12 Days of Blogmas Day #12: Festive Gingerbread Biscuits

12 Days of Blogmas Day #12: Festive Gingerbread Biscuits

Happy Blogmas!

Am I writing another craft-related blog post? Yes, yes I am.

People particularly associate gingerbread with Christmas, although I could eat it all year round. I’m no Mary Berry, but gingerbread is one of the few things I can bake with a degree of proficiency. I’m a huge fan of the site BBC Good Food, and it’s my first port of call whenever I’m trying to find a trustworthy recipe for a baking simpleton like myself.

my-photo-gingerbread

This year, I made a batch of gingerbread stars for my family (you can make a gingerbread slab, or simply choose any other shaped cutter that takes your fancy). The recipe I used this year was:

Ingredients:

  • 225g (8oz) of plain flour 
  • 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of ground ginger*
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon*
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 100g (4 oz) of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of golden syrup 
  • 50g (2 oz) of butter

*In hindsight, I really don’t feel this is enough spices for the gingebread; they weren’t as ginger-y as they’ve been on previous occasions with other recipes, and these measurements give them more of a ginger-y hint than a ginger-y kick, but it’s down to personal preference. 

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 5 (about 180 degrees) and grease your baking trays

2. Sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and spices

3. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a man then leave to cool

4. Once cooled, mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until it forms a dough

5. Cover the dough with cling-film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes

6. Lightly flour a work surface, then roll out your dough to about 1/4 of an inch (about 1/2 of a cm) thickness and use cookie-cutters to cut out and shape your biscuits

7. Place your biscuit shapes onto the baking trays, allowing space for spreading

8. Cook for about 10-15 minutes**

**I’ve found that for me, around 12 minutes is the ideal time. Also, take into consideration the thickness of your biscuit shapes, if you’ve made them quite thin, they’ll take less time to cook and will be crunchier so be careful not to burn them. 


And there you have it! If you decide to use this recipe, let me know how your biscuits turned out!

I’d love to be more creative with my gingerbread baking in the future, perhaps trying out recipes for gingerbread bunting, gingerbread Christmas jumpers, or gingerbread wreaths. Maybe next year…


This is my final blog post of 2016! I hope you enjoyed it. You can catch up on any Blogmas posts you’ve missed here and don’t forget to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ me – think of it as your Christmas gift to me 😉

Merry Christmas!

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas Day #11: Top 3 Christmas Songs

12 Days of Blogmas Day #11: Top 3 Christmas Songs

This is the penultimate day of my 12 Days of Blogmas series!  I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown. On Sunday, I listed my Top 3 Christmas Carols, but I also like to listen to some pop music as well; there’ve been so many Christmas classics over the years.

1. Michael Bublé, Christmas (2012)

I only listen to Michael Bublé at Christmas time – he has the perfect voice for so many Christmas songs. However, there’s no point in pretending that I can choose just one of his songs as my favourite. I love his entire album (although I’m not sold on his rendition of Jingle Bells)! Truth be told, I’ve been listening to Christmas on Spotify since late November….

2. Paul McCartney, Wonderful Christmas Time (1979)

Despite being a child of the ‘90s, I grew up listening to The Beatles thanks to our Year 6 teacher. We grew to love a number of Beatles hits, so when I first heard Wonderful Christmas Time, McCartney’s voice reminded me of The Beatles’ days and, of course, I loved it.

3. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) (2003)

As The Darkness are a rock band, I listened to them in and amongst other rock and metal bands when, like all teenagers, I went through the inevitable “emo” phase. In many ways, the “phase” has stuck with me, as I listen to the same genre of music as I did then. Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)  is festive enough but still rock-y, allowing me to keep up with the same genres of music, even at Christmas-time.

Honourable Mentions: 

These are some more classic Christmas pop songs that were always played at every school disco.

  • Fairytale Of New York (The Pogues & Kirsty McColl, 1988)
  • All Alone on Christmas (Darlene Love, 1992) [This was on the Home Alone 2 soundtrack]
  • Merry Christmas Everybody (Slade, 1985)
  • I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (Wizzard, 1973)

That’s it for Blogmas Day 11! What are your favourite Christmas pop songs?

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas Day #10: [Reblog] Origami Santa Claus

12 Days of Blogmas Day #10: [Reblog] Origami Santa Claus

Happy Blogmas! This isn’t a book review, film review or book-themed post at all (!)
I haven’t posted a crafty blog post since Star Wars Day, so I thought I’d change that.

I first made this fun Santa Claus craft in Year 4 of primary school, so I would have been around 7 or 8 years old. Looking back, I can say it doesn’t look *amazing*, but I was so proud of myself anyway because I’ve always thought of origami as a particularly difficult thing to master. Each year my mum would hang this on our Christmas Tree until, tragically, she lost it! I was devastated, and couldn’t find the instructions to make the same style of Santa for absolutely ages. When, I finally tracked down similar instructions and made a replacement Santa, the original reappeared that same Christmas! We now have two Origami Santas in the house.

my-photo-origami-santa-1 my-photo-origami-santa-2

I thought I’d share the instructions with you as part of my Blogmas series, if you’d like to try out this craft for yourself, or with your family.

Admittedly, I didn’t write the instructions myself but I found them on Shorty’s blog @ blazingardor.wordpress.com – hence why I’ve chosen to reblog.

Enjoy!

– Judith

Blazing Ardor

Origami Santa – How to guide
as requested by Meredith 🙂

Santa’s Head
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1. Get a standard size origami paper, red on one side, plain on the other.
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2. Fold one edge in 1/2cm

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3. Fold joining side 1/2 cm.

IMG_46244. Fold um corner where the folded sides meet 1-1.5cm and fold opposite corner 1/2 cm in.

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5. Fold joining corner back 2mm from edge.

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6. Turn over your piece of paper

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7. Fold left corner 3/4 of the way across the paper on an angle making sure that you can see some of the white on the top point.

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8. Fold right side along the crease that you created by folding the left side.

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9. Fold point down on an angle to the left so that it sits just above the folded white strip.
Your Santa’s head is now done and you can draw a face or beard on…

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Film Review: 12 Days of Blogmas Day #9: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Film Review: 12 Days of Blogmas Day #9: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

We’re creeping ever closer towards Christmas, but unfortunately this blog post isn’t Christmas-themed (sorry)!

As I’ve already mentioned before, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a classic children’s story and film people enjoy watching at Christmas. However, I already wrote a film review of it here back in March, so instead I thought I’d watch and review its sequel instead.

  • Title:The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Director:Andrew Adamson
  • Released:2008

I remember seeing Prince Caspian in the cinema when it came out. It is about the four Pevensie children, who return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian (played by Ben Barnes) in his struggle with for the throne against his corrupt uncle, King Miraz (played by Sergio Castellitto).

I think Prince Caspian is a good sequel; I liked the fact the actors were older because it gives the characters more maturity and allows the director to explore darker themes, in a similar way to the Harry Potter films. Of course, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets were good films, but by The Prisoner of Azkaban, there was more development, a higher sense of threat and you knew the characters could be tested more – which makes for a more interesting experience as an older viewer.

In addition, I found it easier to engage with all four main characters: Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes), Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) and Peter Pevensie (William Moseley) because they’ve all grown up, whereas in the first film, I always preferred Peter and Susan, as opposed to the more childish Edmund and Lucy.

I particularly appreciated the growth of Edmund’s character; he steps up and makes careful decisions, learning from his previous mistakes in Narnia, highlighting the change from his weedy and foolish character from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

However, I’m not sure how I feel about the eponymous Prince Caspian – despite the film being titled after him, it still felt like Prince Caspian was still more about the Pevensies, and Prince Caspian was just a “tag along”. Although, I did like the suggestion that he and Susan liked each other, and the competitive rivalry created between Peter and Caspian – this added for comic relief in more serious moments of battles and politics. Eddie Izzard’s Reepicheep also added humour.

Of course, it wouldn’t be The Chronicles of Narnia without Aslan, and Liam Neeson reprises the role to bestow more wisdom on the children. I also love the theme music – you know something great is going to happen when the score begins to play.

When I talked about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I discussed some Christian themes from the first film, so it seems only fitting to do that here too. What struck me was Lucy’s fervent faith in Aslan (symbolising a Christian’s belief in God), even when some of her siblings begin to doubt and follow their own ways. This is developed further by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), as it is just Edmund and Lucy who travel to Narnia because Susan and Peter have become “too old” for the world of Narnia. Maybe I’ll write a review of Dawn Treader one day…

I recommend both The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian as good family-friendly films, great for watching at Christmas time. This is a lengthier review than my first Narnia blog post, but I really enjoyed writing it.

If you liked reading this post, please click ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ my blog for more posts. Stay tuned for Blogmas Day 10 tomorrow!

– Judith

[BONUS Read and Review] 12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #7: A Christmas Carol

[BONUS Read and Review] 12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #7: A Christmas Carol

Welcome to 12 Days of Blogmas Day 7! Today I’ve written another Christmas-themed book review.

  • Title: A Christmas Carol
  • Author: Charles Dickens
  • Published: 1843

A Christmas Carol is, I think, well-deserving of its fame as a Christmas classic. In case you’re not familiar with the story (although I wonder how is this is possible), A Christmas Carol is about one particularly mean old man, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is notorious for hating all things associated with Christmas, until, one December, the influence of four ghosts initiates a drastic character transformation in him.

Last year, Chris Priestley wrote ‘A Christmas Carol is more than just a story. It is a tirade against greed, selfishness and neglect. It uses the story of a rich man – the startlingly nasty Scrooge – to highlight the plight of those affected by the greed and meanness he exemplifies.’*

*Chris Priestley, Ignorance and Want: why Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is as relevant today as ever (Wednesday 23 December 2015)

For Dickens, social realism and social commentary are reoccurring themes in his work; Oliver Twist focuses on the injustice cast upon the poor (for example, Oliver) by the better-off (for example, Mr Bumble) and highlights the realities of the poor – themes such as violence and crime can be seen in the lives of Fagin, Bill and Nancy. Similarly, in Great Expectations, Pip begins life in a struggling working-class family, with limited provisions, until he is provided with the means to better his chances in life.

Therefore, Christmas seems an appropriate time for Dickens to again draw attention to the impact the “Scrooges of Society” have on others, as people tend to be more charitable, kind and willing to listen around Christmas-time than other times of year.**

**Why this is, I have no idea.

I like the length of A Christmas Carol; it’s quite short compared to some of Dickens’ other books, which makes it an easy read – ideal, if you want to start reading more classic novels but don’t know where to start.

I also liked the idea of mixing Christmas, usually a cheerful occasion, with ghosts, hauntings and a foreboding sense of impending doom. This brings out my enjoyment for Gothic literature! Naturally, then, my favourite ghosts are Jacob Marley (his entrance of groaning chains is enough to spook anyone) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I feel like these are some of the best characters drawn out in the various film adaptations too – although I’m yet to find a film adaptation that completely satisfies me.

As A Christmas Carol is such a popular story, I thought I’d scour Goodreads, to find out why readers love this book so much***:

1. Claudia said: ‘I think A Christmas Carol makes us better people.’

2. Jude said: ‘It reminds us of what is truly important in a life.’

3. Walter said: ‘It showed us how the spirit of the holidays can be humanizing.’

4. Melissa said: ‘For me, it’s not so much the story–which I enjoy every Christmas, sometimes twice – as it is the writing itself. There’s a lyrical quality that hasn’t popped out at me in his longer stories.’

5. Diane said: ‘I think we love this story partly because of how well Dickens portrayed Scrooge as a complex, multi-layered character. Sure, he appears as a greedy stereotype at first, but then we are shown his backstory and how he became that way, and (gasp), suddenly we realize that any of us could become rapacious and bitter if we chose to go down that road. And that’s what raises this tale to a classic–its universality. We are also made to care so deeply about Tiny Tim & his family, who choose to be generous even through their own want, because they realize they will become like Scrooge if they don’t.’

*** If you want to see other readers’ responses, you can find the forum I used here:

Do you like A Christmas Carol?**** Why, or why not? Also, do you have a favourite film adaptation? I’m interested to hear your opinions.

**** If you like audio books, you might be interested to learn that A Christmas Carol, narrated with  Sir Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Cranham, Miriam Margolyes, Jenna Coleman, Brendan Coyle, and Roger Allam is currently available for free on Audible until January 2017! Download it here:

If you enjoyed this post, please click ‘Like’ and stay tuned for my next Blogmas post!

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #6: Top 3 Christmas Carols

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #6: Top 3 Christmas Carols

I’m halfway through my 12 Days of Blogmas series, meaning it’s just one week until Christmas! If you haven’t already, I’m sure you’ll end up attending some kind of Christmas event where carols are sung – be it a nativity play, a carol concert, or being visited by carollers. As it happens, I went to a carol service this evening!

I have some favourite carols I love to listen to and sing around the festive period, so I thought I’d share them with you.

1. O Holy Night

This is a really beautiful song , that I personally don’t think is favoured enough in carol services. Other classics such as Silent Night always seem to take precedence. I like the slower pace than other carols, and I think when sung classically, it always sounds lovely.

2. As With Gladness Men of Old

This another less well-known carol, perhaps, and again, I like this one for inexplicable reasons. My favourite lines are in the final verse: ‘Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown, Thou its Sun which goes not down’ for no drastically striking reasons. These lines allude to the parallel between God and the light and goodness of Heaven, as described in Revelation in The Bible. I also like the rhymes and the formal and archaic structure of these particular lines.

3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

I didn’t use to like this particular carol (I have no idea why) but now, I find it so enjoyable to sing. I’ve heard classic, jazzy, and acapella versions of this song and I really like the different ways it can be performed. Here’s the popular acapella group Pentatonix’s cover of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen for you to enjoy:


That’s it for Blogmas Day 6! What are your favourite Christmas carols?

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #5: Festive Book Quotes

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #5: Festive Book Quotes

Welcome back to Blogmas! Today I’ve been reading up on some lovely Christmas-themed quotes from well-known books I’ve read to share with you.

1. Marcus Zusak, The Book Thief 

“It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”

When I first read The Book Thief, Zusak’s beautiful descriptions struck me; I think he writes in a very poetic way, which is unusual given that some of his characters are illiterate, and of course this quote is no exception.

2. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

“Always winter and never Christmas.”

This quote has quite sad undertone. It highlight’s Narnia’s cold, harsh landscapes under the reign of The White Queen that lack the joy, light and warmth of Christmas. It’s a relief, then, when Father Christmas finally arrives, giving gifts to the Pevensie children – followed by an even greater joy when Aslan returns.

3. The Bible, Luke Chapter 2: 10-11

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

This is a quote from The Bible, from the Gospel of Luke. This part of Luke’s account tells us of the Birth of Jesus, the son of God. I think it is important to remember that Christmas is still a religious celebration for Christians around the world – this can be easy to forget in the midst of present-buying, food shopping and cheesy Christmas jumpers – and has a great deal of meaning. Christmas spreads a message of love, peace, joy and light – things I think we all need at the minute, given what’s going in our world.


I hope you enjoyed this little Blogmas post; please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ ReadandReview2016 for more blog posts.

If you want to read more Christmas-themed book quotes, I encourage you read this article from Barnes and Noble, from last year, – it greatly amused me: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/10-great-literary-quotes-to-add-to-this-years-christmas-card/

Thanks for reading!

– Judith