Wednesday, 31 December 2008

goodbye 2008...

1. Enid Blyton, 2. ., 3. Lunch, 4. not our snowman, 5. morran on ice, 6. new home, 7. bel 058, 8. near home, 9. home, 10. home, 11. pinecone, 12. Copenhagen Yule, 13. present for bunny, 14. wool felt ornaments, 15. wishes, 16. Reindeer enjoy their work, 17. twine, 18. Christmas cookies, 19. little lights, 20. \, 21. a thousand pieces, 22. stickey bread, 23. rice puddings, 24. snowflakes, 25. some knitting, 26. crepes with rosehip syrup, 27. Untitled, 28. the drive, 29. ., 30. midwest winter "fun", 31. hello 38, 32. frosty and me, 33. ., 34. winter umbrella, 35. Untitled, 36. my mother's skates

I say goodbye to 2008 with a selection of wintery flickr favourites from some of my favourite photographers. 2009 will be a challenging year for us, with the continuing recession causing pressure at home and work. When I look back through all the {thousands} of photographs taken in 2008, the memories, smiles, holidays and special times, it reminds me how lucky we are. As another year passes {oh god I sound like my mother!} I am thankful for my family and friends and look forward to filling up 2009 with more wonderful moments. Happy New Year x

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

sharing the black eyeliner...

A fancy dress party invitation has led to our discovery of probably the most exciting shop for miles around {it was made famous when local resident Prince Harry hired his infamous fancy dress costume from there!} Rows upon rows of costumes, shelves packed with hats and wigs and props for just about every costume you could think about, you could spend all day trying great costumes on. Our party theme? - 'Hair of the rich and famous'.

We found two great costumes, both needing black eyeliner {that's all I will give away!} and both with great (hair) wigs! There was even a room just for children's costumes - we lost Alfie underneath the rails but every so often he emerged in a different costume, first as a ninja turtle {he has no idea what a ninja turtle is!}, then an army officer followed by a pirate and finally as Peter Pan. We may have to enlarge his dressing up box to include costumes for the whole family - I have a feeling this could become a regular family hobby in this house - or maybe it's just Pete relishing the thought of black eyeliner!

Monday, 29 December 2008

amazing diy chocolate truffles...

this Jamie Oliver recipe looks amazing and I can't wait to try it out once we have eaten up all of the chocolate that we have in the house left over from Christmas!

{makes about 50 teaspoon-sized truffles}

• 300ml double cream
• a knob of unsalted butter
• finely grated zest from 1 clementine
• 300g good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
• a pinch sea salt
• a splash of brandy
• a handful of mixed nuts (Brazil nuts, toasted almonds and hazelnuts)
• 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, to serve
• 1 pack biscotti, to serve
• 1 bottle of Vin Santo, to serve

Jamie's Method

These are deconstructed chocolate truffles and if you arrange this nicely on a table, put a few cocktail sticks next to them and let people get stuck in and make their own I’m telling you, you’ll have some excited guests. It’s interesting, it’s different and to be able to make your own truffle is really quite cool, not to mention delicious. It’s worth remembering that chocolate is friends with lots of different booze so if you prefer, you can swap out the brandy here for rum, whiskey or red wine.

Put the cream in a pan over a medium heat and let it heat up. You don’t want it boiling, just hot. As soon as tiny bubbles start to appear add the knob of butter and the clementine zest. Once the butter has melted pour this hot mixture over the chocolate pieces whisking as you go so the chocolate melts nice and slowly. If the mixture splits slightly, don’t worry, you can bring it right by adding a splash of boiling water. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture; it may sound bonkers, but the smallest pinch of salt actually makes chocolate taste even chocolatier! Stir in a splash of brandy.

Once completely melted and smooth, pour your melted chocolate mixture into a nice little serving dish or bowl. Pop this in the fridge for about 2 hours to set. Christmas is a busy time so you can always do this a few days before you need it if you want. About 30 minutes before you’re ready to make your truffles pull the bowl out of the fridge and let the chocolate warm up to room temperature.

Put your mixed nuts into a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to bash them up quite finely. Get some little saucers or bowls and put the nuts in one and your cocoa powder in the other. Put a teacup filled with boiled water on the tray and pop a few teaspoons in there for scooping the chocolate. Get everyone around the table to spoon their own truffles out of the serving dish and roll them in cocoa powder, crushed nuts or anything else you fancy. Or, you can let them smear their truffles over a biscotti like some posh Nutella! Serve with a few glasses of your chilled Vin Santo.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

lens love...

I have been playing with my new present a Nikkor 55-200mm lens. I am pretty useless at anything technical and remembering settings on my camera, I'm a point and shoot kind a gal. This lens is really a beast and I am blown away at just how good a couple of practice shots have turned out. I am generally quite a shy photographer, trying to take observational shots whilst not being observed, hence why I take a lot without flash, I just prefer it that way {and no I don't skulk around in camoflague!}. This lens is going to 'out' me however, there is no hiding the size of it and people are going to assume I am a professional, my only redemption is that I can now stand miles away to take pictures in the first place!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas joy...

in the morning, we knew he had been here as he had left a boot print in the {magic} snow!

We spent time sharing... although this is a lesson still to be mastered...!

We took delight in the smaller presents - such as a set of moustaches for every day of the week!

and best of all we played with the boxes - who needs the presents inside...? I hope your Christmas was filled with joy.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 16 - Now celebrate...!

I love mulled wine and cider, the warmth and the cinnamon and cloves smells evoke the Christmas spirit for me. I try and give bottles with little muslin squares full of spices, that can be used with a bottle of cider or wine, like a tea bag. Or I decorate presents with cinnamon sticks. There are many drinks that you can buy from local suppliers, thus keeping food miles down or you can make your own hedgerow champagnes and sloe gin too.

Here is my recipe for Mulled Cider (tried and tested many a time!)
510 ml Local Cider
120 ml Calvados or Brandy
725 ml Apple Juice
thinly pared lemon zest
2 cinnamon sticks
8 cloves
2 tablespoons of soft dark sugar
lemon juice to taste.

Put the ingredients into a large pan and heat gently, simmering for about half an hour. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste. I also make just a mulled juice version for the boys or drivers over Christmas, the boys usually dip the rim of the glasses in lemon juice then sugar to give the drinks a snowy, Christmassy look!

Now sit back and enjoy Christmas,

I hoped you have enjoyed this guide, love Emma x

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 15 - Make a snow scene...

We made our snow scenes with modeling clay you bake in the oven to harden, then we stuck them to the bottom of some jam jars and added water and glitter. You could create any wintery scene using lots of different materials or toys, the boys really got stuck in, making their snowmen, and hats and scarfs. It was a great way to spend time when all of our heads are full of colds and outdoors is very unappealing.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 14 - Decorate your home with snowflakes...

A really cheap, easy and effective way to decorate your windows with snowflakes cut from paper, just like you made at school - years ago! Lots of fun for all ages. I attach mine to the windows with mounting spray which washes off easily when you take them down again! Just look at those horrible grey clouds!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 13 - Buy a book...

and then you are given a book that is full of your ideas and more! I have just poured over this book comparing ideas and learning new ones, dang! Just when you thought yours was a fairly original idea! Beautiful photography, although I would of liked to see more little hands joining in with the making and eating, it is packed full of simple and effective ideas. I will try and make the next few posts contain things that don't feature in this book in case you are lucky enough like me, to own a copy!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 12 - Make your own stockings...

Use old fabric, bits of material left over, old pillowcases to make personlised stockings for each member of the family. Just cut out two stocking shapes and stitch together by hand or machine. My inspiration came from Soulemama and how each new addition to the family, is marked with a new stocking. I think as my boys get older, I will use bits and bobs to sew on and customise their stocking to show the passing of the year, maybe an old favourite jumper or swimming badge, or just maybe they will have ideas of their own.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 11 - Create a bit of magic

I have fallen in love with needle felting, it is so quick and easy. These guys were made in minutes from plant dyed organic wool and will find a home in two little boys Christmas stockings very soon! Father Christmas always leaves his mark here, usually a boot print in the snow {icing sugar} in front of the fireplace and he likes to leave something a little personal too - last year he left some bells from the reigns of his reindeer. This year he will leave these two little models of himself and while my boys are young they will love this magic!

Monday, 15 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 10 - Take time to enjoy the simple things...

a winter walk, originally uploaded by Emma Bradshaw.

like going for a walk, catching up with family and friends, playing games on cold wintery nights. Light a real fire and toast marshmallows on it.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 9 - Make your own Crackers

The crackers above are made from toilet roll tubes and magazines and are available from I am going to make my own like this and would of done earlier if all the toilet roll tubes in this house weren't already pinched for other craft projects - this week they are the horns on a viking helmet {two tubes stuck onto a builders hat with masking tape!} Anyway - doing this means you can make very personal crackers, with comics or homemade paper and fill them with gifts of your choice instead!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 8 - Buy energy efficient fairy lights

LED Christmas lights use up to 80 per cent less energy than standard lights. They last longer and are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. You could always use solar powered lights too, which are really good for outdoor use.

Monday, 8 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 7 - Think about the gifts you give

My personal hate is children's gifts that are plastic and wrapped in even more plastic and cardboard, tied on with ties! The type that you buy 3 for 2 in a supermarket, because they are on offer, not because the child really wants one!

How about gifts that give twice? Many charities run adoption schemes which are lovely to give at Christmas, check out this one here, which starts from only £10 to adopt a dormouse!

We also make gifts to give, jams in nice jars that we made in the summer, lavender bags and little walnut shells filled with wax {pictured above} and made into candles - perfect as stocking fillers or little thank you gifts for teachers, neighbours and grandparents.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 6 - Make Your Own Christmas Cards

This might be a tall order and a little close to Christmas to start - but it can be a quick and easy production line around the kitchen table with all the family, some card and Christmas stamps. If you do send hundreds of cards then just make the ones for your nearest and dearest - they will appreciate the effort and you could always add a family picture on the inside or even a lottery ticket?
Oh and don't forget to recycle them, make them into gift tags for next year or take them to WHSmith, Tesco or M&S to recycle as part of The Woodland Trusts recycling scheme, which last year collected 93 million cards, earning £100,000 which in turn planted 22,000 trees!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 5 - Use recycled wrapping paper

I love wrapping presents and making them look beautiful and will often have a theme. Last year I wrapped everything in brown paper and tied things with raffia and ivy from the garden. I did buy some wooden tags and wrote everyone's name on and saved them for this year! You even could wrap in presents in newspaper with ribbon or make your own like we do {above} this year copying our potato printing idea from here.

If you are given lots of presents and have lots of wrapping paper remember it CAN be composted - unless it is the foil wrapping. To compost paper it is best to rip into small pieces - the more edges the better so it rots down quicker.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 4 - Source a Sustainable Christmas Tree

There are approximately 60 million trees grown as 'Christmas trees' in the UK at any one time with around 7-10 million trees being sold each Christmas. Christmas is big business with the American public alone spending more than £1.5Bn on trees alone (1998 figures).

Make sure, this year that your tree comes with the FSC mark so that you know it comes from a sustainable source. We don't buy a Christmas tree instead we make do with the top of a tree that is being removed for conservation reasons. Many pine trees were planted in war time Britain as part of the war effort, but have re-shaped our landscape and are not as wildlife friendly as our native woodlands. Landowners managing land with wildlife in mind cut down evergreens and non-native species to replace with more wildlife friendly ones.

We have even had a leylandii tree one Christmas and as students twisted hazel branches draped with fairy lights! They might not be the pretiest Scots pine or conventionally shaped Douglas fir, but have bags of character and don't drop needles! Don't forget to get your tree chipped to use as mulch afterwards, your local garden centre should do this.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 3 - Order an Organic Veg Box for Christmas

Take the stress out of shopping and shop online for all of your Christmas veg needs! Buy local and organic fruit and veg and take the air miles out of your Christmas meal. Shop at your local farmer's market or try one of these veg box suppliers...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 2 - Make your own Christmas decorations

Use scraps of material and oddments of material lying around, cones, nuts and leaves or even old clothes and if you must buy, find scraps in sale bins. We have been making angels and kings using felt and pegs for the Christmas tree {above}.

Decorate cones with glitter and make a garland to string around the house or up the stairs - this is great for small children to do if you don't mind glitter going everywhere! My favourite homemade decoration is the reindeer (pictured above) made from two bits of felt stitched together with sticks for legs and antlers, you could make them any size and make sure one has a red nose!

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Green Christmas Guide # 1 - give unwanted gifts to charity

Before we start the hustle and bustle of Christmas we always have a clear out. We sort out broken toys, unwanted toys that are never played with and new toys that have never been played with or given. To make space for new things and most importantly to instill a sense of 'giving' at Christmas time.

We clean and mend old toys to take to a local charity shop and we make Christmas shoe boxes {above} to send to less fortunate children packed with new toys.

It was my friend Gina who got me started with the shoebox thing as it is such a lovely thing to do and great tradition to start the festivities with. Look here for more information
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