Things I Discovered in December

Things I Discovered.Badge2And what a month December has been!  So many things discovered, about myself as much as things to do/make/read/buy. To remind those of you who are not familiar with this series (being in its infancy and all), this is the space where I share with you my favourite finds –  things I’ve discovered that make life more tasty, fun, easy, enriching, or things about myself I’ve discovered (not always makes for the easiest of writing!).

I’d love you to share yours, by either linking up your post below, or replying in a comment if you don’t have a blog.  Click on the Things I Discovered series if you wanna know more.

So, what have I discovered in December….?

Recycle – Tumble Dryer Lint as Firelighters

Yes really, I’m not having a laugh. This has to be my favourite find not only because it such a funny discovery but because its a fantastic alternative to nasty poisonous chemicals.  I discovered this when at a friend’s house for Christmas drinks, eyeing up a jam jar full of what looked like blue cotton wool. “What’s that?” I asked. Laughing she replied “Its tumble dryer lint that is an excellent alternative to fire lighters for your indoor winter fire!” So, for those of you lucky enough to have an open fire, like us, go try!

Eat – Slow cooked Venison Stew with Redcurrant Sauce 

BBC Good Food

Braised Venison (BBC Good Food image)

When in Scotland recently, we had the pleasure of eating venison (deer to non-British readers).  In an attempt to come up with some variety in our Sunday lunch/dinner party menu, I thought i’d try cooking venison stew. Now I know its not cheap, but if you get it when its 25% off like I did at Waitrose/Ocado, its the same price as diced beef.  I found this recipe on the trusty BBC Good Food website, and it was fabulous.  Its very easy, you just prepare it like you would a normal beef casserole, except you add 2 tablespoons of redcurrant sauce. This gives it a lovely slightly sweet flavour, meaning the kids will happily eat it.  We cooked it in our slow cooker over night and it was superb. And if you chuck in a load of root veg and mushrooms, its bulks it out. It fed us four for 3 meals (and we don’t stint on portions).

Watch – Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC TV

Death Comes to Pemberley BBC

I don’t watch much TV during the year, but when the evenings are dark, the fire is lit, and  the Beeb come up with some new quality shows for Christmas, its only right to indulge in some serial goggle-boxing.  There were a few fab productions this year, including a gritty Jane Eyre and David Walliam’s Gangsta Granny (Miranda and Robbie Williams stole the show). But the one that had me most gripped, and even won over my normal Period Drama Averse Husband, was PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley.  The acclaimed murder mystery novelist let her imagination loose on what might have happened after Elizabeth and Darcy got married and the darstardly dashing Willoughby reappears.  My husband summed it up as “Pride and Prejudice with Balls.” Being a three-parter it draws you in.  If you haven’t yet seen it, and you love P&P, this is one for you.

Read – The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

booksOk, I admit to being drawn to this one by the name of the author (how many Siobhan authors are out there?) and to buying for my daughter as it was in the 9-12 yr old section of Waterstones.  But on starting to read it to check it if was suitable for said 9 yr old daughter, I found myself getting quite drawn in and looking forward to my bedtime read.  Needless to say, she didn’t get a look in! I wouldn’t recommend it for 9 yr olds, more like 12-13+, largely because the chief character is a 12 yr old boy Ted with Asperger’s Syndrome and second character his older, verging on rebellious sister.  A fascinating, readable insight into an aspergers’ mindset, it provided a great balance of humour, mystery and early teenage angst/confusion.

Christmas – avoiding the Christmas consumer frenzy gets harder as your kids get older (unless you move to Outer Mongolia, Africa or Asia)

Much as I love Christmas, I really dislike the consumer frenzy that it unleashes and is, in fact, hyped up for.  And every year I approach it thinking that I’ll keep it as minimal as possible for the adults and not go crazy on the extras and kids’ stockings.  I usually leave my shopping to December and wrapping to the last week, just to avoid it taking over too much of my time and attention.  But having children who are being primed for Christmas  from half term onwards at school with all the Christmas card making or play rehearsals it feels impossible to keep it low key.  All the talk about what they’ll get for Christmas seems to get louder every year.

Ok, so compared to many, perhaps we don’t spend that much on Christmas – my two got a second hand Wii and various small bits and pieces like a book and a DVD, and stocking stuff.  (Yes I know, we’re 5 years after everyone else getting a Wii, but we wanted to wait till my son was 7 so he would learn to appreciate/play with non-techie stuff for entertainment. And we got 2nd hand as it’ll be considered past it in a few years.  They love it!).  But I still think its quite a lot, and I always end up getting caught up in whether I’ve got enough for this that or the other person.  It’s that all pervading Christmas Consumer Spirit that hangs around shops and town centres and computers.

I’ve decided that the only way to avoid this is to a) get a full time job where I have no time to shop or b) move back to Africa where all of this consumer nonsense is seen for what it is or c) set a budget for all the extras with husband beforehand.  Think its going to have to be c).

And lastly …….

The best Christmas presents can be the cheapest

Who’d have known that my husband would pop a pink sequinned shower cap in my stocking that I would immediately love?! Maybe its because it was a silly gift, or maybe its because I love putting things on my head (all that time spent in Africa has had its effect in more ways than one!) but I’ve worn it ever since (only in the shower, I might add).  Here I am – how could you not love it?!!

Perfect Christmas Showerware

So that’s it.  What have you discovered this December? You have until Friday 17th to link up  – plenty of time! I’d love to hear from you (but don’t confess to wanting to murder your relatives – nothing’s private in cyber space!)

24 thoughts on “Things I Discovered in December

  1. Missed Death Comes to Pemberley and feeling quite sad about it! Think it would have been right up my street! Grr… That stew looks amazing though! Thanks for linking up to #SavouringtheSeason

  2. Good learnings, I think I might have to join you with option C too for next year. There were no big or expensive presents here but I did find myself thinking there was too much in general! Happy new year, Mich x

  3. Some brill ideas here Siobhan, love the firelighter idea, that blue fluff will be put to good use after all! Book sounds good and definitely going to catch up on the BBC drama. Thanks mate! x

  4. I totally agree with you about Christmas – it’s really hard to keep the kids focused on the small joys instead of everything they see in the adverts. We had an adult gift rule this year of only giving gifts that cost £5 or less from a charity shop, which worked well – me and my mum got some ace stuff because we’d been trawling thrift stories in New York!

    • That’s exactly why we discourage the kids from watching TV channels with ads. They hardly watch them, but if they do, it can be a right pain. Overall I think we’re teaching them a healthy disregard for ads…so far! And ooh, i love the sound of trawling thrift shops in NY. There’s a post in that! Thx for dropping by Pippa. S

  5. Oh my goodness the firelighter idea is fantastic! I would never have thought of that. I loved Death Comes to Pemberley too – it was the best of the Christmas drama by a mile x

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