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Christmas after-glow

It's been a bit of an extended festive break (mainly due to it not being a break but full of work, but hey-ho, spring holidays beckon...). 

But we're back - with a round-up of some of my Christmas homes-y highlights for starters, and lots more exciting stuff in the pipeline.

I'd love to hear (and see) everyone else's festive highlights too –whether a great recipe, beautifully set table, moment of tree brilliance, inspired gifts, pretty wrapping... Why not get in touch via Facebook? In the meantime, here are some of mine:

Yummy five-spice beetroot/vodka soup I adapted a couple of recipes to come up with my best ever beetroot based soup. In a nutshell - garlic, lots of ginger, some red chilli - dried or fresh, and Chinese five-spice, fried gently with an onion; raw, chopped and peeled beetroot and potatoes and a carrot or two if you have some (about a 3/2 ratio for the first two respectively) chucked in the pan for a few minutes; add some vegetable stock, boil then simmer until the veg is cooked. Season and blitz. Squeeze in some lemon juice before serving in bowls over a small shot of vodka. I swirled yoghurt on top, sprinkled with fresh coriander, and made garlic pitta bread strips for dipping. So, so good.

Bargain candles The tacky, panic-bought cinnamon-scented candles from the pound shop actually smelled rather delicious. Just goes to show it's sometimes worth a punt. But a safer bet is this Celery & Herb tin, £8.65, which created a surprisingly sophisticated, unsweet scent (the antidote to the cinnamon ones). The St Eval candle also comes in other lovely non-sickly flavours - such as Bay & Rosemary, Thyme & Mint and Bergamot & Nettle.

My new sofa The pre-Christmas sale at DFS was GREAT (and that's a place I never imagined I'd shop having only ever seen scary looking leather contraptions that move or seem to be designed with aesthetics as the last consideration in their adverts). Having only ever had second-hand and not very comfortable lounging options, this has been a revelation - and was perfect for the festive flu and Poirot marathon I had just after Christmas. Yes, I was shamelessly seduced by the idea of paying a around a tenner a month for pretty much the rest of my life to get my hands on the beautiful, rather Fifties-ish corner sofa you can see my father modelling (left) on Christmas day as he opened his presents from Action Posters. The Candice corner sofa is still available, though (sorry!) the price has gone up again, quite a lot (it's now £1558). But their interest-free credit is quite something - and the next sale is surely just around the corner.

New bowls LOVE these small wooden bowls (left) I found in a charity shop last Autumn for about £2 each. They remind me of the comforting wooden plates my parents had when I was little and I finally got them out at Christmas (to serve the beetroot soup in). I have hunted around and can't find anything quite the same (unless it's really expensive) but I did find these gorgeous mango wood bowls (above) with colourful exteriors (£13 each) from OurWorkshop (a brilliant, brilliant online store where the stylish wares are lovingly handmade).

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