Monday, 19 December 2016

Merry Christmas and a Thank you

Maria and I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  We're going to take a little break over this festive period but will be back at the beginning of 2017.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all, for your kind comments and for supporting us in our venture.

May 2017 bring you much happiness

Friday, 16 December 2016

Marzipan Cake

Happy Friday friends, I'm sharing with you today a cake recipe that I get asked for a lot.
Its actually a Nigella one and from her How to be a Domestic Goddess book. Its a true favorite in our home and so it seems with all those I bake it for.  Now I'm not a lover of fruit cake normally ... but this one, and maybe because its full of marzipan, I just love.

So here it is;

150 g sultanas
100 g glace cherries - halved
150 g dried pears, chopped
100 ml white run
250 g marzipan
50 g ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
175 g plain flour
100 g caster sugar
100 g butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon orange-flower water
20 cm spring form cake tin .. buttered and lined.

Start the night before, and mix the sultanas, glace cherries and pears in a large bowl and cover with the rum.  Dice the marzipan and put in the freezer. Leave both to soak and freeze overnight.
Now ... this is something I've learned.  Firstly, if you can't get pears (and goodness, are they hard to get hold off) I have used apricots which work just as well.  I have tried mango's ... and no, they don't seem to work as well.

Also, the marzipan.  I now dice it and freeze it like this.  Otherwise, when I used to put it in a grip seal bag with some icing sugar to keep it apart, I still often ended up with a big lump of marzipan which I then had to chisel apart lol.
When you come to make the cake, preheat the oven to 140C/gas mark 1.  Beat together the almonds, lemon zest, flour, sugar, butter and eggs.  Add the drained fruit, orange flower (I have used Rose water, which also works) and the frozen marzipan.  Put the cake mix into the tin, leveling the surface and making a slight indent in the middle to get an even surface when cooked.  Bake for 2-2.5 hours or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Don't overcook, as it will continue to cook in its own warmth as it cools.  But nor should you worry too much at it; there's enough fruit and marzipanny squidge to make sure this golden cake doesn't easily turn dry.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin before re-wrapping in parchment and foil to store for about a week. Feed with a little more rum before you wrap for a richer taste if you want (just puncture the top of the cake a few times and slowly dribble a few spoons or rum over)

Ok ... the last part, I've never done. I've allowed it to cool, and then tucked in.  Seriously, why wait, its a yummy cake.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and if you're making it ... just remember to invite me around for a slice or two.

Monday, 12 December 2016

How To Make Your Own Fresh Door Wreath

Happy Monday Friends!!

Todays post is a little late as I have been busy making door wreaths, and I thought I'd share with you how I make mine.




Heres How.....


I like to use a 10" oasis wreath ring. You can get these from your local florist or Amazon. It does look pretty small, but its easy to create a good sized door wreath with this size.

TIP: 
Ask your local garden centre for the off cuts to the christmas trees they sell. You should be able to get these for virtually free. Also if you are fortunate to have a garden have a forage round. Mixing up foliage makes for a more natural interesting looking wreath. We are fortunate enough to have a couple of conifer trees in our garden so this combined with the blue pine off cuts from our local garden centre, and a few other evergreen plants, meant that there was no expense laid out on the foliage for my door wreaths.



You will need to thoroughly soak your ring in cold water. It should feel quite heavy when you have soaked it. Once you have done this you will need to attach a length of string or ribbon. This will be the top position of your door wreath and it needs to be long enough to be able to hang it to your door. I'd recommend using more rather than less as you can at least cut it to length when hanging it. 

TIP: Always ensure your stems of your cut foliage are clean of leaves/needles. This ensures that the foliage can drink the water in the oasis and won't dry out. 

Start at the top of your ring and work your way around it pushing in each piece of foliage into the oasis.


You should be left with something that looks like this. You can mix up your foliage to create more interest.

TIP:  Flat foliage such as conifer and pine work best as the basis to your wreath as it will sit flat against your door. 



 You can then start to add more foliage to the ring. The trick here is to ensure that all the foliage is placed into the oasis in a clockwise direction.


Once you have finished with the foliage (ensuring that no oasis green is showing), you can then start to have fun adding your accessories. 


I like to use a mixture of real and artificial accessories for my wreaths. This year, I chose a gorgeous artificial flower head as the focal point to my wreath.

As well as using real foliage, I also like to mix it up with artificial foliage just to add a different texture to it. You need to break down artificial leaves and rewire them by using florist wires. You can tape them with florist tape if you want but its not essential. 


Make sure you leave enough wire to insert it into your wreath. You can always cut it shorter.


Once I have wired my artificial embellishments, I start to build up my wreath by positioning them and putting them into the oasis ring.

Close up of my door wreath showing real and artificial.



TIP: To get a good view your wreath, its always a good to pop it on the floor so you can have good look at it from above, and make sure you are happy with the positioning of your accessories as well as it's shape. 


Once your happy with your arrangement, the next step is to secure all your accessories by using a glue gun. Take one piece out at a time and cover with hot glue and place it back into the ring. This will ensure that nothing will fall out especially with all the visitors coming and going and the front door in constant use!


Then you are free to hang it to your door and enjoy!!

TIP: The oasis wreath rings do have bumper patches on the back of them so they won't damage your door, but its always good to add small pieces of blueback to the back. This prevents the ring from coming away from the door when it's opened and shut.


Every year, I make our friends a door wreath too. The possibilities are endless as to what you can use and the different looks you can create. 

Have a great week Friends!

Maria xx


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Friday, 9 December 2016

IKEA hack

Happy Friday friends. I hope you've had a good week. 

I thought today, I'd share with you a little project that we did a couple of months ago in our living room. 
This pretty shelf started life quite happily as an IKEA floating shelf.  Nothing wrong with it at all, just that it had been up since must be 2004 once we finished our extension. 
See, nothing wrong.  I just felt they weren't quite fitting into our home the way they used to.  The problem is, they're useful and changing them would have meant redecorating the whole room.  As, the holes needed for the screws to hold them up, are rather large, so to carry all the weight on put on them.  

So hubby took them down, and off to his workshop in the garden. 
He found some old architrave that he had, and attached it all around the shelf with nails and wood glue. 

I then gave them a lick of paint.
and voila ... new shelves
I'm so pleased with how they've turned out. 

That's it from me today, have a super weekend 
Sandra
xx

Monday, 5 December 2016

Daily Greatness Journal - A Review

Happy Monday Friends!!

Today's post is a review on the Daily Greatness Journal, I bought a while back.



Here is what I found out......

Unfortunately, I managed a whole 3 weeks, before I had to abandon this journal, and it had nothing to do with the journal itself. It boiled down to the fact that I just didn't have the time to fill it in. The main reason for this was that you need to fill it in twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night.  For me, sadly, running a family home, and family commitments meant that this wasn't possible.

However, time aside, I did enjoy using it for the three weeks and will definitely be going back to it. at a future date.

Personally, I think it is a great tool to get to know yourself better. It really is a thought provoking journal.

Example of questions are......

"What did I enjoy about today?"
"What would I like to create instead?"
"What new habit do I want to adopt into my life?"
"How did I give value today?"

It asks you to assess yourself, your day, your goals, whilst appreciating and being grateful for the good things in life. There is no focus on any negatives that might have happened.

To use this journal to its optimum, you will need to set aside the time to think, and digress before filling in each individual day, and the coming week ahead.

I will go back to it (it isn't dated, so not a problem), when I am ready and able to, and will keep you posted.

There will be many of you that this journal will work for, and I do recommend it if you are looking for self improvement and self appreciation.

Have a great week Friends!

Maria x



Friday, 2 December 2016

Kitchen Tip

Happy Friday friends.  I want to share with you, a tip using the most basic of kitchen appliances. The humble wooden spoon.
Actually, the tip was found by hubby, and when he told me, I didn't think it would work, but it really does. 

If you place a wooden spoon over a pan of water, it won't boil over!!! It will come to the boil from cold, or even if you put boiling water in a pan, it will work. It just won't bubble over. 
I tried it on the boiling plate of the Aga, which trust me, boils at a rapid rate. I can never take my eyes off it.  I'm also still slightly obsessed with any mess on my Aga (she's my baby lol) ... So trying this took, an awful lot of guts.  

It really worked.  I was going to give in, and take it off the heat when it started to look like it would boil over, but I kept my nerve and it just carried on boiling without spilling. 

Isn't it funny the strange things you learn. I haven't a clue why it works, I'm just glad it does. 

Wishing you all a fabulous weekend. 
Sandra 
xxx


Monday, 28 November 2016

Christmas Cake - A Tip

Happy Monday Friends!!

I hope you have had a restful weekend, or maybe you have already started putting up the Christmas decorations because you can't contain your excitement. Although, I am definitely holding off until this coming weekend, as personally four weeks is long enough to have them up before they come down after the New Years celebrations.

Anyways, on to today's post. My daughter brought home the Christmas cake she had made a while ago at college, as they got to decorate it last week. Today's post is a tip for those of you who may have made your very own Christmas cake.

My daughters Christmas cake in the making at college.


I am loving the little robins she made for it.


This tip actually comes from a top London patisserie chef who is currently teaching my daughter.
Once made, your cake can be stored in a cool dry place (not the fridge),  for up to 1 year (and absolutely no longer than this). However, if your not going to get round to eating it, or maybe you have had the joys of making more than one, you can actually freeze your cake for up to 4 years.

I hope you have found this tip useful, as I have.

Have a lovely week, until next time!!

Maria


Friday, 25 November 2016

December Daily

Not to scare you, but in one month exactly, it will be Christmas Day... yiipppppppppppeeee.  So before, I go into too much detail on this post, I should explain something about me.  Firstly, I'm a crafter.  All things creative call to me, and I dabble in them all. A typical crafter, has a million and one projects on the go, and sometimes we feel like our heads will explode with all the creative ideas running around.  Next thing about me, is that I'm totally obsessed with Christmas.  So, putting both those things together, the project that I love at this time of the year, is the brainchild of the very talented Ali Edwards, called December Daily.

The idea is to capture and document the stories that make up this magical season.  Now, you can do it in anyway that works for you, most tend to create a separate album and maybe make up a basic work station with the supplies you need to work on the album each day.

Often the album can be made in advance, so that each day, all you need to do is write up your daily story, and maybe print out a photo to insert.  Sounds good, but lets face it, its one of the busiest times of the year and the last thing on your mind is crafting.  So this year, I'm actually using my Midori as my album and I'm not going to over think things either (yeah, yeah, I laughed at that too) but I want to stop and not rush the season.  Which I'm very aware, is something I tend to do .... so I want to document the everyday fun things.  If nothing much happens on a particular day, then I'll write in a quote. Something that when I look back at my journal in future years, I'll remember to slow down and enjoy the process, and remember where I am, right now.

There you have it a bit of a long winded post from me today, but I do hope it maybe inspires you to join in and really think about the season, and if you do, please drop back and let us know so we can have a look.  Let me share with you here, the front of my journal.


Wishing you all a lovely weekend 
Sandra
xx


Monday, 21 November 2016

Homemade Chocolate Stirrers For Hot Chocolate Lovers

Happy Monday Friends!!

With the weather decidedly cooler,  and the evenings dark and gloomy, we all seek a little bit of comfort.  So today's post is for those chocolate lovers out there, or if that isn't you, maybe for someone you know is a bit of a chocoholic.

Chocolate Hot Shots are the perfect way to indulge your love of chocolate with a drink. I have been making some to give for Christmas as a little extra homemade love, so I thought I would share with you today how I make mine.



You will need a shot glass, 1 large bar of chocolate per shot, unsalted butter to line the glass, some sticks (mine are from Lakelands cake pop section) or you could use a wooden skewer with the point cut off.



First up, you will need to melt a small amount of unsalted butter, (just enough to line your shot glasses to prevent the chocolate from becoming stuck to your glass).


My daughter's tip is to brush the butter upwards to ensure even coverage. Once you have done this, pop them into the fridge for about an hour.


Whilst waiting for the butter to set in the glasses, melt your bars of chocolate. Remember it works out approximately 1 large bar to each shot glass. It will, of course, depend on the size of the shot glass you are using, but mine are an average size. If yours are smaller, you will, need less chocolate, and vice versa. 



 Once the chocolate is melted pour into the shot glass and add your stick.



Then place in the fridge to harden.

Once the chocolate has set, place the shot glass in some hot water for a few seconds and then gently pull on the stick and your choc shot will pop out.


Because I am giving mine as gifts, I have written a tag with instructions on.




I found some Xmas cello bags in lakeland, added the choc shot, instructions and some snowy white marshmallows.

And now to hide them from my daughter who is a complete and utter chocoholic!!!

Have a great week Friends!!

Maria xx


Friday, 18 November 2016

Product Review

I have a couple of products to share with you this week, that I've been using over the past couple of months.
First up, is a new primer.  You may remember from a past post, I normally wear Bare Minerals, but since Maria and I started this blog, I've been trying out different products to review (its a tough job, but someone has to do it lol).

So, I did a little research, and I came across a brand new to me, called, Laura Mercier. From my research, everything I read was good, including being against animal testing.  This brand is available from John Lewis, and the sales assistant was most helpful.  Its a primer that is meant to illuminate and highlight your base, you can as well use it on its own, without foundation. Now at first, I must admit, I struggled with it, but I think that was because I was maybe using too much.  Its a less is more type of product, and once I realised that, I found it much easier to work with.  The one thing I would say, is be careful when using it under the eye as it can get a little dry.  Overall, I certainly would go back to this brand, and I've found it a good base.

Next is a product that I just came across in Superdrug several months ago.  Pantene Hair Perfector.  Its got multi uses, and can be used on both wet and dry hair. Again, only one pump is needed as it can get a little sticky, if too much is used.  A nice non offence smell, and is a good heat protector when using your hairdryer or styling wands.  Its certainly helped my fly away hair, keep its shape through the day.  My only issue I've had with it, is that I've struggled to find it again.  Luckily, I still have a fair bit left, but I'd certainly recommend this product, if you're looking for a reasonably priced hair primer.

So, this month, I've been lucky ... two products, I've had success with.

Have a lovely weekend friends.
Sandra x

Monday, 14 November 2016

Good To Know - Dining Out

Happy Monday Friends!!

I hope you have had a great weekend :D

Today's post is about a good to know tip I have learnt from my daughter, who has been studying Patisserie at college. As part of her qualification she has had to do Front of House training, and she certainly knows her stuff. I am proud to say she impressed Albert Roux with her skills last year at the Queens Stand. Want to know what it is?

It's a mistake that quite a few of us do, and I have been guilty of it too.  It is when we stack our plates at the end of the meal thinking we are actually helping. This might be a natural instinct, but in a restaurant it is a complete no no. Front of house staff are trained on how to stack and carry as many plates as they possibly can. There is a certain way to do it and by trying to be helpful, we are in fact causing hindrance. So my advice to you is leave the plates, cutlery etc for the waiters and waitresses. They will more grateful if you do, and you will make their lifes so much easier.



Another good to thing to know is that, front of house staff should never, ever clear plates until everyone on your table has finished. This is a complete no, no and if they do, it shows that the restaurant's staff have not been properly trained.

Have a great week Friends!!

Until next time....

Maria xx

Friday, 11 November 2016

Cleaning Tip

Now, I will hold my hand up to say I am an advertising man's dream, if they say the words, new and improved on anything to do with cleaning products and I'm straight off to Sainsbury's to buy it.

I love my home to be clean and tidy, which I know with two mud magnets running in and out of the garden, especially in this weather, isn't always easy, but I have a close friend called Emma, who could put Kim and Aggie to shame. Seriously, she knows everything there is to know about cleaning.
Well recently, I had a stain on a top which was dry clean only, but the dry cleaners, didn't think they could help me.  So, whats a girl to do? .... Yup, she rings her friend.  Now the tip she gave me was brilliant, and I'd like to share it with you. 

Baby Wipes! .... Yup, that easy.  Never did I think to use them on any stain, other than cleaning my crafting stamps.  It really works, although, don't go buying the more expensive ones, no the cheap own brand ones, are apparently the best.  They even work if you drop make up on the carpet! ... and the fact that my husband reads our blog, I'd like to note that it wasn't in our house, don't panic Simon, no, Emma has a teenage daughter, and this has worked.

So, give it a go, it may surprise you.

Have a lovely weekend friends, I hope the weather is kind to you .... but apparently, I'm in for more muddy paw prints tomorrow.
Sandra
xxx

Monday, 7 November 2016

A Quick & Easy Stocking Filler - Relaxing Sea Salt Bath Bottles

Happy Monday Friends!!

Today, finds me starting to get organised for Christmas. At this time of year, I always like to make a few gifts in advance.

I like to include some "me time" gifts for my close friends in my homemade gift baskets, as we all need to take time out to pamper and indulge ourselves.  In previous years, I have used kilner jars or upcycled some pretty jars that I have saved throughout the year for these relaxing bath salts. However, this year, I thought I would use some of these pretty little Alice In Wonderland type drink me bottles which can be reused after. They make a gift in themselves as they could be used for say as a mini flower vase afterwards.



To make your relaxing bath scented salts or you need is some good quality sea salts such as Spa Magik,  some pure essential oils such as lavender or in this case I've chosen peppermint, and a container. Dependent on the size of your chosen container, add several drops of your essential oil to the sea salts, mix and pour into your container. Its as simple as that. Add a label and your done.


Have a great week Friends!!

Maria x