Festive Potpourri

Festive-potpourri

Every year I like to encourage the kids to hand make something for their Godparents and teachers. I’m fairly sure the teachers, in particular, would prefer a nice bottle of red, but hand making stuff at Christmas gives me a warm, festive glow.

This year’s crafty gift idea has been unashamedly robbed from my BFF Sara, who is not only one of the most creative people I know, her house is so beautifully and artistically adorned for Christmas it wouldn’t look out of place on the central pages of the Christmas edition of Ideal Home magazine.

So, this is how my kids and I made our Christmas Potpourri.

You will need:
  • Oranges, cloves and cinnamon sticks
  • Essential oils – I used cinnamon and orange
  • Pine cones (if you forage for them make sure they are clean, dry and have no creepy crawlies in them! Baking them in the oven on a low heat should sort them out). I also used some wooden stars that I found in my local craft shop, but you could use artificial red berries or whatever you fancy.
  • Raffia ribbon, string or ribbon
  • Cellophane sweetie bags (or mason jars, as used by Sara!)
  • Medium sized zip lock freezer bags

Method:

Get small people to fill freezer bags with pine cones and then ask them to liberally add drops of cinnamon essential oil into the bags, add the cinnamon sticks then seal them.

Pop your wooden stars into a separate freezer bag, add the cloves and seal.

Now, onto the oranges. Slice your oranges to about 5mm thick, then blot as much juice as you can from them.

Arrange all your orange slices on racks in the preheated oven and bake on a low heat of 100c or gas mark ¼ for 2-3 hours.

You will need to keep an eye on them, and turn them occasionally. If you see any starting to go brown take them out as they can catch even at this low heat. Opening the oven every now and again helps to release some of the moisture trapped in too. The smell is quite gorgeous! When they look dry and have turned golden, it’s time to take them out and let them cool.

When you remove your slices, if they still have any moisture in them, pop them on the radiator for a few hours and that should sort them out.

When the oranges are cool, pop them in a freezer bag, add the orange essential oil and seal.

Leave all the freezer bags closed for a few days, to let the oils sink in.

When you are ready to assemble, get your helpers to simply pop a handful of pine cones, a cinnamon stick, some wooden stars, a pinch of cloves and a couple of orange segments into a bag or jar. You might want to add a couple more drops of oil just to give it a bit more fragrance, then tie up with the raffia or ribbon.

Then, add your gift tag and TAADAA! A lovely, festive, fragrant, handmade gift to give to the special people in your lives. And your house smells divine to boot!

With love and seasonal smells,

xx

have-yourself-a-messy-little-christmas

Party with Paper

It’s party season woo hoo! But these gorgeous decorations will be great for any occasion and are easy enough to do with little fingers over the holidays. How about using up any spare scraps of wrapping paper, so your decorations match the pressies under the tree (posh!). Wrapping paper, not too flimsy, is the perfect texture for these decorations! So not only perfect for Christmas but use themed paper for Birthday parties or coloured paper to match paper cups and plates or even your home decor.

So file any reminiscence of those nasty looking hanging foil decs back in the 70s and get partying with these rather stylish paper fans.

What you need
  • Brightly coloured paper or thin card. Good quality wrapping paper is perfect.
  • Scissors
  • Glue or sticky tape
  • Curling ribbon or string to hang

party-with-paper-materials

Step one

Cut your piece of paper into a rectangle

Step two

Fold over the end about 1cm, although play around with this depending on the size of fan you want. Keep folding the paper back on itself until the whole piece is like a concertina.

Step Three

Fold your piece of paper in half and stick the two ends together to make half a fan. It may just make a quarter depending on the size of rectangle used. Repeat the whole process again so you have two halves and then stick both together. To ensure its a neat finish try hooking one end over the other to stick.

If you want to make the garland of decorations here’s how:

Step one

Complete all the above steps until you have your folded paper and folded again in half (Step three). Now using sharp scissors cut out small shapes either side, triangles are easy and effective. This is just like how you may have made paper snowflakes when you were younger!

Step two

You only need to make a semi-circle, as this can be hooked and stuck to ribbon or string.

It’s so easy you could try other creations

There you have it! an easy and cheap way to Party with Paper.

With love and paper cuts,

x

Mini Indoor Wreaths

mini-indoor-wreaths
I love Christmas decorations, when we were growing up we always had a really special day transforming our house into a Winter Wonderland. Most of our decorations were handcrafted by my mum and one year she made a gorgeous wreath out of twisted fabric, because of the nature of the wreath it had to be hung indoors and I quite like the idea of dressing the doors inside a house as it adds a little piece of Christmas running throughout. This gave me the idea of creating some mini Christmas Wreaths to hang on the internal doors of our little bungalow. So, if you fancy adding a little extra decor to your house this year (and lets face it when it comes to Christmas More is More) here is my Mini Wreath tutorial.

Classic Christmas Wreath

Strips of green felt (2.5cm wide)

Sharp scissors

PVA Glue

Large Curtain Ring

Ribbon to hang and decorate

Mini bells to decorate (optional)

Step one

Using the sharp scissors cut a zig zag along each strip of green felt. This just makes cutting each curve easier and more accurate.

Step two

Now round off each point of your zig zag.

Step three

Take your curtain ring remove any hooks and start winding the felt around gluing as you go. The felt should overlap so all the curtain ring is covered, so only glue half of the strip to the ring and let the other half (curved cut out side) overlap.

Step Four

Once the whole ring is covered attach a hanging loop using your choice of ribbon.

Step Five

Add a decorative bow to the front and your mini wreath is complete.

Now hang throughout the house..

How about trying these alternatives:

  • Wrap your curtain rings in decorative tape or Washi Tape to match your house decor or colours on your tree.
  • Tightly wrap string around your curtain ring and decorate with a cut out star.

With love and pretty uneven hanging curtains 😉 x

Cute Christmas Card Idea

I guess I should start by saying I don’t really send cards, I’m far too unorganised. So, take this as my card to you.

Although this year I couldn’t resist doing a card for the newly acquired Grand parents, Aunties and Uncle!

You either come from a family who do photo cards or not. Whichever camp you are in the idea of sending the classic family portrait on the front of a card is so kitsch its kinda cool. However, much to my hubbys relief this year the little man got involved and before hes too old to realise what hes being lured into I intend to make the most of using his cute mug on the front of our cards.

 

However, getting tiny ones involved in a photo shoot is not as easy as it sounds! Im certainly not a photographer, but I have spent the last year taking pics at every given opportunity. So, here’s my tips for getting the right amount of cute on the front of your festive cards with the least mount of chaos

1.) Choose an area that is really brightly lit, sunlight is by far the best so some advanced planning could come into play. Unless of course you’re planning it in front of your Christmas Tree. I think my other half would not be best pleased if the tree went up in August!!!

2.) Don’t expect a little one to see your artistic vision. Try and do something that works for them, perhaps an activity or prop to play with and just go with the flow. This also goes for outfits, if they keep a hat on your half way there!

3.) Do it when they are least tired and grumpy, unless you want a sleeping picture (great idea for tiny ones). Most of my themed photos are taken at about 6am. Yep, that’s now a sociable hour. The joys of early mummy starts.

4.) Try and choose a background that’s pretty flexible, so they can let the artistic talents flow..or roam around and NOT stay still.

5.) There are loads of great and easy to use Apps to add a little extra to your pictures. I used Pic collage for my offering.

6.) Have FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, I send least amount of chaos..but hey, I also said fun…

With love and a mop,

Torie x

 

A Winter Woodland Wreath

The Christmas countdown can’t start soon enough for me. I have been known to leave fairy lights up all year around, I mean who wouldn’t? And if the Christmas tunes come on in the shops in October that is fine by me. So I just couldn’t wait to get stuck in with my first Christmas make. Here I will show you how to make this super easy fresh moss wreath complete with felt fox and fairytale style woodland mushrooms!

I started by foraging for my greenery. I don’t have a garden of my own, more of a yard with planters filled with grasses; it’s a bit Mediterranean rather than English country garden. So I head for my sisters house armed with a bin bag, a pair of secateurs and a bottle of wine as a bribe.

Gorgeous greens in hand I head home to start creating my masterpiece.

You have to get in the spirit!

Put the Christmas tunes on and get yourself a glass of your favourite tipple, be it tea or in my case a cheeky Bailey’s and youre ready to begin.

You will need the following: A metal wreath ring, some garden wire, mossing pins, secateurs, and moss. Most of this you can pick up in your local DIY/Garden Centre. For the wreath ring and the mossing pins I bought mine from a florist wholesaler on line (RainbowFloristSupplies.co.uk) if you do a search there are many to choose from.

Firstly attach the wire to the frame by winding it around a few times and set aside. Grab some big handfuls of the gorgeous moss, I just love how tactile it is and it smells fab, always reminds me of holidays in Wales. It has that really earthy smell! Squish and shape with your hands into a big oblong shape.

Place the packed moss onto the wreath frame and begin to pull the wire around and around to fix it to the frame. Don’t get hung up on the bits and pieces that fall out and poke out. It’s a messy but fun job.

Pack it tight and pull the wire tight around it so that the end result is dense and sturdy.

Keep working your way around until you have completed the circle with the packed moss. I then go around one more time with the wire to pull in any straggling bits and make things look a little neater. Don’t get obsessive about it though as it is going to be covered with the lovely greenery.

Once you have been around again cut the wire and secure it into the moss by making a loop at the end and pushing a mossing pin though it to hold it in place. Push it in at an angle so it doesn’t come through the back of the frame.

There you have your base and your ready to make it pretty, although if you ask me its pretty bloody lovely as it is.

Its hard to direct you from this point on as it will entirely depend on the foliage you have had access too and as your working with natural materials no two wreaths will look alike. But this is the beauty of it. Get creative and be free with it, there is no science to it.

I am going to begin with my ivy, winding it around the moss frame and securing it at points as I go with the mossing pins. Again be sure to insert them in at an angle so you don’t pierce though to the back of the wreath.

Use the shapes you naturally find in the foliage to create a basic outline that you want to follow. I decide that I want to make a spray at the bottom of the wreath, which basically means I am making a feature out of the bottom of the wreath by inserting more of the bulk of the foliage here to make it more prominent.

With some of the strong woody stems these can be inserted directly into the moss and secured with a moss pin. Some of your pieces may need wiring to make the stems sturdier. This way you can take some finer pieces of foliage and twist them together to make little bunches as below.

I select some holly to add in next but not before pausing to sing along to a bit on Mariah. Would it be rude to have a mince pie at this point?? It is December (just) after all!

Keep working away adding the different greens and berries, always observing the original lines you created.

I use the soft and flexible ivy vines to create nice sweeping curves along the top of the wreath to balance out the spray at the bottom. It’s important to work with the natural properties of flowers and foliage. Go with what they naturally want to do and your creation will be effortless.

Make sure all gaps are filled and play around with it until its full and your happy with the shape.

Now its time to decorate! Do this however you like, tinsel, lights, baubles, a big red velvet bow would be lovely. The possibilities are endless. Let it show your personality and style. With my daughter in mind I decide to make mine a little magical winter wonderland.

When its finished hang it on your door, or if you just cant get enough of the Christmas decorations, make it the centerpiece to your room so you can look at your lovely creation all day long

Stand back and admire, with a mince pie of course!

Merry Christmas

X

Top 5 books for the creative home!

The Christmas ads are in full swing. The creative bigwigs have been sat around over-sized meeting desks, slurping coffee and pulling out every tear jerking, belly laughing, consumer eye-catching trick in the book except those at Coca-cola. Lets face it theyve had there feet up since January when that big old florescent lorry went into its box for another year all ready to be dusted down and brought back to life again round about now. Hey, if it aint broke?

I have to hold my hands up and admit Im every advertising gurus dream. I cried at the little penguin on the John Lewis ad, shouted out which shop I thought that amazing feast came from (yep, I guess Lidleverytime!) and want to be one of the cute fairies on the M&S ad. However, there is one advert I just dont get??? Its for those rather famous hair straighteners, claiming cook books are not what people super glam models want for Christmas. Why would anyone NOT want a cookbook for Christmas? Ok, straighteners are useful *ties up messy mummy hair immediately* but, I defy even the most glamorous of us to not like this selection of books. So, I give you my Top 5 brilliant books to give the colourful creative person in your life and guess what? It starts with a cook book…

LEON Ingredients and Recipes Allegra McEvedy

I love, love, love the Leon books. All of them. However, if you are new to this recipe book range then go for this. Not only does it have a heart warming array of recipes but they have been written by family members and friends who obviously put a lot of love into their food. In fact, it almost feels as though youve stumbled across an old family heirloom with tried and tested recipes spanning generations.

It begins with a section which explains where our food comes from, whats in season, different cuts of meat and the illusive explanation of which oil to use for what!? All set out in a colourful pull-out, lift the flap and poster style layout. Think Childrens book crossed with your Grans oldest torn out recipe collection, etched with penciled notes and bookmarked with family photos. Sound interesting? It is.

My must try recipes are the Bran breakfast muffins (for a hubby that wont eat breakfast, disguise it as cake and hes all in) and the baked sweet potato falafels, Which are a huge healthy finger food hit for the little man.

Etcetera Sibella Court


I stumbled across this book at the library when looking for some colour scheme inspiration and what a great stumble it was. It made me instantly want to travel the world and collect a different trinket as I go, however the local flea market will have to do for now.

Sibella Court is a set designer who has lived and worked across the globe and shares her collections and ideas in this beautifully laid out book. I would go as far as saying this is so beautiful it could be a coffee table book to browse, but also full of wonderful ideas and inspiration for anyone who loves interior and design. It will also give you some handy and fun ways to display family heirlooms.

Decorate Holly Becker & Joanna Copestick

When we put an offer in on our very first home I was beyond excited to be able to actually put colour on the walls and choose furniture after living in rented flats and apartments for years. I was working away touring the Middle East at the time our offer on the little bungalow in London was going through. It was a really exciting time as not only was it our first home it needed a full renovation (we dont do things by halfand could only afford a renovation project in London). While I was away I became totally obsessed with interior books and magazines dreaming of how my first home would look. A great friend I made whilst working out there suggested I order a book called Decorate and it was waiting for me when I arrived home. It has been a go-to read anytime I wanted a bit of inspiration and confidence when injecting colour into a space or room and ditching any sign of magnolia.

It is written by blogging legend Holly Becker, who launched the Decor8 blog in 2006 and has around 36,000 daily readers and Joanne Copestick, who is a writer and editor specialising in interior publications and has written over ten books on interior.

The Vintage Tea Party book

Vintage has become hugely popular over the last few years and I for one am happy to champion a colourful head scarf and slick of red lippy. In fact, I had a vintage birthday party a few years back and donned the victory rolls with pride. This book is a perfect guide to hosting a vintage style party, whether youre after the full coddled eggs experience or want to just dip in with a classic scone recipe, this has it all. Not only does it contain a wonderfully eclectic range of recipes and cocktails it has how to guides along the way. This includes templates for bunting, invitations and step by step guides to hair-styling, make-up and even how to sew your own vintage apron.

This is a lovely book to inspire a childrens tea party (my niece would adore this) to a full out (adult) tassel swinging, feather bower wearing, cocktail drinking soiree.

Plus, who wouldn’t want a book that contains sandwich bunting?

KITCHEN Nigella Lawson

This is the Nigella bible of cookbooks, if you like to get your moneys worth when buying a book you wont be disappointed with this one. It has a ridiculous amount of recipes and absolutely beautiful photography by Lis Parsons (I only use cookery books that have photographs I definitely eat with my eyes) This book sat by my bedside for a year as bedtime reading and now has pride of place in my Kitchen.

Someone once said to me you are either a Delia or a Nigella! If this is true as much as I take a bow to Delia, Nigella is my sort of gal. Shell cook up a storm with a cocktail in one hand and eye liner in the other and shares my absolute obsession with cook books. All hail Nigella you are the queen of my Kitchen.

With love and books (many books!) x x x

The Box Party

I’ve always considered myself pretty brave. On a scale of 1-10 I’d score myself at around a 9. It would be 10 but I cannot abide spiders or crabs, which are essentially spiders in armour. I’ve done some pretty brave things; I’ve sung live in front of thousands of people, I’ve had a tattoo (sorry Mum) and I gave birth to an 11lb1oz baby with no pain relief. But when considering what to do for Leo’s 5th birthday party, the mere idea of a houseful of 5 year old boys made me want to crawl into a corner, get into a foetal position and spoon the cat for comfort.

I needed to come up with a new idea. Soft play party, swimming party, football party…..none were Leo’s cup of tea. Then one afternoon as I watched all three of my children squeezed into a small box in our lounge a plan was hatched.

box-party

Kids love boxes. It’s just one of those things. Like cats, kids find small, dark spaces absolutely fascinating and their imagination seems to just take flight. Over the years mine have had a variety of beloved boxes which have become space rockets, space buses, cars, houses, forts etc, so how cool would it be to have a room filled with boxes to play in?

Over the next couple of months I collected boxes of all shapes and sizes. Friends saved them for me, I rummaged for them in recycling bins and I managed to bag several huge beauties from local businesses. I bought huge packs of pens, stickers and masking tape from the cash and carry, a roll of bubble wrap, a large quantity of Styrofoam shapes and a couple of craft knives that the adults could use to carve windows and doors. We hired a room at our local community centre for the fun to take place.

The day of the party arrived. I started to doubt myself. What were the kids and parents of said kids going to think, opening the door to a room full of boxes? Will they think ‘Is this it? Where are the organised games? Where’s the magician?’

Doors open..

Thankfully the kids were on my wavelength and within a very short time of arriving they all got stuck in!

Walls were constructed and smashed down and cars were built and driven.

A Chinese dragon was created and danced around the room, swords were carved and knights started to fight!

Some of the quieter children got on with decorating the boxes. The bubble wrap, which was masking taped to the floor to make a huge carpet, was bounced all over! The Styrofoam was thrown all over the floor and children (and my husband) were making snow angels.

It was utter carnage and was very, very loud! It was wonderful to watch so much creativity taking place, and allow kids to make as much mess as they liked.

Even the grownups got involved! Uncle Sam’s on the telly!

This party was so much fun! The kids had a ball and it was pretty cheap to organise. The clean up was pretty horrific but thankfully I had lots of helpers on hand. I would really recommend this party to anyone who has to cater for a large amount of children, particularly if there are quite a few energetic 5 year old boys to entertain!

With love

xxx

A quick lunch for two.

a-quick-lunch-for-2

I’m working from home today which means I am working between nappies and naps!

When Scarlett is snoozing I am happy to take a break from work to prepare us some lunch. Two things it has to be are quick and nutritious. Oh, and something we both can eat. I’m not keen on making two meals when one will do. We can learn a lot by eating like our babies. No added salt or sugar in the recipe, just good wholesome ingredients.

Ingredients:

* Couscous

* Smoked Mackerel fillets

* Avocado

* Zest and juice of a lemon

* Half a lime

* Fresh coriander

As usual, when looking after a child all best laid plans are put on hold when they don’t follow what you want them to do. So no sooner have I put Scarlett down for a nap, she is awake again so joins me in the kitchen for a cookery lesson.

next-food-writer

Check out our next big food writer! Now back to preparing lunch…

To start add one parts couscous and and two parts cold water to a small pan. Add the finely grated zest and juice of a lemon and the juice of half a lime. Pop the used lemon and lime in for extra flavour. I added some fresh chopped coriander as I had some left over from last nights dinner but you can add any fresh herbs you like. Parsley would be nice too.

Cover the pan and put on a low heat.

Let the water, herbs and citrus juices infuse into the couscous under the heat for 5 minutes, fluffing with a fork a couple of times during the process. Watch it and dont be tempted to answer a quick email or reply to a text like I did as it will stick to the bottom of the pan, makes cleaning it a pain!

When its done take off the heat and leave it covered while you get on preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Remove the skin off of the smoked mackerel and then with two forks shred the fish carefully discarding any bones you find. I bought boneless fillets but you can never be too careful especially when it serving to children.

Mash the avocado with a fork.

Discard the lemon and lime from the pan and mix in both the mackerel and the avocado to the herby lemony couscous. And you are done!

Serve with some more fresh herbs on top and slices of sweet red pepper, which are great for little fingers to pick up.

As this is less about cooking and more about an assembly of ingredients then you can use whatever you want to create a healthy lunch using couscous as a base, salmon and fresh dill or parsley would make a nice combination served with a little Greek yogurt on top.

Enjoy x

Grans Cheery Choc Crunch

grans-cheery-choc-crunch

 

Have you ever found out something that was an absolute certainty in your childhood to actually not be quite as it seemed as you grew up? For example, the Ice cream van doesn’t play music to indicate its ran out of ice cream.. Rugby players don’t get cauliflower ears because they don’t eat enough cauliflower.. my beloved Guinea Pig was in fact three lovely Guinea Pigs (Sob) get the idea? Well, can you imagine my sheer shock when last year I went into a very well known coffee shop to see that they not only knew my Grans very secret Chocolate Crunch Recipe but they had been selling it for years. Wow, what a coincidence. The food that was one of my very fondest childhood memories and was the biggest hit at family parties (bar my Grandads full Scottish attire on New Years Eve) was actually being sold in a rather famous coffee chain. After several tastings, (just to be certain), it pretty much resembled this very secret recipe my Gran had been harboring. to the crumb. So, for many here is my version of the universally known Tiffin cake, but to me it will always remain my Grans secret Cheery Choc Crunch. Enjoy x

What you need
250g Digestive biscuits (or the best part of a pack, with a few left to dip in tea)
100g Unsalted Butter
100g Golden Syrup
300g Chocolate of your choice (I like cooking Chocolate with a high cocoa count however this is quite rich. I would suggest milk chocolate for little ones)
Small bowl of Raisins
Small bowl of chopped Glacier Cherries
A tray to put the mixture in with a removable bottom or lined with cling film
A Pan with bowl to fit over to heat mixture
Sandwich bag (to crush the biscuits)

Step One

Start by putting the digestive biscuits in a sandwich bag and crushing with a rolling pin, its nice to have a mixture of small crumbs and larger pieces.

Step Two

Next put the Butter, Golden Syrup and 200g Chocolate in a bowl (the remaining chocolate is to pour on top of the mixture).

Step Three

Put the bowl over a pan of boiling water and stir continuously as it melts together. Then add the biscuits, raisins and cherries and stir together.

Step Four

Now put the mixture into a tray. Either one with a removable bottom or one lined with cling film. Really squash the mixture down so it sets together.

Melt the remaining chocolate and pour over the top of the mixture. Put in the fridge to set overnight.

Ready to be devoured!

PLEASE NOTE: For the full Heston Blumenthal experience of my Grans crunch this must be eaten with a distinct whiff of Poodle in the the air and under a dining room table during a family party. (I was also known to eat at least 3/4s of a tray in one sitting looks like someone takes after there Mummy!)

Thank you Gran, your glorious legend lives on

With love and crumbs,
x x

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