Tag Archives: christmas gift idea

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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Make: Fig and Fennel Jam


Back in September when we visited Leicester botanical gardens hidden amongst the grounds and sculptures we spotted a fig tree, bursting with almost ripe figs. The smell was amazing, it took me straight back to childhood holidays spent in Spain and really got me thinking about how to make the most of them when, a few weeks later they would appear in the shops ripe and ready for eating.

Figs are one of my favourite autumn fruits. They are so versatile; great for baking, preserving, eating just as they are with a good cheese or for breakfast with honey, yoghurt and maybe a little granola. Their season here in the UK is short, just from September to October, so this year I thought i’d try preserving them to make them last a little longer. I’ve never tried making fig jam before but I have to say this is now my favourite fig recipe, i’d hoped to make enough to last through the winter but we’ve already worked our way through a couple of jars and the remaining few set aside for Christmas presents may not make it through to December!

Here’s how you make it……


Figs can be expensive so do hunt around for the cheapest. I bought mine from Aldi for a very reasonable price, B also spotted some at Leicester market, 10 for £1 so it’s definitely worth shopping around. Look for figs that are plump, soft and rich purple in colour with unbroken skins.  If you can’t get hold of  a kilo of figs substitute some for cooking apples to bulk up the fruit.

To prepare the figs cut off and discard the tough stalk and cut into halves, then cut each half into quarters. Place the figs, sugar, thyme and lemon zest into the pan with a little water. Gentry heat the fruit so the sugar melts then bring the mix up to the boil. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 104°C on a jam thermometer. whilst the jam comes up to temperature prepare the spices by toasting them over a gentle heat for a couple of minutes to release the flavour. Grind the pieces in a pestle and mortar then set aside to cool. Once the jam has reached the correct temperature add the ground spices and lemon juice and stir through.

Pour the hot mixture into sterilised jars, place silicone paper onto the top of the jam to seal then screw the lids tightly onto the jars. Set aside to cool. The jam will last 6-8 months if stored in a cool dry place.bubbling

The fig jam is delicious spread onto warm toast for breakfast, but our favourite way to eat it is spread on warm sourdough with plenty of Cropwell Bishop stilton

fig jam, stilton and sourdoughfig jam, stilton and sourdough

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Make: Blackberry Gin

blackberry picking

I’m pretty excited about the arrival of autumn, largely because it’s such an amazing season for fresh produce. It would be rude not to take full advantage of it’s offerings, and we started just the other afternoon with blackberries, the inspiration for this year’s infused alcohol, blackberry gin. Made now it will be ready in three months time to be decanted into bottles and distributed among friends and family- just in time for Christmas.

Yes, I’m starting to think about Christmas, I know it’s early but balancing a busy work schedule and maintaining a healthy social life means I have to get organised, there will be no time for last minute shopping in the lead up to Christmas. This Is a lesson I have learnt the hard way. I’ve spent many a Christmas Eve battling through the crowds buying ‘that’ll do’ presents for my nearest and dearest. Not so last year, C and I created hampers for friends and family filled with our own homemade wares. It worked well and i’m planning to repeat this year with a few little changes.aylestone medowsblackberriesBlackberries are to be found in most hedgerows across the UK right now and as unlikely as it sounds we tracked down a glut of them just a spit away from the center of Leicester where we found ourselves among many fellow foragers. It took us around 45 minutes to pick the amount we needed. A passing dog walker had the following advice for us “Only pick above thigh height, to avoid dog wee” though quite commonsense, this is sound advice indeed!


To Make Bramble Gin you will need:

  • 400g blackberries- washed and drained
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 1 litre of gin
  • 65g creme de mure/creme de cassis (optional)
  • A 2 litre capacity container with a tight fitting lid

Thoroughly wash the blackberries and allow them to drain- this is particularly important if you have picked your own, blackberries contain alot of nasty bugs and beasties. place the blackberries into a large container with the sugar and mix together well, add the gin, mix again then seal the lid onto the container. Store in a cool dry place for three months stirring occasionally. After three months strain the liquid through a sheet of muslin and decant into bottles.


how are you making the most of Autumn?

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Make: Chocolate Orange Christmas pudding

Happy Stir up Sunday!

Today is the last Sunday before advent which is traditionally the day to make your Christmas Pudding, so the fruits and flavours have time to develop and mature ready in time for Christmas Day. Rather than a traditional spiced Christmas Pudding I’ve decided to try something a little different this year, Chocolate Orange Christmas Pudding. Chocolate and orange prove to be a winning flavour combination in many recipes and it certainly works here too, the recipe is based on a traditional christmas pudding but i’ve taken out the spice, replaced this with chocolate and the brandy is replaced with Cointreau. I’ve also added some ground almonds to make for a richer, nuttier Pudding. This recipe makes 3 16cm Christmas puddings, i’ve made a couple extra to give away as presents. Because Christmas Puddings need to cook very slowly and gently in a Baine Marie they take a little while to make and bake, but there really is nothing better than serving up a Christmas Pudding you have made yourself on Christmas Day! Even if you have missed stir up sunday, it’s not too late to make your Christmas pudding. I’ll be making another batch of these puddings next weekend due to popular demand! To make A Chocolate Orange christmas pudding the first step is to place the following ingredients in a bowl:

  • 175g golden syrup
  • 60g Cointreau
  • 165g sultanas
  • 165g rasins
  • 60g currants
  • 60g stem ginger- chopped
  • the zest of one orange
  • 120g glace cherries

These ingredients need to be left overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours so the fruit can soak up the alcohol, this will help keep the Pudding moist and adds bags of flavour to the finished Pudding. To make the rest of the christmas pudding you will need:

  • 3 16cm pudding basins (Lakeland have an amazing selection!)
  • 1 large roasting tray
  • greaseproof baking paper
  • tin foil
  • string
  • 55g dark chocolate
  • 85g brown sugar
  • 203g unsalted butter- at room temperature so it is soft
  • 2 eggs and one yolk
  • 76g plain flour
  • 33g cocoa powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 120ml milk
  • 75g Toasted flaked Almonds
  • 2-3 teaspoons of Cointreau

Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees c or 130 degrees for a fan assisted oven, melt the chocolate  by placing it in a non metallic bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Once the chocolate is melted take the bowl out of the saucepan and set aside. prepare the puding basins by lightly greasing them with a little butter. Crack the eggs into a measuring jug, sift together the flour and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer cream together the soft butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Slowly begin to add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mix looks likely to split add a tablespoon of the sifted flour and cocoa mix to help bind. Once all the eggs are well incorporated fold in the sifted flour and cocoa, add the milk gradually, stirring well after each addition. Next stir in the melted chocolate, ground almonds, breadcrumbs, the pre soaked fruit and lastly the  flaked almonds.

Make sure every member of the household gets an opportunity to stir the pudding mix and make a wish!

Divide the pudding mix equally amongst the three pudding basins, the puddings are to be cooked very gently and slowly in a baine marie, some pudding basins are available with lids but a homemade one can be constructed by laying a sheet of tin foil shiny side down onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. Cut a rough circle about two inches larger than the pudding basin, make a fold in the middle of the circle and place on top of the pudding basin. fold down the edges and fix in place with a length of string to make the pudding basin water tight, the pudding wants to be very moist but not soggy! Boil the kettle, place the puddings into the roasting tin and transfer to the central shelf of  a pre-heated oven. Pour the boiled water from the kettle into the roasting tin so the water level covers the pudding basins to about 2/3 of the way up. This method provides a very even, gentle bake for the puddings. The result is a very moist pudding. The puddings will take around 4 hours to bake, once this time is up remove the lid from the pudding and gently press the surface of the pudding, if it is firm and springs back to the touch the pudding is ready, if your finger leaves a mark the pudding will need a further few minutes. Once baked allow the pudding to cool completely. Cover the pudding with a clean foil lid and store  in a cool dry place until Christmas day. It will need re-heating as per the above baking method at the same temperature for an hour or so, until piping hot.

I’m feeling pretty festive now the puddings are baked!

How are your Christmas preparations going?

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