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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Home-made Christmas Gifts, Part Two: **Spoiler Alert**

I recently bought a job lot of antique bone china teacups,

with the view to doing something with them other than drink tea. Though, I have to say, drinking tea out of a bone china teacup is really the way to go. It tastes better and forces you to sip it elegantly, rather than gulping it down the way I tend to do when drinking out of a mug.

I did think it would be cool to make something along the lines of these fabulous teacup chandeliers from Domestic Construction

Picture source found here
and I may, at some later stage, have a go at making a similar kind of chandelier (I quite fancy Marmite jars). But for now I decided to make some teacup candles and give those as Christmas gifts.

Home-made Christmas Gifts, Part Two: Teacup Candles.



1. I prepped the teacups by placing the wicks in the bottom of each cup, and balancing them in the center by taping two pieces of a wooden skewer either side of the wick.

2.  Next I tipped my wax into a saucepan placed on top of a saucepan filled with boiling water, and kept stirring until all of the wax had melted. (All wax has a flash point, so a double-boiler/bain-marie is essential to prevent it bursting into flames.) I got through 1KG (two 750g bags) of soy wax flakes to make 13 teacup candles. When the wax was almost melted, I chipped some of the concentrated candle scent into the mix. I used an orange blossom scent.

3.  When the wax was melted, I carefully poured it up to the halfway mark into each teacup. I found it was easier to pour the wax by transferring it first into a measuring jug, as the saucepan tended to slosh the wax over the side of the teacups.

4.  Once the first layer of wax had cooled, I melted some more wax and poured the rest in just beyond the rim of the teacup. Wax shrinks as it cools so a crevice will develop in the centre, but the second pour helps ensure an even surface.

5.  The last step is to let the candle cool and harden thoroughly and then trim the wick to 1cm before lighting. And once your candle has burned down to nothing, the cups can be washed with soapy liquid and water, and re-used.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Home-made Christmas Gifts, Part One: **Spoiler Alert**

Today is a sick day from work, and I'm home with the flu. I'm feeling pathetically useless and a tiny bit sorry for myself. Having spent most of yesterday sending emails to the wrong people and mailing out incorrect forms to patients, I'm pretty sure the people I work with are rather relieved that I'm staying at home too.  So, in order to feel a bit more like a functioning, capable human being, I decided to make the most of this impromptu time-off by making some Christmas gifts. Yes, I'm going home-made this Christmas.

Home-made Christmas Gifts, Part One: Home-made Chutneys.

David and I recently bought a slow-cooker with the intention of making hearty winter stews ahead of time so that we could come home from work to a steaming plate of deliciousness. To accompany this new purchase I bought a recipe book, and in it discovered that I could make chutney in the slow-cooker. Probably not much of a discovery, I'll admit, but I've never thought about making chutney before. That thought then moved on to another thought that I should make some for Christmas presents, and so last month I made two kinds of chutney, and today I made the pots look pretty.

Spicy Plum and Apple Chutney

1 garlic bulb, peeled and sliced
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and thinly shredded
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1kg cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3 star anise
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
225g golden caster sugar
1kg plums, stoned and quartered
250ml cider vinegar

1. Mix garlic, ginger, onions, apples, star anise, cumin seeds, cinnamon, sugar and 1 tablespoon of salt in the slow-cooker. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours until apples are tender.
2. Stir in plums and vinegar, cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours until pulpy. Stir once in a while.
3. Discard cinnamon stick and star anise before ladling chutney into sterilized jars.

Tangy Onion Chutney

8 red onions, sliced
100g caster sugar
100ml red wine vinegar
100ml red wine
dash of grenadine syrup or cranberry juice.

1. Mix onions and sugar in pot, cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours, stir occasionally until the onions are soft and caramelized.
2. Add red wine vinegar and red wine, cook uncovered on high for another 2-3 hour. Stir occasionally until sticky. Add in grenadine or splash of cranberry juice. Leave to cool, then transfer to sterilized jars.

L: Spicy Plum and Apple Chutney, R: Tangy Onion Chutney

Decorating the pots

First I cut out large circles of fabric, using a pair of pinking shears to prevent fraying of the edges.

Fabric from Piglet's Pincushion

I then cut to size some brown card parcel tags,

named and dated them,

and tied them around the lids, securing the fabric.

I'm going to give them as gift sets of two. Aren't they cute?