It's the most wonderful time of the year! I just love Christmas and it is my favourite time in Manchester as the city just comes alive - there is so much to do. I thought I would share with you some of our favourite Christmas traditions.
They say that Christmas is for kids but I am an adult and I LOVE Christmas. Everyone is in such a good mood and it's a month that revolves around food, drink, giving gifts and being thankful for everything you have, and religion if you religious. What more could you want? Over the 10 years that we have lived in Manchester we have built up some traditions and it just isn't Christmas without any of these things.
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Christmas in our house starts with putting the tree up and wrapping some presents. This is always done with a glass *bottle* of wine and Elf on in the background. Elf is the best Christmas film and nothing else even comes close. Watching it makes me want to put maple syrup on everything though.
It's not just about the tree though, but we put other little decorations round the house. Sadly we can't put too many up, as the cats are very naughty and will pull everything down. But these hanging decorations are in the kitchen window, away from playful cat paws.
Of course we can't leave the fridge out, and we decorate that too.
Decorating and wrapping presents is of great interest to our cats and within 10 seconds of a bag being emptied, they are in it. Look at their little faces!
The count down to Christmas day starts on December 1st with our advent calendars, but we don't have any old advent calendars. For the past few years, I have made Dave a pretty elaborate advent calendar that I can fill with little treats every day. Sometimes they are chocolate, some days they are things like a scratch card and other times it is just an orange ;) This is this year's advent calendar, which is made out of takeaway boxes.
The first year that I made an elaborate advent calendar for Dave, I made it out of 24 babies socks (it is less creepy than it sounds haha) and I sewed the date on each on. It took forever, but it was worth it.
Whilst I don't have an elaborate advent calendar from Dave, he does give me a small gift every day in December and this mini bottle of gin the other day was one of my favourites. Why have chocolate when you can have gin? Or, have gin and then just eat chocolate too.
The next stage of our Christmas adventures in Manchester involves going to the Christmas market. It opens in mid November, but I think that is a little bit too early. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas, but I also think that if I start celebrating it too early, then I get a bit burnt out. So we don't go to the markets until the beginning of December usually.
As well as a visit to the singing moose, we indulge in some mulled wine, pancakes, free samples of cheese and sit in one of the little bars and listen to some live music. It's not Christmas music, but it's nice to sit outside in winter with a hot drink and live music with the market bustling around you. One of my favourite parts of Christmas.
Whilst we are at the Christmas market, we pick up a new ornament for the tree, and always go for one of these wooden ones. We have been doing this for about 7 years now, so we are getting quite the collection.
This year we have gone with a red and white theme for the tree and a bit of a nature theme as well with the tree circles as well as the birds. I think it is our best tree yet. I remember when I was little, we used to just throw all the decorations on and make such a mess, but now I like to keep things a bit more simple. I am sure that when we have kids our tree will be totally different.
We can't talk about Christmas without talking about Christmas shopping. I am not a massive fan of shopping, so I like to go fairly early in the month, and go early in the morning too. Obviously I can't mention what I have bought Dave for Christmas this year, but I am very pleased with my purchases. We are spending Christmas just the 2 of us this year, so it will be nice to do something a bit different.
Manchester is a unique place. You only have to look at the street performances to see that.
How have we got this far in to the post without showing some food? Christmas is about indulging a little more than you usually would, so early December we go out for a hugely indulgent meal. This isn't something that happens all the time, just once a year (we go out to dinner more than that, but we usually make a healthy choice), so we order whatever we want and don't worry about the calories.
I was contacted by OpenTable recently to see if I would like to try out one of their gift cards. If you haven't heard of them already, OpenTable is a real-time online booking network for fine dining restaurants. You just head to the restaurant, search for a restaurant and you can book a reservation there and then. They now offer gift cards, that make such a good gift and I went and tried one out at Rosylee.
We started off with some cocktails and olives and wasabi peas. Dave can't eat the wasabi peas, as he is allergic to peas, so they were all mine to enjoy. I always forget how hot they are until my nose starts burning.
Now, you know that I love soup (I post a lot of soup recipes on the blog), but I never order it when we go out. So, when I saw mushroom and thyme soup on the menu I knew I was ordering that as a started. I don't know why, but I can never make mushroom soup as well as you can buy it - the texture just never comes out right. This was perfect. I would go as far to say that it is one of the best soups I have ever had. Dave ordered the mussels, as we never have them at home (I am not a fan) and he said they are the best mussels he has had in the UK (they just couldn't beat the ones he had in Paris).
In between courses, we had another cocktail - I said that this was an indulgent meal. I should have also said that this was a Saturday afternoon, so being on our second cocktail by 2pm was a nice change.
One of the things I love about Rosylee is their vegetarian selection. Usually restaurants just have one or maybe 2 vegetarian options, but Rosylee had plenty to choose from. I went with the toad in the hole, as I wanted a nice comforting meal. Sadly, they brought me the meat version, rather than the vegetarian sausage version. As everything is made fresh (which is of course as good thing), I had to wait 30 minutes for a new one to come out.
They were very apologetic and offered to take Dave's back and bring them back out together, but Dave had already started on his, and there was no point us both waiting. So I sat and watching him eat his fish and chips haha.
It was worth the wait though, as when it arrived it was delicious. I was pretty full though, so Dave finished mine off as well. I wanted to save room for dessert.
Now dessert was the real talking point of the meal! We looked at the dessert menu and couldn't decide what to choose, so we went for the sharing plate instead, that had a little portion of everything. That brownie might just be the best thing I have ever tasted. Not just the best dessert, the best thing. I never would have been able to eat a whole brownie piece to myself though, as it was insanely sickly.
Overall, the meal was incredible. The staff were very attentive, the atmosphere was great, the food was delicious and the cocktail menu is one of the most creative in Manchester. We are taking family back there for a meal between Christmas and New Year.
If you are stuck for gift ideas this Christmas, then consider buying someone an OpenTable Gift Card. It is perfectly placed to provide last minute shoppers with an instant gifting service to suit everyone’s tastes: an online gift card that pays for a meal out. Gift givers can choose to give an amount to spend at a named restaurant or can choose to give a set amount for the recipient to spend at a restaurant of their choice from the list of participating restaurants. I think it's the idea gift to give someone that loves food and enjoys eating out. I would be very happy to find this gift in my Christmas stocking.
A Christmas tradition that we started a couple of years ago is the "12 Dates of Christmas". In the run up to the big day, we go on 12 dates and we plan 6 each. They can't be the usual date nights, but something a little different. This year one of the dates I took Dave on was to play crazy gold. Oh, but this isn't just any crazy golf, this is Junkyard Golf.
Basically, the entire indoor course is made out of junk. Things like ironing boards, treadmills, pool tables, kids paddling pools and it is hilarious. It's really difficult as well, as I have never played crazy gold before where the ball can get stuck on an ironing board.
One of the dates that Dave always takes me on is to go ice skating. We haven't been yet this year, so these are the photos from last year, but it is always a lot of fun. It has to be at night time when everything is all lit up. Neither of us are the best skaters in the world, so we use these little penguins to help us round the rink.
As it gets closer to Christmas, we get the Christmas bedding out. I want to make every room in our house as festive as possible.
Christmas isn't all about indulging though. We still like to keep as active as possible and every Sunday we go for a nice long walk. There is something so nice about being out in the cold, all wrapped up warm and getting some fresh air.
So there you have it, our Christmas traditions in Manchester. I am not sure if we will always live in Manchester, but for the time being I am going to make the most of Christmas here. Do you have any Christmas traditions where you live?
Let’s stay in touch!
**This post is sponsored by OpenTable, however all opinions are my own**