Archives for posts with tag: christmas

2017-11-19 14.15.58
Everytime someone whinges “but it’s not even December”, an elf loses their sense of purpose, and gets turned out into the cold. Help save jobs in Santa’s Workshop by keeping the festive spirit alive! Forget S.P.E.W…that’s so 1994. Elves of today have a new campaign and slogan – Christmas should be forever, not just once a year. ūüėÄ

Yes, I know…I’ve gone a bit OTT, but people can bah-humbug me all they like. I’m still not going to change; I just love Christmas. I was making plans for this occasion even before Halloween had been and gone…Actually, I probably started as early as spring when I went looking for pine cones during our nature rambles.

18359031_10155128500520856_4906400600311179133_ow
Early May saw us at Spring Wood in Walley which was practically covered in gorgeous bluebells. Quite by coincidence, it also had a lot of pine trees in the vicinity…The ground was full of pine cones, much to my delight. If you live in Lancashire, another great place to gather pine cones would of course be Beacon Fell.

18319265_10155128499865856_52985287915454952_o pine1sq
I wish I’d thought of bringing a bag or basket with me because I could only carry the cones in my coat pockets. They were very large and deep pockets though, so I did collect enough pine cones for craft purposes. The little branch that some of them were attached to could come in useful for another project, so I took that home with me as well.

2017-11-18 16.45.12
As it’s my first time working with pine cones, I had to do some research on how to prep them. According to various online sources, there are a number of methods. However, a vinegar bath seems to be the popular choice. Mostly because it not only cleans them, but also kills any bugs that may be hiding within. It will stink the room out as well, but that can’t be helped! ūüėõ

2017-11-12 13.50.05 2017-11-12 14.06.33-1
It’s advisable to grab a pair of tweezers so you can remove any visible debris before doing anything else. There’s probably all sorts of muckiness trapped in the scales. After that, put the pine cones in a bucket or large bowl. Mixing the solution is not an exact science, but it’s roughly two parts water and one part white vinegar.

Leave the cones to soak for about 20 minutes or so. You might want to weigh them down with a small dish as they tend to float to the top, and the cones need to be completely submerged in order to be cleansed thoroughly.

2017-11-12 14.08.07 2017-11-12 14.35.47
As you can see, the pine cones close up when wet, but this is normal, so no need to panic. They open up again once dry. From here onwards, there are two ways you can proceed. Either lay them out on some old newspapers or a towel, and let them dry naturally, or use your oven.

2017-11-12 14.37.52-1 2017-11-12 15.18.33
I am not certain if there’s a difference in the outcome if you opt to do it either way, but I have heard that airing cones can take a few days, whereas the oven gives a much quicker result. Plus, it has the added benefit of further bug-proofing your cones.

As I was impatient, I put them in the oven on the highest setting and took them out after about 45 minutes. It was probably a little too long as a few of the cones turned darker. I didn’t mind so much as some of them will get painted eventually, but for future reference, I’ll take the cones out after half an hour, or turn the heat down.

2017-11-19 13.51.06
When the pine cones are dry, it is recommended that you coat them with some sort of clear varnish in order to preserve them. The smaller cones were quite brittle, so the lacquer did help slightly in keeping the ends from flaking off. I am not keen on gloss, so it was a matt spray that I used. You can’t really tell from the photo above, but the pine cones that I sprayed have a smooth sheen as compared to the ones in the tin trough which have no varnish on them, since I will be painting those at a later date when making some of my Christmas ornaments.

2017-11-19 14.30.00-2
Pine cones fully sanitised and glazed, I could finally relax and enjoy a small batch of truffles I made earlier. What could be more Christmassy than chocolate? Truffles are a simple treat to make, whether for yourself, or friends and family.

The recipe is pretty forgiving as not a lot can go wrong…It’s basically ganache that has been allowed to set, rolled into little balls, and coated in ground nuts, cocoa, or any other ingredients you like. To make these, I used:

150gm Dark Chocolate – Chopped
150ml Double (or Whipping) Cream
25gm Unsalted Butter

Melt the butter in the cream until the mixture begins to simmer. Then pour it into a bowl with the chopped chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate melts and blends smoothly with the cream. If you want to add other flavours, such as coffee or Amaretto, now would be the time to do so.

2017-11-18 14.34.56 2017-11-18 16.51.17
Let it the ganache set in the fridge for a few hours (it took four hours in my fridge). You’ll know it’s ready when the little balls keep their shape after you’ve rolled them in your hands. The first one I made sank into a sort of squishy blob, so back into the fridge the ganache went.

I used unsweetened cocoa and ground almonds to finish off my truffles, but you could also try dipping them in milk chocolate or desiccated coconut. After coating them, I left my truffles to chill in the fridge overnight so they could solidify further. I am not sure what the shelf life would be for homemade truffles, but that might not be much of a concern…If your family is anything like mine, it won’t be 24 hours before they’re all gone.



In other news…

Processed with MOLDIVI’m very happy to say that the relaunch of my Etsy shop is going well, and I have made quite a few sales since opening it a couple of weeks ago. As a gesture of appreciation, all customers will receive complimentary gifts of either sweets or scented tealights, along with a small discount for their next purchase. Thank you all for your support…It’s been awesome! ūüôā


It’s been a long time coming, but my Etsy store will soon be re-opening. Back on sale will be the previously mentioned DIY Spa Foot Scrub Kit, which (as can be seen on the postcard above) has gone way past its prototype stage, and was trialled awhile back with great success…It really was a pleasant surprise when all the kits sold out as quick as they did, despite the lack of any publicity beyond word-of-mouth amongst my own social circle.

There will also be a couple more new items, including this Chalkboard Door Hanger Gift Set, which would make a great present for kids, and a perfect stocking filler. I gave one to my daughter last year, and faster than you can say “YouTube”, she’d personalised it with her own ‘On Air’ sign to keep us from knocking on her door when she’s busy vlogging. Oh, how quickly they grow up!


As yet, I haven’t got a specific ETA for when all the products will be ready to make an appearance. However, it’ll only be a matter of weeks, and definitely in time for Christmas orders, so as they say…watch this space! ūüėé

15626243_10154715177335856_5197839143060455660_o

I love Christmas, and it’s not just because I get so much time off from work.¬†If I’m honest, the day itself can be a bit anti-climatic. Once the imaginary bearded man has been and gone¬†(having deemed us worthy beneficiaries of course), all presents opened, and turkey consumed, most¬†people just lie there in a booze-induced stupor, nursing a food baby. It’s¬†really the prep¬†that builds up excitement¬†– shopping in the (hopefully) snow at¬†markets, putting up the tree and decorations, carol-singing, gift-wrapping etc. That last bit is what gets me¬†into the¬†spirit, and I try to come up with new ideas every year.

We’re on a bit of a tight budget this Christmas, but I had loads of pipe cleaners¬†leftover from earlier projects so they came in handy when making the gift-bags for colleagues…and coloured paper as well, so kirigami (yet again) ended up being a prominent feature when making¬†my gift-topper bows.

15676067_10154715177340856_2830124438204689572_o

As I have a tendency to spoil my daughter over the festive season, she usually gets a hamper or gift basket from me. It’s a more attractive¬†solution than putting everything in one huge box if someone’s getting multiple gifts. I’ve made a few bespoke gift baskets and hampers over the years…

sam_1291

sam_1351 sam_1363

…But putting one of these together can be quite a challenge, especially when you want some items to be a surprise so they cannot be visible through the clear cellophane. The best way to get round that is to wrap them¬†in matching paper beforehand.

I cut it quite fine this year by buying almost everything online, and was still awaiting deliveries on the 23rd. Thankfully, all my orders arrived on time, but it did mean a pretty late night for me Christmas eve.

15731906_10154715041500856_5998693210936847674_o

I remember a time when it used to be plush toys and girly stuff, now it’s skull candles and gothic-type paraphernalia. What a difference six years can make! She¬†still likes pink and purple though. I guess my daughter isn’t quite ready to completely give up¬†being a girly girl at 16.

15418558_10154688163760856_4427738761240679740_o

Keeping costs down during this yearly ritual of frenzied commercialisation is no easy task when you’ve got¬†kids, and it’s also the time of year when most of us are guilt-tripped into supporting a charitable cause. I’ll admit¬†Christmas Jumper Day¬†did catch me by surprise…Most schools got involved so Zhouyi was all set, but as work suddenly decided to join in, I had to make¬†a bit of a last minute¬†decision to temporarily modify a pre-existing non-festive jumper with felt and yarn.¬†My fox’s little santa hat cost me less than ¬£1, leaving me in a better position to donate, so I was overall pleased¬†with the result.

2016 has not been kind to many of us…I’ll always see it as the year that took from us Starman, Snape, Chekov, Princess Leia, Harper Lee, Vera Rubin, and our right to be a part of the EU, whilst giving Trump/Putin and the far-right greater¬†power, but perhaps it might end on a happier note.

Much love and joy to everyone this festive season.

1052966_10153751413700856_6463783566204815881_o

It’s that time of the year again! No matter how hard I try to keep festive activities to a minimum, things never quite seem to work out. Thankfully, having to be frugal doesn’t necessarily mean¬†resorting to basics, and can sometimes be the stimulus for creativity. It does help if you have lots of paper lying around though!

For the giant modular snowflake above, I just used cheap A4 printing paper. The kirigami instructions were easy enough,¬†and it didn’t take long for me to produce a few to hang around home and office.

1618176_10153751332755856_1663900226418990093_o

I continued the origami theme when it came to everything else, including the mini gift buckets you see above – each containing ingredients¬†and recipe for¬†either Mulled Wine or Hot Chocolate, along with assorted treats. It’s a bit similar to the gift jars¬†I made awhile back, though far more fiddly, since those¬†only involved¬†a few leftover present toppers,¬†and¬†jar covers which¬†I generated¬†digitally.

10670078_10152935504705856_3271544705415033159_n 10830945_10152935504380856_874212390441915899_o

Things would probably have been simpler if I’d re-used the gift tags¬†I made last Christmas (left image below), but what can I say? I just got a little too carried away¬†with Japanese-inspired papercraft!

10848837_10152935504590856_6984636014355468654_o 859945_10153751340210856_3666155827531859489_o

Fortunately, there are no culinary expectations of me this year, what with hubby roasting the potatoes and mum-in-law sorting the turkey out. So I can simply sit back and enjoy my handiwork.

12356863_10153729042065856_3359803676429055106_o

Hope the festive season brings joy to everyone!

I never paid much attention when they taught us to bake in school, but perhaps I’m now trying to make up for lost time…No, who am I kidding. I’ll never be a domestic goddess, nor do I care enough to acquire the prerequisites for that role. Having said that, it is Christmas, and there’s something about the smell of cookies fresh out of the oven during winter that makes me feel all cosy.

Christmas cookies and happy hearts,
This is how the holiday starts.

The Christmas spirit must have really taken hold of me because not only did I make Soft Chocolate Chip and Nutella Swirl Cookies, I even made hubby David’s favourite Vanilla Cheesecake!

1524734_10152154488150856_576429713_n 482535_10152191840820856_1090600497_n

I did cheat with the cheesecake though…It was a modified¬†no-bake recipe I used and whilst it was a bit fiddly (what with it being my first time and all), the whole endeavour¬†was pretty straightforward, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I’d achieved by the end of the day!

And of course, the season of giving would not be complete without…PRESENTS! I try to come up with different ways of adding a personal touch to all my gifts to friends and this year, the girls got some chocs and crochet lip gloss holder keyrings in tree baubles.

The trickiest bit was getting the origami dove to hang in such a way that the bauble could be easily taken apart and put together again. Halfway through, I almost gave up and wondered if I should have made paper bags and gift tags like the Christmas before.

1505158_10152140552885856_1682115700_n 406748_10151389116795856_1709509118_n

Well, I’m glad I¬†persevered, because wrestling with those¬†lace doilies¬†and¬†ribbons¬†(not forgetting the cardboard,¬†sequins and beads for the handmade holly) was totes worth it when I ended up with baubles I wished I could keep for myself!