Category Archives: Christmas

50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List

Christmas is a season which is full of tradition. There are things you did as a child which you carry on doing every Christmas with your own family. We have tonnes of Christmas traditions and each year we somehow find new things to add to our festive to do list. If you’re looking for some new things to do this season, here are 50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List.

50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List

50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List

  1. Bake treats for friends and family
  2. Decorate a gingerbread house
  3. Make an ornament for the tree
  4. Visit a Christmas tree farm
  5. Write a letter to Father Christmas
  6. Wear a terrible Christmas jumper
  7. Watch your favourite Christmas movie 
  8. Make hot chocolate
  9. Go ice skating
  10. Decorate the Christmas tree
  11. Visit Father Christmas
  12. Go and watch a pantomime
  13. Do a random act of kindness
  14. Read Christmas stories together
  15. Wear matching Christmas pyjamas
  16. Make and send Christmas cards
  17. Go and watch a nativity play
  18. Make a donation to your local food bank
  19. Build a snowman
  20. Go to a Christingle service at church
  21. Make magic reindeer food
  22. Bake cookies for all of your neighbours
  23. Sing Christmas carols together
  24. Hang up your Christmas stockings
  25. Kiss under the mistletoe
  26. Go sledging
  27. Go for a walk at night to see everyone’s Christmas lights
  28. Make mulled wine or mulled cider, or even mulled Vimto
  29. Toast marshmallows on the fire
  30. Have a snowball fight
  31. Cut out paper snowflakes
  32. Make your own snow globe
  33. Go to a carol concert
  34. Make paper chains
  35. Read the nativity story
  36. Visit your local Christmas market
  37. Make a festive wreath for your front door
  38. Tell someone that you love them
  39. Donate toys to your local children’s appeal
  40. Leave out some treats for Father Christmas and his reindeer
  41. Make a Christmas pomander
  42. Take a family portrait
  43. Read The Night Before Christmas
  44. Make a list of all the people and things you are thankful for
  45. Make snow angels
  46. Go on a Christmas steam train ride
  47. Play a family board game
  48. Make salt dough decorations
  49. Make a popcorn garland to feed the birds
  50. Give a secret gift to someone special

Those are some of the things which are on our Christmas Bucket List. There’s nothing to say we have to do them all in one year, but it would be nice to try and do them all over the years. I like to remind my son that Christmas isn’t just about getting a pile of presents, it’s about giving and sharing and being kind to one another. How will you be sharing the love this Christmas?

50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List

Make Your Own Yorkshire Tea Advent Calendar

Fancy Advent Calendars are all the rage these days. I’ve seen gin calendars, beer calendars, LEGO calendars and skincare calendars; but alas there are no Yorkshire Tea calendars. I have searched high and low for a Yorkshire Tea calendar (other tea brands are available) but ended up deciding to make my own.

Tea drinkers are usually fiercely loyal to their brand. My best friend loves tea, specifically Yorkshire Tea and with lockdown once more gripping the country, I felt it was time to make them a special Advent gift.

Make Your Own Yorkshire Tea Advent Calendar

The idea is a simple one. Find a new Yorkshire Tea tea towel and sew individually wrapped Yorkshire Tea teabags onto it. It’s not really much more complicated than that, but here’s how I did it.

How to make a Yorkshire Tea Advent Calendar

You will need:

A Yorkshire Tea tea towel, I bought mine from eBay
24 individually wrapped Yorkshire Tea teabags, I got mine from Amazon
A permanent marker
A needle and thread

Making your Advent Calendar

Lay your tea towel on a flat surface and decide how best to place your individually wrapped teabags. I took a photo so I could remember what worked best, because I can be a bit forgetful. You might want to iron your tea towel before you start, I didn’t because I’m quite lazy.

Using the marker pen, number each teabag. Feel free to write a joyful message on the back of some of the packets if you wish. Shuffle your teabags so they are now in a random order.

Make Your Own Yorkshire Tea Advent Calendar

Remembering the pattern of how you’re going to sew them onto the tea towel; take your needle and thread and stitch a couple of tacking stitches through the top sealed edge of the teabag. Sew each one onto your tea towel and continue until you’ve sewn them all on.

That’s it.

Should you be a bit worried that your sewing might not be up to much, you could get 24 safety pins and pin the teabags onto the tea towel instead. If you’ve gone for the sewing option; then I’d advise the recipient that a quick snip each day with some small scissors will release the bag from the tea towel and bring them some brewing up joy.

Make Your Own Yorkshire Tea Advent Calendar

If you’re looking for more Advent Calendar ideas, you can read about my Reverse Advent Calendar or find out about some interesting Advent Calendars you can buy.

Make Your Own Yorkshire Tea Advent Calendar

Christmas Drinks: Spectacular Speculaas Hot Chocolate

AD/Gifted. At this time of year, I absolutely love throwing festive spices at everything I eat and drink. I’ve got myself into a nightly mulled wine habit, but sometimes I crave something a little less alcoholic and something a little more comforting. Last week I baked some delicious Speculaas biscuits, with my order came a little packet of Speculaas spice to bake some extra biscuits with. I decided to use the spice to make some lovely Speculaas hot chocolate with it instead. What a stroke of genius that was!

The hot chocolate is filled with cinnamon, cloves and ginger – all of our favourite Christmas spices and topped with an over-generous and positively indulgent pile of squirty cream. It’s not an every day treat, but it really is a treat.

Christmas Drinks: Spectacular Speculaas Hot Chocolate

Essentially it is hot chocolate with a spoon of Speculaas spice in it, I’ve written the recipe below, but if you regularly make hot chocolate, make it your own way and whisk a dessert spoon of the spice in before you pour it into you mug. It really is brilliant.

Speculaas Hot Chocolate

Ingredients for one mug:
350mls of milk
3 heaped teaspoons of hot chocolate powder
1 heaped teaspoon of Speculaas spice powder
A huge pile of squirty cream

How to make your Speculaas Hot Chocolate:
Heat up your milk to drinking temperature. I microwaved my milk, but you can heat it gently on the hob if you prefer.

Stir though the hot chocolate powder and Speculaas spice mix, pour into a mug and top with squirty cream. I sprinkled a couple of pinches of the Speculaas spice on top of the cream to decorate it a little.

It’s best drunk in front of a roaring fire with some Christmas music playing in the background. It’s as simple and delicious as that! Merry Christmas.

Christmas Drinks: Spectacular Speculaas Hot Chocolate

If you enjoyed this, you might like this round up of Christmas drink ideas for all the family.

Christmas: Decorating our Real Christmas Tree

AD/Gifted. Growing up in the 80’s we always had a plastic tree. Every December it was dug out of the loft and decorated with a ramshackle selection of gaudy decorations and things we’d made at school. It was a tree heaving with sentimentality and we loved it.

Christmas: Decorating our Real Christmas Tree

When I eventually moved out of home, it was time for me to create some traditions of my own. Top of my list was to ditch the chintzy plastic tree and start buying a real Christmas tree every year; something we have stuck to. There’s something really nice about a real Christmas tree; from the gentle pine scent which fills the room, to the lovely prickly joy of decorating it. The real Christmas tree might have been something beloved of the Victorians; but it also looks very lovely in my 1940’s semi in South Manchester.

This year, like last year (and channeling Margo Leadbetter) I had my real Christmas tree delivered to me from The Christmas Forest. Based in London, they deliver top quality Christmas trees all over the UK. This saves me the faff of buying a tree locally and struggling to get it home, as a non-driver this is a real issue for me.

I ordered my 6ft real Christmas tree a few weeks ago and booked it to arrive on Friday; which it did do, bright and early; the driver even brought it in for me. Over the weekend we put it up, filled the base with water, dug our decorations out of the loft and set to work decorating it; something the boy is especially excited about doing these days.

As when I was a child, the tree isn’t covered in stylish and carefully co-ordinated trinkets; but mostly a selection of things we’ve made, or shiny things we have bought to remember the places we have been. I’ve picked out some of our favourite decorations from our tree, things that we’ve made and things that we love.

Christmas: Decorating our Real Christmas Tree

There are button decorations, hand painted baubles, a Tunnocks teacake bauble I made a few years ago, angels my son decorated at school, lolly stick decorations and easy paper baubles. I hope these will be on our tree every year and more will join them. I’ve always been a sucker for sentimentality, and our tree reflects who we are; homely, warm, with more of a taste of tradition than what’s hot and what’s not each Christmas.

If like me, you want to take some of the stress out of Christmas; getting a real Christmas Tree delivered is a real time saver and a godsend. It’s been such a help to have it delivered and it’s one very big thing off my festive to do list.

For more information about The Christmas Forest, or to order your Christmas Tree from them, visit Christmas Forest.

Disclaimer: We were sent our Christmas Tree for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Christmas Recipe: Mulled Cider Jellies

At Christmas time I can’t get enough of mulled drinks. Mulled wine is a favourite but a few years ago I tried Mulled Cider and my head was turned. I’m more likely to drink Mulled Cider at home and it’s such a delicious and warming drink, it really sings Christmas to me.

When I mull at home, I usually use a ready-made spice sachet, usually one from Steenbergs because I can’t fault them. This Christmas I’ve been using the Spices for Spiced Cider and Apple Juice and they’ve really hit the spot. All you do is warm through a litre of cider or apple juice, tip one of the sachets in and after a few minutes it’s ready.

Christmas Recipe: Mulled Cider Jellies

Sometimes, and this is not very often, I mull too much cider and I’ll have some left. Sure, I could heat it up again later, but I fancied making something different with it. I thought I’d make some Mulled Cider Jellies. It turns out they make a really interesting, different and delicious festive dessert. You could make them just as well with apple juice if you’re serving them to children or people who don’t drink alcohol. This recipe makes 4 good-sized jellies.

Christmas Recipe: Mulled Cider Jellies

Mulled Cider Jellies

Ingredients:

1 pint of mulled cider or mulled apple juice
2 tablespoons of sugar
A sachet of Dr Oetker Vege Gel

How to make Mulled Cider Jellies:

Take about 200mls of your cooled mulled cider and stir the Vege Gel into it, make sure all the powder dissolves.

Add the sugar and bring the remainder of the cider to the boil, once it’s boiling, add your 200mls of cider and Vege Gel into the pan and stir, stir, stir.

Christmas Recipe: Mulled Cider Jellies

Make sure you have your moulds ready for your jelly as it will start to set really quite quickly. I used some small glass pyrex dishes and also a metal cake mould in the shape of a star. You could make one big jelly if you prefer.

Pour your jelly carefully into your serving dishes and put them in the fridge until it’s set properly. This took about two hours, but if you can it is probably worth leaving the jelly overnight in the fridge.

I turned my jelly mould out onto a serving plate, be careful when you do this so not to break the jelly.

Serve with good vanilla ice cream.

Be careful if you’re turning your jelly out of the moulds, I tried to move my jelly and ended up breaking a little piece off the corner which I then covered with ice cream, so it was all fine in the end.

It’s such a pretty little pudding, easy to do and something a bit different at Christmas.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to try –

Christmas Recipe: Mulled Cider Jellies

I was sent some mulled cider spice by Steenbergs and decided to use in in this recipe. I have not been compensated for this post.

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

In a couple of weeks time families will be sitting down to enjoy Christmas dinner together. Christmas dinner is a real culinary highlight, it’s essentially the best roast dinner ever. Every family has their own favourites, some have beef or goose, most have turkey; I like Yorkshire puddings and several different types of stuffing. But one thing everyone has in common is Christmas dinner cooking nerves.

I take it in turns to host Christmas Day with my brother, this year is his turn, last year it was mine. I’ve been cooking Christmas dinner by myself since I was about 16. The two things that make it tricky are juggling everything for oven and hob space and getting everything cooked and ready at the same time.

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

Each year there are typically around 8 people sat around our table for Christmas dinner. Out of this number, two are vegetarians and one of those has a number of intolerances to take into account. The meat eaters are very traditional, but whatever number of chipolatas your family eats, we have to double it. There’s a lot to juggle.

Typically our Christmas dinner includes –
  • Turkey
  • Veggie alternative, often a pie of some sort
  • Yorkshire puddings
  • Roast potatoes
  • Roast parsnips or sweet potatoes
  • Sprouts (obviously)
  • Carrots
  • Red cabbage
  • Stuffing – two kinds
  • Meat gravy
  • Veggie Gravy
  • Bread sauce

That’s just for the main course. We usually have a starter of soup and bread rolls and pudding is a selection of options (because each one of us is fussy) including Christmas pudding, mince pies, chocolate pudding, ice cream, and a selection of boozy creams and sauces. We also offer a cheese board and mints. It’s a huge meal!

Last Christmas I sat down and thought about it. I didn’t want to spend my Christmas Day stuck in the kitchen peeling sprouts and being a skivvy for everyone. I wanted to enjoy Christmas morning with my family and not have too much stress. With a bit of forward planning and prep the day before I managed to pull off my most relaxed Christmas in years.

Here’s what I did. I looked at what food I would be serving and planned what I could cook the day before and what would be better cooked on the day. Most of the food could be cooked ahead of time and warmed through before serving, even the roast potatoes. So this is what I did.

Turkey

This had to be cooked on the day, but that’s fine. Getting ahead of myself meant there was plenty of oven space for it. We also got a turkey crown from the butchers which cut down the cooking time by quite some margin.

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

Veggie alternative

Last year I served a nut roast, because I love nut roast. I found a nice ready made one and cooked that on Christmas Day.

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshires really need to be made just before serving, there are no cheats here. Also, there’s no shame in buying the ready-made ones. Yorkshires can be tricky and who needs the added pressure on Christmas Day?

Roast Potatoes

I’ve been cooking my roast potatoes on Christmas Eve for years. Everyone has their own way of doing them, I like fluffy potatoes cooked in groundnut oil, but cook them however you prefer. Take them out of the oven when they’re starting to colour, remove them from the roasting tin and put them on a cooling rack with some kitchen towel underneath. Leave them to cool, once they’re cool, put them as they are on a plain baking tray with no extra oil. They’ll take an extra 20-30 minutes to warm through and crisp up on Christmas Day, but they’re really crisp, fluffy inside and because they’ve not sat in oil for too long they’re not as oily as they could be.

Roast parsnips or sweet potatoes

Just like the roast potatoes, you can pre-cook your parsnips or sweet potatoes ahead of time. They come out just as good as freshly cooked ones, just do what I did with the roast potatoes.

Sprouts

If you’ve not put these on to boil at the end of summer, you might as well cancel Christmas. Not really, but it’s the old joke. Sprouts aren’t great re-heated, so I leave them to cook on the hob on Christmas Day. It’s worth allowing a bit of extra time for them to cook because somehow vegetables always take much longer to cook when you’ve got guests waiting.

Carrots

Carrots really lend themselves to re-heating. I did almost all of my veg prep on the morning of Christmas Eve, all the peeling and chopping and par boiling and roasting. I boiled up my carrots with a bay leaf and once they were almost cooked through, I drained them, put them in a microwavable dish with a knob of butter and covered them with cling-film. Just before serving, I gave them a 5 minute blast in the microwave, a stir to coat everything in the little knob of butter and we had perfect carrots.

Red cabbage

I generally cook my red cabbage in the slow cooker, but I follow this recipe. Instead of cooking it on the hob I use the slow cooker, yes it takes a few hours more, but it frees some precious kitchen space and it’s the kind of thing which can happily sit and more or less look after itself. Last year I made this on Christmas Eve, then turned my slow cooker on low on Christmas morning, by the time Christmas dinner was being served it was heated through and delicious.

Stuffing

I love a good stuffing and as a vegetarian they are a good filling addition to my plate. I have traditionally used packet bought stuffings and pimped them up by stirring a spoon or two of cranberry sauce though before baking, but last year I made two different stuffings from scratch. Yes, it did take a bit more time, but they were so much tastier and the texture was lighter and less gluey. I’d urge you to find some time to make your own if you can. It was remarkably simple, especially if you’ve got a food processor to do the chopping for you. I made my stuffings on Christmas Eve and they just needed baking in the oven on the day. I’m converted to homemade stuffing now.

Meat & Veggie Gravy

I am a big old cheat when it comes to gravy. Sometimes I make my own, but even with my plan-ahead precision, Christmas Day is too hectic for me to be faffing about too much. You can either make your gravy ahead of time and freeze it, or go to your local shop and buy a tub of fresh ready-made gravy and heat it up on the day.

Bread Sauce

Bread sauce is one of my favourite things about Christmas Dinner. Weirdly only my husband and me really like it, so it’s not something I devote too much time to. I’m happy to cheat, cheat, cheat with bread sauce. Buy a fresh tub of it from a good shop, bang it in the microwave and serve. Half the table will pull their face at it anyway, whether you’ve spent an hour stirring a pan or 2 minutes waiting for the mircowave to ping.

I think Christmas Dinner is all about picking your battles. For me, freshly made stuffing is really worth it, but I don’t need to stress of flat as a pancake Yorkshire puddings on Christmas Day. My stress-free Christmas dinner planning was noticed, gone were fraught scenes in the kitchen with me looking hot and bothered, instead I served a very good dinner with all the cool control of a northern Nigella.

Next year it’s my turn to cook Christmas Dinner and I know that I’ll do exactly the same again. Maybe I’ll cook my gravies from scratch and freeze them, but spending Christmas Eve morning doing all the prep and most of the cooking is time very well spent.

Do you have any top tops for an effortless Christmas dinner?

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

Our Real Christmas Tree from Christmas Forest

December is upon us, but regardless of whether you’re a put a tree up at the start of the month, or a leave it until the last minute tree putter-upper; if you’re going for a real Christmas tree, then at some point you’ll have to find one and buy one.

For us, December is always incredibly busy. It’s harder than you’d think for us to find a couple of hours where we are all free to be able to go and buy a tree together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to go and choose a tree; but the real magic is always in decorating the tree and seeing it all lit up.

Our Real Christmas Tree from Christmas Forest

This year we’ve dispensed with the stress and had our tree delivered instead. Our Scottish grown tree has come from The Christmas Forest which has 10 pop-up Christmas stores in London where families can go and pick their own tree in London, or they can deliver it nationwide.  

Our tree is a 6ft Nordmann Fir, which is non-drop and exactly the kind of tree we normally go for. They have trees in all sizes up to 8ft  (12ft on request) with a range of different pine trees to choose from. I was a little worried that we might get a tree which wasn’t the perfect Christmas Tree shape we all dream of, but I had no need to worry. The trees are trimmed into shape as they grow and ours was just perfect.

You can choose optional extras, like a Christmas Tree stand, lights and wreaths too. We went for a new Christmas Tree stand, this holds water and helps keep your tree fresh.

Our Real Christmas Tree from Christmas Forest

Our tree arrived bright and early on the day we’d chosen for delivery. It was well wrapped in netting and plastic with a stick attached to the top to stop the top part from getting damaged in transit. All we had to do was cut a bit off the bottom, pop it in the stand and decorate it.

They also offer a tree collection service at the end of the season, with recycling option in London area. The Christmas Forest support the charity Tree Aid, who plant one tree in Africa for every one they sell. Through Tree Aid they have planted over 230,000 trees in the drylands of Africa.

Our Christmas Tree decorations are mostly a selection of things we’ve bought and made over the years; babies first Christmas; things I’ve made with Ben; precious baubles from my own childhood Christmas Tree and things we’ve been given by special people. It’s never a stylish tree, but it’s always one full of happy memories and love, which to us is just right.

Our Real Christmas Tree from Christmas Forest

If you want to take some of the stress out of Christmas, getting a real Christmas Tree delivered is a real godsend. It’s been such a help to have it delivered and it’s one very big thing off my festive to do list.

For more information about The Christmas Forest, or to order your Christmas Tree from them, visit their website.

Disclaimer: We were sent our Christmas Tree for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Christmas dinner is one of the foodie highlights of the year. For me, it’s not necessarily the food which makes it special, it’s sitting down with the family, sharing a meal and enjoying the occasion. Whilst the main course on Christmas Day is more or less fixed, the Christmas Day Starters are a movable feast.

It can be difficult to decide what to make for your Christmas Day starter, but ideally it should be something you can make ahead of time, or something you can quickly cook before serving.

Our family always has soup as a Christmas Day starter. This year I’ll be serving my luxurious cauliflower and chestnut soup which is a grand way to start off the festive feasting. Plus, it’s so easy to make ahead and freeze. All you need to do is warm it through and serve with some crusty bread. Happy families!

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Christmas Day Starters

Pâté, meat or veggie – served with melba toast. It’s a Christmas Day classic!

Goats cheese caramelised onion tarts

Mini Yorkshire puddings with creamy smoked trout and horseradish pâté

Crab and avocado tian with lovely thin Melba toast and good butter

Soup – make your own or jazz up a tub of shop bought. It’s a simple starter and a crowd pleaser!

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Stuffed mushrooms wrapped in Parma ham

Prawn cocktail – a 70’s classic which will never go out of fashion.

Scallops, pea puree and black pudding

Parma Ham and melon

Smoked salmon blinies with cream cheese

Pâté stuffed Mushrooms

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Pan fried mushrooms on ciabatta with a Stilton sauce

Antipasti – Olives, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella balls and cured meats

Oysters –  a simple classic

Pear and mozzarella wrapped in Parma ham

Mini baked Camemberts with bread and celery to dip – super quick and easy

Baked brie or Camembert to share

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

Figs with mozzarella

Filo baked figs with goats cheese

Potted shrimp and crusty bread

What are your favourite Christmas Day starters? Let me know in the comments below.

20 easy ideas for Christmas Day Starters

What to do on Christmas Eve

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the flurry of shopping for presents and food is all but over for another year. It’s a day we try to pause the chaos a little and spend some time together as a family. We will have some preparation and thing to do, but being together is a priority for us. If you’re wondering what to do on Christmas Eve, then here are our suggestions.

Family Things To Do

We put together a Christmas Eve box which arrives on Christmas Eve. It’s packed full of lovely things including new PJs, a Christmas DVD, some Christmas books and nice nibbles. We curl up on the sofa for an hour or two and watch the DVD and just chill out. It’s lovely and a great way to change gear on the Christmas chaos and just wind down.

Crosby Beach

Go for a nice long walk. On Christmas Day we are mostly busy busy and stuck in the house. If the weather is reasonable, a good long walk on Christmas Eve is a great way to tire the kids out. It’s good to get some fresh air and burn off a few calories in anticipation of the feast to come.

More organised people will have bought tickets to a panto or a Christmas show like Elf The Musical. Going to a show together can be a really special way to spend Christmas Eve as a family.

Christmas Eve is a time for singing carols and feeling festive. Every Christmas Eve we trot off to our local church to take part in the Christingle Service. The service is so popular at our local church that they now have three services to accommodate the hundreds of children and families to come along on Christmas Eve.

What to do on Christmas Eve

For older children and adults, the Midnight Mass service is a beautiful way to start off the Christmas celebrations. It’s a little moment of stillness and calm, and the perfect place to belt out some Christmas carols. I love it.

You can find information on services local to you here.

Christmas Wrapping

Sensible people will have done this days ago, but *waves* I still have piles of unwrapped presents taunting me from the wardrobe. I know this will be done in dribs and drabs throughout the day but SODS LAW dictates that I will either run out of wrapping paper or sellotape. This has happened before, mostly because my husband always insists we’ve got too much wrapping paper already and then it turns out we have none. This is always discovered at 4pm on Christmas Eve. This will not happen to me this year. I have bulk bought both of these items, so much so that we may well never need to buy them ever again.

Preparation Preparation Preparation

I know some people cook their whole Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve; plate it up and just re-heat it on the day. There’s a lot of sense in that, but Christmas Day wouldn’t be the same to me without juggling for space in the oven, carving the turkey at the table and steaming the pudding.

I do however like to do some prep the day before. I will be roasting the potatoes and parsnips in advance, then on Christmas Day I can just put them on trays in the oven for half an hour and they crisp up beautifully.

This year I’m making stuffing from scratch (a departure for me as I’ve always been a packet stuffing kind of girl). I’ll also peel and prep the veg ready to be cooked on Christmas Day. There is lots to do; but if you’re methodical and you do as much as you can beforehand then it’s very doable!

Treats For Father Christmas

The last thing we do before bedtime is leave a mince pie, a small dram of whisky and a sprinkling of oats for Father Christmas and the reindeer. We make sure our stockings are hung up and we hurry upstairs to bed, hopefully for an early night.

What to do on Christmas Eve

It’s a busy day and a busy night, but spending time together is what Christmas is all about isn’t it. Merry Christmas to you and thank you for reading my blog.

What to do on Christmas Eve

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Christmas is a time for crafting and creating with the kids. We love doing Christmas crafts and we were excited when we heard that ex Blue Peter presenter and craft queen Konnie Huq, had partnered with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to create a selection of homemade STEM toys for Christmas.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Konnie Huq has put her Blue Peter powers to practice for a good cause, making Britain’s most popular Christmas toys at home for a fraction of the cost. The Christmas STEM toys she has created include –

  • Dissolving egg
  • Magnetic slime
  • Icosahedron bauble
  • Marble run
  • Balloon boat
  • Bouncy balls
  • Smartphone projector
  • Living gingerbread house
  • Kaleidoscope

Konnie has put together a set of free to download how-to instructions for all of the above crafts.

Konnie, who spent over ten years craft-making on Blue Peter, is supporting a campaign by the Institution of Engineering and Technology to inspire more children to consider careers in engineering. The toys are designed to make learning about science, tech, engineering and mathematics (STEM) more accessible and affordable. These handmade STEM toys – which include a dissolving egg, magnetic slime, a kaleidoscope and even a smartphone projector – are educational, as well as fun.

Making your own slime is so popular right now, but we thought we would try something a little different. We really liked the idea of building our own living gingerbread house.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Make your own living gingerbread house

You will need:
A number of plain sponges
Scissors
Toothpicks
Small plate
Seeds
Spray bottle (clean)

How to make a living gingerbread house
Choose one or two sponges to be your base. Fix them together with a cocktail stick, remember these are sharp so be careful of your fingers.

Choose more sponges to be the walls. Cut one sponge in half across the longest
side (i.e. make two regular rectangles, not two long strips) and fix those onto the shorter sides of your base with cocktail sticks. Fix two sponges onto the longer sides of the base.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Take two sponges and cut them down their long side on an angle so that they fit together to form the apex of a roof. Fix them together with cocktail sticks, put on the top of your structure and fix into place with more cocktail sticks. You should now have a house shape made of sponges. Put your house onto a plate.

If your house is a bit wobbly, you can secure it using a glue gun or some craft glue. If you have used glue, allow time for the glue to dry and set before you move on to the next stage.

Next, you need to cover the house with seeds. You can use mustard or cress but
there are many fast sprouting seeds, so the choice is yours. We chose cress.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Dab some water onto the roof of your house and spread the seeds onto the roof.
Pour a little water onto the plate so the sponge base can soak it up. Check the
sponge is nice and moist. Then sprinkle the seeds onto the base.

Leave your house in a warm, bright spot for the seeds to germinate. Spray the house with water using a spray bottle each day, and pour a little water over the house if it feels dry. In a few days the seeds should start to sprout, in a week they should be thriving.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

It’s so easy and lots of fun to make too!

 Disclosure: We were sent a shopping voucher to buy the materials for this craft.