Welcome to Blissemas! This truly is one of my very favourite times of the year. Since being little I’ve loved Christmas but now there’s the good ol’ season of Blissemas too I’m in heaven. I’m proud to kick off this year’s event, sponsored by the ever lovely, the wonderfully kinky, the superly awesome Cara Sutra.
I spend a lot of the run up to Christmas baking. I have the Christmas cake and pudding to bake, I even make my own mixed peel these days (it’s so easy and way tastier than shop bought) then there’s the mincemeat and the pies I make from them, the gingerbread snowmen for the church Christmas fair, Chocolate nutty stuff for my sister (it’s a Nigella Lawson recipe but she’s got a fancy name for it) cakes for the school fair and always something a bit new too.
So Christmas (and now Blissemas) is heavily tied up with food and yummy baking smells in my kitchen for me. It take me to my happy place because I love being in my kitchen, at one with my recipe book. I’ve got a few additional challenges this year as I’ve recently had to go gluten free and I’ll tell you all about that after Christmas when I have an idea if any of my new baked goods taste any good! But I’m excited and I wanted to share a bit of that excitement with you. So here’s a selection of food inspired excerpts from my Christmas Anthology A Blisse Christmas Collection, starting with a sweet treat filled excerpt from Christmas Cake.
“Sure, Mrs. Tanner. You’re starting early this Christmas.”
“Oh, well it’s not that far off now, is it? I’ve got the family coming on Saturday and I’m doing a bit of a spread. Karen wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t put out some of your mince pies.”
I blush, picking out the rest of the order and putting them into a stiff, white paper box.
“Well here we are, Mrs. Tanner.” I look down on the mince pies, the small brown loaf, and the half a dozen oven bottoms. “That’ll be four pound eighty seven.”
“Thanks, Emily, see you next week.” She passes me the cautiously counted out coins and I drop them into the till.
“Goodbye, Mrs. Tanner,” I call then, rearrange the display of mince pies. Looking out of the glass front door, I can see the twinkling lights and tinsel in the window of the fashion shop opposite. I shake my head, it’s only just crept into December, the air has still got the mellow crispness of autumn lingering on it, yet the Christmas display has been out for a month across the road already.
I start selling mince pies on the first of December now, simply because of demand. The fruitcake doesn’t come out until at least a week before Christmas Eve and the gingerbread trees and Santas will be baked for the first day of the children’s Christmas holidays when I will put up my decorations.
When I was a little girl Christmas didn’t start till Christmas Eve and my family were bakers even then, but as the years have passed it’s gotten earlier and earlier, with the big shops starting to sell Christmas gifts as early as October these days. I know I sound like a grumpy old woman, but that’s because I am a grumpy old woman and Christmas doesn’t mean anything to me now.
When Greg was alive Christmas was the most magical time of the year. He loved Christmas. We’d sing Christmas carols as we baked, we’d have this massive meal, inviting all those who would otherwise be alone at Christmas, and it was always a full house. But Greg died ten years ago and I’ve become one of those alone at Christmas. We never got to have kids. We had plans, but it just seemed that Mother Nature wasn’t keen on helping us along. It wasn’t a burning desire for either of us, but now I’m completely alone and I physically ache with want for a child, someone to remember Greg with. I keep the bakery on my own, I bake what people want for Christmas, but I don’t even put up a tree in my flat above the shop.
The doorbell tinkles and I look up.
“Wow, it smells delicious in here.” His rumbling voice suits the tall, imposing body it is attached to.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Oh, call me Jim, please.”
“Okay, Jim.” It is unusual to find yourself on first name terms with a brand new customer, but his open smile and easy manner make me feel as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
“I’m new ‘round here,” he states, his bright blue eyes scanning the shelves before him as he talks. “I just moved in over the road.”
“Well, welcome.” I smile and his gaze flicks from the display of cream cakes and fixes on me.
“Thanky you—” he pauses a moment and changes what he was going to say. “Oh, what is your name?”
“Emily,” I reply.
“Thank you, Emily.” He holds out his hand above the high counter top and I reach mine over. He takes it in his strong grip and shakes it, my stomach shakes in time.
“So, have you moved here with family?” I ask, as he continues to visually devour my cake display. “No, just me. I’ve got a new job here, and at my age you’ve got to go where you’re needed.”
“Indeed. I just hope I can keep this place going, I am far too old to be searching for jobs now.” His gaze meets mine again and my cheeks seem to burn on their own accord.
“That can’t possibly be true. A vibrant young lady like you is just in her prime of life, surely.”
“Why, thank you.” I flush more and look down at the cakes in the display before me. “But I am definitely over that hill these days.”
“Well, as long as we’re both on the same side of the hill, I’m happy.”
He grins, I laugh and he looks back down to the display of cakes between us.
“Right, I think I’ve finally decided. I’ll have a mince pie, please, and one of those delicious looking vanilla slices.”
“Certainly, anything else?” I ask taking a breath and trying to keep my hand steady while I handle the delicate pastries.
“Yes, a small tin, please.”
“Would you like that sliced?”
“Oh no, I prefer to cut my own, you know. I’m old fashioned like that.” He winks conspiratorially.
“Oh, I’m the same.” I pull a small white loaf from the shelf behind me and wrap it in stiff paper.
“That’ll be two pound seventy please, Jim.”
He passes me the exact change and takes his goods from me with a handsome grin.
“I’ll see you again soon, Emily. I’ll not be able to stay away from such sweet treats.”
“Goodbye,” I call after him, wondering exactly which treats he was talking about.
And another from Proving Santa Exists:
I sink my teeth through the soft layers of buttery pastry and through to the sticky, spicy fruit-and-alcohol blend in the middle. The pastry melts away as I chew, and the spices linger on my palate once I have swallowed. “You can’t beat a good mince pie.” I take another mouthful, the warm, spicy scent they let off as they cooked still lingering in the air.
“I think I might have to agree.” He nods, making a grab for another one. We fall into companionable silence. Gonzo appears on the television screen, and my Christmas Eve film-watching tradition begins. I know it’s a kiddies’ film, but I think Christmas is all about the child in us. I wonder what Jonathan makes of it all, with him not really experiencing Christmas in his formative years.
“I love the Muppets,” he says. “I’ve not seen this one, though.”
“Oh, it’s great, a proper good film. I know it’s for children really—”
“But it’s good to indulge the inner child now and then, right?”
“Yeah, exactly. Especially at this time of year. I mean, for me. I don’t know if you agree.”
“Well, I have some good memories from my youth. I wasn’t abused, I wasn’t bullied. I had some good friends. So yeah, I think it’s good to remember those times. Makes me appreciate what I’ve got and who I really am deep down, you know?”
“I do know.” I smile. “I really do.”
Jonathan is sitting right next to me on my sofa, and it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder how he really feels about me, because he was rubbing up against me at every opportunity in the kitchen: touching my hand to get my attention, leaning in to whisper in my ear when there was no real need to do so. And now, he’s so close that his thigh is pressed hard against my own, and there’s half a sofa of wasted space beside him, and of course there was that kiss. Part of me is still a little unsure. Jonathan certainly doesn’t seem to be a player, but what if I’m just one of a string of women he’s enjoying?
I second-guess myself a lot. In fact, I do it so much that I often miss out on good things because I spend so much time worrying about the options that the opportunity is gone before I get to it. I don’t want to let Jonathan get away from me. I enjoy his company, and he turns my insides to jelly like no other man ever has. I don’t want this to be just a fling. I yearn for it to be something deeper.
“How are you enjoying your Christmas so far?” I ask, the film credits fading into the background.
“It’s been amazing,” Jonathan enthuses as his eyes meet mine, then a serious shadow darkens their flame. “Christmas was never anything special when I was a kid. We never had a tree. The home said it cost too much and it was a fire hazard.”
I tut and shake my head.
“The highlight was the Santa. We knew he wasn’t real, just a man dressed as Santa. He’d bring each of us a toy. I got a little car one year. I still have it.”
“How come you knew it wasn’t the real Father Christmas?”
“Because we knew there was no real Santa. They told us so all the time. They told us not to get our hopes up because Santa didn’t exist and wouldn’t bring us what we wanted on Christmas Eve.”
“What?” I’m outraged. I feel my blood boiling with the harsh cruelty of it. “Santa does exist.” “You don’t believe that, do you?” He shakes his head, his eyes wide.
“Yes, yes I do.” I nod my head emphatically. “Maybe not in the way a child does, but I heartily believe in the spirit of Father Christmas. I believe in the meaning behind the make-believe. My faith is in the giving, which is the true centre of the festive season—the heart of it all. It’s all about making life better for other people and, through that, enhancing your own life. Santa definitely exists.”
Suddenly, those lips are on mine again, and his arms wrap around me. I feel his cheek against my skin. I feel moisture there: the trail of a tear. I close my eyes and kiss back, giving. I give him the softest, gentlest kiss I can. I want him to feel cherished. My heart throbs in pain at the harshness he’s suffered in his life. I want to smooth over all those rough edges; I want him to see what I mean about Father Christmas existing.
For even more sexy, seasonal fun check out A Blisse Christmas Collection.
And now a seasonal gift for all you Blissemas readers. An eBook filled with 12 of my favourite recipes. These are ones I bake year after year with great success. If you have a go at any of my recipes I’d love to see photos of your finished items. Tag me on Facebook or tweet me and I’ll send one of my Christmas eBooks to you in return!
Comment below about your favourite seasonal bake to get an entry into the super amazing Smut stuffed Kindle Paperwhite Grand prize contest. Check http://blissemas.co.uk for full terms and conditions.