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Christmas Makes

...Food and Recipes, ...Kids, Happy Stuff!

Gingerbread Baubles

December 21, 2014

I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to attempt a Gingerbread House, but was looking for an after school activity for the Smalls and a couple of friends last week, and thought that these would do the job very nicely.

Title

The recipe I used for the gingerbread was from The Hummingbird Bakery book and is as follows:

This is what you need for about 30-40 biscuits (which sounds a lot, but they keep quite well, and also freeze once cooked):

  • 400g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 180g butter softened (I use salted butter, but if you use un-salted, then add 1/4-1/2 tsp salt in with the spices)
  • 125g dark brown soft sugar
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 125g black treacle

This is what you do:

  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy
  • Add the egg and the treacle, turn up the speed on your mixer and mix well until it’s all combined-you may need to scrape down the sides periodically
  • Mix the flour, bicarb and spices, and add to the mix gradually
  • Mix well until it comes together
  • Knead briefly and shape into a flattish disc. Cut the disc in half (makes it easier to roll out later) and place each half in a sandwich bag (or wrap in clingfilm. Needless to say, I prefer the re-usability of a sandwich bag!)
  • Chill for at least an hour, or ideally overnight
  • When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 170C
  • Flour your work surface and roll out (if you have chilled overnight, you may need to take the dough out 10mins before you want to roll it, to allow it to soften slightly) to about 3-5mm thick
  • Use a round cutter (ours was about 7cm diameter, but go with whatever you ‘ve got-an upturned glass will do the job!) to cut out your ‘baubles’
  • We had no intention of them ever making it onto the tree, but still cut small holes for ribbon, to make them look more like baubles! I used the end of an icing nozzle-just be careful no to go too close to the edge
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, and then allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely
    Gingerbread baubles2

For the icing:

  • Icing sugar
  • Lemon juice

I did the kids a small bowl each and just mixed ‘some’ icing sugar, with enough lemon juice to make a spreadable consistency. The lemon flavour goes really well with the ginger.
Once the cookies have cooled, give each small a plate, a bowl of icing and a spoon. Place the sprinkles in the middle and stand well back…!

Gingerbread baubles4

Gingerbread baubles6

Gingerbread baubles8

Beautiful….! 

If they leave you any, you can have a go at some slightly more ‘restrained’ versions:
Gingerbread baubles7

 

 

...Celebrations, ...Food and Recipes, General ramblings

Last Minute Gifts-Chocolate Bites!

December 20, 2014

This is another quick and easy last minute gift idea-I always forget about the neighbours, so often end up making something last minute-this is this year’s…!

Title 2

I got the idea for these while browsing Cathy’s fabulous blog Nurture Store, for ideas for Advent Activities.

Cathy's homemade chocolates-image from NurtureStore

Cathy’s homemade chocolates-image from NurtureStore

Cathy makes them with just melted chocolate, but I thought I would play around to try and get a slightly softer, but not too soft, bite! I have tried putting Nigell’as Express fudge in moulds before, with little success, as it is a bit too soft, so I tried changing the recipe a little, and it worked!

This is what you need:

  • 300g milk chocolate
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • Tin of condensed milk
  • 30g butter
  • Whole hazelnuts
  • Glace cherries
  • Chocolate moulds-I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of an alternative you could use if you don’t have any moulds-if you have any silicone ice cube moulds, they would work well, but otherwise I’m a bit stumped! If anyone has any genius ideas, please let us know in the comments 🙂
  • Saucepan, or double boiler (saucepan of water with a bowl sat on top)

This is what you do:

For the Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Bites

  • Put the milk chocolate, 15g butter, and 1/2 a tin of condensed milk into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the chocolate has melted, and all the ingredients are combined
    Choc bites1
  • Put a small ‘dollop’ into each of your moulds
  • Place a whole hazelnut into each mould and push down (but not too far, otherwise the hazelnut will poke out of the top of your chocolate when it’s un-moulded)
    Choc bites3
  • Cover the hazelnuts and fill the moulds with the rest of the chocolate mixture
    Choc bites4
  • Scrape a knife over the top of the chocolates to neaten them up a bit
  • Place in the fridge to chill for an hour
  • Pop out of the moulds and into your mouth a jar, ready to gift

For the Dark Chocolate and Cherry Bites

  • I did these in exactly the same way as the milk ones, BUT the chocolate went a bit grainy, so I think it would probably be better to do it in a double boiler
  • Instead of the hazelnuts in the middle, pop a whole (or half if your moulds aren’t big enough) glade cherry
  • Chill in the fridge, pop out and eat package up

Choc bites53

Choc bites52
Choc bites51

 

 

 

 

...Celebrations, Happy Stuff!

Last Minute Gifts-Fridge Magnet Peg Clips

December 19, 2014

OK, so with less than 6 days to go, we are now approaching the realms of last minute, and the need for speed crafting, if you are still hoping to give homemade presents!

I always struggle a bit with what to give the Small’s teachers at this time of year, and really try to give a little something handmade, rather than resorting to a box of chocs, or a bottle.
I made some of these peg clips recently at my friends fab pre-Christmas craft evening, and it occurred to me that they would make very good gifts.

Title

This is what you need:

  • Wooden pegs
  • Paper of your choice-old books, sheet music, wrapping paper, even newspaper, would all work well
  • Glue-I used mod-podge for mine, but at the craft evening, we used PVA and it worked just as well. I am told you can also get proper decopatch glue
  • Scissors
  • Craft magnets-I bought a load of these ones here a couple of years ago from Guy’s Magnets (or you could cut strips off some existing fridge magenets-you know like the freebie flexible plastic ones you get-they could be cut with scissors, and should work ok)
  • Glue gun

This is what you do:

  • Cut your paper into strips that are about 1cm bigger all the way around, than the long side of your pegs
    Edited Fridge peg magnets1
  • Apply glue to one long side of each peg, and then stick the paper on. I also creased along the edges at the same time
    Edited Fridge peg magnets2
  • Leave to dry (it doesn’t take too long)
  • When dry, cut your paper as close as you can to the edges of the peg
    Edited Fridge peg magnets4
  • If you want to, you can then do another coat of glue on top-this works well with mod-podge. If you are using PVA, then for the coating bit, I would dilute it about 70% glue, 30% water, to make it more spreadable
  • Leave to dry again
  • Plug in your glue gun to heat up, and then glue the magnets onto the BACK of the pegs. I found it best to glue them about half way down, and to put a dab of glue onto the peg, rather than the magnet. Have your magnets to hand, and do this one peg/magnet at a time, as glue gun glue goes off in seconds!
    Edited Fridge peg magnets5
  • You’re done!

I then glued some wrapping paper to some card, and pegged the peg magnets onto this, with a little box saying what they were (in case of doubt!). Although I did think in hindsight, I could have just used the fronts of some old Christmas cards, and saved myself some gluing!

I made three sets:

Edited Fridge peg magnets8

Edited Fridge peg magnets6

Edited Fridge peg magnets7

 

I’m very chuffed with these-I just hope the teachers are too!

I’m not sure if it will work, but I’m going to try and attach a PDF of the labels, so that you can download it and print it if you want to make some yourself, cos I’m nice like that…!

Peg labels

Do let me know if you make some  🙂

 

 

Happy Stuff!

How to Make a Pom-Pom Christmas Tree

December 17, 2014

We are ludicrously pleased with our pom-pom tree:POMPOM TREE TITLE

and in anticipation of the Pom-Pom Christmas tree trend that is going to sweep the globe next year ( 😉 ), here is a little how-to…

21

First and foremost, START MAKING POM-POMS EARLY!!!
We were pretty organised (for us) and started making ours at the beginning of November. Depending on how big a tree you want, you could always start really early, and just make one a night for the whole year!
The hardest part was finding the wool, as I had decided I didn’t want to buy any new wool for it. Originally we were hoping for all the pom-poms to be the same shade of green, and at one point in the middle, we were thinking we might have to go totally multi-coloured, due to a distinct lack of green wool.
We ended up with all shades of green, and also some blue (you can get Blue firs can’t you?!), and I’m actually really pleased with how it looks. I think all the same colour would have ended up looking a bit much. I would love to try and make a multi-coloured tree at some point though.
If your experience of pom-pom making extends only to tedious hours spent with cardboard doughnuts, and you wither at the very thought of making more than one pom-pom, then never fear. We used a set of pom-pom makers 🙂

Image from Etsy

These are similar to the ones we have.                               Image from Etsy

I wouldn’t actually recommend the ones like these though, as the big one has now broken 🙁
At the Handmade Fair Pom-pom making workshop, we used some different ones that seemed a bit more robust. Although they are more expensive, if I get some more, I’ll try these ones instead:

Picture from Wool Warehouse

Picture from Wool Warehouse

Make a variety of sizes-you will need big ones for the bottom, and then getting smaller as you move up the tree. When you tie them round the middle, leave the ends long, so that you have plenty of yarn to tie your pom-poms to your frame.

I was very kindly donated most of the wool that we used: either from friends, our local Buy Nothing Group, or from the Make Do and Mend-able Pre-Loved Craft Stuff Facebook group. I picked up the odd ball from charity shops, but it’s amazing how hard it is to find any secondhand wool at all in the charity shops, let alone in a specific colour! Again, if we had been planning further ahead, I could have been scouting for wool all year 🙂
It’s also worth looking on E-bay, os posting a WANTED in your local Freegle or Streetbank group.
I am a great believer in ‘just ask’. Posting on your own personal Facebook page or twitter account, with a little bit about what you are hoping to make, may result in more donations than you expect!

Whilst you are pom-ing, you need to thinking about how big you want your tree to be, and a frame to attach the pom-poms to.
hubby made this one for ours, from some peg board off-cuts, and some chicken wire we had kicking around in the garage:

Pompom tree51

Pompom tree52

I won’t go into detail on the frame, as I was lucky enough to just be presented with it by hubby, but it looks pretty simple (apologies hubby, I’m sure it involved vast amounts of complicated calculations 🙂 ) Cut two identical triangles; cut one in half down the middle (to give you 2 rich angled triangles), and then nail the 3 pieces together on blocks (you see, I said it was easy….!)
The chicken wire is then artistically draped around to make something that vaguely resembles the shape of a Christmas Tree.

Then you just need to start attaching your pom-poms!

We thought we had enough….

We thought we had enough….

I originally wanted to tie them on with knots that could be un-tied, as I had plans to use the pom-poms for a rug after Christmas, but we ended up tying them on in knots because: a) it was easier and b) once we realised how cool it looked, we didn’t want to dismantle it!
As I said earlier, start with big pom-poms at the bottom, and work your way up, using smaller and smaller pom-poms as you move up.
It is probably easier to make all your pom-poms first, and then attach them all, so that you get the colours distributed where you want them. We had a gap left at the top, and had to make more, but only had about 2 colours of wool left, so it left a patch of very similarly coloured ones!

For the fairy lights:
pompom tree lights
I used my multi-pom to make multiple poms (you see what I did there!) in one go. And had to beg ask for yellow wool donations.

Pretend this wool is yellow...

Pretend this wool is yellow…

I had planned to make loads, and then thread them onto yellow yarn, to make a kind of tinsel effect, but in the end I didn’t have enough wool, so settled for the ‘subtle’ fairy lights instead! I threaded a darning needle with some green wool and then threaded the pom-poms on by poking the needle right through the middle of them (with these ones, you want to cut the ends of the middle tie bit the same length as the rest of the strands of the pom-pom-ie nothing hanging down!). Then I distributed them roughly evenly, and wound it round the tree. I poked the green yarn thread in between the big pom-poms of the tree, so you can’t really see it, and it looks like the lights are there by magic…

For the red ‘tinsel’, I used two strands of red DK yarn, and a 5.5mm crochet hook, and just crocheted a very long starting chain. Again, I then just wound this round.

And to top it all off, I managed to crochet a snowflake/star!
pompom tree star
In my clear-out for the #MinsGame, I un-earthed some crochet magazines, and one from this time last year had a free snowflake kit on the front, complete with sparkly yarn and instructions 🙂 If you don’t have the same kit (!), then check out this pattern here from the fabulous Lucy at Attic 24.

So there you go, now you too can have your very own Pom-Pom Christmas Tree! Go on, you know you want to…..

General ramblings, Happy Stuff!

Our Pom-pom Christmas Tree!

December 15, 2014

Hurray-it’s FINALLY up, and ready for the ‘big reveal’….!
Following on from the tradition we seem to have started for ourselves a couple of years ago, of making homemade trees (the egg box tree in 2012, and last year’s lampshade tree), I am very proud to present:

POMPOM TREE TITLE

Here it is, in all it’s glory….

POmpom tree1

I’m keen to point out the following features..!

pompom tree star

pompom tree lights

Hubby and I are ridiculously pleased with this year’s tree. Hubby said that in our 10 years of Christmas Trees we have had, since we have been together, he thinks that this is the best yet!

I especially love it because:

  • I think it looks AMAZING! And I hope you do too
  • Hubby and I made it together-we sat there on the sofa, with the fire on, the Downton box set, and a LOT of wool!
  • We started in good time, and actually got it finished without having to stay up until crazy o’clock
  • We can use it again and again, and maybe even add to it each year, so that it gets bigger and bigger….!
  • It feels like a real community effort-I didn’t have enough/any green wool, and didn’t want to buy any new wool (not quite so Make Do and Mend if it’s all new wool!), so I appealed to the good people of my local Buy Nothing Group, and the people in the Make Do and Mend Pre-Loved Craft Stuff Facebook group, to see if they had any they could spare, and pretty much ALL of the wool has been donated by some very generous, very wonderful people! So if you sent me some wool-thankyou thankyou THANKYOU!! I hope you are as pleased as we are 🙂

Obviously Pom-pom trees will be all the rage for next year, so I’ll share a ‘how-to’ later on in the week (although it’s not really rocket science…)