Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Festive Greetings

Belated festive greetings to one and all! I am now very happy to be back in The Lodge after a hectic week...

We helped my Mum move this van full of stuff from Cornwall to Kent:

We were lucky enough to get a wardrobe that matches ours that couldn't be accommodated (thank you Mum for the wardrobe and Dave for assembling it!)

I was really chuffed to come second in our cake competition at work with my festive yule log:

We had a bit of a disaster with a swollen door on our shed, which now means we can't get in to access our tool box, so the furniture we got today (to store yet more craft stuff!) had to be banged together with a saucepan:

And we spent Christmas with our loved ones, who appreciated their home made gifts:

Cloth bag for Dave's sister, with lovely fabric from Country Threads in Bath

Denim Kindle case, also for Dave's sister (tutorial to follow)

Christmas tree decorations

Flower brooches for my sister

Thanks to everyone for our lovely gifts- one of my personal favourites was this Mr and Mrs Christmas knitted by my Nan, thank you :)

Hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Craft Space Clear Out

We have now put up our Christmas tree, after much debate about where we could fit a 7ft tree in our little lodge (the answer is in the middle of the floor, blocking both the window and the radiator!)

What with the Christmas tree and all of the craft materials strewn around in a last minute gift-making panic, there's barely room for us in the house, so tonight, drastic measures were taken and I began the difficult process of parting with my lecture notes to make room...

Goodbye first year!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Pudding Truffles

I will start by saying that truffles are sadly not thrifty, but they are delicious and home made ones are certainly a lovely gift and much cheaper than their shop-bought equivalents. I have been making truffles for Christmas for a few years now, but this year I decided to stray into unchartered territory- Christmas pudding truffles (in look, not flavour, although that will definitely be next!)

I was quite pleased with the result, even if they were a bit fiddly and could have done with a flatter base so they didn't keep rolling away for the photos...

250g (8oz) good quality dark chocolate
175ml (6 fl oz) double cream
50g white chocolate
Green roll out icing
Red writing icing
+ A lot of patience

1. Break the chocolate up into a heatproof bowl
2. Heat the cream in a saucepan on a medium heat until its nearly boiling
3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has metled and the two are combined
4 Leave the mixture to cool (at room temperature for the first 15 minutes and then it can go in the fridge to speed it up a bit!)
5. Using a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out into small balls
6. Chill the truffles in the fridge for an hour. Whilst they are chilling, cut out holly leaves from green icing
7. Gently melt the white chocolate in a bowl over simmering water and carefully spoon over the top of the truffles
8. Stick the holly leaves in
9. Once the white chocolate has cooled, dot on berries with the writing icing

The truffles will keep for a few days in the fridge, or you can freeze them after step 5 if you want to decorate at a later stage.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Strawberry 'Bah Humbug' Sponge

This cake is a bit of a bah humbug to the Christmas puds and mince pies everywhere at the moment, but despite its summery nature, this is the brief for my third entry into the 'Cake of Your Life' competition at work for tomorrow. So if you fancy something a bit different for the cold winter evenings, then here is the recipe:

250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
1 and 1/2 tsps vanilla essence
4 large eggs, beaten
250g self-raising flour
200ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
Handful of strawberries to decorate (optional)
3 tbsps strawberry conserve

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5. Grease and line three 8" cake tins
2. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light and fluffy
3. Gradually beat in the eggs, beating well between each addition
4. Sift half of the flour into the mixture and gently fold in using a metal spoon or rubber spatula. Sift in the remaining flour and fold until just blended
5. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and smooth the top with a knife
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and well risen
7. Leave to cool and in the meantime whip the cream with 1 tbsp of icing sugar until it forms soft peaks
8. Spread the bottom two cakes with strawberry conserve and then whipped cream and sandwich together
9. Sift icing sugar over the top layer and decorate with halved strawberries

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Lick of Paint

I have set tonight aside for doing all of those things I keep putting off, like sewing buttons back on and filing the paperwork currently strewn over the desk. One of those things is to coat my trusty old Ikea magazine files in cream tester pot paint to make them match our red and cream living room a bit better:

As you can see, this is not their first re-modelling. I am a big fan of wrapping things in wallpaper/wrapping paper to jazz them up a bit (but for now I'm going all sensible and magnolia!)

In their rightful place with the Christmas monkey :)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Star Cookie Christmas Tree

This weekend saw the first attempt at the cookie Christmas tree, made using these cutters from Lakeland. We were really pleased with it and hope my step uncle, aunt and cousins are too!

Cookie Recipe

225g plain flour
Pinch of salt
100g sugar
125g butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
1-2 tbsps cold water
1. Sift flour and salt into mixing bowl and stir in sugar
2. Work in butter using fingers
3. Stir in the egg yolk and enough water to hold the mixture together, bring into a ball
4. Wrap and chill the dough in the frige for at least 30 minutes
5. Roll out onto a floured surface (to about 3mm thickness) and cut out shapes
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 180 degrees/Gas Mark 4

Lakeland use a different recipe on the back of the cookie cutter box, which also looks tasty. We cheated and cut the star icing out from some ready rolled icing for ease, but you could make your own to put on top. We then made a little base from a square of cardboard covered in foil and wrapped it up in cellophane to make it look a bit special:

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cocoa and Chocolate

Although I have been away from Thrifty Lodge blogging, I have very much been in my Lodge over the last week. I had a couple of days off and we had big plans to go on a road trip to Scotland, but decided this might be too overambitious, expensive and cold! So instead, I spent some blissful crafternoons working on Christmas cards and gifts (more on this later). I also had a bit of a clear out and came across these charming old JS Sainsbury Cocoa tins from 1995, which had been wrapped in tie-dye and used as pen pots by my childhood self:

As December looms tomorrow, I am determined not to spend much on Christmas this year, both as a matter of principle and because of our saving-for-a-mortgage-super-thrift-drive. Thrifty Christmas kicks off this coming weekend with my Step Dad's family, so we have started preparing some tasty Christmas goodies. I have to confess that I had nothing to do with the Christmas chocolates for my cousins below, as it was Dave was slaving away in the kitchen:

The moulds for these were found in a homeware store back home and have been well worth the investment (£1.50 a piece!) particularly when you get a bit creative with different types of chocolate as above. Now we just need to get them all wrapped up. There are lots of good chocolate moulds around, my favourites are these cute gingerbread men and candy canes, this one which has all kinds of different shapes and these tree ornaments, which could be used really creatively.

Above all, I am excited to make a cookie Christmas tree tower with our new set of cutters. I have been lusting after these ever since I spotted them last year, so I look forward to sharing the results soon!

Enjoy your first day of advent calendars tomorrow, here's ours all filled with little things and ready to be delved into:

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


As a nod to Dave's American heritage I have been doing some thanksgiving-themed cooking and craft!

We had our lovely friend Sean round for a big roast this weekend, and I made a rather tasty 'thanksgiving soup' with the leftover roasted veg and potatoes:

I then got out one of my favourite books- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (a gift from Dave's lovely American sister indeed) and made these very cute pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing:

I also had fun crafting some house moving cards for some friends who are moving in together, and for Dave's Mum, who moves house this weekend. Captain Sew was quite cooperative with the card, even if it was a bit tricky using rather stretchy (and prone to curled edges) t-shirt fabric:

This one was made using scraps of wrapping paper on card cut from a folder divider (good thrip!), very simple design but I like the colours:

Happy crafting and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Christmas Cards

It's that time of year again- time for getting out the glue and scissors and producing Christmas cards that look like they came back with a 3 year old from nursery school! So this year, I am determined to produce more sophisticated Christmas cards. This means less of the glitter and PVA and more...

Red card with pretty decorations cut from old gift tags:

Use of the craft knife to cut words with a background from recycled wrapping paper:

Not completely satisfied with either of these ideas yet, but maybe with some refinement (and a sharper knife) they could be good.

In the end I couldn't resist a few glittery ones...

Happy Christmas crafting everyone!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sparklers and Chocolate Brownie Cake

This week has been a bit of a blur so far and I haven't really found the time to focus on one project, so here are my various pursuits (and some photos from fireworks night too!)

Learning to knit:

Sneak preview of a project to finish later this week- mini reversible bags for the little cuties I used to look after as a nanny:

Cirencester fireworks display:

Sparklers in the garden:

I have been feeling rather blue today and promised myself I'd go to zumba after work, but I didn't muster the energy. However, I did manage to do some Pilates with my new favourite book- 15 Minute Everyday Pilates. I then rather ruined this effort and indeed my recent health kick by making this delicious chocolate brownie cake, still in my gym clothes... does that count as a workout?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pumpkin Costume

Are you in need of a last minute (and slightly ridiculous) Hallowe'en costume? Well you have come to the right place! This year, I decided I wanted to be a giant pumpkin and was going to inflict the same fate on my lovely friend Sarah, who had asked me to make her a costume. I headed to the Guildhall Market in Bath to pick up some bright orange dress lining fabric from the sewing stall there, which was a bargain at £3.98 for 2 metres. I then grabbed a ball of string and off I went.

1. Cut the fabric in half lengthways to make 2 'pumpkins' (if necessary).

2. Tuck a piece of string of equal length to the fabric into a pinned hem (about 3cm) at the top. Note- do not cut the string off of the ball yet, as you will not need a whole metre of string, but it makes it much easier to sew if it's of equal length to the fabric:

3. Holding the fabric taut with the string right at the top, stitch along to form a hem. Make sure you leave plenty of string poking out the end as below:

4. You can now decide how much string you need at the top by modelling your pumpkin. Place the pumpkin as desired (I had mine under my arms to leave them free, but you could just as well have it over the top of your arms and cut arm holes) and then gather up the pumpkin until it forms a full circle around you. Snip the string, leaving enough to tie the strings in a bow/knot to secure your pumpkin:

5. Knot the ends of the string and add a few stitches (Captain Sew didn't want to do this, so I quickly hand sewed mine) to stop the string getting lost inside the gathered fabric:

6. Repeat steps 2-5 for the bottom of the pumpkin.

7. You are now ready to join the sides of the pumpkin as you please- I tucked mine it to form a simple hem:

8. Try on your pumpkin, preferably with a green top and bottom half. Then stuff as necessary- you are now ready for any Hallowe'en party that may come your way!

This only took me 30 minutes per pumpkin, including some technical Captain Sew difficulties, as none of the sewing needs to be particularly neat. I was rather pleased with the result:

On another pumpkin-based note, we also made productive use of our extra hour today and carved a pumpkin just in time for Hallowe'en:

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!