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Friday, 21 December 2012

Festive Bakes

Well this was the year that I vowed the majority of my Christmas gifts would be home-made.  To me, one of the main components of Christmas is scrummy food!  Unsurprisingly, I decided to make some baked treats to give as gifts.

Chocolate Truffles

After everyone on my Christmas forum was raving about giving home made truffles as gifts I decided I had to make my own.  Back in November I purchased some metallic petit four cases, with the intention of using them for truffles.  I have made ganache before for icing cakes, but never used it to make truffles.  The actual baking part is child's play, I used this recipe;

The only adjustment I made was using German dark chocolate instead of the recommended 70% cocoa (Lindt etc) - I may be biased, but I just think that German Chocolate has a far deeper taste.

The assembly was very, very messy!  It was a bit of a struggle not to let my OCD take over as all the shapes were slightly irregular, but I am very pleased with how they turned out.  I made 3 different types of truffle; malibu and white chocolate, dark chocolate rolled in cocoa and salted chocolate.

Festive Jam and Pickled Onions

As you may remember, back in the Summer I went blackberry picking on our local heath.  After thoroughly cleaning the blackberries I decided to freeze them to make something later in the year.  After dismissing my initial idea of a blackberry vodka, I decided to make jam.  I wanted something that could be put in my Christmas gift hamper, after scouring the net I found this recipe;

The cinnamon and nutmeg in this recipe made it very festive!  Unfortunately I didn't have enough blackberries and so I had to bulk it out with some raspberries that were also lurking in my freezer.  This was my first time making jam and although my first attempt didn't turn out perfect, it was great fun.  I was worried that the jam would be too runny and so a lot of jam makers advised the use of lemon juice for natural pectin.  I decided to use the juice from two lemons and it was a big mistake!  My jam set like concrete :( I was so worried it would have to be binned but luckily I found another site that told me how to rescue it.  Gently warming the jam, hot water is slowly stirred in until the desired consistency is reached.  Perfect!

When I was younger my Nan made Pickled Onions every Christmas.  The smell of briny onions still brings back fond memories from my childhood.  It is for this reason (and the fact that I am a pickled onion-aholic) that I wanted to make them again this year.  As soon as family and friends found out I was making a batch, the requests soon came in for some.  I made mine mid November, they have had 6 weeks to mature and should taste great!

Mince Pies, Millionaire Shortbread and Chocolate Candy Cane Fudge

A few years ago I started making mince pies throughout December.  I am not sure where I found the original recipe, but it called for citrus peel to be added to the pastry.  Since that first recipe, I always make sure to add orange peel and now I use the juice from the orange to amalgamate the pastry.  This year I even added a tablespoon of cognac to the mincemeat - yum yum!

Since adding my Millionaire Shortbread recipe to the blog, I have had a few comments and even my lovely Mother in Law mentioned how much she enjoyed making it.  It seemed fitting that I added this to my baked hamper.

I am a little in love with Kirstie Allsopp, and when I saw this recipe for chocolate fudge, I had to try it!

I have to say that I felt a little let down by the recipe.  Usually when using icing sugar you are advised as to whether it needs to be sieved.  Kirstie's didn't mention sieving the icing sugar and so I didn't bother - big mistake!  As soon as I tried to mix the icing sugar in, any lumps stayed whole and would not separate, failure!  There was no way I could salvage it as it was, I needed something that would distract from the small lumps of icing sugar in the mixture.  I had an epiphany - crushed candy canes!  They would add a lovely minty flavour and add a subtle chewiness to the texture.  I added 3 to the mix and it turned out heavenly.

The only problem with giving away all of these yummy treats is it's effect on my waist line :( We have a house full of left-overs that I seem to be working my way through ;)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Upcycled Glass Sweetie Jar

Back in the Summer, a friend and I developed a bit of a glass obsession.  It all started when I saw a tutorial on glass etching a beautiful trifle bowl.  Well I knew I needed one, but was loath to pay almost £40 for a similar one - especially as I was worried that I would mess up the etching process.  We decided to scour the local car boot sales in search of one.  Sadly we never found the trifle bowl (although my wonderful bestie brought me one for our wedding anniversary, I am still too scared to etch it!) but we did manage to find a tall retro glass sweetie jar.

At the time I didn't really pay much attention to my purchase.  I loosely discussed etching it with cute little gingerbread motifs, but never got round to it (I will be more organised next year!).  When I was pulling out my glass jars for jam making last week, I suddenly remembered I had it.  Unfortunately it was too late to try out something elaborate with glass etching as I currently have a gazillion other Christmas present crafts that I am rushing to complete.  I planned to just give it a thorough scrub and fill it with an edible gift.

A few weeks ago, I planned to make some vinyl snowflake nail decals to accompany some pretty Gosh nail varnish and a file, a sweet mini nail set for some of my girly friends.  The snowflakes cut beautifully, and I excitedly set my cameo to cut out 12 sets.  Stupidly I didn't check the snowflake size against my own nails, trying them, I realized they were ever so slightly too big!  A huge waste of expensive vinyl and time.  I do hate to throw anything away (secret hoarder tendencies) and so they were chucked back in the drawer with the idea that they would come in handy for something.

Well, I had the brain wave of combining the two and I am very happy with the results!

I used this jar in my Nan and Grandads foodie hampers.  I will be posting about this on a separate post, fingers crossed I will remember to link it in here!

I think I paid £2.50 for the jar, I remember grumbling that it was more expensive then the other glassware I was buying at the time.  A quick look on ebay has revealed that similar ones on ebay sell for over £14, so it would appear I definitely got a bargain!

I will be dragging my friend along next year too, I was so pleased with how this one turned out that I will definitely be on the look-out for more.  I also have a glass hurricane lamp and tall vase with absolutely no idea how to transform them - fingers crossed inspiration will strike!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

First Fete

Well, I had my first fete today and really enjoyed it.  Granted I made very little, but there was interest for my Family Tree Paper-Cuts and I was urged to try out some actual Craft Fairs/Fetes rather then a general one.  There were lovely Christmas carols and it was nice to chat to people about my crafts.  I even took along my knitting (desperately trying to finish a Christmas present!) and it was nice to knit and watch the children.

Here are some of the photo's from my stall;

The pink stand was a pot stand that I managed to get from poundland.  It was originally white, but I purchased a spray can of hot pink paint and managed to transform it.  I bought some bauble hooks too and really like all the available space it gives me to hand my wares.

I may be brave and try an actual craft fair next year!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Personalized Family Tree Paper Cut - Anniversary Gift

Last Tuesday, it was 19 years exactly since I sashayed down the aisle of Canford Magna Church, with my hair in angelic ringlets and sporting a beautiful princess dress.  19 years ago my cousin married her childhood sweetheart and gave me the privilege of being her bridesmaid.

Lisa is extremely family orientated, she home educates her children and is like no Mother I have ever met - her offspring are very lucky.  We lived together for a large part of my childhood and she is pretty much my big sister.  She is the one I turn to when life has hit me hard, the one I celebrate with when I have caught a break and the one who is always supportive and never afraid to give me her true opinion if she believes it is for my own good.

All of this means the pressure for me to show her how much she means to me is enormous!  Originally I had the soppy idea to buy them both the Now 1993 album - however this was a bit of a gamble.  They got married in 1993, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they loved the music of that year.  It was a no-brainer, I needed to find something meaningful and personal to them - A true reflection of just how wonderful they are.

Whilst researching ideas to make for the Christmas fete, I stumbled across the wonderful sentiment of a Family Tree paper-cut that was personalized with each of the family members names.  I won't link to any as it isn't really fair to the wonderful Artists for me to pick apart their work.  Needless to say I was smitten!

The prices of these online were £40+ for a framed piece, initially I couldn't understand why the price was so high, but after spending 4 hours designing just the tree, I soon realized why.  My first draft (from start to finish) took about 5 hours, and after initially being very positive, my heart sank once I finally had it framed.  Here is the first draft;

It just didn't look right :( I am a shrewd perfectionist, and to me this cut looked exactly like it was - someone saw the pricey ones online and made a bad attempt at replicating.  By now it was midnight and I had arranged to deliver the present first thing in the morning.  I could have cried, how could I possibly hand this over as a gift?

After a largely sleepless night (filled with frustrating dreams of digital design and cutting) I decided to give up on sleep and make a second attempt.  I knew that the problem with the first attempt was that my OCD for symmetry was being over-whelmed by this more 'organic' design.

My second attempt wielded this, and I am in love!

I am pleased to say that my cousin loved it!  One of the first things she said was; "you should try and sell these" - that's the plan!

I can't say too much now, but I have a few more in the design process for Christmas presents ;)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

My first attempt using Heat Transfer Vinyl - Inspired by my husband, The Grinch

Not many people know this, but I am married to the Grinch.  They say that opposites attract, so I guess it only stands to reason that someone as obsessed and in love with Christmas as I would end up marrying the Bah Humbug type.  After listening to his mantra of "God, I hate Christmas" for the millionth time, I decided to get him back at his own game.  If he hates Christmas so much, then surely a statement tee was in order.

With Chris at work, me fighting a cold and restless, I decided to try out the heat transfer vinyl I recently bought.  This was initially purchased to trial embellishing Children's clothes for the up-coming fete, but I decided my big Kid needed first dibs.

Here are the results;

The process was not exactly straight-forward, but for a first attempt I am satisfied.  Only real grumble is that my cheap ironing board has left a very light diamond pattern in a small area.  In all fairness most of Chris's shirts have this on so I am sure he will barely notice - time for a new ironing board?