Elf on the Shelf: Week 3

Well Sparkle Heart (seriously Pinky did that have to be her name?) has been with us a little while now and it is starting to show….! The cheeky madam seems to have had a little party for one on Friday night!

Day 15:

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Day 16:

Naturally on Saturday she was a little hung over! So she decided it was best just to sit and watch the girls play rather than getting up to mischief.

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Day 17:

Back up to her old tricks again of irritating me whilst making the girls laugh… She was found sledging down my precious Christmas Tree! She knows no one is allowed to touch my tree other than me!

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Day 18:

Next up in ways I can annoy Mummy whilst making it fun for the girls… Light swinging! I mean seriously Elf!

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Day 19:

This morning Sparkle Heart delivered the girls letters from Santa.  They loved them!

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Day 20:

We found Sparkle Heart chatting to her new best friend, Mr. Snowman (imaginative I know!)

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Day 21:

Sparkle Heart bought the girls some lovely new toys to play with; a food set for their kitchen.  She also discovered that she isn’t the only elf in the house…. Shock! Horror!

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Elf on the Shelf: Week 2

Well this week has been a super busy week for us! It is the last week of preschool and boy can we tell! We are all so tired, the girls have been going to be a little earlier to try and help, it is having little effect.  Hubby and I can barely speak past 8pm but of course once in bed we are wide awake.  Why is that?

We put up the tree at the weekend and went through each and every stage of decorating it. When we moved into our house a few years ago we found an abandoned Christmas Tree in the loft, so now each year we get it down and the girls have it in their playroom.  They can decorate it and ‘destroy’ it as much as they like so they don’t disturb the main tree too much.  We took then out to choose a cheap pack of decorations to put on the tree. Naturally they chose pink and sparkly!

Following that I have been making a Santa cake for my Grandma (professional photos to follow).  My Uncle and his daughter have come over from Australia for Christmas as she asked if I could make them something.  This took up all of nap time and some of the evenings so the days have been spent getting the girls out of some fresh air and finishing other little jobs: the online shop, getting some bits from HobbyCraft etc…

The tumble drier broke last week, we had a company come out the next day but they had to order in a part.  That is now finally fixed so I have a mountain of washing to do.  I kept on top of some of it but in the absence of being able to hang cloths outside t dry i was running out of space! Never again will I underestimate my love of the tumble dryer.

As busy as we have been it looks like our Elf, Sparkle Heart has been even busier rushing between here and the North Pole.  I’m sure she is glad her job only lasts for 24 days a year. See what she go up to last week here.

Day 8

She bought the girls a Bug Puzzle with a ‘fishing net’.  They loved this and played really nicely together (after some not-so-gentle persuasion from me).

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Day 9

This was a Friday, she was obviously getting tired because I walked in and found her attached to my wine.  I was not impressed! If she goes anywhere near my gin I will throw her back to the North Pole myself!

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WTF?

Day 10

She got the decorations out for the girls to do the tree.

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Day 11

She hid herself in the girls tree along with some Santa shaped chocolates that they had to try and find. (They didn’t take long to find then all, when chocolate is involved they don’t waste anytime!).

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Day 12

Sparkle Heart had a riding lesson from Barbie.

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Day 13

She took a ride on the Santa Express.

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Day 14

To ensure the girls spend their last 10 days behaving her found a very good vantage point in the light of the playroom!

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Tune in next week to see what Sparkle Heart has been up to in Week 3.

Gingerbread Biscuit Christmas Tree Decorations

As part of my Christmas baking plans I thought I would make some gingerbread tree decorations.

I love gingerbread; it is one of my favourite biscuits. The only problem with that is I find it hard to only eat one at a time. I usually discover I have eaten three in a row without realising it!

I have tried various gingerbread recipes over the years but this is by far my favourite.

Recipe

400g Plain Flour

1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

2tsp Ground Ginger

2tsp Cinnamon

1tsp Ground Nutmeg

½tsp Allspice

180g Salted Butter (softened)

125g Light Brown Sugar

125g Treacle

1 egg

Method

  1. Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and all spices into a bowl. I don’t sift this but you can.
  2. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together. I use a paddle attachment on the freestanding mixer. You could also use a handheld whisk.
  3. Once light and fluffy add the egg and treacle*. Scrape down the sides to ensure a through mix
  4. Add the flour mixture slowly on a slow speed (unless you fancy doing a ghost impression for the post man who invariably turns up at this point wanting a signature!). Ensure you scrape down the sides.
  5. Once a dough has been formed take it out of the mixture and wrap it in clingfilm. Place this in the fridge for 4-6 hours to fully rest. If you want to rest it for less time split the mixture into ¾ portions. Once it is hard it is ready for rolling.
  6. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  7. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. I use baking spray to secure this to the tray but I don’t spray the top of the paper where the biscuits will be.
  8. On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/2cm thick.
  9. Cut into desired shapes. I used round, holly leaves and snowflakes for this bake.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Leave the biscuits to cool for a few minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

*I have never worked out the best way to measure this out. However, what I do is place the treacle pot on my scales (digital will be easiest to do this with). I then ‘tare’ the amount so it shows as zero. I slowly spoon out the treacle bit by bit until the amount shows ‘-125g’. I don’t know if this is right but it seemed logical to me and it seems to work.

This makes a really dark gingerbread, which I personally prefer but I know lots of people prefer a lighter gingerbread. In this instance I would simply replace the treacle with golden syrup. The amounts required are roughly the same.

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To decorate I have used Royal Icing. You could also use Candy Melts if you preferred and they would work just as well.

Royal Icing

660g Icing Sugar, sifted

20g Pasturised Egg White Powder (or 4 egg whites)

½tsp Cream of Tartar

Method

  1. Prepare the egg white powder as per instructions. Usually this is mix with 50mls of water per 10g. But please double check.
  2. Mix in the powder until no lumps left and there is a think layer of bubbles.
  3. Put in the mixer with the cream of tartar and start whisking.
  4. If using egg white place these in the mixer and whisk until frothy with the cream of tartar.
  5. Slowly add in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, ensuring it is well combined after each addition.
  6. Mix on a medium speed for 15-20 minutes until bright white and stiff with a smooth texture.

For these decorations I used the royal icing in stiff and flood consistency. I don’t line the shapes before flooding. I simply use a scribing tool to bring the icing slightly closer to the edge if I need in small circular movements. This also removes any air bubbles that you do not want! To combine the water I use a spray to ensure I don’t add too much at once. For the stiff consistency I was looking for a toothpaste type mixture. For the flood consistency much more water is required. This is also referred to as 20 second consistency because when all the water is mixed in if you draw a line through the mixture (and into it) with a knife or skewer this line should disappear without a trace at 20 seconds. Not before or after.

If you add too much water then the best and only way to effectively thicken the icing again is to add more of the stiff royal icing. Simply adding icing sugar will make it grainy.

Once the biscuits are iced I leave them out over night to set or for at least four hours.

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For the colours I used:

Red: Squires Kitchen in ‘Poppy’

Green: Sugarflair in ‘Holly’

I also tinted some white icing with Squires Kitchen Teddy Brown, which I then painted with edible gold lustre.

To make the lustre into a paintable liquid add some alcohol to the dust. The reason you use alcohol is alcohol evaporates really quickly so it doesn’t dissolve the icing like water would. I like to use vodka because it is flavour and colourless so it doesn’t alter anything.

I added some silver ball dragees to the snowflakes and so silver lustre dust to make them a little sparkly.

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Oh and because I totally forgot to say I made the holes for the ribbon in the snowflakes and baubles using a straw from one of the girls sippy cups when I cut out the dough! I think any large straw would work. The holes did close up a little during baking which I expected but they were still large enough for a thin ribbon to fit through.

The final product: Ta Dah! (Ok, I know I’ve already put picture above but just pretend this is a grand reveal for me… Please.)

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Our Christmas Traditions

There has been a lot of talk recently about family traditions. Initially I was a little jealous thinking we don’t really have any but then I thought about it and we do. We have loads of them and I hadn’t realised. Then the more I thought about it the more I got excited about it all.

Each year I make gingerbread biscuits and cut them into all sorts of shapes, this year I plan on making baubles for the tree.

I take the girls to see Santa. This is as traumatic as you would expect and we never have a photo at the end of it but it is tradition damn it so we are going!

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Hubby and I spend our weekend evenings drinking Winter Cocktails.

I watch as many Christmas films with the girls as I can.

We actually get crafty for a month, which normally I hate. I can usually get into it a bit more for Christmas.

This year we have started Elf on the Shelf… Stay tuned for more of that.

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We all go out and pick a Christmas tree together.

We put out food and drink for Santa and the reindeer, a mince pie, a G&T and a carrot, on Christmas Eve.

Hubby takes a bite out of the carrot so it looks like it has been eaten.

I make the girls a Christmas Eve box, which includes pyjamas, slippers, a cuddly toy (all of Disney of course) and some chocolate. They get to open it after dinner.

I sit and wrap all of the presents on Christmas Eve whilst watching Christmas films and drinking Santa’s G&T. Sorry Santa.

On Christmas morning the girls come into our bedroom so we can open their stocking gifts all together.

After opening the ‘tree presents’ we go to Hubbys parents house where we spend the rest of the day eating, drinking and unwrapping presents.

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We stay the night there, or at least the girls do, so when they are in bed the adults play board games late into the night.

Boxing day we go to the races at Kempton Park. If we can’t physically go we have the family round to our house and we ‘Host the Races’ in our living room.

This usually concludes our Christmas traditions. Hubby and I both get a little exhausted with it all and usually have the tree down by the 28th. Scrooge I know, but we don’t do anything for New Years Eve anyway now we have children (although I don’t think we ever really did). We are often asleep by midnight so our party season is over by then. Plus the sooner the tree is down the sooner the count down to my birthday can begin!

Does anyone share our traditions or have any good ones I can adopt?

5 Stages of Decorating the Christmas Tree

Each year we get a real tree for Christmas. I love it, the smell, the ‘full’ look and the fact that I don’t have to spend 30-40 minutes separating the fake branches. It does mean we wait a little later into December to get it so that the tree hasn’t lost all of its needles by Christmas day. When it comes to decorating it we usually wait for the girls to go to bed and then it is left up to me. Any by ‘left up to me’ I mean hubby helps unravel the lights and then stays out of may way because I can get a little crazy. I go full on ‘Monica Gellar’ with the decorating, everything has to be perfect. If money were no object I would hire a professional to come in and decorate it for me, but since I don’t live in Mayfair I shall crack on and do the thing myself! This year, however, much to my dismay Pinky is going to have to be included in the decorating process, she is so excited I don’t have the heart to exclude her, and besides, what harm could it do? Well only time will really tell but I’m hoping because I am expecting it I will be mentally prepared to deal with the inevitable emotional trauma my OCD is about to endure! In an attempt to ‘cope’ I have broken down the whole day into sections so I can take each one at a time.

Stage 1: Pick the Tree

  • Remember we don’t live in a mansion and put back the 9ft tree.
  • Accept that 6ft will probably still need trimming down, perhaps 5ft would be better?
  • Get the 6ft tree anyway which causes Hubby to become disgruntled; he knows he will be trimming it down.
  • Pay the staff and try and avoid the girls seeing all the sparkly decorations on sale, we have enough already!
  • Try and get the tree in the car, one day we will remember to put the seats down in advance.

Stage 2: Putting the Tree Up

  • Find the stand.
  • Hope that all the feet and bolts are intact from last year (there is always one missing!)
  • Start to unwrap the tree.
  • STOP!!! The tree is easier to put up if it is still wrapped.
  • Get hubby to hold the tree up so I can judge if it is straight or not.
  • Start tightening up the bolts.
  • Remember checking if it was straight was irrelevant because now the bolts have moved the whole damn thing anyway!
  • Readjust gently so it is actually straight.
  • Allow the blood flow to return to your arms and hands for a moment.

Stage 3: The Lights

  • Get the lights out of their box.
  • Allow Hubby to exclaim loudly that we both ensured last year they were ‘put away in a nice tidy manner so how on earth are they in such a f****ng tangled mess now?’
  • Assure him there is no such thing as a Christmas Light Imp that lives in the loft whos sole purpose is tangling the lights to upset p@*s him off.
  • Plug the lights in *fingers crossed.
  • Bugger! How do they not work!
  • Off to local supermarket for cheapest set we can find (this might be why they don’t work after a year).
  • Rush home to take lights out of the box. How do they pack them in so nicely? Take note of packing knowing full well I will never be able to recreate it… But I will try!
  • Plug in lights.
  • YES! They work, thank f@*k goodness for that.
  • Start putting lights onto the tree. Bottom to top/top to bottom, which is best?
  • Spend the next half an hour trying to make the lights look evenly spread and not all clumped at the bottom. Why are there so many there?

Stage 4: The Decorations

  • Get the biggest box of decorations known to man down from the loft (what in the name of Christmas is in here anyway?)
  • Forget it is nowhere near as heavy as it looks and nearly launch it through the roof as I pick it up.
  • Look inside and mourn the day I had to throw out my expensive glass ornaments once the children came along.
  • Quickly get over myself when I remember how much it annoys Hubby that I put a Tinkerbell fairy on top of the tree and chuckle cackle loudly.
  • Try and gently persuade a three year old that you can’t put all of the baubles on one
  • Nor can you put all of the gold ones together.
  • Or all of the red ones together.
  • No, Santa cannot sit on the reindeer decoration.
  • No, Mummy isn’t cross.
  • Yes, Mummy does like wine.
  • Fine! Put Tinkerbell on the tree!
  • Oh look at how late it is…. Time for bed!
  • Strip the tree of all decorations.
  • Pour second, ok, third glass of wine.
  • Start again.

Stage 5: The Finished Product

  • Look at how pretty it is.
  • Reward myself with a large Gin.

Thank you Hubby for staying out of the way, I think it saves our marriage every year 😉

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My Christmas Wish List

I wasn’t going to right a Christmas wish list post but after some consideration I thought I would. Whenever anyone asks me what I want I always claim I don’t know. This isn’t totally untrue as I often get caught off guard and in the middle of something. My brain doesn’t engage. I have always had lovely presents over the years and have never been disappointed but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t have got more use out of an alternative on some occasions. I hasten to add that none of this is aimed at Hubby. He has always excelled at Christmas presents for me. This is more aimed for him to read and to pass on to anyone who asks. We do Secret Santa in our family and this year I think my Mother in Law has me… I don’t know for certain but perhaps some of this will help her (or whoever actually has me). With that in mind I have tried to keep all ideas under the £30 limit that we have.

First up I really really want a Terrarium. I can’t keep plants alive no matter what I try. I think this is because I have a habit of forgetting to water them. Apparently that is vital to plant life? So with that in mind I think a plant like a succulent that required watering very occasionally I stand a fair chance of keeping alive. Plus having spent much of the past couple of weeks looking at them on Pinterest they look amazing! I have found one I really like on Amazon, plus they have kits with the stones, soil and plants to get you started.

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Mine will never look like this! £15.99
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£4.09
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£19.80
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£14.99

Next up I fancy some nice face stuff. I had a little tester of this Nuxe exfoliator a while ago and it was so luxurious. It left my skin feeling so soft and clean. I would definitely like some more for Christmas.

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£16

Every year I love getting slippers. I don’t have any at the moment as mine haven fallen apart. Generally I love a boot style slipper with nice fluffy insides. I don’t mind a pattern on the outside but not too much bulky detail like bows. Accessorize do my favourite slippers.

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Look at that pattern! £19
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Oh so soft! £17

One of my all time favourite beauty brands is Cowshed. I flippin’ love them! So no Christmas list of mine would be complete without a little something from them.

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£30

As a self confessed M.A.C addict it would be rude not to put a couple of their products on here that I want. Look at this green pallet! This turns from a powder to a creamy texture according to their description, which sounds divine!

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£25

I have wanted this make up pallet for a long long time now and always forget about it. I think I now prefer the green one but who wouldn’t be happy with this smoky eye kit?

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£25

M.A.C also have some gorgeous lip kits, I am more of an eye makeup person but on nights out (Haha! Yeah right!) I love putting on some lippy so its nice to have in the draw.

Everyone who knows me, will know that this Apron by Parent Apparel was made for me! (It totally wasn’t but wouldn’t it been cool if it was). This definitely makes my Christmas list.

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£25

So there is my Christmas wish list.  I hope I have provided some inspiration to someone.

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My Top 5 Family Christmas Films

I am a huge Christmas fan. I won’t lie; I start getting excited in September. I love Christmas shopping, even if I do it all online. I save all of my wrapping until Christmas Eve when I sit down with a Mulled Wine or Winter Jack and wrap all of the presents watching a Christmas film (or two). I have decided to compile a list of my top 5 festive films.

  1. Arthur Christmas (2011) (U). I only discovered this last year and it quickly went to the top spot in my rankings. This is a modern take on the Santa Clause story. Santa misses a girl on Christmas Eve and his son, Arthur, comes to the rescue along side a wrapping specialist elf, Bryony. It is so sweet, suitable for all of the family and with some modern twists and humour that will keep parents chuckling away. arthur_christmas_poster
  2. Home Alone (1990) (PG). Is there anyone who doesn’t know Home Alone? Ok, just in case… Kevin is a young boy who invariably drives his parents a little crazy. In the madness of trying to get about 20 people out of the house so they don’t miss their flight for their Christmas holiday, he gets forgotten. Whilst home alone over the festive period he protects the house from a couple of burglars, the wet bandits. Of course everything is alright in the end… Ooopps, spoiler alert! I love ‘Home Alone: Lost in New York’ too, but the original is the best.                                                          home_alone_poster
  3. Miracle of 34th Street (1947/1994) (U). I think I prefer the more recent version but that is mostly because I was always a huge fan of Richard Attenborough and his Santa performance was brilliant. This is a story about a girl who no longer believes in Santa. She meets a man who tries to convince her he is the real deal even though her mum told her Santa doesn’t exist. It is a lovely story that shows the importance of hope and having something to believe in no matter what age you are. mv5bmti3odezoda0nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmji1mjiymq-_v1_uy268_cr30182268_al_
  4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (U). This is such a lovely film with a message we all need to hear every now and again. A man who feels overwhelmed by everything in his life and a general waste of space, is shown what the world would be like if he had never existed. It shows him how he has touched so many lives throughout his time. We all need to feel valued and appreciated. It is easy to forget the impact we have on others when the daily grind gets us down. This film always puts a smile on my face.mv5bmtmzmzy5ndc4m15bml5banbnxkftztcwmzc4njixnw-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_
  5. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) (U). What is not to love? The Muppets, Christmas and utter silliness. The Muppets take on the Dickens classic is brilliantly funny, heart warming and addictive. I have lost count of the amount of times I have watched this film and now the girls love it too.                                                                                              muppet_christmas_carol

What are your favourite Christmas films? Have you watched any yet (shhh…we have)?

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The Night Before Christmas by Rose Collins: A Review

The Night Before Christmas is one of my all time favourite Christmas stories. Or poem to be exact. I actually bought the book for the girls last year but to be honest they weren’t as keen on it as I am. They do both love books, turning the pages, looking at the pictures, but being the modern day children that they are if it can be on a tablet or computer screen they are much more engaging! Plus Perky has developed a nasty habit of drawing in the books…. I’m sure she does it just to wind me up!

This e-book version has changed the girls reluctance to listen to the story. Each page is bright and colourful. There are only a couple of lines on each page so the girls don’t need to maintain their attention for too long before we move on. Having said that there is so much to see on each page it can take some serious persuasion to let me move on with the story.

We particularly love that the family are bears!

 

 

I’m so pleased I can finally share my love for this book with the girls and not have its words fall on deaf ears.  This is a remake written by Rose Collins, based on the original by Clement C. Moore.  Many of the words and phrases are more understandable by today’s language trends.  I have found this particularly useful in getting the girls to engage in the book.

All in all this is a brilliant e-book. It’s captivating and colourful, the girls can swipe through the pages at their own leisure and not rip them in the process…. or draw on them!

The e-book is available on:

Amazon Kindle

Apple iBooks

Barnes&Noble

Google Play

Kobo

Disclaimer: We were given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.