Saturday, 24 December 2011

Magic Christmas Elf overview

We had lots of fun with our Elves on their first visit to our home. The children got into the swing of looking for them each morning and enjoyed seeing what mischief they got up to. And poor Sophie was really quite sad when she realised that today was their last day with us.

I thought I would put a list together of all their mischievous behaviour in one place in case anyone wants to copy for next year. I made a list of ideas just before they came and did use quite a few from this. Once the elves had arrived though, I realised that some ideas would just not be feasible and found that I tended to make things up on the spur of the moment (normally about five minutes before we went to bed, as I invariable forgot about them!).

So here is what they did this year (the elves came in the last few days of November, hence the reason there are more than 24 things):
  1. Drew a picture of favourite cuddly on a chalk board, causing a mess with the toys whilst trying to climb up high enough to reach
  2. Took a shower in the dishwasher, complete with soap, reindeer flannel and elf size towel
  3. Tried to be helpful by decorating the christmas tree, with the children's' pants
  4. Cooled down with some magic snow. They were obviously missing the North Pole ...
  5. Hid in a food cupboard after emptying all the tins and food out first
  6. Had a race on ride-along toys and kept a tally on the chalk board of who won each race
  7. Dressed up as Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi and recreated the famous battle scene with lightsabres
  8. Played a board game
  9. Pretended the bath was a swimming pool, complete with swimmers, goggles and toys
  10. Covered the sofa and ironing board with white sheets and used a tray to toboggan down
  11. Had a tea party with some teddy friends, Santa and Frosty
  12. Played on the piano
  13. Watched Christmas movies with popcorn, chocolates and lemonade
  14. Had a cotton wool snowball fight 
  15. Made paper snowflakes
  16. Played with toy cars and set up a ramp for them to race down
  17. Made music with wooden spoons and pots and pans
  18. Made a tent out of sheets and played with some new wind-up torch gifts
  19. Built a tower out of wooden blocks under the kitchen table
  20. Took a balloon flight by attaching helium balloons to a basket
  21. Took all the presents out from under the Christmas tree
  22. Got the stockings out and fell in trying to put some chocolate coins in
  23. Made pictures with a magnet scene game
  24. Sat in a tent being read Christmas books by inflatable Santa 
  25. Held large chocolate Santas for the children
Other ideas which the elves didn't do (but which might happen next year) are:
  • Playing with lego
  • Playing with cards i.e. snap or match the pairs
  • Playing musical chairs with other teddies
  • Making snow angels in flour on baking trays in the kitchen
  • Hanging from a light or something similarly high up
  • Making a mess with toilet paper
  • Eating sweets from the sweetie tin
  • Playing in the doll's house
  • Trying the drive the car
  • Playing Star Wars lego on the Xbox (or something similar)
Thank you Colin Snow and Sally Flake and hope we see you again next year! I hope you have had as much fun with your elves as we have.
© 2011 Nicola Noble

Elf update 3

So the elves have been with us for nearly one month and they are heading back home to the North Pole tonight when Santa comes. But what will they tell him - have Sophie and Justin been naughty or nice?

They have been quite well behaved the last few days and not got into too much mischief:
- they played with the Peppa Pig magnetic scenes
 - they sat in a tent and inflatable Father Christmas read them Dear Santa with some friends
 - and finally they gave Sophie and Justin some large chocolate Santas

Sophie and Justin have had lots of fun with the elves and will miss them when they go back tonight, but maybe Santa will leave some new friends for them both ...


© 2011 Nicola Noble

Friday, 23 December 2011

Best of my days

I found a gorgeous idea from Under the Sycamore called Best of My Days": it's basically a diary but with a twist.

The idea behind it is that you find something that has made you feel good/special in each day and write this down at the end of the day. That way, when you are having a not-so-good time you can pick up your Best of My Days and remind yourself that things aren't always so bad. It also helps you focus on the positive which hopefully brightens every day just a little bit more.

So this is for those of my friends going through a tough time at the moment - I'm thinking of you and hoping that next year will bring you lots of fun and special times. xx



Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Elf update 2

Our elves have been very busy getting up to all sorts of mischief. Since the last update, they have:
- hidden in a cupboard after emptying all the tins and food out
- had a race on the police car and "green sheep" - and all to play for on the last race
- dressed up as Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi and recreated the famous battle scene in our picture

- played Where's Moshi (Sophie's favourite game)
- pretended the bath was a swimming pool, complete with swimmers, goggles and toys
- propped the ironing board against the sofa, covered everything with white sheets and used a tray to toboggan down
 - had a tea party with some teddy friends, Santa and Frosty
- played We wish you a merry Christmas on the piano at Nana's house when we went for early Christmas

 - watched Christmas movies with popcorn, chocolates and lemonade
 - had a cotton wool snowball fight with one of the Santas
 - made paper snowflakes
 - played with all Justin's cars and set up a ramp for them to race down
 - made music with wooden spoons and pots and pans
 - built a huge tower out of wooden blocks under the kitchen table
 - took a balloon flight by attaching helium balloons to a basket
 - took all the presents out from under the Christmas tree
 - got the stockings out and fell in trying to put some chocolate coins in
Not long now until the big day when they make their report to Father Christmas and head back to the North Pole for a well deserved break ...

Sunday, 18 December 2011

This year's Christmas cake - 2011

I have just finished decorating my Christmas cake and overall I am quite pleased with the finished look.

I bought a ready made un-iced fruit cake from M&S and then had to remind myself what I had been taught on my cake decorating course last year about covering with marzipan and icing. I think I got it right: I filled the imperfections/dents in the cake with small balls of marzipan then made apricot glaze which I spread onto the cake before covering with a thin layer of marzipan; I then rubbed some vodka over the marzipan before topping with white fondant icing. I left it for a week for the fondant to harden slightly and the cake was then ready to decorate.

I had decided some time ago that I wanted to do something with gingerbread men. When it came down to it I just couldn't get inspired but I trawled the net and pinned them all to a board on Pinterest and ultimately found a greetings card that I liked the look of.
The next thing to sort was the gingham. There is a group on Facebook (Fans of Cake Baker) which contains the most helpful cakey people and I asked them for advice. Within about five minutes of posting my question, I had a selection of helpful responses, of which one was buying a cake topper sheet of fondant with red gingham printed on in edible inks. This arrived within two days of ordering and I then set to putting the design together.

I cut a square of the gingham and attached it to the cake with water. My gingerbread man cutter turned out to be too small so I printed out an image I liked, cut out the template and cut around that onto the gingerbread coloured fondant (made from chestnut brown and yellow colouring). I then made some red buttons with my button mould and cut some stars out in the gingerbread coloured fondant and attached these around the cake alternating with some gingham stars. I created the gingham ones by sticking the gingham topper to a thin roll of white fondant and cutting the stars from this. I was using a plastic cutter so the shape was not as clean as I would have liked but I think it would work better with a metal cutter.
I had to stop at this point and although I was pleased with how it was coming together, I really felt that it wasn't looking very Christmassy.
Thankfully, my lovely sister-in-law suggested that I put a santa hat on the gingerbread man and that finally gave me the inspiration I was looking for. I added some ric-rac on the legs and arms and a holly decoration (not edible) on the hat. 
I finished off with some pearl lustre spray. It was my first time using this in an aerosol form and I went a bit mad and also held it a bit close in some places so it pooled and left tide marks. It also gave the white fondant an antique feel which sort of works for this design. 
The sad thing now is that I promised my sister that she could have half the cake for her Christmas celebrations - but where do I cut it? Think she can have the legs!

Merry Christmas everyone - I hope that you all have a fun holiday period full of yummy food.

© 2011 Nicola Noble

Monday, 12 December 2011

Beetroot brownies

Mr Snowballs has decided he wants to juice! So I ordered a juice box from Abel & Cole and this lovely box of fruit and veg came with a ridiculous amount of beetroot. I can't bear beetroot - the earthiness is something I have never developed a taste for. Rather than force myself to drink gallons of pink, earthy juice (although I do have to admit that in moderation and seriously diluted with other things such as carrot, celery and ginger it's okay) I searched for recipes to use at least some of the remaining beetroot up. I came across a beetroot brownie recipe on BBC Good Food website.
The comments all say that the beetroot makes the brownies really moist, so I decided to make them using gluten free flour, in the hope that the moistness of the beetroot compensated for the dryness that is gluten free baking. I also didn't have the right amount of dark chocolate (the recipe states 200g of 70% cocoa) but did have 130g of 100% pure cocoa (the unbelievable Willie's Supreme Cocoa) which I thought would work well.
It is a very simple recipe to do and didn't actually take too long to make. I didn't sift the flour properly so the finished brownie had the odd tiny ball of flour but not enough to cause a problem.

And the verdict?

Really good!!! There was no hint of the earthiness of beetroot (I think the 100% cocoa probably helped drown this out) and they are unbelievably moist and sticky. They also have a delightful pink tint to them which is very appealing. I have tested them on a number of people and very few of them have guessed the secret ingredient. I will definitely be making these again - although this time it will probably be with the 70%  chocolate the recipe states as I have run out of my super strength cocoa. It will be interesting to see if this makes a big difference ...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Elf update

Santa's magic elves have been with us for 5 days and have got up to lots of mischief already. So far they have:
- tried to draw a picture of Sophie's favourite cuddly, Boingy, on the chalk board. They caused havoc with the toys whilst trying to climb up high enough to reach
- taken a shower in the dishwasher, complete with soap, reindeer flannel and elf size towel

 - tried to be helpful by decorating the christmas tree, with Sophie and Justin's pants!
- cooled down with some magic snow. They were obviously missing the North Pole ...
I wonder what they will get up to next?

Friday, 2 December 2011

Reindeer noses


As mentioned previously, I am in love with Pinterest ... but as also mentioned, it is easy to pin a million great ideas but not so easy to actually find the time to have a go at them. So tonight I can feel proud of myself for completing my second Pinterest project.


I spotted the very cute idea of a bag of (edible) reindeer noses from A Personal Touch and had to have a go at these for Sophie to give to some of her friends this Christmas.

I bought some gobstoppers from our local retro sweet shop (Sweet Memories of Twickenham) who very kindly picked out all the red ones for me and also a couple of large bags of Maltesers. Then tonight I popped 8 brown noses and one red nose into clear bags and made some labels to go on the top.

I decided to hand draw the labels rather than try to create them on the computer. This goes against the grain of a perfectionist who likes every copy to be identical, but I am pleased with how they came out and think it suits the simpleness of the gift.  I borrowed one of Sophie's glitter gel pens to colour the nose - you can't see the sparkle of the red nose in the photo - and I stamped a few snowflakes in silver. I wanted to get the photos on here tonight so they aren't great quality - I will try and take some better ones in daylight.

Let's hope Sophie likes them ...
© 2011 Nicola Noble

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Magic Christmas Elves

Having first discovered about Magic Christmas Elves from Alayna at Alayna's Creations, I really hoped that we would get visited by our own Elves so that they could become part of our family Christmas traditions. I must have been good because my wish came true!

We thought that the elves would arrive down our chimney on the 1 December but they arrived a few days earlier, together with an introductory letter from Santa and the elves' passports and were waiting for Sophie and Justin to discover them in the morning when they came down for breakfast.
Sophie spotted them in the lounge that morning and the excited laughter told us she had found them in a sprinkling of snow with an envelope on their laps. Justin didn't really understand what was going on but joined in the laughter and gave the boy elf a huge cuddle.

The envelope contained the letter from Santa:

Dear  Sophie and  Justin

Thank you for your letters. I have made a note of the gifts you would like and will see what I can do.
As you are now nearly 6 and 3 years old, I am sending these Magic Christmas Elves to stay with you until Christmas Eve. They help me by visiting girls and boys in the run up to Christmas and reporting back on each child’s behaviour. When I arrive on Christmas Eve they will present their report on whether you have been good and then return to my Workshop in the North Pole for a well-earned holiday.Thank you for your letters. I have made a note of the gifts you would like and will see what I can do.Thank you for your letters. I have made a note of the gifts you would like and will see what I can do.Thank you for your letters. I have made a note of the gifts you would like and will see what I can do.Thank you for your letters. I have made a note of the gifts you would like and will see what I can do.
As you are now nearly 6 and 3 years old, I am sending these Magic Christmas Elves to stay with you until Christmas Eve. They help me by visiting girls and boys in the run up to Christmas and reporting back on each child’s behaviour. When I arrive on Christmas Eve they will present their report on whether you have been good and then return to my Workshop in the North Pole for a well-earned holiday.
Be wary! The Elves will explore your house from top to bottom in order to make a proper report; you may have to search to find them each day . I must also add that I have been made aware of prior incidents of Elf Mischief on the part of these Elves. Should any such Elf Mischief occur, please feel free to contact me at the North Pole.
Have fun with with your new friends and see you soon.
Love
Santa
And the passports told us that the elves were called Colin Snow and Sally Flake. They are both 142 years old and were born in Santa's workshop at the North Pole.

Sophie promptly told us that it wasn't snow but was in fact flour (she tasted it). Must have been magic snow!

So now we have two very magical elves roaming our house and getting into all sorts of mischief. Watch this space for a report on all the elf antics over the next month ...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Trees and fog

I don't know what it is but I am loving the trees round us at the moment, from the beautiful autumn sunrise shining through the yellow leaves by the river (see here) to the way the street light shone through the fog and trees last night.

It was foggy all day and as darkness fell the fog became more intense. The street lamps glowed like UFOs (according to Sophie) as you couldn't see the posts, only the lights glowing in the sky. Looking at the tree in our neighbour's garden, it was almost hypnotic swaying my head from side-to-side watching the play of beams from the street light shining behind from the tree in bright streamers of light (like a child's drawing of the sun rays). The photos don't capture the full beauty of it but I hope they give you an idea.



© 2011 Nicola Noble

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Christmas cards

I recently made my first Christmas card for this year (for a friend who lives in Malaysia so it had to go in the post early!) and it reminded me how much I like making Christmas cards but also how much work it is to make enough for everyone!

The first Christmas I was a stay-at-home Mummy I set to and made cards for all 60+ people on our list and I also made a large number for my husband to send to work contacts. The next year I made for the the good friends on the list and the year after that I made for the very good friends on the list ... 

I still have aspirations to make all my cards but the reality of two children under six has put that idea on hold again for this year at least. So for those of you who get a hand-made card this year - consider yourself the very, very good friends!
The cute puffy reindeers came from Paperchase last year and I painted them with silver glitter to add the obligatory sparkle. The snowflake stamps were a (self-bought) Christmas gift last year from Muji. I stamped them in dark blue (which came with the stamps) and silver for a bit more sparkle.

Previous years' designs have all been created using my Sizzix die-cutter and include snowflakes and various designs of Christmas tree.

So if you are making your own Christmas cards this year, have fun and I will try to do better next year :o)
 © 2011 Nicola Noble