DIY all natural lip scrub recipe

Hello my lovelies,

It’s half term here in the UK and it’s raining. Of course it’s raining. It’s half term and I have a seven year old to entertain.  Of course, it’s bloody raining!

Anyhoo!

I found some cute little clear butterfly pots at The Works a couple of weeks ago and thought they would be perfect to make some lip balm with.  But it’s that time of year when my lips are always dry and rough from the change in the season.  I’ve seen lip scrubs in some high end stores and figured, it couldn’t be that difficult to make one.  So Missy and I gave it a go.

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The ingredients, are probably those that you already have in your pantry.  You will need:

1t coconut oil

1t honey – we used some lavender flower honey we got in Germany last year

2 1/2 of white sugar or brown if you prefer

1/4 t vanilla bean extract (optional)

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Measure all ingredients into a bowl and combine well.  Try not to eat it!  It smells and tastes fabulous!

Spoon carefully into the little pots and there you have it!

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

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A day in Wonderland at Chiddingstone Castle

Hello my lovelies,

Today we visited Chiddingstone Castle for their Alice in Wonderland themed day and had the most wonderful time!

We got all dressed up and walked in the castle grounds

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in the mist

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We met the Mad Hatter

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We did crafts with the White Rabbit

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We had a dance lesson a la MC Hammer, Michael Jackson and Gangnam Style in the great hall

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We even caught the Mad Hatter doing the Fadderwacken

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Sang with Alice

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and played croquet with The Queen of Hearts

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we even scooped the Best Dressed prize!

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We had a wonderful day and loved every minute of it

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We can’t wait to visit again.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

How we’re saving cash in 2018

Hello my lovelies,

Want to go on a fabulous holiday this year? Want that deposit for a new car? Then you need to know the secrets of saving big bucks in 2018.

I have some pretty big financial commitments in 2018 and in order to reach my goals I have  put in place some strategies for saving money.  Some of them are pretty basic and some are more involved but with a little planning they’re totally doable.

Food budget

The first thing I’m going to be doing is setting a food budget.  I don’t know about you but if given half the chance, I’ll walk into the supermarket and just pile anything that looks good into my trolley.  When I get to the till I could just about pass out when I realise I’ve spent double or even triple what I can afford.   So from now on, I’m setting a budget!  I know that I sometimes have champagne tastes on a beer budget but setting a budget for groceries keeps me in check and helps me to menu plan accordingly. If there is any money left at the end of the week that hasn’t been spent on food it goes into the savings account or change jar (see below).

Menu Planning

This is one of the biggest ways I’ve found to save money during the month.  Once you’ve set your budget for food, menu planning is your best friend.  Yes of course, we all want to get take aways every other night and cook steak for the rest of the week but it just can’t happen if you want to stick to budget.  If you can go meat free a couple of nights a week your budget will thank you and cheaper cuts like chicken thighs, sausages and minced meat really help stretch your budget.   Check out my weekly Monday Menu Planning blog posts for more ideas.

Cooking from scratch

Need I say more?  You can knock up a tasty spaghetti bolognese for approximately £1.50 a serving whereas buying ready made meals and sauces could triple or quadruple that estimate. We cook mostly from scratch and I’m going to resist the urge to get anything pre-prepared if I can help it. If you’re after some quick and easy, low cost recipes check out Gill Holcombe’s books. I particularly like How to feed your whole family a healthy balanced diet with very little money: and hardly any time, even if you have a tiny kitchen, only three saucepans (one with an ill fitting lid) and no fancy gadgets – unless you count a garlic crusher

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Shop at cheaper stores 

While I love Sainsbury’s products, I know that Morrisons and Aldi are better value for money.  I’ve found that Aldi are fantastic for the basics like meat, cheese, basic staples and frozen goods. Their dishwasher tablets and laundry products have won Best Buy awards and are as good as many leading brands.   Morrisons value range has decent prices on pretty much everything else.  I will continue to buy Method Cleaning products from Waitrose when they are on offer.

Brand challenge

A few years ago, I did the brand challenge and was astounded not only at how much money I saved but also, how little difference there is between branded items and supermarkets own brand products.  I save so much money now buying a stores own brand instead of big name brands.  To do the brand challenge, simply buy the stores own value brand item instead of the expensive branded item you usually buy.  If you can’t tell the difference, keep buying it! If you can tell the difference in taste and don’t like it, buy the next item up in price.  I can guarantee that a lot of things you won’t be able to tell the difference between the stores value own brand and the big brand.  You can save quite a bit this way.  For instance, a well known brand of chopped tomatoes generally costs 95p.  The stores own value brand costs 29p.  Last time I checked, chopped tomatoes were chopped tomatoes no matter what the brand was. And switching to the value brand saved me 66p per tin of tomatoes.  We use roughly 3 tins of chopped tomatoes a week which means we saved £7.92 per month.  On just one item!  We’ve even changed brands in our coffee!  Now coffee is no joking matter. I love my coffee and don’t like it messed with.  We always used to buy the Nespresso coffee capsules but now use Aldi own brand and they taste equally as good!

Change jar

Having a change jar where you can dump any spare change every day can save you up to a couple hundred quid a year. Provided you don’t dip into it.   Some banks like Natwest have change machines where you can dump your coins into the machine, key in your account number and the cash will automatically be transferred into your account.  I’ll be keeping a spare change jar and dumping my change in there every day in the hopes of saving at least £100 this year.  I’ve done this before and it’s fairly small amounts of money at a time that I didn’t even miss it.

Account skimming or rounding up

I have two bank accounts which is really handy for account skimming or rounding up.  Basically, you check your account a couple of times a week (I will be doing this every Tuesday and Thursday) and round up your cash to the nearest fiver by transferring money into your savings account.  So for instance, if you had £268.39 in your current account to skim this account to the nearest fiver you’d transfer £3.39 into your savings account.  It doesn’t sound like much but even skimming £5 a week would mean I could save £260 in a year.  Again it’s fairly small amounts that I hardly miss the money at all. Some people skim their accounts to the nearest £10 which would be in the region of £520 a year.   Think I might miss this much over a month though!

Changing suppliers

At the end of last year, we changed energy suppliers and know there will be a substantial savings there.  We’ve also cancelled Sky!  I felt nervous about this when we first decided to cancel but I was so sick and tired of having all these channels and nothing to watch. We were paying £100 a month on Sky!  That’s a saving of £1200 a year!  We have subsequently signed up to Netflix which is £6.99 a month which works out to £83.88 a year but that’s still a huge saving of £1,116.12 a year.  Not to be sniffed at.

There are so many other ways to save money that I’m sure this list could go on and on but these are the ways I’ll be saving money this year.  I’d be interested to know how you intend to save this year. Leave me a comment below.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

January 2018 No Spend Challenge

Hello my lovelies,

As I mentioned yesterday, January is going to be a long month and I have some special things I’d like to save money for this year.  More on my other ideas for saving money later in the week but for today, I want to chat to you about our January No Spend Challenge.

If you’ve never heard of a No Spend Challenge, the concept is very simple.  In a nutshell, you decide how much you want to spend per week and spend it on necessities only.  Of course, the decision as to what constitutes a necessity is up to you.  You also decide when your no spend starts and ends.  Each family does their no spend differently and there is no right or wrong way although the idea is that you only spend on necessities.

Our no spend rules are simple:

  1. Our no spend starts on 1 January 2018 ends on our pay day on the 20th of January 2018.
  2. The budget will be £60 per week
  3. The only things are spending money on in our challenge is
    • Food – we’ll be using up items from our freezer or pantry as much as possible so only plan to buy the basics
    • Medical expenses (such as prescriptions or essential medications and vitamins)
    • Diesel 

That’s it.  No craft supplies, clothes, shoes, take aways, no eating out (besides a pre-arranged birthday dinner), no take away coffees…

I expect it’s going to be hard going but totally worth it in the end.

Why not join me?

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

Review: Lapland UK

Hello my lovelies,

For some years I’ve been hearing about this magical place in Whitmoor Forest, Berkshire where elves and Father Christmas invite children to help them prepare for Christmas.  I’d heard it was the most wondrous place where Christmas dreams come true so I was thrilled to get an early invitation to buy tickets.  Frequented by the likes of Sir Elton John, Idres Elba and other stars, there was no way I was letting this golden opportunity to see the inner workings of Father Christmas’ magical world slip through our fingers.

Missy (aged 7) received her personalized invitation in the post and it was left for her at our Harry Potter themed North Pole Breakfast in a pile of snow.  I knew she’d never be able to contain herself if we gave her the invitation days before so it was given to her on the morning that we went.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity (really only an hour’s drive) we arrived at Lapland UK and parked in the Owl parking lot.  All the lots are named after animals with clearly marked and fairy light lit paths to help you remember where you parked.

We were greeted with this gorgeous little cottage which belonged to Eeko the elf.  Already you get a sense of the kind of fantastic detail spread throughout Lapland.  Every detail from the sledges, carved stags and gently lit lanterns added to the magic.  Everywhere you looked there was some tiny bit of interest that made you feel as though you were really in Father Christmas’ home town.

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Of course, Missy had to have a photo outside a real elf’s house.  Little did she know we’d see lots of elf folk homes during our visit.

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The elves at reception greeted us with a traditional elf greeting and checked us in.

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Here I bought elf jingles the currency of Lapland which came in a red velour bag emblazoned with the word Lapland.

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Missy was also given an Elf passport and a complimentary pin of Wish the elf.  I loved that the massive books at reception hid a clever touch screen computer.  Once again, the details made something as dull as check in seem magical.

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After we checked in, we waited at a picnic table and took in the magic around us. On the opposite side to the reception desk was a cafe selling a selection of cafe type foods and coffees including gluten free and vegan offerings.  Prices were what you’d expect from an upmarket cafe.

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Our tour was due for 2 pm and two elves gave us a short introduction talk about what we could expect before leading us through the doorway into the the magic wood.  If I ever have a massive house one day, remind me that I want a wall of cases like this!SONY DSC

In the magic wood, we were led to seating around a magical tree.  The excitement was almost too much for some of the children who couldn’t quite wait to see what would happen next.

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We were greeted by Sage

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and Eeko

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the woodland elves who told us all about Lapland and how Father Christmas, a simple wood cutter became the legend he is today – due to a little elf magic of course.  We were introduced to our herders who split us into two teams.  We were put into team husky and given a cute husky sticker to help us remember.

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The first stop on our journey was to the toy making workshop where the children got to help the elves finish stuffing some toys for Father Christmas.  Due to an increase in demand, the elves were behind and the children we special helpers who helped the elves get back on track. SONY DSC

Once again, the details were superb. SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC

Missy with Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC

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We decided that the trees were covered with magical never-melt snow and were surprised that it was actually cold to the touch!

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Next we were ushered to Mother Christmas’ bakery.  There was so much to see.  Each nook and cranny had some tiny detail or point of interest.  Including a self-stirring pot on the stove!

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Mother Christmas chatted to the children about Lapland and Father Christmas. They were also introduced to the baking elves.

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The children were shown to the tables where they got to decorate gingerbread Christmas trees.  I informed the office after I’d booked about Missy’s intolerances and they were every so helpful with providing a dairy free gingerbread Christmas tree and appropriate sweeties.

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Missy was the first to finish decorating her gingerbread and got selected to ring the story time bell. She felt very special!

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Mother Christmas read the children a story and then gave them a message for Father Christmas.  The children had earned their golden elf bells for their help in the toy workshop. We were told these could be collected from the Elf Emporium in the Elven Village.

I can’t tell you how magical the village was.  Missy was enthralled!

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The first elf we met was Pixie Mixie who owns the sweet shop.  Missy was taken with her and particularly liked her costume.

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I adore a nutcracker and this one outside the Elf Emporium was taller than me!

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Each shop had two entrances, one for Big Folk and one for Small Folk which Missy was determined to use at every opportunity.

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She was so excited to have earned her golden elf bell and couldn’t stop jingling it…

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much to my annoyance!  Of course, we had to buy an elf hat to attach our elf bell to.  I was quite impressed with the Elf Emporium in terms of content. There was a huge selection of good quality toys and games.  Even a homewares section that had some gorgeous scandi style decorations.

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I can’t describe the level of detail in the elf village. It was pure magic.

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There was so much to do. We petted Amber and Star the Huskies…

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We ice skated around a gorgeous snow covered Christmas tree to carols being sung merrily in the background.

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I was so impressed with the ice skates and how everything was geared towards families. There were the usual ice skates for adults and children could choose from the same type as the adults or clip on double bladed ones that made skating easier.  Stability penguins were provided to help the children feel more confident.  I should also mention that there were 3 ice wardens dressed in red patrolling the ice to help those who needed it.

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After we’d skated we visited Post office to write a letter to Father Christmas and post it in the magical post boxes.

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On our way round the shops in the Elven Village we met Compass and Bauble and had a little chat.

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While there was an elf restaurant, they also had a take away stall in the middle of the village where you could get traditional German bratwurst sausage on a roll that would set you back about £6.  The tea room sold a wide selection of cakes and hot drinks.

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My favourite shop was Bauble’s Christmas decoration shop where you could buy an official Lapland UK painted with each of the elves for £15 or buy a personalised bauble for £10.

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At Pixie Mixie’s we filled a cup with dairy free sweeties which were kindly pointed out to us by Pixie Mixie herself and paid £4.50. Missy excited by the sweeties while I goggled at the gorgeous displays.

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Once we’d enjoyed everything the Elven Village had to offer, we made our way through toward’s Ambolt’s forge where, just outside Father Christmas’ reindeer waited to greet us.

Then, we got to see Father Christmas’ actual sleigh!

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There was also an opportunity to buy Santa key’s, reindeer food and reindeer (horse) shoes.  I completely regret not buying one!SONY DSC

From here we checked in to see Father Christmas.  While Missy and Mr R waited and scoped out Compass’ office I went to the check in desk and double checked the details Father Christmas had for Missy.

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After only a three minute wait, an elf led us along a frosty path to Father Christmas’ cabin where we waited to be seen. Missy was so excited she could barley sit still.

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Upon entering, Father Christmas greeted us by name and Missy could hardy speak she was so in awe of the magical man.

Father Christmas praised her on doing well in her Literacy work recently and commented on her upcoming karate grading. She couldn’t believe he remembered so much about her life.  He pronounced that she was on the good list and presented her with a plush husky.

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After our chat with Father Christmas, we headed back towards the Forest and collected our complimentary photo (above) and had the opportunity to buy a scrapbook of our experiences in Lapland for £20.  It would include, all of the pictures taken with Father Christmas. We browsed the gift shop which had different items to the Elf Emporium. I particularly loved the ‘build-a-bear’ type costumes and accessories for the plush husky.

Lapland UK is honestly the Disney of Christmas.  Every item and activity besides the food and souvenirs is included in the price which, in my opinion is worth every penny.  There was nothing that I could find fault with or would consider changing.  It was a well thought out, perfectly fabulous experience that has made the run up to Christmas very special for us.

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For more details about Lapland UK, visit their website or Facebook page.  They are also on Instagram.

We heartily recommend Lapland UK and hope to visit again next year.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

 

Harry Potter Christmas Tree

Hello my lovelies,

I’m finally getting five minutes to blog about our awesome Harry Potter Christmas tree.  It’s been manic around here the past few days for various reasons and having to prepare for Christmas has made it more so.  But enough of that, onto the tree!

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Isn’t it fab?  Missy and I are so proud of our handiwork.

We’ve split the tree into the four house colours  using baubles but then decided against splitting the other decorations into sections and just went to town decorating to our hearts content.

I really love how some of our homemade Rememberall, Grim tea cup, spell book and potion bottle baubles turned out.

The homemade flying keys turned out well although it’s a bit difficult to see them on the tree from afar.

I’ve had so many good comments about the Weasley jumpers.

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One of my favourite decorations on the tree though are Luna Lovegood’s spectraspecs.  I got them 3D printed and decorated them with sharpies.

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Not all of the decorations are homemade. Many are shop bought due to time constraints.  The flying key (known in Matalan as dragonfly key) was £3 in Matalan.

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Primark had loads of amazing Harry Potter items in this year.  Although some cheeky folks were buying anything Potter related they could find and selling them on ebay for quadruple the price, I still managed to get my hands on a few bits.  Like this gorgeous platform 9 3/4 bauble that I got for £5.SONY DSC

In the top left corner, of the picture below you’ll see some potter book page scrolls.  I rescued a copy of a Harry Potter book from the bin (it had been scribbled in) and used the pages to craft.

The marauder’s map was purchased from ebay along with the acceptance letter in the next picture down.  The white owls are from the Range and were £1.29 each I think.

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Big Ben was from Poundland of all places.

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The chocolate frog shell came on a keyring with a plastic chocolate frog.

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Another Poundland purchase.  Although these London themed decorations are not strictly Potter based, I thought they fitted in nicely with the theme since Harry is British.SONY DSC

I had planned on sewing a Dobby from scratch but ordered this one below when I ran out of time.

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The bundle from ebay included this cool platform 9 3/4 ticket and the knight bus ticket shown later.

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Harry’s glasses were from a fancy dress shop on ebay and the deathly hallows pendant came from a bracelet also from ebay.

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I adore the house ornaments I got from Primark fro £4 for the set.  I used a gem decoration as the Philosopher’s stone and got the mini broomsticks from ebay too. SONY DSC

This blue bauble looked like Jame and Lily’s patronuses and fit in perfectly.SONY DSCSONY DSC

Crookshanks had to have a look in. Which cat can resist a Christmas tree?

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Here’s the ministry of magic interdepartmental memo that we made earlier in the year following the tutorial from 10digitdesign.  There’s a free printable too.

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I was quite excited to find this Hermione Grange figurine in a local charity shop.SONY DSC

In the left hand side of this picture you’ll see a bauble filled with a cat collar and a toy.  These belonged to our cat George who went over the rainbow bridge to the Great Christmas Tree in the sky a couple of years ago. This bauble will remain on our tree year after year.

There are also some angel wings behind the Slytherin locket (ebay) as a reminder of those in the Potterverse who died in the fight against You-Know-Who.  You can also see the Amortensia potion and the Aquila magazine that featured Harry Potter in the Summer.

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Ravenclaw’s diadem is in the front and you can just about see some mini potion bottles too.   Somewhere in the nooks and crannies of the tree there’s a time turner, a felix felixis bottle, a golden snitch, a Hufflepuff tie and the Tri-wizard cup.SONY DSC

The bunting I got from Primark and the signs frame the fireplace nicely along with the potion bottle lights I made.

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I am still in love with my Hedwig owl that I got from Paperchase about 8 years ago now.   But check out the marauder’s map wrapping paper from Primark!  Amazing, right?

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There is so much more I could have done but I just ran out of time and tree space!SONY DSC

Maybe next year?

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

Hot Chocolate Butterbeer Station

Hello my lovelies,

I have a confession to make.  I had planned on setting this Hot chocolate Butterbeer Station up on the last weekend of November, just in time for Christmas tree decorating but it’s just been so cold outside!

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Unfortunately, this little bureau is in a weird spot; on the small piece of wall that joins the back door of the kitchen to the living room sliding doors which means there are windows on either side. This makes taking a decent picture impossible, however, it means that everything I need to make a gorgeous cup of hot chocolate butterbeer is near the kettle.

This Butterbeer sign is from Two Delighted. As two fellow potterheads they have some gorgeous free printables for anyone wanting to recreate their fantastic Harry Potter party.

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Our hot chocolate station last year was a total mish-mash of different hot chocolate and drink powders and sprinkles.  This year, I wanted a much simpler look and I guess sticking with butterbeer instead of every other hot drink known to man means I’ve achieved that.SONY DSCKnowing I wanted to create a hot chocolate butterbeer station meant I could incorporate a few of the other Potter related projects I’ve worked on including the Three Broomsticks tray I made a couple of summers ago and my newest addition, the Butterbeer mugs.

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Originally, I was going to wait until we went to the Harry Potter Studio tour and buy some Butterbeer tankards there to make hot chocolate in.  I then realised that they would probably crack with hot liquid in them because they’re plastic and meant for a cold drink.   I then found a lovely lady on one of the groups I follow on Facebook who made me these specially printed labels that get baked onto glass!  I can’t tell you how delighted I am with how these heat resistant Butterbeer mugs came out.

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On a trip to TK Max earlier this year I found the Hazelnut and Vanilla syrups for £3.99 each and had to scoop them up for my Butterbeer station.  They taste awesome and really add something special to the mix.  I’ve also added some caramel syrup which was one  I picked up at Morrisons on sale for £2.

The sprinkles above are small honeycomb pieces I got from B&M in the baking section and tiny gold sprinkles that are from Morrisons Christmas range. They’re the perfect addition to any Butterbeer hot chocolate.

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The recipe for Hot Chocolate Butterbeer is as follows.  Make up your favourite hot chocolate the way you usually do.  Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla syrup, 1 teaspoon of hazelnut syrup, 1 teaspoon of caramel syrup and mix well.  Add squirty cream and top with white marshmallows and sprinkles.  Or chocolate ice cream syrup topping.

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It couldn’t be easier!

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

xxx