My first attempt at sugar cookies

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I see sugar cookies all the time on social media. Birthday sugar cookies, baby shower sugar cookies, wedding sugar cookies, Christmas sugar cookies. I can’t seem to get away from them when I’m scrolling through Pinterest, but I’ve never actually had a go at making my own sugar cookies before. Well, until now that is.

I get the impression that sugar cookies are a much bigger thing in the US than they are here in the UK. The only time I’ve eaten sugar cookies before is back when I was at Primary school; my mum has a friend who grew up in Hawaii, and she always made sugar cookies for us to decorate when we went round to her house. (Side note: I loved going round to her house.)

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So, armed with a bit of spare time and some good old nostalgia, I decided to have a go at baking my own sugar cookies. My mum’s friend was kind enough to give me her recipe, so I was able to make the exact same yummy cookies that I remember eating as a kid.

I was really pleased with how these cookies turned out for a first attempt. They tasted just like I remember, and were perfect for icing. I decided to keep things pretty simple and go with a butterfly design for these cookies, but I’m excited to experiment and see what other designs I will be able to come up with using some different cookie cutters.

I’m already planning on making some of these for my 21st birthday party next week, so I’ll be uploading a recipe soon! I’m hoping to have a go at making some cacti cookies, what do you think?!

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Have you ever made sugar cookies? Do you agree that they’re way more popular in the States?

Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Victoria sandwich cake and party planning

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Hey guys, how’re we all doing?

Despite only working three days a week at the moment, I’m feeling pretty worn out. When I go back to uni in October I know that I’ll be buried in a mountain of work once again, so I’m trying to fit as many things into this summer as I can. While this is great in some respects- I’m churning out enough baked goods to feed a small family for a year- I’m also feeling like I just don’t have enough time to fit everything in.

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s my 21st birthday next month, so I’m busy looking forward to that. I’m not having a proper party- I decided to spend the money on a trip to Rome with Jason instead- but I am having some family round on the day to celebrate with me. Naturally, because I’m me, having a few family members round has turned into a themed celebration, so despite the small 18 people long guest list, I’m pulling out all the stops to create an awesome Latin American themed fiesta.

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I studied Spanish at school and fell in love with the language, going on to develop a huge appreciation for both Spanish and latin American culture as I’ve gotten older. Hence when I was thinking about a summer party theme, my mind instantly went to sunshine, papel picado and mojitos. Sadly, here in North England the sunshine isn’t a given, but with plans for a DIY cocktail bar and several Mexican paper crafts already underway, the other two are looking likely.

Alongside my fiesta planning, I’ve also done some very English baking for my Dad. Unfortunately my Dad’s birthday is in May, right in the middle of exam season, so I didn’t have time to make him a birthday cake this year. To make up for this I made him his favourite Victoria sandwich cake the other day while I was off.

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I love Victoria sandwich cake. Like, what’s not to love really? It’s the perfect combination of soft sponge cake, sweet jam, and light and airy cream. I personally prefer cake with buttercream instead of fresh cream, but seeing as this was for my Dad I sandwiched the sponges together with a whipped double cream and strawberries mixture, his fave.

It’s safe to say this cake went down very well- two days later and it’s almost all gone! If you fancy making your own Victoria sandwich cake, try using my vanilla sponge cake recipe.

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I’ve got plenty more baking planned for over the coming weeks, mainly preparations for my birthday- yay!

What have you been up to this week? Let me know in the comments!

Gingerbread House Recipe/ Welcoming in the New Year

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

Hi guys! I hope you all had a magical Christmas and are now eagerly looking forward to the New Year and anticipating what 2018 will bring you. I am pleased to say that a great Christmas was had by all in the Smith household; though a somewhat smaller affair than previous years, we had a wonderful time playing games, eating good food and enjoying each other’s company. Despite the obligatory workload that I must tackle before my return to university, I have been thoroughly enjoying my increase in free time, and have spent many a day in the company of Jason and my family. I will be sad to return to Lancaster in January.

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

But the holiday season is not over yet! Something that I have come to notice as I have gotten older is that I can continue to enjoy the festivities of the holidays even after Christmas Day has been and gone. Being 20 means that I can enjoy welcoming in the New Year more than I did when I was a kid, and I’m full of excitement now that Jason and I have begun our holiday search for 2018.

Make your own gingerbread house with this super tasty recipe!

So with the festive season in mind, today I bring you my homemade gingerbread house recipe. This was the third year in a row that I tackled baking my own gingerbread house from scratch. When I was younger, I used to get the kits with ready made gingerbread pieces, so that all you had to do was assemble and decorate the house. Now that I’m older and have developed more confidence in the kitchen (and my mum’s developed more confidence in my cleaning up the kitchen abilities!), I love to bake the gingerbread for the house myself.

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

It’s no small feat; making and rolling out the dough for this bad boy will take you a good few hours- let alone the hours spent icing it- but I think it’s totally worth it. I am never more proud of a bake than I am of my gingerbread houses. There’s something incredibly satisfying about not only achieving baked to perfection gingerbread, but also achieving a minor structural engineering feat while you’re at it. Plus, decorating gingerbread houses is a thoroughly enjoyable activity. I spent my Christmas Eve icing and adding all the sweets to my house, before settling down to watch a Christmas movie with the family; a suitably festive activity in my opinion.

Be the envy of your friends with this homemade gingerbread house recipe!

The original recipe that I used for this house is from the queen of British baking herself, Mary Berry (find the original recipe here!). Truth be told, this isn’t the tastiest gingerbread that I bake (at least in my opinion). If you’re looking for soft, spiced gingerbread cookies, you should check out my best gingerbread man recipe! But of course, seeing as you will be constructing a house out of your gingerbread, you need it to be a little harder than these and more structurally sound! Unlike my favourite gingerbread recipe, this recipe doesn’t contain an egg, making it a little firmer when baked. And don’t get me wrong, it still tastes really good!

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Recipe (original recipe from Mary Berry, on the BBC Good Food website):

Ingredients:

For the gingerbread: (Find the template here!)

  • 375g/13oz unsalted butter
  • 300g/10½oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 150g/5½oz golden syrup
  • 900g/2lb plain flour
  • 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger

For the icing:

  • 3 free-range egg whites
  • 675g/1½lb icing sugar, sifted

To decorate:

  • 15 boiled sweets. I like to use a variety of colours!
  • 1 x 30cm/12in square cake board, or the back of a baking tray I as used
  • 200g/7oz giant milk chocolate buttons
  • A battery powered candle to go inside, or a small string of fairy lights

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (fan 180C).

  2. Begin by melting your butter, sugar and syrup together in a large pan.
  3. In a bowl, sieve your flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger, and combine. Make a well in the centre, and pour in your syrup mixture.
  4. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, knead it together to form a dough. Divide this dough into five evenly sized pieces, before cutting one of these pieces in half, so that you have six pieces in total.
  5. Roll each piece out on a sheet of greaseproof paper, until it is about 3/4cm/1/3″ thick. Using the template (linked above), cut out the pieces for the walls, roof and front and back of your house. Top tip for ensuring a well cut out house: “Use a ruler and the rim of a cup to cut out the arched windows on the front and sides of the house. Using a star cutter, cut out a star in the front and back of the house.”
  6. Roll out the left over dough so that you can cut out your chimney and two trees. Bake your gingerbread for 7-8 minutes.
  7. While this is baking, place your sweets in a plastic sandwich bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are a rough sand texture. Alternatively, if bashing things with a rolling pin isn’t your jam, you could use a pestle and mortar for this.
  8. Remove the gingerbread from the oven. Re-trim the sides of your pieces and the windows using a knife if your gingerbread has spread a little. Sprinkle the crushed sweets into the windows, before popping the gingerbread back in the oven to bake for a further 3-4 minutes.
  9. Remove your gingerbread from the oven and leave to cool on the baking trays for a few minutes, before trimming around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely.
  10. Now you can make your icing! Whisk your egg whites until frothy. Start to add one spoonful of icing sugar at a time as you continue to whisk. Continue until all of your icing sugar has been mixed in- it will be a very firm icing texture. If you’re not using your icing straight away, cover it with a damp towel.

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To construct your house:

  1. Spread icing onto your cake board/ baking tray that you will constructing your house on.
  2. On the back of the front piece of your house, pipe a thick line of icing along the two sides. This is where you will attach the side walls of your house. Now pipe a thick line of icing on the cake board, where you wish to position the front of your house, followed by two lines of icing where you will position the sides of your house. Place the base of the front of your house on this line of icing. Holding the front of your house in place, attach one side of the house, followed by the other. Add the back piece of your house, followed by the roof.
  3. Leave your house to dry for a minimum of four hours, but preferably over night, before decorating!
  4. Decorate your house as you wish- this is the fun part! I love to ’tile’ the roof using chocolate buttons, I think this looks great. Add sweets and ice as you wish, before dusting in icing sugar! Pop your candle or fairy light through the door of your house and watch as your windows light up!

There you have it guys! I hope you enjoyed this gingerbread house recipe- be sure to let me know how it goes if you try recreating it! Don’t feel daunted by making your own gingerbread house if you’ve never tried it before. I know it looks like it may be tricky, but this is actually pretty simple to do! 

If you’d like any help or advice in recreating your own house, please don’t hesitate to get in touch- I’d be happy to assist!

That’s all from me today folks!

Thank you to each and every one of you for all of your comments, likes and support throughout 2017. I wish you all the best for the New Year. 

Maddie x

The Best Gingerbread Men

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Hello you lovely people! How are we all today? Running around like crazy people trying to purchase the last of the Christmas presents? Same! Today has been hectic. I’m trying my best not to be too hard on myself for the fact that I’ve left everything to the last minute, but I am still cursing myself for not starting in July. Eh well, there’s always next year.

I have sooo much baking planned for this week- first up, my favourite gingerbread men! Baking gingerbread men has become somewhat of a tradition for me during the week leading up to Christmas. The first time I tried making my own gingerbread men was way back when I was in year nine at high school (so back when I was 14- that’s six years ago!). Pleasantly surprising myself with the result, several of my friend’s ended up receiving gingerbread men that year. And so it became a yearly tradition for me.

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This recipe gives the tastiest, soft spiced gingerbread men that I’ve ever had. I’ve tried a few different methods of making gingerbread over the years (I also like to make a yearly gingerbread house, which requires a slightly harder textured gingerbread), and I can safely say that this is my favourite to eat! With just the right amount of ginger and cinnamon, and a wonderful soft texture, these gingerbread men are the perfect little festive treats for all the family. Plus, they fill your home with the BEST Christmas smell.

In short, if you leave these out for Santa, you’re sure to be put on the nice list!

Fancy making your own? Find my recipe below!

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbs golden syrup
  • 75g dark soft brown sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg

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Method:

  1. Begin by greasing two baking trays and preheating your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4.
  2. Melt your butter, sugar and syrup in a pan, stirring continuously as you do so.
  3. Once your butter and sugar mixture has melted, combine your dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a small well in the middle and pour in the syrup mixture. Stir well.
  4. Beat your egg before adding it to the mixture. Combine well. The mixture will be incredibly sticky at this point- don’t worry! That’s what we want!
  5. Leave the mixture to rest for ten minutes.
  6. Once the mixture has rested, roll it out on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Cut out your gingerbread men! The cookie cutter I used for my men was approx 13cmx10cm, with my stars being about 4cmx4cm. Place your cut out shapes on a baking tray and pop them in the oven. If you’re using a cookie cutter the same size as mine for your men, they will need 12-15 minutes in the oven. My smaller star and tree cookies take between 8-10 minutes to cook.
  7. When ready to come out of the oven, the gingerbread will still feel soft to touch, but they will look nicely baked on the surface and the edges may be starting to darken ever so slightly. Remove them from the oven and leave to rest on the baking tray for five minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool. P1240180.jpg

Once cooled, you can ice your gingerbread like mine, or maybe melt some chocolate to drizzle over! Maybe add a bit of lemon juice to your icing to spice things up a bit. For my icing I mixed a little amount of egg white with some icing sugar for a firm consistency before outlining my gingerbread shapes. I’m afraid I don’t have measurements for this- I sort of just see how it goes! But if you do wish to do the same as me, sieve a small amount of icing sugar into a bowl before gradually adding egg white. Don’t add too much egg white, otherwise the icing will turn out far too runny!

That’s it from me today guys, I hope you enjoyed this post! What are you up to this week leading up to Christmas?

I hope you’re all having wonderful days, and best wishes to each and every one of you,

Maddie x

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

Homemade vanilla fudge recipe!

This recipe gives you the creamiest, most wonderfully textured vanilla fudge. A true classic, perfect as a thoughtful homemade gift for your loved ones.

Hi guys! Today’s blog post is all about how to make your own homemade fudge- yum. I’d attempted making my own fudge twice before, prior to this post, and that had turned out…well…not brilliantly to say the least. But I am a fudge addict, I LOVE fudge. My family and I used to holiday a lot in the UK when I was younger, and my dad and I would always bring back fudge. So I just had to give it a go one more time before accepting defeat.

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For me, fudge is very much a food for special occasions- as Christmas grows ever nearer, what better time to share this sweet treat recipe? When done correctly, homemade fudge makes a wonderful gift for family members and friends. And in case you hadn’t already guessed, I finally managed to do it correctly!

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After looking over a few different fudge recipes and comparing them with the one I’d previously tried from one of my own recipe books, I settled on the following method and ingredients found here on the Good to Know website. One thing that did surprise me was just how cheap the process turned out to be, using only six ingredients- most of which you’ll already have in your cupboard!

If you’d like to know how to make your own homemade fudge, keep reading!

Ingredients (makes approximately 36 pieces of fudge):

  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 85g butter (I used salted butter as this was all I had in! I’m sure unsalted butter would work brilliantly too though.)
  • 150ml milk (I used semi-skimmed milk, though I imagine full fat milk would be good too.)
  • 175g evaporated milk
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • Vegetable oil for greasingP1230318

Method:

  1. To begin, place your sugar, butter, milk and evaporated milk into a large heavy bottomed pan and mix them together. Heat gently, stirring continuously, until your sugar has dissolved.
  2. Once your sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring occasionally to ensure your sugar doesn’t burn. Be careful as your mixture will be very hot!
  3. Continue to boil until your mixture reaches 116C on a sugar thermometer. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer- firstly, I strongly suggest you invest in one! They make life so much easier. Secondly, you can see if your fudge is done but spooning a small drop of the syrup into iced water, it should form a soft ball. (I got this tip from the Good to Know website).
  4. Once your syrup is the correct temperature, remove your pan from the heat and stir in your vanilla extract, before pouring your mixture into a square tin brushed with vegetable oil. I used a 20cm shallow square tin for my fudge.
  5. Leave your fudge to cool for approximately ten minutes before cutting it into squares. Now leave it to cool completely. Wrap in cellophane bags and tie with a pretty ribbon for a perfect homemade gift!

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I hope you enjoyed this recipe; this fudge was so creamy and very sweet, I loved it! I’m looking forward to experimenting with some other flavours now that I’ve got to grips with vanilla fudge- is there anything else you’d like to see? Peanut butter perhaps? Chocolate? Let me know! 

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

Pssst… if you enjoyed this post, why not share it on social media or pin it on pinterest? 

Huge Hobbycraft Birthday Haul!

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Hi guys! As some of you may know, Friday was my 20th birthday. I had a wonderful day spent with some of my favourite people, and I am so grateful for all of your well wishes and kind words. I’m so thankful to say that I’ve got lots of exciting things going on in my life right now, and I cannot wait to share it all with you!

At the time this post will go up on the blog, I will have landed in Carcassonne, France, with Jason. I am beyond excited to explore this beautiful city and see what it has to offer over the next week- I’m sure I will have plenty to tell you about over the coming days.

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But now to what this post is all about- my Hobbycraft haul! On Monday I was incredibly spoilt by my grandparents and given free reign in Hobbycraft as a birthday treat. For those who don’t know, Hobbycraft is a huge craft store in England. It stocks everything from paints to papercraft to candle making to baking- basically everything a craft addict such as myself could want.

I bought LOADS of exciting goodies and I cannot wait to get busy making all sorts of creations! I’ve grouped this post into sections, for those of you who are just interested in one particular area of craft 🙂

Baking stuff!

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First up, I bought some new baking goodies! I purchased the golden cake board with my birthday cake in mind, and the same goes for the sparklers. I love cake sparklers! They’re such a fun way of jazzing up your cakes for special occasions!

I also got two REALLY pigmented food colourings! These were pricey little guys, but you do get quite a lot in the pot, and I imagine the fact that they are so pigmented will mean that they’ll last a long time. I’m looking forward to seeing how well they colour cake mix and icing!

I’m a sucker for edible glitter, so when I saw it was on 3 for 2 I just HAD to purchase three new colours! I got a red, a gold and an orange, thinking that the red and gold would be perfect for Christmas (the orange was an impulse purchase). I also bought some gold edible stars too because who doesn’t need those in their life? 😉

Continuing with the baking theme, I got some stainless steel piping tips! This is probably the thing that I am most excited about, because up until now I only had one icing tip! (Ever notice that all my bakes had the same style piping on? Lol!). I am dying to try these babies out! Naturally I purchased some disposable piping bags to go with my new nozzles.

I had also run out of cupcake cases thanks to this mad baking spree I’ve been on recently, so I got some jazzy multicoloured ones and a gold pack for Christmas. Incase you couldn’t tell, I’m just starting to get a teeny bit excited for Christmas. I also bought some little gingerbread men decorations. (But I am totally not overly excited…) 🙂

Paper craft!

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Now onto my paper craft stuff (and mainly more Christmas themed stuff… I CAN’T HELP MYSELF). 

I love card marking. I’m nowhere near as good as some of the women I know- Jason’s nan and aunty produce some beautiful cards, as do some of the women I follow on here– but I really enjoy it nevertheless.

I got some beautiful stamps that I’m dying to use! I think the butterfly one is my favourite, but the other two are perfect for Christmas time (see a theme recurring here?). To go with the stamps, I bought three different coloured inks. I already own a lot of golden and bronze shades, so I thought it’d be nice to have some bright ones for a change! 🙂

I also got some twine ( I love using this for my card making), some sparkly festive washi tape and some adorable little hessian stars. I couldn’t help but purchase some glittery Christmas tree stickers and wooden advent numbers to complete my Christmas themed buys!

Candle making!

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I first tried candle making a couple of years ago and loved it. It’s such a fun process; all the colours and scents will have you feeling like a mad professor! As I have already tried candle making before, I own a handful of plastic candle moulds, so I simply stocked up on paraffin wax, dyes, scented oils and wicks.

If you haven’t tried candle making before but fancy giving it a go, you can usually purchase a beginners kit for around a tenner! This will provide you with all you need to get started, and it really is great fun.

Craft kits!

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I also treated myself to two craft kits. I love craft kits, as I’m always passionate about trying out exciting and new crafts! I have tried soap making before, but never beeswax soap, so I am super excited to give this a go!

I have also made bath bombs before, but I am a sucker for anything rose scented. Plus it was a good few years ago when I made my first bath bombs, so I could do with a little refresher before I start making some more.

Well guys, that’s it from my haul! I am sooooo beyond grateful to my grandparents for treating me to all of this stuff, and it’s safe to say they will definitely be receiving plenty of baked goods and homemade crafts to say thank you!

I hope you all enjoyed seeing what I bought- would you be interested in hearing my thoughts on some of the products after I’ve had chance to use them? If there’s an item you’re interested in hearing about, please let me know! 

If you’re interested in buying any of the items featured in this post, check out the Hobbycraft website 🙂