I’ve always loved making things at Christmas time. Whether it’s baking cookies, or making salt dough ornaments – Christmas for me always means creating something! And this year, my big craft was this winter wonderlandwreath!
I actually made a pinecone wreath in the same way about 5-6 years ago when I was back in Canada. I had always intended to make it snowy, but chickened-out. See, I was worried that I was going to mess it up, and you can’t really go back once you start painting pinecones. It already looked nice just brown, so I ended up leaving it.
But this time, I was determined to get the snowy wreath I had pictured! And you know what? It turned out amazing!!!
I find that it’s rare when a craft turns out exactly as awesome as I intended it to be. I tend to have these grandiose ideas, which never execute quite as well as I hoped. I mean, they look good, just not exactly like my imagination. But not this wreath!! It’s almost better than I pictured it! But the bad part is that I have no where to store it!
I promised Richard (when I first started gathering pinecones) that we could throw it out at the end of the year (can you compost hot glue?!). But, now that it’s done… I am not sure I can bear the thought! Anyone else want to give it a home once Christmas is over?!
Anyways, back to the tutorial!
This wreath is dead simple, and just takes time. It’s also super cheap if you can get a good deal on hot glue sticks (it used a ton!). (more…)
Well, 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.
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…)
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!
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:
Original recipe from Jaime Oliver (https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-recipes/get-ahead-gravy/)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Roughly chop the bacon and set aside.
Peel the onions, wash the carrots and celery, and roughly chop all vegetables.
Put the vegetables, bacon, bay leaves, sage, and rosemary into a roasting tray,
Break the chicken wings open, and bash with a rolling pin to help release extra flavour. Place in the tray.
Drizzle everything with oil, season with salt + pepper, and toss. Cook for 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender.
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).
Add the sherry/port (opt.) now and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
Gradually stir in the flour, then pour in 2 litres of boiling water. Simmer for 30+ minutes, or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
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.
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.
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.
Bring to the boil on the stove, and scrape up all those sticky bits from the base. Have a taste, and season if necessary.
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!
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…)
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!
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.
So if you’re thinking of making some branching letter ornaments of your own, why not try this tutorial? (more…)
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.
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.
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!