Silent Sunday

A Christmas Message From Me...

Positively, The Best Christmas Ever

24 December 2012

This year I've been on a mission to make this the best Christmas ever. I'll probably say that every year to come. But this year has been about introducing traditions for our little family. At two and almost four years old, Oliver and Lydia are old enough to understand what Christmas is all about. But they're still young enough to start a few traditions that, hopefully, we'll follow for years to come. 

For us, Christmas Eve is almost as important as Christmas Day. We'll start by opening the last door on our advent calendar. Inside will be a chocolate coin each and a little note. The note says 'Open our Christmas eve surprise box'. I've been getting it ready for weeks and have picked up little treats whenever I've seen something nice. Oliver helped to decorate the wrapping paper but he didn't know what I was using it for. Inside are some Christmas socks for both of them, a light up spinning Santa toy, a lucky bag each, our reindeer food {home made with porridge oats and glitter}, some Santa chocolates, Christmas crackers, a Christmas book and a Christmas DVD. I absolutely can't wait to see their faces when we open it!

On Christmas Eve afternoon, we always to to the Christingle service at our local church. My parents, sister and nieces all go too. It's a lovely family service and everyone gets to make a Christingle candle and we sing some carols by candlelight. It's one of my favourite times of the whole festive season.

Before bedtime, we'll leave out a mince pie and glass of milk for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. Then sprinkle our reindeer food outside in the garden and finally hang their stockings in their bedrooms.

What family traditions do you have at Christmas?

Silent Sunday

My Week On Instagram

22 December 2012

It's been another crazy week here. But I'm happy to report that I've finally ticked off everything on my to-do list.

I've finished work {although I have to go in on the 27th & 28th... sob} All the presents are wrapped and have been given out or stashed at my parents house until Christmas Eve when I do my Santa thing. All the parties and concerts have been attended. The grocery shopping is done and has been delivered by our lovely Asda delivery man. And most importantly I've delivered the invitations for Oliver's birthday party. 

So now I can concentrate on relaxing, eating, drinking, baking and having fun with my wonderful little family. Here's a little montage of some of my Instagram photos from the past week...

my week on instagram
I had a fabulous time at my work's Christmas party which was held at a posh casino in Manchester. Gorgeous food, free drinks and a spot of roulette where I won £25... then lost it all!
I made a  chocolate cake decorated with Kit Kat's and M&M's for my lucky work colleagues. For our last team meeting of the year we had Domino's pizza for lunch and my lovely friend asked me to make this cake as an extra treat for everybody.
Oliver's nursery nativity was fantastic. He had one of the main roles as one of three grumpy cows in the stable.Whenever anyone wanted to come into the stable {shepherds, kings etc} they said 'You're not all coming in here are you' with hands on hips and grumpy faces. He was brilliant.
The darlings made some reindeer food for Rudolph and Co. They both took their jobs very seriously and very carefully stirred the glitter into the oats. I then bagged them up, tied with a bow and a cute gift tag. I've put them in our Christmas Eve hamper to bring out and sprinkle in the garden on Christmas eve.
I got the most amazing Secret Santa gift from work. A bottle of Bailey's biscotti flavour! Whoever bought it me must know me very well or had been listening into my conversations.
Hubby went out on his work's Christmas party so I enjoyed an evening to myself with a couple of mini mince pies, Irish cream flavoured extra thick cream and a huge glass of my new Bailey's.
Oliver made the cutest Christmas card ever at Nursery. I've entered it into a Children's Christmas card competition that we have at work.
I decided to have a go at making my own mince pies. I've never made them before, but I was inspired by Paul Hollywood making then on the Christmas special of The Great British Bake Off this week. I used the exact recipe that he used and they turned out great. I think I overfilled them so they were quite err... rustic looking, but taste yummy.

What has been the highlight of your week? Are you prepared for Christmas yet?

Silent Sunday

Our Christmas Tree

15 December 2012

We have a rule that we don't put up our Christmas tree or any decorations until after Lydia's birthday. So on Tuesday {the day after her birthday}, we got all the boxes out and Oliver and I put the tree up. He was a fabulous helper {for a nearly four year old} and he arranged the baubles very nicely on the tree. I wanted a change this year and have gone for red and white decorations on the tree. Since September I've been buying a couple of decorations a week. It might not be the biggest tree around, but I think it looks very pretty.
Oliver and I have spent lots of time this week doing some Christmas crafts together. We've made paper chains, paper snowflakes and these cute tree decorations. They were in a kit that I bought from Sainsburys. The pieces are all made of foam and are already pre-cut. All you have to do it peel off the sticky backing and stick them together. Oliver loved it and they now have pride of place on the Christmas tree.
On Wednesday we made some Christmas lanterns. I've been keeping hold of any empty glass jars and have loads in the cellar now. We painted the jars with PVA glue, then stuck on some white tissue paper all over. Then we stuck on our paper snowflakes and also some little glittery snowflakes. I tied some red and white twine round the top, popped in a tealight and hey presto. They look lovely on the windowsill with my new light-up Christmas tree. I want to make a couple more and have got a great idea for making them using washi tape.

So it's all looking really festive now and I love it. Only 11 sleeps until the big day and I think I'm even more excited than the darlings.

Lydia Is Two!

14 December 2012

Goodness me! Is it really a whole week since I blogged? As I said in my last post about Christmas stress, I'm just incredibly busy with a huge Christmas-related to-do list. There really aren't enough hours in the day to fit it all in, never mind blogging, which unfortunately has had to take a back seat for the time being.

On Monday my beautiful Lydia turned two. Two years old! I can't believe it. She's still my baby even though she's an independent, headstrong little girl now.

We had a lovely little family tea party at home. I was really happy that I had enough time to make the wonderful pink layer cake and everyone loved it. I think it was my most impressive cake to date. It was a bit of a giant cake so I took half of it into work the next day.

pink flower birthday cake

pink layer cake

She got some lovely presents. Her favourites were the sweet wooden tree house from her Oliver, hubby and I, and a pink scooter from her grandparents.

 I also made some Christmas tree chocolate brownies. I saw them on Pinterest a while ago and really wanted to have a go as brownies are one of my favourite things to make. When I had finished them I put them on the dining table and told the darlings not to touch them. A while later Lydia came into the kitchen chewing something. I asked her what she was eating and she said 'balls'. The little monkey had been picking the Smarties off and eating them! Luckily the icing hadn't set so I stuck some more on.

chocolate brownie christmas trees

My to-do list is looking a bit healthier now with lots of tasks ticked off. I still have to finish wrapping some presents and need to deliver them to my friends. I really want to make a gingerbread house but I'm not sure if I'll have time. And I've got another two nights out next week. Even more importantly, Oliver's birthday is 12 days after Christmas so I need to get my backside into gear ans start organising things for that - I haven't even sent out any invitations yet!

Christmas Stress

7 December 2012

I'm feeling a lot of Christmas related stress at the moment. There's just so much I need to do before Christmas. Presents need wrapping. A gingerbread house needs baking and assembling. Cards need delivering. Chocolate brownie Christmas trees need baking. Home made lanterns need making. Salt dough tree ornaments and gift tags need making. Old toys need putting on Gumtree to make space for new ones. And it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. 

I've had two Christmas nights out this week and I'm absolutely knackered from relatively late nights. Plus I've got four more parties/meals to attend before Christmas *collapses at the thought of it all*

On top of all the usual Christmas stuff, it's Lydia's 2nd birthday on Monday. We're having a very small family tea party and of course I'm baking the cake. I was planning on making a pink rainbow cake but don't know if I'll have time now so it might be a regular sponge cake instead. I haven't wrapped her presents yet. And I need to make some owl bunting too.

There's a lot of list making going on. I love lists at any time of the year but they're essential right now. I need to keep everything in my head organised or it would just explode!

On a more positive note... I've managed to fit in two trips to Costa coffee with my Oliver and Lydia. I flipping love their lattes so I've been dying to taste their festive flavours.

Oliver and I popped into Costa on Thursday {after shopping for a dehumidifier!} and I tried the Pralines and Cream latte. It was nice and I especially liked the cream on top but it tasted a bit too 'nutty' for may liking. Oliver loved his chocolate babychino and gingerbread Christmas shapes.

Lydia and I had a girly shopping trip into town today for a few more Christmas pressies. All that shopping tired us out so we headed to Costa for a sit down. This time I had a gingerbread latte which was absolutely gorgeous! It just tasted so festive. Lydia and I also shared a chocolate orange torte {also gorgeous!} and a gingerbread reindeer.

How do you feel about Christmas? Organised or not? Stressed or relaxed?

The Gallery: Colour

5 December 2012

On Saturday, the darlings and I, along with my sister and nieces paid a visit to Father Christmas in his spectacular grotto. Just look at him! Isn't he just the best Father Christmas you've ever seen? Even I thought he was the real deal.

In typical forgetful mummy fashion I forgot my mobile so couldn't take any photos. But my sister saved the day with her brand new iPhone and took some brilliant photos. I'm going to write a full post about our visit ASAP but until then, here is my favourite photo....

The Gallery: Colour
I absolutely love all the festive colours at this time of year. Santa's coat is such a vibrant red and all the colours in his grotto are so warm and festive.

So I'm linking up with THE GALLERY at Sticky Fingers blog where the theme this week is COLOUR. Please pop over to say hello and looks at all the other lovely colouful posts.

My Week In Pictures

3 December 2012

I wasn't planning on blogging tonight. This evening was reserved for writing my Christmas cards. But then the Hubby decided he just had to watch a certain football match on TV {it looks very unexciting to me!} So here I am with the laptop, using it as an excuse to get out of writing cards... one of my most dreaded pre-Christmas tasks.

I think I need to look back on some of my photos from this week to cheer myself up after a hellish day. Lydia is poorly and we've had two nights of hardly any sleep. It started on Saturday with her suffering with a big back tooth cutting through. Yesterday it turned into a cold, cough and high temperature. It felt like she coughed non-stop all night {Hubby ended up sleeping on the sofa so he could get some sleep!} so I took her to the doctors this morning who said it's a virus so there's nothing they can do. She's been a nightmare all day because of the lack of sleep. She's over tired and miserable which has sent her a bit loopy with tantrum after tantrum... and boy is she the queen of tantrums! She was in bed at 6.30pm this evening so keep your fingers crossed for a better night for us all tonight. 

In between all this miserableness, I'm still so grateful that I've got {relatively} healthy children. You see, my friends 21 month old son son was recently diagnosed with cancer. He's been having chemo for the last few weeks and had an operation on Thursday to remove two thirds of his liver. I saw her this morning and she said after a couple of bad days following his op, he's now sitting up, smiling and asking for the TV on! Bless him. My God, it just makes me so grateful to have healthy kids and I really shouldn't complaint about Lydia being poorly.

Anyway, enough of the whinging. We actually had a lovely week so here are my photos from Instagram...

my week in pictures
~ I finally got my phone camera working so that it faces you {hope you know what I mean!} so I took a few pictures of the darlings and me ~

~ I finished my home made advent calendar just in time to open it on 1st December. I'm so proud of it and Oliver and Lydia love it ~

~We went to visit Father Christmas on Saturday. He was the most fantastic Father Christmas I've ever seen, in fact I think he really was the real thing! ~ 

~ Oliver and I made some chocolate chip cookies on Saturday afternoon. I used a new recipe {thanks Nigella!} and they were the yummiest cookies ever. The cookie dough was just as delicious ~

~ All that baking tired Oliver out. He just had to have a lie down on the sofa - dressed as Spiderman of course ~

~ I bought Lydia a new onesie.  The first time she wore it, I kept going upstairs and looking at her sleeping in her cot, she's never looked more cute. And just look at her gorgeous curls! ~

~ I won a prize! The lovely Amanda at City Girl Gone Coastal did a giveaway of some Christmas bits and pieces on her blog. This morning I received some gorgeous Christmas bunting, two lovely handmade heart decorations and some little wooden cut outs. Love them ~

~ Last but not least, hubby offered to do the shopping this week and he came home with LARD instead of butter!!! ~

Christmas Craft: Home Made Advent Calendar

30 November 2012

Do you remember my post a couple of weeks ago with loads of DIY Advent Calendar Ideas? Thank you to everyone that commented and left links to calendars you've made. It was fabulous to see all your handiwork. 

Well, my home made advent calendar is now finished. Just in the nick of time because it's the 1st December tomorrow. And I love it!  I can't believe it's actually just as I imagined it would be. I think as far as DIY advent calendars go, it's very pretty.

Inside each box there are two treats {small chocolates, sweets etc} and in some boxes there is also an activity for us to do that day. The activities are mainly for Oliver's benefit as Lydia doesn't really understand Christmas yet. Oliver loves making things and helping me to bake so there are lots of activities for us to do together.

Here's the list of our activities: 
Visit Father Christmas {1st}
Write a letter to Father Christmas {2nd}
Post your letter to Father Christmas {3rd}
Make paper snowflakes {5th}
Go to see Santa’s reindeer {8th}
Make Christmas lanterns {9th}
Put up the Christmas tree {11th}
Make Christmas tree decorations {12th}
Make paper chains {13th}
Go to the cinema {15th}
Make Christmas cookies {16th}
Make reindeer food {21st} 
Watch a Christmas film {22nd}
Make door hangers {23rd}
Open Christmas Eve hamper {24th}

Lydia's birthday is on 10th December {is my baby nearly two years old already?!} so we have a rule that we don't put up our tree or decorations until after her birthday. 

It might be a little late for you to make one for this year. But here's how I made it anyway.

You will need:
  • A blank canvas
  • Paint for canvas {I used some leftover emulsion paint that I found in the cellar}
  • Two paintbrushes
  • 24 small cardboard boxed with lids
  • Scrapbook paper in various colours and designs {or you could use Christmas wrapping paper}
  • Scissors
  • Craft Glue
  • Hot glue gun
  • Printable numbers {that I found here}
  • Washi tape
Give your canvas two coats of paint, letting the paint dry completely between each coat
Build the boxes up {if they are 'flat pack' like mine were}
Measure and cut out 24 squares of paper from your scrapbook paper
Using the craft glue, stick the scrapbook paper to the lids of your boxes
Print out the numbers
Cut out each number or if you've got a circular punch of a similar size use that to save time
Glue the numbers to the lids using the craft glue
Arrange the boxes on the canvas and try to space them out equally
Glue the boxes to the canvas. I used craft glue but I think a hot glue gun would make them more secure.
For the finishing touch stick a strip of washi tape round the edge of the canvas.

I've just shown it to Oliver and his little face lit up and he said 'Wow! Did you make that Mummy?' Bless him. After all my hard work it's lovely to see how much he loves it. Lydia hasn't seen it yet but I'm sure she'll love the chocolates inside each box. Even Hubby was impressed {and it takes a lot to impress him!} he said it looks as good as one you'd buy in the shops!

Have you ever made your own Advent Calendar? 
Please feel free to share a link to your home made advent calendar, I would love to see them.

For My Children

I saw this yesterday and just had to share it. I say this to Oliver and Lydia every night. Oliver now says it back but adds on that he loves me to the clouds, rainbows and aeroplanes! Lydia has only just started saying 'love you' but it sounds more like 'bob you'!

Christmas Craft: My Hand Made Cards

28 November 2012

Yes my home made Christmas cards are finally finished. It's taken a while. I had to make them in two stages. I did the Christmas tree bit then had to wait for the gold card and star punch to arrive. I must admit that I really enjoyed making them. It's nice to know that I'm giving cards to family and friends that have been made by my fair hands! 

My inspiration for the cards came from these Washi tape Christmas cards that I found on Pinterest a few months ago. I think I had just discovered Washi tape and came across the design while looking for ideas for how to use it. My regular readers will know that I'm obsessed with washi tape. I've used it before to make cards, my favourite was this washi tape bunting card that I made for my parents wedding anniversary.

These Christmas cards were actually very simple to make. If I can make them anyone can! I'm not mega crafty so like to keep things simple. So here's how you make them...

You will need:
A6 size card blanks
Washi tape - various designs and colours
Gold card
Star shaped punch
Sticky foam pads - 5mm wide & 2mm thick
Rubber stamp and ink pad

{I used red and green coloured tape but these would still look lovely in any colour of tape that you have.}

Tear the largest strip of Washi tape and stick it on the blank card about 4cm from the bottom. Tear another strip of tape in a different design and slightly smaller than the previous one and stick it above the first strip. Repeat this two more times with different tape, making your strips slightly smaller each time, until you have four strips on your card in a Christmas tree shape.

Now tear off a piece of tape about 2cm long and stick vertically at the bottom of your tree to make the trunk.

With your punch, stamp out a star from the gold card. Stick the foam pad to the back of the star. Then stick the star onto the top of the Christmas tree on your card.

Using a rubber stamp, apply the ink to it and stamp in firmly in the inside of your card blank.

Voila. Cute, simple hand made Christmas cards!

I'm really happy with how they look. I think they're simple but modern. Now I just need to start writing them. Unfortunately that's one of my least favourite jobs to do at Christmas. But it has to be done or no one will get to see all my hard work!

Do you make your own Christmas cards? Feel free to

My Week On Instagram

27 November 2012

Well the last week was another busy one for the 'My Darlings and Me' household {hence the lack of blogging that I always feel guilty about}. Preparations are well under way for Christmas. I'm currently obsessed with introducing lots of new traditions for our little family so we can have the best Christmas ever. I had a brilliant childhood and my mum and dad always made Christmas so special and magical... which is what I want to do for Oliver and Lydia.

I squeezed in a spot of baking of course. Last week it was my turn to host the team meeting at work {the host has to bring in goodies for the team to eat!} so I made some chocolate brownies and rocky road crunch bars which went down a treat.

Anyway, hopefully my lovely Instagram photo montage will give you an idea of what we've been up to.

My Week On Instagram

~ We kicked off the countdown to Christmas by visiting our village's Reindeer parade ~

~ I made some mini bunting which will go on our Christmas tree ~

~ We had fun playing with glow sticks. We made them into necklaces, bracelets and
Oliver loved his giant earring! ~

~ Lydia had a tummy bug so I had a few days of cleaning up sick, non stop washing but lots of cuddles ~

~ I finished off making my Christmas cards... very pleased with how they look ~

~ We had lots of fun on a shopping trip to the Trafford Centre in Manchester ~

~ Their decorations are amazing and Oliver was fascinated by the massive Christmas tree
 that has a face on it and sings Christmas songs ~

What has been the highlight of your week? How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Next Dress For Christmas Competition

26 November 2012

Jane of Northern Mum and the lovely people at Next are holding a competition to put together the perfect Christmas day outfit for you and your family. 

I like to get dressed up on Christmas day. I always make an effort to look nice and buy something new or wear something I've bought for the party season. And of course I love to get the darlings dressed up too. I've already bought a dress for Lydia which is pink and sparkly and I need to find a smart shirt or jumper for Oliver. I've got a new little black dress and Hubby will be in jeans and t-shirt as usual!

What incredible fun I had putting together our outfits! Now I know what a fantastic job Stylist's have. For the first time, I wished I had more kids so that I could have put together more gorgeous outfits. So without further ado, here are our perfect Christmas day outfits.

{ Blue Contrast Panel Shirt from £12, Carrot Fit Chinos from £9,  Cable Crew Sweater from £11,  

How cute is this outfit for Oliver? He would look fab in the shirt with the aubergine coloured jeans... very trendy. I added the jumper in case he got a bit cold {which I doubt would happen as he's always running round at 100mph} The coat looks lovely, warm and snuggly. Last but not least the shoes. I have actually got to go and buy those shoes for him!

{ Pink Sequin Dress from £15.50,  Bow Pocket Shrug from £10, Corsage Shoes from £12, 

Ok, so there's lots of pink here but I just couldn't resist. It's sparkly, shiny and girly. I could just see Lydia in this ensemble on Christmas Day. The only problem would be that she's so messy. She'd have something spilled down the front of it within 10 minutes! I saw a little girl wearing the coat today and it's even more pretty than the picture.

{ Khaki Wool Blend Double Breasted Jacket £85, Graphic Sweats Navy New York from £25,   

Hubby's not a very dressy-up bloke so this outfit would be perfect for him. This was the most difficult outfit for me to put together. I was tempted to dress him up a bit, but I know he wouldn't be comfortable so went for something he'd like. He'd like all these pieces and would look very handsome on Christmas day.

I'm loving purple at the moment so this dress caught my eye straight away. For a party I'd wear it with back tights and the sparkly heels. But for Christmas day I'd like to dress it down a little with some black leggings and long boots. And isn't the coat just gorgeous... it's got my name written all over it!

This Christmas is going to be the best ever! I'm slightly obsessed with building traditions for our little family. So now I'm feeling all festive so I'd better go and finish off making our advent calendar, Christmas cards, paper chains, salt dough decorations, mini Christmas bunting, cakes, cookies and truffles!

Silent Sunday

Christmas Craft: Mini Bunting

20 November 2012

My obsession with Washi tape continues to grow at an alarming speed. It's really addictive. You can never have enough! I've just ordered three more rolls... a purple spotty one, a silver one with white stars and a red one with the words Merry Christmas on!

Obviously there's no point buying it all without using it. I've used it to make my Christmas cards {post coming soon}, I've made a few Birthday cards, I've covered my work notebook with it and I use it to wrap gifts and make gift tags. I've seen pictures all over Pinterest of mini bunting made with Washi tape and I've been thinking of having a go for a while. I thought that using red tape would look really festive and would be great to put on our Christmas tree. 

It was incredibly simple to make and took me about half an hour. All you need is:
  • Red and white twine
  • Washi tape in 3different colours or designs
  • Scissors
Cut a 2 metre length of twine. Tear your washi tape into 7cm pieces. You will need approx 25 pieces of each colour of tape. Fold the piece of tape around the twine and stick together. Cut an inverted triangle at the bottom of the tape to make the chevron shape. Continue with all the pieces of tape and space them about 3cm apart.
I think it looks really pretty around my mirror actually. I think I'll leave it there until it's time to put it on the Christmas tree. Our tree is smallish but if you've got a big tree you might want to make a couple of them and of course you can use any colour of washi tape and twine or ribbon to match your Christmas colour scheme.

Do you share my addiction to Washi tape? I'd live to hear about your projects {Christmas or otherwise} using Washi tape.

Kicking Off Christmas

19 November 2012

According to the Christmas countdown widget on my phone its 35 days until Christmas day. Is that all?! I can no longer deny that Christmas is coming crashing round the corner. I do love Christmas though and its a million times more magical now that I've got two little people to enjoy it with. So yesterday we kicked off the countdown to with a Christmassy day of fun. 

First we went to see the Reindeer parade through our village. It's organised by the garden centre which is where father Christmas and his reindeer head to open his grotto there. Last year we stood at the start of the parade and they passed us so quickly that we almost blinked and missed it. So this year we went to the garden centre to wait for the big man to arrive which proved to be a much better place.

I gave up trying to get a nice photo of them after these two!
We had a brilliant view of the parade arriving and I thought Oliver was going to burst with excitement when they passed by us. Father Christmas went into his grotto so we went to have look at the reindeer. Lydia doesn't quite understand it all yet {well she's only 23 months old} as she was shouting 'hello Santa' at the reindeer!


As if that wasn't enough excitement, that evening we went into town to watch the Christmas lights being switched on. And the 'celeb' of choice was the lovely Mr Bloom from Cbeebies. The darlings both love Mr Blooms Nursery, they were so excited to see him in real life {so was!} I must admit that he was brilliant. He did a mini show to keep the little ones occupied until the switch on and even threw in a few funny lines for the adults. Father Christmas even made an appearance again {what a busy guy!}

So we had a fab day kicking off Christmas. And I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that Lydia fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow. 

I'm joining in with the Country Kids linky over at the Coombe Mill blog. Please pop over and see all posts about the outdoor fun with the childen.

Apple Upside Down Cake

17 November 2012

Ok so this isn't the prettiest cake I've ever baked but it's flipping delicious.

Oliver asked to do some baking with me yesterday afternoon. I didn't fancy making anything chocolately {for a change!} and didn't have much in the cupboards apart from basic baking ingredients. So I had a flick through a few recipe books for some ideas and came across this one. I had some apples and all the other ingredients so this was it.

Apple Upside Down Cake

I timed it perfectly so that the cake was just coming out of the oven in time for dinner. So we all had a warm slice topped with custard and it was incredible. I personally think it would be delicious served with a blob of whipped cream!

Apple Upside Down Cake

Apple Upside Down Cake

Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 30-35 minutes
Serves 8

2 eating apples
50g butter, cold & cubed
50g light brown sugar
1tsb ground cinnamon

125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125ml milk
1tsp vanilla essence
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g self raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180C {350F} Gas mark 4. Grease the base and sides of a 20cm {8") round cake tin. The tin should not be loose-bottomed or springform.

Peel and core the apples. Cut into 5 rings {or slices if you like} and arrange in the bottom of the tin, overlapping if necessary. In a small bowl mix together the diced butter, sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle the mixture over the apple rings in the bottom of the cake tin.

Using an electric hand whisk beat the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy. In a jug whisk the eggs with the milk and vanilla essence then pour half into the butter/sugar mixture and whisk until fully combined. Add the rest of the egg/milk and whisk again. If the mixture starts to curdle add a little flour and mix again. Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and whisk until they are fully combined but don't overmix.

Pour the cake mixture over the apple rings and spread evenly with a spatula. Pop in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the cake is golden and firm to touch. Give the tin a gentle shake and if the middle of the cake still looks wobbly, it's not ready so give it another 5 minutes and try again.

Leave the cake in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I'm linking up with Foodie Foto Friday hosted by Helen at The Crazy Kitchen. Pop over and say hello and take a look what everyone has been cooking and baking this week.

DIY Advent Calendar Ideas

15 November 2012

Last night I finished making my Christmas cards.  I actually had fun sticking, punching, stamping  and folding! Remember I'm not the craftiest person around so don't expect a masterpiece but I'm really happy with how they look {I'll reveal them in a post very soon.}

Now I need to make a start on my next Christmas project which is to make our advent calendar. I'd better get my skates on as it's only just over two weeks until 1st December. Once again, Pinterest has given me the inspiration for making it. I really wanted something that we can use year after year... as long as it doesn't fall apart! I wanted something a bit different from the usual chocolate ones. Yes ours will definitely have some chocolate in but I'm going to put other things in too. Like little notes for Christmas activities we can do together in the countdown to the big day.

Anyway I've got a good idea of what I want to make. I've spent ages on Pinterest looking for inspiration so I thought I'd share my favourite ideas for DIY advent calendars in case you fancy making one yourself.

Source: via Debra on Pinterest

I think there's plenty of inspiration here so why not have a go. Some of them look incredibly simple and easy so even the most craft-shy person could have a go.

Right I'd better make a start right now!

Have you ever made your own advent calendar? Do you put chocolates in it or activities?