Even as the festive period was starting to get into the swing of things I was feeling a little blue, so I decided that high season for Cancale oysters (and other assorted local Brittany shellfish) provided the perfect excuse to take off for a week in the Brittany countryside in the stone barn my parents and I have been converting for the past decade near the coast. We watched lots of films, I read lots of books (my favourites? The Lady and the Poet if you're into late Elizabethan historical romance, and The Edible Atlas if you want to be taken on a rather mouthwatering and informative culinary tour around the world), and of course ate a lot of oysters accompanied by the requisite Christmas fizz. Oh, and I perfected my recipe for a creamy, white wine and mustard spiked mushroom sauce which we spooned over grilled veal chops in the evenings.
1. A bottle of Clairette de Die and local Cancale oysters in front of a Christmas movie on holiday in Brittany. Our favourite afternoon films from the trip? The Imitation Game (so moving) and The Rewrite (yet another Hugh Grant rom-com I did not know I needed!) | 2. Picking out a massive Christmas tree (we went for one bigger than this in the end!) Oh, and the scarf I'm wearing in this picture is basically the warmest, cosiest thing ever (and is not too expensive either). They have loads of different colours, too! | 3. Christmas lights in Canterbury. | 4. Enjoying an early Christmas present from my parents: a Brittany Blue lobster, langoustine and Cancale oyster Fruits de Mer platter in Cancale. | 5. Canterbury Cathedral at Christmas. | 6. Walking through Combourg's Monday market on the way to lunch: December is all about so many different types of cabbage (some as big as my head!), squashes, and enough leeks to feed an army.
- If you have an open fire, you should be lighting it with your festive citrus peelings.
- This is the (fantastic) history of why we have candy canes at Christmas. Also, you know those pickle flavoured candy canes that went viral? It turns out they don't actually taste of pickle.
- For their office Christmas party, the Camille Styles team went away to a country cabin in rural Texas and decorated it top to bottom for the holidays.
- Still on the festive front, Anne-Sophie has a great guide to Christmassy things to do in London.
- More from London at Christmas: Carrie has taken some magical photos in Leadenhall Market (aka Diagon Alley) which is one of my favourite hidden spots this season in the City.
- Carrie also has a pretty, metallic, festive free wallpaper download for your digital devices.
- In Hunter Valley (Australia) there is a hotel where everything is blue and white.
- Food 52 has a great guide to lighting a wood fire in a fireplace, and keeping it going. As someone who lives in a house that has several of them, I'm telling you it is a serious life skill!
- Charles Dickens created his own recipe for festive punch and it sounds epic.
- If you want to make your own Christmas gifts (or you've run out of time to buy anything), you can't go wrong with Teighan's Homemade Hot Toddy Kit.
- Here are 20 new cookbooks you need to buy for the adventurous cooks in your life who really like to get to know an exciting new cuisine or spend months perfecting a technique.
- Part 1 of Julia's trip to Iceland is one of the best travel posts I've read in ages (part 2 & part 3) (and it does not hurt that Iceland is the one place I've been to in the past few years I really want to explore more!) You can find my Iceland posts here, and my Blue Lagoon post here.
7. Christmas wreaths for sale outside the florists. | 8. Brittany leek, scallop and cream galettes for lunch in Combourg. | 9. Picking up some oysters to take home from the Cancale oyster market. | 10. Taking part in my December 1st ritual of switching out my bathtub candle for The White Company's 'Winter' candle. | 11. Brussels Sprouts for sale outside the greengrocers on Deal High Street. Love them or loathe them (I only like them when they are cooked like this), it is not Christmas without them! | 12. Some of my favourite Christmas lights in London at the Rosewood Hotel.
- I've bookmarked Ed's list of where to eat in Covent Garden, because it is full of absolute gems that I can't believe I still have not eaten at.
- Speaking of recommendations, I've heard that food in Venice can either be very touristy or bloody fantastic. I always trust Emiko on Italian food, so here is her city guide.
- Shallow frying in hot oil does not scare me one bit, but I know it makes some people feel nervous, so here is Food 52's great do's and don'ts guide to get you started.
- Tess asks if our coconut oil obsession is bad for the environment, and offers a few good suggestions as to how to cut down on the impact of your coconut habit.
- This is what the cast of Love Actually are doing now (for me, the real shocker is that Kiera Knightly was only 18 when she filmed it!)
- The original latke is not made from potatoes. My mind is blown.
- This is the best way to make homemade pomegranate juice.
- Here are Refinery 29's food product trend predictions for 2017. I'm excited.
- If you're new to freezing cookies like I am, this guide on what to avoid is a helpful primer.
- Kristabel's post on her favourite iPhone apps is full of some absolute gems.
- The story behind one pan pasta, from the woman who brought the recipe back from Italy and made it for Martha Stewart (you can find my personal variation on the recipe here!)
- If you're in Brisbane, this looks like the gallery to hit up.
- To bookmark for next year: if you're a blogger who monetises their site, Shopstyle have broken down all the behavioural data for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
What have you been enjoying this week, and what have you got planned for the weekend? I'm off to celebrate my first Pakistani wedding party, and for our traditional family pre-Christmas pub lunch (as well as a Christmas curry with my work colleagues) over the next few days! For more like this, be sure to sign up to my monthly newsletter, which goes out on the first Sunday of every month and is packed full of seasonal eats, delicious recipes, and other updates.