Making a Christmas Wreath with Hobbycraft

Hobby Craft kindly sent me a bunch of goodies so we could make our our own Christmas Wreaths.  We’ve not done anything crafty in ages. Miss L is now at the age where she’s rather play a computer game or head out with her friends than sit with me crafting. So it’s kind of fallen out of fashion in the Violet Posy household, which is a massive shame.

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But thankfully Christmas is still a draw (hurray!) and she jumped at the chance of making a wreath for her bedroom door.

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We decided on a colour scheme (red and white) and then she got cracking with just a smidge of help from me attaching the big heart in the middle.

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Loving the results!

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We’ve been thinking up uses for the other bows and flowers and we think we might use them to decorate the Christmas presents. We couldn’t attached the led candles they sent us but they will be going in her room over the festive period.  It was nice having my little girl back for an hour, we should do it more often. Roll on the holidays!

 

**Full disclosure** I received all the bits to make the wreath from Hobbycraft

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Using up your Garden Produce

My Mum has tons of tomatoes at the moment, and she’s been kindly been giving us some. So I’ve been on the look out for new recipes to use them up.

I’ve been getting into You Tube a lot of late and found this recipe on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel. I love it, simple, easy, and you can use a lot of tomatoes!  We’ve done it without the chilli as Miss L isn’t a massive fan and it was just gorgeous.  Enjoy!

 

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Pork with Honey, Garlic and Rosemary

I was cooking tea last night and I realised it was probably a good one to blog as I only invented/discovered it recently.

I am the queen of lazy cooking, I don’t have much time to cook dinner. Mr VP get’s in on the 8pm train, Miss L has to be in bed for 9.30pm so that pretty much gives me what? 30 minutes to cook dinner so we can have a family catch up and eat.

So this is a quick favourite of mine and it’s pretty cheap to make too.

 

Liz’s Pork with Honey, Garlic and Rosemary

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You’ll need:

image     2 Boneless Pork Chops – our local butcher does these dead cheap.

 

 

 

image_1     Honey and 1 Pot of ‘A Good Handful of Garlic and Rosemary’ from Waitrose. (I think other supermarkets do similar, I know Sainsbury’s do.)

 

 

image_4Veggies or Salad to your personal taste.

 

 

 

How to Cook:

1. Pop the meat onto a cooking tray, drizzle the honey over it and put 2 teaspoons of the ‘Good Handful’ over each piece of meat.  The ‘Handful’ has breadcrumbs in it so it gets a nice crispy top

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2. Put it on for 25- 30 mins on 180 degrees/Gas Mark 4

3. Make either a Salad for the summer or in the winter we have it with Mashed Potatoes and veggies.

4. Done!

Told you it was lazy and quick 🙂

 

 

 

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Budgeting for Christmas

I am rubbish at budgeting, and given half a chance I’m a complete spendthrift that goes mad at Christmas…only I can’t anymore. We work for ourselves, contracts come and go and I can’t go blowing a load of money on Christmas that we don’t have.

So here’s how this year I’m doing my Christmas shopping:

1.  The Plan!

Make a list, re-check the list that everyone you need is on it and kick off anyone you can get by sending a card to.  A little harsh, I know but really think about who you are sending presents to.

Shop as soon as you can, don’t leave it to the last minute when the pressure is on and you feel like you ‘HAVE’ to buy something for someone because you can’t think of anything else – that’s when you end up spending too much.

2. Set a Budget

Now I don’t go for this whole £5 or £10 per head for everyone lark – some people I like more than others!  Some people I can get away with making a present for or getting something from a charity shop and popping it in a pretty box.  On your list put what you are buying each person and if it’s a homemade one put that by their names and then take them out of the budget. It’ll give you more money to work with, and thenwork out what you have left. Make the budget realistic, there is no point in telling yourself you’re spending £50 when it’s really going to be £500 and then being horrified when you’ve overspent.

3. Spending the money.

Ideally either do online Christmas Shopping or go shopping with Cash – it is much, much easier to keep track if you can see it on a screen in front of you or if you have no money left in your purse – it also makes you more ruthless.

My favourite trick is to  put everything you want to get into your online shopping basket, then leave it a day or two and then go back with a clear head. You might see stuff in there that you didn’t really mean to order, you just went a bit mad and then you can delete it out saving some money.

4. Shopping for Abroad?

Are you sending gifts to far flung places? Last year I was sending gifts the the USA and New Zealand, and I found that sending the gifts actually cost more than they had cost!

Thankfully you can send gifts in the USA via Amazon US using a British Credit Card & Billing Address – not all American retailers are so thoughtful though so check before you order. But Pottery Barn and Etsy are both good sources of presents for the USA & Canada as well.

New Zealand though didn’t have a massive amount of online shops and as I was sending British home comforts to some homesick friends so I had to post, but I learnt some handy hints from my local friendly post office lady!

Keep the parcel weight and size down

I had one large 2.2kg parcel to send. The nice post office lady weighed it for me and told me it’d cost (and this is from memory so forgive me if these number’s aren’t quite right) say £60 to POST it!  But if I took it home, re-wrapped it into two smaller 1.1kg parcels it would only cost me £30 for both. So that’s exactly what I did! A massive thank you to lady in the post office.

5. My favourite places to Christmas shop are:

Amazon – but not in December their delivery always sucks if you shop after early Dec.  But you can get pretty much everything here, cheaper than in stores and I tend to use the ‘forget the basket for a day’ trick here.

eBay – a godsend for people you really want to get a present for but don’t want to spend a fortune on.  iPhone cases for £2, Kindle case for £3, cute jewellery for teens, it’s all there and see if you can get a ‘Buy it Now’ with free delivery – perfect!

Homesense or TK Maxx – well they are pretty much the same shop. But Homesense I find is a bit better and less like jumble sale, so I tend to go there.  They have good books for kids and adults, toys, bubble baths etc and other unusual bits and bobs.  If I’m going there I try and take cash with me, it helps me stay in budget.

Online Photo stores – Calendars and photos gifts are always nice to send to relatives or friends especially if you live far apart.  There are loads of offers on at the moment, so I’ll be doing mine in the next week or so.

Other than that anywhere I have Clubcard points, vouchers, Nectar points or can get a discount.  Look in magazines for vouchers, and your e-mail spam folder I always have loads in there that I don’t otherwise notice.

Homemade and *gasp* charity shops gifts

I like to make homemade gifts, candles, soaps, chocolates are about my limit (I can’t sew or knit!), but if you are more crafty pop over to Thrifty Christmas or my Thrifty Christmas Pinterest Board there are loads of ideas from making presents to wrapping them!.

But I have been known to get presents from charity shops…it probably helps I know a lot of people who are into vintage. But this is a £2 gift I found in a local charity shop a couple of years ago:

It was a glass sugar bowl with a silver lid. Doesn’t look like it came from a charity shop, it looks like it came from an upmarket boutique once packaged up with tissue paper and in a shiny box.

Remember to use some imagination when you’re having a rummage, see some cute little vintage glasses, buy them and then pop them with a small bottle of port or a bottle of wine in a shiny box for a present.  My local Cancer Research shop does the most amazing crochet goods which are perfect for a kids room, Miss L loves all the bits I’ve gotten for her from there.  A thoughtful present doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

Above all 

Remember Christmas is supposed to be fun, most people will never remember what you bought them, they’ll just remember you cared enough to get them a little something. Don’t stress!

What are your favourite tips and tricks?  I’d love to hear them 🙂

 

 

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{Review} Stampin’ Up Cookies Present Kit

We were sent a rather cool ‘Stampin’ Up‘ cookie present kit. It’s a stamp with different silicon ‘faces’ (Halloween, Snowflake and Hearts) on them to stamp the biscuits and then some lovely packaging to make them into mini presents for friends, neigbours or family.

Miss L was pretty excited as she’s been studying all things biscuit for Food Tech this term, so she was more than happy to try the kit out. We screwed up a bit and missed entirely the recipe that came with the stamps – oops! So we ended up making chocolate shortbreads which didn’t take the faces that well – well at all when they were cooked!.  Next time we’ll use the recipe that came with them, I think it might work a lot better!.

But we had lots of fun and I really loved the packaging and the stamp is lovely, wooden and solid, so we’ll be making some as stocking gifts for friends and family at Christmas. Stampin’ Up items seem to be sold through local demonstrators and not through shops (which is a shame), so have a look on the website and see if there is one near you.

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Half Term Glittery Fun

We’re on half term- hurray!  It’s so nice to have my girl home, and today we’ve been having fun with glitter, card and felt.  I bought some glitter glue, felt, cards and a ton of other craft stuff a few weeks ago in a sale and then hid them all away at the back of the cupboard so Miss L wouldn’t find them early and use them all up. She was so pleased when I got them out this morning as a surprise.

So as she’s older now I’ve pretty much let her do her own thing, and she decided to make Christmas cards for her friends and some Christmas tree decorations.  She’s been reading through Thrifty Christmas and gotten inspired, you should see the list of things we have to make this year!

The good thing about glitter glue is that it’s harder to get everywhere so much less messy than glitter and glue together – probably less fun for her but easier for me to clean up!

There’s lots leftover so she’ll have something to play with for the rest of the week. I think we’ll have Christmas cards for everyone in the school by Friday!

 

 

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Mini Bake Off

I do like it when I get sent a good book to review – especially when it involves cake!  I was sent ‘The Great British Bake Off – Learn to Bake’ which is a cookery book aimed at older children to teens I would have said.  We’re addicted to the show here and we’re all Team James for the final. He won Miss L over with his crazy gingerbread derelict barn which was just a genius recovery from something going to terribly.  A good life lesson for Miss L I felt – you can mess up and still win – good work James.

Anyway back to the book.  I must admit I know it’s aimed at kids but I’ve actually found it quite informative. It has nice concise instructions and isn’t too overwhelming but not condescending either and not like a lot of kids cookery books  just full of cupcakes with smarties on.

There’s whole sections explaining basic ingredients, equipment and what baking terms mean which is good because I had no idea what ‘whisking to ribbon’ meant.  The book much like the programme is broken down in cakes, little bakes, biscuits, bread, pastry and puddings.

Miss L has been rummaging through it for cooking ideas for the half term that’s coming up next week and apparently we HAVE to make the rather amazing looking swiss roll in the book.

Anyone who was with me in a Home Ec class in 1984 stop sniggering now – there was an incident with me, a swiss roll and a coverup by my whole amazing class – really long story.  I’m just hoping that the swiss roll murdering gene has skipped a generation and my girl is less cack handed than me – shouldn’t be hard!.

I’ll post some pictures of our baking’s next week!

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Mulled Wine SOS

You know how I couldn’t make Yorkshire Puddings well it seems I can’t make Mulled Wine either. Normally I just buy a bottle of it from the supermarket, but this year I thought I’d make some for when guests come and to warm us up (any excuse!).  I had this really happy memory from years ago, a friend had made some from scratch and it was gorgeous. I’d been promising Paul that it was utterly fantastic and he should try it, as he’d never really had it.

Last Friday night, I grabbed a bottle of red wine, some mulled wine sachets, sugar and followed the instructions….and it was HORRIBLE!! I ruined a lovely bottle of innocent wine and made the worst drink ever!. So lovely readers, do you have a fool proof mulled wine recipe?  I want to wow my poor husband into forgiving me for ruining a bottle of red, not to mention actually have some nice mulled wine.  Thank you!!

 

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Old Newspapers

I was supposed to be writing Christmas cards last night, but the British Library launched a a huge collection of online Newspapers and frankly it seemed more fun trawling through them!  You can search for free or pay £6.95 to actually access and read the papers for two days.  I’ve done that, because  if I did a whole month Christmas would be cancelled in our house and I’d just be on my laptop.

I was mostly searching for family tree information, but the search is a bit clunky you can’t just search for a name you have to put AND in all the time and then it’ll bring up 30 pages with the two words you’ve searched for.  So it took be a while but I came up with an absolute gem, the previously unknown to us story of how Paul’s x3 great grandfather died!

It’s a really beautiful little window into the past and how they lived. The story is titled ‘A Melancholy and Fatal Accident’ – which is such a great description! In 1868 George was 39, and married with five children. He’d gone to Bury St Edmunds on the train from Newmarket to do a cattle sale, he’d come back to Newmarket. Gone out with a few friends for a drink in the pub in Newmarket (we’ve drunk in there!) and then onto another village to look at some lambs for sale.

About 9pm he left to make the six mile journey home in his horse and gig – which as we have both said was a bit mad as it’s dark in the lanes there now, let alone pre-street lights – sadly at some point he either fell asleep or lost control of the gig and was thrown onto the road where he died. He wasn’t found until the next morning and there was an inquest done in the morning at the local pub and then he was buried later that day.

It was so bizarre reading it, I knew he’d died young and his wife lived into her 90’s but we didn’t know anything of the circumstances of his death. It was at the same time totally fascinating to hear so much detail about his day and really, really sad, that Paul’s great grandmother was widowed so young.

I’m off now to search out some more relatives, really hoping I don’t find any murderers!  If you’re into family history check out the archive, http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

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Remembrance Day

Photo Credit: Flanders Battlefiield - National Library of Scotland's photostream on Flickr

As always I’m remembering my Grandmother’s Uncles who died in WWI and all that have come after them

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 this year I’m proud to add a lost Uncle:

Private George Easter

died 30 April 1918

aged 26

Flanders

You were not forgotten

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Saturday Market

Wow, it’s been a busy week here. Miss L has been back at school and we’ve been trying to get used to the school routine again.  And I went back to work,  I’ve been working on a pretty special blog all week, which I think is going to look pretty amazing when it’s done.

So today I treated myself to a trip to the Saturday Farmer’s market, they have the best produce and I could easily spend a fortune there.  I was walking down one of the rows when I caught the scent of strawberries. Now the ones in the supermarket have been terrible and out of season for weeks so I’d stopped buying them.  But the ones on the stall looked good and when I chatted with the gentleman on the stall he told me these were garden grown and were sadly the last of his season.  I snapped up two punnets, and one of them is gone already – they were just amazing!

They really were the last taste of summer – delicious!.

 

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