DIY Advent Calendar

 

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Hello my lovelies! It’s finally that time of year! The time when you can start to get Christmassy and nobody can get on your case about it, because it’s practically December, so it’s totally allowed! And we all know what that also means, it’s almost the start of advent!

I actually love the start of advent, it’s the time when I begin to get fully into the Christmas spirit and excited for the big day. And of course, who doesn’t love getting a chocolate every day for 24 days? Side note: Yes, I am 20, and yes, I still get an advent calendar. But besides the chocolate, that’s what I really love about advent. Having a daily countdown reminding me of how close we are to the 25th is something that still excites me now, and I never start to feel quite as festive as when I open that first door!

I’m super excited as I’m writing this because I’ll be travelling home from university on the 1st December to spend the weekend with my family and Jason. We’re going to put the Christmas decorations up, which normally involves lots of cheesy Christmas music. My parents, Hannah and I have always done this together for as long as I can remember; it’s really the start of the festive season in our household. This will also be the fifth time that Jason’s helped out with it- I love having us all together.

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So, with all that talk of advent, you’ve probably already guessed that this post may have something to do with it (or maybe you just read the title). This year I really wanted to make my own advent calendar. At first I’d considered sewing one, but I don’t have room for my sewing machine up at university, so it wouldn’t have been too practical. I’m also not exactly swimming in free time, so I wanted a project that would help me get in the Christmas mood without taking an age to create! I’m also broke, so cheap was a necessity!

Enter my toilet roll tube advent calendar! The definition of frugal. Inspired by my toilet roll tube bats, this advent calendar was completely free to make, seeing as I already had some Christmas craft paper in, and I’ve been saving up my left over loo roll tubes since returning to uni. Side note: For another free craft project, why not check out my previous post? DIY Conker Wreath.

I’m actually pretty happy with the result, I really love the homemade festive vibe it adds to my room. The best thing about this calendar is that you can fill it with whatever you want, be it a festive poem for each day or a small christmas trinket. Or, of course, chocolate. Adding a little christmassy tissue paper inside each of the ‘parcels’ makes it seem a bit more upmarket and less toilet roll-y. 🙂

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There’s not much to say about how to recreate this advent calendar; I’m sure you can suss that out for yourself! But I thought I’d post it more as an inspiration for yourselves if, like me, you’re wishing to create a frugal and alternative Christmas countdown for this festive season. (Or maybe as some inspiration for next year!) I’ll still include some basic instructions though for those of you wanting to recreate this craft project!

So what did I do?

You will need:

  • Toilet roll tubes.
  • Christmas paper.
  • Scissors or pinking shears.
  • Small advent numbers. I had these in my crafting collection, from Hobbycraft, but you can purchase similar from most craft stores at this time of year.
  • Some acrylic paints- optional!

Ok, so lets get started! I’ll forgo my usual numbered instructions here and resort to giving you a basic description of what I did.

Firstly, the more observant of you may have noticed that my advent calendar only actually has 15 days- shock horror! No, I did not get lazy and couldn’t be bothered finishing it- well, maybe a little… 😉 – this is actually because I’m only up at university until the 15th December, so I decided just to make parcels for those days.

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The first thing I did when making my advent calendar was put on my Christmas music and settle down to paint some Christmassy designs on a few of my cardboard tubes. I opted for holly berries and snowflakes. Obviously this step is completely optional, but I really enjoyed this process, and I love how these parcels turned out! They are definitely my favourite.

Now all that’s left for you to do is the super easy and quick part! Cut out strips of Christmas paper, I used pinking shears for this but you could also just use scissors. Glue a strip of paper on the front of each of your tubes. I also chose to cut a small square of paper to go on my painted tubes.

Add your advent numbers, before folding the bottom of your tube in to get the nice, pointed corner, parcel shape that I had. Fill each of your parcels with a little tissue paper and a small gift, before folding in the top of your tube in the same manner as the bottom.

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Ta da! It’s actually that easy. Blu tac your parcels up like me, or pin them to a cork board. Or why not tie some string around and hang them from a ribbon on your wall?

I love how this advent calendar turned out! I think it adds a really sweet, homemade and cozy vibe to my room. And it was super cheap and super easy! You really can’t complain at that!

Are you guys looking forward to the count down to Christmas? Have you been doing any festive crafting recently? You know I would love to see your own seasonal projects, why not link them in the comments?

Wishing you all the very best of days as we head into December,

Maddie xxx

DIY Love Heart Conker (Chestnut) Wreath!

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Hello you lovely people! Lil’ disclaimer- I got a tad carried away with the intro to this post. So if you would like to forgo my waffling and skip to the good stuff, you just scroll on down! 🙂

I don’t know about you guys, but I am just not feeling quite as festive as I’d like to be at this time of year. There’s something about being at university that really zaps the fun out of the Christmas season, or any season for that matter. All I want to be doing is shopping for Christmas decorations with my family, enjoying mulled wine at the Manchester Christmas markets with Jason, and making a start on my Christmas projects; but instead I’m overwhelmed with deadlines, coursework and the responsibilities of being a fully functioning adult living on my own.

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It’s not just a lack of free time that’s the issue though, when you live away from home it kind of feels like you’re missing out on…well, life. At least for me. Not having my car up here with me makes it difficult to get out and about, and I really miss the mundane things like Sunday afternoon trips to a garden centre with my parents.

But, with all that said and done, I am really trying to get in the Christmas spirit! I mean, really trying. My flatmates have been subjected to me blasting Christmas songs from my room, and I’m trying my damn well hardest to start a few Christmas craft projects!

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Which brings us to today’s post: my DIY conker wreath! Despite it being nearly December, this wreath would’ve been a super cute edition to your decor throughout the Autumn season (and it would’ve been, if I’d got my act together and made it sooner!). But this wreath is also a perfect way of adding some Christmas cheer to your home, which is EXACTLY what I am in need of right now! Plus, this was super cheap to make! I actually had all of the stuff in for this already, so it was actually free for me! And even if you don’t have some scrap fabric lying around, you would have more than enough if you purchased a quarter of a metre! 🙂

I collected most of the conkers for this wreath back when Jason and I were holidaying in France, in late September. I have always had magpie-like tendencies when it comes to things like conkers and acorns; I remember rummaging around for them back when I was a kid- I was a pretty weird kid. Collecting conkers is something I will always associate with my childhood and Autumn, but even though I am now twenty, I still enjoy filling my pockets with shiny brown chestnuts! Skip forward a week of conker collecting in France, and I had about thirty of the beauties, and no idea of how to use them.

Enter my DIY conker wreath:

You will need:

  • Conkers
  • Strong cardboard. I used the cardboard from a shoe box.
  • Hessian/ Burlap.
  • Assorted fabric scraps
  • Ribbon
  • A glue gun
  • Scissors/ Craft knife

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  1. Draw out a heart shape on your cardboard to whatever size you want your wreath to be. Mine was about 10″ high and 10″ wide at its widest point, but this is totally up to you. Take into consideration how much fabric you have to hand and how many conkers. You could also print off a template for this if you’re not too confident in your drawing ability! 🙂
  2. Draw a smaller heart shape inside your heart so that you have your desired wreath shape. Cut around your wreath using scissors or a craft knife. Cut out the centre of your wreath.
  3. Place a blob of glue at the top of your wreath, on the front and back of the cardboard, and attach a loop of ribbon here so that you can hang your wreath.
  4. Now that you have your desired wreath shape, begin to cut out strips of hessian/burlap. You will be wrapping these strips around your wreath, so ensure that they are at least twice as wide as the wreath itself (enough to go over the front and the back of the cardboard).
  5. Using your glue gun, glue a strip to your wreath by folding it in half and placing the fold on the inner edge of your wreath, so that one half of the strip is glued to top of the cardboard and the other half is glued to the back. You want it so the ends of the strip are on the outer edge of your wreath.
  6. Repeat this with as many strips as necessary, until all of the cardboard is covered. You should have some nice texture around the outer edge of your wreath thanks to the raw edges of the hessian.
  7. Now you can start to glue gun your conkers onto the wreath! This does require quite a lot of glue, but I love the finished effect. I must say though, this isn’t a foolproof method. Some of the conkers can become a bit loose when the glue dries. I’d recommend ensuring that they are securely stuck down with lots of glue, and of course being careful with your wreath when dry.
  8. Now that you have added your conkers, cut out some strips of assorted fabric. You want these strips to be about 3″ long.
  9. With one strip, twist it in the centre so that you have a little bow shape. Pop a blob of hot glue in the centre, and press it onto you wreath (use a pen or similar to press the fabric down, you don’t want to burn yourself!). This is how I added the texture to my wreath, as twisting the fabric strips and attaching them in this way gives a charming 3D effect.
  10. Repeat this with as many fabric strips as you like, until you are satisfied with the overall appearance of your wreath.

Ta da! Easy as that.

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There you have it guys! Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post! What’ve you been making in anticipation for Christmas? Let me know in the comments!

Best wishes to you all, filled with lots of festive cheer!

Maddie x

Get festive with this DIY chestnut wreath! A great craft project for Autumn and through into winter. Bring some Christmas cheer into your home, or why not use it as a table centre piece for Thanksgiving!

Spiced Caramel Apple Cake

 

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Hello you lovely people!

So, OK guys, here it is, the Autumnal cake recipe you’ve all been waiting for; my Spiced Caramel Apple Cake- let’s be real, does it get any more Autumnal?!

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Those of you who frequent my blog will know that I am a cake addict; I will gladly spend my day doing nothing but baking, icing and eating cake. I’d never actually tried incorporating apples (or any type of fruit in all honesty) into my cakes before, so I was pleasantly surprised by how good this bake turned out!

As it was my first time experimenting with adding fruit to my cake, I decided to keep the rest of the recipe relatively simple and stick to my basic sponge cake recipe, with a few seasonal adjustments.

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Packed full of Autumnal spices, layered with salted caramel sauce and topped off with sweet cinnamon buttercream, this cake was PERFECT for Autumn. And pretty easy to make too. I already had a jar of my homemade caramel sauce in the fridge when making this cake so I thought I’d use it- find my recipe here– though this would be just as tasty if you decided to use shop bought caramel.

Fancy making your own? Find my recipe below:

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • Approximately 6oz of apples. I used Braeburn apples, though I imagine any type of eating apple would work well. 
  • 8oz butter or Stork margarine
  • 8oz light soft brown sugar plus a small amount to cover your apple pieces with.
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice

For the buttercream

  • 12oz icing sugar
  • 8oz butter or Stork margarine (room temperature and cubed)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For the salted caramel sauce (This makes one small jar full- you won’t need it all!)

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 90g salted butter, room temperature (You could also just use unsalted butter if you did not wish to make salted caramel sauce)
  • 120ml double/heavy cream
  • 1tsp salt

 

P1230389.jpgMethod:

  1. Begin by washing and peeling your apples, before cutting them into small chunks. Mine were around 1cm squares.
  2. Pat your apple chunks down with kitchen towel to get some of the moisture out of them. You don’t want to make your cake soggy, so I recommend giving them a little press with your hand over a sheet of kitchen towel, to help get some of the excess juice out.
  3. Sprinkle some sugar over your apple pieces and leave to rest in a bowl while you prepare the rest of your cake.
  4. Grease and line two 8″ cake tins, and preheat your oven to 180C.
  5. Cream your butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in your eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each. This will help stop the mixture from separating.
  6. Sieve in the rest of your flour, and your spices. Combine your mixture thoroughly using a wooden spoon or electric mixer.
  7. Tip in your apple chunks and stir through to distribute evenly throughout the cake mix.
  8. Pour your mixture evenly into the two prepared cake tins, place in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes. When cooked, your sponges should spring up when pressed in the middle, and a skewer should come out clean after being inserted into the centre of your sponges.
  9. Leave the sponges in the tins to rest for a minute, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  10. While your cake is cooling, you can make your buttercream! Sieve your icing sugar into a bowl and add your butter. Add in your cinnamon and whisk together until you have a smooth icing consistency (this will take a while!). If your buttercream is slightly too thick, add a little milk.
  11. If you wish to make your own salted caramel sauce, do so now (find my recipe here!). Leave your sauce to cool a little before assembling your cake, you don’t want it to melt the buttercream!
  12. You can now begin to assemble the cake. Spread a thin layer of caramel sauce on one of your sponges before adding a layer of butter cream on top. Pop the second sponge on top before spreading a layer of caramel on this too, and piping some more cinnamon buttercream around the edges for decoration. I also chose to add some caramelised apple slices to my cake to make it look super fancy 😉

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So there you have it!

I absolutely love how this recipe turned out, incase you couldn’t already tell! 😉 Jason isn’t even a big fan of cinnamon, and even he liked this cake! So I think that says something about how good this tasted. I loved the contrast of the caramel with the spices and the apple, it was a PERFECT combination.

What have you guys been baking recently? Do you have a favourite bake for Autumn? Let me know in the comments, you know I love to be inspired!

Best wishes to you all!

Maddie x

Sister Style- Autumn!

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Hey guys!

So, I thought I’d do something a little bit different for today’s post. I’ve got some great crafts and recipes lined up for you over the coming weeks as we head into December, but today I’m bringing you my first ever fashion post….If you can call it that. It’s more of just a lot of photos.

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I’m not very much into fashion in a blogging sense. I love clothes, and I love the process of designing and making clothes, but I’m not much into the whole shopping thing. I don’t keep up with trends, I’d much rather base my clothes on what I like, regardless of what’s in fashion. I have a love for vintage style, good quality fabric, knee socks, bright colours and mini skirts.

Now let me introduce you to my sister, Hannah. Hannah is the complete opposite of me when it comes to clothes. Hannah likes every style, every trend and every single clothing item you could imagine. She also likes to shop, A LOT. Keeping up with trends is her jam, and her wardrobe is the evidence of it.

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Seeing as we have such different attitudes towards clothing, I thought it’d be really interesting to do a ‘sister style’ blog post showcasing what we like to wear in Autumn! The idea for this post is of course inspired by the Sister Style series on A Beautiful Mess, an amazing blog that I’m sure you’ve already heard of!

We decided to head down to Williamson Park in Lancaster to take these photos. I’ve been studying and living in Lancaster for over a year now, but I’d actually not visited this park until two weeks ago! It’s a beautiful park, and the chocolate fudge cake served in the cafe definitely makes it worth a visit.

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I’m wearing a woollen skirt that I got a few years ago from Topshop. The roll neck top is also from Topshop; I love wearing the colour mustard during Autumn, I think it makes my outfit so seasonal! This top is one of my staples at this time of year. My boots are absolutely ‘ride or die’. I LOVE these boots. My parents bought them for my birthday in September, and I haven’t stopped wearing them since. They’re leather and such good quality!

Hannah’s also wearing a Topshop dress (I swear this post isn’t sponsored by Topshop, haha!). And her boots are from Tesco, from a few years back.

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It was super fun taking all these photos! We had such a great day 🙂

That’s all from me today guys, would you like to see more of these types of posts? Let me know! It’d be great fun to make Sister Style into a recurring feature here on the blog!

Best wishes to you all!

Maddie x

 

 

Chocolate and Chopped Nut Apple Slices

These Chocolate Apple Slices are the perfect treat for fall! Crunchy apple, smooth chocolate and tasty chopped nuts make these a super tasty snack over these cold months.

Hello you lovely people! Ok, so I have a little confession to make, this post was actually meant to go up before Halloween and Bonfire Night, but I got crazy behind on my blogging schedule- I’m sorry!

But I figured that a tasty apple treat is perfect for the whole of Autumn, regardless of what festivities you celebrate. So that’s what I’m bringing you today!

There’s something oddly comforting to do with apples at this time of year, at least for me. As the Winter months roll in, I am craving hot apple cider, apple crumble and custard, spiced apple cake… you get the idea. Mixing the trusty old apple with sweet treats has something soo satisfying about it, and so homely. The thought of toffee apples takes me right back to being a kid. I remember my mum buying them in close to Halloween; I would sit and nibble all of the sugary coating off before leaving the apple. I am proud to say that my taste buds have changed somewhat, and now I enjoy devouring the apple itself too.

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Today’s recipe is a really simple, yet scrumptious idea, that’ll have you whipping up the perfect sweet treat in no time. I mixed it up a bit from the usual toffee coated apples and decided to dunk these apple slices in melted chocolate instead! This was for two reasons, primarily the fact I’m on a student budget and chocolate is much cheaper, and two because I left my sugar thermometer at home. Three because I just bloody love chocolate.

I also decided to keep things plain and simple, and stick to just apple slices rather than dunking a full apple. You could pop a lolly stick in these if you fancied making some ‘apple pops’ for a Fall themed party, but I liked the idea of having my slices on their own, as they make a great snack! (Though I will warn you that this does make them a little messier to eat!).

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I topped of my slices with some chopped nuts, and the outcome was soooo yummy. The crunchiness and juiciness of the apple, accompanied with the smooth chocolate coating and nutty flavour was delicious, and perfect for Autumn!

The best bit about these is that you can eat more of them because they’ve got fruit in… that’s totally how it works, right?

You could also whip up some of my salted caramel sauce to drizzle over the top of these apples. I have a feeling it would be HEAVENLY.

This salted caramel sauce is the perfect accompaniment to all your fall sweet treats! Pair it with apple crumble, cheesecake or on top of cupcakes for the perfect Autumn dessert combo! Best of all, it only uses four ingredients!

My Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe!

So let’s get to it!

You will need:

  • Apples. As many as you like really. As I live alone I kept it to a minimum and only used two apples.
  • A mixture of chocolate. I used 150g milk chocolate and 150g white chocolate.
  • Toppings! I used chopped nuts and golden stars on my apples, but feel free to get creative here and top with your favourite sweets or sprinkles!

Method:

  1. Wash and slice your apples. You want thick enough slices so that your apples are too delicate when you’re dunking them in your chocolate. Peel if you’d prefer, but I kept the skin on mine. Press your apple slices with some kitchen roll to help dry them out a bit before adding the chocolate, you don’t want them to be too wet.
  2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  3. Melt your chocolate! I decided to cover half of my slices in white chocolate and half in milk chocolate for artistic credit, but do whatever tickles your fancy. By holding the bottom half of your apple slice between your fingers, use a spoon to cover one side of your apple in the melted chocolate. Spread it out with the back of the spoon so that you have an even layer, before turning over and doing the same with the other side. Your fingers will get a bit messy! More to lick off afterwards, right? 
  4. Place your slices down on the baking tray once you have covered them in chocolate.
  5. If using chopped nuts, sprinkle these over the top of your apple slices. Drizzle some melted chocolate over your slices in a contrasting colour. I chose to add my golden stars after this to make them really stand out!
  6. Once you are satisfied with the look of your apple slices, place them in the fridge for the chocolate to completely set!

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I keep these slices in the fridge once I’ve made them. If you’ve covered them in chocolate well enough, they keep for quite a few days and retain their juicy, crunchy texture.

There you have it guys! I hope you enjoyed this really easy and tasty recipe, if you can call it that!

I’ll be taking these with my lunch over the next few days, if I haven’t eaten them all by then!

What’s your favourite treat to make using apples at this time of year? Let me know!

Best wishes,

Maddie x

Parkin Cake

This traditional Parkin Recipe is everything you could want for your Bonfire Night celebrations! Dense, sticky and sweet, filled with Autumnal spices, this is the perfect fall recipe.

Hi guys! As some of my readers will know, it is Bonfire Night this week! For my international readers, Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night) is an annual celebration here in Britain on the 5th of November.

Typically us Brits will spend Bonfire Night huddled around a bonfire, freezing our you-know-whats off and watching fireworks; all to celebrate that some guy failed to blow up parliament back in 1605.

I actually love bonfire night. Most years, my family and I make our way down to a local bonfire and fireworks display that is held on a nearby park. It’s one of the most popular fireworks displays in my town, and there’s usually a few thousand people who attend.

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Bonfire night wouldn’t be complete, however, without some traditional edible goodies! Foods such as honeycomb, treacle toffee and Parkin cake are very popular on November 5th (at least in my household!).

Parkin cake is a dense, sticky cake which is very popular in Lancashire and Yorkshire. It’s similar to ginger cake, and contains oats to give it a unique texture. With ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice, Parkin cake is what can only be described as the perfect autumnal comfort food.P1230439

Fancy making your own Parkin? Find my recipe below:

Ingredients:

  • 100g self raising flour
  • 80g oat flakes
  • 10g ground ginger
  • 2.5g ground nutmeg
  • 2.5g mixed spice
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 50g black treacle
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g light soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 10ml milk (I’d recommend using full fat or semi-skimmed milk- not skimmed)

Method:

  1. As per usual, start by preheating your oven. For this recipe you want a temperature of 140C/275F/Gas Mark 1. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
  2. Sieve your flour and the three spices into a bowl. Add your oats and combine.
  3. Place your butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a pan. Stir regularly with a wooden spoon until all your butter and sugar has melted. Bring your mixture to a simmer, still stirring but do not allow it to boil!
  4. Remove your syrup mixture from the heat and mix it into your dry ingredients.
  5. Crack your egg into a cup and beat with a fork, before adding the milk. Pour you egg/milk mix into the rest of your mixture. Combine thoroughly before pouring your mix into your prepared cake tin.
  6. Bake your Parkin cake for around 1 hour 15 minutes. Mine usually takes between 1 hour 10 minutes and 1 hour 25 minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on it. When fully baked it should be firm in the centre.
  7. Leave your cake to cool in the tray for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to fully cool.

I find Parkin is better if left in an air tight container for a few days before eating, a week is best. This will allow it to become really sticky and moist (oo-er). Seriously though, this stuff is so good.

Parkin also tastes great served warm with ice cream. Whatever you fancy really! 🙂

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I’d definitely recommend that you give this traditional Lancashire treat a try- you won’t be disappointed!

I hope you’re all having wonderful days,

Maddie x