Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wrapping presents with DIY gift tags

Well I've wrapped all the presents - phew!

I'm afraid, for the MIAMI purists, I used virgin wrapping paper - but most of it was surplus from last year, supplemented by a stash left by a friend who was staying here this week and bought more than she needed and bequeathed the rest to me.

In mitigation I did make all my own gift tags and I have to say they are blooming lovely - much nicer than shop bought ones. I had a pile of last year's Christmas cards and cut them, punched a hole and threaded through some gold thread I had in my stash.

Amazingly I managed to find a large card in purple tones that perfectly matched some of my wrapping paper and got half a dozen tags from the one card - I couldn't believe how well the colours matched. In the photo here it's hard to tell which is the card and which the wrapping.

If you think recycling involves some kind of compromise in quality I hope these will convince you otherwise. And if you aspire to cut out buying any paper at Christmas check out our main website and read  >> How to have a paperless Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Clare F

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Easy Christmas tree decorations

These gold Christmas tree decorations have adorned my tree every year since 1992. They were made for me by my sister-in-law Lucy and are my favourite tree ornaments.

They look very easy to make - just pieces of corrugated cardboard covered with crinkled paper - added papier mache style and then sprayed with gold paint. Despite being really simple they are very effective and the crinkly surface helps them catch and reflect the light.

For more handmade Christmas decoration ideas look at the MIAMI website

Clare F

Monday, 13 December 2010

Make (up) your very own grape chutney

We MIAMI girls meet regularly – every week or two – in one of our homes, the day’s business (slightly) broken by a homemade lunch. Today, in honour of Christmas, we moved off piste and into the creative surrounds of The British Film Institute on London’s Southbank. More specifically we gathered in the ground floor Benugo Bar and when lunchtime came around, it being Christmas (did I mention that already?), we chose an a' la carte lunch and were lucky enough to be served by the lovely Wes, straight from Toronto (that's him on the left). 

Our treat – and the real purpose of this blog, was the discovery with the cheese course of a fantastic grape chutney which none of us had ever heard of before. As the team by now felt Wes was our new best friend, we asked outright: what was in it and how was it made. Enter Carlos, our bearded chef (his braised squid was pretty tasty too).

As you can see, Wes and Carlos were only too pleased to hand over a list of ingredients for this especially Christmassy and fresh tasting chutney – just perfect with cheese.

  • Bramley Apple
  • White Onion
  • Red grapes
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Brown sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Cinnamon
  • Ground ginger
But it was a list. What we don't have are the quantities or instructions, so here goes my best guess (you may have a better idea or two): 

As this is a fresh tasting, ready-to-eat-immediately kind of chutney, I’d be inclined to first cook everything in a large pan (going easy on the vinegar and sugar) except for the grapes, lemon juice and spices. Maybe one large or two smaller onions, one large chopped Bramley apple – and cook slowly but not for as long as a regular chutney – perhaps an hour or so. Then add in the lemon juice (I wonder what a bit of the grated zest would be like?), the grapes (go for really red skins – Chef Carlos said the batch we ate used fab, fat red grapes), and the spices. I reckon another 40 minutes should do it. The texture should be sludgy and the grapes smashed, but evident.

Who knows what it will taste like – all I know is that what we ate was not too sweet, not cloying and had fresh, cinnamonny overtones. Lovely. My daughter’s going to try some later this later this week to make as gifts for her family... what a great Christmas present... and thank you Carlos for your genius and Wes for being a fab waiter and story-teller.

Clare OB

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Making Christmas cards

Well I finally got round to making my Christmas cards tonight. After loads of Saturday night trash telly it was quite restful sitting down on my one-woman assembly line to make up the cards.

As I didn't have much time and was a bit short on materials, I just painted a couple of very simple rather childish pictures of holly. Neither of them came out as I intended, but they'll have to do! - I also had a go at a pointsettia but it looked like a big fat blob so I gave up on that one! I then bunged them on the printer and made copies, trimmed them and stuck them on to card blanks with Pritt Stick - as I didn't want to gas myself with spray mount.

Even though they may not be very beautiful at least the recipients know they have been made with time and trouble, not just grabbed in a store.

For loads of ideas, instructions and videos for making Christmas cards - check out Clare O'Brien's posts on our website >> Hand made Christmas cards

Clare Flynn

Friday, 3 December 2010

If you want to get ahead get a bobble hat!

Well Cheryl has hit the headlines again with yet another little knitted creation.  She has hit the front page of the Daily Mail and will undoubtedly be spread across the rest tomorrow.

“Cheryl Cole keeps out the chill in a furry bobble hat…”

Knitwear is big business this winter and it seems that if you want to get some media mileage you need to wear a natty knit. 
Last year Cheryl hit the front pages wearing a hat with an oversized bobble, this year’s version is sporting a faux fur bobble.  Sadly both hats come with a celebrity price tag, but we have a great patter for those of you who fancy having a go at making their own.  You can either make it with an oversized bobble or have a go at making the faux fur version – both are equally simple.

>> Click here for the full story

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Getting in the Christmas Spirit!

I love Clare F’s piece yesterday about renting a Christmas tree, but my vote has to go to the upcycled trees this year.  I love the ingenious use of waste products at the best of times, but think of the added pleasure of gathering your stock for this tree...

This one was created outside the Nanjing mall in China and is huge but, if you really like the idea, you could create a smaller version for your own home. Yes, you'd have to save a fair few bottles, but I can think of a few men (and women) who have more than enough bottles in their recycling boxes already! 

So if you want to have a go at a more modest version this video may be for you.

>> Click here for lots of great ideas for making your own handmade Christmas decorations