Fear of Failure or Fear of Success?

Fear of Failure or Fear of Success?

Most people will think that a fear of failure would stop them from starting something out of their comfort zone. If you don’t start something you can’t fail, so surely it’s far easier not to start.

failure written on a piece of paper on the table, success on another piece of paper being picked up

I beg to differ.

While fear of failure can prevent you from starting, far more powerful is your fear of success.

Let’s explore this a little more:

It’s personal

Do you believe that you deserve to succeed in whatever you set your mind to?

When you consider something that you really would like to do, can you imagine doing well at it? If you do imagine doing well, what emotions does that stir up for you?

Were you always told to be modest and humble, not to brag? Do you need to hide your potential success, so don’t try and achieve as much as you might be capable of?

Does success mean being busy, working all the time, and having no time to play? If you keep it safe and smaller, although you are bored or unfulfilled some of the time, is it better than being too busy?

Your relationships

Might you upset someone with a level of success? Will your success make you different in the eyes of friends, family, or partners? Do you believe some of your network would not like you if you gained a level of success?

Are you always the supporter in your relationships? What if that changed with you as the achiever, the most successful, the breadwinner? 

If you were super-successful, what support would you need?

Where might success lead for you? Does it mean you might leave some behind, or be faced with life-changing decisions?

Money Blocks

Pink piggy bank

Success may or may not have anything to do with money.

What is your relationship like with money?  

Is there a level of money that would make you uncomfortable?

Do you believe you deserve to have money?

You need Denise Duffield Thomas – she is an Entrepreneur that focuses on our relationships with money. 

I always recommend her book ‘Get Rich, Lucky Bitch’ to everyone on my business start-up course. She advocates that we all have money blocks. Emotions buried deep in our belief system stop us from reaching our next level of success. We need to identify and clear the blocks to move on.

Dare to Dream

What does success look like for you?

Dare to dream as big as you can. Forget all those labels, responsibilities, and worries, and take some time to identify what would be a wonderful achievement for you.

You might want to become super fit and healthy, eat differently

Write a book

Start a new business

Take on a role or job that you never dreamed possible

Learn a new hobby, instrument, sport, skill

Plant trees, take up volunteering, save the planet (we need you)

Make a plan!

If you fail you’ve learned. 

You may never reach your potential if you are too scared of being super-successful. It doesn’t have to be some huge grand scheme, it’s whatever success looks like for you. 

Why not come and tell us all about it – let’s make it real!

How to beat the January Blues

How to beat the January Blues

It’s cold, damp, and still quite dark. The twinkly lights are down, and if you are anything like us, Christmas was a bit of a write-off thanks to Covid.

Who could blame anyone suffering a bit of January blues right now?

Camping Du Lac, Entreveux, France.  Lake with mountains in the distance and kayaks on the shore

My top tip for making this month bearable – start planning your holiday(s).

How to beat the January blues – get excited about the trips you might be taking in 2022!

Who will be going?

Is it a family trip? Are you tied to the school holidays? Are you going with friends?  

What sort of holiday will suit all the people as much as possible?

Swimming pool

It’s easy to get rather rose-tinted spectacles when imagining your lovely family holiday. What’s the reality? 

Some of us don’t get on well with the heat, while others in the family don’t consider it a proper holiday without some serious sunshine. If f we are on a hot holiday I ensure there are easy swimming options. Ideal for those that overheat.

Action-packed adventures or roasting on a spit reading the latest rom-com? There’s bound to be a bit of everything required.  

It can be quite a responsibility to choose a holiday to suit all that are going.  

What’s the budget?

Many of us may sit down at the beginning of the year and wonder if a holiday will be possible financially. They can be a huge investment.

Our philosophy has always been to make a holiday possible, even if we have to compromise on other things. 

Shepherds hut at Pateley Bridge

We love our holidays so much we decided that fewer meals out or cooking on a budget are well worth doing to achieve a trip away.

We love a bit of camping or glamping – here’s why.

For some, without a bit of luxury, you may prefer to stay at home. Staying at home doesn’t do it for me, especially when I’m trying to beat the January blues. If a full-blown holiday is not possible, maybe that a mini-break will be more suitable instead.

Where would you like to go?

OK, right now it may be a little difficult to pick any place and know with confidence that you can get there.

Let’s hope we can travel more freely soon.

Make a list of the destination(s) you would most like to go to for your holiday and get planning. Look up hotels, villas, or campsites. What are the local tourist attractions, what do the restaurants, cafes, and bars look like? This all helps in the getting excited stakes.

Do you need a backup plan?

The past two years have taught us that the best-laid plans don’t always come to fruition. Can you create a backup plan?

Highland Cow on the Isle of Mull
Isle of Mull

Would a holiday in the UK work for you?  

Make a list of all the places that you haven’t yet visited in the UK that you would like to explore some more. Isle of Mull anyone?  

If like us you have a dog, a UK cottage, or a camping break could be just the thing to get excited about and you know you are more likely to be able to go!

campsite in the mountains with sun setting
Austria

European Adventures

For years I planned our extensive camping trips all over Europe during the month of January. There will be more to come I’m sure, even if it sadly won’t be as easy as it used to be.

This involved choosing the campsites we wanted to visit in various destinations. I then worked out a route, with hotel stops, or mini-camps en-route.  

It’s taken years of making mistakes to know what works best for us. Like not doing big transfers on a Friday or Saturday. Knowing how long we can spend in the car on a big trip, and how many stopovers will be required.  

For hotels, I usually use booking.com as I want the flexibility of being able to cancel if necessary. 

For camping, it’s Cool Camping all the way.

Eventually, everything would go onto an extensive itinerary which I would present to our friends (that we usually go camping with) and we all start to get excited.

The point of this is that there are not only different countries to get excited about visiting. There are the campsites, our epic journeys and quirky hotel stops along the way too!

Adding in some extras

It might be a weekend away with the girls or boys.

Bathtub on balcony.  Treehouse in the woods

A treehouse stay in the woods with the dog.

An overnight stop in a City.

Any trip away can count in the beating the January blues campaign – come and tell us where you are planning to visit in 2022. Safe and happy travels to you.

What’s the plan, Stan?

What’s the plan, Stan?

I’m not a great fan of New Year resolutions. They tend to be a bit flash in the pan. However, now is a great time of year to reflect and work out something more meaningful and relevant for the following months and beyond.

Let’s hope there are not too many more weeks of restrictions and compromise to come. At the time of writing this, it seems that we have a bit to go yet. 

This is the moment between Christmas and New Year. Usually the calm between two busy periods. For us, Christmas had to be cancelled, so it’s been exceptionally quiet for a time. The perfect opportunity to work on what’s the plan, Stan!

Dawn Fry

Why make a plan?

You may feel the need to make some changes in your life, these are more achievable if you think about what needs to be different and attempt to tackle them at some agreed point.

Perhaps, pandemic permitting, you would simply like to travel or see friends and family further afield. While these last two years have taught us that plans can’t be set in stone, it’s great to think about how & when you might do such things and plot them in the diary.

What do you want?

We are so often on the treadmill of doing stuff, getting through each day, and not thinking much beyond the daily grind. There’s nothing wrong with that but now and again it’s good to check in and make sure we are doing some of the good stuff too.

So rarely do most of us sit down with a pen and paper and work out what matters to us most. 

Let’s break it down

Take a moment to think about each of the following areas of your life.

Work

Home
Family
Friends
Health
Fitness
Leisure/fun

Describe the absolute best-case scenario for each of those categories.

What does work look like if you are doing the dream job for example? Perhaps you have always dreamed of being your own boss? Is it time to explore making this a reality, you might consider turning a hobby into something more serious?

Here are some of the reasons I chose to work with chocolate!

Now go over each area again and describe where you are now. Be honest with yourself, it’s your life, and time is ticking on.

Mind the gap

What/where are the gaps from the dream scenario to what you are actually doing now.

Do you need to focus more on your health and fitness to achieve some of your dreams?

Is it time to factor in more fun as you have not had time/energy to focus on this area of your life and you feel a little stale/bored?

Maybe you feel lacking in confidence and need to work on this first?

Identifying what’s holding you back, or feeling a little fearful is important. You are giving it air time and yourself the opportunity to work through issues.

Once you have identified the gaps – this will form the basis of your plan.

Write up the headlines and put some dates against when you wish to achieve them. It does not have to be done overnight. Some things will be longer-term.

What is most exciting on that list to you?

Do something towards that first.

Come back to your list throughout the year, or at agreed intervals (every quarter, six months, annually) and rinse and repeat.

You can change a plan – nothing is set in stone.

Come and tell us your plan Stan and inspire us all over on Facebook.

Do you have the KIT for business?

Do you have the KIT for business?

There have been some perfect examples of where the right KIT has resulted in sales this week.

In one case without the KIT a sale would have fallen through.

Do you have this in your business?

Dawn Fry

What’s KIT? 

KIT is simply ‘Keeping In Touch’ – do this properly and it will help your business no end. Let’s explore if you have the KIT for business

Firstly, I want to tell you a little story…….

How my KIT resulted in extra sales

A customer had been in touch regarding purchasing a gift voucher. They had lots of specific questions, which I answered but it had gone quiet. 

After a few days, I sent another email, asking if I had answered all the questions they had and could I help any further. For some reason, the original email had ended up in the junk folder and had not been read. 

From the customer’s perspective, it looked like I had not bothered. A follow-up and the customer was completely apologetic about not seeing my original response. The result – gift voucher purchased. Very gratefully received and all because I bothered to go back and check-in.

KIT for business

There are a few simple things you can do to keep in touch with your customers, build good relationships, and hopefully help to boost sales.

Rapid Response

If someone sends you an enquiry, get back to them as quickly as possible. When you are in the mood to buy something, you want to achieve your goal. 

Go back to a customer quickly while they are in buying mode. Leave it too long and they may have gone to someone else or changed their mind.

The number of times I hear ‘thanks for coming back to me so quickly’ backed up by the booking – it’s worth a rapid response.

Keep it Simple

How easy it is for someone to get in touch with you? Is it obvious and simple for someone to hit a button, drop you a line, DM, email or call whether it’s your website or social media?  

Sometimes we overlook the absolute obvious. Check your customer’s journey and ensure they can easily make contact if they wish to enquire or buy from you.

Make a Note

Who has been in touch, and have they bought from you yet? If not, have you gone back to them to help further? Can you send them something relevant and useful that will help build your reputation with them and encourage them to purchase in the future?

Whether you keep a database, have a sophisticated system, or simply put a note in your diary – keep a note to touch base.  

Newsletter

A great way to keep in touch is to drop existing and potential customers a line with all your news, or relevant information that they would find interesting. A newsletter is a fab way to do this.  

Be mindful of data protection and do things properly. If you subscribe to a proper newsletter service, there will be an opt-in and unsubscribe service in-built. There are some free services for this too, such as Mailchimp. Act professionally and respectively at all times, but do tell people about what you do regularly. It’s not their business to remember, it’s your business to remind.

NO often means not now, it’s not the right time. Keep in touch and you will be around when the time is YES.

KIT Opportunities

What other opportunities are there in your business to keep in touch?

Mum’s book children’s parties with me. I offer pre-printed invitations, which I send to mum on booking. That ensures that all the mums/dads or carers of the attendees have my details. When their little one comes home full of chocolate and asks if they can have a chocolate party – it’s easy to get in touch and book.

Recipe cards are another keep in touch tool I give out at my adult parties.

If you wish to up the ante a little, here’s how you can work in some WOW.

Daily Disciplines

It takes effort and energy to run your business, and you need to set yourself some daily disciplines to ensure you make keeping in touch a priority.

Explain to your potential customers when you are around, and when you might be taking a moment for family, leisure, or pleasure.  

It’s your rules and you can run your business how you wish, as long as you communicate clearly and act exactly how you say you will.

What would you add to the KIT – do come and share any extra tips with us over on my Facebook page.

If this has made you want to run your own business, here are some potential ideas for you. You might even consider working with chocolate!

What I’ve learnt from running events

What I’ve learnt from running events

Whether you run your own business or not, you will come up against running an ‘event’ at some point. The Christmas lunch, a party, or something work-related – you can’t escape!

A group of people at a hen party

I’ve been running chocolate workshops for over 12 years, and I love working with chocolate and people. 

A workshop, dinner party, or having a table-full at Christmas, the same principles apply to whatever event you might be planning.

Here’s what I’ve learnt from running events

Who’s it for

Who’s your audience?  

My events span primary and secondary schools to team building – so the audience is very diverse. 

Put yourself in the shoes of the attendees. What will make it interesting and relevant for them? If you are working with small children, there can be no gaps (have some colouring up your sleeve to keep them occupied for example).

Here are some specific tips on running successful school events.

What are the expected outcomes?

If you are being hired to deliver an event, this may be easier to achieve. Ask! It’s best to request a phone call or a face-to-face meeting if possible as you can drill down into expectations and ask specific questions. This allows you to manage expectations too.

Even if it’s a family gathering, take a moment to reflect on the guests and what would be suitable for all, bearing in mind there could be different ages and abilities.

How can you achieve expected outcomes?

Have an open mind. Sometimes a request can seem almost impossible. 

I can't written on a piece of paper.  Someone is cutting off the 't so it reads I can

Hold that thought for a while and think to yourself I would like a solution to this. See what comes up.

Trust yourself and your previous experiences, don’t be afraid to put your own stamp on something.

Think about yourself and your needs too. Don’t promise something that is at such a high cost to you it will go wrong, cause you too much stress or make you feel resentful.

What’s plan B?

This is not always possible but having a backup plan is a great strategy. It might just be for elements of the event, where you think there could be stumbling blocks. If a crisis happens on the day, you will find a way through. As long as no one is in actual danger, own up, explain, agree to move on – whatever it takes to get things back on track.

Run it through

This is the best way to ensure your event is a success. Imagine the moment the first person arrives, to the moment the last person leaves, what will be happening and when. Then go through exactly what will be required for each element of their time with you. 

Make a list as you go.

Prep within an inch of your life

Someone laying the table

Once you’ve run it through you will know what needs to be prepped beforehand. Do as much as possible. You can’t be too prepared as once your event is underway your attention is required, and time disappears.

Know your limits. Think about what others can bring to the party if you need to have someone on hand to help. Play to your strengths.  

Act like a pro 

This is not meant to be confusing – you need to be authentic and yourself, but you do need to be the best version of yourself you can be. This does take some energy and it may not feel totally comfortable at first.

Sometimes you have to fake it a little until you make it. This is not being dishonest or inauthentic, it’s acting a little more confident than you feel. It’s about NOT over-sharing how nervous you are or all the things you are worried about that might go wrong. Act like it’s all fine, and if it doesn’t feel fine just yet, keep the faith that it will.

It’s your event, you are responsible for creating some atmosphere, be engaging and interesting, and put lots of energy into making it a success. You can only do so much though, and sometimes your best is not good enough for everyone. We don’t always know their story and will need to chalk it up to experience.

Gain valuable feedback

Find out how your event was received. A corporate-style event makes this a little easier as you can supply feedback forms. 

Talk to people, make a call, go over elements of the event with them, especially if you felt it could have gone better at certain points. Listen. 

You will pick up little nuggets at the event itself if you are open to hearing how people are experiencing their time with you.  

Review and improve

Go over the event in fine detail. Think about those things that worked well, do more of them. For the things that didn’t work quite as well, or you gained insight from feedback, tweak. Keep honing as we can always improve.

squares of white and dark chocolate in a pile

Seriously, if you really want to know what I’ve learnt from running events, add chocolate! You don’t have to be a chocolatier, you could just throw in a tasting for fun, everyone will love it.

Every event is hard work as it will take effort and energy to make it work well. Hosting a great event is such a buzz, one that you will learn and grow from too.

Be confident in your event and others will follow suit. Enjoy and don’t forget to come and tell us all about it.

Top of the Christmas Chocs

Top of the Christmas Chocs

I previously shared my ‘top of the chocs’ – five favourite chocolate recipes you can make at home.

It’s time for a festive update and a focus on lovely chocolate creations ideal for Christmas.

Here are my five top of the Christmas Chocs:

Christmas cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles topped with holly

Chocolate Christmas Cake 

Maybe you are not a fan of the rich fruity traditional Christmas cake and you’d like an alternative? 

This is an Italian version – full of nuts and chocolate. I found it in my Delia Christmas cookbook, but she credits the wonderful Anna del Conte for its origin). Chocolate and nuts, what’s not to love about this Christmas cake!  

It will keep for two weeks and can be frozen. No weeks of feeding beforehand.

Yule Log

Chocolate yule log

No Christmas would be complete without a chocolate log or Bûche de Noël.

I’ve shared a Mary Berry recipe here with thanks to BBC Good Food. The only amendment I would make is to use a higher cocoa content chocolate in the ganache. Mary is fond of using Bournville or similar, but I prefer more chocolate kick for my bark! 

There are some good shop-bought options available. Here’s a list of the best shop buys from Good Housekeeping.

Cheats Chocolate Trifle 

We all need a little cheat over Christmas, especially one that looks and tastes fabs but requires minimum effort.  

If you have time, you can cheat a little less by making your brownies. Shop bought will work fine here though.  

Method:

Break up your brownies and pop in the bottom of your trifle bowl.  

Spoon over some booze of your choice (Baileys works well and is suitably festive).  

Add a layer of something extra here – crushed Oreo biscuits, Maltesers or some boozy cherries for example.

Take a pot of posh custard (one with real vanilla) and add 100g of dark chocolate in button form, or broken into small pieces. Gently heat to melt the chocolate pour. Allow to cool (you can pop some clingfilm on the top to stop a skin from forming). Pour this over the brownies – cool.

The final layer is some boozy cream. Add the same booze you used to soak the brownies – around 100ml booze to 500ml double cream. Sift in 25g of icing sugar and whisk to soft peaks.

Spoon on a generous layer of cream and decorate with chocolate sprinkles of your choice (more Maltesers if you have already used them)

Enjoy mmmmmm.

Chocolate Salami 

Chocolate salami

This is a kid-friendly version of chocolate salami, which they can make – a rocky road sausage. It requires a couple of hours for the shaping element. Choose a festive film to go with the making process! With thanks to Claire Burnet of Chococo.  

Method:

Cover a baking tray with two layers of clingfilm

Melt 225g dark/milk chocolate to taste

Smash 100g of digestives and add these with 100g mixed dried fruits of your choice to the melted chocolate mixture, and 50g mini marshmallows – mix well

Leave to cool for 10 mins then pour onto your baking tray

Bring up the clingfilm and fold over the chocolate mixture, roll to form a sausage shape

Pop in the fridge, take out every 10 – 15 mins, and roll again to return to a sausage shape. It takes about approx. 2 hours to properly firm up

10 mins before you want to serve your sausage, take it out of the fridge. Roll in icing sugar for an authentic salami look, slice, and serve

There is a rather grown-up fruity salami sold by Chococo’s. It won a Great Taste award and is vegan-friendly.   

Truffles 

The perfect little homemade pressie, or to serve as a treat after a festive meal. Don’t forget you can flavour your ganache mixture with some booze or decorate in different coatings such as icing sugar or nuts.

three truffles with different chocolate finishes
Method:

250g dark chocolate

250g double cream

100g light muscovado sugar

Break the chocolate into small pieces and pop in a bowl.  

Place the cream and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for one minute.

Turn off the heat and allow the cream to cool for one minute. (If you pour boiling cream onto your chocolate, it will cause the chocolate to split – time the minute, don’t guess!)

Pour the cream/sugar onto the chocolate and mix well until smooth and very glossy – you can add a splash of booze at this stage. It may look like it is going to split but keep whisking and it will come back to a smooth mixture.

Allow to cool at room temperature, then place in the fridge, covered, for at least two hours or until fully set.

To roll, remove from the fridge and use a teaspoon to scoop even-sized pieces and place them on parchment paper. Powder your hands with cocoa powder and roll the ganache into even-sized spheres.    

(Take care not to handle for too long or the ganache will begin to melt).

Bloody Mary cocktail with lime and celery stick
Bloody Mary made with chocolate vodka!

If you want to go to town, you could then dip your ganache into tempered chocolate and create a lovely crunchy shell.

Not sure what’s the best chocolate to work with read this first!

Now after all that cooking you may need a restorative hot chocolate, or perhaps something a little stronger – chocolate vodka anyone?

The best chocolate to buy this Christmas

The best chocolate to buy this Christmas

It wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate.

chocolate truffles by paul a young

There is plenty already on offer in the shops. What bargains are out there for some of the old favourites? Let’s also look at some mid-range and posh chocs if you want to change it up a bit this year.

What is the best chocolate to buy this Christmas?

Advent Calendars

You pop the same version in your basket each year and try not to eat the whole lot before you give it to the kids!  

How about something a little alternative?  

The Evening Standard has compiled a brilliant list of different advent calendars which include vegan, artisan chocolatiers, charity options, green, free-from, and even some alternatives to chocolate!

The Trusty Favourites

What do you have in your house?  

Quality Street, Roses, Celebrations?

That big bowl filled with shiny wrappers is too tempting, and even when you are full of turkey you can’t help dipping in on the way past!

Aldi currently seems to offer the best deal on Quality Street and Celebrations, with the price reduced to £3.50 for 650g. Morrisons are offering Roses at £3.99 for 600g or two tubs for £6.99, Tesco £4 for 600g or £7 for two tubs with a Clubcard (at the time of writing).

Mid-range Chocs

A couple of years ago we decided to ditch the chocolate tubs (we ate too many of them) and go for a little less in quantity but a little more up-market in quality.

We opted for a smaller bowl of Lindor chocolates instead. Now comes a real dilemma – what flavour(s) do you choose?

White, Strawberries and Cream, Milk, Salted Caramel, Hazelnut, Pistachio, Mint, Coconut, Orange, Dark or go for an assorted box?

If you are lucky enough to live near one of their shops, you can go grab some pick and mix.

Another good chocolate shop to consider is Hotel Chocolat. I love choosing their selector packs for each person sitting at my Christmas table and will offer these at the end of our meal. They are currently £12 for three.

Chococo, an independent company based in Dorset, has a fantastic range of chocolates on offer and a good online shop. Chocolate festive wreath cake (vegan option available) or a festive chocolate salami anyone?

Posh Choc

If you really would like to go, gourmet, this Christmas, then you might consider buying some chocolates from artisan chocolatiers.

William Curley, Pierre Marcolini, and Paul A Young are some of my personal favourites. Many of their creations are like works or art, they almost look too good to eat!

The Chocolate Society also has a wonderful selection of gourmet chocolates on offer. Cocoa Runners showcase brilliant and alternative chocolate bars, which you can buy as a one-off or sign up for a subscription.

If you are in London, a visit to Fortnum and Mason is well worth it for chocolate treasures. Or pop to their website where they say it how it is…… ‘Welcome to Chocolate Wonderland’.

The posh chocolate world is a wonderful delight to explore. Enjoy!

Chocolate is the easy bit of Christmas
Chocolate Christmas pudding on green mat

If you are feeling a little frazzled, here are some great tips to get ahead this Christmas.

If you want a bit of chocolate therapy, you may wish to come and make your own treats – to keep for you or pass on to loved ones. Gift vouchers are also available.  

Do come and share your fav chocs with us all – we want to know what you have?  

Happy Chocmas everyone.

More tips to make Christmas a cracker

More tips to make Christmas a cracker

In part one we covered the run-up to the big day. Part two is all about the day itself.

Here are some more tips to make Christmas a Cracker:

A Christmas dinner table laid with plates, napkins, baubles and glasses of wine

It’s worth repeating……

Perfection is overrated, preparation is key 

If you are the one reading this, you are also likely the person who takes on too much responsibility for everyone and tries a little too hard to make everything perfect. As much as we want the best day possible, we need to keep things real.  

Do all you can to get ahead, especially on the food front and that’s the best you can do. It’s most likely you are serving up a super-sized roast dinner and you’ve done plenty of those before!

If you have old enough kids or able family members, give them some jobs to do.

Carve out some me time if at all possible. It might be a quick dance around the kitchen while prepping the veg on your own or sneaking off for a relaxing soak in the bath.  

What is most important to you?

  • Chatting with family members
  • Watching your kids open their presents?
  • Playing a game together?
  • Quiet reflection time?
  • Tuning in for the Queen’s speech?
  • Fill in your thing….

Work out what really matters, and make sure at least that one thing happens with you fully present (not running off to stir the gravy)!

Timetable

Some of you will have a routine and a more set timetable for your day. Others may wish to change it up a little each year?

Who is joining you and what will suit the whole party best?  

Elderly relatives may prefer a late lunch and nap time, rather than a big meal later on?

Early breakfast, traditional lunch, and a buffet tea?

Brunch, nibbles, and a big evening meal?

Once you have decided on the main event, you can make all other plans fit the timetable. Whatever works for you all and doesn’t keep one of you chained to the kitchen sink (unless you want to be)!

Breakfast

There have been plenty of hangovers present at our breakfast table. Green faces trying to cope with a big breakfast followed by all the other food that is on the menu. It was just too much.  

Now we have a ‘choose your own breakfast’ option. It might mean you have to make it yourself if you are a little late down to the table. 

A stack of pancakes with frosted raspberries on top and by the side

We are all together for the main food event later, so this works better for us!  

What breakfast do you serve up on Christmas Day?

  • Light and fruity, leaving plenty of space for later  
  • Full-on big fry-up with all the trimmings
  • Do you go pancakes with lashings of maple syrup
  • A bit posh with some smoked salmon
  • Take the pastry route with lots of yummy croissants/pain au choc etc
  • Or spice it up with a shakshuka
  • All washed down with a buzz fizz or an early snowball – or just a good cuppa perhaps?

Decisions, decisions!

It’s not just for Christmas

Our little border terrier is called Coco and one of the things we enjoy is the family dog walk on Christmas Day.  

364 other walks are required during the year, but we try and make the Christmas one a little special. We take treats, sometimes a tipple too. Last year we decided to get out to see the sunrise (not actually as early as you might think as it’s late December).

Whether you have a dog or not, getting outside and enjoying a walk is a great Christmas tradition!

Opening Presents

Breakfast and walking the dog first, we save presents for when we get back. Stacked into piles (if we are lucky to have a few) and opened in turn, watching each person see what they’ve received. Usually washed down with a little fizz and nibbles to keep us going!

It’s a family tradition to open in a round, I’m sure many follow suit in this regard! Makes the presents last longer. Might well be tricky for the very little ones, but it definitely works when they get older.

The main event

Set a time for serving your main meal, write down all the elements you need to achieve and by when. 

It doesn’t matter if you are late. 

The oven is full, and it can all take longer than expected.

Many magazines or Christmas cookbooks offer a full timetable for you to follow if you would find this helpful.  

Spreading the meal out can work well. Have a rest after the main course and serve puddings and/or cheese later instead of immediately afterwards.

Game On

Full-up and fed well it’s time to play!

What games will suit the whole party? A bit of charades, a game of Monopoly, or perhaps you treat yourself to a new game each year. 

Here’s a list of great family games compiled by Mumsnet to consider.

Our family loves a game of cards. We’ve been playing cards for years, a tradition handed down from grandparents to our parents and now to us and the kids.

I really hope you can have some fun this Christmas and the chance to be with those you love.

Please tell us about your day and any tips or traditions you’d love to share that help make the day a success for all you can pop to my Facebook page and share.

7 tips to make Christmas a cracker

7 tips to make Christmas a cracker

I love Christmas. The chance to be with loved ones, eat great food, take a break from work, enjoy twinkly lights and a roaring fire.

Christmas tree with twinkly lights swirling into the sky

Christmas can be a sad and lonely time too. It’s a time when we think about those we have lost, those that might be struggling. It’s not for everyone.

Some of us take on too much and come Christmas time are stressed and exhausted. Perfection is overrated, but preparation is key.

Here are some tips on making your Christmas a cracker (part one):

Food

This is one of the best bits for me. Planning the big day and what we might eat. We never (or rarely) have turkey. Some of the family can take or leave it, so we try and have something special and different each year.  

A few months prior, I will start to pour over my cookbooks or trawl around the internet, getting a feel for what might make the menu. Do this well ahead of time and you are not panicking about what to make when things get busy.

Once you have your menu down, you can start to plan how you will get the food element done.

It’s all about the people

My hubby says that he can’t understand the fuss around Christmas food. The main point, he felt, was to be with the people on the day, and so many spent hours in the kitchen stressing about the meal. He’s a real eat-to-live person, so he doesn’t get the foodie thing. 

Christmas is so about the food for me, but he does have a point. I do consider a menu where I can get ahead and minimise my time in the kitchen on the big day. Kitchen-time is treasured by me too – a bit of cooking therapy and a quiet moment can be lovely.

Christmas cake covered in chocolate and sprinkles and topped with holly

Get ahead

Christmas cake is an easy one, I’m cooking mine next week (October half-term). I do a Delia – and we cover ours in marzipan and chocolate. Who do you use?

What element of your meal can be made ahead and frozen?

Par-boil roasties, open freeze, put into freezer bags, and pop them frozen into hot oil on the big day. 

Snowball cocktails with cherries and small cakes on a checked tablecloth

The crispiest version of roasties and no kitchen full of steam.

Red cabbage/cauliflower cheese/bread sauce – whatever you can, make ahead and freeze.

Pudding – last year I used a fantastic Delia recipe for frozen brulees. We didn’t eat them on the big day, but as they were in the freezer, we ate them when we fancied instead! Here are some of my fav choc puds.

Booze – it doesn’t go off, so you can definitely get ahead on your booze buying. Snowball anyone?

Cards on the table

Christmas cards are not really my thing so mostly I don’t send them. Especially if I am seeing the people I might send them to on a regular basis. 

Much prefer to make a charitable donation in lieu of sending cards and paying postage. I think many appreciate this and it’s important to me to be charitable, especially at Christmas.

Presents

Buying presents for people is one of my favourite things to do.  

I usually start this around the end of August and ensure I’m done by the end of October, early November.  Usually, I’m super busy with chocolate workshops on the run-up to Christmas, so having this element done nice and early works well for me.  

That may sound ridiculous, but it takes all the pressure off. Buying in dribs and drabs over the weeks means there is no last-minute rush. 

No huge pressure to fight around the shops with everyone or rely on deliveries turning up in time.

Keep a list of everyone you have to buy for. Write what you have bought for each person as you buy it, so you can refer to your list and know what you have yet to buy. Each year I copy the list over, I can go back over the years and see what I bought previously if I want inspiration or to avoid buying the same old thing each year.

I might well buy an experience rather than a physical present. People love doing things together and creating memories. PS: Hubby and I can help with chocolate or blacksmithing!

As well as the main pressies, I especially love a table pressie. Buying a tiny token for each person seated at the table to open after dinner. It might be a mini bottle of booze, some chocs or make-up for example.  

One thing that worked well was each having some posh chocolates as table presents one year. 

We enjoyed these instead of a pud!

Have conversations with loved ones and decide on a budget, so it doesn’t get silly. Put all the names in a hat and only buy for one person from a group if you have lots to consider. Agree on a price limit and go and buy for one person instead of everyone.

Make your own gifts – now is the time to make chutneys, jams, and jellies. Good Housekeeping always has some great make-ahead ideas.

As much as it’s lovely to choose a gift for someone you love, it’s definitely the thought that counts, not the amount you spend.

It’s a wrap

Buying the pressies, great! 

Cardboard box tied with red string, on a table with twinkly lights and tree decorations

Wrapping the pressies, boo!  

One of the worst jobs of Christmas for me. My sister is the best wrapper I know, she manages truly beautiful creations. However, in the spirit of trying to be more eco-friendly, we have ditched the wrapping paper and re-use bags, or even newspaper. 

We also ditched the crackers for the same reason.

I will rope in Hubby to help and we often have a wrapping blitz and get it all done in one go.

Sharing is caring

What are you having for the big day? Let’s share top foodie tips and menus.

What do you do for presents? 

How do you come up with inspiration?

I’d love to know how you celebrate Christmas. Please pop over to my Facebook page and share your tips for a great Christmas.

There is so much more to say, so head over to part two (covering breakfast, timetables, party games, and your guests).

How to run successful school events

How to run successful school events

I’m not teacher trained. Everything I have learned is from hands-on experience working in the many schools I’ve visited around the UK.

Empty classroom with desks and a blackboard

Primary, secondary, state, private, and specialist schools have been good enough to book my services over many years. Specialist schools might be for excluded children, unable to stay in mainstream education or those with learning disabilities for example.

This week I was lucky enough to be invited to run chocolate tasting workshops at a secondary school as part of an Enrichment Day. I ran the same workshop five times for five different classes. Hard work but the children loved it and feedback has been really positive. 

Here are my tips on how to run successful school events:

Be safe and follow protocols

Ensure you know what is expected by the school and what is required legally for your own protection and that of the school and children.  

DBS certification, Health and Safety information/certification if relevant, your safeguarding policy for example. Please do your research and find out what is required from the relevant authorities.

Types of events

The school will have booked you for a specific event. Ensure you have understood the outcomes they expect from the day and clearly communicated these.  

After sending over the initial information, I will try and arrange a phone call with the school contact to ensure I fully understand their expectations. It’s a chance for you to explain in your own words how the event will work too.

Remember, say yes and then work out how you are going to deliver what they want. You have the chance to tweak and advise what would work best for them.

Thanks to being asked to do things, I’ve developed workshops for primary schools that included chocolate making and tasting. I offer the same for secondary schools, as well as Enterprise Days.

Enterprise Days

I will typically work with a whole year group. When I was first tasked with putting on this type of day, I knew I had 180 pupils and I had to make it relevant and interactive for all. My aim was to get to smaller working groups.  

I started the day with a plenary session. Speaking to the whole year group and setting them up for the challenge before sending them back to their classrooms.  

Each class became a new chocolate company. Within each company were five departments. Every department had to communicate with each other to complete a business plan for a new chocolate company concept. Once this was submitted, they got to work on a presentation.  

We all came together to hear their pitches and a winning company was announced.

What the pupils create, their imagination and their enthusiasm is truly inspiring.   One lad once said to me, “I might run my own business as then I could really make a difference in the world.”

It’s all in the preparation

Prep within an inch of your life! Go over everything you will be doing with a fine toothcomb and ensure you are ready to deliver. You don’t have any time once you are in the classroom.

If you are going to be catering for any special needs, ensure you are fully aware of how best to handle things. Ask the teacher for advice if necessary.

The school may have informed you about any special dietary requirements (if relevant). I recommend checking again once in the classroom in case someone has been missed.

There is often hardly any time to even visit the loo on a school day, so have everything you need to hand. Include your drinks, snacks, and lunch.

Have the right mindset

You genuinely have to like the children.

They are enthusiastic, inquisitive, creative, and funny. You may find their behaviour a little challenging at times, but remember they are just kids. There is usually a reason for their behaviour and it’s your job to make everyone feel included and able.

You need to be on their side and want them to have a good time.  

If you can’t manage that, they will spot it a mile off.

Show your expertise

Demonstrate passion, enthusiasm, and interest in your topic. Bring it alive.

Dipping chocolates into a tank of chocolate

Think about the audience and how best they will receive the information. Engage the children with questions and allow them to interact. Bring props, visuals, hand things around.

However tired or trying some situations maybe, you need to be professional at all times.

If you are faced with a situation that you have not encountered before, use other experts to help you get this right. If you will be dealing with specific special needs, go seek advice on how best to communicate with your audience for example.

I recommend Next Page Books in Hitchin for some special needs advice and relevant reading material.

Control the room

Think about the age of the children in terms of room control. Clapping patterns might be ideal for primary school children, but inappropriate for older ones.

Be in charge, be firm and fair.

Work with the teacher. 

Different coloured chalks on a blackboard

How do they control noise in the class, emulate their methods, or introduce your own?  

Get buy-in from the pupils at the outset. Explain what you will be doing to ask them to stop talking and do that. Don’t start shouting over the class – you will lose your voice and control.

Rarely some teachers are not great at class control. I’ve been in classrooms where the teacher shouted all day and was disrespected by the class.  

Feel free to impose your own class control methods and ensure you get the class to listen.  

Who are the stakeholders?

The teacher may have booked you and wishes to demonstrate to the head or governors that it was a good investment.  

Help them achieve this. 

If they visit the classroom to see what’s going on, include them in activities if possible. Perhaps you could leave something behind, to demonstrate what the children have been working on. Gain feedback from the teachers/children to help justify the investment.

To every teacher out there who runs successful school events every day, I take my hat off to you. I’m in awe of the amazing things you do with our children every day. Be a teacher for a day and you will get to see how hard they work. Very rewarding work and worth all the effort.  

Wishing you good luck with your school events.