3 Jan 2018

Christmas Traditions : Reflections

Merry Christmas & Happy New Yea readers. Its been a long while - its been a crazy busy and stressful times in our lives these past few weeks - with my mum being taken ill in hospital it was all hands on deck. Thankfully she is home and recovering but it was a tense time.

As we are now in the New Year I like to think and reflect back on the days that have past. The memories that have been made, and now we have children of our own we are forging our own traditions, marking the season in our own way and we have enjoyed it very much.

Advent Calendars : It seems there has been such a rise in recent years on the different types of calendars you can get from haribo, to cereal, to wine and gin. Its seems like this market is booming. We stick to two advent calendars for the boys - a chocolate one and their grandparents buy them a toy one. The choice this year was the playmobil ones. I have made various advent calendars but these sit in the Christmas box as memories for me of Christmas past where I spent time creating these.

Elf on a shelf : Love it or hate it but our boys find such enjoyment out of these little cheeky red elves. We don't go all out crazy with them - simple things like bringing Christmas bowls, hiding in their bedroom or hanging from the ceiling. (and yes me and the husband bicker about whose turn it is)
Christmas Tree : I love the Christmas tree - its one of my favorite things. I have forged a collection of baubles and trinkets. I like the tree up at the beginning of December - that is my limit. That gives us 4 whole weeks of enjoyment, as it comes down New Years Eve before the husbands birthday.

Decorations : I have collected over the years decorations for our tree. It is eclectic but full of memories. Each year I try get a few new baubles to adorn the tree. This years addition included some beautiful Harry Potter baubles alongside some superhero themed ones for the boys in the house.

Also my mum buys us a new decoration to add to the tree each year. This was this years - a rather handsome looking snowman. I love these little traditions as each year as I open the box and pull the baubles out I am reminded of those Christmases past.

Christmas Kitchenware : Yes I am sucker for the red and gold adorned plates and tablecloths that grace the shops as Christmas approaches. I try and buy a couple of bits each season to add to my collection. I have some plain white or wooden pieces which get used all year round for different occasions - but these are Christmas specific.
Christmas Cake :  It is not everyone's cup of tea but every year a bake a small Christmas cake. I soak the fruit in rum usually just after Nattys birthday on Halloween - before making the cake. I love the process of the cake making, the smell it makes and the slow cooking of this dense cake. I keep it fed and boozed up until Christmas before icing it in glorious white icing. I have a little collection of kitschy vintage style decorations that adorn the top of my cake. I switched over to these a few years back deciding that spending time icing a cake to perfection at this time of year is not worth the stress it brings me. I love the act of getting these gems out of the cupboard and sprinkling the cake with Christmas joy.

Christmas Eve @ the Edwards: A long standing tradition among our friends. Which started pre children when Christmas Eve we would descend on a local pub and share food, have a few drinks and gernally be merry before setting back off to our respective homes. Then one year in 2010 we had a small baby. Our baby's first Christmas and we didn't really want to be trekking off to the pub. Instead we opened the doors of our home to friends and family. 8 years on and its still happening. Its a given that Christmas Eve in our house there will be a table heaving with baked goods, christmas cookies, party food a plenty and a Chritsmas ham which would have been baked. We share drinks and now there are more kids among our friends the kids play and squeal, we drink wine and watch them bounce about. Again before our friends return to their respective homes (and my husband and brother in law watch Friday After Next while I dash about getting ready for Santa)

Christmas Eve Boxes : a fairly new traditon in our family which mainly include new pjs, a crafty item and some little bits and pieces for the boys. Some years they have more stuff and some years they have less. This year I added a new tradition in handknitting an item for the boys boxes.

A pair of tube style socks for my biggest boy - in this fabulus colour way of candy cane.
And a pair of finger-less mittens for the littlest dude - both boys were overjoyed with this little personal touch.
Pajamas : Matching of course, who would of though something so simple. This also captures another tradition of leaving goodies for Santa. Milk, mince pie and carrot. My boys like to keep is simple.

Present : Finally its stocking opening in bed before en mass we head to the front room. I'm a stickler and make the boys wait until I have made tea, and they have eaten some toast - only then the present opening can begin.

We really had a lovely Christmas together filled with lots of days indoors just being together. It was nothing fancy, no big gestures or day trips out. With poorly kids and in laws we just used the time to be together, rest and enjoy festive times together.

8 Nov 2017

Autumn buys with TKMaxx

Things I love about Autumn include; Crisp weather (cold enough to wear a scarf and jumper but maybe not a coat just yet), the return of boots and tights!, darker nights, comfort food, coffees by the gallon and the leaves turning brown. Sure it also comes with rainy days, ice beginning to form on the windows and it being dark at 5pm but overall I quite like the season.

With that in mind it was time to get Autumn ready and head over to TKMaxx to get some Autumn goodies in the house to prepare for those days ahead. The store was fully embracing the cooler days with shade of orange and brown seen everywhere - from the cushions to the candles.

The homeware section of TKMaxx is like my husband being a comic book store. Literally like a kid in a sweet shop. Nothing makes me happier than buying new homeware (you know why, as it always fits unlike the top you love, in your size, but looks awful on!0

I picked up 3 new things to start those Autumn days..

First up a new candle. I am always surprised on the prices of these amazing candles in TkMaxx. Plus the jars always look beautiful. This is DW Home candle and smells so lovely. Its a large size and was £7.99. I think it looks pretty good next to the boys collection of acorns and pine cones. It comes with a gold lid too - and i'm looking forward to reusing the jar afterwards!.

I love a flavoured coffee and picked up this mini set of syrups (£5.99) which include pumpkin spice (obviously!), vanilla, caramel and amaretto. A good combination of flavours to add to that morning mug of coffee - and yes that is my Cath Kidston X Peter Pan mug!! I was naughty and treated myself to this beauty. 

 The final piece of my Autumn puzzle was a pie dish. The cookware is always a good price in TkMaxx and this Le Crueset pie dish in a stunning orange was £9.99!! yes you read that right. This will be perfect for those apple crumbles and pecan pies for Autumn, Chocolate tarts for Winter and all the way round to quiches in the summer. Super pleased to bag this beauty to add to my collection.

What buys have you been adding to your Autumn homes? Do you change things up and buy new things for the season? 

4 Nov 2017

Turning 4 & birthdays at home

As the new school term starts I am transported back to 4 years ago, being heavily pregnant and my bouncy preschooler started a new advneture and attending a local preschool. He fitted straight in and as I began my waddle to the school each day to drop him off for his 3 hour sessions. My belly was fit to busting as I approached my due date. The baby was causing issues and spent so much time going backwards and forwards to the hospital with the my big boy ball of energy zinging about the place. The decision was made that I would need a c-section and I picked 31st October - yes Halloween. It was that or wait a whole other 5 days until the next slot.

And as another Halloween passes my baby (possibly my last baby) turns 4 whole years old. With our first we had big parties, hired halls the whole malarky. With this little dude his first birthday we hired a hall other than that we have slotted into small family/friend gatherings in our little flat. The kids run feral, I cook all the food and the adults enjoy the wine/beer/tea. It still feels me with anxiety each time we open the house to friends but I also love it so much.

Anytime we have a gathering my first steps is to make a plan. It pleases my head and heart that this is doddle on. Mind maps have always been something which works for me - even back to GSCE times. The organsing, the notes and being able to doodle away. Happy me (both these books I picked up at paperchase. The diary works great to see a whole month at a glance. Its not longer in stock as its an academic one but this looks similar., and the notebook is a good accompaniment alongside it - plus its a dotty square format!)
The theme for the party was vaguely Harry Potter-ish, but as his birthday is at Halloween quite often that sneaks its way in too. When asking my almost 4 year old what food he would like at his party he said "jelly beans and pizza". He has simple tastes. This request led me to change from the orginally planned iced Harry Potter cake, instead I opted to try my hand at a pinata cake - A first for me.
This book by Annie Rigg & The Great British Bake off team is a fantastic resource for children's party (or any kind of party/gathering really). I bought it back in 2016 and have used it several times. It has great pictures, some really good foolproof recipes and advice on how to size up and down cake mixes. I used the pinata cake recipe and guidelines from here to make the cake - plus the shortbread recipe. Which is amazing, and made some gorgeous yummy iced shortbread biscuits. Its definitely my go to for inspiration. It also includes a section on small bakes and savoury ideas to really make a party spread personalised for you and your party.

With my list in place and a plan made. The food shop ordered and a plan of attack of what to make the day before and then on the day. I did decide rather than make pizza dough etc to buy them to cause less stress. Also I had a disaster with my cupcakes and had to bake an emergency batch in the morning! I used the fantastic sprinkles from Shire Bakery Sprinkle Club which were perfectly themed for little mans party. Apart from that most things went to plan and we had more than enough food for a little afternoon tea party.

My first step when planning a party table spread is to pull out all my serving, grab my post its and lay the table with the plates and label everything. This makes it easier for me to visualise the table spread, see if I need any other bowls and means I know exactly where to plate everything rather than trying to find plates as things are cooked and prepared. I have a box above our kitchen cupboards which is just full of serving plates - man I love serving ware. Its an actual obsession.
The cake was assembled on the morning, so Naked Iced it was. One of my favorite things in life is cake and buttercream -so this made me happy. There is little time lapse video over on Instagram of me putting the cake together. It was 3 layers of chocolate sandwiched with vanilla soft buttercream. Before adding the top layer I cute two large wholes out of the middle and bottom layers and filled with jelly beans. The top layer added then swirled buttercream all over. A few sprinkles (in Gryfindor colours for my Harry Potter child). And that's it.

Cutting the cake was accompanied with squeals of delight from the kids as the jelly beans tumbled out onto the cake stand. My little nephew shouting "Auntie how did you get Jelly Beans inside the cake?" - "Magic" I replied to his delight. " Your magic auntie!"  - it really is the little pleasures in life for them.
 The final table spread was complete. Enough sugar and snacks for the kids and the adults. Along with a number 4 carved pumpkin (its a tradition). In the kitchen was  big bowl of chicken nuggets, BBQ chicken pieces and coated prawns.
It was laden table of goodies - and with that it was over. Food was eaten, drinks were drunk, presents town open and a boys bedroom trashed by all the kids. But there was laughter, cuddles and silly kids dressing up. 
In a blink of an eye he has turned 4. Our last year before he starts school and begins that new adventure. I hope in years to come the boys will have happy memories of birthdays full of food and fun. Onto the next year we tumble...