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The Best New Year’s Eve Games

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
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Now that the joy of Christmas Day has been and gone, it’s time to start looking forward to the New Year and celebrating the arrival of 2015 in style. Whether you’re planning a quiet night in with family or a large get together with friends, there is one thing that no New Year’s Eve gathering should be without – games! We love party games here at Sykes Cottages HQ so to help make your party a big success, we’ve included instructions for three of our favourite party games below.

Marble Races

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

If you’re looking for a fun and easy game that will keep the children entertained without costing an arm and a leg then Marble racing is for you. All you need for this game is a bag of marbles, paper towel rolls (cut in half to make trenches) and 3+ eager participants. The aim of Marble racing is to get your marble from one end of the trenches to the other in the fastest time possible (without dropping it). Have two plus children line up and hold the trenches sloping down, then appoint one child as the general to instruct the others, each child should have a turn at being general and the general that gets the marble from A to B in the fastest time wins.

Charades

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Charades is a family favourite in my house; a game that is played religiously every Christmas and New Year. The real appeal of this game is that everyone can join in, from the grandchildren to grandparents, whatever you’re acting out can simply be adapted to fit your audience. All that’s required for charades is a minimum of two players and lots of imagination. If you’re struggling to think of ideas to act out then have a look on-line or save the suggestions that come with your Christmas cracker. You can then place the ideas into a bowl and take it in turns to pick them out – you could even use a separate bowl for the adults’ and children’s suggestions.

Newspaper Dancing

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

This is another great money saving game, all you’ll need to get the party going is a newspaper and plenty of willing dancers. The aim of this game is to be the last couple standing, a challenge which gets tougher the more you have to drink. Start the game by giving each couple a sheet of newspaper to stand on, once the music starts the couple dance on top of the newspaper until the music stops; if a couple steps off the newspaper they are eliminated from the game. Each time the music stops fold the newspaper in half, the longer the game goes on the smaller the dance space gets and the more inventive your dance moves become. The couple left standing on their newspaper at the end is crowned the winner.

This is just a small selection of games that can be played on New Years Eve, what games will you be playing this year? If you have any suggestions that our customers could try then please feel free to share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her fiancé.

A Look Back at Sykes Cottages in 2014

Sunday, December 28th, 2014
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2014 has been a fantastic year for Sykes Cottages, one that has exceeded everyone’s expectations. As we edge our way closer to 2015 we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back on all that we have accomplished this year, so keep reading as we take a trip down memory lane and re-live some of 2014’s highlights…

British Travel Awards

Our British Travel Awards

Our British Travel Awards

Just a few weeks ago the team here at Sykes Cottages were thrilled to bring home the trophy for ‘Best Large UK Holiday Cottage Company’ from the 2014 British Travel Awards. Thanks to your votes we were able to beat off tough competition from our rivals and bring home this prestigious award for the second year running – Thank you!

5,000 properties

Beach Corner - Ref: 912203

Beach Corner – Ref: 912203

Back in July Sykes Cottages hit one of our most highly anticipated goals when we took on our 5,000th property, Beach Corner in Weymouth. The team were thrilled to have this fantastic coastal property on board and since July have continued to work hard with new owners so we can now proudly say that we offer our customers a varied selection of just under 5,200 properties!

Travolution Awards

Travoawards.003

Earlier this month Sykes Cottages picked up our second award of the year when we walked away with the Travolution Award for ‘Best use of Search Engine Marketing’. Needless to say after the arduous application process the team here at Sykes Cottages HQ were ecstatic to receive this acclaimed award.

Charity Events

Chester Duck Race 2014

Chester Duck Race 2014

2014 has been a great year for fundraising here at Sykes Cottages; the team have worked hard and had a lot of fun taking part in various activities. Our 2014 money raising stunts have included Race for Life, Chester Duck Race, Macmillan Coffee Mornings, Super Hero Fancy Dress for Children in need and a Pumpkin Carving Competition to raise funds for Chester Zoo’s campaign ‘Go Orange for Orangutans’.

 2014 really has been an amazing year for Sykes and fingers crossed that 2015 will be even better. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of the fun by checking back with us here on the blog throughout 2015 for all the latest news from Sykes Cottages!

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her fiancé.

Merry Christmas from Sykes Cottages

Thursday, December 25th, 2014
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From everyone here at Sykes Cottages we would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

We hope your day has been filled with festive cheer, friends, family and of course excess amounts of food and drink. Keep an eye on the blog for exciting posts coming up this week which include Christmas leftover recipes and last minute cottages for New Year.

Staff Christmas jumper Picture

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her fiancé.

Christmas Baking

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
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Throughout the festive period you will find tasty goodies everywhere you look, but if you can’t indulge over the holidays then when can you? Here at Sykes Cottages, we have an extremely sweet tooth so the holidays are the perfect time to satisfy our cravings for baked goods. If like us you like to treat yourself over the holidays then keep reading as we share our favourite Christmas baking recipes.

Biscuits

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

I make a lot of biscuits for the team here at Sykes and judging on how fast they disappear they must be pretty good! I’ve included my own recipe for butter biscuits below which makes 25 biscuits and takes around 50 minutes from start to finish.

Ingredients

  • 250g butter (softened)
  • 300g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 3tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk

Method

  1. Cream together the butter and caster sugar in a large bowl using a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract before beating the mixture together.
  3. Sift in the flour and stir until the mixture is combined – if you are struggling to do this with the spoon get your hands in and press everything together.
  4. Wrap the dough in cling film and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes, this will make it easier to work with.
  5. Take the dough out of the fridge and place it on a floured surface and pre-heat your oven to 180c.
  6. Roll the dough out to around 5mm thick before cutting out shapes using festive cookie cutters.
  7. Place your biscuits on to backing paper on top of an oven try and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.
  8. Remove the biscuits from the oven and leave to firm up for 2-3 minutes before placing on a cooling rack. Wait until the biscuits are cool before decorating.

Mince Pie

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Mince pies are a true Christmas classic and much easier to make then you would first think. The recipe we have suggested below is from the master baker himself Paul Hollywood, will make 16 mince pies and takes around an hour to complete.

Ingredients

For the filling;

  • 600g mincemeat
  • 1 apple (finely chopped)
  • 2 satsumas (segmented)
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • Icing sugar for dusting

For the pastry:

  • 125g caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 260g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 beaten egg (for glazing)

Method

  1. Rub the flour and butter together until it looks like crumbs then add the sugar and egg before mixing everything together.
  2. Tip the pastry mixture out onto a lightly floured service and fold until the mixture comes together – be careful not to over fold the pastry mixture. Wrap the mixture in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
  3. Put your mincemeat into a bowl and add the satsumas, apple and lemon zest. Pre-heat the oven to 220c.
  4. Take out the pastry mix and roll out until 3mm thick. Using a 10cm round cutter cut out 16 bases and fit them into a muffin try. Fill each pastry with around 2 tbsp of mincemeat mixture and brush the edge of each pie with a little beaten egg.
  5. Re-roll the pasty this time cutting 16, 7cm lids and place them on top of the mince pies applying slight pressure to seal around the edges. Glaze the lids with the rest of the egg then sprinkle over a little caster sugar before making a small cut in the top and place them in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven when golden brown and leave to cool. Once cooled take them out of the muffin tray and add a dusting of icing sugar before serving.

Yule Log

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Who doesn’t love a chocolate cake, especially one with a creamy filling and a chocolate topping? Mary Berry certainly isn’t shy of chocolate and that’s why her yule log is the perfect centrepiece to any Christmas buffet. The following recipe from the Queen of baking takes around an hour to make and will serve up to ten people.

Ingredients

For the chocolate sponge

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 65g self-raising flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 4 large eggs

For the cream filling

  • 300ml double cream (whipped)

For the chocolate ganache topping

  • 300g dark chocolate (broken into small pieces)
  • 300ml double cream
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200c and lightly grease a Swiss tool tin then line with non-stick paper or baking parchment making sure to push it in at the corners.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar until the mixture turns pale. Sift in the cocoa powder and flour then carefully fold together the mixture using a spatula until all the cocoa powder and flour are incorporated into the mixture – careful not to beat any of the air out!
  3. Pour the mixture into the Swiss roll tin making sure to evenly cover the surface and corners. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch (the sides should be shrinking away from the edge of the tin.
  4. On your work surface place a large sheet of backing parchment (bigger than the Swiss roll tin) dust this with icing sugar before carefully tipping out the Swiss roll and removing the bottom piece of paper.
  5. Cut a score mark 1in in along one of the longer edges and begin to tightly roll up the sponge using the paper. Keep the paper inside and sit the Swiss roll on top of its outside edge to fully cool.
  6. Whilst the Swiss roll is cooling you can make your ganache topping. Heat the cream in a pan (it shouldn’t be too hot that you can’t place your figure in it). Remove from the heat and add the dark chocolate, stirring the mixture until it has dissolved. Cool until it reaches room temperature and then place in the fridge to firm up – remember you’re icing the ganache onto the Swiss roll so it needs to be thick enough to pipe.
  7. Once the Swiss roll has cooled uncurl it and remove the paper. Evenly spread the whipped cream on top then re-roll tightly.
  8. When the ganache has firmed up put it into a piping bag which has been fitted with a star nozzle. Pipe long thick lines across the cake covering it completely. Cover the ends with chocolate ganache before dusting the icing sugar over the top and serving.

And there you have it our three favourite recipes for Christmas baking. If this post has left you feeling inspired to try out these seasonal recipes then please share your tasty results with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her fiancé.

Tips For Renting a Christmas or New Year Cottage

Sunday, December 14th, 2014
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Christmas and New Year getaways are extremely popular here at Sykes Cottages with some of our properties booking up over two years in advance! Most people will rent out a cottage so they are close to friends and family whilst others opt for our large properties where everyone can be together under one roof. With so many of us heading off on a festive adventure this winter we thought we’d share with you some of our top tips for renting a cottage over the holidays.

Locking up the family home

Tyddyn Tyfod, Ref: 16229.

Tyddyn Tyfod, Ref: 12162.

Even though you won’t be at home over the holidays it’s still important to protect your house and make sure it’s intact for your return. In order to keep your home safe during your time away simply follow these tips:

  • Keep wrapped presents out of sight; under the tree is the first place a burglar will look.
  • Ask a neighbour to keep an eye on the house for you and, if on the odd chance it snows, to keep the driveway clear.
  • Set the heating to low and make sure it comes on at least once a day; this will keep your pipes from freezing or bursting whilst you’re gone.

Transporting the Christmas presents

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Whether you’re travelling alone, with the children or even your other half, keeping them from discovering their presents is a top priority. When we’re travelling over the holidays we like to hide gifts in our cases, this works really well with small to medium sized presents but what about large gifts? If you’re struggling to disguise your gifts this Christmas here are a few suggestions:

  • Have the gift delivered. You can chose the delivery date then have it dropped off at the cottage once you arrive. Alternatively, many companies are happy to drop parcels off at the local post office and you can pick them up from there.
  • A number of stores now offer a click and collect service where you pay online and pick up in store; simply use your cottage’s postcode to find the nearest store. Alternatively give them a call and reserve the item until you can get there.

Stocking up on food and drink

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

When travelling over the holidays your car is filled with clothes, toiletries and presents, with hardly any room left for the family let alone food and drink. To give you more space in the car this year why not try one of the following options:

  • Have your food delivered to the cottage. Many supermarkets and online stores offer a home delivery service; you simply need to check which store is in the area and order online, they will then drop off your shopping on a day and time that’s convenient for you.
  • If you’re renting a cottage close to friends and family why not ask them to shop for you? As they are doing their own shop it would be easy to pop a few extra items in the basket which you can collect from them once you arrive.

Making your holiday cottage more festive

Image via Flickr.

Rushmore Lodge, Ref: 16229.

Here at Sykes Cottages, many of our owners will decorate their cottages over the Christmas period so there is no need to worry about the property feeling festive, however if the cottage doesn’t have their own decorations there are a few easy steps to make you feel more at home:

  • You could bring decorations with you – pack up the tinsel and baubles and use them to make your holiday cottage a little more cosy.
  • Have some family fun by making decorations at your holiday cottage. Cut out snowflakes to go on top of the table or turn paper cups into Christmas angels, there are plenty of crafty ideas out there which not only look good but keep the children entertained too!

We hope these suggestions have been useful for your holiday travels this year. If you have any handy tips which could be of use to our customers this Christmas and New Year, please feel free to share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her fiancé.