Christmas Decoration Tour

I know I’m suppose to be working, but I couldn’t resist. Tomorrow night we’ll be putting up our Christmas Tree & decorations and I’ll be posting the results tomorrow.  But I’d love to see all yours too!.  I adore seeing how different everyone’s decorations are from the homemade to the glamorous. So if you’d like to show off your decorations, join the linky below. I can’t wait to see them!

P.S Need a Christmas Present idea? Thrifty Christmas is now up to a fantastic 57 ideas check it out here

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Nearly December..

I’m currently working like a mad woman to get all my design work done before December 17th when Miss L, Mr VP and I all break up for the Christmas holidays.  I know I won’t be able to work after then until early January, so please forgive my lack of posting at the moment real life seems to get getting in the way!

But in the meantime here’s something to get you in the mood for the Christmas holidays – the Christmas Dr Who trailer. I can’t wait to see it!

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Weekend

Despite the cold weather we had a really good weekend. Miss L went over to my parents for the weekend and we got cracking on the kitchen. Last week I did lots of filling of cracks and holes left behind, in fact I think most of the wall where the cupboard was is now polyfiller!  Paul sanded where I’d filled and then I popped some base coat white on. He also sanded down the door frames where Betty had tried to eat her way out of the kitchen when she was a puppy, so all I need to do now is gloss that.

Check out the difference!  I have to add top coat this week but I’m really pleased with how much lighter the room looks.  I have the electrician and the plumber hopefully coming in this week so fingers crossed it’ll be done before Christmas.

After all that hard work we decided we’d had enough and went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Miss L  didn’t want to see it as she thought the trailer looked too scary.  I think Miss L was right to self censor herself and not go as there were some scary bits in there for younger kids who are a little sensitive.  However we really enjoyed it,  the three leads acting has come on a treat and they pretty much carried the film on their own. I’m so looking forward to the last one in May now.  Did any of you see it?  If you’ve not seen it, here’s the trailer well worth seeing:

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Martha Stewart iPad App

I spotted on my GReader that Martha Stewart Living had released a special iPad app ‘extra’ magazine, so as I know that some of you are iPad and Martha lovers I thought it was my duty to download it and review it for you 🙂  I’m not sure if this is going to be a monthly thing or if this is a one off?  First impressions, this is what the iPad was designed for and it’s very stylish and the animations and movies really bring it to life.  If this is the future of magazines, I can live with it!.

Image: Martha Stewart iPad App

It’s the same layout and style to ‘Living’ so you very much know what you’re getting.  It’s I think £2.15  (sorry I forgot to double check when I downloaded it) which is cheaper than the magazine in the UK which is about £4.50.  There is about the same amount of content once you take the ads out of the magazine.  However there are still a couple of adverts on the app version, which seems ridiculous as you are paying for the app – I’d rather pay £2.50 and not have adverts at all.

Image: Martha Stewart iPad App

I think this format will be ideal for the ‘Specials’ like Christmas and Easter, which are hard to get here in the UK. I look forward to seeing the next version and what they do with it with hopefully even more interactivity.  If you don’t have an iPad  and you’re interested there’s a Flickr set with a lot of the images from the magazine but it doesn’t give the ‘full’ iPad experience with the interactivity but good to look at.

I’ll be interested to hear what you all think of it?

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{Guest Thrifty Christmas Post} No Alcohol, Child Friendly Mincemeat and Mince Pies

I am very excited today to have Fi Bird of Stirrin’ Stuff and Kids Kitchen as my guest ‘Thrifty Christmas’ Blogger.  Fi is a well renown children’s cookery educator and we are massive fans of her Kid’s Kitchen Cookery Cards – they make cooking with Miss L so much fun.

Over to Fi….

My favourite time at Christmas is making the final batch of mince pies with as many people as I can find, to help me whilst listening to Carols from Kings College, Cambridge on the radio. If, we are lucky, there is some child friendly home-made mincemeat left over from a school cookery demonstration – you may like to add something a little stronger than orange juice but this recipe keeps well, if refrigerated. I know that the pastry recipe is high in fat (lard and butter) but it is quite delicious and in my opinion this is a time of year for yummy celebrations. You might like to try adding some grated Christmas spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) and a tablespoon of ground almonds for an even richer pastry.

Stirrin’Stuff’s Christmas Mincemeat
Lemon
Lime
Juice of 2-3 oranges (125ml)
100g dried apricots
50g cherries
600g mixed dried fruit
100g dried cranberries
350g Light Muscovado sugar
200g shredded suet
2 eating apples
Teaspoon cinnamon
Teaspoon nutmeg

Wash the lemon, lime and one of the oranges. Grate the rind from the citrus fruits, but be careful not to grate the pith (white) of the fruits. Put the rinds into a bowl.

Cut all of the citrus fruits in half (not through the stalk). Twist the lemon and lime halves around a citrus squeezer to get the juice out. Squeeze 125ml of juice from the oranges. Put all of the juice into a measuring jug.

Weigh the apricots and cherries and put them onto a chopping board. Use a cutlery knife to chop the apricots and cherries into small pieces. Put the chopped fruit into a large mixing bowl.

Weigh the mixed dried fruit, cranberries, sugar and suet and add them to the bowl.

Wash the apples and remove the core, use a cutlery knife to chop the apple into small pieces.

Add the chopped apple, citrus rinds and fruit juices to the mixing bowl and measure the spices into the bowl.

Place a damp cloth under the mixing bowl (to stop it from moving) and gently stir the ingredients together. Little stirs, keep everything in the bowl.

Use a dessertspoon to carefully pot your mincemeat into clean jam jars. Cover the jars with a lid and store in a refrigerator until use.

Tips

Use equal amounts of dried fruits e.g. 200g raisins, 200g sultanas, 200g currants

Step one: Younger children can wrap a clean cloth around the fruit to prevent injury, when using the grater.

Step two: Always cover wounds before cooking; this is especially important as lemon juice is stingy.

Adventurous Cooks
Use a whole nutmeg and use a grater to grate a teaspoon of nutmeg. Find out what mace is.
Ring the dried fruit changes with finely chopped tropical dried fruits or use coloured cherries.
Make ‘designer covers’ for the pots of mincemeat and give them away as Christmas presents.
©Stirrinstuff.org

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Mini Mince Pies
Makes 20-24

What to find:
200g plain flour
50g cold cooking lard
50g cold butter
Grated rind from one small orange
2tbsps really cold orange juice
Extra flour for rolling
Lard for greasing
Approx half jar mincemeat
Beaten egg to glaze

Kitchen stuff
Cold hands
Scales
Sieve
Bowl
Rounded ended knife
Rolling pin
Mini muffin trays
Teaspoon
Pastry brush
Small fork
Oven gloves
What to do: Oven 400F 200C 180C Fan Gas 6
Sift the flour into a bowl.
Cut the cold lard and butter into small cubes.
Add the fats to the flour and use the tips of your fingers to rub the fat into the flour. Add the orange rind and mix well. When the flour and fat looks like bread crumbs add enough orange juice to bind the mixture together.
Sprinkle a little flour over a worktop or table. Take just over half of the pastry and roll it out until it is about 1cm thick. Cut out 8cm circles (for deep muffin tins). Roll out the rest of the pastry and cut out 6cm circles (or stars) for the mincemeat pie lids.
Grease the muffin trays well and line them with the larger (8cm) circles. Fill each circle with 1tsp of mincemeat. Brush the smaller pastry tops with egg and fit them on top to make a lid.
Use a small fork to make small holes on each mince pie (to release steam).
Bake the mince pies for 10 – 12 minutes and then remove them from the oven and put them on a rack to cool.

Always have a Grown- up in the kitchen when you cook.
©Stirrinstuff

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Pre Christmas Declutter

It’s time for the annual Violet Posy household Christmas de-clutter. I hate doing it but I really, really need to we have stuff *everywhere* with having cleared out the kitchen and lost 4 cupboards. Currently my dining room table is buried under vases and bottles I’ve bought from Ikea on a whim and never ever used!

To make it less painful I think I’m going to a room at a time, rather than trying to do one big mass clear out. I think it’ll take a couple of weeks, but I’ve discovered that if I rush it and try and do it all at once, I get frustrated, bored and then I don’t do it at all.

I try to follow the decluttering advice of ‘if you haven’t worn it in 18 months then you’re not going to wear it’.  And if it’s still in the box it came in a year later, chances are it’s not going to be played with/used. So bearing this in mind I’ll be creating the following piles

To Keep, Charity, Recycle, Tip

So here’s the plan for this year

Lounge

Once again tip out the sideboard – we collect so much rubbish in it!

Clear out my magazine collection – I probably don’t really need them on the windowsill in huge pile do I?

Dining Room

DVD Clearout

Book Clearout

There’s a wooden chest in the dining room,  and I don’t know what’s in it – that’s probably a good place to start!

Kitchen

Doesn’t need de-cluttering just finishing!

Our Bedroom

Recently done so no need for work in there – hurray!

Miss L’s room

Books, toys and clothes all need sorting through. We had friends over recently with their 2 year old and I had no idea we still had as many ‘baby’ books as we do. So they all need to be moved on to Charity.

I always, always give Miss L the final say over giving away toys, or saving items. But I’m proud to say she’s really good about donating to charity. Finger’s crossed I can get all this done before Christmas!

So are any of you going to do a Pre Christmas De-clutter?

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{DVD Review} Disney Beauty and the Beast

I love being one of Disney’s Blu Ray ambassadors, every couple of months they send me an utter gem of a Bluray. This month it’s one of my all time favourites ‘Beauty and the Beast’. If I remember rightly I saw this at the cinema with my good friend Sarah from Ginger and all Things Nice when we were in our late teens back in 1991. I have very fond memories of singing the songs very loudly with her in her car!

But I’d not seen it since – how has that been 20 odd years? So I did wonder if my memories would match the film?  ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is from what I think of as being the ‘Broadway’ era of Disney movies – Aladdin and The Lion King being from the same period. Every song and there are lots of them taking the story along; is a massive production which seems a bit odd now in the shadow of Pixar movies which have little in the way of musical numbers and are more character driven.

But it’s held up well, the animation is still looking beautiful and looks more hand drawn (even though it’s not) traditional Disney than the current crop. The characters Belle in particular is still the intelligent, educated heroine I remembered her to be – phew!  All the enchanted household are still lots of fun and The Beast is still far more handsome as the Beast than when he changes back into a prince at the end!

It’s been a lovely afternoon snuggling up and re-watching this, we enjoyed it as much now as I did back in 1991.  Thanks Disney you brightened a very grey winter afternoon.

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{Thrifty Christmas Guest Post} Citrus Christmas

Today’s Guest Blogger is my very good friend and coffee buddy Karen from The Rubbish Diet one of the most creative women I know.  I spotted on Facebook that she had made some fabulous looking Christmas oranges and I thought you’d all like to see them.  So over to Karen…

Citrus Christmas


If you’re as unskilled with the sewing needle as me, don’t lose heart this Christmas, as it is still possible to add your own special and home-made touch to your festive decorations with something as simple as an orange.  If you like the natural look, a pack of just five orange slices can set you back at a rate of £1 a shot, so it makes economic sense to make your own.  Besides, they’re really fun, make excellent presents and fill the home with festive scents too.  You don’t need any special equipment, just an oven set on a low heat will do.

Preheat oven to a low setting, e.g . 100C.

Using a sharp knife, cut across the orange to create slices that are around 5mm thick.

Press the slices with kitchen paper or an old tea towel to soak away excess orange juice and arrange the slices on a non stick baking tray.  Use baking parchment if necessary.

Bake in the oven for a couple of hours (turning over the slices half-way) then transfer to an airing cupboard overnight when the slices are dry to the touch.  This simply saves energy.  If you don’t have an airing cupboard, just keep baking for an extra hour or two, checking and turning the slices every half hour.

When the oranges slices are dry, they will be almost translucent and will look gorgeous set again the tree lights.  Simply poke a hole through the top with a skewer and use ribbon to hang them onto your Christmas tree.   They also look gorgeous when added to wreaths.

Alternatively create a citrus bauble, by arranging the slices to form the shape of an orange, smallest slices at each end, with the largest in the middle.  Thread a length of ribbon through the centre of the slices, creating a loop at the top and tying the ribbon at the bottom to secure the slices.  Cut away the excess ribbon and you’ll have another beautiful decoration with which to grace the tree.

A few things to consider:

Keep costs down by buying your fruit from the market.  However, seek out fair-trade where possible.
For smaller decorations, try satsumas and clementines, which work out even cheaper or try lemons and limes if you prefer an alternative colour scheme.

Use natural, compostable materials such as raffia or string for hanging and threading  the decorations.  This way the whole of the decoration can be composted when Christmas is over.

Some people recommend using a spray fixative to help the decorations last the season. However, I find that if the slices are dried properly using the instructions above and are not damp to the touch, they will last through December and into the new year.

Top Tip:

Children love getting involved with these simple decorations, especially laying out the slices on the baking tray and threading them once they are dry.  Another easy activity to try with the kids is to get them to decorate small fruits with cloves.  Again, pop in the oven for a couple of hours to dry.  They’ll also look fabulous on the tree, while keeping sticky fingers at bay.

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They shall grow not old

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them

For my Grandmother’s Uncles

Private John Criddle

died 30th September 1915

aged 35

Battle of Loos

&

Alfred Alexander Criddle

died 22nd September 1918

aged 35

Buried MIKRA BRITISH CEMETERY, KALAMARIA

and everyone else who’s been lost in a conflict since we think of you today.

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Waterless

It’s been one of those days here.  Just after 8am this morning the water at our house stopped working, so I popped round the neighbours thinking that it was just ours and it turned out they were all down too. I shouldn’t have been so pleased, but I had images of the pipes under our house having burst and how much that would cost to fix!

So we had look on the Anglian Water site it turned out a water main had burst in town resulting in the whole town losing water, but it should be fixed in 6 hours or so. Not terrible, we could live without water until 2pm, not a massive problem.  But we do have a combi boiler (installed by the idiot man who lived here before us), which means we have no water tank which in turn means no heating either! But at least we have an emergency electric heater I bought when the boiler died last winter and between that and the dog we were warm for the morning.

I left it until about 2.30pm and still no water so decided I’d need some water for when Miss L got home from school. I talked to friends on Facebook and discovered the central town supermarkets had sold out so went to the out of town Tesco’s.  Luckily they had 5 litre bottles so I’ve bought a few for drinking water, cleaning teeth and washing our faces.   I also realised I had water in the tumble drier so I’m using that to flush loos as well if needed, I love my condensing drier!  It’s 5pm now, so fingers crossed it should be back soon or at least by morning.  If not we can snuggle tonight with hot water bottles and extra blankets, the only thing is I really wish I’d washed my hair last night!

But it has made me think of all the poor people in Haiti, Bangladesh and other parts of the world who don’t have ready access to clean water. I’m moaning about a few hours and for them it’s their lives – just horrific!  So I think I’m going to make our family Christmas charity Save the Children for the work they are doing round the world to combat this, very valuable work.

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{Link Love} Make Your Own Christmas Stocking

Image with kind permission of Cherry Menlove

I have bit of a blog crush on Cherry Menlove’s beautiful site….well a huge crush actually and it’s a favourite on my G Reader :). Not only is her site beautiful she also manages to be stylish and have a beautiful home, whilst bringing up her adorable twin babies!.

Today she posted how to make your own Christmas Stockings and I just had to link to it as I thought you all would love it as part of Thrifty Christmas.  Pop over and check out her blog and thank you Cherry for your generosity in letting me post this x

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Build a Bear Treat

Sorry for the premature posting – blasted WordPress iPhone app hasn’t been the same since they updated it a month or so ago – it seems to do what it likes now!

Anyway this post was a massive thankyou to Build a Bear who treated Miss L to a trip there to make a bear Friday (we were still on half term).  To be honest she probably needs a Build a Bear intervention, rather than another trip there but you couldn’t have made her any happier – she adores the place!  She’s been collecting them since about 2004/2005 when I passed a store in Covent Garden and spotted the Halloween bear and bought it as a present. Since then her collection has expanded as friends from all over the world send her them. She saves her pocket money to buy new clothes and she plays with them more than any of her other toys and I prefer them to Barbie or god forbid Bratz.

She’s also very into the online Bearville game where you can bring your bears to life, have a house decorate it and play games. aI love it because she’s now working 2 jobs there and using the ‘bear’ bank to save the money she makes up to buy furniture for her house. Nice life lesson!

We got to the Cambridge Store and met with Emma who explained all the new bears to us and left us to browse and choose which one Miss L would like. She settled on a ‘Star Wars’ bear which as you can imagine I thought was very cool.

Katie then stuffed it for us and they had fun putting in hearts and sounds, something she’s not normally allowed so it was extra special.

She then got to choose an outfit, so we went with the Christmas theme of a dress, sparkly red shoes and a Santa hat – ‘Leia’ the new bear as you can see looks very smart!  I’d like to thank Build a Bear for treating Miss L so well and making it her most fun trip there yet!

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10 Ways to Save Your Sanity at Christmas

Christmas can be for some people the most stressful time of year.  In our house tends to be very chilled and laid back, there is no stressing about gift giving, the house being perfect or pretty much anything else. We just have good quality time together as a family. But this state of calm has taken years to get to!

Here’s how I do it:

10. Make a List – dull but make a list of everyone you need to buy a present for and budget how much you want to spend per person.  Also make a list of how many Christmas Cards you need to buy.  I know the Christmas’s I’ve over spent massively and stressed about were the ones I didn’t make lists for. I ended up buying presents willy nilly and then completely blew my credit card.

9. Shop in November – whipping round the shops for Christmas presents in the week before Christmas with kids in tow is just a nightmare.  Nothing and I mean nothing makes me more stressed, I just can’t bear it everyone’s level of stress seems to be about a 100 times worse and I get super grouchy.  So I do all my Christmas shopping  and gift making in November.  The list helps with this as it means you can take advantage of 3 for 2 deals in stores for presents and cards or make gifts in advance via Thrifty Christmas saving on money.

8. Friends abroad? Buy presents online – I buy a lot of presents from Amazon especially for friends living abroad. We have friends in the US and I used to buy presents here and then post them to them – it cost a FORTUNE! £60 postage for a medium size box!  So now I use Amazon.com which is the US Amazon and you can buy items on there using a UK Credit card and have them wrapped and delivered in the US and Canada for a fraction of what it costs to send them from here and saves on visits to the post office!

7. Pre-order the food – I pre-order all the Christmas food from our local butcher and farm shop for collection in the days leading up to.  Both are great value and better quality than the supermarkets.  I also tend to do a big wine and beer order from the local wine warehouse in early December so we’re fully stocked for friends and family dropping by. Remember there is no shame in getting food delivered especially if you have small children. It also means you’re less likely to impulse buy in-store Christmas crap and therefore save money.

6. Don’t stress about presents – I know people who worry so much about what they’re buying for people that they end up not getting anything at all and then spend a fortune buying any old rubbish on Christmas Eve and worry themselves sick.  Most people aren’t going to mind what present they get, it’s just nice to get a present.  Think of something that is a treat, be a nice bottle of wine, chocolates or some bubble bath they wouldn’t treat themselves too – all are fine presents.

5. Christmas Cards – Write them the last weekend in November, bulk buy second class stamps and pop them in the post on the Monday. Your friends and relatives will be amazed at receiving them on the 1st or 2nd December! You look organised and save yourself money buy not having to buy loads of first class stamps so they get there in time.

4. Don’t try and do it all yourself – get the kids and your partner involved. Have them write the cards this year – give them the list and a pile of cards and get them working. Same with the presents, L is too small to do the actual wrapping but she is in charge of labels and ‘pretties’ for the presents and I must say does an awesome job!  It makes them feel more involved and makes you less stressed.

3. De-clutter – clear all the surfaces in the house, have the children go through their books and toys to give to charity and make way for the new.  If you keep the surface clear then you’ll be more relaxed when unexpected visitors drop by and the house looks less messy – seems to work at ours!

2. Emergency Gifts – Have a couple of emergency presents in case you get one from someone you’re not expecting one from. I always have a spare bottle of wine and box of chocolates – if you don’t have to give them away then all the more for you 🙂

1. Learn to say ‘No’ – When L was little on her first Christmas all the family wanted us to go to theirs for Christmas Day. The thought of travelling round the country with a baby, all her stuff pushchair, travel cot etc,  her presents and theirs just made me want to cry.  So I summoned up the courage to say ‘No’.   Thankfully they were very understanding, but I just couldn’t face it.

So now Christmas day is ‘our’ day we spend it together the three of us. We stay in our PJ’s as long as we like, open our presents when we like and you want Christmas Pud and some Bucks Fizz at 10am? Well you can at our house – no one else’s rules or traditions we do what we like.  We fit other family in on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and friends in the week before Xmas and before New Year.  Don’t be afraid to do your own thing and remember it’s supposed to be FUN!.

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