Speedy gift tags

Much as I love making handmade cards, there are occasions when I just don’t have the time to complete a card – or when I am wrapping a present for someone and just want a speedy gift tag.

Here are some ideas to inspire you – all of these were made from odds and ends left on my desk – so zero cost involved really as I suspect they may have ended in the bin on my next ferocious clear up. (Yes, like you are going to believe I have those often – well I do, just not regularly!)

The stamped gift tag could really be any House-Mouse image (or any other suitable stamp) and it is just simply stamped and coloured and then I have mounted it onto a slightly larger piece of pink card and added some ribbon. So often you might have stamped images you have started using and then abandoned – make them up into random gift tags and keep in a box – bet they might come in handy!

The blue flower was rescued from a card that went horribly wrong – you know the ones that get thrown in the bin in a temper. What you don’t have those?! Well I certainly do – very frustrating when they just don’t work and I try and salvage any ‘bits’ and keep them on my desk for another project. This flower had been sitting in my in tray, glaring at me for ages – so here I used up some scraps of green card and die cut them with a Crealies punch, added some ribbon to a scrap of white card whisked over with some Peeled Paint distress ink pad (and an Inkylicious brush) and finished it off with some pearls. Not a tag that will ever win prizes but it looked pretty on the gift I was wrapping up and brought pleasure to the recipient!

Finally the green tag came about because I was making traditional red and green themed Christmas bits and pieces and had quite a lot of green card left over. I do have family birthdays during December as well so I wanted a tag that used up some green scraps but wasn’t Christmassy – here I coloured some cream satin ribbon with a Promarker to match the card and then added a leftover pearl or six and two lonely looking lilies that must have been from another of those abandoned cards!

So grab all those bits and bobs and have a gift tag session – next time you wrap a present you will have a lovely selection of tags to choose from and the gift will look extra special!

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Checkerboard cake – tastes as wonderful as it looks!

Happy New Year – here’s something just a little different to get the new year off to a flying start – and it tastes as wonderful as it looks! Jo Bridgeman, our accounts person, made this cake and brought it in to share with all the staff – yum, yum! I can tell you, it’s worth working here just for the cakes and recipes we all bring in. You can get the tins to create this clever checkerboard effect from our website if you fancy a go!

Cake

  • 85g dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 320ml milk (divided 80ml/240ml)
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract
  • 400g self raising flour
  • 400g white sugar
  • 2tbsp baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 227g unsalted butter

Butter cream filling

  • 110g butter
  • 200g icing Sugar
  • 1-2tbsp milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

 Chocolate butter cream topping

  • 125g butter
  • 250g Icing sugar
  • 40g melted chocolate
  • 1-2tbsp milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350ºF/177ºc, grease the three tins and line bottoms with baking paper.

Melt chocolate over saucepan of simmering water, set aside.

In a bowl whisk the four eggs and 80ml milk and the vanilla extract, set aside.

In the bowl from your electric mixer combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, add the butter and 240ml milk and beat until combined. Then gradually add the egg and beat until combined.

Divide the mixture in half, and stir the melted chocolate into one.

You are then ready to fill the three tins, this can be done using two large piping bags or spooning the mixture in carefully. Place the divider ring in one of the tins and pipe or spoon the mixture into each section, alternating batter colours (example – outer and inner ring yellow, middle choc). The mixture should fill the tin about half full. Now carefully lift off the ring and wash, place into next pan and fill, when finished you should have two pans the same colour and one the opposite.

Bake for about 20mins and once the cake is cool, mix up the buttercream filling and spread thinly between each layer. We didn’t add any jam in this cake, but feel free to add an extra filling of your choice. Then mix up the chocolate buttercream and spread over sides and top of cake, grate some chocolate over the cake and add chocolate fondant flowers to the top of cake for decoration. The cake we made is chocolate and vanilla, but you could choose chocolate and orange, vanilla and rosewater, the combinations are endless!

You could just use two tins and two thirds of the recipe and make a two-layer cake instead of three if you’d like it to be a little smaller!

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Thoughts about the New Year

Well here we are 2013 is upon us… heavens, how fast did the last year go…? Answer, at the same speed as every other year, we just need to know how to make each year count and every month matter.

My first and only resolution this year is not to waste time, wish my life away or be able to say this time next year, well goodness me where did that year go? I want to do something that will make 2013 a year I remember fondly, a year where I feel I have made a difference to my life and, if I am lucky, to someone else’s life too.

Daydreams are just that, happy thoughts that while away precious time, how often do we follow through and really do all (or even some) of the things we dream about? I have a list of places I would dearly like to visit and trips I want to take before age gets the better of me and I find that I either haven’t got the strength to make the trip or the oomph to make me go out of my comfort zone. So far I have ticked Alaska off my ‘to do’ list but I still have Egypt (I’d love to see the pyramids) and the Northern Lights waiting for the budget and the time! I also daydream too much about getting a novel published and this is the year I want to see something happening… so watch this space!

So I am pushing to one side all my normal resolutions like, dieting, being more organised, making the garden look prettier, making a patchwork quilt, doing more scrapbooking and a dozen more that fail every year and just focusing on that one concept… make 2013 matter!

So, come on, tell us what resolutions you’ll be making…!

A happy and peaceful New Year to you all!

Joanna

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Home made patchwork pine cones and baubles

I love the idea of having family treasures that come out every year and make a real tradition out of Christmas. My mother has been making these pretty decorations for many years and we all have special collections of examples she has made for us.

It’s easy to use different scraps of fabric for a colourful patchwork effect or you can plan a colour scheme and buy a small amount of fabric for your project. All you need are some polystyrene balls, your fabric and lots of little pins!

I like the idea of choosing a specific colour scheme or theme and making one for each of the family every year. You could write the date on in gold pen to make it a special piece that can go on the tree each year.

Making your own Christmas decorations is a rewarding way to spend some time as you can enjoy them hanging all through the festive period and then tuck them away safely to enjoy next year.

All the ingredients can be bought from Pinflair, who are colleagues of mine on TV – and very reasonably priced they are too!

There are lots of places on the internet that have great tutorials showing you how to make these ornaments so here are some links for easy access – have fun!

Fabric pine cone

Pine cone ornament

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Cute Christmas cupcakes

We loved these so much, we thought you’d like an ‘extra’ cupcake blog this week! These are such lovely designs by another Jo who runs our accounts department. The ear muffs are great fun and sure to be popular with young and old alike!

For the cake:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3tbsp milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180ºc (160ºc fan). Line a 12-hole standard muffin tin with with Christmas paper cases.

Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until combined.

Divide mixture evenly between paper cases and bake for 25 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool completely before decorating.

For the butter cream:

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar

Combine butter and icing sugar together until you achieve a smooth mix. Put a generous spoonful onto each cupcake and leave until a crust has formed (about 1/2hrs), then smooth with a warm palette knife, cover with fondant/regal icing of your choice.

Jo has made: 

  • Snowmen with carrot noses, woolly hats and ear muffs
  • Cute little penguins
  • Yummy looking Christmas puddings – using chocolate flavoured fondant
  • Holly and berries using red fondant.

 

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