Nermina and Erik Pieters celebrate a family Christmas with baby daughter Alaya-Rose

Erik Pieters,  Nermina Pieters-Mekic and baby daughter Alaya-Rose

Erik Pieters, Nermina Pieters-Mekic and baby daughter Alaya-Rose in the new bar room - Credit: John Allen

When Nermina Pieters-Mekic and her footballer husband Erik Pieters celebrate Christmas with their families, the only problem is deciding who gets to cook.
'We are all food mad and we all love to be in the kitchen making our favourite dishes,' laughs singer and actress Nermina.
'We will have my mum here, and she makes the most amazing Bosnian food, and Erik's mum is a brilliant cook, doing all the traditional Dutch specialties. Erik's sister will be here, and my brother, and they will be in the kitchen too, and it's my house, so of course, I want to be making the food. I just hope everyone is very hungry.'
It's an extra special Christmas for the family, as they welcome their beautiful baby daughter Alaya-Rose, born in March this year.

Erik Pieters,  Nermina Pieters-Mekic and baby daughter Alaya-Rose

The most magical Christmas awaits for Erik Pieters, Nermina Pieters-Mekic and baby daughter Alaya-Rose - Credit: John Allen

Burnley footballer player Erik beams with pride as he holds his precious little girl.
'It wasn't the easiest time having her and we feel so lucky to have this amazing miracle,' he says. 'This Christmas will be our most magical ever. We will really be spoiling her. She is the first grandchild too, so our parents and families are so excited to be coming over to the UK. Normally for us, we just do a secret Santa. It's more about seeing people than buying presents, but this year everyone is looking forward to seeing Alaya-Rose open her gifts. There's going to be a lot of them.'
After not being able to fly to and from the Netherlands during lockdowns, they are all keen to make up for lost time.

Nermina Pieters-Mekic and Erik Pieters Cheshire Life0326

Nermina Pieters-Mekic and Erik Pieters are looking forward to their most magical Christmas yet at home in Wilmslow - Credit: John Allen

'It's been hard to get to see each other with the lockdowns and restrictions, so we are really looking forward to a big family Christmas,' he says.
The couple have remodeled their Wilmslow home to make it as sociable as possible, with a large L-shaped kitchen dinner – perfect for all that cooking – which acts as the hub of the house.

It's a grand and modern house, with a huge central atrium that's just perfect for a towering Christmas tree. The clean lines and polished floors work beautifully with the twinkly decorations and every room has its own festive theme.

There's a large family room for relaxing evenings, and whisky-lover Erik has recently created a fully stocked bar where he will be serving up his signature Old Fashioned cocktails.
'We don't go out a lot, so for us, it's perfect to sit at home with a couple of good cocktails and catch up with friends and family,' says Nermina.

Erik Pieters and wife Nermina Pieters-Mekic

Erik Pieters and wife Nermina Pieters-Mekic in the bar he has created to serve his signature cocktails - Credit: John Allen

'Erik is usually playing on New Year's Day or January 2, so we don't go mad, we just have a nice relaxed evening to see in the new year. It will be the same over Christmas. Erik will be playing or training most days, so we got around that, but we celebrate when we can.'
The bar looks out over their newly-finished outdoor kitchen, complete with a pizza oven, sunken garden, and plenty of seating.
Nermina says: 'The garden took forever and we thought it would never be finished, but now we have it we can't remember life before it. The pizza oven is so warm we can be out there in winter, still cosy and warm, and between Christmas and New Year we will be having a big pizza party where everyone chooses their favourite toppings.'
Nermina's top choice is burek, a Bosnian take on a pizza.
'My mum makes it and it is the best comfort food in the world,' she says. 'I don't eat meat so I have mine with cheese, but you can fill it with all types of meat, anything you like really, and you stretch it out across the whole table before you bake it. It tastes like home, and every Bosnian mother has her own secret recipe. It takes hours to make and it is gone in a few minutes.
'I grew up in the Netherlands, but thanks to my mum a lot of my favourite foods are traditional Bosnian recipes, so we have a lot of dishes to choose from for our Christmas table. She's already sent over a huge stack of cooking pots, so she is planning a lot of cooking.'

Erik Pieters,  Nermina Pieters-Mekic and baby daughter Alaya-Rose

Erik Pieters, Nermina Pieters-Mekic and baby daughter Alaya-Rose will be celebrating their first Christmas as a family - Credit: John Allen

As well as different types of food, the family also enjoys Dutch, Bosnian and English Christmas traditions.
'We take a bit from everywhere,' says Erik. 'When I was growing up, the most important day was December 5, when Sinterklaas would bring us our presents. Now, we are here we celebrate Christmas on December 25 and I can imagine as Alaya-Rose gets older and goes to school she will pick up more English traditions.
'Where we would put a shoe out and get sweets in it, I think she will want to do a stocking like her friends, so we will have to find somewhere to hang our stockings on Christmas Eve.
'We love living here in England, and it was always my dream to play football in the Premier League, so I feel very lucky.'

Erik Pieters,  Nermina Pieters-Mekic and baby daughter Alaya-Rose

Erik Pieters, Nermina Pieters-Mekic and baby daughter Alaya-Rose in their family living room - Credit: John Allen

One day, the couple say they'd like a farm, which would be perfect for their four beloved dogs Luca, a German shepherd cross, Archie, a retriever, Simba, a boxer, and Blue, a Maltese, plus Nermina's two horses.
'Cheshire is such a wonderful place to have dogs and horses,' she says. 'I love that I can go riding every day and we love taking the dogs to Tatton Park for a big walk. Alaya-Rose loves being outdoors too - she already loves the dogs and the horses and I think she will be a real outdoor girl, so having all this countryside close by is perfect for us.
'For now, we are so excited to have our first Christmas as a little family with our big family. The trees are up, the decorations are all done. We can't wait.'