A Homemade Christmas with Crafty Projects and Food Recipes. From Christmas Tree Decorations to Mulled Wine.

A lovely Christmas featured post, brought to you by Simply Be.

It’s that time of year again when Christmas is nearly upon us.

Many of us are getting ready to stock up on luxuries, gifts and decorations.   Oranges, nuts and much more sit happily in shop windows, while boxes of cakes, chocolates and figs make their way into shopping trolleys across Britain.

It’s all about making Christmas your own and not necessarily spending enough money to keep the country afloat for the next year.  There’s no better way to keep your money in your pocket than getting a bit crafty in the kitchen and with the decorations.

Lets have a look at some nice and easy craft and food ideas that you can do at home to save some pennies.

 Crafts

 Christmas tree decorations

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Ideal for both kids and adults, these decorations will give your tree a real old-fashioned Christmas look, and provide hours of festive entertainment for the whole family.

You will need:

-          Some card

-          Coloured felt

-          Chalk

-          Safety scissors

-          Needle and thread

-          Glue stick

-          Glitter, sequins and any other decorations you’d like

-          Ribbon

Step 1: Take two pieces of felt and one piece of card. Place them on top of each other and, using the chalk, draw out your chosen Christmas design on the top piece of felt. You could make lots of different shapes, such as trees, angels or stockings.

Step 2: Once you’ve drawn your design, hold the felt and card together and cut around the outline so that you have three identical shapes, two with felt and one with card.

Step 3: Place the card in between the two pieces of felt, and sew around the edge. You could use gold or silver thread to make it extra sparkly!

Step 4: Use the glue to decorate your design with glitter, sequins, or even other felt shapes to create an applique effect.

Step 5: Take a piece of ribbon, cut to the desired length and sew the ends to your decoration, before hanging on the Christmas tree to shine among the fairy lights!

 “Santa, Stop Here!” sign

Make a colourful decoration for your window or garden to put out with the children on Christmas Eve – you could even get the kids to leave a carrot next to it, to lure the reindeer in!

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You will need:

-          A panel of thick card

-          Christmas wrapping paper

-          Coloured card

-          Coloured pens or paints

-          Glitter, sequins, felt shapes, or any other decorations you can think of

-          Safety scissors

Step 1: Cut your thick card down to the size and shape you want, and then wrap it up in your wrapping paper.

Step 2: Glue the coloured card to the centre of the wrapped thick card. Using pens or paints in festive colours, write a message to Santa, such as “Santa, stop here!” or “Santa, this way!” You can find some great templates for writing your message here.

Step 3: Decorate your sign with glitter, sequins, or felt Christmas shapes.

Step 4: Leave somewhere Father Christmas can see it – but not until Christmas Eve!

 Christmas Food Recipes

 There’s something incredibly satisfying about making your own Christmas food – the whole family can enjoy making it together, and your finished products are often just the thing for handmade gifts, Secret Santas and last-minute parties – for kids and grown-ups alike! Here are just some of our favourites.

Mince pies

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The ultimate in Christmas cuisine, there really is nothing that beats the humble mince pie. Who doesn’t note their “first pie of the season”? Making them should be a shared experience; taking turns adding ingredients to your mincemeat mix and arguing over who can make the best pastry is as satisfying as sitting back with a cup of tea and taking that first indulgent bite. Ours is a variation on a Delia classic, made the day before you need them, complete with a foolproof pastry recipe that will softly crumble and melt in the mouth.

Ingredients

Makes around 1.4kg

 Mincemeat:

-          225g Bramley apples, cored and diced into small cubes

-          110g vegetable suet (or even beef, for a slightly richer flavour)

-          110g sultanas

-          110g currants

-          175g raisins

-          110g mixed candied peel

-          175g soft dark brown sugar

-          Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

-          Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

-          25g almonds, sliced into slivers

-           ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

-          Pinch ground nutmeg

-          1tbsp brandy

-          1tbsp Irish whiskey

-          1tbsp dark rum

Step 1: Combine all the ingredients except for the brandy, whiskey and dark rum in a large, ovenproof bowl, and mix thoroughly (if you have little helpers, this is the time to employ them!). Once fully mixed, cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave somewhere cool for around 12 hours.

Step 2: The next day, pre-heat the oven to 120C (100C for fan ovens). Cover the bowl loosely with tin foil, and bake the mixture for about three hours.

Step 3: Take out of the oven and stir well. Stir occasionally for the next hour, as it cools. The shredded suet will have coagulated – don’t worry about how it looks, it will encase all of your other ingredients and lock in all the flavour!

Step 4: Once fully cooled, add the three spirits as generously as you like (our measurements are a rough guide!) and stir well. Your mincemeat is now ready to use, and can be cooked with immediately or will last for another year or so if packed into sterilised jars.

Pastry

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Enough for 18-24 pies

 Ingredients

-          225g cold butter

-          350g plain flour

-          100g golden caster sugar

Instructions

Step 1: Rub butter into flour with your hands, working quickly with your fingertips.

Step 2: Mix in caster sugar and a pinch of salt.

Step 3: Combine into a ball with your hands, and knead briefly. It should be fairly firm. You can use this straight away or leave in the fridge for later.

Making your mince pies

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 You will need:

-          Your mincemeat

-          Your pastry

-          1 egg, beaten

-          Icing sugar, to dust

 Step 1: Preheat oven to 200C (180C for fan ovens). Line two muffin trays by pressing a walnut-sized ball of pastry into the bottom of each hole, ensuring the surface is fully covered.

Step 2: Spoon about a tablespoon of mincemeat into each pastry case.

Step 3: Take slightly smaller balls of pastry and pat them down into a large circle with your hands, then place as a lid onto each pie. Apply a little pressure around the edge to seal the lid to the base.

Step 4: Brush beaten egg over the top of each pie, then bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool, then remove to a wire rack. Using a sieve, dust icing sugar over them just before serving. Don’t forget to try one while they’re still warm!

Peppermint Creams

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Makes 3-4 dozen

Excellent bite-sized treats, just right for satisfying those Christmas sugar cravings and easy enough to whip up in a hurry!

Ingredients

-          450 icing sugar

-          1tbsp milk

-          ½ tsp peppermint extract

-          1 egg white

Instructions:

    1. Sieve icing sugar into mixing bowl and mix in peppermint and egg white. If the mixture seems too thin, add some more icing sugar.
    2. When the mixture is thick enough, knead it and sprinkle with a little more icing sugar. Roll out and cut into small, 1-2 inch thick squares.
    3. Leave for 10 minutes, then turn sweets over.
    4. Leave for another 15 minutes before serving or gift-wrapping.

Mulled wine

A toasty treat on a cold Christmas Eve, mulled wine is the ultimate comforter. This recipe will also fill your home with delicious Christmas aromas, and is ideal if you have friends coming over!

Ingredients

-          1 bottle red wine

-          60g Demerara sugar

-          1 cinnamon stick

-          Pinch grated nutmeg

-          1 orange, cut in half

-          1 dried bay leaf

-          60ml sloe or damson gin

Instructions:

    1. Slowly heat the wine in a saucepan with the orange, sugar, bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg. Keep simmering until sugar has completely dissolved.
    2. Taste-test and add more sugar if desired.
    3. Take off the heat and stir in the sloe or damson gin before serving in heatproof glasses. The warmer the better!

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