Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you all had a great few days of Halloween celebrations! This year we had our Halloween party on the 26th and I’ve had the last week off to take part in all things autumnal!

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I loved my Pumpkin Patch which sat outside the front of the house!

We had a great time at the Halloween party – I normally make a real effort with my Halloween outfits but this year was a very straightforward outfit with some striking makeup instead! This crystal skull set is from The Gypsy Shrine – they have some amazing sets which are really easy to apply!

I have been so busy at work and planning other events over the past two months that I just didn’t get the chance to do anywhere near as much preparation for Halloween this year I’m afraid. I normally spend a couple of days preparing treats and decorations but it was very last minute this year!

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On the Sunday, hubby and I ventured out to see the new Halloween film at the cinema – we always try and go to the cinema to watch a horror film over the Halloween weekend. I really enjoyed the film but as I was sat there watching it I realised I had watched all the sequels but had never actually watched the 1978 original! It’s on Sky cinema at the moment so I have recorded it to watch it when we get the chance!

When we’d got home after scaring ourselves to death at the cinema, we tucked into all the amazing Halloween treats I’d been gathering over the last few weeks! As usual I’ve bought far too much and we had hardly any trick or treaters so we are going to be eating them until Christmas!

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How cool is the ghost and black slime pizza from Asda??
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These sweets get more and more gross every year!

On the Monday my Mum, my Sister and I went Pumpkin picking! I was just going to include the details in this blog but we had such a fantastic time that I thought it deserved its own blog so watch this space! It was well worth the visit and I think we may have created a new annual family tradition!

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On the Tuesday my Sister and I had a fantastic day in London! We’ve never been around Halloween before but we were pleased we did as it was a brilliant experience. Cafe’s and shops and florists were covered in autumnal and Halloween decor and they looked spectacular! Dominique Ansel’s, Peggy Porschen’s and Elan Cafe were all looking particularly autumnal and spooky!

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Our top prize for window displays went to this florists called Pullbrook and Gould. The photos really don’t do it justice, it must have taken them ages to create it and you can see how much time and effort has gone into it! Amazing!

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On Halloween my Mum, my Sister and I spent the day together (and admittedly started discussing our Christmas plans!) but spent a lot of the day munching on our Halloween chocolate whilst watching the new Netflix programme The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell – if you haven’t watched it yet, you really must!! The only way I can describe it is a cross between the film Labyrinth and a Nigella Lawson cookery programme! It is seriously corny, but seriously good, and a perfect programme to watch over the spooky period!

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After a day of errands on the Thursday, on the Friday we paid a visit to Puzzlewood! This was my Sisters choice as she said she has always wanted to visit, and to be honest I didn’t know much about the place – I just assumed it was a woodland trail! Well there is so much more to it than this! So I have written a separate blog all about it!

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So as you can see we have had a fun-filled week full of Halloween and autumn themed activities! It is such a shame when all the decorations have to come down again for another year. Plus as soon as they do it means I have to really start putting my Christmas plans into action!

 

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

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I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! I must admit I do struggle in the days after Christmas – I feel really down and depressed that it’s all over for another year! You look forward to it for so long and then it seems to come and go in the blink of an eye!

Anyway, if you have read my London at Christmas Time blog you’ll know that my Mum, my Sister and I go to London every December to check out all the festivities – this year we decided we wanted to do Afternoon Tea whilst we were there.

We looked at several Afternoon Tea options including Fortnum and Mason and the Ritz and tried really hard to get us into the Tale as old as time Beauty and the Beast themed Afternoon Tea at The Kensington but it was completely fully booked until the end of January!

I eventually came across this amazing Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter’s Tea Party afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel. It looked perfect for what we wanted, and I managed to book it for a special price which included a free cocktail because we were visiting on a weekday!

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We booked for 1pm and the place was empty when we arrived which was really nice – I think we booked slightly early for afternoon tea but after getting up early to catch the coach to London I knew we would all be starving by 1pm!

We sat down and they gave us the selection of their lovely teas – you get a teapot of your selected tea each so we all chose a different one so we could try each others!

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Here was the selection –

White Rabbit – China white silver needles infused with white grapefruit, vanilla and almond white chrysanthemums.

Queen of Hearts – Red Rose congu infused with red rose petals and a hint of vanilla and chocolate.

Mad Hatter – Green tea infused with passion fruit, guava and mango.

Cheshire Cat – Marmalade orange oolong infused with chocolate and hugging orange.

Alice – China black tea infused with hints of blackcurrant, vanilla, caramel, citrus, bergamot, blue cornflowers and blue mallow flowers.

I choose White Rabbit, my Mum choose Alice and my Sister chose Queen of Hearts – all were very different but absolutely delicious! You can also buy the teas to take home with you as well if you choose!

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The cocktail arrived shortly afterwards and I was a bit worried because they said it was gin-based and I am not a fan of gin but the cocktail was also delicious – they said it was a Sanderson special so I didn’t get to find out the ingredients!

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Then the amazing food started coming out…. Here’s what was on the menu –

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Smoked salmon scotch quails egg with caviar and cream cheese

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Stack of King of Hearts ham and parmesan croque-monsieur

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Cornish crab bridge roll with dill, lemon, creme fraiche and avocado and White rabbit cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on pesto bread 

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Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry jammy dodger 

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Mocha chessboard gateau

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Tweedle Dee lemon curd financier 

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Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macaroon (my favourite!)

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Chocolate and Pistachio Blue Caterpillar 

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Wonderland Marshmallow Magic mushrooms

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Mad Hatters Lost Carrot and Fennel Meringue (hidden away in the “grass” in the teacup on the top – two little red shell shaped meringues – really cute!)

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Alices Cinnamon, apple and peach “Drink Me” potion

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And if that isn’t enough you also get Sanderson’s warm scones served with Cornish clotted cream and fruit preserve!

The staff asked us if we were celebrating a special occasion and we said we had decided to do it because it was my Sister’s Birthday the Friday before and it was my Mum’s Birthday the following Saturday, so they brought them out this beautiful slate with two delicious pieces of cake on and Happy Birthday written in icing! How lovely!

A really lovely afternoon – the hotel is beautiful and the staff were amazing. I would definitely re-book to go back here again the next time we pay a visit to London!

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Icebar London

I’ve actually been to two Ice bars in London and had a really great time in both! The first one I went to was in Heddon Street, Mayfair and the second one was in Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park – they are most definitely an experience which gets you into the winter spirit!

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The Icebar temperature is -5 degrees celsius and everything inside is made out of crystal clear ice harvested from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, Northern Sweden!

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You spend time in the Icebar in 40 minute time slots (believe me, people struggle to stay in here this long!) and you are given a thermal cape with a hood and gloves to wear to keep you toasty!

Once a year the bar is transformed with a new design and layout by a team of ice designers and sculptors!

During your visit you also get a cocktail as part of the entrance fee and it is even served in an ice glass for you! Click here for the latest cocktail list but be warned – they are strong! Helps keep you warm in the cold I suppose!

It’s cheaper if you pre-book online (£13.50 with your first cocktail for an off peak time) and cocktail refills start at £6.50 after that. Family days and times are also available which is a great idea.

The boys gave up after around 30 minutes but my sister and I managed the whole 40 minutes and were the last ones standing! Girl power!

Hyde Park Bar Ice

This one, believe it or not, is even colder at -10 degrees celsius! A complimentary drink is also included in the ticket price for Bar Ice, and as Bar Ice is part of Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland, the drinks are usually very festive flavoured!, and again come in a lovely ice glass.

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FFFFFFFFFreezing!!!!

Again you are provided with a winter cloak and gloves on arrival, however you are allocated a 20 minute session here and not 40 like at the Heddon Street Icebar. We didn’t even manage the whole 20 minutes in this one – it was VERY cold! Also found it was much darker in Bar Ice than Icebar, which made it difficult to take decent photos which was a shame.

Ticket prices here are similar – £14 off peak to £16 peak time (but of course you are only getting half the time – Christmas inflated prices eh??) and I would definitely pre-book before you go – it gets very busy!!

A very novel experience but definitely worth giving a go – the sculptures, tables, chairs and bar are all made of ice and are very fascinating to look it – if this doesn’t get you into the winter spirit then nothing will!!

Christmas Pudding BonBons

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Hello Christmas Elves! If you are after a really easy recipe or a great activity to do with the kids then I’ve got just the thing for you! In fact it isn’t really a recipe at all – it’s just a case of cobbling a few bits together – but they do look really effective!

Here’s the ingredients you will need:

-Pre-made chocolate cake (preferably with buttercream centre and topping)

-Red ready rolled icing

-Green ready rolled icing

-100g white chocolate (I use  white chocolate chips)

You will also need one of these little leaf shape icing plungers. I think mine was from Lakeland but you should also be able to find one in places like Amazon or eBay – I saw some in Wilkinson’s the other day too.

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Ok, so to get started, put your cake into a bowl and break it up into crumbs and then re-shape them into twelve little pudding sized balls. I use a cake which has buttercream on top and in the middle because when you are re-shaping it into little pudding balls, the mixture holds its shape a lot better. When you’ve made twelve round little balls, pop them in the fridge to reset whilst you get on with the rest.

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Roll out your green ready made icing and then use your leaf plunger to make holly leaves (you need two per pudding so twenty-four in total).

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Then cut off some tiny little chunks of red ready rolled icing and roll them into tiny little berries. You will need three of these per pudding so thirty-six in total.

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Pop your icing leaves and berries in the fridge for a few minutes (so they don’t melt too much whilst you are placing them on top of the melted white chocolate).

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Add your chocolate drops to a bowl and melt in the microwave (melt them in thirty second bursts and stir before melting even more – it’s very easy to over melt and burn chocolate if you aren’t careful!)

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Stir the white chocolate so there are no lumps and then leave to cool for about ten minutes so the chocolate is just starting to re-thicken slightly.

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Once it is cooler but still runny and thick, start adding your white chocolate to one pudding. Once the white chocolate is on the pudding, add your holly leaves followed by your red berries, then move on to the next pudding. Don’t do all the white chocolate in one go as it will have set by the time you add your holly leaves and berries to the first one, and they won’t stick to the pudding properly.

Let your puddings set for around ten minutes and then they are ready to eat! If you want to store them they should be fine in an airtight container for around five days (if you can resist them for that long! I ate FOUR in one sitting – they are only small after all!).

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Happy pudding bonbon making!

Rocky Road Christmas Bars

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My sister absolutely adores these and they are incredibly simple to make! This recipe will make you around 24 delicious squares.

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Ingredients

-125g soft butter

-300g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solids)

-3 tablespoons golden syrup

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

-200g biscuits (rich tea, digestive, amaretti, whatever you fancy!)

-100g mini marshmallows

-2 teaspoons icing sugar for dusting

-Edible glitter for dusting

-Snowflake (or other!) sprinkles

Instructions

-Firstly, melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy based saucepan. When the mixture is melted, add your cinnamon and stir then scoop out about 125ml of this melted mixture and put to one side.

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-Put the biscuits into a large sandwich bag and then bash them with a rolling pin.

-Fold the biscuit pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture in the saucepan and then pour in your marshmallows.

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-Tip the mixture into a tin which had been lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten the mixture as much as you can and then pour the remaining 125g of mixture over the mixture in the tray and smooth over the top.

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-Put the mixture in the fridge for at least two hours.

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-When the mixture is completely set, take it out of the tray and cut the mixture into around 24 squares.

-Sprinkle the icing sugar, edible glitter and snowflake sprinkles over the cake bars and viola! They are ready to be devoured!

They are brilliant to put into Christmas themed cellophane bags to give away as presents, or for stocking and Christmas Eve box gifts!

Happy scoffing peeps! xx

CocoChlo’s Christmas Countdown!

Ok so it’s official! Silly season has begun! You officially won’t get any sense out of me for at least the next 25 days!

In case you haven’t already guessed – Christmas is my most favourite time of year! I look forward to it months in advance and am severely down and depressed once it is over and we move into the long dark cold month of January. I know my love for Christmas annoys people but, in my view, you need to have something to look forward to, and holidays and Christmas are the two things which give me something to look forward to throughout the year!

Christmas for me mainly centres around the fantastic traditions that myself and my family have developed over the years – after all, knowing what you have to look forward to makes you look forward to it even more!

Here are some of the Christmas traditions my family and I partake in year after year and all the other little Christmassy/wintery things which I love about this time of the year!

Advent Calendars:

Hopefully you will have seen my two blogs on how to make the two different types of Advent Calendars we have in the family. If not, you can read about these here and here.

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They take a LOT of time and effort to make but come out again and again year after year and make everyone very happy – all my family members look forward to opening their daily treats out of their Christmas Advent Calendars.

The calendars are filled during November with everyone’s favourite treats and then dropped off a few days before the beginning of December. In the past few years I have had to wrap up some of the treats (not fun! Twenty five presents times six people!), due to prying eyes and pokey fingers! And yes, all Advent Calendar recipients are adults!

Most of the days are filled with the likes of Cadbury’s chocolate mousse snowmen, Malteaser reindeers and tiny Lindt bears, and then an extra special gift awaits everyone for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (past years include baubles for the tree and personalised snow globes).

The perfect start to December!

Elf on the Shelf

Love him or hate him (hubby hates him!) Buddy will always make his annual appearance on the 1st December (apart from those days he is kidnapped and held hostage by hubby! Not joking!)

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Buddy plays a big part in helping to build the anticipation of the festive season, and often has some really good jokes and treats in store. This year Buddy has a particularly amazing surprise for the Evans’ which you can read about in Buddy’s very own blog which is being published in the next couple of days! #sorrynotsorry to all you Elf haters!

Buying our Christmas tree

We always had a real tree when we were growing up – my Mum, my two Sisters, the dog and I would walk miles to go and get one from the garden centre up the road (Mum can’t drive) and we would carry it all the way home, alternating between carrying the tree and walking the dog! When hubby and I first moved out and into our new home, I was over the top obsessed with keeping it clean and tidy and so, for fear of getting pine needles everywhere, I insisted on having a plastic tree for the first couple of years.

After a couple of years with this awful cheap plastic tree I decided enough was enough and we agreed we would buy a real tree the following Christmas. I was pleased to learn at this stage that there were a lot more trees around which didn’t drop their needles, so I was a double happy bunny!

We always get our tree the first weekend of December, which is usually around my Sisters Birthday. We usually buy it the Saturday morning and then get it home and set it up, and let the branches drop and the tree take shape for the next 24 hours.

Then on the Sunday we spend the day decorating it, listening to Christmas tunes and having hot chocolate and other Christmas themed treats! The trees usually get named at some point too….

Christmas shopping

My work organise an annual coach trip to London on the first Wednesday of December which is absolutely brilliant. The coach drops off at two places – Harrods (also ideal for visiting the Museums) and the corner of Hyde Park.

I usually go with my Sister and Mum and we’ve done all sorts during these trips – we took Mum to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland one year, and visited the Ice Bar and Ice Sculpture display, the following year we spent a couple of hours in Harrods food hall and then popped over the road and spent the rest of the day in the Natural History Museum (which we concluded you would need to spend a week in in order to see everything!) followed by a couple of years of good old retail therapy down good old Oxford Street! I always pop into Primark as well to see if I can find any last minute stocking fillers or bits to go in my Christmas Eve boxes!

The beautiful London department store windows are another one of the highlights! My two favourites are Harrods and Selfridges – the designers must spend months in advance coming up with these amazingly creative ideas! Good luck getting a photo of some of them though – they obviously attract an awful lot of people so get in there quick to catch a glimpse!

Festive Days Out

Sudeley Castle Spectacle of Light, Longleat Safari Park, Prinknash Abbey, and a ride on The Polar Express – you name it we have probably been there and partaken in their Christmas-themed festivities!

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Christmas Markets

I really love Christmas markets and the family and I have been to several over the years! I don’t go to them to do my main Christmas shopping but to try the amazing food and drink and check out the brilliant arts and crafts people make – some people are so creative!

At Gloucester Quays Christmas Markets last year they opened an ice skating rink and lots of little wooden huts around the outside which served mulled wine, hot apple cider, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts! Just what you need to get into the Christmas spirit, although I do get there very early so I can get around quickly before the crowds arrive! Some places become unbearable at peak times!

Festive Drinks – Coffees, Hot Chocolate and Eggnog!

Most days in December usually feature a trip to Starbucks, Costa or Café Nero to sample this year’s Festive coffee and hot chocolate flavours! Yes, a blog on these is to follow too! Sorry!

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Obviously hot chocolates can be consumed throughout the year but there’s something different about a Christmas hot chocolate! Perhaps it is the lack of guilt you feel when you spray on mounds of whipped cream and tip half a box of marshmallows on top!

A favourite of mine is to add a tiny bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to really make it taste like Christmas in a mug! I buy all my hot chocolates from Whittards – they are the best by far in my opinion! This years flavours I invested in are Dark Hot Chocolate, Praline White Hot Chocolate, Rocky Road Hot Chocolate and Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate! Delicious!

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I am also absolutely obsessed with eggnog! Is there a more Christmassy drink than eggnog!? If Starbucks ever stopped producing their eggnog lattes I don’t know what I would do!

Monin Syrups

If you want to make your own flavoured coffees or hot chocolates, I recommend you take a look at the collection of flavours Monin Syrups have to offer – there aren’t many flavours you can’t get hold of, and every year I struggle to choose which to buy next! I finally decided on Donut, Maple Spice, Amaretto and Macaron flavours!

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Christmas Adverts

Am I the only one who cries at these flipping adverts??? Lost Snowman looking for their partner….in tears, Buster the Boxer jumping on a trampoline…..in tears, Monty the penguin – so cute (in tears), the Sainsburys WW1 truce between British and German soldiers for Christmas Day….hysterical. I really do need to stop watching them to be fair! Anyway, every year they get more and more amazing and more and more heartfelt, it wouldn’t be Christmas without them!

Choosing the Christmas menu!

By the end of October I will have picked up several copies of each supermarkets festive food catalogues! I usually pick them up from Marks and Spencers, Asda, Tescos and Morrisons so we can all look at the full range everyone has to offer!

The family all meet in late October/early November to decide what food we are going to have on the days we are all going to be together (usually Christmas Day and Boxing Day or both). Everyone in my family has different tastes so it is quite difficult to choose things which most people will like!

You can read more about what is on the Christmas menu this year in my “what’s on the menu this Christmas” blog which is published on the 23rd December, but these will give you an idea…

Christmas Jumpers

Since Christmas jumpers came back into fashion a couple of years ago (the cheesier the better it seems!) I somehow now have an array of seasonal knitwear! It would seem I am a bit addicted, as every year they bring out better and sillier designs! Hubby had a jumper last year with actual flashing lights on! Amazing!

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Visits to the Cinema

What better way to get into the seasonal spirit than by visiting the cinema to watch a Christmassy film!!! Past cinema visits have included to watch Frozen, Bad Santa, Black Christmas and Krampus (ok so a couple of them are horror films, but still Christmassy!) This year I already have my sights set on two films – Bad Mom’s Christmas and Pitch Perfect 3! Can’t wait!

If I don’t have time to get to the cinema as I am spending my free weekends wrapping up the mounds of presents, I’ll always have some classic Christmas films on in the background whilst drinking my Christmassy hot chocolate! A blog on my favourite Christmas films will follow in a few days time!

Gingerbread Making

Gingerbread Houses – I love gingerbread but only the home made stuff which is lovely and fluffy and soft – not the hard shop bought stuff that you nearly break your teeth on!

For the first few years I was buying the shop bought sets (basically it was easier because all the pieces were pre-made so I could spend more time decorating them!) but I realised after making them that they didn’t get eaten because the gingerbread was rock hard! So my mother in law bought me a cookie cutter set which meant I could make proper gingerbread and cut out the pieces I needed to make my gingerbread house!

This year I spent the afternoon making gingerbread houses with my Sister and it was absolutely brilliant! We really enjoyed ourselves and it really got us into the Christmas spirit! I hope we make it an annual event from now on!

Christmas Yankee Candles

My family and I always buy Christmas themed Yankee Candles to burn throughout the festive season and I also put one in everyone’s Christmas Eve boxes for them to burn the night before the big day. Check out some of this years scents –

Nutcracker Dolls

An obsession of mine! If you are intrigued, a separate blog on these little guys is coming out in the next couple of days….

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Christmas Eve boxes

Unfortunately I am one of those annoying people who has usually bought all of the main Christmas presents and got them wrapped up before December even starts as this frees me up the time to do all of these other amazing things throughout December! I do tend to leave buying little things like stocking fillers until December though.

In December I will also start buying bits and pieces to go in everyone’s Christmas Eve boxes! Hopefully you will have read my blogs I released last year on how to make them and what you can put in them – if not you can read about them here and here.

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Last year was the first time I unveiled the Christmas Eve boxes but they were so popular and loved by everyone that I promised I would make them a regular thing. The only thing is, I went a bit mental last year with it being the first year and so everyone got a lot in their boxes in addition to their normal pressies, so this year I asked everyone what their favourite bits were and I have limited it to four or five items, and a few sweets and treats.

Now December is here I will start looking for some good surprises to sneak into people’s Christmas Eve boxes to make Christmas Eve that little bit more special! This year’s box contents will be revealed in my Christmas Eve blog so watch this space!

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Post-Christmas themed parties

The family and I are all very lucky in that we all tend to get at least a week off over the Christmas period. As we are all avid Christmas fans, once Boxing Day has come and gone and we are in the few days between Christmas and New Year, the post-Christmas blues start to set in.

To cheer us up after the main event has come and gone, and to give us something else to look forward to (and OCD organiser Chloe to organise!), I usually throw a small family themed party for my Mum, my Sisters and myself. Past themes have included Harry Potter, Frozen and The Polar Express! This year’s theme is Beauty and the Beast, so I have been scouring eBay and Primark for months and months looking for ideas and treats to go in everyone’s goody bags!

Yes it’s cheesy/corny/childish but it cheers us all up and gives us the chance to spend some time together over Christmas without the added pressure of running around to check the turkey, prepare the veg and grab someone another drink. Plus my older sister Lindsey, who has autism, really looks forward to the parties (and the opportunity to get some more presents, even after Christmas is over!) I’ll do a separate blog about this year’s party so you can see what a great time we had this year!!!

Time off

What could be better than some time off work to celebrate and then rest and re-cooperate?? By the time my Christmas leave comes around I’ve usually got huge lists of bits and pieces I want to get done during my time off! The first few days off are usually Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day but after clearing up after these celebrations I always feel really down that Christmas has come and gone for another year, so I like to keep myself busy!

One of the regular tasks which appears this time of year includes sorting through mine and hubby’s wardrobes – throwing out/giving to charity the old stuff, putting aside stuff which needs repairing or dry cleaning, eBay-ing any unwanted valuable stuff and making space for the new stuff we got for Christmas or during the sales! The rest of the time hubby and I spend watching DVD’s or Netflix whilst eating the left over Christmas goodies! I’m afraid the majority of this time off is spent in my pyjamas!

Anyway, this just about wraps up my plans for December! No wonder it flies by so quickly!! And no wonder they call it the most wonderful time of the year!

Enjoy everyone!

The Naked Marshmallow Company

If you are looking for a lovely Winter treat then check out this amazing idea!

I love all the American programmes which show everyone sitting round the camp fire toasting marshmallows and making S’mores, but unfortunately, living in the UK with such unpredictable weather all year round, its a risk trying to partake in marshmallow toasting even in the Summer!

Anyway, now you can toast marshmallows all year round with this amazing Marshmallow Toasting Kit from The Naked Marshmallow Company!

The kit costs £19 and includes any two packs of their gourmet marshmallows, with each pack containing eight marshmallows.

You can choose from five different flavours – Vanilla Bean, Candy Floss, Strawberry Cream, Chocolate Orange and Salted Caramel (if you want to order additional flavours you can add more boxes at £4.25 each). They have even got a Christmas range of flavours out at the moment too, such as Gingerbread and Candy Cane!

The marshmallows are made in the UK and are made from fair-trade sugar and have no artificial colours or flavours in them.

We tried four out of the five regular flavours (no-one likes chocolate orange in our family unfortunately!) and all of them were AMAZING! I have honestly never tasted more delicious marshmallows, even those I’ve bought from food festivals and markets!

Each kit comes with eight bamboo sticks and a non-toxic, odourless, smokeless gel burner which will burn constantly for two hours. If you don’t burn it all at once you can simply pop the lid back on to extinguish the flame and then use again whenever you fancy!

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The kit also comes in a gift box with a little printed guide on “how to toast the perfect marshmallow”, so is ideal to give as a present – if you are giving as gifts you can pay an additional £2 to have the burner label personalised as well!

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My favourite flavour was the candy floss one (closely followed by the salted caramel!) but the vanilla bean and strawberry cream were favoured by other guests so the flavours obviously cater for all different tastes too!

Even better, when I placed my order, standard delivery was free! I’ve gone to checkout on several online bakeries and food websites to find that the delivery costs are extortionate, so this was a real added bonus!

The family and I really enjoyed using the kit and I would definitely buy it again, and buy it for family and friends as presents – it’s certainly something a little bit different!

Just don’t forget to put your burner on a heat-proof surface! The last thing you want is to leave burn marks on your furniture!

If you want to take the toasting marshmallows kit one stage further, you can also order their marshmallow S’more’s kit! The kit contains eight marshmallows, eight Graham Crackers, three Hershey chocolate bars and of course your gel burner, eight bamboo sticks and a guide on how to make the perfect S’more!

I’ll definitely have to try this kit next time I put an order in!

Halloween in the Evans’ house!

Wow I really love the autumnal season! Yes the days get cooler but you still have the occasional bright sunny day with that fresh autumnal breeze, ideal for going for long walks with the dogs, and the best part of autumn of course, has to be Halloween!

Now I don’t ever need an excuse to have a party and to celebrate with friends and family, so needless to say, Halloween is always a big event in the Evans’ household! The celebrations usually continue over the entire Halloween weekend, with the first event being a good old trip to the cinema on the Friday evening of Halloween weekend to watch the latest scary horror film! Past films include Insidious and Paranormal Activity – several evenings of no sleep and jumping at every sound the house makes usually follow this!

On the Saturday of Halloween weekend I spend the day decorating the house with all the spooky decs! I have a LOT because every year I come across more decorations I like and I just can’t resist adding them to my collection!

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The real focus of the decorating is the dinner table! Sometimes I host three course dinner parties and other years I just set the table up with buffet food so people can help themselves if we have a lot of party guests!

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Every year I also make up goody bags for family and party guests – these boxes I came across on eBay are brilliant! I bought a load in orange and black and just printed off some spooky pictures, add the persons name and they are ready to be filled with sweets and treats!

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Aside from sweets, I also buy other bits and pieces to go with the goody bags, such as these brilliant spooky balloons (99p each from Clinton Cards) and these great orange flowers complete with Scary witch (from Morrisons).

You can read about what appeared in this years goody bags in my Happy Halloween blog which is being published on Tuesday! I can’t give the game away before everyone has had theirs and ruin the surprise!

If we are having guests over for Halloween parties we usually insist on them wearing Halloween outfits! Some of the outfits we’ve seen over the years have been absolutely amazing! So much time, effort and money has gone into them – so most years I will award a trophy to the best dressed guest! Check out some of these scary characters!

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To keep the guests entertained we usually do a few games and activities – we tried apple bobbing one year – it didn’t end well so we scrapped that! Yearly activities usually now include pumpkin carving and the standard party drinking games!

After our normal yearly Halloween parties, most of the day after is spent clearing up and rescuing the earrings out of the toilet and trying to get the red wine out of the curtains (yes – really!!) but we usually put aside some time to finish off our Halloween weekend with something spooky such as a visit to Frightmare. Frightmare takes place a few miles away and has become so popular over the last few years that the tickets sell out within hours for some of the most popular dates! Each year is a different theme and each ticket gets you entry to five different attractions including the Haunted Hayride, Séance, the Offering, and Caged!

I highly recommend getting tickets if you can – it’s a brilliant event which is really well planned and of course is absolutely terrifying! If you are a bit nervous and think you might not be able to take part in the full experience, they also offer Slightmare, which is a toned down version of the main event!

Have a great Halloween weekend everyone!!!

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Halloween Eats!

Hooray! It’s finally Halloween weekend! I’ve got some great things planned for this weekend but it wouldn’t be a real Halloween celebration without my favourite Halloween recipes I make year after year!

Ghost Cakes

All you need for these is your normal cupcake recipe (vanilla, chocolate, whatever you fancy) and a set of dariole moulds (usually sold in a set of six). Dariole moulds are quite difficult to get hold of in everyday shops, so try somewhere like eBay or Lakeland.

Make sure the dariole moulds are greased and lined and fill to about two-thirds full to allow the cakes space to rise. Once the cakes are cooked, allow them to cool and then carefully remove from the moulds (you might need to cut a bit off the base so that the cakes can stand upright) then all you need to do is roll out some pre-made royal icing and fold it over the top of the cakes so that it looks ghost-like! Add two raisins or dots of black icing for the eyes and voila!

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Welsh-rarebit Ghosts

These are so easy!

Just buy yourself a ghost-shaped cookie cutter and cut ghost shapes out of any type of bread. In a saucepan add 225g of strong cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 2 teaspoons of plain flour and cook over a low heat until melted. At this point you can even add a couple of tablespoons of your favourite beer if you like! Stir the ingredients until they become paste-like.

Toast the one side of the bread, then spread the rarebit over the non-toasted side and brown off under the grill. Only down-side to these are they do need eating straight away after they have been served, but they go down brilliantly as a drunken party goers midnight snack! Delicious!

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Chocolate Frogs

Easy-peasy! Buy the mould from Ebay, choose what chocolate you want to turn into frogs (I use dark chocolate, milk chocolate and cookies and cream chocolate), melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave (do 30 seconds then stir and repeat until all the chocolate is melted) and then pour into the moulds and leave to set.

Hint: do these a couple of days in advance a few at a time, don’t rush them and don’t put them into the fridge to get them to set – changing the temperature too quickly will make the chocolate go white and although it doesn’t do you any harm to eat, it doesn’t look very appetising and your frogs will look mouldy!

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Shattered Glass Cupcakes

These are really popular at my parties, people always comment at how great they look!

Take your normal cupcake recipe, again any flavour you like, and make the cupcakes as normal. When you go to ice the cakes, use a plain vanilla buttercream or cream cheese as these look the most effective.

A couple of hours before the guests are due to arrive, begin making the shattered glass. The glass needs to be made last minute as when it is left on the cakes for long periods of time, the glass begins to melt and doesn’t look anywhere near as effective. The recipe for making the glass is basically the same as for making caramel, you just don’t leave it cooking as long so the liquid stays clear.

Put 275g of granulated sugar and 175ml of water in a small saucepan with high sides and bring to the boil whilst stirring to make sure all the sugar has dissolved (keep kids well away from this!). Reduce the heat to medium/high and leave to cook until the mixture starts to go golden brown around the edges. This can take a while – around 15 to 20 minutes but keep an eye on it at all times! As soon as this happens, remove the mixture from the heat and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet, tilting the baking sheet slightly as you pour so it spreads evenly and makes a thin layer. Be REALLY careful at this stage – this mixture is incredibly hot!!

Let the mixture cool so it hardens (around 30 minutes). Once the mixture has set, twist the baking sheet slightly and hit the mixture with a rolling pin to crack it like glass (again be careful, these shards can be as sharp as glass) and start adding the shards to the cupcakes.

To finish off, drizzle a blood like mixture over the top of the cupcakes (I make runny icing using royal icing sugar, water and red food colouring, but you can also use jam or cherry preserves etc – I even found pre-made red runny icing in the supermarket last year).

Serve up the cupcakes straight away and watch jaws drop! Oh and teeth break if they don’t go steady on the hardened sugar!

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Mummy Hotdogs

Love these! I could eat the whole lot!

Again so simple to make! Buy a tin of hotdogs, buy a pre-made pack of croissant dough, unroll the dough and cut into thin slices to use as the “bandages”, wrap the dough around the hotdogs to look like mummys and put them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until the dough starts going golden brown and the hotdogs are cooked. For the eyes, add two dots of mustard! Really tasty!

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Rice Krispie Pumpkins

I’ve only made these once and they didn’t turn out quite as expected (I didn’t use enough orange food colouring!) but again they are very easy to make and are quite effective! Make up your normal batch of Rice Krispie cakes, add orange food colouring, shape into a ball shape and decorate the eyes, nose, mouth and stalks with black and green ready rolled icing.

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Witches Fingers

There are a couple of recipes for Witches Fingers on the internet – both sweet (Almond Witches Fingers) and savoury (Cheesy Witches Fingers). Both are really effective and very tasty!

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Almond Witches Fingers

Peanut Butter Eyeballs

These are quite easy to make but take bloody ages to decorate so be warned!!! I took a batch of them into work for my work colleagues a couple of years ago and they went down really well though! The recipe does make a lot, which is probably why they take so long to decorate! Find the recipe here.
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I hope this has given you some ideas of some easy but effective Halloween treats! I’m off to start working my way through the bowl of sweets we put aside for the trick or treaters!

Have a great Halloween weekend!

Eastnor Castle Firework Championships

If any of my readers like fireworks then I’ve got the perfect event for you! Needless to say, the photographs just don’t do these fireworks justice, but then, I’ve always argued that you could say this about any photograph you take!

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I came across a leaflet about Eastnor Castle in my local sandwich shop believe it or not! I thought it looked like a brilliant day out so when I got home I had a look at the Eastnor Castle website. Whilst I was on there looking at ticket prices etc, I came across this fantastic looking event called the Eastnor Castle Firework Championships.

Hubby and I love fireworks but unfortunately we seem to miss out on attending any fireworks night events, either because they start too early and we can’t get there in time after finishing work, or because we have to stay at home to look after our poor dogs who become quite distressed by the loud bangs and whizzes!

This event seemed ideal – it is in September so the weather would hopefully still be mild, and we could go to the event leaving the dogs unsupervised knowing there wouldn’t be a load of fireworks going off in our local area at the same time which would upset them!

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The event is organised by MLE Pyrotechnics and involves three professional firework companies who compete for the title of Eastnor Firework Champions. MLE do a fourth display after the three competitors have finished and whilst the votes for the best display are being counted.

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Gates open at 5pm, we arrived at around 7pm because we wanted to grab something to eat and get a good spot before the show started. I would recommend getting here as early  as you can – parking takes a while and as we were sat down ready to watch the show at 9pm, cars were still queued up and trying to get into the event, so no doubt they missed the beginning!

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There’s a small fairground with a few rides and games to keep kids entertained whilst you wait for the fireworks and they encourage you to bring along picnics to enjoy whilst you watch the shows (although they don’t allow barbecues).

If you don’t fancy bringing your own picnic, food and drink is also available on site, but to be honest, we weren’t that impressed with the selection and wished we had brought our own picnic. There’s a pizza place (I love pizza but they didn’t look very appetising and I overheard a guy say he had waited ages but his pizza was cold when he got it), then there’s a burger and hotdog place (their cheesy chips were nice!) and a wrap place who did a choice of lamb, chicken and hallumi in a tortilla wrap (in my opinion the best of the three but also the most expensive!).

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The evening started with a small firework demo at 9:00pm and then the competition displays begin at around 9:30pm. Each team fires a ten minute show which is choreographed to music and the winner is decided by audience SMS voting. The evening then closes with a larger scale finale by MLE Pyrotechnics.

Camping is available on the Friday or Saturday night if you fancy it. You do have to buy permits for this which are available on the website, but on site parking is free.

This years competing teams are:

Shockwave Pyrotechnics

This was my favourite show and was this years winning team! I especially loved the part which was choreographed to the song “Hallelujah”. The show was amazing – some really big fireworks which completely lit up the sky – absolutely stunning!!

Skyburst Fireworks

Another amazing display with the best soundtrack so far (Feeling Good – Nina Simone!) but the fireworks on this display were smaller on the ground fireworks rather than the big “light up the sky” types and just didn’t quite take your breath away like the other two displays.

Firework Crazy

Another fantastic show and a very close second for me – I loved the part which was choreographed to Bruno Mars! They had some really unusual fireworks I have never seen before – especially some amazing side to side fireworks! This one was hubby’s favourite!

Tickets for the championships are £18.00 per adult and £8.00 for child if you pre-book online (on the gate prices are £20.00 per adult and £10.00 per child).

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I would highly recommend this event if you are a firework fan so put a reminder in your calendars for next year to check it out! Other dates at other locations are also available from the end of July onwards if Eastnor Castle is too far for you to travel – locations which include Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire and Arley Hall in Northwich, Cheshire.

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After such a great event hubby and I can happily say we attended a brilliant firework display this year once November comes back round again!

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Popalicious Cake Pops!

Hello fellow Unicorn and cake fans! Have I got the perfect blog for you!!

Check out these beautiful Unicorn Cake Pops from Popalicious Cake Pops – an incredible find which I came across on Instagram! I couldn’t believe the amazing detail on them, they looked such good quality!  I was even more over the moon when I visited their website and found I could order them online and have them delivered – one of the things I’ve found so disappointing with some online bakeries is that they advertise all their lovely products but then won’t deliver, or will only deliver in the London area!!

As soon as I saw pictures of the amazing Unicorn Cake Pops I knew I had to try them! They sell a range of lovely treats so here’s what I have sampled from their delightful range so far:

Unicorns Rock Cake Pops

Look at the detail which goes into each and every one! The cake pops are beautifully designed, and absolutely flawless, it must take ages to decorate each of these! I wish I was this creative!

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Unicorn Cake Pops

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You’ll be pleased to hear that they taste just as good as they look!

Inside these two types of beautiful candy covered cake pops (if you can bring yourself to eat such a lovely creation!) is a lovely moist chocolate cake.

Rainbow Sprinkle Cake Pops

I couldn’t wait to try these! Outside they look like a straightforward pastel coloured cake pop but inside is an amazing moist rainbow cake!

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I’m only slightly ashamed to say that I ate nearly all of these in one sitting – for research purposes obviously!

Other treats aside from cake pops are also available including –

Unicorn cakelets

The cakelets are also made up of moist chocolate cake covered in a candy coating, hand decorated and finished with a sprinkle of glitter – ideal to give as gifts, I bought a set of these for my sister as a present – I knew she would love them!

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Vanilla Rainbow Cakelets

Amazing moist rainbow cake surrounded by a candy coating with sparkle and sprinkles!

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Chocolate Sprinkle Cakelets

These have the same moist chocolate cake inside as the Unicorn Cakelets and are covered in a candy coating with sparkle and sprinkles on top!

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Some of these incredible goodies are even available in gluten free options. The range is ideal for childrens’ parties and although the online shop is only showing the unicorn range at the moment, if you check out their gallery you will see all of the other brilliant designs they have completed for their customers including My Little Pony, Mr Men, and my absolute favourite which I hope they bring back this Christmas – Elf On The Shelf cake pops!

All the items I ordered arrived quickly and safely packaged so they wouldn’t get damaged, I’ve ordered from some online bakeries and the “protective” packaging certainly leaves a lot to be desired!

You can follow Popalicious cake pops on Instagram (popaliciouscakepops) and on Twitter  (@popaliciouscake) and their cake pops are also available to purchase through Not On The High Street.I’m hoping this means they are inundated with orders – they certainly deserve to be!

***Updated January 2018***

Elf on the Shelf Cake Pops

I had been waiting all year to order these little guys ever since I saw them in Popalicious Cake Pops’ gallery on their Instagram account! Aren’t they amazing?!

I ordered eight of them to munch over the festive period and they did not disappoint! Delicious chocolate cake inside a candy melt coating with icing at the bottom of his hat!

You almost get two cake pops out of each Elf because of the size of his hat, and look at the detail that goes into each and every one! I’m so pleased I got my hands on some – they sold out very quickly!

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Reindeer Cake Pops

These guys turned up in the nick of time too, just as I was debating what I could do for this years Christmas table favours! They are lovely reindeer cake pop place settings with personalised names on! They looked very good on the dinner table and were a definite hit with the family!

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Another delicious chocolate cake pop with a candy melt outer shell, they even have little ears, antlers and flower detail!

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I already can’t wait to put in my next order!