My Prestige Christmas Hamper!!

Hello! Recently the very kind people at Prestige Hampers sent me a luxury Christmas food hamper to review,  how cool and more importantly kind is that?! Even though it is the middle of November and some people may deem it too early still, I am very much in the Christmas spirit already. Whether that might be because this is my first year out of many I won’t be working in retail and I won’t have the pleasures of irate Christmas customers during the most wonderful time of the year or just because I am a great, big kid when it comes to this time of year.

I love everything from hunting for the right present for a loved one, going to Christmas markets munching on sweet, roasted chestnuts and daydrinking mulled ciders and wines. The dark winter nights aglow with fairy lights and candle lights too, and snuggling by the fire with a hot chocolate in hand watching some feelgood Christmassy films. In my household Christmas has always been such a lovely time of year and I am eternally grateful to my parents for raising me with some cherished memories over the festive period. We always have a lot of family time and enough food and drink to make a King jealous as do a lot of families all around the world I’m sure so with that in mind that’s why I think a food hamper would make an excellent gift at Christmas. Well at anytime of year really but Prestige Hampers do an amazing selection perfect for any occasion and also would suit anyone from your parents, your tricky in laws, that friend that already has one of everything to the colleague who has gone above and beyond for you. You don’t need me to recommend who to give it to, you get the gist!

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Blogger Recognition Award

Good morning my delightful little pain au chocolat’s I hope you’ve had the most wondrous of weekends and are settled in and enjoying this brand new week. You may have noticed I am a brilliant mood at the moment and to top off my ever glowing mood the very lovely Erika nominated me for the Blogger Recognition Award and I squealed seeing I’ve been tagged. So thanks a BILLION. If you have a spare moment or two I’d really urge you to check out Erika‘s blog; I love reading her posts or catching up with what she’s up to on Twitter or Instagram.

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So the Blogger Recognition Award was made for bloggers by the bloggers. It’s basically a great way to celebrate, champion and let other bloggers know that you appreciate and are a fan of their hard work. If you are on twitter and follow the drama surrounding the blogging world and circles you may have seen a lot of drama erupting over the last couple of months or so. There has been a lot of bad business where a small few can let the side down a little and make it a more uncomfortable, catty place to be. There are some who are only blogging to get numbers, followers and freebies which is a great perk but if that’s the only reason you’re doing it then you might be in it for the wrong reasons! Before I ramble on and on for the rest of the night I’ll explain a bit more about the rules of this one.

  1. You have to write a blog post thanking the person that nominated you.
  2. Explain your story on how and why you started blogging.
  3. Share two general pieces of advice to other bloggers.
  4. Nominate fifteen other bloggers and let them know you’ve nominated them too.

Continue reading “Blogger Recognition Award”

I made homemade body scrubs.

I probably spent FAR too much time and money on my skincare and beauty regimes. I’m thoroughly getting into the crafting mood thinking about what I can make or bake next and after an afternoon out shopping and spending a ridiculous amount at Lush I tried my hand at making my own body scrubs. For some reason I thought it would be really quite difficult but I honestly couldn’t be farther from the truth with that. I was so, so shocked at how easy it was and also how much money I’ll be saving from now on. If Lush go into administration you can entirely blame me for no longer buying their Rub, Rub, Rub salt scrub. All you need to create your own concoctions are:

  • A sugar or salt. You could you any kind depending on what you want so you could really personalise it to you or even someone you’re gifting it too. Fine, course, maybe even himalayan pink sea salt if you want to make it look nice and pretty. Brown sugar, caster sugar, demerara, once again it’s all completely down to you and your preference.
  • A base oil. Coconut,vitamin E oil, olive oil, jojoba, sweet almond oil, wheatgerm, avocado oil are all really good options. They are all really nourishing for the skin, available in most health food shops or online too and all have a neutral scent so wouldn’t overpower your scrub with a strong smell.
  • An essential oil or something similar to add some scents or even colour to your scrub. Things like herbs might make for an interesting addition, freshly chopped mint, lavender or even rose petals. Rose would look lovely with a pink himalayan salt. I used coffee grounds to make a lovely coffee scrub. It helps reduce the appearance of cellulite so I think I might start bulk making it and selling it off!

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I had these four mini mason jars I originally bought from Ikea with good intentions to do something creative with but they were unused and I filled them instead. You could use kilner jars you can buy pretty much anywhere, bargain shops do them for a relatively cheap price. Old jam jars that have been washed out would look really cool and kitsch.

I made four different flavours or scents if you will. As tasty as these smell, I’d probably recommend against eating them!

I made a coffee scrub. Filling half the jar with brown sugar and the remaining half of coffee grounds I then poured that into a bowl. I did it like that so I knew it would definitely all fit in rather than making waaaaay too much. I poured the coffee/sugar mix into a bowl and then added a tablespoon of coconut oil until I got the consistency I wanted.

I also made a gingerbread scrub. Inkeeping with the christmas theme on my blog at the moment this would also make the perfect gift at christmas for those also keen on clean beauty and skincare. I used the same principal as with the coffee scrub but I filled the little jar up full of brown sugar. Pouring it into bowl with some ginger essential oil, cinnamon essential oil and a dash of star anise. mixing that altogether I poured it back into the jar and screwed the lid on tight.

Switching it up a bit I thought for my next two I would use a course sea salt base instead. Sea salt can be a bit more vigorous so using that in a body scrub would help with shifting dead skin cells and also helping to shift toxins from the body. Rubbing it in, in a slow circular motion helps to get the blood flowing reducing the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite as well as removing the toxins from the body.

I used sea salt with some coconut oil, a few dashes of some spearmint essential oil and some finely diced mint leaves from the garden.

For my last and final scrub, I added some lavender essential oil to sea salt and coconut oil. I wanted a runnier consistency for this one as I love applying it to my hair. It helps with repairing the hair shaft and it leaves it feeling so silky, smooth. It sounds mad I know, but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

 

 If I knew just how easy it was to make these beforehand I would have been wailing it from the rooftops. Scrubs like this are usually fiendishly and wrapped with a nice bow and a tag would make a lovely present for a friend for Christmas. Or even yourself, I’m sure you deserve it a whole heap more!

My easy Christmas chocolate cake!

I cannot stand Christmas pudding or Christmas cake, I’m not sure if that’s an unpopular opinion but I’ll be sure to close the door on my way out if so. Baking or buying a Christmassy pud for me used to be a bit of a struggle but I think a lot of supermarkets are catering for a much wider range of people these days so chocolate Yule logs are up there as an atypical part of the Christmas day diet as much as the humble pig in blanket. Strange to refer to that in singular terms who would eat just one? Not me that’s for sure! Gimme gimme more of that delicious sausagey bacon-ness. SOMEHOW sidetracked by the bacon thoughts getting back to the point, I wanted to be able to make something that was both as much good to look at as it is good to eat for a Christmas baking idea for this Christmas feast as food is just as much for the taste as it is for the instagram. After spending some time speaking to Carrie from Branded 3 and also perusing over Pinterest ideas I spotted a pretty cool chocolate cake idea made to look like a Christmas pudding.

As mentioned in my previous post on here, I’ve been working with Branded 3 and a company called Provident financial on how to budget for christmas and perhaps find tips or tricks on making or baking things for the festivities to make life that little bit easier and also save a few extra pennies too which is always a bonus. I’ll leave a link to their page here, they feature some great posts and ideas both from themselves and articles from other bloggers on how to save some monies for Christmas. Whether that be on how to budget, baking something or making your own cards or decorations. I think that extra added homemade touch can make all the difference. Plus if you have or know young children, they can be made into fun activities for them to keep them busy too! What’s not to love?!

Back to my beloved cake, I stuck to a Mary Berry recipe for this one. I love Maz Bez and I hate dry cake sponges at the best of times but chocolate sponge is the worst for drying easier. However this recipe makes it so so easy and I’ve always had a succulent (dare I say the dreaded *moist* word) and fudgy recipe every single time.

For the cakes you will need:

  • 2 20cm 8inch deep cake tins.
  • 175g self raising flour.
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder.
  • 100g softened butter.
  • 275g caster sugar.
  • 50ml milk. I went with semi-skimmed simply because that’s the one we had at home but you could use any substitution.
  • 3 large eggs.
  • 6 tablespoons boiling water.
  • 50g sifted cocoa powder.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and grease and line the two baking tins. This bit always makes me feel super prepared and hands on like I should be on a cookery show although I make a lot more mess.
  2. Start by mixing the boiling water and the cocoa powder in a large bowl (I used my Mum’s kitchenaid for this it’s a lot easier to use a stand mixer as it takes out a lot of the hardwork!) blend it together until it’s a smooth paste like consistency/
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients until the mixture forms a thicker batter.
  4. I use a ladle to evenly distribute the mixture into the two cake tins as I find it a little easier doing it that way.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the cakes feel firm, spongy or when bounce back when pressed with a finger. Leave the cakes to cool completely before applying the next layers.

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I was really happy with how my little cakes turned out. They were both even in colour, texture and height, thus making it all a lot easier when it comes to sandwiching them together.

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When they were cooling I took them out of their tins and started to think about how to layer the cake. Checking which side had the flatter or more even surface to become the base as you can see above.

Once leaving them to cool I got on with the beautiful task of washing up. That’s the laborious parts you don’t see on Nigella of her singing along to radio 2 and washing up her old pots and pans, because that’s the end of an episode I would wait and watch for. I also emptied all the Malteasers I bought for this recipe into a large bowl.

I covered the cakes in a homemade ganache but if you want to make life easier for yourself the store bought tubs of chocolate icing work just the same.

To make the ganache you’ll need:

  • 250g good quality dark chocolate. I used an 85% one. I love dark chocolate and the bittersweet flavours.
  • 235ml double cream.
  1. Cut the chocolate up into fine pieces and place into a bowl. At the same time put the cream into a saucepan and bring to a boil, careful not to burn it.
  2. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk it til it’s smooth. If you want a thicker ganache leave it to cool completely and then whisk it again til it becomes fluffier and thicker. If you like it runnier and thin then as soon as it is cooled pour over the cake from the centre working outwards.
  3. I will say however if you are planning on sticking the Malteasers on the cake like I did you will need a thicker ganache.

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I felt like adding a touch of decadence so used a silver cake serving plate I found at home and iced it on that. I blobbed a small dab of ganache to the place and then put the bottom layer on top of it which’ll secure the cake, sticking it down in place a little. The ganache is thick, rich and chocolatey and everything you’d want for a decadent treat.

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I used 3 bags of Malteasers to the cake starting at the bottom and slowly going round and round the cake until it was all completely covered. It was very fiddly and would require a little bit of patience (Also, not easy in acrylic nails may I add)

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Using some white fondant icing which I rolled out and cut using a knife in a wavy pattern to give the appearance of icing dribbling off of a christmas cake. I used some green fondant icing to make holly leaves too. If fondant icing is not for you, if you don’t like the sweetness (like my stepdad) or if you don’t want to add it, dusting some icing sugar over the cake would have the same impactful look.

This recipe is honestly one of the easiest and most straight forwards recipes I’ve followed. It leaves no room for anything to go wrong so you can’t really! It makes for a really gorgeous centrepiece if you’re throwing a party as it looks really impressive AND looks like you spent a long time and a lot of money on it too! I was super impressed with this bake and will be sure to make it again for the festive period.OH did I mention it was totally mouthwateringly delicious too?? I’ve said Christmas so many times in this post I’m sure i’ve summoned Michael Buble to wake from his year long slumber, but that wouldn’t be such a bad thing now would it ladies?

Working with Branded 3.

I was approached by the ever so lovely Carrie who is one of the PR gurus and all round wonderwoman working at a company called Branded 3 towards the end of September about working alongside themselves on sharing my handy hints, tips and tricks on homemade crafts to make the Christmas period that little bit easier. They even sent me this lovely Christmassy care package as a kind gesture and their way of saying thank you (and also getting me straight into the Christmas spirit in October. Apparently it’s still not socially acceptable to be singing christmas tunes then? I heart Boney M what can I say? Plus I’m dying for a white fur coat they all wore in the Mary’s Boy Child music vid…Just me?

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This was the very kind parcel of joy they sent me one dreary friday afternoon. A biscuit that made me feel like a sheriff saying ‘thank you Abbie’ on it. A hexagonal marble white coaster with an A for Abbie inscribed onto it. A very delicious smelling Yankee Candle perfect for christmas in a fruity, cranberry spice scent. And a tesco voucher to help with the planning and preparations for what I’ve planned with them.

Christmas is very often a stressful time of year for a lot of people, whether you’ll be overworked and underpaid over the festive period, catering for your whole entire family even that cousin of yours who has a new intolerance and allergy every family occasion picking something else for you to cook off of your not so secret A La Carte menu but of course. Shopping for loved ones, well Christmas shopping is an experience in itself, leaving it til last minute and buying everyone random giftsets from the local health food shop because THERE IS LITERALLY NOTHING LEFT IN BOOTS and hoping they appreciate the random purchases and have perfected their I-didn’t-want-this-gift-but-am-going-to-give-it-the-once-over-say-oooooh-i’ve-always-wanted-this face. Or being that annoying smart arse who takes great pleasure that they have already bought and wrapped their gifts for everyone this year in July 2010.

So i’ve compiled a few different posts that’ll be appearing on here today on simple ways in which you can craft your own Christmas. I’ve made a homemade Christmas chocolate cake that would make the perfect centrepiece, easy homemade chocolate bark which you could customise as personalised gifts or even just to treat yourself. And homemade body scrubs, which could also make a lovely gift or an even lovelier treat for yourself.

There’s something quite nice about receiving a present that is homemade and crafted. Knowing that person went to the time and effort to make you something possibly a little bit different and not something you’d see everyday or even get as a present. More and more people I know are opting to making someone something over buying this year and I’d like to think I’ll be able to show you just how easy it is and how impressive it is too!