FRANCE | Christmas at the Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte

I don't know about you, but the few days after Christmas are always quite sad for me. The magic is over, and although we have New Year's Eve to look forward to, it is definitely not the same atmosphere. When I read about the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte's Christmas displays, I knew I had to see them! And my friends and I weren't disappointed, as you can see from the pictures above.
Vaux-le-Vicomte is a beautiful castle that was built in the middle of the 17th century. At the time, it was considered one of the most extravagant and majestic places, so much so that Louis XIV, after having seen the castle in its full glory during a party, was so jealous that he decided to condemn Fouquet, the owner of the castle and his Superintendent of Finances, to lifelong emprisonment. And he also decided to build something that would outshine anything that the country had ever seen before... any guesses as to what place I'm referring to? ;)
For Christmas, the castle is adorned with lights, decorations and trees. The fireplaces are lit and create a warm, cosy atmosphere that makes you almost feel at home. In every room, little elves have created amazing displays based on different themes; I loved the room full of woodland animals, and the circus room was also amazing to look at. In the grand salon, a Ferris wheel was squeezed in, and you can see it turn round and round from the outside of the castle. The weather was beautiful that day, and it felt like a calm Autumn day. The gardens are a nice place to go for a peaceful walk. The perspective and regularity of French gardens will never seize to impress me, there is just something so satisfying about standing at one end of the endless gardens and stare at their infinite grounds and fountains. 

This is a place definitely worth visiting. It is a small castle on a grand estate, and a fantastic piece of history and architecture. If you want to see something different from Paris, there are some other amazing places to explore. I hope to make you discover them! :)

What do you think about these Christmas displays? Do you have any beautiful castles in the area where you live?


LIFESTYLE | I Wish You A Merry Christmas


I know not everybody celebrates Christmas, but if you do, I wanted to wish you a very merry Christmas. May your day be filled with good food (beware of chocolate!), time with your loved ones, happiness and laughter. If you got the presents that you wanted, it is amazing too - but most of all, Christmas is about getting together and spending some great time with people you love, and feeling happy and in the right place.
Not everybody is having so much fun as you, lovely readers, must be, so my thoughts go for all the people in the world who are not as happy, or just to the people who are going through hard times. We should all enjoy ourselves, but never forget those who are around us! I feel very grateful for being able to take part in the celebrations, to be surrounded by my family, and to get presents for Christmas. You'll probably by reading this later on, maybe on Boxing Day, but I just needed to write something that would be up on the 25th, because it is an important festive day but also a day in which we have to think about others as well. Let us all spread love, positivity, light and warmth on this beautiful day!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas - and if you don't celebrate it, that you're all getting ready for New Year's Eve! ;)


LIFESTYLE | Christmas Recipe: Almond & Cinnamon Cookies

Another recipe that has cinnamon in it... I just noticed it while I was typing this post haha. Sorry if you don't like it! But I swear, these cinnamon and almond cookies are the bomb - just try them out and you'll see ;)
Generally, I tend to bake cupcakes for Christmas, because I just love getting cute cupcake cases and decorations to make them look nice. This year I wanted to do something new, and I've settled for Christmas tree-shaped cookies! We've seen a variety of different recipes around these in blogs recently, but I wanted to share my version with you. These cookies are a bit different because they have a mix of almonds and cinnamon in them, which gives a really nice, spicy but still soft taste to them. I think most people would like them, and you can have so much fun decorating the little trees! They are quite easy to bake as well, let's just see that now!

Ingredients (for around 25-30 cookies) y

~ 150g of butter
~ 220g of flour
~ 2 egg yolks
~ 120g of icing sugar
~ a vanilla pod (or some powder vanilla extract)
~ 60g of almond powder
~ half a teaspoon of cinnamon (or a full teaspoon if you want a strong taste)
~ a pinch of salt

~ cake icing pens for decoration

Instructions y

1/ In a bowl, mix the icing sugar with the butter (that you should melt beforehand).
2/ Add the seeds of the vanilla pod (or half a teaspoon of vanilla extract) in the preparation.
3/ Add the egg yolks, the almond powder, the cinnamon and the salt. Then, add the flour little by little to make it easier to mix together.
4/ Make a ball with the dough, wrap it up in cling film and put in for an hour in the fridge.
5/ On a table covered in flour, spread the dough carefully (about 5mm thick) and use the cookie cutters to create shapes. I use Christmas tree cutters, but any shape will do!
6/ Put the cookies in the oven, on a sheet of baking paper. Let them in there for around ten minutes, at 190°C. Take them off to cool once they're gold on the top. 

7/ Once they're a bit cooler, use cake icing pens (I'm sure you can find them in most crafts and hobbies shops) to decorate and add little details to your cookies. Just be creative and they'll turn out great!

You can have so much fun decorating the cookies. At least I did! I decided to do something very simple and traditional with 'baubles' and 'tinsel', but you can also write little messages on them, or draw stuff if you're an artist! 
These are so easy to make. The trickiest part is when you have to create the shapes with the dough, but other than that, it is quite quick to bake and you'll impress everybody at your Christmas party!


Will you be baking any Christmas treats this year? Do you have a favourite recipe to share?


LIFESTYLE | Christmas Recipe: Cinammon-Spiced Hot Chocolate

Of course I had to come up with a few Christmas recipes this month! Unfortunately, with uni and exams, I have had a few stressful (and busy) weeks, which is a shame because my mind was jumping from a super Christmassy mood to a 'oh my god I'm going to fail at everything' mood. So this means I haven't had the chance to bake yet, although I have something coming up next week that involves a traditional Christmas treat from the kitchen! ;)
As for today, I'll be sharing with you a recipe for a nice warm beverage. This is a cinnamon-spiced hot chocolate, intense, with yummy black chocolate and a creamy, soft texture. Not a hot drink that we'd have every day (see what it did to Santa!), but a great recipe to try out on Christmas day, sitting around the tree and covered in blankets. I've taken this recipe from a French website and spiced it up (literally, I added spices haha) a little.

Ingredients (for four mugs of hot chocolate) y

~ 200g of black chocolate
~ 80cl of semi-skimmed milk 
~ 20cl of single cream
~ a teaspoon of cinnamon 
~ cocoa powder

~ whipped cream

y Instructions y

1/ Cut the chocolate in small bits to make it easier for it to melt. Then put it all in a saucepan, and slowly let it melt in a low to medium heat, stirring so that it doesn't burn in the pan (chocolate can be hard to work with!).
2/ Once it starts to melt, add the milk and the cream together in the saucepan. Then keep on stirring and mix the ingredients together, still at that low heat, for about twenty minutes. As you go, add the teaspoon of cinnamon. 
3/ When the texture is creamy and the consistency is even, remove from the stove and whisk the mixture to give it a lighter, creamier texture. 

4/ When you feel like the texture is right, put the chocolate in mugs (preferably cute and Christmassy!) and cover in whipped cream, then lightly sprinkle some cocoa powder on top. You can add little marshmallows if you want to of course!

There you have it, the hot chocolate of your dreams! If you don't like cinnamon, you can add some vanilla extract instead. You can sip on your yummy chocolate while watching a Disney film with the Christmas lights turned on, in your cute festive pyjamas... At least, that's exactly what I did!


What is your favourite hot drink to have during Christmas time? Have you ever made your own hot chocolate at home?