Tag : chocolate

Top 10… Christmas Crafts!

Oh… the ‘C’ word. The one that no one wants to mention. Well, not until at least December is here anyway.

Me? I LOVE Christmas. I love the cold weather, the roaring fires, the indulgence and fun and high spirits. Normally, I am prepping WELL ahead of December. Usually there is a handmade advent calendar, and table decorations and handmade crackers on the go. Wreaths are being designed and made, shopping lists written, Christmas cards written, recipes being organised. This year? No. I have done very, VERY little. It’s not for want of trying – I just can’t believe the magical festive season is nearly upon us! The arrival of the (brilliant) John Lewis advert was a shock. What do you MEAN it’s nearly Christmas??

I do have a great excuse though… I have been so focused on our new little one, and even just what day of the week it is, that well, Christmas, and planning for it has gone slightly off plan. My days – that would normally around this time of year – be filled with planning the perfect mince pie recipe or working out just how many gold baubles does a girl need for the new colour schemed tree? Have been swapped for planning the perfect nights eat and sleep routine and counting how many nappies in a day. Times, have, changed.

I’ve got some of the priorities sorted anyway – Santa knows what bubba would like under the tree and even our little doggie has his gifts all sorted! Our dog even has a (rawhide) advent calendar himself this year… and a dog BEER. Yes, you read that right. I am one of those people that buys the naff Christmas items at the Pets at Home till. Apparently it is not really ‘beer’ – pretty sure it is chicken flavoured water or ‘moisture’ as the label attractively lists on the ingredients! The Husband was NOT impressed at first when I showed him – ‘What gave you been buying now?!’ – however, I think he is secretly excited to have a beer with his four legged pal on the ‘big day’. Talking of The Husband – he does NOT have any presents… yet, and there is a general shopping list in the go… I just need to action it, and perhaps work out how to get the pram and car seat adapters to actually fit together and man up and attack the shops. Or, just crack on with 3am online shopping. God bless the internet!

So, my new focus instead of Christmas and all the wonderful things it brings (mulled wine, aforementioned presents, and our lovely family – in that order! 😉 ) is our little man.

He is now 6 weeks old. Amazing. But, where has that time gone??
We have just been treated to his wonderful first smile, and as most babies at this developmental stage – he just LOVES lights! So, we need to get our Christmas tree up ASAP and I plan to simply COVER it with lights – he will be mesmerised. And, I am sure this will bring plenty more delightful smiles. They literally make my heart melt, and me cry. Bloody hormones!

Anyway, enough about me and – if unlike me, you have time to start making anything (there is no doubt I will… I can’t NOT have a crafty Christmas, I’m The Crafty Lass!) here are my top 10 Christmas crafty links for you to try, with a little something for everyone! And, if I don’t manage to post again before – have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

 

1. Decorations!

How about this for a simple, but very effective craft! All you need is ribbon, and plenty of baubles to make a bauble garland! Beautiful.

 

2. Wrapping Paper!

How about making your own wrapping paper? I usually spend time (far too long) picking out the right one to go with the ribbons and colour scheme I have chosen for this year… but perhaps, as shopwalkinlove.com shows us – all we need is some plain papers, pens, some inspiration and to have fun with it! This is certainly going to be on my to do list this year 🙂

 

3. Table Decor!

A very clever idea for lovely place cards – mini ‘wreaths’ made from cranberries and greenery! You could even try this with beads and ribbons if you wanted to make them reusable for next year – but, nothing screams Christmas more than a cranberry or two! 🙂

 

4. Advent Calendar Ideas!

I’m going to put this out there – I HATE advent calendar chocolate… Now you can get seriously luxurious calendars and they don’t all taste like plastic like they did when I was a kid (please note a Hotel Chocolat advent would be lovely, thanks Husband) – but why not countdown to the big day with doing something different everyday? Here is the ‘Ultimate Advent Activity List‘ to give you plenty of festive ideas to get into the holiday spirit!

 

5. Kids Crafts!

Just how cute are these clothes peg snowmen! Something you can make together and you could even use them to hold up any Christmas cards received!

 

6. Crochet!

Love crochet? How about making these amazing elf slippers!

 

7. Sweet Eats!

Give everyone a surprise and a smile with their after dinner coffee – and why not turn normal ‘Malteasers’ into mini Christmas puds?! Simply pipe on melted white chocolate, and decorate with small coloured icing/toppings. Clever!

 

8. A Different Tree!

If you don’t fancy the traditional fir tree – why not make one out of cardboard? Yes, you read that right – cardboard! This clever link shows you how to make a ‘stackable’ tree!

 

9. Peanut Garland!

A really lovely idea for (believe it or not!) decorating PEANUTS into little characters! Paint, glue – let your imagination go wild! These could hang above the fireplace, on the tree – anywhere you want to make that little bit festive in the home! 🙂 You could even drape these around the table as part of your table decor on the big day.

 

10. Santa Logs!

Get creative with your garden decor and jazz up some logs into Santa! Simply cut into shape, paint and add to your doorstop to welcome all your visitors! 🙂

 

Enjoy!

Categories: Christmas, Crafty Kids, General Craft, Top 5

Top 15… DIY Advent Calendars!

I love Christmas. I am sure I will say that more than once over the next few weeks, but it really is my favourite time of year. I even like the wintery weather! Apart from the obvious – ‘big day’ – I love the build up to Christmas, perhaps even more than the main event. The planning, the little surprises, the Christmas concerts and carols, the food shopping, making, baking and eating! And of course – crafting! 😉

As a child (and still as an adult) I absolutely love advent calendars – every single day opening up the little door to see what was behind and knowing 1 day less till Christmas! I wasn’t even that bothered about the chocolate, I am more a savoury than sweet girl, but of course I still always ate it! That weird ‘advent calendar chocolate’ that tastes bit like plastic, you know it is rubbish – but you eat it anyway!

You can of course get ‘luxury’ calendars – that are filled with the highest end of beautiful Belgian chocolate, or even different little gifts, and on this slant – how about making your OWN and choosing your own little delights to put inside! I did this a couple of years ago for The Husband – all together now – awwww – I put a little chocolate in each one, and also a task for the day! Like, “Learn how to say Merry Christmas in 5 different languages” or “Lets make mince pies tonight!”. I know, too cute. It was certainly fun to put together, and although The Husband doesn’t like Christmas as much as me – he isn’t a bah humbug scrooge – but he certainly isn’t like Elf from the movie like me – he did really love it. Who wouldn’t love 24 little parcels to be opened up!?

On that note… here are my Top 15 advent calendar ideas! Normally I only do a ‘Top 5’ but there were so many inspirational ideas out there, I had to share them with you!

 

1. The Crafty Lass on the Craft Channel

Well of course I am going to say that 😉

This year I have already made mine… and it will be featured on The Craft Channel next week…make sure you check it out in our Weekend Wonder promotion shows – just some clever little way of turning some ordinary packaging into some fun advent ideas! 😀 latest schedule can be found on www.thecraftchannel.tv

 

2.  Advent in a Jar

What a fun idea – simple but effective – instead of little gifts this provides little messages and ideas of what to do! This idea from Poppytalk also provides free printouts! 🙂

 

3. Advent Street

A beautiful little advent street – and again, this lovely idea from Mr Printables – does exactly as the name suggests, provides free printouts!

 

4. Advent Baubles

An advent calendar and decorate your tree in one swoop! A cute idea putting numbers on to baubles and add one to the tree each day 🙂

 

5. Envelope Advent

A lovely idea simply using envelopes – clever that it is also is in the shape of a tree…! A fun way to turn average stationery into something special!

 

6. Painted Advent

This is certainly a different and contemporary idea – painting jars in colour coordinated paints and popping little gifts inside. Beautiful!

 

7. Advent ‘Cake’

This is a FAB idea from Daisy and Dots on Etsy – but sadly I can’t find their shop anymore. They had provided a very clever idea of using little cake slice boxes as an advent calendar! 🙂

 

8. Santa’s Beard Advent!

Great idea for the kiddiwinks here – turning santa’s beard into a calendar! Give him a ‘shave’ every day to reduce the length of his beard! 🙂

 

9. Elf Advent

What a CUTE elf idea for advent – turning toilet rolls into cutie pie elves! 🙂 These would be cute with or without the numbers, a great Christmas craft for a snowy Saturday afternoon.

 

10. Clothes Peg Advent

Not just for hanging up the washing – turn clothes pegs into your new advent calendar! Simply tie little gifts up with ribbon and hang on!

 

11. Punch Board Advent

This would be ALOT of fun every morning! A DIY ‘Punch Board‘ advent calendar! 🙂

 

12. Santa’s Present Sack Advent

This is really beautiful. Love the cute little Santas holding their present sacks, ready for you to fill with a little chocolate or gift – lovely.

 

13. Cushion Advent

A different homeware idea – making an advent cushion! Tuck little gifts behind each number space 🙂

 

14. Advent Bunting

Everyone loves abit of bunting! How about turning it into an advent idea with these cute boxes!

 

15. Embroidery Hoop Advent

A really clever idea using embroidery hoops to create a little wall display idea as little fabric pockets! Fun!

 

Enjoy x

Categories: Christmas, General Craft, Top 5

The Crafty Lass does… Chocolate Easter Eggs!

Happy Easter!

So, the husband has gone out this Easter Sunday – the whole day – so, I have the house to myself – to do whatever I want. I could have spent a few lovely leisurely hours catching up on all my overdue to be watched Masterchef (I haven’t seen the last SIX episodes!) or, I could have gone out and spent some time in the rare sunshine. No – instead, I stayed in and made a mess, I made a huge chocolatey, fun, mess. I did make some chocolate Easter eggs in the process…but mainly a mess. 😉 The finished eggs aren’t perfect and, it would of course have been ALOT easier to go into my local supermarket and just BUY eggs. But, where would the fun be in that?

 

Chocolate, especially making moulded chocolate has always frightened me. Haha – not literally – but, ‘What if it’s too hot?’ ‘What if it’s too cold?’ ‘What if water gets into it?’ (Chocolate and water DO NOT mix!) ‘What if it just won’t come out of the mould?’ So many concerns! And, as it turned out, it was fine!

Chocolate, needs to be at the right ‘temper’ (don’t we all!) to ensure a lovely glossy sheen, a perfect ‘snap’ when you break into it, and to stop the chocolate ‘blooming’ (when fat and/or sugar can rise to the surface – which is still safe to eat, but just makes it look unsightly.) Ideally, I would have a fantastic ‘tempering machine’ at my disposal (quite a bit of cost in that!) Second to that, I would try and use a microwave to slowly melt the chocolate to the right temperatures/consistency…however our’s recently broke, and is yet to be replaced.  So, I used the the ‘Bain-Marie’ method. This ‘Instructables’ tempering guide clearly shows the step-by-step process, and the temperatures required. And, as long as you stick to these – it really is that easy.

 

Top Tip 1! Bowls. I actually used plastic (instead of glass or metal) – to try and ensure the actual bowl didn’t ‘keep’the the temperature up too hot once off the heat, so it would cool down much quicker.

 

Top Tip 2! Lakeland have a great device that I used – a ‘Thermospatula‘ – a silicone spatula and thermometer combined – perfect!

 

Once the chocolate was tempered, I poured the chocolate into the egg moulds and swirled/twisted them around to ensure all areas were coated. I then repeated this process to ensure the eggs would be thick enough – too thin and they could easily crack when coming out! Once all coated, it was into the fridge for five minutes. The chocolate doesn’t take long to set – and if tempered correctly, as the chocolate re-forms into a solid mass, it will slightly shrink away from the mould, allowing it to easily come out. Luckily for me, this did actually happen – a slight ‘tap’, and out they came, and as hoped – with a lovely shiny finish. If they don’t come out that easily – a quick blast in the freezer can sometimes help!

Top Tip 3! Once each of the ‘half eggs’ are out of the moulds – I used a heated tray straight from the oven… gently resting the egg halves on here, to slightly re-melt the edges before putting together. Et voila, one whole egg!

 

The finished result – I am happy that they do actually look like eggs (not sure what else they would look like!) – but I have learnt a few things:

1. It isn’t hard, or scary. Working with chocolate is alot easier than you think – and importantly, fun! I’d highly recommend anyone to give this a go! It doesn’t have to be Easter themed – there are a whole multitude of moulds, in all shapes and sizes out there to try! And joking aside – it wasn’t THAT messy, just a few bowls/moulds to wash up! 🙂

 

2. You need to work quickly with chocolate – I poured the tempered chocolate into the moulds, and didn’t swirl it around into the egg shape quickly enough – so the chocolate started to set – and allowed for a few air holes in the eggs. A way to combat this? I should have banged the mould gently on the work surface to bring these air bubbles to the top – and out of the chocolate – before setting, but I didn’t, so there are a few little air pockets here and there.

 

3.  Quantities? You need to work out just how much chocolate is required for your specific egg mould. I melted FAR too much. It’s ok – it will just have to be eaten 😉 – but next time – I will melt less (I melted 400g for these three eggs, added in around 150g in the tempering process – and probably only used around two thirds.) Anyone out there with some ‘top tips’ for measuring what is required?

Next year’s attempt will be to try patterned eggs! Dark, milk and white, filled with sweeties, little gifts – the ideas are endless.

Now, all that there is left to do… is eat! Happy Easter everyone!

 

Categories: Easter, The Crafty Lass does...

Top 5… Traditional Egg Decorations!

Did you know, that actually the Easter eggs tradition didn’t start with chocolate…? Behind the rows and rows of commercialised packaging, brands and more sugary treats than you can shake a chocolate stick at – are symbols of fertility, rebirth and new life. The tradition of giving and receiving eggs goes back hundreds of years and good old UK chocolate brand Cadbury explains all with ‘The Story of Easter and Easter Eggs’ HERE.

I love chocolate, don’t get me wrong (who doesn’t?) and Easter is a great excuse to have chocolate for breakfast – but I remember as a child always having boiled eggs on Easter Sunday morning, and loved nothing more than getting all my feltip pens out and drawing pretty patterns on the shells afterwards!

So, whatever the reasons behind the egg tradition – and I am certainly looking forward to some chocolately delights on Sunday – but here are my Top 5 egg decorations – the more traditional way…

 

1. Love colour? Have some patience and time on your hands? How about creating some ‘Pantone‘ eggs as here on How About Orange?

 

2. Simple, but effective – are these ‘Oodles of Doodles‘ pastel coloured eggs from Pattern Stitch Blog, that look great! Or, get inspiration from her previous year designs in minimalist black and white! Go wild with edible pens and creating your own wacky doodles!

 

3. Now when is there a time in life when glitter doesn’t improve everything?! Why not try these Glitter dipped eggs from ‘Frugal Mom Eh!‘. Bright, sparkly and fun!

 

4. Living at Home has this great idea of just simply decorating using tapes wrapped around in vibrant colours! (use Google Translate to turn German – English, simples!)

 

5. Lastly, but not leastly – these beautiful and intricately designed eggs by The Caroline Johansson add a further touch of inspiration by adding on a little hook – which you could then hang up on a tree!

 

There are hundreds, thousands of ideas out there! While searching, I came across ‘Minion’ eggs, ‘Super Mario’ eggs, simply dyed, painted, metallic, wax resist… go wild and unleash your imagination!

 

P.S. Ok, I know I said ‘Top 5’ but I couldn’t resist also adding a link to these ‘eggcellent’ (sorry) Disney themed cuties!

 

 

Categories: Easter, Top 5

The Crafty Lass does… Easter ‘Egg and Soldiers’!

Are you having friends and family over for dinner this Easter? And need an interesting dessert? Well, look no further than this scrummy delight of ‘Egg and Soldiers’!

I made this last year for a post-Sunday-roast-pud, and it went down a storm! Even serving it in empty egg cups/boxes, for extra presentation points! 😉

I was inspired originally by Raspberri Cupcakes – where she makes these, and with such beautiful photos and ideas – I couldn’t resist giving it a try for myself!

I used ‘Kinder’ eggs as the outer shell – perfect size, and actually, on the day I was hunting for hollow chocolate Easter eggs – after four separate supermarket visits – they were the only ones anywhere had!! This was Easter Saturday and everywhere was sold out! However, they worked just perfectly in the end… Our nephew especially loving it – as he got SIX Kinder surprises!

Gently taking off the top, without cracking the main part of the egg was the hardest part…

Top Tip! Leave the foil wrapper on, and put the eggs in the freezer for around 10-15 minutes to slightly harden the chocolate before gently carving off the top with a sharp, ideally serrated knife… Just be gentle! 🙂

For the ‘egg white’, I used a ‘Nigella community recipe’ – Quick Vanilla Cheesecake – (it really does do what it says on the tin and is quick and simple)…and then, just simply spooned into the eggs. Ideally, I would have piped it in – which of course you could do, if you have the time/a piping bag/nossle to hand! Then – simply pop into the fridge for around an hour or so, or until slightly set. Using an empty egg box to put them in is ideal at this stage – as it ensures the ‘eggs’ stay upright whilst setting!

 

The ‘yolk’ was made from a fresh and juicy mango and around a tablespoon of caster sugar. I cubed a whole mango into a saucepan, added in the sugar and heated gently until a slightly thicker, and gloriously yellow puree, before allowing to cool. For the six eggs I made – I had quite abit of coulis left over, which I had the following day with ice-cream (just like a Solero!) So, maybe adjust to however you see fit… I am sure it’ll still get eaten if any left! 😉

 

Whilst the cheesecakes were setting, and the mango cooling – I made the amazing shortbread. It is a Jamie Oliver recipe – and the clue is in the name… The Best Shortbread in the World from his book ‘Cooking with Jamie‘. I can’t find an ‘official’ link for it, but here it is on one of Jamie’s forums.  It takes a little longer than ‘normal’ shortbread, but it is thick, buttery, crumbly, sugar coated amazing-ness. It makes the kitchen smell truly fantastic!!

 

Once the cheesecake was set, I simply spooned out a small part in the centre (reserve, and eat later!), poured in the coulis – and ‘et voila’!

Then, served up in egg cups and/or boxes – with the ‘soldiers’ on the side.

Enjoy! Let me know if you give it a go!

Categories: Easter, Sweet Tooth Scrumptious Stuff!, The Crafty Lass does...

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