A fun thing to do this time of year is prepare your stock for your gravy for Christmas (or even Thanksgiving). This firstly takes the task away from you closer to Christmas as you can just whip it out of your freezer, but it also lets you spread the cost of ingredients between now and Christmas. I think the most efficient way to do this is to buy a turkey or chicken for Sunday lunch (one that includes ideally the giblets and neck) and just save them and make this recipe at the same time. Once done just allow to cool and freeze.
1 onion sliced and halved
1 carrot, sliced lengthways
1 celery stick
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp salt
1.5 pints cold water
Put all in pan and boil for 30 minutes
Remove the surface scum with a spoon
Remove giblets and onion
Boil for another 30 minutes
Allow to cool then freeze
When it’s time to use the stock this is the recipe to use below:
Gravy (see Giblet stock as optional above)
Turkey pan with fat and burnt bits stuck to the bottom once the Turkey has been removed
2 tbsp flour
1 pint giblet stock or beef stock from a packet
Pinch of salt and pepper
Splash red wine
1 tbsp cranberry sauce
Gravy browning if you want to cheat a little
Pour off the majority of the fat left in the pan
Add the flour and put the pan on the hob on a medium heat
Using a wooden spatula scrape the bottom of the pan until all the black bits mix with flour and it starts to form a paste and the flour cooks out for a few minutes
Add the red wine and cook out for another 2-3 minutes
Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the thickness of gravy you like
If it’s not brown enough add a little gravy browning
My husband adores Formula 1 racing and had always shared it with our sons. Max is older now and has a huge toy cat collection. He also loves wearing his caps that match his daddy. So for his birthday we decided to make him a racing driver outfit as there really aren’t a lot to buy.
This would work equally well for Halloween costume or any time of year.
I bought a boiler suit from Amazon (link below) and then some iron on patches from eBay, I tried to copy roughly where they are on a suit and think I did pretty well.
Although I live in England I adore Halloween. I adore all holiday seasons to be honest, any excuse to decorate or dress up. Every Halloween I prepare a large bucket of sweets or candies by the front door and one year I decided to go the extra step and make some cup cakes. These are probably more suitable to give out in your office as in reality they don’t travel well in a kid’s candy bag which I didn’t think about at the time to the neighbor’s kid’s dismay.
Basic cake recipe
4 eggs (free range or organic if you can afford it)
225g sugar caster
225g self raising flour
225g butter or margarine
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
Cooking chocolate block or if you are stuck a big block of standard chocolate or melt some bars will do
1. You can use cup cake tin or pretty Halloween themed cases
2. Grease the tin by dipping a bit of kitchen roll in the butter and covering the inside of the tin lightly
3. Set the oven to 180 degrees c
4. Mix all the ingredients together and beat well. You don’t need to cream the butter, just mix well
5. Pour the mixture into the tin/cases leaving a slight dip in the middle as it will rise higher there
6. Cook for about 20 minutes until light and golden
7. When the cakes are cooled cut off the end of a piping (or sandwich/zip lock bag if you don’t have one) and fill will orange sugar paste
8. Squeeze the bag and pour in a circular direction. Practice a few times and you can fake some really cool looking icing. Leave the cakes to set somewhere cool
9. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for a few minutes. You can do it over a pan of simmering water but a few minutes in the microwave is so much easier. Just check it every 30 seconds to make sure it doesn’t burn
10. Pour the chocolate into moulds and put in the fridge to set (you can put in the freezer if you are feeling impatient but be careful as some types of chocolate go white and crystallise
11. When all cool push the chocolate onto the icing 7
The orange flowers are some artificial flowers I get out every year in Autumn. This year I added some pine cones (actually from my garden but you can buy them, normally in the Christmas section) and some mini pumpkins.
The Boo pumpkin was from TK Maxx and the hamper from the amazing Halloween section at Fortnum & Mason. The hamper included green witches’ hot chocolate and spooky sweets. I now use it as a container to store Halloween decorations, but I thought it looked fab filled with mini pumpkins.
I had to share what we did this weekend. Not only because it was super fun but we got really lucky with the photos strangers very kindly took of us. I had to share them.
We visited a local farm called Wrampoolpumpkinpatch which had a large field of pumpkins to pick; plenty of cute photo spots and other spooky items to buy such a Halloween themed sweets.
We picked out 5 pumpkins of different colours and sizes and loaded them into our wheel barrow. My boys adored not only pushing the barrow but sitting in and being wheeled around the field. My eldest bit Max loves all forms of vehicles so also really enjoyed sitting in the tractor that had set up to have photos taken on.
I haven’t decided whether we are going to carve the pumpkins yet or just leave them as a fab display outside our house. I have however just finished decorating our house for Halloween so I’ll be sharing that shortly.
I have a few different technique for keeping organised with shopping lists. The ultimate goal I believe is to make sure you don’t miss anything but also to be efficient therefore save yourself money over time.
The first method is to always have a paper notepad stuck to the fridge. You can now buy cheaply magnetized ones so they stay put nicely. Anyone in the family can write on what they’d like or when they use the last of something they write it on the list.
The second method is to have a range of lists on your phone. Most phones have reminder or digital notepad areas. If I suddenly remember something whilst I’m not in the kitchen I usually have my phone so can add it. My favourite app at the moment to do this is ‘Google Keep’.
The third method and one I would highly recommend is to have your food shopping delivered. Most supermarkets do this cheaply or you can use whatever loyalty scheme they have to pay for your deliveries annually using their schemes. The trick is that the supermarket remembers what you buy regularly so you can go through your favourites list and never miss an item. Be careful though. The item you usually buy may not be the cheapest so remember to look up whatever it is unless you particularly love a branded item and does a quick comparison check.
Finally, I’m very lucky that in my area I have a milkman who delivers for free and with cheaper than supermarket prices. You can order your regular items such as milk and bread to always be on your doorstep and if you are short of an item you can get it delivered for free the next morning which is incredibly useful when you suddenly discover late into an evening your cat’s food is low.
FeelUnique is one of my favourite online beauty stores in the UK. I particularly like their loyalty scheme of getting circa 10% off two brands you love. I wear Chanel Chance perfume and have done for many years, which is very expensive so whenever I see an opportunity to get it cheaper I’m very happy. Normally this only happens at duty free in the airport but at FeelUnique having the opportunity all the time was exceptional. They also sent you really high quality free gifts based on how much you spent. I recently received a full Elemis facial set.
However, FeelUnique does not compare to my favourite beauty store overall and that is Sephora. Whenever I visited America I would also make a point of going to the store and stocking up on all my makeup and beauty items. I wrote a blog post a long time ago this beauty palette I found excellent for travelling (http://modernmrsbeetonblog.uk/2018/03/07/sephora-makeup-palette/).
So when I got the email from FeelUnique advising they were becoming Sephora I could not have been more excited. The online presence launches today in the UK, enjoy!!
I finally decided to try the tips; tricks and products as recommended on the ‘Home Edit’ TV show/Instagram. I’ve been following the ladies for years on social media and often pour over the images of newly styled pantries and closets from celebrities in America. Their efficiency and style is incredibly impressive, as is their work ethic. I believe you can buy the actual ‘Home Edit’ drawer and organisational inserts in ‘Walmart’ and over here in the UK in ‘John Lewis’. I decided instead, mainly due to cost to order some very similar ones from Amazon and set about organising my desk drawers.
The next thing to do is to lay out your draw organisers and play a game of Tetris to most efficiently fit them into each drawer.
Then based on the quantity of each item I had I put them in the containers and just played around until they fitted the best.
‘Home edit’ is all about form and function. I think I cracked the function but I had to do some work to make the colours work well together to meet the form element. I do love a good rainbow 🙂
Stir up Sunday is November 20th. This is the day whereby you prepare your Christmas cake and Christmas mincemeat so it can age beautifully over the weeks before Christmas so it tastes incredible on Christmas Day. It also allows you to add alcohol such as rum or brandy to the cake every week to let it soak in slowly. This year I’ve chosen to use a bottle I already had of Black forest Gâteaux flavoured rum.
In preparation I’ve included my ingredient lists so you can shop in advance.
Victorian Christmas Cake
350g glace cherries
150ml sherry or brandy or rum
2 oranges juiced and zested
250g butter softened
250g brown sugar
4 eggs beaten
1 tbsp black treacle
75g blanched almonds
75g self raising flour sifted
175 plain flour sifted
Apricot jam or any if you are stuck
Any decorations you like
I tend to make my mincemeat at the same time as I do my Christmas cake as the ingredients are broadly the same and you can avoid wasting items. You can add whatever else you really like such as cherries or different fruits or spices to make it really personal. Let people know if you’ve add the alcohol if you are giving them away.
Technically I made this costume for ‘World Book Day’ for my son Max’s nursery. However, if you are looking to quick pull together a costume for Halloween this is such a cheap and simple costume to make.
The hat was a Christmas hat that top the bobble off, but you can easily search and find hats online (https://amzn.to/3VtzaRL). This hat on Amazon includes the glasses but I took ours from a Harry Potter toy we already had. What made it easier for Max to wear was that I sewed the glasses to the hat so it would stay on all day.
Have fun being creative making your own costumes from whatever clothes or toys you have in the house this Halloween.
I’ve a new book out! I’ve written a book all about my baby boy Max and plan to write about George in future. It will be released in multiple countries on July 28th.
Explore the world with Baby Max as he discovers technology. Technology can often be a magical thing for children (and adults) to understand, so learning about them very simply is critical for children to make sense of their actual world.
‘Max Explores It All’ is a series of books exploring some of the less covered areas for very young children such as technology, modern transport and the weather.
Enjoy learning along with Max, and in the future with his baby brother…
It’s been a while… Sorry for my extended absence from this blog but I do have a good excuse and some great content to share in future as a result.
As the COVID pandemic hit in February 2019 I was pregnant with my first baby. Max was born in the August and then in very quick succession I was pregnant with my second baby George who was born in November 2021. As you can imagine between the pandemic and two babies under 2 I’ve been incredibly busy. I adore my boys and family and can’t wait to share our family recipes; baby tips and learnings.