Christmas Crackers. Handmade V British made

Cracker sweatshop… I mean production line!

Before I begin this post, if you bought The Telegraph today you might have notice a rather substantial article about our efforts for a handmade Christmas. You can find an image here>>>

Back to the blog….

The snap of Christmas crackers is the signal, in households across the land, that your festive feast has begun. Out come the fragile tissue paper hats, some of the corniest jokes known to man and the obligatory pair of nail clippers. The festivities would not be the same without them. Our efforts to hand make our Christmas this year simply had to include the crackers. In fact they are surprisingly easy to make and actually a lot of fun for the whole family. But be warned – you need plenty of time!

Your basic cracker is made using a single sheet of A4 card. This card is then cut using a template (which you can find here) using a sharp craft knife. The cutting out really is the time consuming bit as it is so fiddly. You simply fold the cracker body into the correct shape and fill with your treats.

2 of the 8 crackers we made

With our internals we remained as traditional as we could. I made some tissue paper hats, wrote some cheesy jokes (provided by our Twitter followers), added charades for some after dinner amusements and I made personalised leather key rings for our prizes. The only thing missing is the snap. I will advise our guests that they must produce their own manual bang as they pull them.

Decorating the crackers was a real family event. Lots of glue and glitter got us all feeling really Christmassy. I really do recommend that you give making crackers a try.

Because we had all of the supplies already this addition to Christmas cost us absolutely nothing.

The British made Cracker

We know that not everyone will have the patience for this but you will be relieved to find our that you can still buy British made crackers. Simply Crackers are based in Nottingham and produce a wide range of crackers for every occasion. They even have a bespoke service and sell their own cracker kits.

Simply Crackers can be found here>>>

– James




Christmas pud, cake and mince for stir-up Sunday!

20141021_164533The last Sunday before Advent is traditionally called stir up Sunday. On this day it is a British tradition for families to get together and prepare their Christmas treats. Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince meat ready for your mince pies essentially use the same basic ingredients. As such if you are going to make one of these festive favourites you might as well make them all at the same time.

The recipes I used this year for the pudding and the cake were both adaptations from basic recipes from Nigella:

Ultimate Christmas Pudding (click here)

Easy Christmas Cake (click here)

The mince meat recipe is one that I have used from Delia for many years:

Mince Meat (click here)20141021_165624

Being sticklers for tradition we always put threepenny bits into the Christmas pud (these have been in my family for 3 generations now), and the whole family have a go at stirring them in. Apparently, in a recent survey  two-thirds of British children, revealed that they had never experienced the tradition of stirring Christmas pudding mix.

It is important to us that we pass these uniquely British traditions on, and the experience is also a lot of fun for all…. plus the house really begins to smell like Christmas. Get stirring!!!

LN_053717_BP_10However, if you must buy your Christmas pudding there are some really good ones sold in the supermarkets. Last year we bought a Carved Angel pudding that was absolutely fantastic (of course they are British made).

– Emily

Handmade Christmas 2014 Pt1 – Gift for the Mother-in-Law

woodenpot1Those that follow our blog (or read the Mail on Sunday) will know of our plan to spend nothing over the Christmas period. This includes all of the gifts destined for our friends and family. We are making Christmas for ourselves this year, which means that all of the presents coming from us will be hand-made.

Christmas shopping seems to start earlier and earlier each year (much to the annoyance of many). While we have now given ourselves the freedom to avoid this overt commercialism, due to the time it takes to make so many gifts we have had to start our preparations rather earlier than usual.

Work has begun simultaneously on a number of gift ideas but the first to reach completion is for my Mother-In-Law [insert Les Dawson gag here].  After much consultation with Emily as to what she might like I came up with the idea of carving a salt-pig with spoon… however due to a lack of seasoned wood this finally became a salt bowl with lid and spoon. The wood was actually given to use last year by the in-laws and comes from one of their much prized apple trees. I hope that this fact makes the gift even more special to her.

woodenpot2I am not a greatly experienced carver. I have whittled a spoon before but that was more or less the extent of my wood carving experience. So this was a somewhat ambitious project that took 2 full days, 3 blisters, 1 black eye and a rather large bruise on my chest to make. The term blood, sweat and tears has never been so true. However, I am really pleased with the result. They key is using seasoned wood and ensuring that you plan the project reasonably well before carving. All in all it was not too difficult.

Get the look….

If you cannot bear the idea of trying to make one of these yourself you can commission a local crafts person to make something to your specification. Such as Hugh Lieshman from Yorkshire who I found on the great website UK Handmade:

Or check out Folksy. A great website of only British crafts.

While I could not find anything online which closely resembled my creation, a turned wooden bowl is likely to set you back about £25.00 while a matching spoon would cost around £10-15.

All in all I would say that had I bought the gift I made from a shop it would likely have cost me around £40-£50. It actually cost me nothing but time. Not bad, not bad at all!

– James


A New British Family Challenge – The antidote to a consumer Christmas.

We have set ourselves another unusual challenge this Christmas. We are not going to buy any presents, decorations or packet foods this year. Instead we are going to make, upcycle or craft everything we need for the festive season.

James lost his job over a year ago now and has struggled to find steady employment since. The market being what it is I expect he is not alone in being in this predicament and we are, like many others, facing a rather lean Christmas this year.

It is fair to say that we love a traditional British Christmas so rather than get depressed by our situation we want to make the most of it. We hope that by removing the mass-consumerist pressure of Christmas and basically buying nothing, 2014 might still be a truly magical affair.

So what does this mean? Well it does mean that our friends and family will be receiving gifts that we have made ourselves (which hopefully will not be as bad as it sounds) and we will make our own cards and decorations too. Food-wise we will make as much as we can from scratch, everything from our own puds & sweets to sausages & smoked salmon.

We will of course share our successes and failures here on our blog. It is fair to say that, following last year’s Christmas of only buying British, this year is set to be another adventure.

Any advice, recipes or craft ideas are much welcomed in the comments section below.

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