Tag Archive | Homemade hampers

Homemade Christmas Gifts…

This week I have been busy again.  I started the week by making another batch of laundry liquid.  It still amazes me how much I save by making my own liquid and it only takes about fifteen minutes to make approximately three months worth (and I wash a full load every day).

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I also made some more dishwasher liquid too, using soap nuts:

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And I topped up my homemade multipurpose kitchen spray too, using white vinegar and a few drops of teatree oil.  The vinegar cuts easily through grease and dirt and the teatree oil turns it into an antibacterial spray.

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All of the above things help me to save money around the home and I don’t use any nasty chemicals either.

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In the garden:

I also managed to buy another bag of woodchip to complete my the paths in the new area in my kitchen garden:

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I then brought a couple of bags of soil conditioner to spread over two of my beds (I will buy some for the other beds another day):

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I have left the soil conditioner on the top of the soil so the worms can do the hard work for me over winter.  I have also covered the two beds with weed suppressant to prevent weeds from growing and to also prevent the winter rain from leaching the nutrients out of the soil:

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I am already looking forward to growing crops in this area next Spring.

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Preparations For Christmas:

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Well Christmas is nearly here and this week I have been turning my attention to Christmas presents.

On Saturday I talked to BBC Radio Leicester about Christmas presents on a budget:

You can listen to the interview here if anyone is interested.  The interview starts 11 mins into the show.

I love chatting to Radio Leicester and they always make me feel very welcome.  I hope this comes across in the interview.

One of the things I talked about was homemade presents.  I love homemade presents as I always say they are “from the heart and not just the bank account”.  I took in three homemade presents to show (and taste) and explained that they are far cheaper to make than buy and by making them yourself you can have far nicer presents for far less money:

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The present on the right looks like a Christmas pudding and my daughter made these for all her friends and teachers last year and kindly made this one for me to take to the radio show.  It is a chocolate orange with maltesers stuck on with melted chocolate and she melted white chocolate over the top (to look like cream) and she put a little bit of plastic holly on the top.  She wrapped it in cellophane and it looked fantastic.

The box in the middle had homemade truffles in.  I love homemade truffles as they are so easy to make and look and taste really good:

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I also took in a present of which contained cubes of chocolate with cranberries and sultana’s and this is how I made it:

First I melted a bar of my favourite chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water stirring all the time…

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When the chocolate had melted I added some cranberries and sultana’s and mixed them until they were fully coated in the chocolate (you can use anything you enjoy e.g. smarties, maltesers etc)…

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I then poured the mixture into a tin / container that was lined with clingfilm (you can use silicone bakeware too if you have it)….

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I then left the chocolate mixture to set (don’t put it in the fridge).

When it was set I took it out of the mould and removed the clingfilm….

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I drizzle some melted white chocolate over the top and again left it to set…

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When it was set I chopped the chocolate into cubes and wrapped it in cellophane….

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Top chefs will tell you that the chocolate should be ‘tempered’ to keep the shine on the chocolate, but if you slowly melt the chocolate and keep it away from the fridge whilst setting, I don’t think you need to for this.

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This week, as Christmas is near I turned my attention to my Christmas hampers.  I started by covering my homemade jars of jams and chutneys with a pretty pieces of tissue paper, tied with a bow:

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And then I wrapped a few surprises (including my homemade wine) to also go into my hampers too and then I started to put them altogether:

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I am very pleased with the result, though I do still have two hampers to do.

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I also made three mini Christmas cakes this week and a full sized cake too.  The Christmas cake recipe I use is very easy and can be eaten straight away, without having to continually ‘top it up’ with brandy.  The recipe is here.

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I like to give the mini Christamas cakes to our parents, as they are just the right size for them to enjoy.

I decorated the mini cakes and wrapped them in cellophane and I think they look great and I would be very pleased to receive one….so lets hope they like them:

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Just incase you are wondering, I brought my roll of cellophane approximately three years ago on-line and I still have loads left.

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  I checked this week and you can buy a 100 meter roll of clear cellophane for about £12 (incl. delivery).

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Before I finish today I wanted to show you a lovely couple of chocolate logs that my daughter made last week for her friends at school…..apparently they all enjoyed it.   The recipe is here.

Each chocolate log costs approximately £1.50 to make and tastes delicious……to buy a supermarket ‘finest’ chocolate log it costs £3 and I bet it wouldn’t be as nice!

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I also want to show you some wonderful cakes that one of my daughters friends made to take into school too this week:

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I think the cakes look wonderful and it just shows what you can do with a little bit of imagination!

“Homemade really is from the heart and not just the bank account”

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

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A Yule Log Recipe And Homemade Hampers/Decorations

This week has been another busy week, but I have really enjoyed it.

Mr Thrift was having a ‘get together lunch’ at work and everyone needed to take something for a buffet.  A couple of people had asked him to take in another pumpkin and orange cake, so on Tuesday I made one:

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I was very pleased to say it all went very quickly.

The recipe is here if anyone is interested.

They also judged the Christmas jumper competition (the proceeds were going to the Rainbows charity) and the jumper I made my husband last week won, which made me chuckle.

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Apparently they all enjoyed the Christmas chocolates that I had sewn on the back.

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I also started to make up my hampers for my family too.  I had bought little bits and bobs for them over the year, tailoring the gifts to each family.  I also added some homemade jams and chutneys (though not as many as last year due to the builders being here).

I used tissue paper circles (cut out using a saucer) and raffier ribbon to tie the tissue paper over the jars.  I think it always looks nice this way.

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I have a big roll of cellophane that I bought last year on the internet for a bargain price and I’m sure it will last me years.  I use this to wrap the hampers, tying it with Christmas ribbons:

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Last year my sister gave me her basket back as she didn’t have room for it in the house, so this year I thought it would be a good idea to add a little note in each basket that said:

“I would really like you to find a use for this basket, however if you can’t please return it to me and I’ll refill it with goodies for you next Christmas”

I thought that this way the baskets won’t end up in the rubbish bin or charity shop if they don’t want them and it will save me money next year, as I won’t have to buy them again (which certainly helps me) and it’s better for the environment to recycle them too.

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Remember the oranges that I left on my radiator to dry for a week or two?…I’m pleased to say that the oranges dried really well on the radiator, without the need to put them in the oven.  I put a little hole in each one when they were nearly dry so I could thread some wire or ribbon through it.

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I sprayed some twigs with a cheap gold spray that I bought last year from Wilkinsons and then decorated them with holly, cones and the dried oranges and finished it with the battery lights from my husbands ‘Christmas Jumper’ and some ribbons.

I was very pleased with how it turned out (though for some reason it doesn’t look so good in the photo’s below):

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I put it in our old dinning room which we will decorate after Christmas now the old fireplace has been fitted.  It makes the room look really Christmassy.

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I also made some individual cakes for Mr Thift’s work colleagues as a gift for Christmas.  I used my muffin recipe here and piped icing on the top using this recipe.

I managed to get some single cake cases to put them in and I was very pleased with the overall result:

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Another job I did was to make some White Chocolate, Apricot and Brandy Truffles for my dad as a surprise (he really loves them).  The recipe is here.  I can’t wait to give them to him at the weekend.

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A Christmas Chocolate Yule Log

We love a Yule Log for Christmas in our family and it’s now a family tradition to argue over the end piece.  I used to buy them until my daughter became dairy intolerant.  It was then I realised how easy and cheap they are to make if you just know how.

I have searched the internet and found a couple of shop bought Yule Logs to compare the prices to mine.  The first I found was a kit to ‘make your own’ Yule Log and it costs £1.50 to buy.  To make it you need to add:  1 medium egg, 80ml cold water, 80g softened unsalted butter, 100ml double cream and some greaseproof paper.  After reading the instructions, I felt you may as well make it from scratch but I suppose that is just my opinion.

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I also found a Finest Chocolate log for £3.00:

log 2I have worked out how much the ingredients cost me for my Chocolate Yule Log and it totalled £1.45 for the ingredients plus the grease proof paper that I used.  I used ‘Pure’ margarine to make the butter icing dairy free for my daughter, but normally I would use butter or soft margarine to do this.  I think for £1.45 it is definately worth making.  This is how I make it:

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A Christmas Chocolate Yule Log Recipe:

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Greaseproof paper

Olive oil or marg for greasing

3 eggs

75g caster sugar

75g self-raising flour

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Icing sugar for dusting

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For the icing you will need:

300g icing sugar

150g butter or margarine

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

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Preheat your oven Gas 4 / 180C /350F.

Lightly grease a baking tray 9inch x 12 inch

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Line it with greaseproof paper, snipping the corners so the papers lies properly without creasing and then grease the paper

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Put the caster sugar and eggs into a bowl and whisk for a few minutes

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Keep whisking until the mixture turns from a yellow colour to a soft  creamy white colour and if you make a figure of eight on the top of your mixture, it will stay visable for a second or two (you can just see this on the right hand picture below)

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Sieve the flour and cocoa into the bowl

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and fold them into the egg and sugar mixture until it’s all combined

(to ‘fold in’ just keep turning the mixture over without mixing it so the air stays in)

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Pour it into your greased baking sheet and spread the mixture to the edges

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Bake for 8 minutes only

(if you over bake the sponge will crack when you try to roll it).

While it is baking, spread out a piece of greasproof paper and dust with icing sugar

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Take the sponge out of the oven and immeadiately turn it out onto the greaseproof paper and peel off the old greaseproof paper

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Sprinkle some more icing sugar over the sponge and quickly lay some more greaseproof paper over the top of the sponge.

Using the bottom piece of paper, roll up the sponge with the top piece of paper inside the sponge:

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Leave it to cool still rolled up.

When it is cool, you can freeze it at this stage and defrost and ice it later

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To Ice It:

Mix the icing sugar, marg and cocoa in a bowl until it is fully combined (this can be hard work at first)

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Fill a jug with piping hot water and add a few knifes, as this helps the butter icing spread if you keep swapping the knifes.

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Unroll your sponge and spread a thin layer of icing over it

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Roll the sponge up again using the greaseproof paper to help

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Spread the butter icing all over the rolled up sponge.  Leave it as it is or make log patterns with a fork or use a knife to make ‘spiky’ patterns by lifting the knife up quickly from the icing

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Decorate with whatever you have

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Sprinkle with icing sugar for ‘snow’

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

A Christmas Table Wreath & Homemade Hampers

Yesterday I made a Christmas Table Wreath.

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I openly admit that I’m not very good at flower arranging.  In fact, I was the only Brownie that just ‘scraped’ a flower arranging badge due to ‘Brown Owl’ stepping in and rearranging it all for me.  My arrangement was so bad.

Still, I thought it would be fun to have a go and I think it turned out really well.  This is how I made it:

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My Table Wreath

I bought an oasis ring from Wilkinson last month for £3.50

I used a bit of old ribbon

Pine cones from my local park

Shrubs from the garden

(I used Viburnum tinus, conifer and bay)

Large paper clips (you can use florist’s wire)

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I started by soaking the oasis ring upside down in water for about 5 minutes, until the bubbles stopped coming out of it.  I have read that you should not press the oasis ring down, as this will cause air bubbles to enter the foam, creating dry spots.

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I cut the foliage in lengths of approximately 10cm and striped the leaves so there was about 4cm of stem to push into the oasis.

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I layered the shrubs into the oasis by pushing the stems in at a slight angle, starting at the bottom.

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I kept building the foliage up, so eventually the oasis couldn’t be seen.

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I used big paper clips that I stretched out, to secure the ribbons and the pine cones to the oasis.

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I have read that it is best to mist the wreath with water each day so it doesn’t dry out.

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I am very proud of my table wreath.

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Now I had my table wreath I decided to decorate my table, so you can see how it will look on Christmas day, with my table wreath and homemade crackers.

My tablecloth, napkins, napkin rings and plate chargers only come out at Christmas, so they still look like new each year.

My plates are our everyday ones.  I bought white, so they can easily be replaced if one breaks, without having to buy a whole new set.

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Even though I do say so myself, I think our table looks lovely and I can’t wait to have our Christmas dinner with lots of my home grown vegetables and my lovely ‘Aldi’ turkey crown, which cost me just £9.

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Today, I also finished wrapping the hampers that I have made for my family.

I tied a piece of tissue paper on all the jars of pickles, chutneys, jams etc and tied them with some raffia to make them look nice.

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In the hampers I put the homemade preserves, homemade mini christmas cakes and bottles of wine with the bottle covers I made last week.

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I added the handmade luxury dishcloths,

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I then also added one or two ‘surprises’ in each hamper too.

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I wrapped the hampers in cellophane (I bought a big roll, cheap from ebay, that will last me a few years).

I think they look great and I would love to receive one.

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A homemade gift is from the heart and not just the bank account.

Thank you for reading my blog today.