Can you believe that it’s almost Christmas? There is no doubt that years seem to go faster as you get older. It won’t be long until you’re putting up the Christmas tree with your children  and cleaning up the mess made by your devilish elf-on-the-shelf.  I really should try to find one of those this  year. But Christmas isn’t Christmas until you attend some markets with unique gifts and mulled wine, although sometimes it can be a struggle to find the best ones. With the help of Stagecoach, who offer cheap bus fares, we look to find some of the most Christmassy markets in Britain.

Remember to wrap up warm when venturing out to some of our top picks! I suggest layers especially as the temperatures really do seem to have dipped in the last couple of weeks. You’ll be singing some of your favourite carols in no time.

Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle transforms into a winter wonderland at Christmas time, with decorations travelling down the long and narrow street to create that festive feeling for the people of the city. The market is located at the top of Grey Street, just under Grey’s Monument where you can find wooden huts that are built and decorated specially for the Christmas period.

Newcastle in my experience is always fun and I remember a lovely Christmas Pantomime there once with Little and Large.

But what does the market have on offer? What makes it different? The Newcastle Christmas Market brings cultures together and celebrates differences, perfect for small children wanting to experience a big world. Tradesmen and women from across Europe come to bring a touch of their country to Newcastle – you’ll get to witness one of the best atmospheres in the country during this festive time. From foods to ornamental items, you’ll be spoilt for choice with what you can purchase. You might even find the perfect gift for that special person. If you’re into Ice Skating, head down to the Centre for Life to show off your skills in Times Square!

Open: 11th December – 17th December

Birmingham

For 12 years now, the German Christmas Market in Birmingham has been a top attraction to those wanting to venture outside of their own city and travel to a spectacular Christmas market. Located in Victoria Square, it makes a beautiful setting for any family photograph – lights descend down the centred fountain and the iconic carousel is at the top of the steps creating an uncanny version of Santa Claus’ Village.

With a collected 180 stalls, you’re bound to see something unconventional. You might even be able to snatch up a unique gift for your little one, whether this is a piece of jewellery or a handmade toy – make sure your other half distracts them whilst you make the purchase. Grab a hot chocolate with marshmallows and have a stroll around the village.

I used to work in Birmingham a lot and a Christmas market might be a great reason to return for a visit.

Open: 17th November – 29th December

Exeter

Take a trip to Exeter this year to discover the magnificent Christmas market on the West Front of the Cathedral – creating an enchanted atmosphere. With the Cathedral towering over, you will be able to take a long walk around the different wooden huts and experience something from each continent of the world – perfect for introducing your kids to different cultures.

Unlike previous years, the Exeter Christmas Market will now have a bandstand which will host the entertainment for the evening – with local bands, singers and choirs spreading the magical spirit by singing some of our favourite Christmas carols that allow the kids to get involved. If you can’t get enough of Christmas markets in Exeter, there’s two more – one on Castle Street and Fore Street – don’t be afraid to pop down and indulge yourself in more Christmassy treats and I’m sure your little ones would be more than up for it.

I had very sad times in Exeter a couple of decades ago and perhaps it is time to go back to what is undoubtedly a beautiful and compact city.

Open: 16th November – 17th December

Lincoln

Indulge yourself in the historic culture of Lincoln by attending their Xmas market or over 280 stalls surrounded by the iconic castle and cathedral – allowing your little ones to have a real sense of magic on your family trip out. From freshly cooked food to some of the most exceptional gifts, you’ll be able to experience something different from this market that will make you want to return the next year.

Not only are new stalls put up outside, but shops along the cobbled streets come outdoors to sell their products too! Creating the perfect atmosphere up the steep bank. Not only can you shop in the market, whether this is for hot food or baked treats, you can also take a trip on the big wheel and other fairground rides – once you get high enough, you might be able to spot one of Santa Claus’ elf in the crowd – so make sure you’re on your best behaviour to remain on this year’s good list. Although the duration of this market isn’t long, it’s worth going!

Lincoln is so associated in my mind with Christmas so I highly recommend this one!

Open: 7th December – 10th December

London

If you’re heading to the capital this Christmas, why not take a trip to the Winter Wonderland situated in Hyde Park. Full of festivity, there’s nothing that you and your family can’t do at this market, from ice skating, to circus’ and even Cinderella on Ice, whatever your family desires is available here – although booking is strongly advised as there is a high demand of certain activities and attractions.

There’s no excuse not to attend this Winter Wonderland as it remains open after Christmas has ended! Remember to take your camera and capture plenty of selfies, you don’t want to miss the moment where your littles one’s face light up when meeting Santa Claus himself. Once you’ve tackled the magical kingdom of Winter Wonderland, why not take a stroll to Buckingham Palace to take photographs outside of the iconic landmark – you might even see the Queen if you’re lucky!

Open: 17th November – 1st January

So, what Christmas market will you be heading to this year?

 

https://www.visitsouthdevon.co.uk/whats-on/exeter-christmas-market-on-cathedral-green-p1432623

http://visitbirmingham.com/birminghams-frankfurt-christmas-market/

https://www.skyscanner.net/news/the-uks11-best-christmas-markets

http://www.instyle.co.uk/celebrity/news/best-christmas-markets

 

 

Lucy At Home

Luscious  is the word I would use for this beetroot and  dark chocolate yule log recipe

Dark Chocolate Yule Log

 

Beetroot and dark chocolate yule log recipe

This easy roulade doesn’t taste of beetroot, instead the vegetable adds richness to the chocolate, and makes the sponge lovely and moist.

  • Preparation time:25 minutes, plus cooling
  • Cooking time:45 minutes to 55 minutes
  • Total time:1 hour 10 minutes – 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves: 8 – 10

Ingredients

300g fresh beetroot, scrubbed and topped and tailed 200g butter 200g plain chocolate 1 tbsp instant coffee granules or powder 4 large free Range Eggs, separated 175g caster sugar 75g plain flour, sifted Icing sugar, for dusting

For the filling

75g Dried Cranberries 2 tbsp brandy or orange juice 250ml pot Vanilla Cream

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4. Grease and line a 32 x 22cm swiss roll tin with baking parchment. Cook the beetroot in simmering water for 15–20 minutes or until tender, then drain and cool. Remove the skin and trim, then blitz the flesh in a blender until smooth.

2 Melt the butter with the chocolate and coffee in a medium pan over a low heat. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until thick and pale, then whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture. Fold in the beetroot and flour.

3 Whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks then fold into the chocolate base. Pour into the prepared tin and spread level. Bake for 25–30 minutes until just firm. Lift the cake out with its paper onto a wire rack, cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave to cool completely.

4 To make the filling, soak the cranberries in the brandy or orange juice for 30 minutes. Whisk the cream until just thick then stir in the cranberries and any juices. Turn the chocolate sponge out onto a clean sheet of baking parchment and trim the edges neatly. Spread with the cream, leaving a border around the edge, then use the paper to carefully roll the sponge up. Transfer to a serving dish and dust with icing sugar. Chill until ready to serve.

Get ahead

Make the chocolate sponge up to 3 days ahead and keep, rolled up but unfilled, in an airtight container. To freeze: make the chocolate sponge and fill, roll up, cover and freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost thoroughly before dusting with icing sugar to serve.

Dark Chocolate Yule Log Recipe

Recipe from http://www.waitrose.com/christmas

 

clairejustine

This Mama

_

Winnettes

Should you sleep with your pet?

Should You Sleep With Your Pet

 

Do you sleep with your pet?

Do you sleep with your pet? That’s quite a personal question but if we are honest, many pet-lovers welcome their dog or cat to snuggle up as the perfect hot-water bottle.

Do you let your dog or cat sleep in your bedroom or on your bed? You are certainly not alone, as a survey commissioned by leading pet insurer Animal Friends found that nearly half of owners sleep with their pets. This made me smile – perhaps just like important questions about whether you want children or not, you view on sleeping with pets should be right up there when assessing potential partners.

So is it a good idea to welcome your pet into your bedroom? Fitted bedroom specialists DM Design has analysed the arguments both for and against this decision:

The case for pets being in the bedroom

 

A study carried out by the Mayo Sleep Clinic, a leading clinic based in Arizona, USA, supports the case for welcoming your pets into your bedroom. For me, this is welcome news having the pets in the bedroom is all part of the fun of having them. Plus it is a guarantee of waking up to a friendly face.

After surveying 150 patients — 49 per cent of whom owned at least one pet — the researchers found that over half of those with animals in their let them sleep either in their bedroom or on their bed.

However, the study also revealed that those who did felt safer more secure, more relaxed and had a better night’s rest. On the other end of the scale, just 20 per cent of those with pets said that they experienced interrupted sleep due to their pets ‘snoring’, ‘wandering’ or ‘whimpering’ when they were in the bedroom. My pets rarely disturb my sleep and I think they would be more likely to leap out of bed and deal with armed robbers than my husband who would sleep through anything!

Lois Krahn, the author of the study, commented: ‘Many pet owners view companion animals as family members that they wish to incorporate into as many aspects of their life as possible. Because humans spend considerable time sleeping, a pet owner’s desire to have animals close at night is understandable.” Just like having a high tog duvet, I find the presence of animals in the bedroom comforting.

Dr Krahn also pointed out from the study’s results that people who slept alone — whether due to being single or because their partner had to occasionally travel or work at night — “more often spoke of the beneficial companionship stemming from a pet in the bedroom or on the bed”.

This isn’t the only instance where research carried out at the Mayo Sleep Clinic has revealed results in favour of having pets in the bedroom.

In a study of 40 healthy adults who had their sleep evaluated with a dog in the bedroom over a five-month period — with both the humans and dogs wearing activity trackers for the research — it was established that people slept better when the pet was on their bed. However, sleep quality was sacrificed when people allowed their dogs to sleep under the covers with them. This could be an issue for us as my Beagle is definitely an underdog.

In regard to this particular study, carried out by Mayo Clinic’s Centre for Sleep Medicine, Dr Krahn acknowledged: “The relationship between people and their pets has changed over time, which is likely why many people in fact do sleep with their pets in the bedroom.

“Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”

The case against pets being in the bedroom

 

Although the Mayo Clinic has released studies in favour of having pets in the bedroom, the institute — or more specifically their Sleep Disorders Center — believes that people who have difficulty sleeping should consider keeping their pets out of the room.

In a survey of 300 patients, of which 157 had one or more pets, 53 per cent of pet owners suggested that their sleep was disrupted to some extent on a daily basis. Snoring was also reported in 21 per cent of those with dogs, as well as seven per cent of those with cats.

With these results in mind, John Shepard, the medical director of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, advised: “Every patient has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping with pets and make a personal decision about the sleeping arrangements in the household. Some people are very attached to their pets and will tolerate poorer sleep in order to be near them at night.”

Meanwhile, Derek Damin, of Kentuckiana Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in Louisville, USA, believes that people who have asthma or obviously pet allergies should refrain from letting their animals on their bed or even in the bedroom. This is “to give your nose a few hours a day to recover”, Dr Damin explained.

However, he was keen to add: “But if you’re not allergic, there’s really no big issue with having a dog in the bed. It’s fine as long as it doesn’t disturb your sleep.”

It appears then that so long as there aren’t any issues with allergies, personal preference takes precedence when deciding whether or not to allow pets into the bedroom. There are also other options to explore, rather than having them sleep on your bed.

Sources:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/half-brits-pets-sleep-bed-10109148

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3360114/For-good-night-s-sleep-let-dog-snuggle-Pets-bedroom-make-people-feel-safer-secure-leading-better-rest.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4865190/Letting-dog-sleep-room-gives-better-rest.html

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020215070932.htm

https://pets.webmd.com/features/pets-in-your-bed#1

 

If you love doughnuts and you are looking forward to Christmas, why not try this Christmas doughnuts recipe?

 

Christmas DoughNuts Recipe

 

‘Doughnuts get the festive treatment… I couldn’t make up my mind whether to make ring or round doughnuts, and then couldn’t decide if sugar or glazed was better. So I covered all options – they work wonderfully with the warming gingerbread flavours.’ Annie Riggs

Christmas doughnuts recipe

• Total time:60 minutes, plus proving, rising and resting
• Makes: about 15 ring doughnuts and 15 mini doughnuts

Ingredients

175ml whole milk
10g active dried yeast (not fast-action)
450g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
50g light brown muscovado sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
generous pinch ground allspice
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
1 large egg yolk
75g unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp treacle
1.5-2 litres sunflower or groundnut
oil for deep-frying
For the sugar coating and lemon glaze:
125g caster sugar
5 tbsp icing sugar
about ½ lemon, juice

Method

1. Heat the milk until warm to the touch, add the yeast, whisk to combine and leave in a warm place for about 5 minutes until foaming and active.
2. Tip the flour, salt, muscovado sugar and spices into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the dough hook. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, then add the yeasty milk, whole egg, egg yolk, butter and treacle. Mix steadily for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will still be slightly sticky.(Alternatively, mix until combined, then knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes.)
3. Lightly flour a work surface, and knead the dough with your hands for 1 minute. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in a large, lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
4. Lightly flour the work surface again and knead the dough very gently for 1 minute. Roll out to just over 1cm thick. Using round cookie cutters, stamp out circles from the dough, roughly 8cm in diameter. Using a smaller cutter (4-4½cm), stamp out a smaller circle from the middle of each doughnut. Arrange the ring and mini doughnuts on 2 lightly floured baking trays, cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise again for 30-45 minutes until doubled in size again.
5. Pour the oil into a large, shallow saucepan; it should come at least halfway up the sides of the pan. Heat to 180°C; measure the temperature with a sugar thermometer. (Alternatively, use a deep-fat fryer.) Cover a large baking sheet with three layers of kitchen paper; tip the caster sugar into a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar with just enough lemon juice (about 3-4 tsp) to make a smooth, drizzly icing.
6. Fry the doughnuts in small batches for about 1-2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly on the kitchen paper before tossing the round doughnuts in the caster sugar and brushing the rings with the lemon glaze. Make sure that the oil comes back up to temperature before frying the next batch. Best eaten on the day of making.

Now go forth and check out the best festive foodie treats from Waitrose.

Christmas Doughnuts Recipe

Do you have a Christmas doughnuts recipe?

Mummy in a Tutu
ethannevelyn.com
clairejustine

Parenting with Multiple Sclerosis brings its own unique challenges. I am grateful to Patricia for sharing her individual story of living with Multiple Sclerosis and being a mum to Elliot.

Parenting With Multiple Sclerosis

“Six months after my miscarriage I was ecstatic to find out I was pregnant again. It was a long and nervous nine months that followed. Then a difficult 14-hour labour, ending with an emergency caesarean section. But all 10lbs and 3 ozs of the wonderful, healthy baby Elliot had arrived safely in this world. We were over the moon and almost instantaneously forgot about the difficult road we had walked together to become parents and to have our precious baby boy.

 

The days and weeks that followed were to be expected. Sleepless nights whilst breast feeding on demand went hand in hand with tiredness and emotional turbulence. But what was not expected was my lack of co-ordination and wavering ability. My fatigue was overwhelming and when I started to lose feeling in my feet and abdomen panic set in. Doctor after doctor diagnosed exhaustion and post-natal depression. I knew instinctively there was something more sinister wrong with me, so I pursued the matter with greater urgency as each day passed. Eventually referred to neurology and put through months of tests, scans and waiting. Weeks before Elliot’s first birthday I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My immune system had attacked itself in error, confused with the foetal cells after the birth. The timing was cruel.

It really did all feel impossible now. The first year of Elliot’s life was an indescribable roller coaster bringing the most wonderful highs, through the joys of motherhood, running parallel to those terrifying lows of cold hospital tests, unbounding fear and my body’s betrayal.

With a diagnosis of a long term progressive disease alongside my bouncing one-year old boy I was lost to begin with. But I wasted no time in acting on the day of my diagnosis and headed straight to the bookstore, with Elliot safely tucked up in his pram. I bought the Self- Help Guide to Multiple Sclerosis by Judy Graham. And that was the beginning of a new and circuitous journey for me and Elliot and our small family.

I had a chronic disease, but I was a mum first and foremost. That gave me the lethal determination necessary to not accept my medical prognosis of a life towards disability and vulnerability. To reject the toxic drugs and their side-effects, which had no proven success in treating MS. Instead I would set off into an unknown world to find ways to manage my symptoms, to try and heal my body and my mind. All I was sure about was what I did not want. I did not want to be a sick individual, but more poignantly a sick mum. I did not want anyone else caring for Elliot and I refused to even contemplate that anyone else would need to care for me. I did not want Elliot coming home from school to a sick mummy or to hospital visits. I had dreams of motherhood and family life. I had dreams for my child and his future. Multiple Sclerosis would not stand in the way of those dreams. I did not know, to begin with, what I would do and how I would do it. But I had my unyielding spirit and relentless perseverance to face whatever lay ahead. And I had my son’s future hopes and dreams in my hands. To anyone who thought that what I was going to try and achieve with my medical prognosis was impossible, I would say to them to get out the way whilst I got on with doing it.

Elliot meant so much to me and it had been such a challenging road to bring him into the world. My feelings as a mum were so strong and powerful that there was no possibility I was going to surrender to this disabling disease.

Day in and day out I would find new ways to do old things. I would turn negatives into positives. Fear into hope. Anger into love and disability into different ability. My future would be different, but I set out to make it positively different for myself and my beautiful son. Elliot and Multiple Sclerosis may have been ‘born together’, but it was in my hands how they would grow and live together.

I have written a book about my compelling and uplifting journey, Born Together. You can find out more information www.patriciagachagan.com

 

Are you parenting with Multiple Sclerosis? What is your story and what has helped you to cope?

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