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?

Brown Paper Gift Wrap

14 November 2012

Last week was the birthday of one of my closest friends. It was also her daughter Kiera's 8th birthday a few days later. So what a fantastic opportunity for me to practice making some handmade gift wrap using all my new craft bits and pieces. 

Thanks to Pinterest I'm a bit obsessed with brown paper gift wrap. I've got a whole board dedicated to brown paper! I think it looks lovely customised with washi tape, ribbon, raffia, twine, doily's, stamps... the list is endless. 

My friend's present was a cute scented candle from Ikea. It was a bit tricky to wrap due to the shape of it. I could have done with a box to put it in but didn't have one so just did my best with the wrapping. 
I used bright spotty washi tape to fasten it. Then I folded a white doily around the base and secured it with more washi tape. To finish it off I tied some multi coloured raffia around it. I also made a matching gift tag {sorry I forgot to take a photo of it!} made from a manilla gift tag with a small piece of doily and matching spotty washi tape stuck across the front.

I bought a pretty party set for Kiera which had lip gloss, hair clips and a bracelet in it. I used a rubber stamp and red ink to stamp her name all over a sheet of brown paper.

I wrapped the present with the paper and secured it with red spotty washi tape. Then I tied a double length of 3mm red satin ribbon around.

I also made a matching gift tag with a manilla gift tag. I stamped Kiera's name on it and stuck a piece of matching red spotty washi tape across the tag. I also replaced the string with ribbon which matched the gift wrap.

I was so pleased with how both the gifts both looked. As you can see they were both easy to make. They were really pretty and I think Kiera will love the personalised wrapping paper.

Do you make your own gift wrap and tags? Or do you like to buy pretty wrapping paper? Do you love or hate wrapping presents?

Mars Bar Cupcakes

13 November 2012

If you take a look at my cupcakes or cakes/cookies pages, you'll see there are a lot of chocolate recipes. Regular readers will know that I'm a total chocoholic. I inherited that trait from my Dad. Both hubby and I love chocolate so the darlings have no chance really do they?! 

 Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, we had a cake sale at work. Yes, we do have a lot of cake sales at work. But I'm fortunate to work with a load of brilliant bakers and we seem to raise loads of money for whichever charity we are supporting. I made chocolate orange cupcakes at the last cake sale and they sold out in 3 minutes. I was so chuffed! 

 This time I wanted to stick with the chocolate theme but do something a little different. I don't want to be known as a one trick pony. So I used my favourite recipe for chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting but decided to fill them a secret pocket of delicious caramel  and top them with a piece of Mars bar. VoilĂ ! Mars Bar cupcakes.

Mars Bar Cupcakes

Makes 15
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 20 minutes


80g unsalted butter, softened
280g caster sugar
200g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
1 tblsp baking powder
 1/4 tsp salt
240ml whole milk
2 large eggs

400g icing sugar
100g cocoa powder
160g butter, softened
50ml whole milk

397ml can of Carnation Caramel sauce

To decorate
3 Mars bars

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F) Gas Mark 5. Line two muffin tin with paper cases.

Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and butter in a bowl and beat with a hand-held electric whisk on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together in a jug, then slowly pour about half into the flour mixture. Beat to combine then turn the mixer up to medium speed to get rid of any lumps.

Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture {scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a spatula}. Continue mixing for a minute until the mixture is smooth. Don't overmix though.

Spoon the cupcake mixture into the paper cases until two thirds full. Pop them in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until the cake bounces back when touched. If you insert a skewer into the middle of the cake it should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cook slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack.

Now make the frosting. Beat the icing sugar, cocoa and butter in a bowl with a hand-held electric whisk on medium speed until the mixture comes together and is well combined. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Add the milk to the butter mixture a little at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for about 5 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. The longer you beat the frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will be.

When the cupcakes are cold, spoon or pipe the frosting on top. Finish with sprinkles or sweets of your choice.

Exploring The Park

12 November 2012

Yesterday was the perfect day to get some fresh air with a nice Autumn walk. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and it was lovely and fresh. Although Lydia had been poorly on Saturday, she seemed much better on Sunday morning {apart from a worrying moment after breakfast when I thought she was going to start throwing up again!} so we decided to pop over to Beaumont Park in Huddersfield.

We go there lots but usually make a beeline for the top part of the park where the playground is. This time we went in the opposite direction and found ourselves in the deep dark woods! The footpaths wind all over the place and every few metres we encountered steep old steps going up and down. We found lots of old arches and caves too that the darlings loved. We also discovered the site of the park's Victorian refreshment rooms which sadly were demolished in the 1960's but a few walls and chimney stacks still stand.

The best discovery of all  was the old gates to the park. The intricate cast iron gates are built into an old castle style wall with a walkway over the top. The turrets are covered in moss and flowing vines and look quite spooky. Hubby and I were more excited than the darlings! 

After the exertion of climbing all the steps {hubby carried Lydia up and down too as they were too steep for her!} we had a rest in the playground while the darlings had a play and Oliver made some new friends!

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.