Make: Easy Printed Christmas wrapping paper

all wrapped and ready to goSo, How’s your christmas prep going?

I do hope you are just about there with all shopping, crafting, cooking et al. It’s a hectic time of year and regardless of how well prepared you are, it seems to me there is always something that gets forgotten. Be it the crackers or the sprouts, the socks you forgot to buy your boyfriend (Only joking C!) or running out of ribbon when you’ve only one parcel left to wrap. It can all get a little tense and anything that saves time is a winner in my view. I’m usually pretty prepared when it comes to homemade gifts, however this year, not so much. I’ve plumped for quite a few time saving recipes that can be made at short notice and simply without too much stress if one happens to be under duress.

christmas craft in progressThis DIY came from a desire to jazz up some parcel paper at short notice, not that there is anything wrong with parcel paper, quite the opposite in fact, i’m a big fan. However i’ve been using it for many years and wanted to add a different touch. Plus i’m a little bit in love with triangles right now and their simple, elegant geometry

This is so simple it’s ridiculous, we’ve all done potato printing when we were kids right? Relief printing at its most basic, here’s how to create a golden forest on paper in around 15 minutes to add a final flourish to your already magnificently crafted and considered gifts. A little icing on the cake if you will. In fact if you have some to hand, why not task the kids with creating your wrapping paper for you whilst you sit back and enjoy a glass of sherry? I don’t have any kids handy, and i don’t really trust the cat to help (though she really did want to give it a go) It’s a fun project for adults too and a little bit of mindless craft can always relieve a lot of stress

relief printing with potatoesYou will need

  • A potato
  • A sharp knife
  • Ink stamp (Mine came from Hema on our recent trip to Amsterdam, Tiger also have a glorious range)
  • Paper to print onto: brown parcel, lining paper, the world is your oyster
  • General present wrapping equipment such as scissors, cello tape, ribbon/twine etc.

Cut the potato in half, use the knife mark out the desired shape which is to be inked, carve away the surrounding area that is not to be inked. Blot any excess moisture from the surface of the potato, plunge potato into ink stamp, and you are away!Christmas gifts

Other Make, Do and Spend quick crafty christmas ideas include:

 

What are your tips for a stress free Christmas?

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Make: Earl Grey Tea Vodka

earl grey tea vodka, tea party

Heads up people, Vodka is on offer in the big orange shop right now, adding to the festive cheer. I snaffled myself three litres of the stuff with a view to creating some alcohol infused alchemy from the comfort of my own home.

I’ve no doubt mentioned a fair few times that Earl grey tea is my favourite, I simply can’t start the day without a cup. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not suggesting this is the way to start the day, with a glass of tea steeped vodka, I merely propose this would make an excellent gift for the tea lover in your life and would add a new dimension to tea parties as we are in fact in the midst of party season.

Unlike other infused alcohol recipes this is fairly swift to turn around, rather than impatiently waiting for months on end for the booze to infuse I made mine from start to finish in around three hours. This timing includes packaging and of course a little tasting (Which is essential!)

Vodka doesn’t have quite the strength of flavour as other booze, making it an excellent flavour carrier and perfect for infusing. The recipe will also work tremendously with Gin, in fact after earl grey tea, Gin and tonic is my second favourite drink so i’m slightly regretting not including it now. However I did err on the side of caution worrying the strength of flavour in gin would be a step too far.  Heston is of course there with the gin already, so i’ll save it for another day.

vodka, on special offer

To make 1 litre of earl grey tea vodka you will need

  • stock syrup: 100g caster sugar and 100ml water
  • 1 litre of Vodka (or Gin)
  • 4 earl grey tea bags
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • A clean, sterilised 1.5 to 2 litre capacity container with a tight fitting lid
  • Clean, sterilised bottles to decant the infused vodka into

Begin by making the stock syrup, place both the sugar and water into a saucepan, bring the mixture to a rolling boil to allow the sugar to dissolve. The mixture will turn from cloudy to clear, at this point remove the stock syrup from the heat and set aside to cool.

Place the vodka, along with the tea bags and cardamom into the large container and allow the mix to steep for one and a half to two hours. I like my tea strong so I left mine for two, taste the booze after an hour to see how it’s getting on and to ensure you get the right strength of flavour for you. After all brewing tea is a personal thing, these timings are just a guideline but I wouldn’t go further than 2 hours. Also, a note on cardamom. This is an optional ingredient but it really works here as it has a floral citrus note, akin to earl grey tea. A small amount will enhance the flavour of the tea no end, so do try it. I promise you, it’s worth it!

bottled, earl grey tea vodka

Once your tea is brewed to your taste discard the tea bags, stir in the stock syrup and transfer the booze into bottles, a funnel is always useful here.

The recipe makes 1.2 litres of earl grey tea vodka. I like to bottle mine into miniature 187ml wine bottles, this recipe fills 6 nicely, provided you only take small sips when tasting! Sealing the bottle tops with wax and a homemade label adds a finishing touch.

And to serve, on the rocks with a slice of lemon does the trick.

earl grey tea vodka, on the rocks

 

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Eat: Amsterdam

Needless to say, food featured pretty heavily on our agenda in Amsterdam. We wanted to ensure we visited the tastiest places around in our short yet perfectly formed mini break. So with a little research before our trip, from fresh mint teas to afternoon cakes we did rather well!

You’ve had a taste of our breakfasts, heres what was on the menu for the rest of the visit……Bagel in Amsterdam

Tomato, Mozzarella and pesto on a wholewheat Bagel

Bagels and Beans was our first stop. After a few hours of travelling combined with an early start to the day we had worked up an appetite. Bagels and beans is a Netherlands based restaurant chain, and whilst we prefer independent eateries this was a promising start to the holiday with a choice of bagels from wholewheat to poppy seed, and a delicious offering of both veggie and meaty fillings you could basically build your own bagel sandwich, it was all to be had

pumpkin and black quinoa salad

Pumpkin, feta and Black quinoa salad with smoked Almonds

Vinnies is a laid back stylish eatery with a focus on clean, fresh and health ingredients. Their mantra is good. Home. Food. With two venues across Amsterdam I’d say this is a must visit for any discerning foodie.  Other delights available included warm lentil salad with roast mushrooms and thyme and roast aubergine with yoghurt and saffron sauce and pomegranate. The tea is amazing as well, fresh ginger and lime tea for E and Fresh mint tea for B, both served with a cheeky little homemade biscuit

Salad at Vinny's, Amsterdam

ginger tea and cake- vinnies

And of course, there was cake…

Gluten free polenta and cherry cake and Chocolate pistachio brownie with salted caramel sauce

vinniesCake at the Rijksmuseum

Coffee muffin and chocolate brownie with hot chocolate

We wiled away a rainy afternoon in the Rijksmuseum and with just 4 hours of exploring we barely scratched the surface of all there was to see. We decided to focus our visit to the current 20th century photography exhibition, Modern Times. When we grew weary and in need of a sugar hit, the cafe was nearby at the ready so we could sit down and swop notes on which of the works had most inspired us

lavinia good food

Lavinia good food this was certainly a highlight. A bustling Saturday lunchtime service meant we were lucky get a table but we were so happy we did. The food, atmosphere and vegetable cocktails combined with an open counter of fresh salads and a view into the working kitchen made for an amazing experience

lighting- lavinialavinia good foodPizza at Lavina Good Food

 To start: Spelt pizza with pumpkin, pear, rocket, blue cheese and flaked almonds

The pizza base had been rolled so thin it was light as air and as flakey as puff pastry

lunch at lavinia

A salad bar selection which included: Brussel sprout and mushroom salad

fennel, feta, orange and cumin seed salad with pomegranate 

celery, walnut and grape salad

And we have to talk about the Veggi cocktails which were an unexpected bonus, crammed full to the brim with fresh fruit and veg- cucumber, pear, fennel, granny smith, pear, lime and ginger for E and Beetroot, carrot, orange, ginger, dill and lime for B. Simply amazing flavour combinations, I’m totally asking for a juicer for christmas!

 carrot cake

Carrot cake with cream cheese, honeyed oats and mulberries 

Raw cocoa cake at Lavinia Good Food, Amsterdam

Raw dark and white chocolate tart with toasted seeds and fresh strawberries

Did we mention we like cake? Pudding was washed down with delicious homemade chai tea made to an in house spice blend recipe

pears on the market

For our final foodie fling we took a stroll down to the Noordermarkt which held host to a treasure trove of delights. Fresh autumn produce and oyster shucking were all on the menu

oyster shucking on the marketgreen smoothies

And of course, our street food favourites included fresh pressed vegetable smoothies and the mighty stroopwafels!

Do you plan where you want to eat before you go away on holiday? Or do you just go with the flow? 

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What B Saw: Amsterdam

Amsterdam canalAmsterdam rooftopsCar on Amsterdam streetBuilding on Amsterdam canalShoes at an Amsterdam marketRecords in an Amsterdam marketSunglasses in an Amsterdam marketBulbs at the Amsterdam flower marketFlowers in AmsterdamCacti at Amsterdam flower marketMan and pigeon at Amsterdam marketBoxes at marketBuilding in AmsterdamTree rootsE in the RijksmuseumBuildings in AmsterdamShop window in AmsterdamSunset in Amsterdam

I love Amsterdam –  like, really love Amsterdam

So when E and I decided to book tickets to see Kasabian on their European tour, I was more than happy to make that our destination of choice – despite having only visited 18 months earlier

I lost track of the number of times uttered the words, ‘I want to live here’ during our four day trip – and for every time I said it, I thought it at least five times over

It’s such a picturesque place, wherever you look the aesthetics are pleasing – from the piles of typically Dutch bikes to the stylishly dressed locals, from the iconic canals to the beautiful architecture

Sure, there’s some aspects of Amsterdam that I don’t find so appealing – but we had the most lovely time eating good food, absorbing art and history, browsing eclectic market stalls and mastering the tandem!

I didn’t want to leave, and I can’t wait to go back!

P.S. See E’s photos here, and read about my last visit to Amsterdam here!

Eat: Breakfast in Amsterdam

dried hydrangeaIMG_2664

Take two bloggers with a love of food and photography, stick them in a beautiful apartment in Amsterdam, and take away their usual early alarm… and what do you get?

You get three mornings of wonderfully lazy and tasty breakfasts – and daily food photo-shoots to accompany them, of course!

It was such a luxury to be able to leisurely tuck in to fresh bread and hot tea, while listening to music and planning out our adventures for the day

And, as lovely as it is to have someone cook for you, so enjoyable to feel at home and be able to wear pajamas to the table without any odd looks from other hotel guests!

fresh read from the bakeryIMG_2675

The baked goods came from the organic bakery, Hartog’s Volkoren, just five minutes walk from our apartment (we lucked out there!)

Neither of us had tried multiseed brown croissants before – they definitely tasted like a healthier alternative to the usual type – although perhaps not once we’d smothered them in honey

There was also a traditional bread baked with a sugary mix of hazlenuts and dried fruit running through it, which needed nothing else spread on it

And every day we had the creamiest greek yoghurt, which was just from an Albery Heijn supermarket but was some of the tastiest either of us had ever had

Here’s a taste of the apartment and our mornings in Amsterdam…

kettle on the stovebreakfast day 1apartmentIMG_2653IMG_2774 2breakfast day twoIMG_2682

And all excellent fuel for a day of sightseeing, shopping and tackling the tandem riding!

How does your holiday breakfast routine differ from the usual…?