Tuesday Tutorial: Jewellery Picture Frames

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I actually first made these to display my jewellery in at a pop-up shop I was exhibiting in, but once I’d brought them home I thought they’d just be perfect for keeping my own collection all tidy! I have a beautiful big jewellery box, and a big hat box that’s crammed with jewellery too, but despite all that my things invariably end up strewn across the fireplace in the bedroom!

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I have my flavours of the month, then they get buried underneath the next favoured few, and before too long I’ve forgotten what I have! This way though I get to show off several pieces at once, keep them all de-tangled and then just swap them back into the jewellery box when I want a change!

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These are super easy to make, and only took me moments. They’re cheap to put together too (I made them using bits and bobs I already had at home!) and don’t take any special skills!

What you will need:

  • Picture frames (broken, or with the glass and backing removed)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Small cup hooks
  • Drawing pins
  • String
  • Mini pegs
  • A bradawl tool, if you have one, or something sharp and pointy if not! (Please be careful!!)
  • White tack or picture nails

How to make:

1. Along the top edge of your tallest frame, measure the inside edge and mark out where you’d like each hook to go using the pencil

2. Using the bradawl, start off a hole at each mark

3. Screw your hooks into the holes, ensuring they all end up facing the same way

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4. Along each side edge of another frame, measure out and mark with a pencil where you’d like a string to cross, leaving a good 5cm in between each

5. Push a drawing pin into each mark

6. Tie string across and between each set of drawing pins

7. Attach pegs to the strings

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8. Now they’re ready to go on the wall, either suspended on nails or just attached with white tack (like mine!)

9. Hang long necklaces from the hooks, and rings, brooches etc. from the pegs

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10. Stand back and admire your work!

Ems x

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Muddling Through: The Manhattan

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Good evening and welcome to my first proper post in ‘Muddling Through’, a beginners guide to cocktails, written by a beginner.

As my introduction said, I’m going to be focussing on classic cocktails (at least for now) and few are more widely known than the Manhattan. This also seemed a rather apt choice as it’s one of Ems’ all time favourite cocktails.

Invented in The Manhattan Club, New York as early as the 1870’s (though it seems no one can say for sure) the drink has changed very little since then. As with the Martini the only real change seems to be a gradual decline in the amount of Vermouth added! That said, with these kinds of drinks there are a great many variations and the Manhattan in particular is popular with bartenders who enjoy injecting a little of their own style into their drinks. For simplicity though I’m going to stick with the most basic. Don’t however let my use of the word ‘basic’ fool you in any way! The Manhattan is a very sophisticated cocktail and when done well is a truly great drink!

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The Manhattan

Ingredients

  • 2 Measures Rye/Bourbon Whisky
  • 1 Measure Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 Dash Bitters

Depending on how sweet you like your drinks you can simply increase or decrease the amount of Vermouth added (I’d suggest increments of 1/4 measures).

Method

  1. Combine the Whisky, Vermouth and Bitters in a mixing glass/cocktail mixer half filled with ice.
  2. Stir together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Yep, that’s it! So if you read my introductory post you should see why I told you to treat yourself to the good stuff! With drinks like this you’ve not got much to cover the taste of poor quality alcohol, so best not to risk it!

Rye is the more traditional Whisky for use in the Manhattan, but as I’ve found American Whisky sparsely stocked in UK supermarkets to say the least (there is so much more to life than Jack Daniels and Jim Beam!) you’re unlikely to find a Rye outside of the Internet, or if you’re lucky a very well stocked off-licence! In which case you will be more than fine with a good Bourbon.

As for Vermouth, if you can find yourself a bottle of Vermouth Rosso you can add an extra level of depth to your Manhattan by adding up to half a measure. Again depending on how much Vermouth you want to add in total and how sweet you want it, you’ll either add it or replace some of your sweet Vermouth with it.

Finally feel free to experiment with different Bitters if you can get hold of any. Orange is good, and I’d also recommend Cherry….lots of Manahattan recipes include burnt peel or a cocktail cherry.

For anyone interested, here’s how I’m currently making my Manhattan at home:

  • 1 Measure Pikesville Straight Rye Whisky
  • 1 Measure Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whisky
  • 1 Measure Cinzano Vermouth
  • 1/4 Measure Vermouth Rosso
  • 5 Drops Cherry Bitters

In all honesty I’m making it this way as I’m not in love with the Pikesville (it’s also my first Rye), so once that’s gone I plan to try another Rye and if I like it may end up making my Manhattans with just that. You never know, which is why it’s good to experiment to find what you like as the flavours and sweetness in a drink like this differ from person to person!

However you end up making your Manhattan, I hope you enjoy it and let me know about your experiences!

Until next time!

Adam

Muddling Through: Tools of the Trade

Hello again!

Now, before we begin with the recipes I thought it might be pertinent to make a few suggestions as to the little bits of equipment you might need in order to make yourself some tasty cocktails! I’d hate to see anyone get halfway through a recipe before realising they were missing something!

So, on to the fundamentals…..

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A Cocktail Shaker

Unless you were planning on stirring all of your cocktails together in a glass, you won’t get very far without one of these!

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A Jigger

For measuring your liquids. Remember what I said about recipes and chucking in more of this or less of that? It won’t always work, so you’re going to need one of these. They come in various shapes and sizes but in the UK at least you’ll most likely have a 25/50ml one.

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A Bar Spoon

For stirring… Its long, slender design helps maintain a smooth stirring motion rather than a whisking one you might get from a regular spoon. Also used for layering drinks.

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A Strainer

For pouring your drinks into your nicely chilled glasses! The strainer is a bit more versatile than the built in one in the lid of your shaker and offers a bit more control.

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A Muddler

For mashing ingredients such as sugar, lime and mint.

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A Zester

For zesting fruit and cutting twists.

That’s about it for now! That’s almost certainly everything I’ve used so far, with the exception of a knife, but I’m betting you have one of those already!

Next post we’ll aim to include some liquids shall we!

Adam

Catching up: July

I can’t believe it’s August already….it seems the summer is going by in a flash! July was just as much fun as June though, and it finally felt as though the real summer weather had arrived….

It all started with a most amazing wedding weekend up in Yorkshire. Two of our friends were getting hitched and rather than settle for just one day of frivolities, had planned an epic Wild West Weekend! We drove up on the Friday and dressed up Western style for the pre-wedding party, ate fish and chips for dinner and then went to bed in our very own Tipi!!!

Breakfast next morning was a lush barbecue, then we set about some sun bathing and a few jobs to set things up before we donned wedding attire and the lovely humanist ceremony took place. The whole thing was outside, which was made even more splendid by the astonishingly good weather. It was another barbecue for supper, as well as a bouncy castle, sumo wrestling, gladiator jousting and a live band to dance to. It has to have been one of the most thoughtful, personal and unique weddings I’ve ever been to (which is A LOT) and I just loved every minute of it.

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July was the month for DIY and gardening…..I wanted everywhere to be as pretty as I could manage in time for our Engagement Party, and built two picnic tables (which also got painted white and had chintzy covers and cushions made specially for them) as well as getting the garden as colourful as possible! The party went wonderfully and it was gorgeous to have so many friends visit us to celebrate….even if it was a whole six months on from the actual engagement!

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With the warmer weather came lots of lovely long dog walks, with lots of lovely wildlife to be found along the way too…..

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The Hitchin Duck race took place in town and we went down to see them off…..it was a slow race though so we listened to the ending from the garden some twenty minutes later!

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Above all else, July was for spending time outdoors and enjoying the lush weather……

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Hope you’ve enjoyed the summer so far too!

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: Life’s A Lesson

“What is the single most important lesson you have ever had?”

This is not so much a lesson, as a sort of a massive learning experience! After wracking my brains trying to think of some kind of a lesson that I can both remember and think fondly of, this seemed like the most appropriate thing to share!

We (my younger brother and I) were very lucky as children as Mum worked part time so that she could pick us up from school each day. In the summer holidays though, apart from when we were actually on holiday, we’d be dropped off at my Nanna Doris’ house to spend the day there. We loved spending the summer holidays with her, especially as she’d take us on her errands around town, and because there was lots to explore where she lived!

When the weather was fine we’d be outside on adventures….making rancid perfume from berries and plants we’d found, or playing games with other local kids. But when the weather meant we had to stay indoors, it was time for the big cupboard of stuff to be opened!

Basically, Nanna D would keep a cupboard stocked up with all sorts of fun stuff for us to make things with….she’d collect empty cotton reels, bits of cardboard, left over bits of yarn and tin cans etc. so that we could make whatever we wanted. Firstly it meant that we didn’t have to cart a whole load of toys there with us every day, but it also meant that we could never get bored, as we’d spend time making something, get fed up of it, then make something else!

I remember wanting a skateboard as I’d seen some other kids with one, so I made one myself from cardboard, garden canes and cotton reels! Given, it wasn’t sturdy enough for me to stand on, but it was perfect for my doll Sarah to be strapped onto and send gliding down the nearest hill! I also remember well building our own little post office…a cardboard kiosk with signage (obvs) and all that goes in a Post Office! We made our own stamps, envelopes, paying in books and all sorts…Nanna D even played along as a very obliging customer!

Apart from teaching us to entertain ourselves, and that we didn’t need lots of expensive toys to keep us happy, this was all a great lesson in being resourceful. As a result, I’m a natural hoarder, but can turn my hand to most things, and can work out how to fix a problem in a jiffy.  I pride myself on being exceptionally resourceful, and I am sure I owe it to that wonderful summer holiday cupboard of stuff at Nanna D’s!

I wish I could share a photo of some of my creations, but alas digital photography wasn’t even heard of then! Still, I have wonderful memories of those times and the things I made.

Ems x

How To…. Transform a nasty dresser into a nice dresser

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You may have heard me going on about the dresser we’ve been transforming for our kitchen, and I’m so pleased with the results that I thought I’d share how we did it here.

We bought a very orangey-varnished dresser for the kitchen from a local-pick-up Ebay seller last year, and although it’s a nice shape and size, it looked very dated in its finish. So, we decided we’d give it a make over, to make it brighter and fresher, and here’s how…..

What you will need:

  • Your dresser or other piece of furniture
  • Fine grade sand paper (an orbital or palm sander makes it easier if you can get one!)
  • Lots of scrap paper or newspaper
  • Masking tape
  • Wide and narrow brushes
  • White (or any colour for that matter) DURABLE kitchen-friendly paint (we used Wilkinsons Durable emulsion)
  • Tester pots in contrasting shades for handles (we used Wilkinsons emulsion tester pots in pastel shades)
  • Satin finish durable varnish
  • A piece of dowel for stirring the paint and varnish
  • Sugar soap
  • Rubber gloves
  • Protective goggles and mask (wear these all the time you’re sanding and preferably when you’re painting too!)
  • A clean cleaning cloth

How to do it:

  1. Prepare the area you’re going to work in by ensuring you have good ventilation, your piece of furniture is free from any obstacles, and any other furniture or belongings are covered in newspaper to protect them from saw dust and paint. Also remove any handles etc. and take off the doors and drawers to make them easier to paint separately.
  2. Decide which areas of the furniture you want to paint and which you want to leave as exposed wood, and put on your goggles and mask.
  3. Sand the entire piece, just roughly all over, so that the first layer of old varnish or paint is roughened. This level of sanding will suffice for all the areas you want to paint.
  4. For the bits you want to leave as exposed wood, continue sanding until all the old varnish or paint has gone, and you are left with a nice smooth surface and a more natural colour.
  5. Now mask off these areas you want to keep un-painted with newspaper, sticking this down carefully to the edges with masking tape so that none of the not-to-be-painted surface is exposed, but all of the areas to be painted are exposed.
  6. Wearing your rubber gloves, pour a little sugar soap onto the cloth and clean away the dust from the sanding, so that your to-be-painted surfaces are nice and clean. You’ll need to wipe over a few times with water too, in order to get rid of the soapiness.
  7. Now you can finally start to paint! Don’t forget to stir the paint pot well before starting!
  8. It’s better to paint three or four very thin coats as opposed to one or two thicker ones, as you’ll get a better finish and the paint job will be less prone to chipping. Use a narrower brush to get into all the nooks and crannies and corners, then a bigger brush to fill the larger areas.
  9. Let the paint dry THOROUGHLY in between each coat….it’s hard to be patient but the finish will be much better if you are!
  10. Keep painting thin coats all over the piece until you have a good coverage, then leave it to VERY THOROUGHLY dry before carefully removing the masking tape and newspaper.
  11. Now you can clean the un-painted surfaces with the sugar soap, and get on with the little details.
  12. Lightly sand the handles and clean them with sugar soap.
  13. Then paint each one in your chosen colour, again in several thin coats, waiting for each coat to dry in between.
  14. Once those are dry, stir your pot of varnish well, then take a small brush and thinly coat each handle with the varnish. Again, you’re likely to need around three thin coats.
  15. Once the varnish is dry, replace the handles and doors and drawers, then fill up your dresser with pretties, sit back and admire your hand work!

All in, our dresser cost less than £100, including the piece itself and all the painting things. A bit of a bargain I think and well worth the effort! So much so in fact, that we’ve already done our kitchen table to match (with exposed wood top and white legs) and we’re planning on painting the chairs in the pretty pastel shades of the dresser handles!

Hope this is useful and you enjoy your project!

Ems x

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Something from the weekend….. DIY, David Lynch and fizz

What an enjoyably busy weekend I’ve had! Having decided to get one of our DIY projects underway, we did little else, but the weekend was fun all the same!…..

We spent Friday evening at home in front of the TV (me in my onsesie!), eating pop corn and *finally* watching the Twin Peaks prequel film. I watched Twin Peaks for the first time last year and fell in love with it right away. I’d been warned that the film wasn’t as good and that it’s a lot darker…..and it certainly was! I very much enjoyed it though, and it was a good start to the David Lynch fest we are planning for Valentines!

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Friday night’s seriously naughty but delicious dinner! Rare organic beef burger, with fried egg, cheese and organic cherry smoked bacon, on a cheese topped bun with French fries and mayo. Yum!

On Saturday we began working on the Welsh Dresser we recently bought and wanted to re-vamp. It was a nasty orangey-pine with lots of varnish, so we wanted to lighten it up. We started (and spent nearly all Saturday!) by sanding down the surfaces…some of them just to prepare them to paint, and others to be left as a nice, light, natural pine. It was pretty tough going, and we made a lot of mess, but we managed to get all the sanding done by early evening so that we could clean up!

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The lovely pine under all the orange varnish!

My evening was spent at a friend’s place for a girly night of pizza, Prosecco and chat. The girls are all on strict boot-camp diets, but had declared it ‘Sod It Saturday’, so we indulged in take away pizzas, Haribo, chocolates and crisps along with several glasses of fizz. It was a lovely evening filled with giggling, and I was rather late to bed as a result!

On Sunday morning it was back to the DIY, and after sugar soaping the surfaces of our dresser we began to paint it. As with most things, this took us MUCH longer than I’d imagined, and we ended up popping out to the shops whilst waiting for the first two coats to dry. We didn’t manage to get all the coats on all the bits, so we’ll have to go back to it next weekend, but it is looking great already!

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Work in progress

The evening consisted of yet more pizza, on account of the kitchen smelling of paint and being rather messy! We watched another Hitchcock from our box set too (Shadow of a Doubt) and ate yet more popcorn, before I got myself ready for my first day in my new job….. it was rather a rude awakening, realising I had to plan a more formal outfit than I usually wear to work from home, and I made myself a packed lunch and readied my hand bag too before having a lovely hot shower and getting into bed for an early night.

So that was my weekend….how was yours?

Ems x

Living for the weekend….dealing with the post Christmas blues

That sky is grey again. And it’s all cold out there (and not in a Christmassy-winter-wonderland way). Still, the weekend is already here, and so I’ve been thinking of ways to fill it with fun stuff to take my mind off the fact it’s no longer Christmas. (Yes, I *am* still talking about Christmas, sorry)…..

Planning for the year

January is always full of the dulls. Everyone is shattered after the festivities, low on funds, and trying to catch up and get back to normal. But I find that there’s nothing like having something to look forward to to cheer me up, so I’ve been enjoying making lots of plans. I’ve bought tickets, made bookings, and started organising fun adventures to keep me busy and excited for the months to come. Get your diaries out!

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DIY Projects

With all the Christmas decorations gone, I know I’m looking forward to sprucing up the house a bit and starting work on some little DIY projects I’ve been planning. We have a Welsh dresser to sand and paint, and a few little tables and plant stands that I want to make-over. It’s a cheap and fun way to spend time, and you get the reward of something pretty to brighten your home at the end of it!

Bring in the Spring!

I don’t know about you, but I’m aching for the new season already! I’m bored of the cold and grey, and I want to see the Spring flowers come up. I’ve instigated this ahead of schedule by buying some lovely stocks to brighten up and scent the house…they look great in the Moomin Papa hat vase that I got for Christmas!

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Baking and Cooking

I know that every other person is on some kind of diet or detox, but I firmly believe that in order not to go cold turkey, you need to slowly wind down from the festive gluttony. I’m still not used to *not* having a pudding after every meal (yes, including breakfast) and being surrounded by naughty treats. And so to ween myself off, and hopefully shed a few of the holiday pounds, I think it’s only sensible to get doing some good home cooking and baking. You’re more in control when you make it yourself, so you can start to think more healthy and reduce portions, whilst still technically treating yourself and avoiding going into complete withdrawal! I have had some success with new recipes, including making French Onion soup for the first time in years….yum!

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Check on those resolutions!

It’s not too late to revise them, so have another look at whatever list you may have made and think about how realistic it all is. If you’re getting on well, well done you! If not so much, there’s no shame in re-working your list….you’ll do better for it in the end! I have done OK so far…..I have started getting myself sorted by way of a spider diagram (LOVE THEM), as well as playing around with the new pop-up studio Adam gave me for Christmas to help with my photography!

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Go for a walk

I’d much rather kick off the new year with a nice country walk than a fad diet or detox. It’s far more fun and much easier to stick with too! The weather has been pretty gruesome all told, but the rain seems to be staying away rather more at the minute so why not take a nice long stroll this weekend? Extra points for finding a pub lunch along your way!

Whatever you get up to, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Happy adventuring,

Ems x

How To Tuesday…. Personalise your own bunting

With a dull grey sky outside, and a distinct lack of festive decor inside, I thought now would be a good time to share this rather cheerful crafting project!

A little while ago I decorated some of my bunting collection with ‘Under A Glass Sky’ as a sort of banner to hang up at my craft market stalls. And so now that I’m taking a break from stalls over the winter, I decided it should brighten up my little studio….and it does!

This project is dead quick and easy, requiring NO SEWING, and is a lovely way to display a message…..you could decorate some butning with a new baby’s name as a gift, or make a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner. I have used my own bunting, which I bought a while ago from Rex International….I may well post a how-to on how to make your own in the future though!

What You Will Need…..

  • Bunting….one flag per letter, plus one flag for each space (for example ‘Happy Birthday’ would require 14 flags)
  • A contrasting fabric for the letters (I used a cotton casement which is easy to work with)
  • Tailors chalk or fabric pencil
  • Sharp scissors
  • Iron-on hemming tape
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Liquid fabric glue
  • A small spatula or paint brush

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How To……

1. Mark out an outline for each letter on your contrasting fabric, ensuring each fits nicely onto your bunting flags

2. Cut out the letters as neatly as possible

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3. Turning each letter face down, cut short strips of the hemming tape and lay on top of the letter, covering as much of the fabric as possible but ensuring you don’t go over any edges

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4. Flip the letters over and place one at a time onto the appropriate flag, ironing into position to secure

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5. To seal each letter safely onto the fabric, neatly glue the edges down with just a little fabric glue, but making sure you glue all around each letter. If you prefer, you can use a hand applique stitch to secure the edges instead….but it will take a lot longer!

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6. Make sure the glue is REALLY dry before folding up your bunting as you could end up with the flags all stuck together if you’re not careful!

7. Proudly hang your bunting wherever you like!

And that’s it!

Ems x

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Most depressing day of the year?!….packing up Christmas

So that’s it. Over. *Actually* over. Today is Epiphany, and so the Christmas decorations are down and packed away. How. Very. Dull.

I always find this time of year rather gloomy….all the excitement of Christmas has passed, and the house looks really empty and blank with all the decorations gone. I know it’ll feel like home again soon, but I can’t help but miss having the place full of Christmas cheer.

And so, I thought I’d immortalise our Christmas decorations by sharing them here…..

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I was rather pleased with our wreath, which we made from scratch using off-cuts from the tree. It was lots of fun to make and lasted really well, so I’ll definitely make ours again next year.

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We brought the greenery indoors too, as is a tradition of mine, filling the mantlepiece in the sitting room with holly from our garden.

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Things got moved around a bit to make room for the tree, so the sewing table took a holiday in the sitting room, and got decorated with pretty little birds and the starlight we got from Vienna.

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I always think this little chap looks a bit grumpy. He’s still pretty Festive though.

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As well as the holly, we put candlesticks and my mini pine cone Christmas tree on the mantle, and I made a little festoon of tartan hearts too.

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Because I still had foliage left over after the wreath and the mantelpieces, I made up some little flower filled jam jars to dot about.

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I was probably most sad of all to take down the paper chains we made. They were so fun and festive in red, white, gold and green. The sitting room looks very plain now without them….we must get some pictures up in here!

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I made some short strings of bunting using Christmas cards to go over the doors and across the mantelpieces in the upstairs rooms. I do love my bunting.

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Our tree took pride of place in the front bay window and was decked out in all manner of home made decorations I’ve collected over the years. It was a massive eight-footer…the biggest I’ve ever had! Our fairy was a gift from Adam’s mum, a stunning Victorian china doll kitted out with wings and (real!) curly red hair. I love her, but most people find her a bit scary!

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I made these 2012 tree ornaments as gifts, but left us one spare to keep ourselves!

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Capybaras are Adam’s favourite, so I made him this ornament which he found in the advent calender I made for him too.

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As well as the tartan hearts, I made us lots of little hearts from a wonderful vintage fabric I was given. I just love all the clashing colours!

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There wasn’t enough room to keep my cloche collection on the dining table as usual, so they got moved to a side table and filled with a little laser cut tree and some pine cones.

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The dining room mantlepiece was adorned with ivy I collected from the garden, and finished with swags of red satin ribbon and poinsettias. It was rather Lady Havisham-esque!

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I laid the table for Christmas lunch with our deep purple table linen, our mis-matched china, cutlery and glasses, and hand made crackers with personalised gifts in them.

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In the hallway I had some more flowers, and found a home for one of my favourite decorations….my super-glittery red reindeer!

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And over the door to the boot cupboard, beneath our ‘Capybaras in love’ picture, I hung a big bunch of mistletoe with a pretty checked ribbon.

Have you packed Christmas up? Have you run out of Christmas treats yet?! We are about to eat the last two mince pies (not counting the batch I have in the freezer!).

Ems x