Life has been incredibly busy in the lead-up to Christmas around here. It's also been a stormy few days where the Scottish West Coast is living up to its winter reputation. Sometimes, in amongst the madness of the festive season, the colder and darker days, the mountain of things to do and the pressure to make things perfect, we can forget to take the time to stop and simply enjoy the feeling that is Christmas. It's the season of joy so let's have some fun!

To help get you in the mood for all things festive, we're bringing you beautiful interiors, delicious and easy recipes, as well as a few Christmas traditions that will make you feel all warm and bright.

GET INSPIRED WITH BEAUTIFUL FESTIVE DECORS

Be warned: the images you are about to see are completely dreamy. We wouldn't share them otherwise. But they all have something in common: a sense of the timelessness of Christmas, of the wee things that bring joy to your festive home decor and the feeling that's not just about making it all "wow", but simply having fun with it all and going with your heart.

Let's kick off our Christmas inspiration tour with this gorgeous tree in the home of Rebecca Checkley-Mills, aka @homebytheloch. Rebecca's Scottish steading is completely timeless and classic but also the definition of home. We love her use of paper decorations on the tree and around the house, easy to make, re-use and recycle. She also uses beautiful natural foliage and wreaths which can be a simple and cost-effective way to bring the feeling (and fresh smells) of Christmas into your home. Click on the image to explore @homebytheloch's account and enjoy some festive style from the Scottish countryside. This sheepskin square pouffe from our range fits just right in that space.

Our winter wonderland tour continues in the beautiful home of @sophieshomeofgreyandchrome. We love the juxtaposition of a very contemporary decor with traditional timeless festive touches (and a sheepskin rug of course!). Proof that there's no need to stick to one style to achieve a beautiful look. Plus that nutcracker!!

And finally, our tour heads for the gorgeous Suffolk cottage home of Sophie Harvey @stoneandsagecurated. We love Sophie's approach to sustainability, using recycled, reworked, vintage and other finds to transform her home into something truly special.

Beyond her ability to find beautiful things and put them together delightfully, we love Sophie's approach to not making Christmas a rat race: "during the festive season, the temptation to compare with others may arise. Yet, always bear in mind, 'I am wealthy in the things that truly count': a roof overhead, warmth from the fire and a family to fill a home 'Gratitude, undeniably, is the greatest gift of all'". Now that's a way of thinking we can get on board with!

Check out Sophie's account @stoneandsagecurated and the magazine she edits Preloved, for lots of ideas on living a more sustainable lifestyle.

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CHRISTMAS YOU CAN TASTE

Christmas is strongly associated with foods, our favourite traditions and treats. And not just the Christmas dinner must-haves. In the run-up to the big day, we love a little baking time at home so we have pulled a couple of favourite recipes from our cookbooks to share with you. They won't break the budget or demand high-level baking skills, but they will make your house feel and smell like Christmas. They taste pretty festive too!

GINGER LOAF

Christmas is a scent, a taste, a memory. We found all three combined in this gorgeous ginger loaf, so easy to make and it tastes so good! Plus it lasts really well so will make a great last minute homemade gift for someone. If you have a sweet tooth, a little fondant icing or buttercream on top and that's the ultimate treat!

RECIPE INGREDIENTS

  • 125g of softened butter
  • 125g of muscovado sugar
  • 200g of golden syrup
  • 225g of plain flour
  • 4 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of bicarb of soda
  • 150g of milk
  • 1 egg

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METHOD

Mix all of the ingredients until combined.  Cook in a medium oven (160 degrees Celsius) for about 40 minutes.  Take out when the loaf is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. 

 

SNICKERDOODLE COOKIES

This gorgeous recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery.  If you don't know them, look them up online.  Their cookbooks are simply wonderful. 

These cookies are a favourite for some of us and they are all about the taste of Christmas.  Easy to make, you can encourage your kids to help shape the cookie balls and roll them into the cinnamon and sugar at the end. It's good fun! The cookies make very pretty and yummy gifts as well. Enjoy!! 

All recipe credits to the Hummingbird Bakery (find them online https://www.hummingbirdbakery.com/

 

INGREDIENTS

Makes 14-18 cookies

FOR THE DOUGH:

  • 60g (2oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 160g (5 ½ oz) caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 large egg
  • 240g (8 ½ oz) plain flour
  • ¾ tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

FOR THE COATING:

  • 1 ½ tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

METHOD

  1. Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  2. Sift together the remaining ingredients and add these to the creamed mixture in two or three batches. Mix well using the mixer or by hand until the dough forms a smooth ball. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with cling film and place in the fridge to chill and rest for approximately 40 minutes.
  3. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3, and line two to three baking sheets with baking parchment.
  4. Next mix together the caster sugar and ground cinnamon for the coating in a small bowl. 5. Once the dough is ready, break off small, walnut-sized pieces of the dough and roll these in the cinnamon sugar, making sure each ball is completely coated. Place the dough balls on to the prepared baking sheets, allowing five or six cookies per sheet and arranging them 4-5cm (1½ -2in) apart to give them space to spread during cooking.
  5. Pop in the oven and bake for 10-13 minutes or until the cookies are a light golden colour. Allow to cool and set on the sheets for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS TO MAKE YOU FEEL WARM INSIDE

Building your very own gingerbread house

It's food again but it's so much fun. I don't know about you but it's tricky to eat a very pretty gingerbread house. However, when your attempts at house making with biscuits fail, there is no harm in taste testing the building materials.

Mostly gingerbread houses are an opportunity to have fun and let your imagination (and inner child for some of us) loose, and have fun with the whole family. Choose your favourite sweets, go wild with the plans, add flavouring to our gingerbread biscuit. It doesn't matter if the finished product is not Great British Bake Off worthy, it's the fun making it that counts. The BBC's Good Food recipe for gingerbread is pretty full proof, highly recommended.

Christmas scents

Whether you are a fan of scented candles or prefer the natural scents of Christmas, the season has a specific and really addictive smell. We think cinnamon, cloves and oranges encapsulate it. To recreate this in your house, pop these three ingredients in a pot of water (or wine with rum and sugar should you be so inclined) and simmer until the scents are released. Keep the water topped up so your home can carry on smelling of dreamy Christmas nights.

If you'd rather stick to scented candles, try one of our favourites: the Isle of Skye Candle Spruce & Fir Tumbler. You can find it on our Skye gift bundles and it smells wonderfully fresh and wintery. Perfect! Another great candle maker St Eval produce gorgeous candles scented with winter thyme. Simply wonderful!

The best Christmas movie of all times?

Christmas movie watching is an absolute must! Pick your favourite, sit down on your favourite sheepskin with a mug of something hot and sweet (flavoured to your liking) with a tin of cookies to hand, and just relax for a couple of hours. Best way to get into the Christmas mood EVER! Pssst, the author of this blog has to admit her favourite Christmas movie is.... The Muppet Christmas Carol. It's funny, sweet and completely lovely. Plus Michael Caine singing with rodents, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy: what else could you wish for this Christmas? And we're not the only ones who think this is the perfect Christmas movie.

Go on: pick your favourite things to do, create your own ambience but, most of all, take things at your own pace and have a lovely, merry and very cosy Christmas time!