24 December 2010

"Who would put cigars on their Christmas tree?!"

So this post is dedicated to my favourite Auntie Lauren, who is one of a kind!

My Mother and Auntie Lauren were recently out shopping in a large department store browsing the Christmas decorations section. My Auntie clutching a handful of brown stick like objects tied with a piece of ribbon, turns to my Mother and says- "Who'd put cigars on their Christmas tree?!" My Mum needless to say burst out laughing and quickly rebuked her and replied- "They're cinnamon sticks! Not cigars!!"

I love using cinnamon sticks in cooking, especially around this time of year so every time I opened my spice drawer and saw my cinnamon sticks I had a little chuckle to myself. 

This amusing story has inspired my favourite Christmas craft to date. It just came to me one morning and I couldn't do anything else until I had constructed what I had envisioned in my mind.

As you can see it's very simple but to me its beautiful, and the best thing about this is anyone, even children could make this from just a few materials in a matter of minutes. I think they would be a hit with parents and kids alike at Eat-n-Mess. The image inside could obviously be changed depending on people's taste and religious beliefs. This one now hangs off of my Christmas tree.

This one is made using slightly bigger sized cinnamon sticks. All you need is a picture, strong glue, some ribbon or string and four cigars.....I mean cinnamon sticks! The reason I say they're beautiful is not because I have some freakish cinnamon stick fetish, no it's to do with the image they frame. I have loved it for a while now but have never thought to actually have it displayed in my home. But now it will always be a part of my families Christmas. The one above I will be giving to my Mum. I should give one to my Auntie too, but not sure she'll see the funny side! To learn more about this image please click here.

My last edible gift for this season is an un-esembled gingerbread house kit; complete with icing sugar and a variety of sweets for my very sweet nephew and nieces. I think this makes a great, fun and personal gift for any child or family. 

I plan to have 'gingerbread house assembling and decorating' as one of the many festive crafts at Eat-n-Mess. Kids and their parents/carers will get a choice of gingerbread houses and then get a bundle of sweets and chocolates together with a nice big heap of icing to then experiment with and hopefully have a holly jolly good time with!
Should be a win-win as what child doesn't like sugar, sweets, chocolate and getting messy....without being yelled at!?

Thanks to my big sister we started a new tradition with the Hud-man tonight by leaving a bag of straw, aka 'reindeer food' outside our home for Rudolf and his gang. 
As you can see this is a super cute thing for any small kid to do on Christmas Eve. It got me thinking to future Christmas's and about the the children who visit Eat-n-Mess before the most important day of the year. We could of course just re-create this simple bag full of straw or they could do something a little bit more special and magical. Coincidentally I came across this on one of my favourite food blogs; "Our Best Bites" today- 


Reindeer Food for Christmas Eve

I wasn't planning on posting anything today, Kate and I are supposed to be on a blog-cation!  But I just finished making these and had to share.  See, the stomach flu attacked our house this week, right after it attacked our house last week.  So for almost 2 full weeks I've had at least one, and at times 4 people hurled over buckets in my family room.  Needless to say, it put a kink in my holiday baking plans and I feel bad that I didn't get goodies to all of my friends!  But even the guilt isn't enough to inspire me to slave in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, so I decided to scrap the last-minute baking and do a little craft for my boys to deliver to their buddies instead.  I spotted this idea on The TomKat Studio and thought it was adorable!

Basically you're just putting random stuff in a little baggie and calling it Reindeer food, the poem on the bag is what I love (In case you're on a screen where you can't see the picture)

Sprinkle this reindeer food outside tonight,
The moonlight will make it sparkle bright.
As the reindeer fly and roam,
This will guide them to your home.

Since this was totally last minute, all I had was oats.  Next time I do it, I think I'll add some sunflower seeds and maybe a few nuts, or use granola.  Or go with coarse sugar or colorful sprinkles like many of you readers suggested.  But hey, this was totally last minute so since reindeer are magical, I'm sure they don't eat normal oats.  And as it says in the poem, the moonlight will make it *sparkle*.  So, as I saw lots of people on the internet doing, I added glitter.  In retrospect, I probably should have used something like sugar sprinkles so it's more eco (and kid)-friendly.  Don't call PETA.  And don't lecture me.  And if you do call PETA, definitely don't mention that I used a light dusting of hairspray to make the oats stick.  What?  I think it's resourceful.  Kind of like when Kate used her Creme Brulee Torch to light fireworks on the 4th of July.  I told you next year I'll use sugar sprinkles.   And I'll make sure the recipients know it's not for human consumption (as if everyone doesn't already know that only Santa's magical reindeer like sparkle oats with a side of maximum volume super hold spray).

Just put your reindeer food in little baggies (a sandwich bag will do)  and punch a hole in the corner and tie on the tag, or do as I did here and punch two little holes and pull the ribbon through

then tie in the front

My boys love pretending to be the mail man and making deliveries so they're going to be super excited to get to carry a basket and hand out these little magical favors. And even if you don't make these to pass out to friends, I think it's a super cute thing to just do at home with your kids.  

I just love these, so cute but seemingly simple and inexpensive to put together.

So, the most magical night of the year is here. The Hud-man is sleeping peacefully, the reindeer food has been left out, the presents have been wrapped, festive food has been prepared, and I'm exhausted as ever! Just time to wish you all a very healthy and happy Christmas and a fabulous 2011!!

I'm off to snuggle down with a box of chocolates and my husband, to watch 'Elf'.

Thanks for reading the blog! 

See you again next year.

17 December 2010

Can you ever have too much ribbon?

This post is dedicated to my love of......ribbon, yes, that's right-ribbon!

Christmas time is filled with beautiful coloured ribbons so I thought I'd make use of them whilst I have the opportunity and make a couple of things. I'm a sucker for anything red or green at Christmas. I recently went to Chelmsford market with the Hud-man and let him a grab handfuls of 'bundles' of any red, green and gold ribbons. We got a lot because I'm also a sucker for a bargain (who isn't?) as the bundles are a steal at 60p each for 3 metres. I was in heaven. The Hud-man was extra happy because we stocked up on glitter too. 

I've always liked the idea of making my own door wreath from scratch. I wanted to make one that was a bit different with lots of Christmas colours. Don't get me wrong I love the whole minimalistic thing but at Christmas time that all goes out the window for me. I love colour, and as I said before the more red and green the better! So I know it won't be to everyone's taste but here's what I came up with-

I like the idea of seeing parents making these with their children at Eat-n-Mess. It would be an ideal activity for adults to do with their children. It was so simple to make. I think as it has a lot of pins and cutting of the ribbons it would suit kids aged 8 and up. But we'd give the option of having pre-cut ribbon too. Imagine the sense of achievement and pride your child would feel if they had made this!

Ok, so I don't have the prettiest front door. But it sure does look dressed for the holiday now.

These glittery Christmas cards kept the Hud-man entertained for a good 20 minutes (which, if you don't know him, is quite an achievement). Until I had my son I thought only girls were into glitter. Oh how wrong I was!!

So, with it being the end of term I thought I better at least try and be a good parent and make something for his pre-school key-worker (note I did not say teachers-there's at least 10 so we decided on just giving to his key- worker, who also happens to be my favourite staff member). I thought biscuits would be a general crowd pleaser since we wanted to give some to the Playgroup leader (who is phenomenal, and worthy of a whole separate post!) and also a couple of the Hud-man's best mates from pre-school. I have to say these lemon biscuits were pretty yummy, it's a very good job we were making them to give away because I'm sure I could have eaten all 35, maybe not in one go though!

I still have a fair amount of ribbon left from the wreath so I decided to put some to use and attempt some table decorations/name place settings for the big day. I have had these shallow glass ramekins sitting in my kitchen collecting dust for months (I always thought "I'm sure I'll use them one day"). Well that day finally came today. For the foodies amongst us-yes the ramekins are from those very naughty puds.

I know; they're not exactly something Ina Garten would have on her table at Christmas time, or any time actually, but a 2 (very nearly 3) year old did help me. He picked out the ribbon, counted out the berries for me and placed the tea lights inside...and begged and begged me to light them. I'm glad he's getting involved in making things and preparing for this very special holiday. He seemed to have fun and that's the main thing.

13 December 2010

Getting more Christmassy than businessy

As far as all things 'business' I'm feeling mainly a bit down-hearted with it all this week. I feel as though I'm going no-where fast. TPT still haven't allocated me a mentor (which I could really use right about now). I'm finding it impossible to get in contact with anyone at all from TPT, the Trust leader is out of the office until mid-January. Slightly frustrating, especially as I know other people from the PT course have actually met with their mentor's. I was promised I'd meet mine over a month ago. 

But, on the other hand, this week a good friend asked me if I've ever looked at how many times the blog has been viewed. I hadn't. Truth is; I didn't even know how to access that info. I soon learned that was very quick and easy to do. I was shocked to discover it's had nearly 900 hits! It gave me the little confidence boost I needed. Here's to hoping the actual business will be a hit too!

This time of year has made me think heavily about crafts that I would like to see children doing at Eat-n-Mess one day....hopefully next Christmas.

Pomanders. These will be on offer every Christmas. Not only is it an easy one for kids, it will also make the whole place smell fantastically festive and fresh. Older children can get creative with making patterns with the cloves. I like to stick in as many as possible purely because it gives a stronger aroma.
Sorry, this isn't a great photo but's the best I can do with my trusty digital camera. I remember making these in primary school so that's proof that young children can make these. I recall my Mother hanging them in our airing cupboard.

One thing that's been taking up my time of late but in a good, fun way is making some edible gifts. So I thought I'd share in case you too want to make someone something with a personal touch but don't know what.

In my opinion you can't have Christmas without having mince pies. So some homemade pies will be on the Eat-n-Mess menu during the holiday period. Shop bought mince pie's just don't cut it. Yes, I am a mince pie snob.....blame my Mother.
Some of my (Grandmother's recipe) mince pies.

I'm not in the habit of taking photograph's of food I've made, partly because I haven't got a posh camera to do the food justice and partly because I'm usually too busy eating it! So, this isn't great quality either as I just snapped these with my phone, but you get the idea.

4 December 2010

Survey's, snow and smiles

Firstly, I would like to say a big thank you to all of you lovely people that have filled in one of my survey's. This has helped massively with some all important market research. I initially aimed at getting 100 completed but....I actually managed to get over a 120 filled out! As I kept them quite simple I have been able to notice trends easily. Which is a BIG help!

So what with all this gorgeous snow we've had this past week and the fact the Christmas period has begun I'm finding it hard to do a few things from my still, mega long, business to-do list. Isn't it CRAZY how much a bit of snow can affect everyday life?!! But I have embraced it and actually unlike many others I've enjoyed it, especially watching the Hud-man play in it, laugh in it, fall in it, run in it and just generally be the little kid he still is. 

I've been reliably informed that a good blog needs some pictures. So to hopefully make this a good AND interesting blog here's a few....

Because of the snowy weather we've had more time to ourselves indoors this week. So we got busy in the kitchen and followed in the footsteps of Nigella Lawson and continued what is also one of our families favourite Christmas tradition's by making biscuits for our Christmas tree.

I never thought I'd be one of those parents who let their kids put their homemade decorations on their tree and really love them. But yep, you guessed it-I'm one of those parents! The Hud-man LOVES the decorations he's made so much, he talks to them, about them, holds them, and touches them all the time. The two white ones in the centre of this photo are ones he made from just card and a bit of glitter and glue, but boy is he proud of them! You should of seen his face when I said we could put ribbon in them and hang them on our tree! I just love how kids are easily satisfied!
Here's another example of the Hud-man's Christmas creations-

I honestly don't think he could have shown more excitement and happiness after finishing these, even if I'd let him loose in Hamley's! Again, sooo easy to make all you need is card, glue, scissors and lots of tissue paper. These kept the Hud-man's attention for ages, and well for me that's a BIG thing! These window decorations could well be a on the Christmas craft list at Eat-n-Mess one day. Great for little ones, and parents on a budget....and what parent isn't on a budget at this time of year!?