Did you have a lovely weekend? I hope so. We began to gradually decorate the house for Christmas, starting – of course – with the Little House, which now has a wreath on the door and a generally festive air. Now we just need snow like last year….
For our own house, we wrestled home a gorgeous but hazardous blue spruce tree, which is steadily releasing an evocative, resiny smell throughout the house. It is taking the sting (metaphorically if not literally) out of the myriad of small puncture wounds that dot my arms and hands from the fierce, spiky needles. At least the needles won’t be a problem for long, if the huge drifts of them which have dropped to the floor overnight are anything to go by.
In more gentle domestic pursuits, I had a recent flurry of making and freezing batches of cookie dough ready for Christmas. Harry and I mixed up bowls of oat and raisin drop cookie dough, sugar cookie dough and our very own gingerbread recipe. The dough that we didn’t eat raw made it as far as the freezer, and we also gift-wrapped up a few packages to give to friends, tied with butchers twine and with festive cookie cutters attached.
We defrosted a batch this weekend to make some gingerbread men for Harry’s teachers and friends at school. A Mr and Mrs Claus set first of all;
I used rolled red fondant for the suits, using the cookie cutter to stamp out the shape before trimming away the hands and feet. Pearl sugar balls are glued in place with a dab of icing, then I used a bit more icing to mount them on sqaures of black card. The boxes are from here, and are perfect for protecting the gingerbread whilst looking pretty at the same time. I slipped each in a cellophane bag tied with ribbon, and Harry then cheerfully bumped and bashed them all the way along the path to school. Incredibly, they survived.
We used the rest of our dough to stamp out minimen for each member of his class, using chocolate buttons to decorate and lengths of twine to fashion scarves. A candy cane makes for a dapper accessory (I picture our minimen dancing the light fantastic on Broadway; they are not introverts, for sure). Our recipe is at the bottom if you’re feeling the urge to bake; they are very moreish.
In another burst of thrifty crafting, I used our leftover scraps of wrapping paper to make envelope liners for all the plain envelopes we have; they’re a great way of sprucing up the envelopes which come with store-bought cards and making them look a bit more interesting, or of making envelopes to house giftcards or Christmas letters – anything that you’re sending at this time of year.
You can use ready-made envelope liner templates for these, or cheat and do what I did; simply place a sheet of tracing or transparent paper over your envelope, draw around the area you want to cover, and use this as a template for cutting out your wrapping paper. Secure in place with a dab of stick glue and you’re done; very professional and yet dead easy. You can do the same with photos, which take a bit more skill but look even more gorgeous; here are some we made last year.
And now it’s back to the world of work and school, for a little bit longer at least, though the end of the year is in sight. This week is a whirl of deadlines and meetings for me, and Nativity rehearsals for Harry who will be bearing Myrrh in a regal fashion to towards Bethlehem in the nursery school play. Tissues at the ready. I keep catching snippets of carols and songs being sung sotto voce by Harry in the bath or as he builds Lego; anticipation is mounting.
Finally thank you for all your lovely comments of late, which are so good to receive. And welcome, if you’re new to these parts; have a look at the Gallery tab to navigate your way around.
Have a good week, whatever it holds in store.
Kate and Harry’s Gingerbread (apologies for those who work in ‘cups’; a conversion site should be able to help..)
- 125g butter
- 4 tbsp golden syrup
- 100g light demerara sugar
- 320g plain flour
- 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tsp ginger
Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together in a pan. Sieve the dry ingredients together into a bowl. Add the warm syrup to the flour mix, and stir well to form a dough. Cool, cut and bake at 180 degrees for around 10mins, until the edges begin to brown.
This produces light, sweet gingerbread men with minimal spreading; it’s not the richer, plumper dough you find in Northern Europe, but is a milder taste which seems to appeal to small children and works well for shapes you want to decorate and which need to maintain definition. Good luck!