This ain’t a Mickey Mouse tale…

This year, no matter how much I try, I just can’t get in to the Christmas Spirit.

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It’s like it’s not even December.

It’s cold outside, and our heating is on.  I have a beautiful new pair of winter boots that hubby has bought for me (early birthday present).  I’ve been wearing my lovely, grey, winter coat and scarf.  Homemade, paper decorations are sprawled across our house – paper snowflakes, stars and chains.  There are several Christmas cards on our window-ledge, and we’ve got a beautiful, wooden winter scene on display, that my dad made…

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However, we didn’t have the tree up.

It’s become a tradition, in our house, that our tree and decorations go up on 1 December; but it wasn’t possible, as there was just too much to do in the house.  There was still cleaning to be done, mainly due to a couple of mishaps in the boys room a few weeks ago (long story).

A couple of days came and went, and Gning was questioning why we haven’t got our tree up.  So on 4 December, hubby got the step-ladder out, and up in to the attic he went.

He passed the attic door to me, and then I heard him say, “looks like we’ve got mice…  There’s droppings everywhere”.

He passed the large, red bag, containing the tree down to me…  “Be careful,” he said to me, “looks like they’ve eaten this…”  Hubby then handed me a couple of our Christmas stockings, which also had decorations in them, but it looks like the mice had got to them too.

Everything was either chewed, or had droppings on.  The tree bag was slightly damp, and had fresh droppings on it.  It made me worried to open it in the house, so we carefully carried everything out to the driveway, where we keep our wheelie-bins.

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Not actually our tree, but this is what we had to do 😦

Very little was salvageable.  Thankfully, I managed to save a few of my special decorations that I had been collecting over the years.  They needed a bloody good wash, but were still able to be used.  So this left us with a handful of baubles, and a single set of fairy lights.

So it was decided.  We had no choice but to buy a new tree and decorations, and we found them in our local Asda (otherwise known as Wal-mart).

As soon as we got home, we unpacked everything and started to decorate.  Gning and Donut helped the hubby with the new baubles, and they had a great time in doing so.

Granted, our new 5ft tree wasn’t the 7ft tree we were used to, but it is still lovely all the same.  I love it!  It’s super cute, and fits in to the corner nicely.

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We’ve still got a few things that we need to buy, but at least we have our tree up!

As for the mice, well, I’m afraid there’s not going to be any good news for them.

Normally I’m tolerant of mice.  I like them.  They’re so small, and they need to live freely, but I have a different rule when they’re in the house.  And they are.  They’re living comfortably, up in my attic, and I don’t want to take the chance of them coming down, actually in to the house.  I’m currently pricing up traps…  Not the old ones, that snap and kill (I couldn’t cope with that), but one of the box things…

Sorry Mickey, Minnie, Mighty and Jerry – you’re about to be evicted.

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Weird days to celebrate with the kids

This is a great calendar to work with your kids on…  Other than the usual “National” days, these are something a little different that will guarantee to put a smile on your little one(s) face(s).

8 January – Bubble bath day

14 January – Rubber ducky day

18 January – Winnie the Pooh day

19 January – Popcorn day

24 January – Pay a compliment day

31 January – Backwards day

6 February – Eat ice cream for breakfast day

11 February – Make a new friend day

17 February – Random act of kindness day

26 February – Tell a Fairy Tale day

5 March – Learn what your name means day

20 March – International story telling day

2 April – International children’s book day

10 April – International siblings day

14 April – Laugh out loud day

18 April – International juggler’s day

25 April – International penguin day

30 April – Honesty day

1 May – Mother Goose day

4 May – “May the 4th be with you” day

10 May – Clean your bedroom day

11 May – Eat what you want day (within reason)

12 May – Limerick day

13 May – Frog jumping day

14 May – Dance like a chicken day

24 May – Scavenger hunt day

1 June – Say something nice day

6 June – Yo-yo day

7 June – Chocolate ice cream day

8 June – Best friends day

14 June – Act like a monkey day

17 June – Eat all your veggies day

26 June – Forgiveness day

29 June – International jump in a muddy puddle day

1 July – International joke day

2 July – UFO day

10 July – Teddy bears picnic day

20 July – Moon day

3 August – Watermelon day

7 August – Visit a lighthouse day

19 August – Photograph day

30 August – Frankenstein day

13 September – Positive thinking day

15 September – Make a hat day

19 September – Talk like a pirate day

22 September – Elephant appreciation day

1 October – Burst a balloon day

6 October – Mad Hatters tea party day

7 October – International smile day

14 October – International dessert day

16 October – Learn a new word!  It’s dictionary day

4 November – Pharaoh day

6 November – Saxophone day

13 November – Kindness day

17 November – Go for a walk day

21 November – International “hello” day; say “hello” to a stranger (with adult supervision)

9 December – Make a Christmas card day

20 December – Carol singing day

24 December – North Pole breakfast day

Christmas Biscuits – no eggs

I have made this recipe time and time again, and when I come to make them again this morning, I realised that my eggs were TOTALLY out of date, so I decided to mix up the recipe a little to make them without any egg yolk.  They’ve come out a treat, and according to the hubby, these are the “best” I’ve ever made.

If I have calculated this correctly, the ingredient amounts below should make approximately 20 biscuits, and cost about 60p ($0.75).

Perfect for those family members and friends who have an egg allergy, try this out.

Ingredients

8oz (225g) butter – softened

4oz (115g) sugar (I used caster sugar, but standard, granulated is ok too)

Vanilla essence

5tbsp water

12oz (340g) plain flour

Hard boiled sweets (or hard boiled candies, if you live in the US)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 190°C (170°C for fan assisted).
  2. Line your baking sheets with grease proof / baking paper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream your butter.  You should really use the back of a wooden spoon for this, but I continually used my electric hand mixer on a slow speed.
  4. Add the sugar, and cream in to the butter.
  5. Add the vanilla essence – I really went overboard with the amount I used, because we all love vanilla, but you should only really use a cap-full; and the water.  Mix thoroughly.
  6. Start to combine the flour, bit by bit, until it becomes almost impossible to continue mixing, then combine the rest thoroughly with your hands.  Knead the dough a little in the bowl, to ensure it all sticks together.
  7. Turn the dough out on to a clean and floured surface, and roll out to approximately 1cm depths.
  8. Using your cookie cutters (I used a large gingerbread man cutter), cut out your biscuits, and place carefully on to the lined baking tray.  Repeat until you have used up all of your dough.
  9. Using a small cookie cutter (I used a small star this time), remove the “belly” / middle of each large man shape / biscuit.  With using the small star shape, I was able to use these for some regular, star-shaped biscuits for my Donut.
  10. Place a hard boiled sweet in to the middle of the cut-out you have just done (i.e. my star shape in the belly).
  11. Place in the preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  12. Remove from the oven, and – keeping the biscuits on the grease proof paper, remove the trays on to a cool surface.
  13. Allow to cool for approximately 30 minutes – or until the melted sweet has reset, and you now have the choice to either scoff the lot, or decorate!

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Bath Bombs Galore!

Over the past few years, it seems bath bombs have been popping up at every skincare shop out there. Bath bombs leave your bathwater cleansing, soothing and delightfully fizzy. With their soothing scents and fun fizzy effect, it’s no wonder bath bombs are such a huge hit. .However, boutique bath bombs can be expensive and include a fizzing ingredient called citric acid that can be harsh on your skin.  .

It’s easy to make on your own using ingredients found at your local supermarket, and you can omit the citric acid. This recipe calls for cream of tartar (which is sold in the baking aisle in Asda!), which, when combined with baking soda, will give you the same fizzy results.

Ingredients & Materials Needed

256g (9oz / 2 cups) of bicarbonate soda

128g (4.5oz / 1 cup) cream of tartar

50g (1.6oz / 6 tbsp) of Epsom salts

Essential oils of your choosing

Coconut or olive oil

Water or Witch Hazel – in a spray bottle

Large mixing bowl

Large metal spoon

Silicone ice cube tray or mould

Method

  1. Combine the bicarb soda, cream of tartar and Epsom salts in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Add up to 20 drops of your choice of essential oil (or up to your desired scent) and two teaspoons (7g / 11ml) of coconut / olive oil.  If you have any dried lavender or any other dried flowers, you can add them at this point.
  3. Once all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, test the mixture by squeezing a small amount in your hand.  If the powder easily compresses together without separating, it is ready to place in the moulds.  However, if the mixture crumbles apart, add a single spray of water / Witch Hazel at a time until you can compress it into a ball.  You shouldn’t have to add more than five sprays of water / Witch Hazel.
  4. Now pack the mixture tightly into the silicone moulds.  You will find that the back of a metal spoon will help compact the mixture in to all corners of the mould.
  5. Leave the mixture in the mould for a full 24 hours to dry.
  6. Once the bath bombs have dried for 24 hours in the mould, carefully remove them and allow them to air dry undisturbed for another 24 hours.  Then, drop one in your bath and enjoy the fizz!

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Shortbread & Coconut Shortbread

It’s Gnings’ last day in school tomorrow, as he is breaking up for Christmas.  I can’t believe how quickly it has come around!

I’ve been struggling for ideas on what he should give to his teacher, and two teaching assistants, as a gift for Christmas; and with money being a bit tight too (I’m still on maternity leave), I didn’t really want to spend a lot.  So I thought, everyone loves biscuits, so that’s what we’ll do.  And that’s what we did!

I think I managed to make about 50 stars, and 35 “gingerbread” biscuits.  The stars cost approx. 50p, and the “gingerbread” ones about 75p.

Here’s the recipe:~

125g butter, softened

55g caster sugar

180g plain flour (all-purpose)

OPTIONAL – (1tbsp desiccated coconut)

Drop of water

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C (170C for fan assisted).
  2. Line a baking tray (or two) with greaseproof paper.
  3. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and cream together, using the back of a large, wooden spoon.
  4. Sift in all of the flour, in one go, and stir it all together using the spoon (this is also the part where you will add the coconut – if you are going to.  This worked absolutely wonderfully).  When you’re unable to stir any more, use one of your hands to start “bringing the mixture together”, in to a dough.
  5. Add just a drop or two of water – just enough so the mixture starts to meld nicely.  Don’t add too much, otherwise it’ll end up all sticky, and icky.
  6. Once the dough has formed a lovely ball, turn out on to a work surface, that has had a ‘scattering’ of icing sugar (powdered / confectioners sugar), and roll out with a rolling pin, so that it’s about 1cm thick.
  7. Cut out your required shape(s) – squares, rectangles, circles, stars, etc. – and place on the lined baking tray.
  8. Lightly prick the top of the biscuits with a fork, and sprinkle a little more caster sugar on the top of each.
  9. Throw them in the oven (well, not literally) for 15-20 minutes, or until a golden brown colour.
  10. Allow to cool fully before digging in.  Be careful though!  They are incredibly moreish.

Excuse the pics – my camera is playing up a little 😦

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And this is how I packaged them up – all ready for Gningy to take in to school tomorrow:

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10 things that made Christmas in the 80’s the best…

I’ve neglected this blog a little recently, so I think it’s about time that I brought a little “Festiveness” (is that even a word?  No?  Oh well…  I like it, so I’m going to use it anyway) to you, in the form of a list!  Afterall, who doesn’t love a good list?  🙂

Christmas just isn’t the same nowadays is it? We find it very difficult to feel that magic we felt as kids. The whole experience has changed so much over the last couple of decades, with Internet shopping, a million TV channels and a whole host of electronic gadgetry available to us, it’s easy to forget the simpler times.

In no particular order, let’s give you my top ten reasons as to why Christmas was so much better in the 80’s.

  1. TV Times / Radio Times

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With no internet or smartphones the only way to find out what was coming up on TV was on teletext or in TV listing mags. The TV Times and Radio Times were the go to TV guides and of course, back in the day, you had to buy both to know what was on all the channels. When the bumper Christmas Edition was released no one could stop us sitting and circling everything we were going to watch over the festive period.

2.  Selection boxes

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Let’s face it they were just better back then.  The bars were bigger, they tasted better and they had some awesome treats inside!  Oh, you also definitely got your moneys’ worth.

3.  The Argos catalogue

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The Argos catalogue, or any other catalogue for that matter (remember Index?!).  We couldn’t browse the internet back then so this is what we used to find things to put on our list for Santa!

4.  The music

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At least we had a couple of REAL Christmas N0.1’s in the 80s!  The charts were filled with Christmas classics from Shakin’ Stevens, The Pogues, Band Aid, Paul McCartney and Wham!

5.  The movies

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We had some classic Christmas movies in the 80s.  They were that good they are repeated every year on TV!  Santa Claus The Movie was one of my favourites, at the time.  What was yours?

6.  TV Christmas specials

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Christmas specials were the business in the 80s.  What ever your favourite TV show was, I bet they did a Christmas special. Some of the Kids Christmas Specials were a little interesting to say the least!

7.  Decorations

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They may seem a bit old fashioned and out of style now but back in the day the louder, the shinier, and the brighter, the better!  These decorations were hung all over our house – attached to the ceiling with a drawing pin!

8.  Christmas shopping

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Remember when we actually had to leave the house to do our Christmas Shopping?  The high streets were packed at this time of year with people trying to find the perfect gift for their loved ones.  Shops went all out with the Christmas decorations, and you couldn’t carry all of the FREE carrier bags you’d been given to get your purchases home!  Oh, and let’s not forget, that for some reason, it was also much easier to buy gifts to people too!

9.  Christmas present hunt

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I’m sure kids all over the world still do this, but do you remember when your parents weren’t looking, you used to dive into the cupboards and wardrobes to try and get a sneak peak at all the gifts they had bought you? You’d have to be quick though before they sent them all off to Santa for him to deliver on Christmas Day!

10.  The toys

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Toys in the 80s were just better.  There’s no doubt about it all of the things we had as kids were well…  Just cooler than the toys that are around now!  I never did get that Mr Frosty though (thanks mum) 😦  Ha ha x

20 ways kids make Christmas magical

It’s easy for Christmas BC (Before Children) to feel more about our hangovers and expanding waistlines (not to mention our overdrafts) than any real festive spirit. Then you have a child and all that changes. Not since you were a nipper, anxiously listening out for Father Christmas in your PJs, have you felt so infused with joy and enchantment.

Here are 20 ways that Christmas becomes magical when you’re a parent …

1. It used to drive you bonkers that Christmas started pretty much in October (oh, yes it did…) but now you can’t wait for the shops to bust out the Christmas lights and to hear Noddy Holder’s dulcet tones. Ooh, and the advent calendars, and the ads and the Christmas lists…  How many times have you rewritten yours?

2. Nothing can prepare you for the heart-melting sweetness of watching your little one in their very first Christmas nativity or school play, whether they have a starring role or not (it’s Gning’s first Nativity on 7 December).  Don’t forget your tissues!

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3. Kids make it OK to sport clashing decorations and an OTT Christmas tree.  In fact, the more of mash-up of colours and styles of baubles, the better.

4. It’s FINALLY acceptable to buy chocolate decorations again. Just remember to leave a few for the kids, eh?

5. Their Christmas list to Santa reads like a stock-taking sheet of ToysRUs and Smyths combined.  But it’s the ‘and I’ve been soooo good’ line that really makes you smile.

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6. Thank goodness this year you’ve got a good excuse for the misshapen mince pies.  All your toddler’s own work, yes?

7. You love channelling your inner-storyteller with stories of Father Christmas and seeing your children’s eyes widen with delight.

8. Creating your very own traditions is something you’ll share for a lifetime.  Maybe you write a Christmas poem together, or put on a little festive play for the grandparents?  Or leave one more present in the garden to be discovered – “Oh look!  Santa must have dropped it!”

9. Leaving a glass or milk (or something stronger) for Father Christmas, and a carrot for Rudolph, never loses it’s charm.  And neither does…

10. …drinking that something stronger on Christmas Eve, when the wee ones are safely asleep.

11. Nothing beats that amazing feeling of satisfaction on Christmas Eve when everything is wrapped and ready for the next day.  Savour the scene – because the next day it’s carnage!  Hope your recycling bins are empty…

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12. Not to encourage your inner bah, humbug, but it’s a great time of year to dodge any tedious social engagements: honestly, babysitters are so unreliable…

13. Family films are no longer an indulgence, they’re mandatory.  From the Muppet’s Christmas Carol to Home Alone, it’s the perfect season to snuggle up on the sofa.

14. Talking of which, make your brood hot chocolate with marshmallows. And have one yourself.

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15. Place your bets on what time Christmas Day officially starts.  And yes, it feels magical even though it’s 5am.

16. As you watch them open their pressies, you remember the fizzy feeling of thrill and excitement you had as a child.  And seeing the joy your children bring to their grandparents is priceless.

17. Eating together as a family is something to take time over and savour.  Who cares if the potatoes are a tiny bit burnt, or the sprouts a bit hard?  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated.

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18. Snow is what dreams are made of when you’re five.  And snow at Christmas…  Cue delirious children and giggling parents!

19. The pleasure of tumbling back into a warm and cosy house after a good old stomp outside brings the colour to everyone’s cheeks.

20. Knowing at the close of Christmas day that the hard work is over for another year – and despite the odd flurry of tears and tantrums – they’ve had a pretty wonderful day.  Well done, you.  Only 365 days to go…

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