Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Christmas & New Year's Round Up!

If there's 3 things I love in's Jesus, my family and good food! 
So as you can imagine my excitement levels are always pretty high around Christmas time since it's a time to celebrate all 3 of those be prepared for a picture overload!

I started off the festive season by heading back to my hometown of Harpenden to exchange some presents with friends, an annual tradition that we started when we were 15 and still at school and that we have continued every year since.  It was extra special for me this year, since last year was the first I've ever missed due to being in the Caribbean and so I was double-y excited to be joining in the fun this time round!

It was also Caz's birthday on that very same day so we went out for a lovely meal at Strada.

How I love going back to where I grew up, Harpenden will always hold a special place in my heart.

We spent Christmas day with my mother in law Kathy, in the Braithwaite house it is a tradition to open your presents accompanied by a mince pie and cup of tea:

It's also a tradition to get yummy reminders of home like droewors!

and it's sort of a tradition for me to get baking related presents! hello extra KitchenAid bowl and cupcake oven gloves!

After the present opening, we had a delicious feast that begun with camembert and toasted bread...

followed by a turkey and gammon joint roast and the best roast potatoes around...

Once we were all sufficiently stuffed we went on a Christmas day walk to Ampthill Park...

Back home, it was time for dessert - a peanut butter & brownie 9 layer trifle By and I had made!

and fitted in a skype with Cam who's in South Africa:

and then we played By's new board game pointless followed by some Christmas movies and then bed!

Boxing day was spent at By's dads house.

Even Obie joined in with the festivities!

We had a nice meal and then the boys competitive side came out through some olympic event playing on the Wii.

After they were all played out, we headed north to Shropshire to spend some time with my family.

We had a giant present opening session upon our arrival - check out the size of my stocking!

By got some fajita and taco kits for lots of Mexican fun...

and I got tons of baking goodies plus this giant lindor chocolate ball! how cool! 

I also loved going round the house and snapping all the decorations! 

I really should have taken a photo of the tree whilst all the presents were still underneath! 

and thanks to Mara's Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart magazine and new dessert book we were treated to tons of yummy bakes over the next few days like taco pie, sweet potato slow cooker soup, butternut and mushroom risotto, emperor's pancakes, banoffee pie and magic bars to name just a few!

Of course the highlight of the whole of Christmas had to be pointless! I've lost count of the number of times it was played in Shropshire but inevitably it would be the first thing my mom would ask to do daily!  and it's such a fun game that it never got old! 
She won the first night we played it...

and spent the rest of the time trying to regain her champion title and the coveted pointless trophy, to no avail! There were SO many laughs during the many games we played of rubbish answers that people gave so that made it even more entertaining! like when Dad was going to pick 'Richard Beckham' as a member of the Beckham family or when he tried to talk Mom out of picking Buzz Lightyear as a character from Toy Story because 'why would a space man be in a film about toys'! or when Mom was delighted with picking 'Highbury' as an answer for a premiership football ground (since she's not really up on her sports) only to discover it's called Emirates these days! and Mara had too many for me even to know where to start! haha

When Mel and Arne arrived from Bruges a few days later we introduced it to them too...

and with their arrival they also brought us some yummy Belgian treats!

and it was time for another round of present opening! By added to his ever expanding hot chocolate collection with some real Belgian hot chocolate sticks - he was pretty pleased with them!

and Mel stuck to her annual tradition of seeing how many bows would fit on her head...

Usually we hit the shops alot when we all get together but fortunately for the boys it didn't happen too much this time around although we did make a special trip to Chester & Cheshire Oaks one day to check out the sales...with uggs and hats at the ready (it was a chilly day!)

...and to have lunch at this amazing place:

I was so desperate to eat there that undeterred by there not being a free table available for 3 hours when we stopped by, we opted to sit outside! Yes - it was a freezing cold day...and it may have also been raining but when Root Beer Floats, Milkshakes and Pulled Pork are involved then compromises have to be made!

It did not are Mom and Mel showing off their Root Beer Float and Triple Mint Oreo shake!

and then the food came...and it was definitely worth it! A chili dog with the cutest little bucket of fries for the veggie in the family...check the irony!

and the most amazing American meatfeast platter! with pulled pork, brisket, bbq sauce smothered ribs, dry ribs and of course some fries and slaw!

It certainly kept us going, even after all the sales shopping through the crowds at Cheshire oaks, we managed to muster up enough energy to put a tannoy out for Mel and Mara when we temporarily lost them!!

You may have observed that Dad was missing out on the American BBQ fun...well don't you worry because he was having his own fun at home with a jack hammer and our back garden!

For New Year's Eve, we got some fireworks - I made some cupcakes and me and the girls dressed up in dresses, fancy tights and colour co-ordinated our crazy patterned nails too!

Apparently the boys didn't know what all the fuss was about, so it was t-shirts and jeans for them! (as they entertained themselves rubbing balloons against their heads and sticking them to the ceiling...good times!)

Of course what were we doing just before the clock struck 12? playing another game of pointless! but we made it out in time for a little disco on the drive as the countdown began...

and By and Arne put on quite the display.  The highlight was when the grand finale firework fell over and started shooting out everywhere and even heading towards us at alarming speed! We were laughing pretty hard at that point...some of us a little too hard! but what better way to bring in the New Year!

so I'll leave you with some sparkler fun that we had! here's wishing all of you a Happy New Year too! Hope 2012 is a great one!

Well done for getting to the end of this post! 


  1. Great roundup! What were me and mel doing outside!? I just bought two board games from selfridges which were reduced to £5. ebay here I come! xx

  2. Loved all these great moments...feel like I was almost those tights! :)

  3. That WAS a lot of photos! :)
    Love all your cake -related goodies! I had several craft related goodies for my Xmas presents! One book which is so huge I have no idea if I will get it back to NZ!

    Mauritius was amazing - where did you stay? We stayed at Sands Resort, near Flic and Flac. Beautiful!

    Sadie xx