Just a little trip to London

As much as I use my blog to share my views and all array of recipes and crafting ideas, I also use it as a place to save memories. If we do anything meaningful or exciting it normally makes it’s way in to a blog post and this does fit in with the whole ‘mummy’ and ‘lifestyle’ blogger theme.

So yesterday Arabella and I made the 280 mile round trip up to London to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends @justalittlebuild or SJ as I know her.

We spoke on the phone a few weeks ago and given our diary’s and the diary’s of our four children the 21st December was the only date we could do. We decided that our ‘fun Christmas Holiday activity’ would be to make a completely homemade ‘from scratch’ gingerbread house with the kids, and then just generally have a really good catch up. In the last year following the massive build on her house SJ has become quite the instagrammer and blogger so it was a great opportunity for us to come together share tips, advice and generally have a good catch up.

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So we set off at 8.15am (after waiting for the sun to rise enough to get the chickens out) and headed straight for starbucks. Purchased a latte, portion of fruit toast and a croissant (which never even got eaten) and joined the M5. Within 20 minutes the entire contents of the honey had been poured all over the passenger seat of my car which was interesting to clean up, but with a handy pack of wet wipes the situation was resolved (I honestly think all people should carry wet wipes not just mums with babies, they literally clean ANYTHING, not just bottoms)

After at least 45 repeats of ‘are we nearly there yet’ we were there, and we got cracking. Both very much doers in life there was no tea drinking until the recipe was started and the kids hands were suitably covered in dough.

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for anyone interested below is the recipe we used:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mary_berrys_gingerbread_91126

In hindsight though we managed to pull this off it was hit or miss at a few stages. We should have left the gingerbread in for longer, it was just too soft and as soon as we added the smarties on the roof it started to bow under the pressure. We got round this by filling the whole house with giant marshmallows (which luckily no one would ever know as it’s windowless). The Mummies completely took over and the kids seemed happy enough just decorating the shapes we made with the left over dough so we basically did the whole gingerbread house without any help from the kids (which I think secretly we were both pretty happy about) the likelihood of the children creating something instagram worth is small.

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The one thing I want to mention as someone who does a lot of baking is the genius idea from that recipe of using egg whites with icing rather than water. It made the consistency so much stickier to hold everything together, in all my years of baking I have never heard of this but will be something I definitely continue to do. Pure genius!

The rest of the day was just catching up, everyone having their photo taken in the F&M basket, sharing ideas about each of our channels and drinking tea. Arabella managed to completely cover one of her bunchies in icing so she had to have a bath before we left (SJ’s bath is deep and huge) so this was very exciting and of course warranted a photo. We tided up the remains of the icing, chocolates and gingerbread dough and SJ fed the kids and then we just had time for one last little cuppa before we left and hit the motorway for the trek home.

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The drive home was the fun bit! Arabella if you watch any of my channels you will know is rather a dramatic character. Within 10 minutes of leaving she had convinced herself she was sick/ill/poorly. We ended up pulling over so I could try talk some sense in to her as it was clearly just being tired (given that five minutes previous she had said how hungry she was) I managed to resolve the situation (i’m not entirely sure how) and we got on our way. I used Christmas songs as a distraction which worked for about an hour (with one still to go) then she went in to complete meltdown about a rub she had on her foot adamant she needed to go to the doctors as soon as we got home (oh the joys of kids). We got home I transferred her from the car to bed and sat down with a cup of tea to start writing this. what a perfect day with perfect company.

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Enjoy and thanks for reading.

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Winter Mug Treats

For me (as terrible as this is to admit) with a warm drink comes some kind of sweet treat, whether it be a modist rich tea or a full blown slab of Victoria sponge I think the two go had in hand.

I was in M&S buying coffee the other day (This is a daily occurrence until Santa hopefully brings me a Tassimo) and they had these little gingerbread style men that hooked over the edge of your cup (for £1.85 I might add). In usual style I whipped my phone out and took a picture to look in to ways I could recreate it at home, and I came up with this.

Ingredients

  • 190g plain flour
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 55g caster sugar

Measure out your butter and sugar and rub together with a large spoon.

 Add the flour and start mixing with the same spoon then move on to your fingers to form a dough.

 If it’s too dry ad a touch of milk or too wet add a little bit more flour.

 Roll out the dough to about 0.5cm in thickness and cut out your shapes (worth mentioning you will be cutting a fair bit out so make sure it’s a decent size cutter)

 Once you’ve cut all the shapes out take a small sharp knife and start removing cm wide strips from each shape.

Once they are all done pop them in the oven at 180 C until they start to brown.

Note: leave them to cool on the baking tray so they harden up, we lost  few because being warm they were still soft and broke in half.

Once cool get your icing ready, I don’t use a recipe for this I just pop some icing sugar in a bowl and add water until it’s the right consistency (If you are time savvy then shop bought tubes do a great job and there’s no judgement from me) then load up your piping bag and get decorating (however you want).

Once fully cool and with the icing set you’re ready to go. Make your favorite hot drink, leaving enough room at the top and pop your biscuit on.

This is a great little add on when you have guests (especially children) coming over.

 of for yourself because it’s Christmas 🙂

Thanks for reading

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The Christmas Countdown

Ok so we are finally in November and I am already finding myself filling my Pinterest board with Christmas crafts, wrapping ideas and homemade gifts to yet again try and save more money at this very expensive time of year.

For some reason the Christmas countdown in my eyes starts with the launch of X Factor, I think it’s because it ends around Christmas and tends to mark the dark nights, Saturday nights snuggled up on the sofa and the evenings waiting for that first Coke a Cola Christmas ad (they never fail us do the, oh the M&S and John Lewis adverts do follow up closely behind.)

So back on to the matter in hand, the countdown, for me the organisation tends to fall in to a few categories:

  1. What the F* I am going to buy/make/find everyone

  2. How I am going to wrap said gifts

  3. Christmas cards and taking out a ban loan to pay for the postage

  4. New decorations I can make for the house

  5. The new tree decoration we add to the collection every year

  6. And lastly and probably most importantly what the hell my Christmas day outfit will be (yes I know it is worn for 3 hours and then replaced with a set of fleecy reindeer pyjamas for comfort)

Ok so let’s start with point 1. What the F* am I going to buy/make/find everyone This causes a lot of stress every year. I hate the idea of buying friends and family ‘token gifts’ that have very little meaning or thought put in to them, so rather than heading to the pre-packaged toiletries isle in Boots, try to come up with an individual, personalised gift idea that doesn’t take too much skill, time or resources to make (yes this is literally gold dust and not that easy to do when you have a big family with very differing tastes). In the past we have had personalised house name signs, homemade aprons and tea towels, cookie jars (you get the idea) Most of the ideas I have come from the internet, late night trawling the search results for ‘cheap and easy homemade gifts’ (FYI if you search this you will come up with a lot of food which given we are still 2 months from Christmas is not very practical at all.) all I will say is keep scrolling you will find some ideas, or even something that creates a train of thought to create an idea! I like to have everything made and wrapped before the beginning of December so I can enjoy every day in December without the constant worry of what the hell am I going to get Auntie Jean!

Point 2. Wrapping This is almost as important as the damn gifts, I do not have the joy of leaving my neatly wrapped presents under the tree for two reasons 1. I have a 5 year old who would 100% not be able to control her urges until Christmas day. And 2. We have three dogs (two of which are puppies and a kitten) so basically the presents have no hope. But still having them beautifully wrapped under other people’s trees is still important (I think!) so most years I make my own paper, I bulk buy the plain brown paper and then either make or buy a stamp but then there is the ribbon and the tag (what a palaver). So basically, this search begins early because I have to get it right, though lay safe in the knowledge that once everything is neatly wrapped I will do my absolute best not to look at any more inspiration, find something I love more and then feel the need to change the whole theme on the 3rd December.

3. Christmas Cards Ok let’s not beat around the bush here, cards are expensive, and postage is ridiculous so I have become very selective about who I send cards to. This is another huge dilemma which I didn’t even fulfil last year. I made and executive decision to just not send cards and instead sang a rendition of ‘Rudolf the red nosed reindeer’ with Arabella and uploaded it to Facebook as a ‘I’m sorry I didn’t have time to send you all cards, so here’s a cute homemade video’ actually went down really well so may well happen again this year. So basically, if you are going to send cards, buy them early, post them early (so you can go 2nd class not 1st for 5 million pounds per card, I love to over exaggerate) or forget it all, grab a video camera, dress your kids up in something cute and sing a Christmas carol for everyone.

Point 4. Is my absolute favourite Homemade decorations. This for me is some of the enjoyment for Christmas, making things and filling the house with the smell of Cinnamon. Again, back on Pinterest and searching absolutely everything I can make (or try to, a lot does go wrong!) this year as an example we are going to make (and by we I mean me because I can’t let Arabella help at all) Christmas garlands made solely from dried oranges, cinnamon sticks and lemons. Door hangers, the door wreath and whatever else I can find to realistically make before the 1st December (without making too much of a mess in the house, we all know how ridiculously OCD I am).

The new decoration (point 5.) Our tree tends to be fairly traditional and most if not all of the decorations have either been kept for years and years or were homemade so keeping it that way is really important to me. I spend a bit of time every year either online or browsing round the local garden centre or John Lewis looking for a really special decoration to add to the collection. We don’t change our theme every year, I’s pretty much the same year to year, traditional, simple and in no way overcrowded. And let’s face it we are in November now, so the search has commenced!

Point 6. may sound and absolutely ridiculous thing to work about but in my house it’s a really worry, Christmas day is a picture opportunity, the most festive day of the year and a time when for me it’s really important to feel special (not necessarily because of all the presents either) Looking nice on Christmas day and having an appropriately festive outfit is key (and no I don’t mean a full on Mrs Claus outfit) normally something red, sparkly or tartan. The pyjamas are whole other issue, It is a pretty childish tradition but who cares, it’s one we are going to stick to. On Christmas eve every year we spend the evening watching TV, Christmas eve sale shopping and generally just chilling together. But it has to be done in matching pyjamas.

So there you have it our annual Christmas countdown, which realistically posting this on the 1st November has already started. And to drop a real bombshell I have also been playing Buble in the privacy of my home and car for about two weeks already (judge away!) Fully self-confessed Christmas addict here!

Thanks for reading

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Real Vs. Fake

 Ok so for me this is a very easy choice primarily due to tradition (not ease I might add).

NB:// and I have to add at this point for clarity that I am not talking about boobs here this is 100% a discussion about Christmas trees.

The more and more people I speak to every year the more I realise that people are starting to sway towards fake (which lets face it isn’t such a terrible thing, i’m just not).

 

For me the real tree lust is a need for tradition, every year for as long as I can remember as a family we have gone out and hand picked our Christmas tree, for me it marks the beginning of the festive season. Putting the tree up will be the first festive thing I will do, then come the decorations

Lets look at the pro’s and cons side to this because there are quite a few factors against me getting a real tree each year, and helping people justify having their fake tree (some of which are incredible I might add) in their loft ready for the next year.

Ok Pro’s of a real tree

1. The smell – there is no denying that the smell of a real Christmas tree is something you can’t replicate with any plugin, candle or pot pouri.

2. The shape, they always look less perfect than a real tree but in my eyes more natural which only for some is key for their Christmas centrepiece

3. Cost, a really good fake tree will set you back over £100 whereas you are looking at about £30-£40 for a 7 ft real tree (Yes this is a false economy as you will of course only buy the fake tree once but looking at it for just one year this is a pro for the real tree)

4. Tradition – This is a big one for me, the tradition of picking the tree, having it wrapped up and put on the top of your car isn’t quite the same as dragging it out of a cardboard box in the attic and cleaning of a years worth of dust!

Ok now the cons (where I go in to denial and justify all of them)

The Con’s of a Real Tree

1. They might not last the whole month of December, I can’t deny this because it has happened, with Christmas eve looming I have been literally screaming at people not to go anywhere near the tree for fear of knocking it and literally every single needle falling off. Even with watering the tree might not last, it all depends on when it was cut.

2. Stability – I now have a cat in my house and this year I am well and truly prepared to be picking the Christmas tree up off the floor at least once. The stumps are rarely even and fitting them in the base is not always as easy as it should be. So the stability of the tree can be poor especially if you have the whole cat and child vs. tree (which I do)

3. Pine needles – this is my worst bit of a real tree, once the tree is up I have been known to literally find pine needles in my pants and bra (how I don’t know). The pine needles get everywhere and you will literally find them everywhere for the rest of the year, every time the sofa is cleaned or moved more appear, cobwebs attract them and they ruin the hoover (speaking from someone who decided to try and hoover them ALL up one year) needless to say I was buying a new hoover in the January sales.

All that in mind i will still be going to visit ‘Bill’ our friendly tree man and strapping it to the top of my car driving home with Buble on!

Thanks for reading

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