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

Christmas stocking DIY

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Hello! One week today until Christmas; are we all excited?! I’m back home from university and fully getting into the festive swing of things. Following a wonderful (but cold!) Friday night spent with Jason at the Manchester Christmas markets (featuring food, mulled wine, and more food), I’ve spent the weekend watching Christmas movies with the family.

I like to think that I am an incredibly organised person. I always have my coursework ready to hand in the day before it’s due, and I plan my meals for the week way in advance- but somehow this Christmas has completely sneaked up on me and I am feeling totally unprepared! I’ve still got a shed load of Christmas making and baking that I want to do- that was today’s job!- and I haven’t even finished my Christmas shopping yet! I still need to make some Christmas cards too. In short, I’m exhausted. But thoroughly enjoying myself.

Today I bring you one of the few Christmas projects that I made well in advance of December! I actually made this Christmas stocking back in September, before I’d even started my second year of uni! Now, one term in and one week away from the special day itself, I finally got around to getting it up on the blog for you all to see!

I love this stocking! It took very little time to make and I think it turned out looking great. It was a pretty easy sewing project, great for beginners as you get to practise two different types of machine stitching.

For this project you will need:

  • Approx 1/2m of fabric for the body of the stocking. (I decided to use a different fabric for the front and the back of my stocking because I couldn’t decide which I preferred- haha!).
  • A contrasting white fabric for the top of the stocking
  • A contrasting Christmas fabric for your initial
  • Matching thread
  • A small piece of ribbon
  • Fabric scissors
  • A sewing machine
  • Greaseproof paper or similar to create a template
  • Chalk
  • Pins

Instructions:

  1. Begin by drawing and cutting out your template. I drew my stocking shape by hand, but if you’re not too confident in your drawing ability you can find plenty of stocking templates and sewing patterns online! If you are drawing yours by hand like I did, remember to include enough fabric for a seam allowance (that is, the fabric that will be inside of the seam once you have sewn the front and back of your stocking together).P1230071
  2. Place your template on the right side of the fabric that you want the main body of your stocking to be made out of. Draw around it using some chalk, before carefully cutting the shape of the front of your stocking out using the fabric scissors. Flip your fabric over so that the right side is now facing away from you, and draw around it once more, before cutting it out to create the back of your stocking. You will now have the front and back of your stocking.
  3. Now create a template for your initial. Again, I drew my M freehand, but you can find plenty of lettering that you can trace online. Place this template on top of the right side of your chosen fabric (that is, with the patterned side of your fabric facing towards you), and draw around it using your chalk before cutting it out.P1230074
  4. Place your initial on the front of your stocking. Once you are happy with the placing, pin it into place. Nows the fun part! Set your sewing machine to a zigzag stitch. You want the zigzag stitch that sews the ‘tightest’ zigzags, so its basically sewing tiny horizontal lines back and forth. This will create the thick, coloured line of thread that you see around my M. Now, carefully begin to sew around your initial using the zigzag stitch. This was actually easier than I had thought it would be, and I didn’t have any issues with the fabric bunching up. Ensure your tension is right, take your time and use lots of pins!P1230078
  5. Once you have sewn all around your initial, you can sew the front and back of your stocking together! Place the front and back together with the right sides of the fabric facing each other (so the two sides of the fabric that you wish to show when the stocking is complete should be facing each other; your initial will be on one of these). Pin around the edge and use a straight machine stitch now to sew all around the edge of your stocking, leaving the top open- you need somewhere for Santa to leave your presents! Once you have done so, trim a couple of small triangles along the seam where the stocking curves (for example, on the toe and heel). These little triangles will prevent the fabric from gathering at the seam when the stocking is turned the right way out.P1230080
  6. Turn your stocking the right way out. Now all that’s left to do is add the cuff! Use a tape measure to measure the circumference of the top of your stocking. Your cuff will have to be the same size as this opening. Add 1″ to whatever the circumference of the stocking measured (this will be for your seam allowance), and now cut a rectangle from your white fabric that is approximately this long and 10″ wide.
  7. Fold the rectangle of fabric in half lengthways (with right sides of fabric facing outwards) to produce a rectangle that is half as wide. Press with an iron to create a nice, sharp fold. Now fold the rectangle in half widthways. Pin along this open end, 1/2″ away from the raw edge. Sew along this line.
  8. Place the cuff inside the top of your stocking, so the raw edge of the cuff is along the raw edge of the stocking (ensure the seam of the cuff is visible at this stage). Create a small loop of ribbon and place it with loop pointing downwards, in between the layer of the stocking and the cuff. Pin around the top of the stocking, pinning the stocking to the cuff and the ribbon into place. If you are unsure around the placing of everything at this stage, try turning your cuff out so that it is on the outside of your stocking. You should have a nice clean seam on the top of your stocking where it meets the cuff, and the seam of your cuff should now be inside.P1230087
  9. Once you are sure you have pinned everything correctly, machine stitch along the top of your stocking where you have pinned. You can now turn the cuff out, so that it is on the outside of your stocking and all your rough edges are hidden inside!
  10. Ta da. A stocking so good, Santa would be proud.

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I hope you enjoyed this sewing project today guys, its been a while since I did a sewing DIY on the blog. Would you be interested in seeing some more? Let me know!

That’s all from me today, I hope you’re all having a wonderful day/evening, wherever you may be in the world!

Best wishes,

Maddie x

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!

A rather bad attempt at pumpkin carving! (What else?)

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Hey guys! So it’s finally here, the scariest night of the year, Halloween! It’s been a weekend of fun filled Halloween activities up here at uni; I may have not taken part in the clubbing, but I have been getting in the Halloween spirit nonetheless. (Probably the saddest sentence of my life right there, I do go out clubbing sometimes, I swear…)

Jason actually came up to visit this weekend, so most of my time has been dedicated to watching films under heaps of blankets, eating lots of food and going for coffee. I did, however, manage to squeeze in a bit of pumpkin carving before he arrived.

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Ok, so this guy is supposed to be a little hanging bat. I know, I know, this is NOT up to my usual artistic standards. Unfortunately, my pumpkin carving process this year was a much more rushed affair. I usually spend a few hours at in, but this year I had to squeeze it into a mere forty minutes. It was just a consequence of the sheer amount of work I had for uni, and trying to get everything done before Jason came to visit on Saturday.

I’m not as proud of the result as I have been in previous years, but it still ain’t half bad. And besides, it’s the process that makes pumpkin carving so fun! I had loads of fun creating this little bat design, even though I didn’t get to spend as long on it as I’d have liked!

Typically, being at uni, I’m also not allowed naked flames in my bedroom, so my pumpkin is sans candle. I’m pretty gutted that I couldn’t take any funky pictures of this little guy glowing eerily in the dark, but I did put my phone inside with the torch on and that looked pretty cool, haha!

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I love pumpkin carving. I think it’s such a fun and creative activity at this time of year! I’d never actually tried pumpkin carving until fairly recently, in the big scheme of things. I may have done it when I was really little with my mum, but throughout most of my childhood and early teenage years I don’t remember doing it. I guess my mum didn’t want to leave me to do it until she could trust me to handle a knife on my own (which in actual fact she still doesn’t; I almost sliced my thumb off at the start of uni last year, but thats a whole other story). But she trusts me a bit more with knives now. Ish.

For the past five years (I know this exactly, thanks to good old Facebook’s ‘look what you shared five years ago’ posts), I’ve had a go at pumpkin carving on my own. When I’m at home I always take the time to sit down and plan my design out, before merrily setting to work hacking away at my pumpkin. I actually really enjoy getting all the guts out, which I know is some peoples least favourite part of the whole process. But for me its super satisfying, whilst being really gross and slimy; perfect for Halloween, am I right?! 

So that’s all from me today, I hope you enjoyed this post guys, despite it not being my usual style! Would you like to see more of this type of chatty post, or should I just stick to making stuff? Haha!

Best wishes to you all for this Halloween, whether you be spending it Trick or Treating, partying or just watching a scary movie and hiding behind a cushion. Or if you’re just staying in with the lights off pretending your not home to avoid the Trick or Treaters!

Have a wonderful and blessed day guys, best wishes to you all!

Maddie x

 

DIY Gingerbread Sugar Scrub!

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Hi guys! Today’s post is probably one of my favourite DIYs/recipes that I’ve posted. This DIY gingerbread sugar scrub was sooooo easy to make, and mainly consisted of ingredients that you can find around your house!

I think this would make a wonderful, thoughtful homemade gift for your family and friends over the coming festive season, and it doesn’t break the bank! It turns out that those fancy sugar scrubs that brands have been charging us loads for can actually be made for a fraction of the cost at home- and you can tailor them exactly what you want!

When I was brainstorming ideas for this weeks blog posts, I decided I really wanted to make a festive smelling, spiced sugar scrub. For my regular readers, it will come as no shock that I love ginger and cinnamon; you may have noticed that I put them in a lot of my bakes at this time of year. And I thought, what could be better than having extra smooth skin and smelling like one of my freshly baked gingerbread men?! Hence today’s post 🙂

Make time- 5 minutes

Ingredients (makes one tub of sugar scrub):

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2tsp almond oil
  • 1/2tsp ginger
  • 1/2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Soften your coconut oil in the microwave, heating for about 20-30 seconds.
  2. Combine all your ingredients in a bowl. Mix together using your hands!
  3. Pack your sugar scrub into a Kilner jar or a tub and pop the lid on! Left at room temperature in an air tight container, this stuff should last a few years!

There you have it guys, I told you it was super easy!

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I plan on doing a few other sugar scrub recipes over the coming months; I’d love to try adding a few different essential oils to see what combinations I can come up with!

To use simply spoon a bit into your hands when wet, rub together in your palms before applying to your legs in circular motions! I’ve used this scrub a few times already, and it is wonderful! You only need about two teaspoons to do your arms and legs, and you come out of the shower feeling super soft and smelling like gingerbread!

Have you ever tried making your own sugar scrub? What flavour- that’s not the right word, scent? ..Oh you know what I mean- did you make? Let me know in the comments!

Lots of gingerbread scented hugs to you all!

Maddie x