Homemade DIY Gin gift set

bannerMen are hard to shop for, it is a proven fact. Some are easier than others, when they have interests in sport or food or cars etc but what happens when that runs out? I remember buying my Dad Aresnel related presents long after he stopped giving two hoots about the football team. So for my boyfriend I kept coming back to the fact his is a GIN fanatic. I didn’t just want to buy him a bottle, even of something nice.

It is great when you can combine something a friend loves with some creativity and add a touch of homemade. So I had already started making some plum gin but wanted to add a little more. So as you can see by the pictures I also made gin maramalade (it was a bit of a lightbulb moment of “he likes marmalade too!”) and brought a small bottle of Hendrics (the internet said it was good, he affirmed) and 2 mini bottles of schwerz tonic.Crumpet Corner. Gin gift set collage


You can substitute the gin for a different neutral spirit of preference for the gift reciever (works perfectly with vodka). Click through for my recipie for plum gin and keep scrolling for the gin marmalade recipe.

The wrapping/packing is just another opportunity to use some creativity and  make it special! The boyfriend loves videogames, I know nothing about them. I printed some pictures of charaters from his favourite ones and glued (prit) them to a shoebox, writting some of the funny quotes from them in speech bubbles in Sharpie. Being a typical male he didn’t notice for AGES but when he did he loved it. I also used red and silver tissue paper as his favourite colours.

Gift shoebox decoration


Gin Marmalade Recipe

Ingredients                                                     Equipment
Seville Oranges                                                  Saucepan and wooden spoon
500g Granulated Sugar                                      Muslin bag or fabric
500ml Gin                                                           Sterelized jars (x3)
Water                                                                 cooled saucer

Makes around three jars

The how to bit:

One. Wash the oranges and put them with the water into a saucepan (covered), allow to boil until the fruit goes soft (easier to get the goop out!) should take around an hour then take out and allow to cool. Keep 750ml of the boiling water – carefully measure this out.

Two. Slice the oranges in half, scoop out the goop and put it into the muslin. I just used a square and fastened with an elastic band. Put this back into the pan of water. You want all the flavour and juices to come out but not make the marmalade really bitty.

Three. Depending how much you like slice the rind of the oranges into thin strips and add to the pan with all the sugar. Over a low heat stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the special ingredient – GIN!

Four. Skim off any scum the sits on the surface – there shouldn’t be much. Bring to a rolling boil for half an hour. It can take a lot longer to set. This is the tricky part!

Five. To test the setting point get the saucer out of the fridge and drop a little of the mixture onto it, leave for a couple of seconds then push the marmalade with your finger, it should wrinkle. A good second test to do is dip a spoon into the mixture and allow to cool slightly then hold the spoon holizontally above the pan. If it is at setting point the drips will run together to form a flake. If you are unsure there are loads of youtube videos that will give you a good idea what you are looking for. Test over 5 minutes, remembering that as it cools it firm up further.

Six. Once set pour or ladel the mixture into the jars, seal and allow to cool.


Tuna pasta bake (using tinned soup as the sauce shhh)

Now this is close to one of my favourite family meals. I have fond memories of eating tuna noodle on a Sunday evening watching Gladiators, Robot Wars and Scrapheap challenge sat on the floor in front of the TV with all the family.

Now to clear this up immediately – it is NOT noodles but pasta. My mum used the terms interchangeably and since its her recipe she named it. It’s still delicious even if inaccurate.

Tuna Noodle


Soup is a perfect base for one pot dinners as it is already prepared and seasoned which cuts the shopping and prep down loads. It’s also a healthy way to add creaminess to a meal (though I do smother it in cheese). This recipe is also great for empty kitchen cupboard syndrome since everything apart from the cheese are often stocked up in the pantry.

When I went to University I was shocked by the surprise of my housemates at the ingredients that make this delicious creamy pasta bake. But honestly I swear by it, quick, cheap and easy – might be the cheapest and easiest family bake that I know of and is a Palmgren made recipe from start to finish.

Ingredients:Tuna Noodle

Feeds 5            Cook time: aprox. 25 mins

1x tin cream of chicken soup
1x tin tuna
1x tin sweetcorn (optional)
1.5 handfuls per person of Fuseli pasta
2 cups of Grated cheese

The how to:
. Par cook your pasta (about half the time than normal)
Two. Empty the chicken soup, sweetcorn and tuna into an oven proof dish with a handful of the cheese and mix in the pasta
Three. Scatter the grated cheese on top (the more the better!!)
Four. Pop in a pre-heated oven of around 180°C and cook until the pasta is soft and the cheese melted.

As kids (and sometimes now when I’m feeling nostalgic) we smother it in tomato ketchup and devour.

Christmas wreath making party

Natural Chirsmas Wreath tutorial

Last year I discovered that I loved loved loved making natural wreaths. I never would have guessed, but that is what makes life interesting! It is more American tradition but more and more people in the UK are getting on the craze and while you can buy some gorgeous one from the shops I love the natural look, plus they are free!

Last year I was raising £1,500 to go on an overseas placement with Tearfund (ICS). I gathered 6 people together and invited them to my house for tea, mince pies and wreath making where they didn’t have to bring anything and could take home their finished wreath. That’s right a wreath making party! Each person paid £10 to come to the party which is where the fundraising bit came in. There were virtually no costs as I collected mostly natural supplies. I would say the budget came in at under £20 for everything (inc. cake!). Everyone really enjoyed making them as well as having a good old natter. It was very successful for fundraising but would also be a really nice party with friends just to do something a little different around Christmas.

Materials for wreath making

Suggested natural materials:
Pinecones in a range of sizes – you can use the left over to make a garland!
Leaves – ferns and evergreens are particularly good though try anything
Berries – check for poisonous status if you have pets
Holly – quite tough to find  with the berries – don’t be embarressed to ask neighbors or friends

Suggested shop brought materials:
Ribbon, golden bells, beaded string, glitter pens/paint, bows, cinnamon sticks, oranges (baked and sliced), mini baulbals….

For the making:
Hot glue gun (not essential but helpful!)
Moulding wire/twine (essential if no glue)
Willow branches (light and yellow) stripped and Dogwood branches (deep red) – don’t let them dry out as they need to be really bendy and flexible to make the circular shape. Check your local park (with a lake) for dogwood and ask around your local farms if you might be able to take some cuttings of willow. Many will be happy to help if you don’t abuse it and it is going to a good cause.

One. Organise you room, it is going to get a bit messy, you’ll just have to deal with it. I put all the branches in one place then a little way on the leaves and berries in a big container. All the natural materials stays in the lounge. In the dinning room (which connects rather nicely) I laid out the shop brought extras that could then be added as well as other decorations like th pinecones.

Two. Get everyone to sit together and give them a bunch of branches (about 6 to start off with). Form the first branch into a circle (however large they want) and start weaving around itself then add a second by weaving it around the first to get attached and so on. The more you add the sturdier your circle will get, part might unravel slightly just keep doing it, eventually they will stay.

Three. After making the initial structure they may want to start weaving in branches with leaves etc or maybe they will go straight for the bells and beads – remember everyone has a different style! Put as much or as little on. Use the glue gun to attach pinecones or use the wire to wrap around the base and attach. It is all experimenting. You can see the ones that we made below.Women wreathsmore homemade wreaths

Operation Christmas Child – Make a box!

Operation Christmas ChildChristmas time is coming around again when families start thinking about presents and food and decorations. Many people start making their plans to see family or what games they are going to play first. It is also at this time of year that we are reminded that others are less fortunate with many children spending the day hungry and without their beloved family. Many churches and workplaces get involved with Operation Christmas Child and I have fond memories growing up as part of it.

The concept is simple. You get a shoes box and cover it in ChrGirlBoy_Labelistmas paper. If you don’t have one many places have special flat pack Christmas Child boxes that you can use. You decide whether your box is suitable for a boy or girl and pick an age range 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. And then you fill it full of goodies. Drop it off at church or your organisation and they arrange for it to be sent to some of the most desperate places in the world so that a child can open a present on Christmas day.

I remember my mum getting involved every year and my reactions changing too. She would go out to the shops and buy everything then we would sit around and put them all together. Some years I would find it fun, other years I would get jealous (seems so ludicrous now!) some years we would do it and others not. Even if I didn’t help my mum she still let me take the box up to the front of church and put it on the pile in front of everyone like the other kids.

This is such fun to do as a group activity and is for such a wonderful cause. This year was the first time I gave it ago from scratch and I was so excited. I got two boxes from church brought in my supplies then convinced my 7 year old nephew to make one with me (of course he wanted to do a boys box!)

Crumpet Corner. inside my boxes Packing our Christmas Child boxesCrumpet Corner. Boxes all packed and ready