I tasted mulled sloe gin for the first time on Saturday (in Pizza Express of all places) and it was all kinds of awesome. I’m a huge fan of sloe gin anyway (here’s my post on how to make your own sloe gin), plus I’m more than a little partial to mulled wine at this time of year, so the combination of the warmth and spices of mulled wine with the kick of sloe gin was a total winner.
I immediately wanted to make my own, but I couldn’t find a recipe that seemed similar to what I’d tasted – the mulled sloe gin I tried was full of berry fruitiness, which is what I’d loved so much about it. I decided to experiment and here’s what I came up with..
450ml cranberry juice
450ml cloudy apple juice
75ml red grape juice
A couple of slices of lemon
A couple of slices of orange
3 cardamon pods
3 star anise fruits
2 sticks of cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp sugar (optional, and can add more as desired)
1 x shot of sloe gin (if you don’t have homemade, shop-bought would be lovely too)
1. Put the cranberry, cloudy apple and grape juice into a saucepan together with the lemon and orange slices and all the spices. If you prefer a sweeter taste, add the muscovado sugar, too. Cover, and simmer on a low heat for at least 20 minutes (I left mine for about 45 minutes).
2. Pour a shot of sloe gin into a glass, and then add around 200ml of your mulling liquid. For a non-alcoholic option, the mulled apple, cranberry and grape juice is really yummy without the gin.
3. Finish with half a slice of lemon or orange.
Our Christmas this year is going to be a relaxed affair. For the first time ever, it will be just the four of us on Christmas Day, at least until Ben leaves for work just after lunch, and then we’ll be down to three. Ben working is the reason we are keeping Christmas as low-key as possible, but instead of feeling hard-done-by about him working over the holidays (and the third Christmas Day in a row), this year I’m ok with it. It has its benefits. We can eat whatever we want, when we want. We can get dressed when and if we like (I like getting dressed up for Christmas, but it may only be for a couple of hours before I put my pjs back on). And we’ll be seeing family the weekend before Christmas and on Boxing Day so we’ll still get to celebrate with loved ones.
Come Christmas Day, I’m picturing a slow start, the twins’ unwrapping their stockings in bed, some easy breakfast nibbles, opening presents from under the tree and then a leisurely brunch. If the weather’s nice, the twins and I may join friends for an afternoon stroll before holing up for the rest of the day, playing with new toys and watching Christmas telly (I’ll definitely have my festive pjs back on by that point).
This cosy, simple and comfy approach to Christmas this year has had an effect on my decorating plans, as you can see by my Scandi-style Christmas inspiration Pinterest board. It’s all natural textures, comfy materials and simple decorations. Twinkling fairy lights in abundance and glowing candles add that warm, inviting, magical feel, without going all-out to dress the house up to the nines. Oh, and a real Christmas tree, but that’s a given. Christmas isn’t Christmas for me without that wonderful tree scent and beautiful branches.
Notonthehighstreet.com set me a Christmas styling challenge to recreate the look from my Pinterest board in my home using their products as part of their #NotJustTinsel Christmas campaign. I’ve taken the chance to give our bedroom a cosy makeover, with a subtle nod to Christmas – exactly how I want to decorate our house for the holiday season this year. Our blue bedroom wall has never felt as relaxing as I hoped it might, so we’ve swapped it for a lovely soft grey (Dusted Moss 2 from Dulux), which has made the room feel so much calmer. Now onto the key styling elements…
LINEN BEDDING What a luxury – honestly the most comfortable thing I’ve ever slept under. Pure bliss, and just right for lazing on Christmas morning. You might be hard-pushed to get me out of bed at all, to be honest. I also love the texture that the softly crinkled (hurrah, now it no longer matters that I can’t bring myself to iron bed linen) material adds to the room.
FESTIVE PLANT DISPLAY Plants have become such a big part of how I dress our home, so I wanted to create a little festive display. The planters add a contemporary feel with their monochrome, graphic designs, and again introduce a variety of finishes and textures, from the matt of the stoneware pots to the gloss of the acrylic moose planter.
DIY LIGHTBOX As soon as I saw the DIY letter lightbox I knew it was a must for our home – it’s modern and fun and we can update it depending on the occasion or season. It’s also a nice contemporary touch in amongst some of the more vintage and rustic elements.
NATURAL TEXTURES The seagrass basket, wool blanket, linen bedding and stoneware pots, together with things such as the rustic pine cones and houseplants, create interest and depth. I think without these textures the room could feel quite cold with its grey wall, but instead it feels inviting and comfortable.
What are your Christmas plans and do you have a theme in mind for your festive decorating? Maybe yours is the same every year – sometimes I wish I was that consistent! I like to think that this simpler approach to Christmas will be one that endures for our family – it definitely feels more ‘us’.
: Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots :
“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”
November’s Styling the Seasons challenge was a little bit different to usual. Teaming up with Emily Quinton from Makelight, this month it’s all about the seasonal flat lay. Now I have done a few flat lays (images of things laid flat, shot from above) on Instagram, but it’s not something that I think comes naturally to me. Like Katy, I’m not that comfortable with ‘whimsical’ either, such as scattering petals in a beautiful way, I think mainly because I’m quite impatient. I’ve also got a strong leaning towards the practical, and so a lot of what I take pictures of is ideas-based, rather than necessarily being pretty for pretty’s sake.
And so I kept putting off setting up a flat lay, convinced I wouldn’t find something that could sum up November in a way that was meaningful to me, rather than trying to emulate the styled beauty of other people’s photographs. Then I was making myself a cup of coffee yesterday afternoon, and, thinking about how good it smelt, and how much I love the quiet moments when I sit down with my hot, sweet coffee and take some time out, I suddenly felt inspired.
November has seemed relentlessly dark this year. At times it’s been hugely frustrating as I desperately wait for enough light to take photographs, but I realise that part of me is really drawn to it, to0. Sometimes the invitation to hibernate as the evenings draw in feels very welcome. I was totally smitten with the dark linen curtains in the cabin we stayed in in Normandy, and decided to replace our white cotton living room curtains with charcoal linen for the winter months. I’ve used one of these curtain panels (from Urbanara) for my flat lay background, and I’ll share more photographs of them once we’ve hung them properly.
My grandfather’s pocket watch (I think it was his father’s, or even grandfather’s before him) is included in my flat lay as a nod to how November has flown by. Seriously, where did it actually go? It seems like one minute we were starting the month, and the next we’re about to welcome in December and I’m not ready! I haven’t got outside enough, haven’t got everything done I wanted to achieve, have always felt like I’m fighting to keep up. Forgotten appointments, unfinished projects, abandoned to do lists.
Maybe I should just stop fighting it, and embrace the slower pace until I’m ready to surface again.
I am now known as ‘poo girl’. An enviable moniker, I’m sure you’ll agree. And the reason for my impressive title? The huge quantity of bags of reindeer poo and snowman soup that I’ve made to sell at the twins’ school’s winter fair for the last two years. I’m not taking the credit for the original idea – Pinterest came up trumps yet again – but I thought I’d share my take on these festive treats. Not only are they great for selling at a school fair, they also make fantastic stocking fillers, or little gifts for visiting kids over the the holiday season.
SNOWMAN SOUP: These are a bag of ingredients to make a couple of mugs of warming hot chocolate. I put in 50g drinking chocolate (bag this separately in a smaller cone cellophane bag, 16 x 22cm, so it doesn’t spill out to cover the other elements), about 20g chocolate chips (to make it extra chocolatey), and 20g mini marshmallows. All this goes into a 16 x 30cm cone cellophane bag. I use metallic twist ties for easy sealing (you need to seal the small bag of drinking chocolate as well the main bag), but if you were only making a few I’d finish them off with some lovely ribbon.
REINDEER POO: This causes great hilarity for the kids (and a small amount of consternation from confused parents). You can use any chocolate treat – Maltesers, Revels etc – but I favour chocolate-covered raisins because their less uniform shape means they look more like droppings! I just put around 30g raisins in a 7.5 x 12.5cm cellophane bag, and seal them shut with a couple of staples (or you can buy self-seal bags).
LABELS: Last year I faffed about with brown Kraft adhesive labels, but this year I went for a simpler (and cheaper solution). I used the labels template on Microsoft Word, but printed onto brown card instead of labels, and then used a guillotine to cut them out. A quick hole punched in the snowman soup labels meant those could be threaded onto the twist ties, and the reindeer poo labels were just stapled in place when I sealed the bags.
I’m linking up with this month’s #CreateMakeShare – read more about it and how you can share your creative ideas here.
One of my absolute favourite things about blogging is the inspiration I get from other bloggers or Instagrammers. And that’s why I’m super-excited to announce a new collaborate project with Anthea from ZingZingTree and Emma from Kids Craft Room to help everyone share their brilliant creative content. #CreateMakeShare will be co-hosted on all of our blogs and will provide a place for you to share links to anything you’ve created over the last month. If you created and made it, you can share it.
How to join in
To share your posts, all you have to do is visit Growing Spaces, ZingZingTree or Kids Craft Room and add your link to the form below. You can link to your blog post if you have one or an Instagram URL if you don’t have a blog. If you’re sharing on Instagram, just add the hashtag #CreateMakeShare.
Whether you’ve blogged about a great sewing project, shared a delicious recipe, got crafty one afternoon or finished a fantastic DIY or makeover in your home, #CreateMakeShare is all about providing a platform for you to share anything creative you’ve been working on, and give you the chance to see what other creative folk have been up to. Add more than one link if you fancy – it just means more great stuff for us to explore. Do click and explore the links other people have shared – getting idea and inspiration from others is what it’s all about, and if you see something you love, leave them a comment. Let’s encourage and support each other.
If you fancy you can link back to us by either using the badge or a text back link (if linking a blog post) and use the hashtag #CreateMakeShare on Instagram so we can all see your lovely shots. You can connect with us here on IG: Anthea, Emma, Heather
Get featured There will be a theme each month. You don’t have to follow it, but Anthea, Emma and I will pick our favourite posts that have used the theme, so it’s worth checking what that month’s theme is. We’ll share our favourites on our blogs, across our social media, and also add them to our Create Make Share Pinterest board.
This month’s theme is CHRISTMAS (it couldn’t really be anything else, could it?) and the linky will be open until the 14th December (#CreateMakeShare will start and end in the middle of each month). I for one can’t wait to see what you share.
In my Urban Jungle Blogger’s plant shelfie post earlier this week, I talked about how I seem to be moving away from the use of bright colours in my decorating schemes, favouring more neutral tones. But I also realised that I am using a lot of vibrant green in our home, because almost every surface has a houseplant on it (as you can see on our living room shelves). This is rather handy, as green is one of the biggest trending colours of the year (maybe because of the surge in interest in plants in the home). Those lush greens that succulents and other indoor plants offer can add an accent shade that doesn’t jar, and grouped together they almost create a whole feature wall of colour – Marie Friis’s amazing shelves above are a perfect example.
It’s got me thinking about other ways that I could work green into our home in a way that doesn’t overpower, but instead complements the neutral backdrop I’ve been leaning towards creating.
1. KITCHEN SPLASHBACK
Our kitchen has a colourful tiled splashback, and although sometimes I find myself wishing for something more neutral, the tiles are a focal point and most of the time I love the vibrancy they add to the space. I think that colours such as blue or green are quite easy shades to work – you can mix them with brights for a more energetic look, or you can pare them back with greys, white and taupe. I love these emerald green tiles above – they add real depth and character.
2. STRONG BUT SOFT
Mellow greens such as sage sit very comfortably with neutrals and have a soothing feel that works well in a bedroom where it’s all about relaxation. You don’t have to dilute the shade – these colours can still feel quiet and restful, even when they’re strong. I love how the bedside table has been painted the same beautiful earthy green as the wall behind in the bedroom above – it really pulls the look together.
3. PAINTED FURNITURE
If, like me, you tend to favour a neutral backdrop (I like white or a very soft grey), then painting a piece of furniture can be the perfect way to introduce some colour without interrupting the overall feel. I’ve got a couple of pieces that are crying out for a lick of paint and I’m wondering if green might be the way to go.
4. LIMIT TO WOODWORK I do love contrasting woodwork and I am determined to do it in our home at some point. Doesn’t the leafy green used on the doors and skirting in the hallway above really bring the space to life?
5. PAIR WITH LIGHT FLOORS
There’s no missing the vivid green in the dining space above. With a darker floor, this space could feel quite gloomy, but the white wash laminate lifts it so it feels light, bright and modern. Vinyl flooring is a great option for a space like this, as it comes in so many different designs and shades.
How do you feel about green for decorating? Are you inspired by any of the looks above, or will you be limiting your greens to those that grow in pots?
This post was written in collaboration with Carpetright, but the ideas and views are all my own
I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since the last Urban Jungle Blogger’s plant shelfie. Back then I shared pictures of some colourful geraniums and DIY plant pots on our kitchen shelves but this year the colours are a lot more pared-back. This seems to be an approach that’s reflected all around our home at the moment, as I move away from lots of bright colours, favouring more muted tones of off-white and sand against a bright white backdrop, with hits of dark, dramatic shades such as black or deep blue.
And then of course there are the vibrant greens that the houseplants all over the house bring. They add warmth and life to the softer colour palette. I had fun re-styling my office shelves at the weekend to include a few of my favourite plants. Both the bowls are new additions that I picked up on our recent trip to France – the earthy one was from a junk shop, and the black and white one came from a little gem of a shop we came across in a town called Douvres-la-Delivrande. I’m as good with plant names as I am with people’s (ie. utterly useless), so I’m afraid I can’t tell you what any of these are called – please do feel free to let me know in the comments below if you have a better knowledge than me.
I’ve worked on Ideal Home’s Complete Guide to Christmas – a standalone magazine, dedicated to all things Christmas – since 2012. I edited the 2012 and 2013 issues, and have been a contributing editor for the 2014 and 2015 issues. Ideal Home’s Complete Guide to Christmas 2015 is out now, and it’s absolutely packed with great ideas for Christmas. I commissioned the very talented stylist Sophie Martell to style the 18-page lifestyle story – we wanted an elegant rustic look with lots of layered neutrals, an abundance of foliage and beautiful homemade touches.
I found the most amazing location house for the shoot – Forest House in West Sussex – a beautiful black-clad house in the forest (complete with deer running through the trees). It’s now my ultimate dream house – all gorgeous panelled walls painted soft, muted shades. We shot the story back in April with brilliant photographer Joanna Henderson, who was an absolute joy to work with.
Two small people you may recognise are the stars of the lifestyle story. The twins came along for their first ever day’s modelling, and they did a marvellous job (I may be a little biased). If you can call drinking hot chocolate, throwing artificial snow around, and opening presents a job, really? They were absolutely thrilled to see themselves in print, and have both taken a copy of the magazine into school for Show & Tell.
I was also responsible for the craft story that features later in the magazine (p62-73), which includes 15 Christmas craft ideas I made for the shoot, from wreaths and garlands, to gift wrap ideas to table decorations. This was shot in south London with a photographer that I’ve wanted to work with for ages – Polly Eltes, and I’m so pleased with the set of pictures that we produced together.
Ideal Home’s Complete Guide to Christmas 2015 is out now, so make sure to pick up your copy for some Christmas inspiration.
It’s one of our go-to snacks and something I make for the kids at least twice a week. But apparently making your own popcorn at home is becoming a thing of the past. Our local Sainsbury’s (a large superstore doncha know) has stopped stocking popcorn kernels due to a lack of demand, as consumers opt for readymade bags of popcorn instead.
This makes me sad. I remember making popcorn as a child. That crazy rush to get the lid onto the pan once the corn started popping, or taking the lid off too early and showering the kitchen and myself with popcorn. One of my earliest memories is my mum making me a bag of popcorn to cheer me up after I burnt my finger on the iron when I was about five or six. Making your own popcorn at home is super-easy and super-cheap. A bag of kernels costs just £1.29 for a 500g bag* – less than a single 70g bag of readymade popcorn, so it’s easy to see how much money you can save by cooking it yourself. It’s a healthier alternative to crisps – air-popped and eaten plain, popcorn is a healthy whole grain food that’s high in fibre. It’s one of the staples of our weekly shop, and is a must-pack essential when we go camping.
You can use a popcorn maker but I never do – I just put the popcorn kernels in a large pan (you need one with a lid), add a splash of oil (I use rapeseed oil), and place it on a low heat on the hob. Give the pan a shake every minute or so to make sure the kernels don’t burn. I wait until the first kernel pops before I (or usually one of the twins) place the lid on the pan. Once the popping stops, take it off the heat and it’s done. The kids love to get involved when we cook it – their excited squeals when they hear that first, sudden POP! never fail to make me grin.
We add a small sprinkling of salt to ours (or I like a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar for a sweet and salty flavour, or cinnamon sugar because I’m obsessed with cinnamon). We could make ours even healthier by air-popping it in the microwave (place the kernels in a paper bag and microwave on high until the popping stops). But we don’t have a microwave, so..
So while a bag of gourmet popcorn is a nice treat that I often buy myself if I’m out and about, I’d hate to think that popcorn kernels might become something kids don’t recognise. Part of the pleasure of popcorn is hearing it pop – homemade popcorn rocks, so don’t stop popping!
There’s some exciting video news I can’t wait to share with you soon – half term and a nasty bout of tonsillitis has rather messed with my video mojo but I’ll be returning to YouTube soon with some fun-packed (and informative, of course) videos shot from home. I can’t wait to get filming again. If you have any subjects you think I should tackle in one of my vlogs or a burning interiors question or debate you’d like my take on, do let me know – I always love hearing your ideas and suggestions.
In the meantime, you may have seen me in some videos that I shot with Dunelm Mill back in September to celebrate their #HiberNation campaign (such a fun few days of filming!). These videos are all about getting your home ready for the colder months, so if you’re looking for some advice about cosying up this autumn do head over and check them out. I even agreed to be filmed wearing a teddy-bear onesie (which I can reveal is possibly the most toasty thing I have ever worn) – something I would never have imagined would happen when I started shooting videos. Here are the all-important links…