Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Introducing: An Elf For Christmas

Thursday, November 17th, 2016
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This year, Sykes Cottages is delighted to be partnering with An Elf For Christmas, a magical family tradition that can grow through the ages with your children. Inspiring creativity, encouraging kindness and good behaviour, and most of all creating wonderful memories for your children, these adorable Elf toys are suitable for any age.

Sent from the North Pole on December 1st, Elf has been sent on a special mission from Santa to report on good behaviour and let him know if children are on the Naughty or Nice List. However, at night while everyone is asleep, Elf gets up to all kinds of funny mischief which children are sure to delight in.

A lovely tradition, An Elf For Christmas helps keep excited children on track with good behaviour. Elf is sent with a Magical Reward Kit including motivational notes and certificates for good behaviour.

Elf For Christmas

Claim your free Elf Book with Sykes Cottages

This year, we’re offering an exclusive discount for our customers wanting to join in the fun. Choose your Elf from just £17.50 and get a FREE Elf’s First Adventure Book (RRP £5.99) – this is exclusive to Sykes to bring a little festive cheer! Click here to order your very own Elf and don’t forget to quote ELFSTORYSYKES to claim your free book (one free book per order, offer ends on Christmas Eve). You’ll need to add the book to your basket first then apply the code.

To get you started and give you some ideas on mischief your Elf could get up to, we’ve listed some suggestions below. A little planning means you don’t have to be creative each night, simply print out an Elf Antics Planner and fill in with some or all of our ideas below. Don’t forget to schedule the ideas that require a little more effort on weekends or when you know you have more time.

We know it’s not easy being a super parent, so whether you feel a little frazzled with the Elf Antics or you want to celebrate being ever so clever, we’re also offering our customers a saving of over £60 on 12 stunning Christmas wines including an award-winning Prosecco with Virgin Wines. Click here to get your wine supply ready for Christmas- yours for just £4.99 a bottle.

An Elf For Christmas Ideas

1st Dec- Elf Arrives. Elf arrives with a letter to explain who he is, box to fill with unwanted toys and “snow” covered doughnutsAn Elf For Christmas

2nd Dec- Elf on the Shelf. Elf is tucked up on a shelf with a book or knick knack

3rd Dec– Bathroom Mischief. Elf is somewhere in the bathroom, perhaps making a mess with toothpaste

4th Dec– Hot Chocolate Party. Elf brings all the supplies and sets up for a family hot chocolate party

5th Dec– Making a Mess. Elf has made a mess – maybe in the kitchen with sprinkles or flour, or in the living room with toys

6th Dec– Family Time.  Elf has made a list of his favourite Christmas activities (you can download one from An Elf for Christmas here or make your own) and ticked one to do today.

7th Dec– Storytime. Elf gathers round his favourite toys to read them a story

8th Dec– Snow Angel. Elf makes a snow angel out of flour on the kitchen counter

9th Dec– Toasted Marshmallows. Elf has toasted a mini marshmallow on a tea light

10th Dec– Christmas Tree. Elf has pulled out the Christmas Tree and is sat in the baubles and tinsel ready to decorate

11th Dec– Writing to Santa. Elf has started a letter to Santa and brought some special stationary for the kids to write theirs tooAn Elf For Christmas

12th Dec– Ziplining. Elf has made a zip line across the room and (using a candy cane and his velcro hands) he’s ready to enjoy the ride

13th Dec– Building a Snowman. Elf is found building a snowman out of 3 stacked toilet rolls with some card buttons to make their face and a hat

14th Dec– Hanging Lights. Elf is tangled in the Christmas lights

15th Dec– Rudolph Noses. Elf has used red dot stickers to turn himself and everyone in a family picture into Rudolph

16th Dec– Movie Madness. With a bowl of popcorn, Elf is in the living room ready to watch a Christmas film

17th Dec– Stocking Fun. Elf replaces the Christmas stockings with the children’s small socks

18th Dec– North Pole Breakfast. Elf brings all the supplies for a special North Pole Breakfast. We love pancakes!

19th Dec– Letter from Santa. Elf returns with a letter from Santa. Perhaps with a little flour or fake snow on the fireplaceAn Elf For Christmas

20th Dec– Marshmallows. Elf is hiding in a bowl of mini marshmallows or is maybe having a “snowball” fight with their favourite toy

21st Dec– Paper Airplanes. Elf can be found making paper airplanes – tiny for himself and big for the kids

22nd Dec– Toy Parade. Elf and friends are having fun in a parade

23rd Dec- Craft Time. Elf is doing a craft and has supplies for the kids to make a craft too! We love making Christmas scented brown paint (just mix paint with some dried spice like ginger or cinnamon) to make ginger bread men pictures. Or if you’re short on time with Christmas in onlya few days, simply print some colouring pages and activity sheets

24th Dec– Special Delivery. Elf brings all the ingredients for Santa’s favourite cookies to make with the children

Have you thought of a fantastic idea for Elf for Christmas? Let us know by sharing your ideas and pictures on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages. We can’t wait to see the creative activities you come up with!


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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Cooking with Christmas Leftovers

Saturday, December 26th, 2015
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Merry Christmas to all of our fantastic customers and owners, we hope you had a wonderful day yesterday! One of the highlights of Christmas Day for many of us is the food- Christmas dinner, Christmas pudding, mince pies and mulled wine- but let’s face it, there’s always leftovers. If you’re staring at a mountain of leftover turkey and Christmas pudding and wondering what to make with it, let us give you some inspiration. Christmas pudding ice cream sundae anyone?

Turkey Cacciatore (serves 4)

Recipe via

Ingredients:Christmas leftover recipe

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Splash of vinegar
  • 500g leftover turkey (or however much you have left), torn into strips
  • 125g mozzarella
  • 2 handfuls fresh breadcrumbs
  • Seasoning


  1. Add oil to pan and fry onion and garlic until softened.
  2. Add the sugar, chopped tomatoes, dash of vinegar, seasoning and oregano, and then simmer for 20 minutes until the mixture is very thick.
  3. Add the turkey then transfer to a baking dish.
  4. Tear the mozzarella into chunks and scatter over the top, then scatter the breadcrumbs with a tiny bit of ground pepper.
  5. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7 and bake for 20 minutes until turkey is piping hot and the top of the bake is golden and bubbling.
  6. Serve with mashed potato, jacket potato, rice or pasta.


Turkey Tikka Skewers (makes 12 skewers)

Recipe via and Slimming World

Ingredients:Christmas leftover recipes

  • 200g fat free natural yoghurt, plus extra to serve
  • 3 tbsp tikka curry powder, plus extra to serve
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 3cm root ginger, peeled and grated
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 800g leftover turkey breast, cut into chunks
  • 2 red peppers, cut into chunks
  • Handful freshly chopped coriander to serve


  1. Mix the yoghurt, tikka powder, garlic, ginger and lime juice into a bowl. Season to taste. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes- or overnight if you have time.
  2. Heat grill to medium-hot. Add turkey chunks and peppers onto 12 metal skewers. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 20 minutes to stop them burning.
  3. Grill each skewer for 6-8 minutes on each side or until edges are lightly charred and turkey is cooked through.
  4. Serve skewers on a serving platter and scatter coriander over. Serve with lime wedges and bowl of yoghurt sprinkled with tikka powder.


Jamie’s leftover Christmas pudding and ice cream sundae (serves 4)

Recipe via

Ingredients:Christmas leftover recipe

  • 200g leftover Christmas pudding (or however much you have left)
  • 6 tbsp cranberry sauce
  • Red or mulled wine
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 500ml vanilla ice cream
  • 1 handful toasted, flaked almonds
  • 100g dark chocolate


  1. Place a pan over medium heat and crumble in Christmas pudding. Fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring now and then.
  2. Place a second pan over low heat and add cranberry sauce and splash of wine. Stir until warmed through. Add sugar if taste is too tart for your personal preference.
  3. Once pudding is warm and slightly crispy, and the sauce is warm, divide half of the pudding between four bowls.
  4. Add a scoop of ice cream to each bowl then drizzle over hot cranberry sauce. Sprinkle almonds on top.
  5. Divide the other half of the Christmas pudding between the four bowls again and layer with ice cream, cranberry sauce and almonds.
  6. Serve with grated chocolate on top.

For more recipes using Christmas leftovers, you can check out our blog posts from last year and the year before! Other ideas include turkey and parsnip curry, Christmas pudding crumble and mini turkey and cranberry pies.

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Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 25th, 2015
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We’d like to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas from all of the Sykes Cottages staff! We hope that you all have a fantastic day with your loved ones, complete with copious amounts of Christmas grub and maybe even a tipple or two!

We’ve got a whole host of further festive theme blog posts coming up over the next few days, from some handy recipes to help use up all that leftover turkey through to a roundup of our Walk of the Month series that will help you burn off some of the holiday calories, so keep your eyes peeled!


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Jamie Tomkins

By Jamie Tomkins

Jamie is a big fan of long weekend walks with the dog, especially when there is the chance to refuel with lunch in a country pub. Living in Lancaster for three years gave him the perfect opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Lake District.

Christmas Baking with Sykes Cottages

Monday, December 21st, 2015
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Christmas is edging ever closer and now that the children have finished school for the holidays, we’re under more pressure than ever to fill our days with festive activities.  If you’re looking for a Christmassy activity that the whole family can get involved in then we would suggest baking; lots of fun, easy to do and the rewards are always very tasty! Below you will find some of our favourite Christmas baking recipes which are perfect for family baking.

Gingerbread Wreath

This decorative Christmas wreath is a fantastic alternative to the usual gingerbread men and makes a wonderful centrepiece for your Christmas table. The following recipe takes around an hour to complete and will serve up to 15 people. Recipe via


Image via

Image via

For the gingerbread

  • 350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 100g slightly salted butter
  • 85g golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten

To decorate

  • 500g fondant icing sugar
  • Any additional sweets/decorations you wish to add


  1. Put the sugar, butter and golden syrup into a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then allow to bubble for one to two minutes, stirring until well combined. Set the mixture to one side and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the warm mixture before adding the beaten egg and stirring to bring everything together. Gently knead the mixture until smooth and streak-free. Wrap your dough in cling film and place in the fridge to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  3. Take the dough from the fridge and leave at room temperature until softened. Pre-heat your oven to 200c/180c (fan/gas) and line two baking trays with baking paper. Cut your dough into two halves, keep half and then wrap the other half back into the cling film.
  4. Roll out the first half of dough until it reaches the thickness of a £1 coin. Use a plate or the base of a cake tin to cut out a 20cm circle from the dough. Transfer the circle onto one of the baking trays and then use a 7cm cutter to remove a circle from the middle of the larger circle.
  5. Roll out the second half of the dough and use cutters to cut out a variety of different Christmassy shapes. You will need between 20 and 25 shapes. Place these on the second baking tray and place the two trays in the oven for 10-12 minutes, swapping the trays over halfway through the cooking time.
  6. Remove the trays from the oven and leave to cool a little before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Mix the fondant icing sugar with enough water to make a thick paste and then transfer to a piping bag with a small nozzle to decorate the biscuits. Leave the icing to dry for one to two hours then use a little more icing to stick the biscuits to the wreath. Your wreath will keep for up to two weeks so don’t worry about making it a little early!

Mince Pies

A real festive favourite, mince pies are a must for any Christmas table. The following recipe takes just under an hour and makes 18 pies. Recipe via


  • 350g plain flour
  • 280g mincemeat
  • 225g cold butter, diced
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • Icing sugar to dust


  1. Start by making the pastry; rub the butter and flour together before mixing in the caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Combine the mixture into a ball and knead it briefly. You should be left with fairly firm dough that resembles shortbread dough. You can either use the dough straight away or wrap it in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge until later.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan or gas mark 6. You will be making 18 pies so need two 12-hole pastry tins. Line the holes by pressing a walnut-sized pastry ball into each hole before spooning in the mincemeat. Take a slightly smaller ball of pastry and pat it out flat between your hands, use this to make the round pastry lids. Top the pies with their lids and press the edges together to seal.
  3. Brush the top of each pie with the beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and leave to cool for five minutes on a wire rack before lightly dusting with icing sugar. The mince pies should last for three to four days.


As the most difficult item to bake on our list, the panettone is sure to impress your friends and family this Christmas. The recipe will serve up to eight people and takes 20 minutes to prepare, three hours to prove and up to 50 minutes to bake. Recipe via


  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

    Image via

    Image via

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g good-quality candied lemon and orange peel, finely chopped
  • 80g raisins
  • 80g sultanas
  • 5 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 tbsp warm milk
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • 2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange

For the topping

  • 30g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp egg white
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar


  1. Grease your panettone tin or a 20cm deep tin. Place the warm milk into a bowl, add the yeast, 1 tsb of sugar and leave to react for a few minutes.
  2. Put the remaining sugar in a separate bowl and beat together with the butter and vanilla extract until the mixture becomes light and pale. Stir in the lemon and orange zest, then add the eggs a little at a time until well combined.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour with a good pinch of salt and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast mixture, followed by the butter mixture before folding the ingredients together with a large spoon to make soft dough. Knead the mixture for five minutes in the bowl until it comes together into sticky dough.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and continue to knead for 10 minutes. You should now be left with very soft and stretchy dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling film before leaving in a warm place for two hours, where it should grow to twice the size.
  5. Add the raisins and sultanas to a small saucepan along with the rum and heat gently for five – seven minutes until the fruit has absorbed the liquid and is plump. Set to one side to cool.
  6. After the two hours are up and the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for another five minutes. Gradually add in the soaked fruit and chopped candied peel as you knead. Shape the dough into a bowl and place in the prepared tin (if you are using a cake tin wrap baking paper around the outside of the tin, to come about 5cm above the rim and secure with string). Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Mix together the almonds, caster sugar and egg whites for the topping before gently brushing the mixture over the top of the panettone. Place the panettone in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes,it should appear golden and a skewer should come out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely before dusting with icing sugar and serving.
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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.

Best City Ice Rinks

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
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As the countdown to Christmas starts to heat up, we’ve decide to take a look at one of the coolest winter activities around – ice skating! UK cities have seen a number of enchanting ice rinks pop up in time for Christmas, so if you fancy trying out this exciting winter sport then keep reading as we list the best city ice rinks available in the UK this year.

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink: London

Providing a beautiful setting for a romantic skate, the Hampton Court Palace ice rink is set in front of Henry VIII’s stunning Tudor abode. With wonderful views of this impressive royal residence, skating here is a sure-fire way to impress your other half this Christmas.

Opening times: Open until January 3rd with various skating sessions throughout the week. Please see website for further information.
Price: Prices start from as little as £11.50 for adults, £9.50 for concessions, £9.50 for children aged 8-16 and £9 for children ages 2-7.
Contact:;; 02920 230130

Princes Street Gardens Ice Rink: Edinburgh

Overlooked by the Big Wheel, Princes Street Gardens ice rink boasts wonderful views of the city of Edinburgh. This attraction is always busy and it’s not hard to see why; at the heart of Edinburgh’s festivities, a quick blitz on the ice is perfect for entertaining children who have spent far too long shopping!

Opening times: The Princes Street Gardens ice rink is open until January 4th and has daily skating sessions from 10am until 4pm, as well as nightly skating sessions from 5pm until 9.30pm.
Price: £5 per person for a 30 minute slot. All children under the age of 11 must be accompanied by an adult.
Contact:; 08445 478252

Eden Project: Cornwall

Located in one of Cornwall’s most popular tourist attractions, the Eden Project ice rink is not to be missed. Especially good for children, this festive ice rink offers a variety of fun skating sessions throughout the week, including races and ice games.

Opening times: Open from now until February 28th, the Eden Project ice rink has various skating sessions available throughout the week. Please see website for further information.
Price: Prices start from just £6. (Please note that a valid Eden admission ticket is also required.)
Contact:; 01726 811911

Manchester Ice Rink: Manchester

Manchester’s ice rink is a very popular attraction and a wonderful location to soak up the Christmas atmosphere in the city. With its later opening hours, this is another top spot for a romantic date with many couples choosing to stay late and skate under the stars.

Opening times: Open until January 3rd, the Manchester ice rink offers 45 minute skating sessions from 10am until 9pm daily.
Price: Prices start from £9 for adults, £8 for students, £8 for children and family tickets are available from £24.
Contact:; 01618 209718

Winter Wonderland Ice Rink: Cardiff

As the centre piece of Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland, this ice rink gets a lot of attention and whether you’re skating or just observing, there are plenty of laughs to be had by everyone. Advertised as an essential winter experience, this ice rink is a must for anyone in the Cardiff area.

Opening times: Open from now until January 3rd, the Winter Wonderland ice rink offers a variety of skating sessions throughout the week. Please see website for further information.
Price: Prices start from £9 for adults, £7.50 for students, concessions and children aged 13-16, £6.50 for children ages 9-12, £6 for children aged 3-7 and family tickets are available from £28.
Contact:; 02920 230130

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.