24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 12-A Charlie Brown Christmas

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This is an oldie but a goodie. While my sister and I never really watched the Peanut cartoons when we were little (I preferred the comics), my mother used to love them and it was a love she used to try to pass on by encouraging us to watch this every year.

With imaginative, relatable characters and iconic music it’s not surprising that A Charlie Brown Christmas is something that still manages to compel children, long after they’ve transitioned into adulthood. It’s surprising re-watching it as an adult how profound the message is behind this short film, as when I was little all I noticed was the Charlie Brown was sad about Christmas. But as an adult I realised that it’s actually the widespread of commercialism that’s got Charlie down, and is the cause as to why he throws himself into directing the Christmas play, although alas to no avail. As Charlie’s friends come together and we see Charlie realise that there is still more to Christmas than shopping and presents, it’s not just Charlie’s spirits who are raised. Whilst Linus’ recitation of Luke 2:8-14 highlights the simple intentions of what Christmas should really be about, peace and goodwill to all men.  Whether you’re religious or not it’ll have a different impact for you, but as someone who is the latter I love this reference as it brings me back to my childhood performing the Nativity, and the genuine joy and promise that Christmas would bring every year.

At its core that is what a Charlie Brown Christmas is all about, characters coming together in a touching and sentimental way to remind us what should be most important at Christmastime, and that is something that I think we sometimes need to be reminded of.

 

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24 Days of Christmas Film: Day 11- Scrooged

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There have been over 20 film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ famous novella which would allow me to fill this list rating those alone. Unlike most popular subject matter that spawns countless adaptations, a majority of these adaptations are actually very deserving of a place on this list. So I gave it my absolute best to whittle them all down to the versions that I thought had the most to give, and with that we start with Scrooged.

It’s a kooky, kitsch version of the traditional tale with a dash of consumerism too as Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a selfish television executive whom on the premise of his live TV version of A Christmas Carol is visited by three ghosts of his own to teach him a lesson. But these aren’t like any Christmas ghosts you’ve seen before as Frank is visited by a manic taxi driver, a verging psychopathic fairy, and a version of death who’s genuinely still scares me at 23 years of age.

As a result the first two thirds of the film are incredibly funny, and due to great performances from the whole cast make the Ghost of Christmas Future’s predictions all the more heart-breaking. It says a lot about the quality of the film that it manages to deliver great, consistent comedy, but also has the emotional pull to make the visions of the Ghost of Christmas Future truly horrifying to the audience. In my opinion it’s often this believability of the character’s relationships that drives the success of any Christmas Carol adaptation, as without it it makes the celebratory ending feel flat and false, and most importantly a lot less festive!

Scrooged is essentially A Christmas Carol and you’re not going to get much more Christmassy than that, plus it has the bonus of being a genuinely fantastic film. It’s perfect for the family members who are sick of the typical Christmas films and fancy a great laugh. Plus did I mention Billy Murray’s in it?!

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 10-The Night Before

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Gather round children there’s a tale to be told, of an orphan and his friends and holidays old. The boy was so sad his dear friends did think, I know what’ll fix it, a damn great big drink! From that Christmas Eve On, they’d have high-jinks and drink, un-til their friendship did near reach it’s brink.

As this film opens with a holiday rhyme I thought I’d give my hand to attempting one, so please bear with me. This is the most modern film on this list and I tell you know, is definitely one for fans of Seth Rogen’s stoner movies, and those who like their Christmas films with drugs, parties, the odd song and dance number and a lot of inappropriate humour.

We meet Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Ethan on Christmas Eve just after his parents have died and his friends Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Antony Mackie) decide to take him out to cheer him up, and so a Christmas tradition is born. But years later as Chris is a rising major league football star and Isaac is about to have his first child, they decide that this year is to be their final hurrah. As luck(or a Christmas miracle) would have it, Ethan finds three tickets to The Nutcracker Ball, a party they heard about that first Christmas Eve but is so exclusive they’ve been unable to track it down or get hold of an invite, until now.

It has an amazing cast for comedy fans from Ilana Glazer, Mindy Kaling, Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, and of course in true Seth Rogen fashion, James Franco. I kind of can’t help but think of it as a millennials version of a Christmas film, but that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. It’s pretty funny and the three leading men have enough chemistry between them to convincingly carry the film, but it does lack the convincing sentiment and good-cheer of other classic Christmas films.

Overall the younger members of your family and your friends will enjoy the final party and the sometimes extremely random cameos (here’s looking at you Miley), but this is not one for the parents and extended family. It has it’s highs and lows, but overall I think it’s a great change from the typical Christmas film and one that’s well worth watching this holiday season.

 

24 Days of Christmas: Day 1 -The Nightmare Before Christmas

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For Day 1 there was no other other option for me as this is one of my all time favourite films and I think it’s the perfection transitional film to take you from Halloween to Christmas.

Although it’s often debated whether this film belongs in the Halloween or Christmas movie category, for me it ticks too many of the great Christmas film qualities for it to not find its place on this list. It’s got the perfect combination of a nuanced musical score, a love story and a good old Christmas moral epiphany, not to mention a cameo from the main man himself, Santa Claus. This is a great choice if you like your Christmas with a little twist as in typical Tim Burton fashion it’s a little bit weirder than your typical Christmas film but it’s a cult classic for a reason, and the Christmastown scenes in particular are beautiful to watch.

As we watch Jack discover Christmastown and its bright lights, snowflakes and roasting chestnuts we get to experience the joy of Christmas through his eyes, and as a result it allows us to rediscover everything we love about Christmas and more.

 

 

Christmas Bits ‘n Pieces

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Little known fact, Christmas is my FAVOURITE time of year. Seriously from my birthday to Halloween to Fireworks nights, I feel every holiday is a mini celebration before the big mumma, Christmas. This means more often than not I get a little bit more spendy than usual at this time of year, so I thought I’d share with you guys some of the bits and pieces I’ve recently picked up in case you’re in need of some inspiration. Not to mention the best bit is the most expensive item on the list will still only cost you £6!

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Silver Glitter Gift Tags-Paperchase-£1.25

Chocolate Coins-Wilkinsons-£0.50

Winter House Tea Light Holder-Wilkinsons-£3

Snowflake Fairy Lights-Primark-£6

Metal Star Decoration-Wilkinsons-£1.50

Santa Claus Letter Decoration-Wilkinsons-£1

Christmas Ribbon Selection-Paperchase-£1.75

Penguin Felt Christmas Decoration-Wilkinsons-£1.50

Golden Glitter Pine Cones-Primark-£2

Tis the Season To Be Jolly-Wilkinsons-£1

Minature Glass Bauble Set-Wilkinsons-£2.50

Velvet Wrap Ribbon-Tiger-£1

Merry Christmas Decoration-Wilkinsons-£1.50

Gingerbread man present topper-Paperchase-£1.50

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I hope this post has given you a little bit of inspiration on how to get some cute Christmas bits on a budget and has got you into the festive spirit. I know it’s a cliché but I really do love Christmas, so expect more festive posts on their way soon! In the mean time I’d love to know where your favourite place to shop for Christmas bits is as I’m always on the lookout for more!

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Perfect Movies For Cozy Autumnal Nights

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There’s something about Autumn that conjures thoughts of thick jumpers, crunchy leaves, hot drinks and curling up in front of the TV. With the change in the weather there’s no better feeling than staying inside and escaping into a great film with a cosy blanket. So I thought it was the perfect time to share with you some of my favourite films that really get me in the Autumnal mood.

500 Days of Summer

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Although the film takes place throughout the four seasons, without spoiling the ending, if you’ve seen it you’ll know exactly what makes it perfect for the transition to from Summer to Autumn. Not to mention the soundtrack is perfect at encapsulating the hope and reflection that Autumn brings.

Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone

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It could be argued that every Harry Potter film is perfect for Autumn but I think it’s the detailed, extravagant Great Hall scenes in the first film that really emphasise all the beautiful seasonal colours. Plus who doesn’t feel festive when they hear the Harry Potter theme tune?

Dead Poets Society

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This is one to spur you on as you start the new school year and leave you wishing every teacher could be as inspiring as Robin Williams. As an English graduate I love this film on a deeply nerdy level and the autumnal setting will leave you wanting nothing more than to make the most of those beautiful Autumn days.

When Harry Met Sally

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This is one of the great Rom-Com classics that epitomises the romantic element of Autumn in Harry and Sally’s beautiful walk through Central Park. Although the pinnacle of the film takes place on New Years Eve it’s those autumnal scenes that you remember and who doesn’t love a bit of romance on these cold Autumn nights.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

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In true Wes Anderson style this is one of the most beautiful films on the list to watch with its entire spectrum of oranges, reds and yellows creating the perfect Autumnal world to escape into. One of the best adaptations of Roald Dahl’s books it’s a heartwarming tale mixed with adventure and a great one to watch with family and friends.

Rushmore

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Another Wes Anderson entry but what can I say, when the man picks an aesthetic he runs with it. Jason Schwartzman plays precocious student Max Fischer and although it’s not a film for everyone’s tastes, it beautifully covers the whole Autumnal season through to Christmas. Plus it has Bill Murray in it, and who doesn’t love a Bill Murray movie!

St Elmo’s Fire

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Another one that is very close to my heart as it is about a group of recent college graduates, and is one of the most often forgotten 80’s movie for no good reason. The final scene where they walk off into the night perfectly reminds you that there’s nothing better than wrapping yourself up against the cold, and that no matter what you always have your friends to count on.

Autumnal Spiced Apple and Plum Pie

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There’s something about the change in the weather that immediately has me reaching for a cookery book. After  a bit of tinkering I came up with this, my spiced apple and plum pie which is to me epitomizes everything that’s good about Autumn.

This is the best season for plums and mixed with the apples and spices they combine to make a pie that’s perfect for a winter treat, and one that always proves a hit with my family and friends! Not  to mention that there’s something just so comforting about a slice of pie with custard of ice cream that makes it the food equivalent of a hug, and the perfect medicine to chase those winter blues away.

What You’re Going To Need

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For the Short Crust Pastry

255g plain flour

Pinch of salt

140g hard butter

6 tsp cold water

For the Filling

5 Cooking Apples

2 Sweet Apples (I used Braeburns but any sweet apple would be just as good)

6 Plums (You can add slightly more or less depending on taste)

2 1/2 Tbsp of Cornflour

175g of Sugar (I prefer golden caster as it gives it a caramely taste)

155g of Brown Sugar (I used Demerara which is also perfect for giving a caramel flavour)

2tsp of Cinnamon

1 tsp Nutmeg (About 2 good pinches)

Milk to glaze

Then it’s time to get down to business!

For the pastry I cheated and sifted my flour and salt into my food processor and added the butter until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a food processor just use your fingers instead, they work just as well! Slowly add the water until the mixture is combined then tip the pastry out onto a floured surface and lightly knead. Then clingfilm it and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool and relax the dough.

Then it’s time to prepare the filling. After peeling the apples core them and the plums, then loosely chop them and throw them into a deep saucepan. Add the sugar, cornflour and spices until the fruit has softened and the juices have combined to form a caramely liquid. Once the liquid had thickened and the fruit has softened take the fruit off the heat.

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Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and remove a third for the topping. I prefer my pies to be open topped so I only removed about a quarter but feel free to decorate however you want! Roll out the pastry and line your tin (tip using the rolling pin to help you lift the pastry makes it much easier), then line it on top with greaseproof paper and baking beads, and pop it in the over for about 10 minutes. As you can see I didn’t have any baking beads so I improvised with linseed but rice works just as well.

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Once it’s slightly coloured, remove the beads and paper from the pastry and glaze it with your milk. Cook it for a further 5 minutes until the pastry is fully dried out.

Meanwhile you can roll out the lid or decoration for your pie, and once it’s out of the oven you can fill and top it! I like to use a slotted spoon as it’s great to remove the excess liquid that can make your pie soggy, then I add my lid or decoration and bake it for 40-45 minutes. But make sure if you’re using a lid you mark a hole in the top to let the steam escape.

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But then voila, an autumnal spiced pie, perfect for those cold winter evenings, all that’s left is to serve it up!Af.

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I hope you enjoyed this post as I’m really trying to get back to posting recipes as I really enjoy it and Winter recipes are some of my favourites to make. I would love to know if any of you give it a go and what you think, or even your favourite recipes as I’m always on the look out for new ones!