When the snowman brings the snow... and all that. Tis the season to baah humbug, falalalalaaaa la la la laaaaaa. We thought you might appreciate a bit of seasonal malarkey along with some advice on how you can improve your festivities with the help of the Internet! So, what do you need for a fabulous Christmas? Parties, presents and people plus of course large amounts of booze and food. Let's address these one at a time. But first, how about a nice hot mug of mulled wine to kick off that Christmassy feeling and get you in the mood for some serious gourmet browsing? Here's what you need (with thanks to Phil Vickery and Aldi): Serves 6-8 Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes 2 bottles Baron St. Jean Rouge 100g soft, light brown sugar 3 oranges, cut into 6 wedges 3 lemons, cut into 6 wedges 500ml orange juice 4 tsp whole cloves 2 tsp mixed spice 8 tea bags 2 whole cinnamon sticks 150g semi-dried prunes Method 1. Place all the ingredients into a large saucepan (not aluminium) and gently heat stirring occasionally so the sugar does not stick. 2. Do not boil or the mulled wine will lose its kick. 3. Using a ladle, carefully pour the wine into sturdy glasses. Include a wedge or two of fruit, and a prune, in each glass. Phil Vickery’s Top Tips Remember, if you boil the mulled wine, most of the alcohol will evaporate! You can give extra spice to the drink by adding a little extra sugar and a dash or two of Brandy. A white wine version is also rather nice, if your guests are not red wine lovers. This is currently Aldi's recipe of the week and can be found on their website - once this is updated you'll be able to find it in Phil's recipe archive instead. Right, now you've got your mulled wine (you have got your mulled wine, haven't you?) let's get down to some hardcore Christmas shopping. Food and Drink Personally this is my favourite bit of Christmas. Eating far too much rich food without having to feel too guilty about it - mmm, heaven. You may be glad to know you can avoid all the queueing at your local supermarket (or these days your not-so-local hypermarket) by ordering online. Most online supermarkets will have seasonal ranges and with the country's finances as they are there's also a lot of offers available for the savvy buyer. You might like to check Tesco, Sainsury's, Asda, and if you're feeling posh there's Waitrose or even M&S. For the ultra special Christmas dinner to really make the relatives jealous you could also try Harvey Nichols or Harrods. Presents An essential first stop would definitely be http://www.iwantoneofthose.com/ - yes folks you read it correctly, the Stylophone is back with a vengeance. Won't Rolf Harris be chuffed. If there isn't anything there that would suit anyone you know, and you can't get any inspiration there either then you might find something on one of the following sites: http://www.amazon.co.uk/ - amazon sell pretty much everything. Honestly. They also have a new mp3 store that's up to 50% cheaper than iTunes, and will actually load the songs straight into your iTunes library! http://www.play.com/ - Computer games, music and films aplenty. http://www.firebox.com/ - Another vast selection of gifts that you never knew existed, but now you do you're giving serious consideration to selling a kidney in order to buy them. http://www.aquarterof.co.uk/ - You may never leave this website. The only thing I've not managed to find there are those little Horlicks Malties (sob!) Now we could get really esoteric here, and as I can, I think I will. Here's some fringe gift ideas that some of you might like. http://connaughtshaving.com/ - There is nothing like a proper wet shave with a proper razor, and I speak from personal experience. Get the hirsute man in your life a Merkur HD safety razor and the associated accoutrements and doom yourself to a lifetime of mornings spent waiting outside the bathroom for him to finish shaving. Don't forget the alum block - if he's spent his life using Gillette the old skool tools will take a bit of getting used to. Trust me when I say it's worth it. http://www.pink-princess.co.uk/ - For the Lady's Lady. I know it's stereotypical, and I'm sure there's a few women reading this now and complaining to their significant others about how stereotypical it is to assume that all women want is pink things. But I'll bet you'll be going there later to have a look. Go on, before you dismiss it out of hand, wouldn't you like a pink spice rack? If only to wind up the man in your life (assuming he's not still in the bathroom shaving)? http://www.syswear.com/ - For the geek in your life (well okay, maybe not IN your life, but hovering nervously somewhere on the outside of it). You may not get the jokes, but chances are if you know someone who spends more than ten hours a day in front of a computer - they will. http://www.getdigital.de/ - There's gadgets, and then there's gadgets. This shop sells the second type. Right now you've got your presents and your food sorted. Organise a party! Why use pen and paper when you can send e-invites? You might like to take a look at http://www.evite.com/ or http://www.sendomatic.com/evites.html to let people know about your special event, aside from letting all your contacts know via facebook, myspace or maybe even twitter. In the same vein, instead of buying charity cards with the usual "2p of the purchase price from this pack will help an impoverished platypus" message, why not just donate your card budget directly to charity and send e-cards instead? There are some beautiful interactive flash based cards at Care2.com though a search for christmas e cards on Google brings up a wealth of results. Well hopefully this will help with those "Christmas is just a load of hassle" type feelings that plague so many of us. Me? Why bring me into this? Just because I'm buying all my presents from http://www.coaldelivery.co.uk/... I jest, of course. Best wishes for the season - Eid, Chanukah, Christmas, however you celebrate we wish you all the best.