*Sponsored by Habitat
Here we go, Christmas is well and truly underway. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for this time of year. It’s festive, it’s happy, there are so many things to do! My favorite thing about Christmas these days? Spending time with my husband and creating our own Christmas traditions! I moved to the UK 4 years ago, just before New Years, so the last three years are the first time we’ve really been able to celebrate Christmas together. We celebrated Christmas differently as kids, and now that we’re married, we’re finding ways to blend those Christmas traditions into one!
Food is a big part of our holiday, and I love making the flat look festive! Aside from our tree, setting the table with a little extra pizzazz is a must, so every moment feels extra special! I’m obsessed with tablescapes, and thanks to the kindness of the folks at Habitat, this year is coming up tops! Creating our own traditions has been really special, and even the littlest things make all the difference!
White Russians and Christmas Movie
When Mr. Actually and I got engaged, the restaurant where we were offered us some complimentary drinks after our meal. We spent a lush evening sitting by the fireplace, sipping White Russians and reveling in this huge life event that had just happened.
Around our first Christmas, we were reminiscing and decided to give the White Russians another go!
Now, whenever we sit down to watch a Christmas film, we’ve usually got a White Russian in hand! Some of the Christmas films we watch every year? Love Actually of course, Die Hard, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, and Home Alone, to name a few!
Christmas Eve Cinnamon Buns
I love to bake, so it only made sense that I bake festive things every year to be extra festive. These cinnamon buns were one of the first things I made during our first Christmas together and now they’re a yearly Christmas tradition!
Sometimes I do bake other things too (like these tasty madeleines) but cinnamon buns are reliably good! I make them on Christmas Eve morning (or the day before) and we just nibble on them until they’re gone!
Fancy making some yourself? Keep scrolling down for the recipe!
The first year that we celebrated Christmas together we went down to Wilko and bulk bought a bunch of inexpensive Christmas Tree decorations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they’re in terrible shape and we’ve only had them a few years!
My parents had a box of ornaments that we used to decorate our tree with, and they were all ornaments from their childhood, or special ones they’d bought over the years. Each one had a little history and that felt really special! So, I thought it would be nice to start a new Christmas tradition and pick one nice bauble to add to our collection every year!
We’ve not actually done this before, so in addition to the gorgeous baubles we got from Habitat, we’re going to visit some Christmas shops and retroactively select a few extra special ones!
Christmas Morning Breakfast
Breakfast and dinner on Christmas? Yes! Christmas dinner was always the special meal for Mr. Actually, and while my family had Christmas dinner too, I always enjoyed breakfast. After opening presents, my dad would make breakfast, and we’d all eat together, just the four of us.
So, Mr. Actually and I decided that both meals would be just as important! We have breakfast in our pajamas, just taking our time, and enjoying each other’s company, just the two of us, before we carry on with the day! Plus we make a special breakfast every year, that’s a little piece of home for me! Mr. Actually makes a creole sauce from my dad’s cookbook and then adds some shrimp, and makes grits to go with it (here’s an explanation if you’re a bit confused about what grits are)! My dad brought us two bags of grits as a gift and we save them for our Christmas breakfast!
Yet another way that Mr. Actually and I differed in our Christmas traditions as children! He opened all the little treats from his stocking first thing in the morning, before having breakfast and then periodically opening a gift here and there throughout the day.
My family would get up and all open our presents together, before we ate anything (usually, we’d head to my grandmother’s house and my dad would be busy cooking, and we’d have the time to enjoy some of our new gifts)
Naturally, Mr. Actually and I had to come to a new arrangement! So we open one present before breakfast, and then another after our meal. Then throughout the day, we’ll open one here and there until everything’s been opened! Simple, but a nice way to prolong it!
Because we spent the first three years of our relationship living in two separate countries, it was important to me that we make an effort to really build a live together, and create our own Christmas traditions. Well, not even just where Christmas is concerned! We celebrate Thanksgiving too (with Friendsgiving, where each of us invites a couple, and the six of us share a meal)!
Mr. Actually and I are two people who come from two separate families, who are now one new family. It’s nice to take the time to build our identity as a family unit just the two of us. It’s our home, you know? Our life! If we can’t go all out at Christmas, when can we
And, now, without further ado, I’m sharing the recipe for the Christmas Eve Cinnamon Buns that I make every year!
You can make these bad boys on the day, or you can make the dough the day before. If you do that, when you’re ready to bake them, take them out of the fridge and let them warm up a bit before popping them in the oven! The original recipe is from Savory Sweet Life, an American food blogger who I’ve followed for years! I usually use measuring cups when I’m baking but I did use a conversion to translate this recipe over the years and tweak it with time!
for the dough:
250 ml warm milk (around 45°C or 115°F)
1 egg (room temperature), slightly beaten
55g butter, melted
118ml vegetable or sunflower oil
100g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
430g flour plus more for dusting
2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
for the filling:
113g butter melted
100g granulated sugar
100g dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon*
for the frosting:
55g unsalted butter, softened
60g cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
125g icing sugar + extra to thicken
*I once ran out of cinnamon and used a combination of cinnamon, ground clove, nutmeg, and allspice in the filling and it was just as good! Feel free to play around with what spices you put in the filling!
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the milk, oil and salt and mix until fully incorporated. Add flour on top of the liquid mixture, then sprinkle yeast on top.
2. Mix all the ingredients together until a dough forms. Sprinkle extra flour bit by bit until the dough stops fully sticking to the bowl. It will still be sticky, but you want it to thicken up a bit.
3. Pour the dough onto a floured surface, and knead the dough until it’s smooth (5-10 minutes). Continue adding additional flour as needed, until the dough is no longer sticky. Place dough in a buttered bowl and cover with a wet towel. Leave the dough to prove for about an hour until it’s about double in size.
4. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon (or other spices if you’re using them) – set aside. Just before your dough is finished proving melt your butter and set aside.
5. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle, around 40cm by 50cm, but feel free to adjust based on the size of your baking dish. Brush the melted butter evenly across the surface, and top with the sugar mixture. Use your fingers to make the entire surface is evenly coated.
6. Beginning with the long side, roll dough pinching the seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal slices and place them in your greased baking dish. If you’re resting them overnight, cover the dish tightly with cling film and put in the fridge, making sure to remove them at 30 minutes before baking.
5. Preheat oven to 175° fan (190° C or 375° F). Bake cinnamon buns for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
6. While the buns are baking, make the frosting. Beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until smooth, adding an extra sprinkle of icing sugar to djust sweetness if needed.
7. Once the cinnamon rolls are out of the oven, let them cool for a few minutes before icing them and serve!