Monday, December 31, 2012

The Holly & The Ivy

We had fun decorating our new flat for Christmas this year...

I love fairy lights, they're so pretty and even manage to make our corridor look atmospheric.

Plenty of greenery is a must - I went for a walk in nearby woods on a cold and frosty morning and came back with a huge bag of holly and ivy. Traditionally the woman is supposed to carry the ivy into the house and the man the holly! Although having just double checked this fact in 'Discovering The Folklore of Plants' by Margaret Baker, I've been reminded that you're not supposed to bring holly into the house until Christmas Eve as 'To do this destroys it's intrinsic luck and in Wales, leads to family quarrels.' Good job we don't live in Wales eh?

Mistletoe is so pretty! Well done you if you managed to harvest some in the wild though - it's a parasitic plant that grows high up, just out of reach in the branches of it's host tree (funny how it knows exactly how high it needs to be isn't it?).

Our tree this year was a real beauty and has remained green and busy thus far - though the tips of the branches are now just beginning to point downwards. We'll keep it up until next weekend and take it down on Twelfth Night. I always find it strange when I go for a walk on Boxing Day as there's always at least one Christmas Tree forlornly discarded by the side of the road. Who are these people who get up early on Boxing Day in order to throw their trees away and what on earth are they thinking?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012

Well hello there! I hope you've all had lovely, cosy Christmasses filled with friends, family and plenty of delicious food! I've completely lost track of time and it's wonderful! Was Christmas Eve really 6 days ago? Although Christmas day is obviously the best day of the year, ever since I was 12 years old I've spent most of the day helping in the kitchen. I love the busy, boozy atmosphere of Christmas day - the rush to get everything ready for the feast but I love Boxing Day and the days in between Christmas and New Year almost as much too! It's lovely to be able to open the fridge and pull out cold ham, turkey, cheese, Christmas pudding and of course Christmas Cake!

This was our last year as an un-married couple and our first time hosting Christmas for my family (seven hungry mouths to feed!) and here is the only photo I managed to take all day.

I've got a few more bits and pieces that I didn't quite get round to posting before Christmas - I like to start the New Year with a clean slate so prepare for a post overload over the next 24 hours...

Happy end of 2012!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Hampers - Done & Dusted!

Merry Christmas one and all! Here we are on Christmas Eve - time to put together the Christmas Hampers using the things I've made over the last few weeks as well as the bits and pieces I've found at local antiques shops, rummage shops and at the Farm Shop!

Isn't this little cabbage shaped pot sweet! It would be the perfect thing to serve my home made piccalilli in!

No Christmas would be complete without Turkish Delight - I couldn't resist this Creme De Menthe flavour!

Hot Diggidy Dog sauce for a chilli aficionado!

Festive Brandy Snaps for someone with a sweet tooth.

Creme De Maron - sweet chestnut spread. This would be lovely with cheese or as an addition to a nut roast.

I fell in love with these sweet glasses the moment I saw them! Just the thing for sipping sherry by the fire tomorrow night.

Here are the hampers all ready to be wrapped up! Toby is looking on and checking everything is in order.

Thank you for following this little series! It's been really fun putting together these little hampers and I hope you've enjoyed the recipes too. This years hampers are a real mish mash of all my favourite Christmassy things and I'm really pleased with how they've turned out.

If you would like to revisit all the posts in this series you can find them here:

Christmas Hamper Project # 1: Candied Peel

Christmas Hamper Project # 2: Home Made Mincemeat

Christmas Hamper Project # 3: Chilli Pepper Jelly

Christmas Hamper Project # 4: Chocolate Dipped Peel

Christmas Hamper Project # 5: At The Jumble Rummage

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Hamper Project # 5: At the Jumble Rummage!

Starting the day with a nice strong coffee to give me the energy for bargain hunting!
Christmas is coming and the hampers are looking good. We've got sweet little jars of home made mincemeat, hot and spicy chilli pepper jelly and toothsome chocolate covered peel done and dusted. Time to go shopping for those quirky extras that will make them really special!

I've mentioned here before my love of antique shop rummaging - if you're lucky enough to live away from a big city then you're likely to have some great charity, antique and jumble rummage shops on your doorstep!

First, let's take a quick look at the different types of shop and what each one could offer:

1) Charity shops - small independent charity shops in sleepy little towns are the best of all! Each one will be completely different, one may specialise in kitchenware whilst another may have great soft furnishings. Visit little and often as new pieces will come in every day - when something that you've been holding out for appears, be ready.

2) Antiques Emporiums - These are the sweet shops of the rummage world! You can browse to your hearts content and develop a keen eye. If there is a particular style of pottery for example that takes your fancy have a good look (and feel) - you'll be more likely to spot that same Orange Tree milk jug or Homemaker plate in a box full of bric-a-brac when it comes to the next car boot.

3) Rummage Shops - Like Robert's Rummage in Hastings Old Town, these are my favourite shops of all. Here, value will be in the eye of the beholder and prices will be sweet and low (think pennies rather than pounds). Everything will be dirty, there may even be spiders. You will literally have to rummage on your hands and knees but you're bound to emerge with a shimmering jewel

Why not pull on your comfiest shoes, oldest jeans, leave your handbag and home and prepare to get your hands dirty!

My top tips for a successful rummage:

1. If you love something, buy it then and there. Don't leave it on the shelf and tell yourself you'll come back for it later, life will get in the way and you probably won't.

2. Don't pay too much - whatever it is you're looking for, if you keep looking long enough you'll find it at the right price, I promise!

3. Unless you're buying antique items as a serious investment, look past any chips or cracks. Especially in the rummage shops, items are often damaged - that's why they're there and that's why they're affordable! Think of it as a unique characteristic!

4. Get involved - forget what your Mum told you when you were little, do touch everything! Pick up plates and bowls and feel their weight in your hand.

5. Give yourself a big pat on the back for supporting local businesses! Not only will your home be full of interesting, one off items with bags of personality (as opposed to Billy bowls and GrÖnkulla lamps from Ikea) you'll also be supporting the little independent shops that matter!

It blows my mind that for a few pounds you can pick up a plate or a vase that's over a hundred years old. It makes me really happy :)

I'll be posting the results of this Christmas rummage in the last installment of the Christmas Hamper series on Christmas Eve!

Chloe Bakes: Mince Pies

It's Mince Pie time! This year I made my own mincemeat for the first time (you can see the blog post here). If you've not had time then this Waitrose version is a pretty good alternative!

Ideally you'll need a little fancy tart tin (honestly that's what it's called) - this makes shallow mince pies like you see above. If you've only got a cupcake or muffin tin, I say go for it! Make a deep dish mince pie and cram it full of delicious filling!

For the pastry:

350g Plain flour
150g Butter
Cold water
Pinch of salt

The butter must be cold so pop it in the fridge for a few hours before using - you want to handle it as little as possible so it doesn't go all oily and spoil your pastry. Once it's suitably chilled, cut it into small cubes. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and plop the little cubes of butter in one by one. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle in the salt and give it a quick whisk with a fork. Add cold water a few tablespoons at a time (sprinkle it over the flour and butter mixture rather than pour). Start to bring the mixture together with a spatula, adding water a little at a time until the dough starts to come together. Delve in with your hands and form the dough into a ball then cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 20 - 30 minutes. Have a little glass of sherry.

Don't be tempted to skip the pastry's time out in the fridge or it may shrink up in the oven!

When it's time, roll out the pastry onto a floured work surface - I like to make mine very thin so it crisps up nicely in the oven. I don't have a round pastry cutter so I just cut round a glass! Butter up the tart tin and pop your circle of pastry in, pressing it into the sides.

Add a couple of teaspoons of the mincemeat, bearing in mind that it will bubble up in the oven. Top with a sweet little pastry star and brush the pastry all over with a little milk or beaten egg.

Pop in the oven at 160c for about 15 - 20 minutes (keep an eye on them though as the timings can vary).


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Snowman

This is my favourite Christmas film -  I love Raymond Brigg's illustrations and the book translates into animation so well. Everything is all sketchy and coloured by hand - you can really see the texture of the crayons and pencils. It's a simple story - all comforting and sad at once. I love the cosy, homely details like the socks hanging up to dry, the Mum in the doorway and the chest freezer in the garage. My favourite part is the bit when they're driving through the woods on a motorbike, scattering wildlife.

Keep your eye out for the new sequel which is airing on Channel 4 at 8.00pm Christmas Eve! Of the new film, Raymond Briggs has said "I'm not grumpy about it [the sequel], or the introduction of a new character. It is absolutely super, not sentimental at all. The Snowman's success is about a simple thought. We all have favourite people we become fond of and then they pass away, it touches a chord, of loss – even for young people, someone dies." - you can read more on the Guardian website here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Browsing in Liberty...

...for some interior design inspiration, both Christmassy and non-Christmassy!

I love the idea of growing succulents in a pretty bowl like this! I'll have to keep my eyes peeled in the local rummage shops for a suitable receptacle.

A sweet needle felted bird for the tree? I love the unusual colour.

These letter press pictures are gorgeous! (You could also keep an eye out for individual letters in antiques shops or on ebay and make your own!)

Love the towering cakes on this Christmas card!

This dried orange wreath smelled lovely - I'll have to add this to the (every expanding) list of DIY projects for next year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chloë Bakes: Sparkly Snowflake Cupcakes

Here are a few quick snaps of my latest festive cupcake order! Julia of the fabulous blog Julia Style Me ordered these festive cupcakes from Chloë Bakes Cakes as an early Christmas gift! After chatting through some ideas we settled on a festive snowflake theme - I matched the colour of the icing to the pretty turquoise and cream colours on Julia's blog. They are organic vanilla sponge cupcakes topped with organic vanilla buttercream and they smelled heavenly!