Citrus + Almond Biscotti

Citrus + almond biscotti | Hello Victoria

My favorite kind of recipes look difficult, but are dead easy to make. It’s even better if they’re the type you can experiment with different flavours and textures – like these citrus and almond biscotti. Biscotti look complicated, but are so, so simple to make. Maybe we always think they’re hard, because it’s the type of thing people buy instead of bake. But I am encouraging you to try them youself, and play around with the flavours!

Citrus + almond biscotti | Hello Victoria

For this recipe I chose to use almonds and citrus – as they were two things I already had in the pantry. Try experimenting with all sorts of nuts, dried fruit, zest, chocolate, spices, etc… the options are endless. What about chocolate + hazelnut, lemon + cranberry, or white chocolate + pistachio? My original recipe was for orange, white chocolate, and ginger, but I’m not the biggest fan of white chocolate. Use whatever flavours you enjoy!

One part of the recipe that you shouldn’t skip, is the cooling step. The biscotti will spread, so the longer you chill it for, the better it’ll hold its shape. You can chill it for just 30 minutes, overnight, or freeze for 20+ minutes. (more…)

Hello Inspiration: Fireplaces + Accessories

Fireplace inspiration | Hello Victoria

gorgeous aged brick fireplace from Jacquelyn Clark

This past Christmas… the tree was decorated in the corner, glowing houses were on the credenza, and we had constant Christmas music and warm drinks on hand. But still, something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t quite cozy enough for Christmas, and I think I have put my finger on it. No, it’s not the lack of snow here in England… it’s the lack of a fireplace in this flat!

We have turned on the fireplace videos on Amazon Prime or YouTube, but it just isn’t the same. You need the crackling sounds, wavering light, and smell… oh the smell! Especially cedar! Just heaven!

Richard and I both miss having a fireplace, especially in this cold January season. It’s probably the one thing we wish for most in this flat, other than a second bedroom. We would probably rather have a working open fireplace than a dishwasher!! We can tell where a fireplace used to live in our flat, because of the vent down by the baseboard. Curse whoever ripped it out!!!

So, it’s only logical that I have fireplaces on the brain, and their relevant accessories!

On a recent gift guide, Emily Henderson’s team listed this match striker + holder. I don’t know why, but I have always loved matches! It’s kind of a weird thing to love, but as a kid I remember my parents had this round match box with very long matches in it, and I loved it and always wanted to use them. Maybe it’s the pyro in me, but using matches is fun.

So when I saw this match striker, that doubles as a place to store your matches, it was love at first sight… until I saw the price tag! $50 for a wee match striker! So I started searching for more match striker/holder things, and found some even more expensive! Who knew these were pricy designer items?!

Match strikers | Hello Victoria

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

Here’s a list of my favorites, both expensive (in case you’re the type with oodles of cash to blow on silly things – lucky you ;)) and less so. It’s my new favorite thing to have on a mantle, which I don’t have… yet. Someday, we will buy a house and it WILL have a fireplace. Honestly, that’s non-negotiable for us.

Built in wood storage inspiration | Hello Victoria

built-in wood and blanket storage from Heather Bullard

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Long Weekend in Wales

Hiking Pen y Fan in Brecon, Wales | Hello Victoria

I’m not sure about you, but Richard and I are the kind of people who can’t do nothing very well. When we happen to have a rare weekend off together, we end up doing jobs around the house and grocery shopping… even though we told ourselves that we would just relax. Even as I write this, we are finishing up painting the trim in our kitchen.

We both feel guilty doing nothing at home. So when we had a special day to celebrate, we knew we had to get out of town… to Wales!

Cozy AirBnB cottage in Brecon, Wales | Hello Victoria

10 years ago, on October 8, I met Richard for the first time! We were both volunteering in Nepal on gap years, for the same local organization, and met in the volunteer’s meeting. I had already been there a month, and it was the first time we were meeting the new intake of volunteers. You can bet I did a second take when Richard sat down beside me! 😉

It may have taken 8 more years until we finally got together, but we still felt that we should celebrate the 10 year mark. So we went back to the same cottage in Wales that we spent our first Christmas together in, which we loved! It’s located a little outside of Brecon, on a farm with a few cottages. Our first time there, we were staying in Duck Cottage, but it was booked already, so we stayed in Damsen Cottage instead. Both places have cozy log burners and all the amenities you could need. However, from knowing how cold the stone floors get, we brought our slippers, some tea, and spent a few days curled up in front of a cozy fire…

Cozy AirBnB cottage in Brecon, Wales | Hello Victoria

Cozy AirBnB cottage in Brecon, Wales | Hello Victoria

Cozy AirBnB cottage in Brecon, Wales | Hello Victoria

Cozy AirBnB cottage in Brecon, Wales | Hello Victoria

The farm has a few resident ducks, chicken, guinea fowl, roosters, dogs, sheep, and horses. All of which add to such a lovely experience! We would give our crumbs to the chickens in the morning, and hear the sheep baaa-ing all day long. We both kept saying to ourselves that we wished we lived on the farm all the time. (more…)

Portzelky: Mennonite New Year’s Cookies

Portzelky: New Years cookies recipe | Hello VictoriaWell, it’s officially 2018! And why not start the new year with some good old fashioned doughnuts? My grandma always called these New Years Küken (or “cookies”) but you may also know them as Portzelky. They are a German Mennonite favorite, always made for New Year’s day.

When I was a kid, these weren’t my favorite thing because they contained a dreaded ingredient – raisins. Not sure why, but I have always disliked raisins, especially in baked goods. You know when you pick up a cookie, thinking it’s chocolate chip, only to eat a raisin?! Worst thing ever… I can remember eating raisins out of those little red boxes as a child, and enjoying it. But now, despite my best efforts to get used to those shriveled little pockets of sadness… I just don’t like ’em.

Portzelky: New Years cookies recipe | Hello Victoria

Now that I am making my own New Year’s cookies, I can use whatever fruit I want! (Eat that, raisins!) I have always wanted to experiment with these little dougnuts, and decided to try three different flavors this year. (more…)

Make Ahead Gravy: Save Time on Christmas Day

Make ahead gravy recipe | Hello Victoria

If you’re anything like me, then the idea of making every component of Christmas dinner, on the day, is stressful. I’m a huge fan of making as many things as possible the day before. That way, I can actually enjoy the day itself! One of those things that always seems to add to last minute stress is gravy. Because you’re waiting for the pan drippings to start, you’re often trying to finish the gravy just when everything else is needing mashing/plating/mixing/etc.

That’s why Richard and I are such huge fans of this recipe from Jamie Oliver! It might take hours to make, but gives you a gravy that you can make the day before, or even the week before and freeze. (When I say it takes hours, most of that time is spent in the oven, or simmering on the stove.) Then, on the big day, you simply add in your drippings, heat, and serve! I also like that it allows you to perfect the gravy, rather than rushing it, as most people agree gravy is very important!

Make ahead gravy recipe | Hello Victoria

I forgot to take a photo of the actual gravy once it was done, but I think we all know what gravy looks like 😉 Also, I used parchment paper in the tray, but regretted it later, as you kind of want the stuff to burn/brown on the bottom of the tray.

So if you’ve got a bit of time today or tomorrow, why not save yourself the hassle, and make your gravy ahead of time?

Make Ahead Gravy:

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 10 chicken wings
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2+ slices of smoked streaky bacon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 60 ml sherry or port, optional
  • 4 tbsp plain flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Roughly chop the bacon and set aside.
  2. Peel the onions, wash the carrots and celery, and roughly chop all vegetables.
  3. Put the vegetables, bacon, bay leaves, sage, and rosemary into a roasting tray,
  4. Break the chicken wings open, and bash with a rolling pin to help release extra flavour. Place in the tray.
  5. Drizzle everything with oil, season with salt + pepper, and toss. Cook for 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender.
  6. Remove the tray from the oven and transfer to a low heat on the stove. Really grind and mash everything with a potato masher, scraping up all the goodness from the base of the tray (the longer you let it fry, the darker your gravy will be).
  7. Add the sherry/port (opt.) now and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
  8. Gradually stir in the flour, then pour in 2 litres of boiling water. Simmer for 30+ minutes, or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
  9. When the gravy is the consistency you like, pour it through a coarse sieve into a large bowl, squeezing out as much liquid as you can with the back of a spoon.
  10. Taste and season, cool to room temperature, then pour into containers or bags and pop into the fridge or freezer, ready to finish off on the day.
  11. When your turkey is ready and resting, skim away most of the fat and pour your gravy into the tray with the rest of the turkey juices.
  12. Bring to the boil on the stove, and scrape up all those sticky bits from the base. Have a taste, and season if necessary.
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Homemade Eggnog

Homemade eggnog | Hello Victoria

One of the things that I miss most about Christmas in Canada is eggnog! Or better yet, eggnog lattes (insert heart eyes here). Starbucks in the UK only uses an ‘eggnog syrup’ not actual eggnog, which is not at all the same taste. Bleh. The first time I ordered one, I thought it tasted funny, but thought eggnog here was just sweeter or something.

So this year, after having a taste of proper eggnog back in Canada, I decided to make my own. The nice thing about homemade eggnog is that you can control the calories and spices. Use full fat milk, cream, or skim… whatever your heart desires! Add rum, or no rum: star anise, cloves, or just nutmeg. I like mine with lots of spice and a hint of rum; which also happens to be spiced!

Homemade eggnog | Hello Victoria

Most recipes I found online, said to use three parts whole milk, to one part cream. I wanted to make mine a bit healthier, and used only whole milk, but it’s not as thick as normal eggnog. Use single, double, half + half… whatever your heart desires! I also found recipes that said to whip the egg whites separately, and then add in just before serving. I imagine this would give it a bit of a frothier/thicker texture, but it felt like wasted effort for me.

The flavour will get stronger if you leave it overnight, so long as you keep the spices in. And if you want a festive punch, rather than just classic egg nog, add some 7-Up (or similar) and scoops of vanilla ice cream before serving. Perfection! (more…)

DIY Branching Monogram Ornaments: Anthropologie Inspiration

DIY Anthropologie ornaments | Hello Victoria

As I have mentioned before, I love Anthropologie! Richard automatically groans when we are near one of their shops, as he knows I want to go in. And their home stuff is my absolute favorite! So when I saw their Christmas ornaments online, I couldn’t help but fall in love! There were a few that I immediately wanted for my tree.

Buuuut… I’m cheap, and thought I could make my own! First up on my list were Anthropologie’s Budding Monogram ornaments. I loved how they looked like branches, and figured I could make them out of clay!

Anthropologie Budding Monogram ornament | Hello Victoria

My first thought was that I didn’t want to make the flowers and leaves out of clay, as they would probably break off too easily. As I knew that I was going to spray paint it gold in the end, I figured I could use flowers from another material and no one would know. I wanted to buy some tiny fabric ones, but Hobbycraft came up empty. If you’re in North America, check Michaels as they have much larger stocks and probably have something perfect. In the end, I cut the leaves and flowers out of a thin sheet of foam.

My second thought was to make a wire shape, and then build the clay around it. Great in theory, but the air dry clay is too dry for that – it doesn’t stick to the wire. Instead, I just used the wire to make hooks, and the shapes are 100% clay.

DIY Anthropologie ornaments | Hello Victoria

So if you’re thinking of making some branching letter ornaments of your own, why not try this tutorial? (more…)

DIY Orange Slice Christmas Ornaments

DIY orange slice ornaments | Hello Victoria

Okay, super quick ‘DIY’ for you here today. These guys are so easy, it’s barely a tutorial.

So last year, when Richard and I were figuring out how to do our first Christmas tree, we had only a handful of ornaments. I had bought him a couple funny ones that year, and we were given a few from family. But 10ish ornaments, does not exactly a tree make. So we had two options: 1. Buy a bunch of ornaments we would then have to store (and spend ££ on) or 2. Make ornaments we could get rid of at the end of the season! And by get rid of, I mean recycle, of course.

DIY orange slice ornaments | Hello Victoria

So last year, I made three things for the tree – little paper balls made of vintage sheet music, popcorn strands, and orange slices. You can keep orange slices (if they dry out fully), year after year, but we simply composted ours along with the popcorn. Which meant I had to make more this year!

All it took was two large navel oranges, and I had enough for our little tree. It made 18 slices, but if I had done them a bit thinner, I could have made a couple more. A large tree could use 3-4 oranges, which makes this project very economical.

DIY orange slice ornaments | Hello Victoria

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Exploring the Coast of Northern Ireland

Exploring the coast of Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

Waaaaaaay back in August, my parents came for a visit. As I mentioned before, we spent a few days in London, but most of our time together was spent in Northern Ireland.

My parents had never been to the Northern part of Ireland before, and Richard still has some family living outside Belfast. It was a great excuse for us to visit family, while also showing my folks a part of Great Britain they had yet to see. We debated driving up through Scotland and crossing the sea on the ferry, but just didn’t have the time. The next time my parents visit, I want to do Scotland properly – I long to explore Edinborough and the Isle of Sky, but haven’t had the opportunity yet.

So, as we weren’t going to drive there, we took the quicker option and flew to Belfast. From there, we rented a vehicle and drove straight up the coast to see the many sights of County Antrim. A few years back, for our first Christmas together, Richard and I toured the coast of Antrim. Of course, it was rainy, windy, and horribly cold that trip, so I was excited to see the same places in a slightly warmer climate. It is Northern Ireland after all 🙂

Exploring the coast of Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

When Richard and I had visited before, we spent a couple nights in the Causeway Hotel, and rather enjoyed it. It’s right near all the main sights, and quite reasonable in low season (however, this time was a bit pricier). The breakfast had been excellent last time, and was the place I got my recipe for wheaten bread! The food wasn’t quite as good this time, but the location just can’t be beat. It’s right beside the visitor centre for the Causeway, and grants you free access.

The Causeway Hotel, Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

I love the mosaic tile in their entry!

The Causeway Hotel, Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

We decided to just relax that first night and grab dinner in the hotel, then wake up early the next morning to visit a couple of the sights. First up, was the Carrik-a-Rede rope bridge. It’s a beautiful little spot just a ways down the coast from our hotel, and plenty busy with all the tourists. The last time that Richard and I were there, it was closed and I never got a chance to go across to the little island. It used to have a proper rickety rope bridge, but now it’s pretty sturdy. But it’s still a scary crossing for some of the tourists there!

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge | Hello Victoria

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge | Hello Victoria

Once you get across (which can take time with the lines of tourists in the summer), you can just wander around the little island and enjoy the views of the cliffside. Be careful, as there are no ropes or anything keeping you from falling off the sides of the cliffs! (more…)

The Case for Flocked Christmas Trees

Flocked Christmas tree inspiration | Hello Victoria

amazing tall flocked christmas tree via Pinterest

Richard and I have similar tastes in lots of areas, but we don’t agree on everything. Recently, we had a hard time agreeing on what kind of Christmas tree to buy. One thing that I have always loved is a flocked Christmas tree! I’m not talking about those all-white needle ones without any green, but the real trees that tree farms spray with faux snow… although you can also get artificial flocked trees. You know who isn’t down with flocked trees? Richard.

I get it. The’re kind of dated in a way, and obviously artificial (since when is there snow indoors?)… but they are so so so beautiful! My favorite thing when it snows is how the snow-laden branches look, all thick and coated with white. And since there isn’t that much snow happening in London over Christmas, why not bring that look indoors? I’ve looked into it, and there are really good tutorials online that show you how to recreate the look at home. That being said, it seems to be a little harder to find the right flocking material over here in the UK, than in the US.

Buuut… despite my DIY suggestions, Richard would rather just stick to a classic tree. However, I’m still trying to get him to promise me that we can do one someday :). Now until that someday comes around (or he changes his mind), I’ll just have to look at all these beautiful pictures of flocked trees!

Flocked Christmas tree inspiration | Hello Victoria

gorgeous flocked Christmas tree via comoorganizarlacasa

Flocked Christmas tree inspiration | Hello Victoria

flocked gold Christmas tree via 11MagnloiaLane

Flocked Christmas tree inspiration | Hello Victoria

flocked tree via Craftberry Bush

Flocked Christmas tree inspiration | Hello Victoria

very white flocked tree via MonikaHibbs

Flocked Christmas tree inspiration | Hello Victoria

simple flocked tree via MidwestLiving

Thoughts? (Aren’t they beautiful?!) Would you get a flocked tree this Christmas?

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