Party

Our Pinterest Inspired New Years Eve Party!

I wasn’t sure whether to post about our New Year’s Eve or not. The only thing that was holding me back was the quality of my photos – they were all taken after dark on New Years Eve and I was having too much fun to worry about camera settings! But despite the blur they tell the story of the evening we had and I wanted to share them because there were some Pinspired (inspired by Pinterest) foods and party games! I want to prove that Pinterest can be a force for good and not just a distraction!

Our Pinterest Inspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

First of all, here’s how to distract two children while you are getting things ready for a New Year’s Eve party – give them a pile of scrapbook paper scraps and some punches and ask them to make confetti! Cheeky Boy couldn’t do the punches too well but he loves cutting with scissors so he just snipped lots of paper into little triangles. Little Miss was amused for a long time with punching!

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

Our party started at 6pm when people came round for a buffet dinner. It was a very small party of friends – us, another family of four, and a couple, so there were ten of us in total. We had a spread of food for at least double that amount of people:

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

The ‘Pinspired’ piece of the main buffet was some Cheese & Garlic Pull-Apart Bread. My photo does not do it justice at all, so please head to the original link to make your mouth water here: Cheese and Garlic Crack Bread at Recipe Tin Eats. My loaf was a tiger baton, and I added some cheddar cheese as well as mozzarella, other than that I stuck to the recipe. It took a lot longer to prepare than I thought it would – the recipe said 10 mins of prep but it took me about 20 minutes. It didn’t look like much:

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

But oh-my-goodness this was yummy! I will be cooking it again for sure. We were ripping off big chunks and coming back for more. Totally worth the effort!

After our main part of the buffet we played some party games before dessert.

This first one is not directly inspired by Pinterest. When searching for party games I discovered some Minute-To-Win-It party games on Pinterest (like this link HERE at The Chaos And The Clutter), which I thought sounded fun. But I realised the two young boys wouldn’t really be able to understand or do most of them (they are only 2 and 3), so I thought about what games we usually have at their parties – pass-the-parcel is always a winner.

I adapted pass-the-parcel a bit so it was fun for all of us to open. Every-other layer had a small pack of Haribo sweets with a cracker-joke. The in-between layers had silly toys that could be fun for grown-ups or kids – whoopee cushions, noisy clackers, foam darts etc. The middle prize was a glow stick.

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

By far the most successful prize was the whoopee cushions, they were making the kids laugh so much that the grown-ups were laughing at the kids laughing, if you know what I mean! It was also a good game because it meant we were all sitting down for a while to let our dinner go down! P.S. Well done hubby for wrapping up the pass-the-parcel (using our discarded xmas wrapping paper) while I was cooking! We’ll remember the Minute-To-Win-It games for when the boys are a bit bigger.

The next game was straight from Pinterest. They are Mini-Marshmallow Poppers at Real Simple. You basically cut the bottom off a paper or plastic cup, cut the top off a deflated balloon and add the knotted end of the balloon to the base of the cup. Then put a mini-marshmallow in the cup, pull the knot back, and ping the marshmallow into the air. I ended up taping the ballons to the cups too as the kids kept pulling them off.

We were trying to aim the marshmallows into a big bowl in the middle of the room. The idea was if you got the marshmallow into the bowl you could eat it, if you missed then you couldn’t.

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

The kids played for a while and then we gave them some marshmallows each in a little bowl for them to eat, and the grown-ups had a go, but instead of aiming for a big bowl we went straight to the main target and aimed for each other’s mouths. Hilarity ensued! We were finding mini marshmallows everywhere – I found 2 more at the back of the bookcase yesterday. Worth it for the giggles though!

Next we moved onto desserts. I’ve had these chocolate-dipped cherries pinned for ages, but the original pin didn’t have the link to the recipe, I’ve just found it here: Cherries Dipped In White Chocolate at Simple Provisions. I used gold sugar pearls and snowflake sprinkles, as that’s what I had in the cupboard:

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

Now, I’m not sure what went wrong, but the cherries with gold pearls were a FAIL. The chocolate didn’t soften up the pearls like icing would, so they were as hard as little tiny rocks. Not pleasant to try and eat! I’m guessing either the pearls were too big (they look a lot bigger than the silver pearls used at Simple Provisions) or they just weren’t the right kind. Also I think my cherries were still a little damp when I dipped them, as some of the white chocolate was sliding off. I want to try these again with just white chocolate, no decoration!

Another dessert was another thing not directly inspired by Pintertest. While searching for New Year’s Eve party activities I saw a lot of photo-booth ideas, including these: New Year’s Eve Photo Booth Props at The Crafted Sparrow, which were made on the Cricut Explore. I thought about powering up the Explore to make some, then I remembered these Vinterkul Pastry Cutters at Ikea which I bought recently, but hadn’t used yet.

The morning before the party I made a basic biscuit recipe (with some lemon zest added to the dough for a bit of zing), and Cheeky Boy, Little Miss, and I had fun cutting, baking, and decorating:

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

The bows were a big hit with the girls:

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

While the boys favoured stars and moustaches:

Our Pinspired New Year's Eve at Jennifer Grace Creates

They were fun and tasty too! I need to make more moustaches next time, as the grown ups wanted them too!

After dessert the kids went upstairs to play in their rooms and the grown-ups played a board game (the Logo Game which was harder than I thought it would be). Then at 11pm when the kids were flagging (and I was too, I had a migraine emerging by this point), we did a fake countdown. Hubby found a video of last years’s Big Ben countdown and fireworks and we played it on the tv so the kids thought it was really midnight, and then ran around shouting ‘Happy New Year’ about 50 times over! We had party poppers and threw the confetti the kids had made.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of that because my head was hurting too much to think about it! After the countdown everyone went home and I went to bed, poor hubby had to ring in the Real New Year on his own, I was fast asleep!

It was a really fun evening until my headache though. I shall certainly be searching Pinterest again for our next party! One thing I had pinned but never got round to doing was a New Year’s Eve Bingo at Thirty Handmade Days (there are some more NYE printables on that post too), so I’ll be keeping that in mind for next year!

Do you celebrate New Year’s Eve? Do you use Pinterest for inspiration when you have a party / gathering coming up? Let me know your Pinterest username if so!

Have a great day,

Jennifer x

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mmm, chestnuts…

I was only introduced to roasted chestnuts about four years ago, when my hubby (then fiancee) took me foraging for them in Essex – where we lived at the time – and then his mum cooked them for us. I didn’t think I’d like them, I believe I was imagining dry roasted peanut flavour when I saw them! But I was pleasantly suprised to find them sweet and soft and delicious. Every year since then we try to collect some, but we hadn’t managed to find a spot with a good haul of decent sized nuts, now that we live in Dorset. Until this year.

On Monday we headed for Canford Heath Nature Reserve, where a friend of my husband told him she used to go chestnut collecting when she was young. We wandered around the woods, but could only find empty shells, so we thought we had been beaten to it by the squirrels.

We wandered a bit further, and found ourselves in amoungst pine trees. We didn’t think we’d find any chestnuts there, but it was a lovely day, so we continued our walk, and stopped to eat our picnic lunch on the dry, pine-needle strewn, forest ground.

Then my clever hubby managed to find a lonely chestnut tree surrounded by pine trees. Yay! It only had a few nuts left, which we had to reach up and grab from the branches, but hey, at least we weren’t going home empty handed. We gathered them up and then fought our way through prickly heather to go back the short way round. My hubby would tell you I was leading him through scathing thorns that stabbed his legs like pin-pricks, but there was a path, really. He’d be exaggerating. Slightly.

We got into the car and headed home. And then, as we were driving along, we saw a huge, bumper crop of chestnuts all over the verge, spilling onto the tarmac, from a dozen chestnut trees in a clearing just off the road! Ooh, we pulled over sharpish, our car tyres cracking some of the precious nuts that had strayed too far. We leapt out and ran like eager children on christmas morning, and grabbed up handful after handful of large, shiny nuts. I was sooo happy! I love gathering food. This is definitely one of the main reasons I love the Autumn!
I’m afraid there’s no piccy of where we found the nuts, as I was way too busy collecting them to stop and get my camera out. Instead, here’s a photo of the bowful of beauties we collected:
I included a chestnut leaf in the photo, in case anyone who hasn’t gathered them before is inspired to go find a tree nearby! This leaf is one from the ground, so is obviously quite brown, the leaves still on the tree were yellowy-green. I can always tell when it’s time to collect chestnuts when we drive past a tree and I see the yellow-green leaves!
You should also know, if you want to go gathering, that you need to make sure you’re getting sweet chestnuts, not horse chestnuts (which are also known as conkers). You can tell the difference as sweet chestnuts normally have three nuts in a shell, and you only usually find one conker per shell. And sweet chestnuts fall later, and are smaller (in the uk anyway, I don’t know about countries with different climates). You should gather chestnuts as soon as possible after they’ve fallen, otherwise they get damp. And don’t pick up ones with little holes in the shell – they might have a little worm inside! The shell shouldn’t be wrinkly either – grab the nice smooth ones.
If you then want to roast your chestnuts in an oven, here’s what you do. Use a small, sharp knife to cut a cross in the shell:

And put them onto a baking tray, and then into your oven at 200 degrees C. They take about 20 mins to cook, depending on your oven, but you can tell when they’re ready as the shell will be peeling back, and the nuts inside should not look too white:

Then you just peel of the shell, and the thinner brown layer of skin, until you have a nice, creamy looking nut all ready to gobble up:

These ones were for my daughter – she loves them too!

As we managed to collect so many, and they only keep for a few days at room temperature, I’ve also frozen some, both in puree form and still in shells. I’m hoping the frozen ones will taste good cooked around christmas time!

How about you? Do you like chestnuts? Do you gather your own, or buy them (which I also do when I run out of gathered ones)? Do you have any recipes you like to use them in, or do you just love to roast them? Or can you not stand the things?!

Hope eveyone is having a lovely fall! xx

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Let’s Eat Blog Hop

Hello! If you’re new here and you’ve found me through the hop then welcome! I bet you had a great time at Mel’s place, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about one of my favourite meals. If you’re a regular visitor then I’m pleased to see you again, and I hope you like this foodie post.

To start with I’m going to take you back to when I was about 13, and being a difficult teenager by declaring myself a vegetarian. I can’t remember what prompted this, it might have been that I was copying a friend, it might have been that I’d just re-read Daggie Dogfoot (a pig story by Dick King Smith), and decided I didn’t want to be eating the characters I loved. Whatever it was, I was certain I was a vegetarian from then on.
It lasted about a week. My mum had been quite patient about me eating a lot of cheese sandwiches and veggie pizza etc, but then one night she forgot (that’s her story and she’s sticking with it), and she cooked my favourite meal. I smelt it cooking from my bedroom, and stomped down to the kitchen to rant at her. My wonderful mum didn’t pack me off to my bedroom for being ungrateful, like she probably should have, but instead she offered to cook me something different. But it was too late by then. My mouth was watering from the scent of it, and I knew I didn’t have the willpower to turn it down. I really admire anyone who is a vegetarian, as I’ve tried again since then and something always tempts me back to meat eating.

Anyway, here it is, that tempting meal that threw me back into carnivore status:

Sheperds Pie with Baked Beans

Now, firstly I should point out that this meal uses beef mince, not lamb, and so some people might be confused at it being called Sheperds pie instead of Cottage pie. But I’ve never called it Cottage pie in my life, so I won’t start now!

Ingredients:

-600g White Potatoes
-250g Beef Mince Meat
-Half of a 420g tin of Baked Beans
-One small white cooking onion (optional)
-Large Knob of Butter
-Dash of Milk
-Olive oil
-Pinch of Salt
-Cracked Black Pepper
-Bisto Gravy (150ml)
-Pinch of Salt
-Worcestershire Sauce

Utensils:

-Large Saucepan
-Frying Pan
-Pyrex Dish (big enough to hold at least 2 pints of water—test with a jug)
-Kettle
-Spatula, masher, & large spoon with no slots (to dish up)
-Slotted Spoon
-Jug for Gravy

To Cook:

Fill a large saucepan with water and put it onto boil (on high heat).

Peel and chop potatoes for mash, put them into the saucepan once it’s boiling. Put a frying pan on a medium heat hob. Add a small dollop of oil.

Once the frying pan is hot start cooking the mince, using a spatula to break it up. If you are using an onion you can chop this up and add it when the meat is broken up and starting to take a little colour.

Turn on the oven to 200 degrees C to warm up. Don’t forget to stir the spuds.

Make sure the mince is cooked through. There should be no big lumps and it should all now be grey/brown in colour (ie. Not pink). Take it off the heat and transfer to the pyrex dish. If trying to make it healthy you can drain off the excess fat first.

When the potatoes are done take them off the heat and drain.

Boil the kettle. When boiled mix approx 150ml (a quarter of a pint) of bisto gravy – mix it gently with a fork whilst you pour the kettle so you don’t get lumps, mix faster once you’ve put the kettle down until all the granules disappear.

Mix the baked beans with the mince (and onion if using) in the pyrex dish (if the beans have a lot of sauce drain some off first.)

Mix gravy into beans and mince. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and a glug of worcestershire sauce.

Mash the potatoes with a large knob of butter and a little milk (or olive oil if you prefer). Also a pinch of salt and pepper.

Now add the mash in dollops to the top of the mince mixture. Try to do it evenly otherwise you’ll have more mash at one end and the gravy will ooze out the other.

Press down gently to fill in the holes but leave it uneven on top so that you get crispy bits. Your pie will crisp up better if the mash is right at the top edge of your dish, but don’t worry if it’s not (mine isn’t usually).

Put it in the oven on the middle or top shelf, and leave to cook for 20-30 mins. You may want to put a baking tray on the shelf underneath, to catch any gravy that oozes out, mine often does. Also, if you want to give the mash extra crispyness on top you could grill it for a couple of mins at the end, but watch closely so it doesn’t burn.

Dish it up, and serve with bread and butter, and/or peas and carrots.

Note: This is for 2 greedy people! It will easily serve 3, maybe even four if you’re cooking vegetables with it. Or you could save some and re-heat in the microwave the next day. Also: If you want to increase the recipe for more people you can just add more ingredients (eg. 2 x ingredients for 4 people, 3 x ingredients for 6 people etc, but you will need a bigger pyrex dish, or 2 dishes. This will also increase the oven cooking time, if using 2 dishes it will increase by 5-10mins, if using a bigger dish 15-30mins extra. Just keep checking it!

Hope you don’t mind that my recipe is quite rustic. I know baked beans aren’t to everyone’s taste but I love them!

Your next stop along the blog hop trail is Liberty Cottage. Have a great time! If you get lost anywhere along the way, then head back to Amy’s for a list of all the blogs taking part. xxx

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flouring the floor

Yesterday afternoon we baked banana bread, though a lot of the ingredients ended up on the floor or in my daughter’s belly! She’s getting good at helping though, she squished the butter, broke the eggs, cut (with a blunt knife) the bananas & then mashed them, and mixed it all up. Now I’ve just got to train her to do the washing up and to clean the floor afterwards too!

The bread got a little bit overdone on the outside, but took ages to cook in the middle. I’m not sure if this was because I was using a silicone baking ‘tin’, perhaps it took too long to heat up? Does anyone else have any experience with silicone bakeware? I’ve got fairy cake cases too and not had any trouble with them, so I don’t know! It tasted fine anyway!
The weather has been somewhat dissapointing here, on Tuesday it was gorgeously sunny but I had to work. It was suppossed to be sunny for the rest of the week, but has been grey and dismal instead. I bet it will be sunny at the weekend when I have to work again! Still, it hasn’t been raining, so we managed to go to Bournemouth beach today with my friend Rosie. We had a picnic and threw stones into the sea – it was nice to get some sea air, but I wanted it to be warm enough to go for a swim!
What’s the point of living by the sea if the weather’s never nice enough to swim in the ocean? Next time I’ll take my wetsuit!
x
Get Crafting

Rainy Day Baking

My sister Katy has come down for a visit, so we were hoping to spend this afternoon out and about somewhere. But the weather had other ideas as it’s been bucketing it down all day, so we’ve not left the house! Instead we spent the time baking, as Katy wants to learn how to cook more things, and I’m always up for an excuse to cook homemade goodies!

Here’s some pics of the bread rolls and rocky-road muffins that we created:

Bread Rolls at Jennifer Grace Creates

Rocky Road Muffins at Jennifer Grace Creates

I can tell you that they were very tasty! I’m going to warm up a muffin and eat with vanilla ice cream – scrummy!

I also want to share a pic which my little girl took of me, using my camera. She’s getting quite good at pointing at people and pressing the button:

Photo Taken By Little Miss at Jennifer Grace Creates

I’m thinking I should have bought her one of those kiddie’s hard-to-destruct cameras for her birthday, but I’m not sure how good they are, or whether she’d be able to handle one. Has anyone got one for their kids?

I’m off now to have a glass of red wine and a chocolate-marshmallow muffin.

x