visit every morning.

Meet Mr P. the pheasant! The photo isn’t great because I was far back away from the window,  normally if you get to close he legs it.


I love my pheasants and the deer and robins and the heron and the swans and the crazy ducks…. Theses photos were taken back in October:



Oh and if you’re wondering, I won’t be eating any of them on Christmas Day!
Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 19 #recipe


Guess what? I still have flu, I’m still bed bound and I frickin’ hate it!

Luckily, instead of boring you to death with tales of my flu I thought I’d share a recipe that I made last month. I didn’t share it then because I tailored made it to suit me and the freezer full of apples I still had…

Apple mincemeat


400ml cider
225g soft brown sugar
1 Kg apples, peeled and cored
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 stick of cinnamon
5 cloves
1 star anise
225g raisins
240g sultanas
120g chopped pecans,
60g chopped hazelnuts
60g chopped almonds
juice and zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp maple syrup
100ml rum


Heat the cider and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar and chop the apples. Add all ingredients except the maple syrup and rum, to the pot and simmer gently for around 1 hour until the apples have turned into puree and the mixture looks rich and thickened.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Stir in the maple syrup and rum and then pour into sterilised jars, cover and seal. Leave for a few weeks to mature before opening if you can. The mincemeat should keep for up to 1 year unopened.

I used a cinnamon stick, star anais, cloves and fresh nutmeg because I prefer being able to cook to my taste. However, if you like, it’s much easier to use a tea spoon of mixed spice! Likewise you could use cherries, apricots and other mixed fruits or mixed peel and no nuts at all.

Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 18


I still have the flu, I’m still bed bound and I still hate it! However I decided that between feeling sorry for myself and sleeping and feeling sorry for myself some more that I ought to do something about it…. The ‘something’ couldn’t use too much energy or take to long, because I’m just not able.

I’ll be stuck in this room for at least another few days, so I decided that Christmas ought to come to me because I certainly aint going to it!

In between sleeps (yes I’m getting lots of rest and drinking lots of fluids) I’ve had a go at decorating the bedroom. Everything was small and manageable; silver and white baubles and silver twigs in a vase now sit in the window. While two little owls watch over me.

Right next to the bed on my little chair sits a beautiful silver and white sparkly twig themed cushion.



A beautiful silver deer candle plate (and more silver and white baubles) now sit in the second window.

And a little white tree with lots more silver and white baubles sits on top of the chest of drawers.

All very simple and easy. Did it make me feel any better? Hell no! But at least Christmas has arrived in the bedroom. I’m off back to sleep….

Melissa xx