Archive of ‘Tips & Tricks’ category

Make your own #ChristyChristmas Crackers

 

Christmas 08

Make your own #ChristyChristmas Crackers

Looking for some extra festive fun in the lead up to Christmas?
Making your own Christmas crackers is not only easy, but it’s fun to share with the whole family.

The equipment list is as follows:

• Your favourite Wrapping paper
• Scissors
• Ruler
• Ribbon
• Glue
• Cracker Snaps
(these can be bought inexpensively from most craft shops.)
• 3 Empty Toilet Rolls
• Token Gifts, Handwritten Jokes and Christmas Hat

Firstly, roll out your wrapping paper and cut a landscape rectangle measuring 20cm (across) x 30 cm (down). Take your rectangle, turn face down and measure 10cm in from each end. Mark the 10cm point, by drawing a line from bottom to top, firmly with a sharp pencil.

Next, take one of your Cracker Snaps and affix with a dot of glue at either end in a straight line across the top of the rectangle.

You should end up with something like this:

diagram

Using your pencil markings, place 3 used toilet rolls in the columns drawn out. Delicately roll the toilet rolls so the wrapping paper wraps around and covers them. I like to add a dot of glue in the centre to hold the paper together nicely.

You’ll now have a wrapped cylinder. Pull one of the end toilet rolls out very slightly. Gently twist and push the end back inwards to make a crease – this will become your first end. Grab your cut of ribbon and tie in a neat bow around your newly made crease. Once you’ve got it to look exactly how you want, remove the toilet roll altogether.

Take your gifts, hand written joke, Christmas hat (… and anything else you want to throw in for that matter)  through the opposite end, then repeat the last step (ensuring none of your inner items fall out in the process!)

You should now be looking at your final cracker! You may want to decorate further using name plates or co-ordinating bows.

Kids may choose to decorate further using pens, stickers or bows too!

Share your crackers with us @christy_home. Hope you enjoy!

 

Cranberry Mulled Wine Recipe

Mulled wine, a classic warming drink that is a favourite of anyone who loves the Christmas season. Every year, we wait for the right time of year to add those much loved spices to our favourite red wine to create the perfect accompaniment to our favourite festive film and the roaring fire.

Luckily, our friend Fritha Strickland from Tigerlilly Quinn  is here to give us a fun twist on an old classic with her recipe for cranberry mulled wine from the Christy 2014 Christmas guide. Simply follow her simple recipe, and you’ll be onto a winner with this crowd pleasing Christmas tipple.

mulled_wine_2

To make your own cranberry mulled wine, all you need is:

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 x cinnamon sticks
  • 10 x whole cloves
  • 2 x star anise
  • 5 x allspice berries (optional extra, not essential)
  • 2 x oranges (peel and juice from one, the other sliced to serve)
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 500ml cranberry juice
  • 250ml ruby port
  • 500ml red wine
  • Fresh cranberries to serve (optional)

Once you’ve gathered all your ingredients together, simply follow the instructions below:

  1. In a medium/ large saucepan combine your sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, allspice berries and orange peel and juice from one orange. Pour over enough of the cranberry juice to just cover the ingredients. Heat, stirring frequently over a medium to high heat until all the sugar has dissolved and you get a slightly thicker looking ‘syrup’. Add the remaining cranberry juice and the dried cranberries and continue to cook over a medium heat for a few minutes.
  1. Add your port and red wine and warm through for 5-10 minutes. Be careful to not let the mixture boil and when warmed through, carefully ladle into glasses taking care not to include any cloves etc! Garnish with an orange slice and some fresh cranberries before serving.
  1. Most importantly, enjoy!

mulled_wine_1

Have you tried out this recipe for yourself? Tell us how it went over on Facebook or Twitter. Even better, send us a picture of your finished creation, we’d love to see how you got on!

 

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.

6

  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.

7

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

8

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.

 

#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.

 

5 last minute gift ideas for your favourite people

Oops! We all do it now and then – forgetting someone’s birthday, forgetting an important anniversary or just not quite making it to the shop in time! Something we’re really proud of is that you can visit our website for essentials like bed linen UK products, but leave with heaps of great gifts for the people you love (even though you sometimes it’s after their big day!) Here are five great gift ideas our buyers recommend when you’re doing a last minute panic shop or trying desperately to make up for that missed birthday or anniversary! 1. Home Accessories Super for folks of any age, we carry great home accessories like linen doorstops, Venetian lanterns and stainless steel bottle stops. We only source stock that’s expertly crafted and well-made to high standards. A popular home accessory gift is the nickel-plated ‘Coral Hurricane’ lantern (available in small or large). 2. CandlesClassic and superbly dexterous in terms of who you can give them to, our range of luxury candles is especially well-suited to those folks who you’re not quite sure what to get them. The Fired Earth range is especially popular in the field of just-moved-house gifts. 3. Luxury Bedding Who wouldn’t be grateful for a 100% cotton 200-thread-count luxury bedding set? We believe a good night’s sleep is highly dependent on what you’re snuggling down in, so how about being the lovely gift-giver who gave the gift of a brilliant night’s sleep! We’ve also got plenty of matching throws and scatter cushions to choose from. The ‘Odessa’ chunky knit throw comes highly rated by happy customers wrapping up warm to read a good book! 4. Designer Bathroom Accessories Gone are the days of being a student and everyone leaving their damp old bath towels all over the floor. There’s nothing like gorgeous new luxury bathroom accessories, especially fluffy new towels! We carry towels, beach towels, robes and bath mats in our collection, so why not choose something lavish that says “Sorry I forgot your birthday, but how about never getting cold when you set foot out of the shower ever again with this sumptuous towelling robe? Forgiven?” 5. Comforters for Kids It’s not always grown-ups who miss out on a few presents. We’ve sourced the softest comforters for kids, complete with themed gift boxes from French company, Moulin Roty. They’re famous for their back to basics approach to children’s products, especially their luxury plush soft toys, comforters and wooden toys. Choose from Baba the Koala, Brrouuu the Elephant, Groou the Lion and Miaaa the Cat. Each comforter is suitable from birth and fully machine washable. We hope that was helpful. After all, it’s tough to keep on top of every single celebratory date (but don’t say that to their face!) If you’d like us to answer any questions about the gift ideas we’ve recommended, get in touch today and we’ll happily chat through any details you’d like. And in case you’re wondering, we like Miaaa the Cat best!

 

 

Your quick guide to thread count

It’s something that’s tossed around by people wanting to brag about their luxury bed linen – “Oh it’s Egyptian cotton, darling! 1000 thread-count!” – but what does it actually mean? As a leading seller of bedding UK products, we believe it’s time to open the curtains on tread counts, what the term means and how different thread counts and fabric combinations can affect your sleep. What is a Thread-count? It’s a technical term used to record the number of threads woven per square inch counted both lengthways and across the width of bedding. For example, 100 length + 100 width = 200 thread-count. The idea being that the higher the thread-count, the finer the threads and the softer the fabric. Thread-count is often used as a fashionable term for quality, but we know there’s more to it.  A high thread-count count in a scratchy, artificial fabric is still going to be unconformable. But most high thread-count quality bedding is only made using top quality natural fibres like Egyptian cotton, hence the notoriety. What is a Good Thread-count? Muslin has a thread-count of 150 (75 + 75), high street bed linen comes in at 180, and about 200 is classed as luxury bedding. Most of our products have thread-count of 200 or above and are made with 100% cotton. There are studies out there that say anything above 1000 thread-count is nothing more than creative maths and marketing, but the jury is still out on the validity of this kind of research. We carry thread-counts up to 600, which is like sleeping on the softest summer clouds! What about Fabric Quality? The most popular luxury bedding is usually made from 100% cotton. He rule of thumb with cotton tends to be the longer the fibre, the better the quality. Egyptian cotton has exceptionally long fibres, hence it’s place in the bedrooms we love. How to Choose Great Bedding For starters, it’s more than just a numbers game. It’s mostly about finding a style and fabric combination that you simply find most comfortable. Some people sleep on satin sheets while others balk at the idea – it’s all about personal choice. Take the example of fabric blends; 200 thread-count 100% cotton bedding will likely be more durable than a cotton/satin blend of the same thread-count. There are benefits to both, but in the end it’s all about the feel and finish you prefer. This is especially relevant at the higher thread-counts, where 100% cotton can be bulkier than it’s 300-400 thread-count counterpart. So, now you know top quality bedding is about more than just the maths, it’s time to head over to our bedding area to choose a few treats that will keep you in restful nights of sleep throughout 2013! Got some questions about thread-count, fabric choice or any of the products in our collection? We’d love to hear from you and are happy to answer any queries as quickly as we can. You can contact us on 0845 758 5252.

 

 

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