The holiday snake

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Here in the UK, the school term has just come to an end which means the majority of children’s groups close for at least six weeks. For us, this means no nursery, no toddler groups, no Creation Station. All organised activities on hold, oh, except for the the crèche at the gym… Praise the Lord for small mercies!

Phoebe, like every other three year old on the planet, has absolutely no concept of time, referring to what happened yesterday as, “when I was a baby”, and “in six weeks time” to her may as well be six years.

So, to help her understand she won’t be going back to nursery for a long while I decided to draw a huge ‘Holiday Snake’, with a segment for each day that she can cross off; a super long advent calendar if you will, counting down to nursery. I’m hoping this will make the transition of getting back into the nursery routine easier at the end of summer, seeing as she’ll literally be able to see it coming on the calendar.

A snake seemed the obvious way to go, given the shape of its body lends itself well to accommodating seven weeks worth of segments. I drew it out on a roll of lining paper, then we all joined in to decorate it before sticking it on the back of the porch door.  We can fill in activities on it as we plan them, and it’ll be fun to look back over them at the end of summer to see just what we’ve been up to.

Enjoy the pics…

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Creative People

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A friend of mine posted the picture above on Facebook and it struck a chord.  What stood out to me is that the first five statements are often, if not usually, perceived to be negative.  Why is it that way though?

Someone once said to me “only boring people get bored”. Absolute poppycock! I for one get easily bored because I have so many ideas, dreams and ambitions whizzing around in my head, and I’m constantly trying them out and moving from one thing to the next. I have a creative mind, that’s just how I’m wired and I certainly don’t feel bad about it.  I find it easy to take risks because I don’t fear failure. Without failing at something how do we ever learn? Some of my biggest failures have been my greatest adventures and I don’t regret experiencing them. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we shouldn’t feel guilty for dancing to the beat of our own drums. We are all unique, with unique purposes and ambitions and should be celebrating and encouraging each other to be true to ourselves, regardless of the perceived limitations society has created over the years. I think this is much more of an issue here in the UK, than any other culture I have experienced. Stiff upper lip and all that!

Fulton Oursler once said, “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves, regret for the past and fear of the future.” If you have a creative bone in your body (which, incidentally I believe we all do), pursue it confidently, don’t be afraid to fail and for goodness sake don’t fall victim to what others may think of your endeavours, oftentimes it are those who have an opinion that need releasing from the invisible confinements they’ve barricaded themselves in.

You have one life to live on this earth, live it well and indulge your creativity.

Your favourite posts of 2013.

I posted my first blog article in February 2013, and have had just under 7500 hits to date.  I just wanted to say a big thank you to all my readers, for the kind comments, encouraging words and inspiration you give me; and I thought I’d take a moment to look back at some of the more popular posts from 2013. Click the links below and Enjoy! 

Cinnamon and Frankincense Winter Balm

Judged for being a Stay at Home Mum

Being the Bible

Cinnamon Swirl Scones

Pearly Gates

Wow Factor Chocolate Slab

Happy New Year to you all!

Pretty Ice Bowl

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It could be argued that this borders on the ridiculous and is utterly impractical, but I don’t give a hoot because it is incredibly beautiful, incredibly wintery and perfect for a Christmas drinks party. 

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With water, two Pyrex bowls and whatever fruits, herbs and spices you have to hand you can create a very unique centrepiece that is sure to be a talking point with all your guests.
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In the larger bowl put about half an inch of water in along with a few of the decorations, then pop in the freezer.
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When that has set, put the smaller bowl on top of the now frozen half inch of water, add a few more decorations and another inch or do of water. Freeze.
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Repeat this process until you’ve reached the top of the larger bowl, bearing mind most of the decorations will float. In short you get the best effect if you have more layers so the time it takes is worth it in the end. This is what you’ll end up with.
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Now it’s time to remove the bowls. Fill the small one with warm, but not hot, water and leave to stand for a couple of minutes. It should just lift out.
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Then flip the large bowl over and place in the sink. Running warm water over it should release it.
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Et voila! A beautiful ice bowl!
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Pop it back the freezer for a while as all that warm water will have started to melt it.

You could use this for all sorts of things. Keeping scoops of ice cream cold on a dinner table or keeping a fruit salad fresh are just two ideas. On a cold winters day you could put it outside your front door with a tealight (supported by by some cranberries) in, like so:
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I think I’ll be using this as an ice bucket on christmas day though.
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Pretty! Just make sure you put a saucer underneath it to catch the drops when it starts to melt.

The icing on the (Christmas) cake.

I made my Christmas cake a few weeks ago, using an old tried and tested Nigella recipe (click here), and have been feeding it brandy once a week to keep it moist. I iced it tonight. Enjoy the pics.
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It was a busy evening actually. I decorated several other cakes to use as demos for a craft evening I’ve organised for Saturday. I wanted some visual inspiration for the sugar craft table. Here’s what I ended up with:
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Personalised bunting

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I’m a big fan of handmade and personalised gifts, not least because it reminds the recipient that you had them in mind as you were making it. There’s much more sentiment there than just walking into a shop and picking something up off the shelf, and that appeals to me. My very best friend had her second baby girl earlier this year and I wanted to make her something for her first Christmas that she could keep for years and look back on saying, “my Aunty Han made that for me”! I want her to know that I was thinking of her beautiful face and big munchy cheeks as I was making this, and that she really is very special to me.

There are a lot of photos in this post as, in this instance, I think it’s easier to see it rather than just read instructions.

Firstly cut out coordinating materials into triangles. This is double sided bunting so bear in mind when you’re cutting that you’ll need double the amount of triangles. I have 8 flags on this string of bunting so needed 16 triangles.
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Cut out the required name in felt and hand sew onto the front of the flags.
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Once they’re all sewn on, place another triangle right side down on top of the triangle with the letter sewn on.
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Using a machine if you have one, sew a straight seam down one of the edges (not the top of the flag) and when you get to the bottom point, pivot the flag with the needle still in the fabric, so you can sew up the other side, back to the top of the flag.
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Do this for all the flags with the letters on plus another four blank flags, two for either side of the name. Trim the bottom of the flags so that when you turn them the right way around you get a fairly defined point at the bottom.
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Once they’re all trimmed and turned the right way around you should end up with something like this:
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It’s really important to iron the flags now. Trust me they look way better for it. Once ironed, trim the little excess triangular bits of fabric from the tops of the flags to make them straight.
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Now get an inch or so wide length of ribbon and find the mid point by folding it. Press with the iron. This is your starting point for positioning the flags. Fold the ribbon in half lengthways and press along the entire length of it. Once you’ve done both these things you should have ribbon that looks a bit like this:
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Now this is where iron on hemming tape becomes your best friend.
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Tear a little piece off, put it into the folded ribbon starting in the centre of the length, and follow with a flag.
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Press with the iron. You should now have a flag that is fixed between the two sides of the ribbon. Carry on doing this working from the centre outwards until all the flags area stuck. You could leave it like this but I prefer to finish it off with a long stitch all the way along the ribbon to secure.
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Et voila! There you have it. Personalised double sided bunting for just a couple of hours work. Lovely!
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Wow factor chocolate slab

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We’ve all seen those beautiful chocolate slabs adorned with luscious dried fruits, crunchy nuts, sweets and sometimes even gold leaf, but tempting as they are I resent paying upwards of £15 for them when I could knock one up myself for half the price, and in little over ten minutes. Plus there’s the added bonus that I can gleefully boast to the recipient that “I made it myself”! Here’s how easy it is:

Buy the best quality chocolate you can as it will set better after melting. I used a bar each of white, milk and dark Green & Black’s.

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Melt each chocolate separately in a bain-marie, stiring occasionally. Meanwhile put a piece of greaseproof paper on a tray or baking sheet.

Once the choc is melted pour the dark on one side of the tray in a rough line, then the milk on the other side of the tray so it’s opposite the dark, then pour the white in the middle to fill the gap between milk and dark. Use a skewer to swirl the chocolates into each other to create a pretty pattern and start your adornment process. I used cranberries, sour cherries, raisins, nuts and gold sugar (turns out Sainsbury’s don’t stock gold leaf!).

Leave to set, then peel off the greaseproof paper, wrap in cellophane and tie a ribbon round it. There you have it, chocolatier style chocolate for half the price. Perfect for Christmas, but this one is for a certain someone’s special birthday…

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My little helper in her element!