Star spice biscuits


Another recipe from my Mum’s old Good Housekeeping recipe book. A biscuit for any occasion but very suited to Christmas or celebrations. This is an easy recipe to adjust to any type of biscuit. Just substitute the spice for 50g fruit or lemon or cocoa or vanilla essence…

125g butter
150g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
225g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Grease or line 2 large baking sheets and preheat oven to 180 degrees C/ 350 degrees F
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy
3. Add the egg yolk and beat well
4. Stir in the flour and spice to form a firm dough (add a splash of milk if the mix is a bit dry, or more flour if it’s too wet)

5. Roll out the dough on a floured surface or between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper to about 0.5cm thickness (thinner biscuits will be crunchier)

6. Cut out the biscuits to whatever shape you like best and put the biscuits on the baking sheets
7. Bake for about 15 minutes until starting to look golden

These biscuits have been very popular! Just enough spice and a good amount of crunch. Perfect for a snack or with tea or for giving as a gift πŸ™‚



Christmas swaps unwrapped

After the Christmas unwrapping, here’s a few things I received from some Christmas swaps:

Postcrossing – Christmas swap


Barbapapa writing paper, ladybird magnets, patterned tapes and stickers. I think I’ll have fun with these gifts!

Swapbot – Secret Santa Europe


A pretty tea towel with a pattern of flowers and tea cups, and woodland magnets. My fridge is going to look wild soon! And nice tea towels always brighten up and personalise a kitchen.

Swapbot – Surprise Christmas gift swap UK


Another interesting tea towel, more fun patterned tape and jasmine infused dark chocolate. I’d been thinking of trying this chocolate before and now I can!

A fun collection of useful things. And I’ve just signed up to more swaps in January πŸ™‚

Mincemeat lattic tart

A festive recipe from my Mum’s ancient Good Housekeeping recipe book πŸ™‚

Shortcrust pastry – I used a 500g block of ready made pastry
2 cooking apples – peeled and grated or thinly sliced
Lemon juice
120ml mincemeat – but I used a whole jar…

1. Roll out the pastry and use it to line a greased 20cm pie dish. Trim the dish and keep the trimmings for the lattice
2. Cover the bottom of the dish with the apples and brush with lemonΒ Β  juice (this stops the apples going brown)
3. Spread the mincemeat over the apples – I just aimed for a good thin covering, the raisins expand when cooked
4. Use the left-over pastry in thin strips to create a lattice on top of the tart
5. Bake at 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F/ gas 6 for 30 minutes
6. Enjoy!

It’s a surprisingly rich dessert. The mincemeat is definitely the dominant flavour, and the apple adds more in texture and sweetness than taste. Great served warm with maybe a little cream or ice cream.

Travel cable tidy


I decided that jewellery holders probably wouldn’t be as appreciated by the men I was making for, so I made cable tidies for the travelling man to transport cables, plugs, chargers and converter plugs in style (or at least more easily!)


I followed the pattern from the same little book as the ‘bling books’ I also made as gifts. A basic cardboard template for the front, inner and fleece lining. Two stripes of elastic to hold the cables (and don’t iron elastic, it melts! So iron everything before starting – I learnt the hard way!). A short section of the template for the pocket – I adjusted the pattern here to add a zip. It’s an easy edit – I sewed the zip to the folded edge of the pocket and stitched the zip edge to hide the raw fold, then stitched the other side of theΒ  zip flat to the inner (I tried it with the zip folded over too but it becomes bulky and harder to manage). It’s then easy to sew the pieces together inside out leaving the pocket end of the tidy open, turn the cable tidy the right way out, then turn just the pocket inside out and sew up the final edge where it’s hidden. I also zig-zag stitched that edge to make it a bit neater. I found an edge stitch helped to keep the whole case flatter and neatened the edges. They fasten with poppers, I lined them up by sticking pins through the fabric then marking the points, it seems the work! Measuring the positions on the fabric didn’t work because it never quite ends up straight… And the number of poppers varied by where the poppers would fit around the seams and elastic.

The recipients seemed to appreciate them. There’s a few travellers in the family so who knows where these little projects will end up!





Recently sent and received cards – Christmas and small towns

Received cards


This week’s received cards ^ There’s been a bit more post too, Christmas cards and gifts from penfriends which are always lovely to receive πŸ™‚

In this small collection of received cards, the Polar Express came from USA, the Postcrosser says that she works for the post office so Postcrossing is like job security!

The little character in the snow is a thank you card for taking part in to Postcrossing forum Christmas gift swap. It’s an illustration by Finnish artist Virpi Pekkala. It’s been much to warm for snow here so far.

The beautiful nativity is from Poland. The only problem is the stamps fell off! Inspection of my little post holder found 2 out of 3 stamps…

The lower 2 cards are both pretty places in Germany. They remind me of the great holiday I spent visiting my amazing penfriend in that area πŸ™‚

Sent cards


A beary Christmas off to Germany for a Christmas card swap, and a village on stilts is off to Russia as part of the December postcard diary. It’s from ‘The earth from the air’, all the pictures are much more exotic than England so I don’t send them much as most people want local views!


Whitby Abbey is heading for Ukraine. I hope they like the misty view with links to Dracula. I’ve just realised they stated a liking for fantasy such as werewolves and vampires and I don’t think I even mentioned the connection! Based on their favorites I thought they’d like this view.


Wollaton Hall is off to Switzerland, it might be the first card I’ve sent to there…


And the collection of all things blue is going to China, to a Postcrosser who likes ‘things’ such as shells and stones. Hopefully this is enough things to make them happy!

Swap-bot swaps

I’ve been a member of Swap-bot since August, and I’ve done some great swaps but I’m very bad at keeping track of what I’ve sent to who and when. In a way it’s nice to not worry about it, but it would also be nice to have a record sometimes, maybe I’ll start one for the next round of swaps I do…

So here is a photographic record of some recent swaps (I’ve also been bad at taking photos of swaps before I package and send them but I’m trying to improve!)

Sent swaps

Nearly winter care package – sent to France


  • warm socks
  • ‘cosy by the fire’ yankee candle
  • Pukka teas
  • Rubber stamps
  • candy canes
  • stickers and a postcard

Response: “Thank you ! The socks are so soft πŸ™‚ ”

Choose 2 – sent to Canada


The swap was a choice of 2 from 5 homemade envelopes, 5 teas or 5 samples of washi tape. The swapper I sent to loved tea and envelopes so the choice was obvious!

The envelopes are made from scrapbooking papers, magazines and an old calender.

This swap only started travelling today but I hope they like it!

Meet my Country


This swap asked for a magnet, keyring, a souvenir, sweets, 3 postcards of the local area and 3 teas – so here is my package nearly ready to go when the partners are assigned. My local souvenir is a bookmark, I’m not sure if it’s meant to be something a bit fancier…that’s my main issue with swaps – I worry if I’m sending something good enough to not disappoint someone or make them feel cheated. I’ve also included a few local leaflets, old tickets and some stickers of London. There’s quite a bit there to send so I hope whoever ends up receiving it all will be happy. Derby isn’t a big tourist place so my choices were a bit limited. The magnets and keyrings with pictures on weren’t great quality so I’m hoping the Derby city crest counts as showing something local πŸ™‚

I’m not usually so organised but I’ll have to send this off quickly once I get home after Christmas.

Maybe I’ll stock up on Shrewsbury supplies when I’m there, or use Nottingham instead, but as I live here it seems right to send local things.

Received swaps

Nearly winter care package – received from UK


I have nice soap and washi tape on my wish-list, and mention I avoid milk, and this swapper took a lot of care to make a nice package that I’d enjoy. It’s one of the nicest parcels I’ve received. I was really happy when I opened it, and that’s the main reason I swap πŸ™‚

Don’t open ’til Christmas – received from Austria


So I haven’t opened it all before Christmas! It was so tempting and I needed something cheerful the night it arrived! Three little packages in one, I don’t think I sent anywhere near as much to my partner, I’d interpreted it as a smaller swap. Socks (also on my wishlist), festive tape and a pretty diary, and one surprise left. I already have a diary for next year so this one will become my financial diary to track where all the money wanders off to every month…

Initial Christmas – received from Czech Republic


I’ll admit I was disappointed in this one. The idea was to send 2 gifts corresponding to the partners initials – I sent to K.A. a book on festive Knitting and some scrap-booking Accessories which she loved receiving. I received 2 magnets – Elephants, and a Czech Spa and Shaped card. I was hoping for socks or soap or sparkle, but my fridge is looking brighter now.

Send me some papers – received from Canada


The idea of this swap was to send paper/ letter writing type items. I think I sent postcards, envelopes, letter sets etc. This was an interesting package to receive, it felt like a lot of care had gone into it, but it also felt a bit random. The papers are lovely, and stickers and tape are always useful, but I’m not sure what to do with the little bits of cross-stitch and crochet…

Postcrossing swap

I also did a Christmas gift swap on Postcrossing. The organiser required references which gave me more confidence in this swap that most larger Postcrossing forum swaps.

Sent to Russia:


Sticky notes, stamps and ink pads set, and a neon plastic decoration. It’s been received but not opened yet. I realised after I sent it she asked for no note-pads but I think sticky notes are different enough.

Received from Finland:


It feels exciting, I think there’s several things in there but I have no idea what!

I can’t wait for Christmas now! All these surprises waiting to be discovered πŸ™‚

Wollaton Hall by night


Last night I went to see Wayne Manor Wollaton Hall by night. There was a special Christmas event to see the hall by lantern light. There weren’t as many lanterns as I expected (although there’s probably not much they could do with the Natural History galleries), but I saw a few rooms I hadn’t been to before all decorated for Christmas. And just seeing the hall lit up was worth an evening out, it’s a beautiful place.

We also saw a few deer lurking in the darkness, probably wondering what was going on!