Christmas Magic

Merry and bright

Every year as the days of December rush towards the 25th, I hear people fretting about how much money they’ve spent, how long they queued for this years must-have sold-out-everywhere gift, and how stressful hosting Christmas dinner is. Yet sitting peacefully at home suffused in the cosy glow of the twinkly lights and glinting baubles on our Christmas tree always reminds me to slow down and appreciate all the little moments that make this season so magical and meaningful.

Putting up the Christmas decorations and decorating the tree is one of my favourite festive traditions. Unwrapping the baubles we’ve collected over the years always brings back memories and each trinket seems to have its own story. The newest addition to our collection is a simple wooden piece I found while my husband and I were on holiday in New York earlier in the year. This year I also made some simple decorations by baking slices of orange, which brighten up the tree and add a touch of traditional style to it. The combination of citrus and fresh pine needles also gives our home a subtle and natural festive fragrance. Luckily, our cat Mara doesn’t try to climb the tree or bother the baubles, though she occasionally gives the lower branches an experimental nibble.

As TV shows and social networks fill up with images of happy families in festive jumpers, it seems like there are impossibly high expectations for Christmas. Yet the reality is that life doesn’t stop for Christmas: families bicker, couples separate and people get ill, just as they do at every other time of the year. Within my own family, over the years there have been two deaths in December and one in January, which always gives the season a bittersweet edge as I remember and miss those who are no longer here, while feeling so grateful and fortunate to have my loved ones around me at Christmastime.

I can’t buy Christmas magic, but sometimes I find it in the simplest moments: wrapping cold hands around warm mugs of Gluhwein at the Christmas market, catching up with friends around a crackling fire, snuggling up on the sofa with my husband and Mara to watch our favourite festive films (It’s a Wonderful Life, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol and While You Were Sleeping), and of course, gathering around the table with my family to savour a three course feast on Christmas Day itself.

Slowing down at Christmas makes all these cosy moments with the people I love most stand out clearer in my memory, like twinkling lights set against the darkest month of the year. Wishing everyone a peaceful and very happy Christmas!

Butter Bean and Vegetable Casserole Recipe

A simple, savoury supper for cold, winter evenings.

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 Clove of Garlic crushed

1 Medium onion diced

1 Small Butternut Squash deseeded, peeled and cut into cm cubes

1 Carrot cut into cm cubes

1 Parsnip cut into cm cubes

4 New Potatoes quartered

1 400g Tin of Butter Beans

1/2 Tsp of Dried Rosemary

1/2 Tsp of Dried Thyme

1 heaped tsp of English Mustard

1 heaped tsp of Marmite



Pour a splash of oil into a medium sized oven-proof pan and heat on a medium heat.

When the oil is warm, add the onions to the pan and cook for about five minutes or until translucent.

Add dry herbs, garlic and cook for about 1 minute, season with salt and pepper.

Add butternut squash, potatoes, parsnip and carrot, cook for about five minutes, until the vegetables are slightly softened at the edges.

Add enough hot water to just cover the vegetables. Heat until water begins to simmer.

Add Marmite and mustard, mix well for one minute until dissolved.

Cover the pan and put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 Degrees Celsius. Stir every 10 to 15 mintues.

Remove the pan from the oven to add the butter beans, mix well, then return the pan to the oven for further 20 minutes. If the sauce is too watery, cook for 5-10 minutes with the lid off.

Serve with oatcakes.

Review of ‘The Gratitude Diaries’ by Janice Kaplan


The Gratitude Diaries starts at a party on New Year’s Eve when Janice Kaplan sets herself a resolution to try being more grateful for a year to see if it can improve her life and outlook.

Janice is a journalist, who has an apartment in Manhattan and a house in the country, happily married with kids, she has a lot to be grateful for, yet like many people she compares herself to others who have it better than her, struggles to look beyond the imperfections and takes what she has for granted.

I found it easy to relate to Janice throughout her gratitude experiment because she’s honest about how she had to retrain herself to be grateful instead of complaining, criticising and focusing on the negatives. Above all, Janice demonstrates that while gratitude, optimism and positivity may come more naturally to some people than others, gratitude is a habit that anyone can cultivate.

Janice also recognises that it’s easy to feel grateful when life is good, but gratitude is not a panacea shielding us from all of life’s disappointments, sorrows and frustrations instead gratitude is a way of steadying ourselves in the storms, setbacks and struggles by adjusting what we focus on.

The Gratitude Diaries is split into four parts, corresponding with the seasons of the year, where she concentrates on different areas of her life, including marriage and family, career, money and health, and shows how gratitude improves each aspect of her life. The book is peppered with quotes from philosophers such as Epicurus and Marcus Aurelius whose wisdom is as relevant today as it was in their own lifetimes, as well as research and interviews from more contemporary sources like the psychologist Martin Seligman and actor Matt Damon.

I really enjoyed this book, it’s full of ideas on how to develop an “attitude of gratitude” and I can see myself re-reading it for inspiration and motivation as I try to live gratefully.