Everyone loves food, and everyone likes food that is made for them by someone else. I got together with my friend Mo, who was a member of the BINORACLE clothes swap, and we decided to pool resources and make chutneys and limoncello to give to our friendship circle. Chutney is incredibly easy to make; I nicked my recipe off my friend Michelle who writes at the excellent publication The High Tea Cast, which I highly recommend. Mo also brought a different recipe, and suggested we make limoncello - a thing I'd always assumed was some artisan production but is actually just sugar, lemon zest and vodka. To round it off, we also made a batch of mince pies with some pre-made filling and shortcrust pastry from a bag (we are THAT classy).
- Collect your jars and bottles well in advance. A lot of vinegar went into the chutney, and we reused those to bottle the limoncello (each was about 350ml). If you are having troubles taking the original stickers off (even after a soak), DW40 on a wire brush is a magic way to get the adhesive off.
- Make sure you sterilise the jars - heating them at 200 degrees for 20 minutes is a good way (be very careful!) otherwise, boil them in water for 15 minutes. If your ingredients are hot, put them into hot jars. If cold, leave your jars to cool.
- Have a plan for what you do with your lemons after limoncelloing. We intended to make lemon and carrot jam, but we waited too late and the lemons went mouldy. That or you could squeeze them and freeze the results in snaplock bags (you can't freeze whole lemons, they go all weird apparently).
Calendars are rendered largely redundant these days due to technology, yet we insist on having them on our walls. I had a really nice one that I didn't write in at all, a series of vintage railway posters from the 30s and 40s from different locations around the UK. They were really very pretty. But once a calendar has served its purpose, it typically gets thrown in the bin. WELL, NOT ANY MORE.
1. Cut out the images you like
2. Buy some picture frames second hand
3. Voila, beautiful pictures to hang on the wall
- The cardboard backing on the frame I bought was quite grubby, so I flipped it round. The hook was luckily reversible - fitting neatly into a slot - so the whole thing looks reasonably professional, sealed up with masking tape
- To clean the glass, get a dry, scrunchy piece of paper like tissue or newspaper. If there is any sticky residue, a bit of vinegar on the paper will dissolve it.
There is a small baby in my life who is totally adorable. I knit stuff for her because I enjoy knitting, and also baby stuff doesn't take long to make. If you have any random bits of colourful wool, baby items are very useful ways to use them up. I can't knit anything that's not a square or a rectangle, so I get artful in my folding and sewing. Hence, this hat is simply folded and joined along two edges, to make a tube, and then sewn together at the top in a rectangle, with two pom-poms hanging off the corners. Amelie likes to wear it like this, and I'm trying not to take it personally. I also made a scarf (apparently it's hard to come by scarves for babies; perhaps they are a choking hazard, but this one closes over with a bobble and comes off without too much provocation, so I don't think her life is in danger). Additionally I made some booties, but they needed extra work so they don't just fall off her TINY, TINY FEET. They, however, are also just squares, folded and sewn down like moccasins.
- Start early! Knitting can be quite a length process. I was finishing the scarf at about 11pm on Christmas Eve.
- A bit of planning goes a long way. I began the scarf without really considering how much wool I would need, and ended up having to choose two more colours to extend it on either side of a central piece.
I invented my own facial scrub using E45 Cream, brown sugar, honey, chopped almonds and walnuts and glycerin (difficult to find but I eventually tracked it down as a sore throat mixture for kids at Boots). It was totally magical, and my housemate Jess says her skin is very soft since.
- Have a play around with different quantities to get the right mixture and density
- The BINORACLE favours brown paper as wrapping, with a little gold paper for embellishment. It's simple, classy and VERY cheap.
- The BINORACLE gets Christmas Cards from Oxfam* and other charity outlets. Cheaper AND it helps those less forunate.
- Another Christmas tip: cut the designs from the cards you got last year and use them to make gift tags. Or keep an eye out for recycling bins like this one I saw in Sainsbury's.
I leave you this instruction in the hope that your next Christmas will be more BINORACLE than last.
*This is an affiliate link, which means if you click and purchase from that link, the BINORACLE will receive a small amount of money (it won't cost you any more, though).