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Thai Recipe Cards Gift

20 Jun

This post comes courtesy of my friend and flatmate Badger.

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Her brother’s wife is Thai and the most amazing cook, Badger says going to visit them in Thailand for family holidays is no hardship at all! Last holiday the family were all going to take a Thai cooking course but the price was just too expensive for all of them. Instead, her sister-in-law asked them all what dishes they wanted to learn to cook and took them to the market to buy ingredients.

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Back at the house they took turns in the kitchen learning how to cook our chosen dish. Badger wrote down all the recipes and instructions so she could make them later.

When her mother’s birthday came round later that year she wanted to make her something a little more thoughtful and with more effort than the normal present she would buy. She came up with the idea of creating recipe cards using the notes she’d made in Thailand. Using free fonts and images that she found on the internet Badger designed them then printed them out in colour. She covered them all in sticky back plastic to keep clean in the kitchen, punched a hole in the top corner and tied them all together with ribbon.

Hannah: This was the gift that kept giving! Badger’s sister-in-law made a gift of her knowledge and skills and Badger used her creativity to make something out of that experience for her mother. Hopefully Mrs Badger will make us all a gift of dinner using the cards!

Valentine Ideas

10 Feb

It’s hard not to be inspired when there are so many lovely gift and styling ideas out there at the minute around Valentine’s Day.  Here’s another little round up of some ideas I have spotted recently – I hope they inspire you, too!

A DIY tutorial for making an accordion card via Martha Stewart.

A lovely tutorial from How About Orange on creating edible paint – you can decorate plates or cups or whatever and eat the designs! Yummy (and pretty!)

Give your friends a little treat with these decorated matchboxes stuffed with sweets. Via Sweet Mabel.

This is a WONDERFUL tutorial for making heart shaped cake stands – I am definitely going to be giving this a try! Via Say Yes to Hoboken.

Staying with the pink and red theme, but on a much ‘manlier’ note – how about these meat biscuits spotted on the Whipped Bake Shop on etsy! What a cute idea (but you had better have a steady hand!)

What are you planning this Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

30 Jan

Whether you love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you are looking to give your loved one a gift without spending too much money, here are some lovely ideas I have spotted recently.

We met, we married, we live

Via Minimoz

Via Bloomize

Via Poppytalk

To be fair, I think these ideas are gorgeous, but I’m not sure how appreciative MY Valentine would be of any of these gifts. They are quite girly! Maybe I should get out my heart shaped baking tray and make him some of these instead…

Via Martha Stewart

I think those would go down a treat!

If you are single, why not celebrate Valentine’s Day with your friends? Or, if you are feeling miserable this year, why not throw yourself a pity party? I LOVE that idea (and I have thrown several unofficial ones for myself over the years…)

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Do you love it and celebrate with cards and gifts? Do you hate it or try to ignore it?

Making organic soap

21 Jan

Making your own soap from scratch is possible but very complicated. To get me started I got a soap making kit for Christmas so I gave it a go during my week off last week. The kit makes it incredibly easy, you just melt the soap supplied in the kit and add the different seeds and scent that are also in the kit.

Pour into the moulds provided, leave to set in the fridge and they’re ready. This kit came with a lemon scent and three types of seeds but the more exciting bit is thinking what else you could add. When I make the next lot I’m going to add dried lavender flowers and oil and try some with orange peel and crushed cloves. The kit also suggests adding oats to create an exfoliating soap.

So easy and they will make great gifts but I will still look into making my own from scratch another time.

Sloe gin: the final product

29 Dec

The sloe gin we started back in September was finally finished off the week before Christmas. We bought some really lovely bottles from a kitchen shop down the road for around £4 each.

The sloes were strained from the liquid, first just using a regular strainer, then again using some kitchen roll, to make sure all the sediment was removed.

We overestimated how much we would get, which was a shame, meaning it wasn’t quite as cheap as expected at around £11 per bottle.  In the end, we only produced two medium sized bottles of the stuff. But, it was (is!) delicious. Well worth the money and effort and something we will definitely be doing again next year.

Christmas Shopping

20 Dec

This year I’m feeling a bit smug about my Christmas preparation as I put £20 away each month this year to fund presents. But I’ve got lots of people to buy for so need to be canny and I know that home made presents won’t cut the mustard with my family! My top tip is the usual one – use your contacts. Any friend with a discount card or cash and carry membership is worth going on a shopping trip with!

If you haven’t finished your present shopping this year here are a few bargains I’ve spotted while buying for my family and friends.

Boots – their now traditional 3 for 2 on gifts is back on and there are so many items in it that it’s almost impossible to not find it useful. If you don’t need three of that type of gift for Christmas – toiletries and make up mainly – then it’s worth buying them to save for birthday presents throughout the year.

My best pick at Boots until Thursday is their Soap and Glory gift set which normally retails at £60 but is only £25 at the moment. While stocks last…

M&S are also doing a 3 for 2 Mix and Match deal and they have 25% off everything in their Cashmere Shop. Plus their gift wrapping paper is 50% off at the moment.

For stocking fillers and Secret Santa gifts Tiger is a great shop to visit. They have toys, toiletries, home ware and electrical products (plus essentials such as batteries and shoe polish). At the moment in the UK they’re only in London and the south but hopefully they’ll spread out soon.

Urban Outfitters have discounts on lots of their festive products offering up to 60% off some lines. I love this cake stand which is now only £5.

Waiting for Boxing Day sales is almost a thing of the past so keep your eyes open for sales already on and if you’re a student don’t forget your student discount is available to use in lots of high street shops.

East London Design Show

8 Dec

Another weekend, another great design show. This is a great time of year to see what artists and designers in your city have been up to as the Christmas fairs bring together so many people to show off their work.

The East London Design Show was held in the gorgeous Shoreditch Town Hall, which I have only ever been into the basement of, so I was excited to see the rest of the building. There were hundreds of artists, and lots of really interesting and creative ideas on display.

I came away with a brilliant giant calendar and weekly planner from Katy n June and saw a few other bits I really liked these little critters (below) from NooDoll.

Another favourite was the brightly coloured stand from Kate Clarke.

The Make Do and Draw stand was amazing – tiny wooden models of streets. They can even create a doll’s house of your house if you give them all the dimensions. So much detailed work!

Not pictured but also worth a mention: Heart Zeena had some great Christmas tape, which I bought (and have already used here), Goodwin & Goodwin‘s letter holders were brilliant and I was seriously tempted to buy one for myself, and great stationery from Lollipop Designs.

Christmas present wrapping ideas

6 Dec

This year, as you will already have seen from my advent calendar post, everything is getting wrapped up in brown paper, with pretty ribbons and tape to make the decorations. Brown paper is very inexpensive and easily tarted up, and there’s something so nice about opening things wrapped up in it.

I have just wrapped the first lot of Christmas presents to take over to my aunt’s house today, and I’m really pleased with how they turned out.  I bought some brilliant tape from the East London Design Show (from textile artist Zeena, who I think I also saw at the Papered Parlour Open Studios earlier in the year) and that just looks gorgeous on the brown paper.

I'm feeling very festive after all this wrapping!

It seems as though I’m not the only one who feels that way – there are loads of inspiring wrapping pictures of Pinterest. Some of my favourites include…

Monogrammed wrapping from Callaloo Soup

Great paper snowflakes from How About Orange

Silver and yellow highlights from Decor8

Some great DIY decorations from A Pair or Pears

How are you wrapping up your gifts this year?

Christmas gift ideas: Caramel & whisky sauce

4 Dec

Inspired by last month’s Good Food magazine, I decided to make some Caramel and Whisky Sauce for the three parts of my family here in the UK for Christmas.  The recipe looked simple enough and apart from the cans of condensed milk and caramel, I already had all the ingredients.

Little did I know!

Apparently, it is impossible to buy caramel in a tin here in south London. Or at least, I couldn’t find it in the big Clapham Sainsbury’s, Jack’s Supermarket or Costcutters at Stockwell, or in any of the little supermarkets I checked in Brixton. No problem I thought, I’ll just make some caramel instead. It can’t be that hard, right?

Well, it was actually trickier than I expected. I used this recipe from BBC Good Food and in the end it steered me right, but I had to remake the recipe THREE TIMES. That’s because although the ingredients and steps are right in that recipe, they leave out some crucial information. So, I’m going to share it here with you so that you don’t have to make your caramel three times too…

Top tips for making caramel:

1. After  you add the intial water, do not stir the sauce. I did this in round one and rather than caramelising, the water just evaporated and I was left with raw sugar again. I tried adding more water, but it just bubbled and didn’t turn colour. Fail.

2. When it says “heat and bubble for 4-5 mins until you have caramel” what it actually means is “heat and bubble for 4-5 minutes until it just about starts to turn brown, then take it off the heat“. I thought I had to wait until the entire thing turned brown, but the caramel keeps cooking when you turn it off the heat, and as you whisk it with the cream and butter the entire thing becomes golden brown and caramelised. If you leave it on the heat and wait for everything to go brown, you will end up with bitter, burnt caramel, which is what I did the second time I did it. Fail.

Looks delicious, tastes disgusting - burnt caramel

3. Rather than using a heavy based frying pan, I actually found it worked better in a heavy based pot.

Once the caramel was made, I let it cool down completely before reheating it with more butter, brown sugar, condensed milk and ground ginger, dissolving the sugar and melting the butter as it heated up. Then I added in the whisky and stirred it until it was nice and smooth.

That's more like it.

I bought these cute jars at IKEA last weekend, and the caramel sauce is now sitting in the fridge waiting for me to take it over on Christmas eve. I have tasted some (of course!) and it tastes divine – VERY sweet (well it would have to be with so much sugar and condensed milk in it!), but with a nice whisky flavour and it would be amazing with Christmas pudding and ice-cream.

I used a gravy boat to pour the sauce into the jars

Next step for the gifts is to make some labels for the jars, which I’ll be doing later on this week!

Get the full recipe on the Good Food website

Homemade Advent Calendars

30 Nov

Tomorrow is the first of December, but if you’re interested in making a homemade advent calendar this year, there is still time!

I bought my god-daughter a wooden advent calendar last year, so this year I just needed to fill it up. Alice is only just a year and ten months, so I didn’t want to spend a fortune. However, I also couldn’t just fill it with chocolate, because she’s still little. Instead, I picked up a fantastic sticker book and an adorable ‘touchy feely‘ book from a stall at the South Lambeth Market. The sticker book has hundreds of Christmassy stickers, so I carefully pulled these out and divided them up, so that on one day she will get the book plus one set of stickers, and throughout December she’ll get more. I also included cashew nuts, a few chocolate coins and some hand-drawn or embroidered pictures.

I then wrapped them all up using brown paper (my wrapping of choice this year). For items that won’t fit in the drawers, there are numbers which go into the drawers, with symbols on the back linking to one of the presents (eg: number 2 has a 2 on the front and a Christmas tree on the back, linking to the big present with a Christmas tree on the front!).  Hopefully her mum will find it easy to fill and Alice will find the presents fun to unwrap and enjoy!

If you want some more inspiration, Babble have a great round up of advent calendars on their blog, and my favourites are all below.

From Casa Trend
From Casa Trend


From Boudie and Fou


From Living at Home


From Living at Home

Have you ever made your own advent calendar?  What did you fill it with? Ideas and suggestions below!

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