Lynn O’Rourke: ‘If didn’t already know, it’s Stir-up Sunday’

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IF YOU didn’t already know, it’s Stir-up Sunday. Nothing to do with arguing with your partner and all to do with the start of Christmas planning.

Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent and is the traditional time to make your Christmas pudding or cake.

Several weeks ago, when the first Stir-up Sunday e-mails starting dropping into my inbox, informing me of the best bowls to use – and there are some very pretty ones out there – I fully intended to immerse myself in the tradition. In my mind’s eye, I could almost see my daughters and me mixing up the most amazing Christmas pudding, and probably a cake too, without an ounce of stress. However, aside from one or two misguided moments in the baking aisle – candied peel? Chopped? Delia prefers it whole and for you to chop it yourself – little, or I should confess, no progress has been made.

I then got quite excited about an article on making a gingerbread house, before realising you actually had to bake the gingerbread yourself before constructing any tasty grand design.

Maybe mince pies would be my thing and my children will cherish memories of warm pastry scents emanating from the kitchen? But time always gets the better of me and, let’s face it, those packs of six ready made ones are pretty good. One of them warmed up with a mug of tea is enough to persuade me to shelve any attempts at releasing my inner Nigella for another year.

This week we take a look at the light-filled home George and Lesley Mailer have created from a chalet bungalow in Perthshire on page 4. Their improvements make the most of stunning panoramic views. We have some fabulous autumn colour in our stunning Japanese-style garden at Stobo on page 14. And Sky newsreader Charlotte Hawkins talks about painting her own house and those 3am starts on page 10.