Friday, 30 December 2011

That Friday Feeling...30/12/11

It's New Year's Eve eve... So this week's Friday Feeling is a welcome to 2012, the year of the Dragon. Here are just a few things that I found on Etsy this week. 

New Year's Banner by CowCountryCreations
Great sentiment quote from TheBestCaseScenario

LOVE these cute little dinosaurs by vilnone
Do you have any New Year's Resolutions? I generally make only one or sometimes two resolutions and I invariably last about 2 weeks before I break them. But hey, ho if I write them on here then maybe I'll manage to keep some of them this year! 

So... my 2012 resolutions are: 

  • To read more than 50 books
  • To do more exercise
  • To have a stall at a craft fair.
I'm hoping those are all fairly achievable... 

Anyway, thought I'd throw in the usual random facts as well:

  • January is named for Janus  - a Roman god who had 2 faces. It's the month at the start of the year because Janus was able to look behind at the old year and forward towards the new one.
  • In old New Year's tradition, people would wait for dark haired visitors to come through the door soon after midnight carrying coal (symbolising warmth), bread (symbolising enough to eat), money (symbolising, surprisingly enough, money) and greenery ( symbolising long life). The visitor would take a pan of dust and ashes out with them symbolising taking away the remnants of the old year.
  • January is often the coldest month in the year and in London between 1608 and 1815 the Thames occasionally froze over. When this happened Londoners held 'Frost Fairs' - fairs that were actually held on the frozen over Thames. The last one was in 1815 and only lasted 4 days. 
  • In Japan, Buddhist temples strike a gong 108 times at midnight of 31st December symbolising that 108 weaknesses of man are being expelled.
  • In Spain there is a tradition to eat 12 grapes at midnight symbolising 12 months of prosperity in the coming year.
  • Resolutions have been made by all nationalities for centuries - apparently this tradition may go as far back as the Babylonians who made resolutions at the start of the New Year. Early Christians thought the new year was a good time to reflect on the mistakes of the past year and resolve to do better in the upcoming one.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Salt Dough Decorations

(OK it's a few days late...)

I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas with family, friends and loved ones around you. I had a really lovely Christmas and thought I would share some of the preparations with you. I'd been thinking about the whole 'wrapping' conundrum for a while now and had come to the conclusion that actually I am not a fan of wrapping paper - it only gets used once and is often flimsy and, dare I say it, a bit tacky.

So this year I decided it was brown paper and pretty ribbon for all of my presents. I was wondering how to spice it up a bit more and that's when I came across the Make It And Mend It website. Oh wow: I've a new obsession. There are so many things on there that I want to make now, now, now... so I guess you can predict some of the things you'll be seeing here for the next few months! I did, for the moment, limit myself to salt dough.

That's a lot of painting I had to do...!! But what do you think of the results? Despite the terrible white balance of the photo (sorry used my phone!) I think they are fabulous, even if I do say so myself...

I especially liked the gold and silver stars - I think I'll be making more of those in future! Anyway, they added a nice touch to this year's presents, along with some candy canes to set off the whole thing. I liked the idea that the wrapping was all part of the present too - everyone now has a number of salt dough decorations that they can use on their tree next year (if they want!) 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Yesterday was definitely the beginnings of festivities at our flat. My flatmate and I were having friends over for dinner so to start with we had all the ingredients for a roast dinner. Being close to Christmas, I decided I would make stuffing as well. I've never made stuffing before. And I didn't have a recipe. But I think it all worked itself out and I was pleased with the results.

Here's what I put in:

6 'happy' sausages (outdoor reared ones)
salt & pepper.

Apart from the sausages, I have no idea about the quantities - although there were lots more walnuts than apricots and there were more apricots than cranberries. That's about as exact as I can be I'm afraid. Anyway, I mashed the whole mixture up and then rolled them into balls before roasting in a separate pan for about 45 minutes.

In addition, my flatmate has been talking about chocolate covered pretzels a bit recently: she was given some by one of her clients at work. Well, thought I, that can't be too difficult to sort out. So with the rest of my shopping, I bought some pretzels and milk chocolate and basically just dunked the pretzels in before chilling to dry the chocolate. Mmmmm

This was them before they dried properly. I put them on greaseproof paper and they lifted off really easily. Nom-nom-nom!

What else? Well.... My flatmate discovered a Christmas Tree made out of books on yesterday morning and that became our inspiration. I have been looking for a tree that is nice but not out of my budget range and had been despairing that I would never find one. But our tree is MUCH more inspired than a normal Christmas tree...  And we have a mutual favourite book at the top of it too (It's Bulgakov's Master & Margarita if you are wondering)

And then I got all excited about it being nearly a Christmas dinner... so we had crackers, chocolate coins and candy canes in all the places at the table...

And there you have it: our flat now looks a little more festive, I can make up recipes ad lib (Masterchef here I come) and we had a great evening with just a bit of Christmas cheer. I absolutely love our slightly wonky and squat pile of books that make up our tree and keep walking into the living room thinking 'ahhh'.

Monday, 5 December 2011

It's Christmas Time...

We're trying to teach the kids at school the Band Aid song. So far it's hilarious...

Anyway, getting into the Christmas spirit I finally made an advent calendar. I'm not actually very happy with it as I think it's a wee bit too red, but hey, it's the first advent calendar I've made so I shall be learning from my mistakes, right? I do actually like all the material on this one, but I shouldn't have had red gingham as the backdrop colour - it's made it a little too busy and red. I think the next one will be a night time scene with a gingerbread house as the focal point. Watch this space for updates... (you never know, by next year I may have made hundreds of these...!)

My new advent calendar is now loaded up with chocolates and sweeties for my flatmate and I to open each day. There are different presents in different pouches so it won't always be the same. I like the idea of having an advent calendar that you can get out every year and have as part of your Christmas decorations. And I'm sure it's better for the environment instead of those shop-bought cardboard, plastic and chocolate ones! Anyway, I've been enjoying my chocolate treats every morning but am wondering when I'll get my first Lindt truffle? (I KNOW there are some in there!!)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Chocoholics Anonymous...

Last weekend I went down to Cardiff to see one of my old friends (she's not actually old, but I have known her since we were 4-5 years old so officially she's my oldest friend) As she's down in Wales and I'm in London, we don't actually get to see each other that often and we decided we would have an early Christmas. And what was my Christmas present? A chocolate making course! What a fabulous idea!

So on Sunday we went off to Blaenavon, about an hour out of Cardiff for our 3 hour chocolate making course. First of all, the setting was gorgeous (see tomorrow's Silent Sunday for a photo of the view from outside the chocolate shop) with steep cobbled streets and stunning views of the mountains around. We sent my friend's other half off to climb a mountain while we went inside the lovely Chocs Away.

Our class was run by Pam, an ex-teacher who has been doing chocolate courses there for the past 5 years. She runs Chocs Away with her husband John and they specialise in courses. They cater for hen parties, children's chocolate workshops, courses in the shop and even make chocolates for wedding favours and special events. You can go on to their website here:

Over the next few hours we were introduced to the world of chocolate: making chocolates in a mould, enrobing vanilla and strawberry creams, making our own truffles, making chocolate ganache and finally filling cases with orange chocolate, rasperry chocolate and lemon chocolate. MMMMMMMMM!!!!

We left having eaten LOADS of chocolate ourselves, with some gorgeous gift boxes of chocolates to either eat ourselves or give away. These are the ones that I took with me - I'm afraid I was taking photos from my phone so they aren't the world's greatest, but still. They look impressive, no?

What a great day I had on Sunday. I came back to London wishing I lived closer to Wales so that I could take advantage of this lovely little place more often - great for gift experience ideas methinks!


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