Archive of ‘Seasonal’ category

Gift Wrapping Made Easy with Jane Means & 3M

Gift Wrapping Made Easy with Jane Means & 3M

Whether you like to cosy up with a festive drink in front of the fire or if you restrict the use of the dining room (Read: downstairs) while you run around like an elf, gift wrapping at Christmas is essential.

The art of wrapping is certainly an acquired skill, and everybody knows someone with all of the tips and tricks up their sleeves to make their wrapping as spectacular as the gift itself.

National Wrapping Day is Sunday 20th December this year, so embrace the task of wrapping and learn some handy hacks as we team up with 3M and professional gift wrapper and widely acclaimed gift wrapping guru, Jane Means.

Beautifully wrapped present stack

If you’re giving a collection of gifts this Christmas (how lovely of you), this beautifully wrapped present stack may serve as inspiration. A lovely idea for families or favourite people, the gift stack looks great under the tree or even as a table centrepiece – and that’s before you’ve seen their faces after opening. Collect your supplies and gifts around you, and prepare to create a stunning gift stack.

final giftYou will need:

  • Gifts!
  • A selection of complimentary seasonal wrapping papers
  • A selection of ribbons
  • A Christmas decoration or two – such as some glass baubles
  • Scotch Pop-up Tape Handband Dispenser

what you will need

How to:

  1. Select your papers

Papers in the same colourway such as monochrome work well, as do a variation of patterns and colours. You could also use a selection of wallpaper remnants.

1

 

  1. Each item should be wrapped in a different paper.

3

 

  1. Place the parcels on top of each other, beginning with the largest wrapped gift first.

4

  1. To add extra strength, loop over a strip of Scotch Pop-Up Tape and place the ‘double sided’ tab on the bottom of each parcel.

2

  1. Tie the stack together firmly with a ribbon.

5

  1. Add the finishing touch – tie in several loops of a different ribbon and add glass baubles.

6

Tackle tricky-to-wrap chocolate tins this Christmas 

final gift

If you’re anything like us, you’ve never quite finished the Christmas shopping and there’s always something else that someone you know would love. We often like to pick up some last minute biscuit or chocolate tins, but the circular tin is often a difficult shape to wrap elegantly. This next guide from Jane Means illustrates the best approach to wrapping tins this Christmas.

You will need:

  • Circular tin containing gifts
  • A sheet of seasonal wrapping paper (Strong works best)
  • Christmas decorations including a bauble and ribbons
  • Scotch Pop-up Tape Handband Dispenser

what you will need

How to:

  1. Ensure that you have enough paper to go around the tin and include a small overlap. Measuring both sides so that they are just over the centre point will ensure you have enough fabric to work with.

1

  1. Wrap the paper around the tin, securing with Scotch Pop-Up Tape.

2

  1. Lightly fold one of the ends inward and gently sit the tin up on a flat surface.

3

  1. On the other side of the tin, begin to pull one edge of the paper into the centre with a little tension so it forms a small neat pleat. Repeating this process numerous times the whole way around the tin will create a stunning folded effect.

Christy top tip: The folding stage is tricky, so make sure you dedicate the time to create a neat fold, it’ll pay off in the end.

5

  1. Cut away excess paper and secure with Scotch Pop-Up Tape.

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  1. Now turn the tin over and repeat the same process on the other side.
  1. Finish your gift wrapping by tying a ribbon around the tin.

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  1. To add a flourish, add decorations such as a Christmas bauble and decorative tubing.

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What is the trickiest gift you’ve ever wrapped? Share your wrapping wins or nightmares with us on Twitter and Facebook!

 

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Bake the Perfect Christmas Cake

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Bake the Perfect Christmas Cake

By Nohreen Sloan, Spa Sweethearts WI Committee Member and food blogger at http://www.mrssloanqueenofscones.wordpress.com

Christmas has to be my favourite time of year. It’s not because of all of the presents (although that does help) but because it gives me an excuse to make. I get my Christmas craft on well in advance of December, making anything and everything from decorations, gifts, baked goods and pretty much anything else I can add glitter or tinsel to!

There’s a tremendous sense of gratification that comes from making, whether it’s for yourself or someone else, even more so when the item is edible! There are two food items that I think everyone should make at Christmas time; mince pies and fruit cake.

mince_pies

Whilst mince pies can be quite easily done with pre-rolled pastry and jarred mincemeat, making a fruit cake from scratch can be a little more daunting. Here are a few tricks that will help you to get it just right:

– Tie a thick layer of newspaper around the outside of your cake tin. Put another thick layer of newspaper on a baking tray, and place the cake tin on top. This will prevent the edges of the cake from the heat of the oven and cooking too quickly.

– An electric whisk will make the process of creaming the fat and sugar easier, but using a wooden spoon will do the same job-it just takes a little longer. You can check if your mixture has been creamed enough by placing a little blob of mixture into a bowl of cold water. If the mixture floats, it has been sufficiently creamed (the process of creaming adds air to the mixture).

– Eggs at room temperature are best to use, as they will be less likely to curdle the mixture. However, if it looks as though it is beginning to curdle, add a tablespoon of the flour.

– Make sure that your cake mixture is level when putting it in the cake tin. Make indentations all over the surface of the cake mixture – this will prevent the cake from rising in the middle, and give a nice flat top instead.

– Before placing in the oven, fold a large piece of greaseproof paper (larger than the top of the cake tin), fold in half and cut a small circle out of the middle (about 2cm diameter). Placing this sheet carefully over the top of the cake tin will prevent the top of the cake from cooking too quickly, also helping to retain the moisture of the cake.

Amaretto and Orange Christmas Cake, with Cranberries and Cherries

xmas_cake

The recipe below is for a 9″(23cm) cake tin

Ingredients (stage one):

500g currants

225g dried cranberries

200g candied peel

200g dried apricots

150g raisins

100g glace cherries

75g sour cherries

150ml amaretto

zest and juice of 2 oranges

zest of 2 lemons

juice of 1 lemon

Method (stage one):

Wash, dry and quarter the glace cherries. Chop the apricots and sour cherries to the same size. Place all the dried fruit, amaretto, zest and juice into a pan. Bring to the boil, stir, cover and simmer for 5 mins. Pour into a bowl, cover and leave overnight.

Ingredients (stage two):

soaked fruit mixture (above)

275g dark muscovado sugar

275g soft margarine

5 medium eggs – beaten

275g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

50g ground almonds

150g chopped almonds

1 tbsp black treacle

1tbsp marmalade

METHOD stage two

Preheat your oven to 140c/120c(fan)/gas 1.

Grease and line a 9″ cake tin (see above)

Cream the fat and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the beaten eggs little by little, beating in well each time.

Fold in the sifted flour, salt, spices, soaked fruit mixture, chopped and ground almonds, treacle and marmalade until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling then indenting on the top.

Place your large piece of greaseproof paper with the hole over the top of the tin.

Bake on a low shelf for about 4-5 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Mine took about 5 and a half hours, but I checked at regular intervals after 4 hours of cooking.

Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool before removing from the tin. Carefully remove the lining paper and wrap up in some clean greaseproof paper, and then foil. Store in this way until you are ready to decorate.

If you wish to make the cake a little more boozy, insert a skewer into the base of the cake several times, and drizzle over (or brush with a pastry brush) a tablespoonful of your chosen liqueur once a week prior to decorating.

 

Looking after guests this Christmas

Looking after guests this Christmas

One of the best things about Christmas is the time spent with family and friends. We teamed up with AeroBed and asked Kate from My Family Fever to share the best ways to make your guests feel comfortable while they’re at your house. Here’s what Kate suggests:

It is imperative that guests get a sufficient and quality night’s sleep – sleeping on uncomfortable surfaces such as the floor or sofa or even a poor mattress can lead to pain and discomfort. In a recent survey by AeroBed , 55% of people said they would be happier to stay at a friend or relative’s house if the bed were comfier, with 73% of people saying that comfort is the most important factor for a guest bed.

An AeroBed, when inflated, provides a medium to hard sleeping surface that is constant and sturdy. It does not collapse like other air beds when you place your weight in a particular area and is therefore very consistent. In testing the bed it provided a comfortable and supportive sleeping surface, which is therefore likely to provide good reinforcement to the structures of the body. It was also useful that the particular bed tested was raised off the ground when fully inflated. This allowed very easy access on and off of the bed without putting any undue pressure on the low back or knees, which could occur if the height of the bed were lower.

It can often be difficult to get a quality night’s sleep when staying away from home, therefore here are a few tips for your guests that could potentially help:

  • Try to avoid sleeping on your front. The spine will never be in alignment in this position as one has to severely turn the head in order to breathe and usually the pelvis is in torsion with one leg lifted up.
  • Always have a pillow – or something that can be shaped into a pillow to support the neck. Even if sleeping directly on the floor, having a supportive headrest will immediately relieve the pressure placed upon the upper region of your spine – and where possible travel with your own pillow from home.
  • If suffering from any discomfort in the low back, place a spare pillow or cushion between your knees (if sleeping on your side) or under your knees (if sleeping on your back) to relieve the pressure on the lumbar spine area.

As well as providing a comfortable sleeping area, there are other things you can do to make your guests feel comfortable. Make sure you provide them with everything they might need during their stay, from soap and shampoo, to jugs of water and soft fluffy towels. Make the guest room as home-like as possible, and add in little touches to make your guests feel welcome, such as books to read, pictures on the wall, thick blackout curtains and clean fresh bedding.

Is there anything else you do to make sure your guests have a happy stay? We’d would love to hear your ideas!

For a chance to win a Comfort Classic AeroBed a set of luxury bed linen worth £300 enter our competition here. Ends 9am 31st December 2015.

areobed_blog

 

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Prepare for guests

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Prepare for guests

It’s never too early to start planning for your Christmas guests; in fact, the earlier you begin the smoother the whole process will be. One of our Christy ambassadors, Love Audrey, seems to have got the knack of hosting down to a tee, and here are some of her top tips. If you have any words of wisdom to add please share them on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Love_Audrey_Guest_Post_Image_

  1. After what will no doubt have been a long and hectic journey, your guests will be grateful for the offer of a warm bath followed by a restorative snooze. Make sure their surroundings are soft and sumptuous with fresh linen and clean towels, the fluffier the better! Remember, everyone feels the cold differently, so give guests the option of extra blankets and additional pillows to ensure they get a good night’s sleep.

xmas_blog_guest

  1. When you’re hauling countless gifts across country, it can be easy to forget the essentials, so consider leaving a stash of toiletries in the guest bedroom. Sample sizes of everything from toothpaste to deodorant could come in handy, but if you really want guests to feel cared for, a spare robe and some slipper socks would be perfect too.
  1. A well stocked bedside table adds another element of comfort to your guests’ surroundings. Fresh flowers, a pile of books or magazines and a box of tissues is a good start. A scented candle (don’t forget the matches) and easy access to a pen and paper might also be appreciated.

xmas_bedside

  1. Keeping a few refreshments within easy reach is a good idea. Not only will it help alleviate any potential guilt if a guest feels peckish between meals, it also takes some of the pressure off you having to fix countless drinks and snacks on top of the usual Christmas catering. Try filling a tray with bottles of soft drink, biscuits, snack bars and maybe even the odd mince pie!

xmas_breakfast xmas_mince_pies

  1. Nowadays, no one travels without their tech, so be sure to leave the Wi-Fi password somewhere visible. You could also invest in a universal charger, just in case someone forgets that vital bit of kit.
 

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… make your own Christmas cards

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… make your own Christmas cards

xmas_cards

Handmade Christmas cards are the perfect opportunity to show your loved ones that you care and can really help you get in the festive spirit. Many people are put off the idea because the idea of crafts seems time consuming and tricky, but these simple cards from our lovely blogger friend at Mathilde Heart Manech can be made in a flash. Despite their simplicity, the end result looks like you spent hours labouring, leaving all the more time for a cheeky glass of mulled wine and a mince pie (or two!).

You will need:

Washi tape in a variety of designs
Scissors
Card stock
Letter stamps and ink

Instructions

  • You’ll need five pieces of washi tape cut to your desired size (depends on the shape of tree you would like). Tip! Make a sample tree on a piece of paper to use as a template.
  • Stick to your card stock, starting with the base, leaving two spaces for your Christmas message.
  • Stamp your Christmas message inside the two gaps. Leave to dry.
  • Fill your card with lovely messages for loved ones!

For this and more crafty tips, check out our guide to a classic Christmas, and make sure you post the results on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

Christy’s Top Tips for a Cracking Christmas Celebration

Christy’s Top Tips for a Cracking Christmas Celebration 

Browns

With the Christmas party season approaching faster than Santa’s sleigh, it’s likely that you’re preparing to celebrate Christmas by organising a merry party for your friends, colleagues or family.

According to Browns Brasserie & Bar, 72% of people find that their biggest worry over the Christmas period is the fear of their festive celebrations flopping. To help ease your party planning woes, we gained some Christmas party advice from Laura Richardson, Chief Host of Browns (pictured).

In this post, we’ll give you insider tips and tricks on how to throw a rockin’ Christmas do that will have people queuing at the doors for their festive fix.

It’s Never Too Early To Plan

When it comes to planning your Christmas party, the sooner you start, the better. Laura says, “almost 7% of people start thinking about booking their table in January”, whilst this may seem too eager to some, you don’t want to miss out on your favourite venue through leaving it last minute.

Keep It Out of Office

If you’re arranging a party for your colleagues, steer clear of an office party location. Laura advises, “It’s increasingly difficult for people to let go of their ‘in-work’ mentality when they’re outside the office let alone in the same building”. To combat those office blues, choose a venue in a restaurant, bar or function room away from work.

Plan the After Party

For those who like to go hard or go home, pre-arrange a location, such as a bar, to head to after the party has finished. This will prevent your party goers from umming and arring on the night and keep everyone from going their separate ways.

Inform the Troops

Once you have planned the event, invite your attendees and ask them to RSVP. Your invite should list all the small details of the party including dates, times, locations, dress codes, menus, etc. If people can see you are organised, they are more likely to respond to your invitation, and you can gain a realistic number of attendees.

The Most Important Part… Have Fun!

“Setting out a couple of hours each week/month to focus just on planning, and when it comes to the actual night, you’ll have nothing more to do but grab a glass of bubbly and relax!” With those lasting wise words from Laura, go ahead and start planning the Christmas party that’ll blow last years out of the – albeit icy – water. And remember…have fun!

Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to planning your Christmas party? Share your festive celebration ideas with us on Facebook and Twitter, we’d love to hear from you!

Christmas 03

 

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Get Crafty With Your Advent Calendar

#ChristyChristmas: Time to… Get Crafty With Your Advent Calendar

AdventCalendarBox

As December approaches, thoughts turn to the final Christmas countdown. But rather than buying the same old chocolate advent calendar this year, why not get crafty and make your own? Or this could be a perfect pre-Christmas gift for your loved ones.

We’ve teamed up with Emily Quinton from Makelight to share with you a step by step guide on how to craft your way to Christmas day.

To make this handy homemade calendar, all you need is:

  • Candy striped sweetie bags
  • Doilies
  • Two different patterns of decorative washi tape
  • Small pegs
  • Treats for your calendar

Now you’ve sourced your festive supplies and put on a Christmas playlist, let’s get started!

Step 1

Using your decorative washi tape, stick a doily in the centre of a candy striped bag. Repeat this until all your bags are adorned with doilies.

We’re going for a granny-chic calendar here, but feel free to ditch the doilies to keep it modern. If you’re the arty type, use colourful pens to doodle festive scenes on your bags. Or step it up a notch with sparkly glitter. This is your chance to get those creative juices flowing!

Step 2

Using your second washi tape, create a number on each doily to correspond with the dates counting down to Christmas.

Step 3

We hope you haven’t eaten those treats just yet, as now it’s time to pop them in your bags. We like to give ourselves an extra treat on Christmas day, to make it all the more special.

Stuck for ideas? You can fill your advent calendar with sweets, chocolate, drawings, notes and small gifts for you or your loved ones.

Step 4

Finally, decorate the pegs with washi tape to give them a festive feeling, and use them to seal your finished bags. Voila!

These goody-filled advent calendars are perfect as a gift for yourself or to put in your family’s bags before work or school. If you want to display your hard work proudly, simply use the pegs to hang your calendars to a piece of string running along a wall.

Have you got any Christmas crafts you’ve been creating lately? Share the inspiration with us on  Facebook and Twitter. Or get some more inspiration from our full Christmas guide, including Emily’s advent calendar, here.

 

Summer Eats and Reads

Long and lazy summer days are perfect for passing the time in the garden with a great book and a deliciously light lunch.

Here are our top picks for summer reads and perfect food accompaniments, from fresh salads to healthy sandwiches:

Eat: Summer beans on toast with prosciutto

Get creative with a classic – beans on toast – and you can transform a store cupboard meal into something delicious and healthy. Broad beans on toasted ciabatta, kept in place with a bit of cream cheese and finished with heaps of rocket, is a filling but light summer lunch. What’s more, it can easily be enjoyed with one hand should your summer novel prove just too good to put down.

For an extra burst of flavour, mix pesto or chopped mint into the broad beans, or add a slither of prosciutto for a salty kick.

Read: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Nominated for The Man Booker Prize in 2014, this tale of an unusual American family, told from the perspective of a sister now estranged from her siblings and struggling to fit in with her peers, “examines what it means to be human, non-human and something in between”, according to one Telegraph review. To say more would be to give away the key twist of the plot – which will certainly take you by surprise – so resist the temptation to read online spoilers and find out for yourself what makes Rosemary and her family so different.

Eat: Pea, feta and mint frittata

We are big fans of simple recipes that utilise fridge leftovers, and frittatas are one of our favourite dishes for making the most of everything from leftover vegetables to herbs and cheese.

Combine eggs (both yolks and whites), plenty of seasoning, frozen peas (no need to boil first), chunks of feta and a few sprigs of mint and bake on a low heat in a shallow pan. For a crispy top, add a grating of parmesan and finish off under the grill.

Read: Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond

A grief-stricken family head to a summer cottage to try and move on from a sudden death, but there is more to the healing process for some, with one member hiding a life-changing secret from the rest. If you’re a fan of easy-to-read family dramas, this is the summer book for you.

Eat: Asian prawn summer rolls

For an easy to eat light snack ideal for the warm summer weather, pack rice paper rolls with carrot, cucumber, noodles and cooked prawns. Buy ready to eat prawns for added ease, or simply cook quickly in a wok with Asian flavours – sweet chilli with a sprinkling of coriander tastes great with seafood.

Combine lime juice, a dash of fish sauce, caster sugar, chopped ginger and chilli for a light but tasty dipping sauce.

Read: Summer Secrets by Jane Green

Scheduled for release next month, this eagerly awaited novel tells the story of Cat Coombs, a 27 year old journalist who spirals out of control after discovering the identity of her estranged father, losing her only close relationships in the process.

The novel begins in 1998, but fast forwards to 2014, telling the story of how Cat’s attempts to make amends uncover secrets that leave everyone reeling.

 

Valentine’s Day-Inspired Decor

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and for those missing the festive feeling of Christmas decor, with its deep reds and checks, now is the perfect time to inject some new life into your home.

We are not talking about overly cheesy or tacky heart-shaped everything, rather refined and elegant love-inspired accessories that can make its place in your home all year round.

Below are a few of our top Valentine’s Day inspired interior looks, from some of our favourite bloggers and crafty Pinterest users – which look will you be copying this February 14th?

From etsy.com

This shabby chic Love banner combined with the classically Scandinavian design of this home gives an elegant look that does not have to be reserved for Valentine’s Day.

From flickr.com

Photo walls are a stylish way of displaying your favourite images, and heart-shaped photo collages can help you decorate with a heart motif in an adult way that’s suitable for an elegant home – for a particularly high end look, you could outline each image in plain black frames, or print images in black and white.

From modwedding.com

Coasters are an all-year-round house essential, protecting your surfaces from everything from wine glasses to sticky Tommee Tippee cups. These easy to make coasters are made from cork – you can write whatever you like on the heart cutouts, from your name and your partner’s name, to Valentine’s Day-inspired words. Just make sure you use a cork suitable permanent marker that won’t smudge.

Found at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Pommedejour

These vintage-inspired letters are really simple to make, and you can write out whatever you like – why not try your initial plus your partner’s initial? They make great quirky additions to bookcases, or look great on a mantlepiece.

To make them, use plain wooden letters (available at craft stores) and then visit a DIY store and stock up on the free wallpaper samples.

 

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