Monthly Chat: December 2015

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What I did

I am thoroughly desolate that Christmas is over folks. My husband actually had to wait until I was out of the house to take down the decorations because he wasn’t sure that I would let him do it. I had such a great month though and if, like me, you’re ever feeling the post-Christmas blues, just stick on the Harper Impulse All I Want For Christmas video, watch me (and brave others) making a festive twat of myself and feel better.

Immediate festivity, the first weekend of December I traveled back to the alma mater, my old university, Royal Holloway, for a Christmas craft fayre. It was great to be back enjoying old haunts with old friends (even if the fayre was a bit useless). It was also excellent timing, as on December 5th my debut novel The Best Thing I Never Had turned two years old. Check out my birthday message from the windswept Founders’ balustrade here!

And then the Christmas parties started in earnest. I had one for work, where I basically ate ALL THE CALAMARI, drank wine and was elected “Best Eyeliner in the Firm” (I try). Then it was time for my book club’s Christmas drinks (gourmet pizza and a bevvie for £9? Get in). Midway through the month it was finally time – Fake Christmas! – a tradition started years ago when I was still at university, and my friends and I were sad that we never got to spend Christmas Day officially together as a household. Now my husband and I host a delicious festive feast for a handful of close friends, after which we all drink too much and play games until we fall asleep in front of a film – basically just Christmas Day, yeah?

This year’s Fake Christmas was hijacked by the incredibly creepy bunny doll that I’d won in a tombola run by my neighbours’ children the week before. See picture; when you’re drunk it’s even creepier – trust me. It offended one friend so much she smashed its face in trying to get it away from her, so Bunny had to spend the rest of the night sat eerily on the patio, face crumbling, staring in at us through the french doors. When I woke up the next morning some joker had brought it in and put it outside my bedroom door and I almost fell down the stairs in fright. A Merry Fake Christmas was had by one and all (just not Bunny).

Another week, another work Christmas party, this time at a posh new restaurant that served posh small portions (most of us hit KFC at some point later in the evening). Excellent evening, but cue a white-wine hangover (will I never learn?) that had me in the full belief at 11am in the office the next day that I was not going to make it to 5 o’clock. As it was I made it – and then that was it – I was off for Christmas!

The first thing I did with my extended break was…. have a driving lesson. My first for twelve years! Despite the fact I had unknowingly scheduled it for the exact time all the nurseries and primary schools in my neighbourhood were finishing for Christmas you’ll be happy to hear that I did not knock over and/or otherwise menace any small children. Here’s hoping I’ll get to take (and pass!) my driving test soon in 2016.

Cue a few days of absolute decadence for my husband and I. Christmas films with the duvet on the sofa. Award-winning hot chocolate and truffles in a local chocolatier. Even a spa day (part of our Christmas present to one another) where my terrifically manly husband had to face (no pun intended) the apparently very feminine concept of a facial as part of the package; I think he’s now a convert (I’d better watch him with my face masks).

One final practice for Christmas, my father and sisters came to stay for an evening so we could all exchange presents and have a meal together (I made a sausage casserole… I was a bit sick of roasts at this point!). My husband, two sisters and I were up until 3.30am eating junk food and playing board games and Charades. My middle sister’s attempt at miming Sleepless in Seattle still has me crying with laughter when I think about it.

On Christmas Eve my husband and I went to a local gastropub for lunch, the same place we’ve gone to every year since we moved out of London, so I think it’s a firm family tradition now! We then drove to Buckinghamshire, where I grew up, to meet up with some of my loveliest, oldest friends. We sat taking up the largest table in a heavingly busy pub, nursing coffees and shared platters while we chatted and caught up for hours. We found an abandoned Christingle (remember those, anyone who went to a CofE primary school??) and lit it (after my friend had eaten all the raisins and Dolly Mixtures off the cocktail sticks) and it really felt like Christmas had arrived

The main event was just my husband and I at home – it was the first Christmas in our first proper house, after all. It was incredibly relaxing – aside from the fact that one of my presents was a 1,000 piece jigsaw of the London Underground map, and husband and I decided it would be a lark if we tried to put it all together from memory, i.e. not referring to the picture on the box. I’m not going to lie, that was a very large portion of the day – it is as yet unfinished! – and I was stressed to the max to have to leave it so on Boxing Day morning when we headed down south to spend a few days with my husband’s family – more good food, more board games!

Very painfully, I was back at work the three days between Christmas and New Year (although the office was stuffed with chocolates, cakes and biscuits – more food!!) but Christmas wasn’t over yet! Another December tradition, the New Year’s Eve party – and despite the kitchen having been wiped down at least five times, it’s still sticky from all the champagne popped!

And so goodbye to 2015 – hello 2016! So much to look forward to – holidays to Latvia and Norway in February, a few friends are getting married, LOTS of lovely babies of lovely people being born, my father and my mother-in-law both turn 60, and much, much more – including (fingers crossed) new releases, plural(!) from yours truly…

HAPPY NEW YEEEEEEAR!! xx

 

What I read

The Poison in the Blood, Tom Holland (☆☆☆)
The Half-Truth, Sue Fortin (☆☆☆☆)
New Year At The Ritz, Nikki Moore (☆☆☆☆☆)
A Walk In The Woods, Bill Bryson (☆☆☆☆)
In The Blood, Steve Robinson (☆☆☆☆)
To The Grave, Steve Robinson (☆☆☆☆)
Magonia, Maria Dahvana Headley (☆☆☆☆)
The Snow Globe, Kristin Harmel (☆☆☆)
I Will Marry George Clooney (By Christmas), Tracy Bloom (☆☆☆)
The Boy Under The Mistletoe, Katey Lovell (☆☆☆☆☆)

 

What I wrote

A perennial Christmas favourite, I uploaded the Christmas short story from the The Best Thing I Never Had universe “The Eggnog” to the blog (you can find this and four other Best Thing short stories in the free e-book The Making of Us).

And if you’d learn how to make Leigha’s famous eggnog (better than she herself), click here, where I shared the recipes for my top ten festive cocktails as part of Harper Impulse’s ABCs of Christmas blog series.

Also as part of the ABCs of Christmas you could get your proposal story into my new novel (as well as all 19 Harper Impulse Christmas books in paperback, quite a prize)! The competition closed on Boxing Day, but you can still check out the post – complete with my own personal proposal story – here.

Sticking with the Christmas theme, naturally, I also shared my top ten “unusual” Christmas films with lovely author Teresa F. Morgan and chatted with super blogger Ana of This Chick Reads about what I really wanted for Christmas (and also gave away a paperback of The Best Thing I Never Had).

Finally, my annual book review posts, some of the most popular things I write! The End of Year Book Survey saw me answering some questions about some of the 146 books I read in 2015, and my Best Reads of 2015 conveyed exactly that (at length!). You should definitely take a look at these two posts if you’re looking for a new read (or check out past years dating back to 2011!).

 

What I listened to

Top *10* tracks on my Spotify this month – bumper “Pop Christmas” Edition!

  • Britney Spears, My Only Wish (This Year)
  • Kelly Clarkson, Underneath The Tree
  • Aly & AJ, We Three Kings
  • Relient K, 12 Days of Christmas
  • Jillian Edwards, All My Christmases
  • Steel Panther, The Stocking Song
  • Kids in Glass Houses, Secret Santa
  • Idina Menzel, Do You Hear What I Hear?
  • The Vamps, Jingle Bell Rock
  • Sister Hazel, Oh Holy Night
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