HarperImpulse’s Favourite Christmas Comfort Foods

Christmas is a wonderful time of year that comes with many treats and trials. We love having time to read a good book over the holiday but we also know we’re inevitably going to get drawn in to masses of crimbo preparation. Whether you love the cold weather that’s perfect for snuggling up in front of a fire or escaping to a warmer climate away from all the decorations Christmas is a time for family. Something that we can all agree on though at this time of year, is the food. Taking inspiration from Debbie Johnson’s Christmas at the Comfort Food Café we decided to share with you our favourite Christmas comfort foods, both weird and wonderful.

The wonderful …


It’s an obvious one for some and others may hate it but for Harper Impulse it firmly falls into the wonderful category. Cold cheese, warm cheese, soft cheese, hard cheese. Cheese with bread, with crackers, with chutney and pickle or without. Cheese is an indulgence full of very different but equally wonderful flavours that can make any holiday that little bit more pleasant. Whether you’re a fan of cheddar or camembert, in Harper Impulse’s holidays you can’t have Christmas without cheese.

Honourable mention: Cold meats such as prosciutto, salami, chorizo. Not everyone is a fan but with a bit of cheese, maybe some fresh bread or even on their own we love a slice!



No laughing please. Now nuts aren’t the most common snack out there but they are one that seems to be a part of every household at Christmas. At no other point of year but Christmas do we go and buy every type of nut we can get our hands on. From Brazil Nuts to cashews, salted peanuts to almonds to the classic walnut which, for some reason at Christmas we actually buy in their shells. There is nothing more satisfying that cracking a nut in preparation for the Christmas special binge-watching that becomes inevitable. At Harper Impulse we love our nuts.

Roast Potatoes

Let’s be honest. Roast potatoes are everyone’s favourite part of a roast dinner. Crisp and golden, a fluffy white inside saturated with warmth and goodness at mealtime. We wish it was acceptable to carry these around as a snack but alas we must wait for the big Christmas lunch. While some love parsnips, and many prefer broccoli to cauliflower, we can all agree the faithful roast tattie is a staple of all comfort foods.


Pigs in Blankets

We know the vegetarians will hate us for this and they have every right to. But they’re just so good!

Christmas Trifle

The difference between a regular trifle and a Christmas trifle you ask? Alcohol, usually. This desert is usually crafted by mother dearest of grandma and for some reason for the holidays every after dinner treat must contain booze. Whether it’s brandy, sherry, some odd type of liqueur you’ll find them in most puddings during this winter event. And we at Harper Impulse thoroughly approve. The trifle of custard, jelly cream and those delicious ladyfingers take us back to our childhood, but the added addition of a tipple makes it acceptably grown up.



So of course when asking the Harper Impulse team what their Christmas comfort food was we all answered first with different chocolates. So, we’ve decided to group them together. Highlights include Matchmakers, which for some reason we hate at every other point of year, and Quality Street who of course will always be superior to other selections of boxed chocolate. However, the greatest of all the different options, the supremo, the king of this sweet collection is of course the Christmas tree chocolate decorations. You may have only had them as a child, but for Harper Impulse there’s nothing better than the guilty pleasure of the Christmas tree chocolate decoration, preferably Cadbury, which you know shouldn’t be eaten before the actual day. Of course you ignore this and, like the Grinch sneaking and slinking around, you gobble them up and hide the remains where no one will find them. Except your mum, who will find them and will get annoyed … and then later indulges in the same guilty pleasure you do.


The weird …

We try not to judge anyone here at Harper Impulse but here are a few odd suggestions that came from different members of the team shared.


Some people really, really love their vegetables. We guess that all those tall tales about growing strong paid off with them. To some these root veggies are the height of the healthy options at Christmas, to others (me) they’re evil beings masquerading as roast potatoes that then give you a rude awakening.

Brussels Sprouts

A clear divider in any home over the holiday. Some people love these leafy green balls, others avoid them like the plague. Harper Impulse is undecided on this issue with some arguing the case for with added and bacon and some vehemently shaking their heads in discuss. We’ll leave you to decide on this one.

Pringles … with pickled red cabbage.

So this has been something that this lover has been doing since a child. A weird experiment that turned into a lifelong classic, it happens every year though only at Christmas. The advice from this specific team member (me) is to use barbeque Pringles specifically and try not to let the pickle juice turn the crisp too soggy.


We now leave you with us, and probably you, feeling extremely hungry and in need of some of these treats. We may avoid the Brussels sprouts though. Here are some dancing Pringles for you to try to take your mind off that rumbling tummy of yours!

Do let us know on our Facebook and Twitter what your favourite Christmas comfort food is or if you’re in the mood to read more you can buy Debbie Johnson’s Christmas at the Comfort Food Café here.

Katey Lovell’s Top 5 Writing Tips

Today’s exclusive content for the Harper Impulse advent calendar is a good one, especially for aspiring writers. Kate Lovell, author of The Singalong Society for Singletons, shares her top 5 writing tips.

1. Plan

It’s been said that there are three types of writers – planners (who plot out their novel before they start writing), pantsers (who write by the seat of their pants) and plantsers (a combination of the two). I’ve tried to be a hippy-dippy writer that goes with the flow and it just doesn’t work for me. I work most effectively when I’ve got a structure and ideas, and although I’ll find characters doing and saying things that are way off what I expect, by sticking to a plan I find it much easier to get that all important first draft finished.

2. Set time aside to write

For a long time I made the excuse that I didn’t have time to write as often as I’d like to. I have a day job, and a family, and something that resembles a social life. I have a book blog. I’m involved with the PTA at my son’s school.  I also have an addiction to Twitter.  In 2014 I started blocking out time to write. I’d actually mark it on the calendar and make myself do it. Sometimes I’d do it alone at home, sometimes I’d go to my local writing group. Most often I’d word race with other writers, where we’d set a time limit and see how many words we could write in that time. Modern life is full of distractions. Make writing your priority, whether that’s for twenty minutes a week or all day on a Saturday. Allow yourself the time to explore your creativity.

3. When you hit the wall, keep writing

There will be times, even if you plan to the nth degree, where you have to force yourself to write. You might have noticed a flaw in your plot. Perhaps you can’t figure out why a character acts the way they do. Maybe life has just got busy and you’re so exhausted that writing is the last thing on your mind (especially likely in the run up to Christmas!). You could stop writing, either putting the project on the back burner or giving up entirely. I’ve done this many times and it’s why my computer has numerous drafts of novels that stop at the end of chapter three. If you want a finished manuscript, you’re going to have to keep writing. It doesn’t really matter what is on the page, because you can always edit it. You can swap things around or write scenes out of sequence. But your book won’t write itself. Keep going.

4. Find a writing buddy

Whether that’s a real-life friend who shares your love of writing or someone you know through social media, find others who are going through the same process as you. It helps to know someone else is tapping away on their keyboard, even if they’re on the other side of the world. Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary experience and knowing people are cheering you on can make all the difference.

5. Write what you love

This one’s simple. If you enjoy what you’re writing, you’ll be more motivated to stick with it. When I was writing The Singalong Society for Singletons I was in my element. I watched musicals all day and classed it as research! And because I love them, it was fun. If you’re crazy about horses, why not write about them? Love casinos? Make your heroine a croupier. Passionate about travel? Your characters can be flight attendants, or backpackers, or travel agents. Use your own experiences and interests to enhance your writing. It’s not cheating.

Happy writing!!!


The Singalong Society for Singletons by Katey Lovell is out now in ebook! Get your copy here.


Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop: wicker heart decorations from Jane Linfoot


wicker heart 1

I’ve always loved hearts as long as I can remember. I have lots of the wicker ones hanging around the house, because I rarely step inside a home shop without buying one or two. They go very well with the country cottage where I live, and at Christmas I love to give them festive make-overs.

Simply tying on a bow is an elegant way of adding instant Christmas pretty. I save pieces of ribbon, and scraps of fabric, and mix and match with berries from the garden, for a vintage look. I also have a mini Santa who looks really cute fixed in a heart. He’s actually filled with cat nip and meant to be a cat toy, so I have to wrestle him off the kitties.

For my front door decoration I take a wicker heart, and a few strands of trailing ivy which I pick from the garden walls. I love making these decorations, because they’re so fast to make. If you don’t have any ivy growing near you, you could always buy a trailing ivy plant, and harvest the longer pieces from that. Begin by tucking in the end of the ivy, then wind it over the wicker, moving around the heart. There’s no need for fixings, because the wicker holds the ivy in place. When you come to the end of the strand, tuck the end in, and begin with the next. Keep going around and around, always in the same direction, until you have as many leaves showing as you’d like. Because of the wicker texture underneath, you don’t actually need many strands or leaves. Then and a bow. I like indigo blue, and dusky pink, as well as the more traditional colours. You can add berries too for extra colour, but they look fine without.

A couple of minutes is all it takes to make the prettiest heart-shaped Christmas wreath. It’s hard to stop at one, because they look fab inside the house too. And they’re also great to give as crafty gifts. And when it’s January, I simply unwind the ivy, take off the bow, and I’m back to my summer version.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, love Jane x

Lorraine Wilson Talks About the Special Chalet Girls Cover

Yesterday we were thrilled to reveal the cover for the upcoming Chalet Girls by Lorraine Wilson with the wonderful Amanda from One More Page. Not only is the cover absolutely gorgeous and is making us want to book a flight to snowy mountains right now, but there is also something extra special about it… the dog in the illustration looks a lot like Lorraine’s beloved Pip.

Lorraine on the special cover for Chalet Girls:

One of the reasons why I love the Chalet Girls cover is because the little dog in the picture strongly resembles my rescue dog Pip, who sadly died earlier this year. I wrote him into the novel before his death because his own tale is one of the triumph of love over cruelty, a theme that resonates with the main story.

We adopted Pip (short for Pipsqueak) thinking we were giving a fifteen-year-old Yorkshire terrier a comfortable last six months or so of his life. He was left tied to a lamppost with a broken leg that had never been treated. However our vet thought Pip might be younger than fifteen and it was worth putting a metal plate into his leg. In doing this the vet gave him a new lease of life and Pip raced about like a puppy!

We had a lovely six years with Pipsqueak in the end, not the six months we’d been initially expecting. He travelled with me to Verbier, once came to drinks with Harper Collins editors and always sat on my lap or feet while I wrote the Chalet Girl novellas and most of Chalet Girls. So it seems very fitting that he has slipped into the book and is even featured on the cover!

About Chalet Girls:

What happens when life in Verbier suddenly goes off-piste?

Lucy’s been bowled over by the sexy extreme skier who’s hurtled into her life. But can she accept Seb’s commitment to his adrenaline-filled career?

Trusting any man is out of the question after what’s happened to Beth. So why is she so drawn to twinkly-eyed Dan when he’s leaving at the end of the season?

Sophie’s madly in love with her gorgeous fiancé, Luc. Only instead of gleefully planning the winter wedding of her dreams, all she wants is to run and hide…

Three Chalet Girls are about to strap on their skis and find out!

086496-FC50Chalet Girls by Lorraine Wilson will be published on 10 February 2017 and you can pre-order you copy right here:



Exclusive: Christmas at the Comfort Food Café Deleted Scene

Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe

Our wonderful author, Debbie Johnson, has allowed us to share with you this exclusive deleted scene from Christmas at the Comfort Food Café. Debbie has written several books and three about Christmas! If you haven’t already fallen in love with this book we know this special never-before-seen chapter will make you. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas, Edie May

“It’s a bit chilly this morning,” says Edie, shouting through into the bedroom from the landing. “I’m going to wear those thermal long johns Cherie bought me!”

She’s dressed in a fleecy dressing gown covered in pictures of neon-shaded unicorns, which should look out of place on a 90-year-old woman, but somehow suits her perfectly. Her tightly curled hair is like a fleecy white cap on her skull, and her tiny feet are encased in fluffy bedsocks. The entire ensemble was a gift from one of her nieces, and she feels warm and cosy despite the cold.

It’s Christmas morning, and as she walks slowly and carefully down the stairs, she says a little prayer of thanks for seeing another one in. Edie opens the curtains, flooding the small living room with sunlight, and looks out at the village.

The pavements are covered in thick white frost that looks like icing sugar, and the streets are quiet. She spies one tired-looking dad out and about with a small child, ambling along on a bike with stabilisers, obviously a treat from Santa Claus. The dad yawns, and the child rides straight into a lamp-post with a gentle bounce.

Edie grins at the sight, and goes about her business. The heating is kicking in, and the tiny terraced house is warming up nicely. Not like the old days, she thinks, before radiators and boilers and running hot water. In the old days, you’d need seventeen layers and a shot of whiskey to survive a morning like this.

She flicks on the Christmas tree lights, which always cheer her up, and heads into the kitchen. Two cups of tea – one strong, one middling – and some toast, she thinks. She doesn’t want to eat too much, because she’s been invited to Laura’s cottage for Christmas dinner, and it’s bound to be a feast. Becca will be there too, Laura’s younger sister, who Edie is tremendously fond of.

Becca reminds her of a wounded bird that doesn’t know its wing has been clipped – flapping away and cawing at anyone who gets too close, trying to fly but never quite managing to take off. Hopefully a few weeks here in Budbury will have helped heal at least some of her pain, and who knows, maybe she’ll be soaring through the skies by the time she goes back to Manchester. If she goes – Edie has her suspicions that she won’t. That she’ll stay, here with her sister and her new friends and that saucy so-and-so Sam.

She certainly hopes so. Becca would be a wonderful person to have around permanently. They could watch the rest of her Strictly Come Dancing DVDs together, she thinks, dunking the tea bag in Bert’s mug until the liquid turns an even darker shade of brown.

The toast pops out of the toaster, and she spreads the butter, wondering if he’ll fancy a bit of that cranberry jam that Laura gave her. Home-made, of course.

She lays the toast and tea out on the small kitchen table, glancing at the clock, and realises she needs to get a wriggle on. It’s later than she thought, and Matt will be round to pick her up before long. She told them she’d be all right to walk there, but they seem to think that being 90 entitles her to a chauffeur, and who is she to argue?

Before she heads upstairs again to get dressed, she checks her giant tartan shopping bag and makes sure all the gifts are there. Gifts for Laura and Matt, and Laura’s children Nate and Lizzie, and for Becca. It took her ages to wrap them – her fingers aren’t as nimble as they should be any more – and she hopes they like them.

There is one other gift on the table as well. Not wrapped – but he won’t mind. Her Bert won’t mind at all. He’s always happy with whatever she gives him, and this year it’s a set of socks with the days of the week embroidered on the side. A man can never have too many nice pairs of socks, she thinks, especially ones that help them remember what day it is!

She puts the radio on so she can listen to Christmas carols while she gets dressed, the sound of choirboys sounding like angels floating up the stairs, singing along as she stretches the long johns around her calves. Skinny now, she thinks, these old legs of mine – but once they were showstoppers. Bert always said she had better legs than Betty Grable.

She chuckles at the memory, and once she’s dressed, tip-toes into the bedroom. He’s asleep, bless him, covers pulled up to his chin, snuggled up tight. He looks so comfortable, she doesn’t want to disturb him.

She lays the socks down at the end of the bed, pats his sleeping form, and goes back downstairs to wait for Matt. She opens a few of her presents while she sits, and is amazed at the kindness of her friends and family. Though she has no idea what she’s supposed to do with a Kindle, and even less idea of what to do with a lava lamp. She is, however, quite taken with the little pair of headphones in the shape of light-up skulls that flash in time with the beat of the music. She’s quite intrigued to see what they’ll do with a bit of Nat King Cole.

She hears the sound of Matt’s truck chugging down the street, and looks up in time to see it park up outside her front door. She waves through the window to let him know she’s on her way, and wraps up warm in her fleece-lined coat and a nice beret. Snug as a bug in a rug, she thinks, slipping her feet into her furry ankle boots.

She pauses at the bottom of the stairs, her head cocked to one side, listening until she hears movement. He’s awake, she thinks, smiling. He’s probably putting on a pair of Sunday socks.

“I’m off to Laura’s, Bert!” she shouts up the stairs. “I’ve left you some tea and toast out in the kitchen, and there’s some lovely jam as well. Merry Christmas, my love!”

Satisfied that all is well, she steps out carefully onto the frost-covered pavement. It wouldn’t do to go flying now, would it, she thinks, taking tentative strides towards Matt, who is already out of the car and coming to offer her his arm, like the gentleman he is.

“Happy Christmas, Edie!” he says, giving her a quick kiss on her wrinkled cheek.

“Happy Christmas, Matt,” she says, squeezing his arm. “Just let me lock up and we’ll be on our way.”

Matt waits, watching as this tiny, wizened, wonderful creature fishes her keys from her bag.

“Bye Bert!” she shouts, her voice carrying up the stairs. “I’ll be back later!”

Edie turns back to Matt and smiles – shutting the door on what is, to everyone else, a completely empty house.

If you haven’t already bought your copy of Christmas at the Comfort Food Café do so here.

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