a homemade christmas

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Ruby and I are raiding the ribbon box for both decorations and presents. Our extended family are very keen on wrapping with ribbons and equally keen on re-using them. So from an early age we have all trained our toddlers to chase after them at family birthdays and Christmas.


Our ribbon stash is currently very much in demand for the following:

Tying homemade gingerbread biscuits to the Christmas tree.

Making our packages of homemade bath bombs look pretty

Tying around packages of Nigella’s Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies for gifts

I’m also planning to make Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s white and dark chocolate bark. Always inspirational when it comes to edible gifts, Hugh FW has lots of good ideas; in previous years I’ve mixed little jars of his Dukkah (an earthy egyptian mix of herbs, nuts and spices, good as a dip). This involves a good bit of pestle and mortar bashing, so is great fun with children.

I did have high hopes for lavender bags. We founds some very pretty material including some pink and gold sari material that Ruby was very taken with. It set me daydreaming as I’d bought it in Kerala a few years before she was born – it’s been in use in our house even longer than most of the ribbons. Ruby also started daydreaming though (about making puppets) and her enthusiasm for making puppets simultaneously with lavender bags combined with my sewing skills means it may be a project we need to resurrect after Christmas.

The new addition to our ribbon stash this year is the simple but pretty bakers twine from Pipii.


Love re-using all our favourite bits of ribbon and materials with all the memories that come with them though. It feels as much a part of our Christmas tradition as making the biscuits for the tree.

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Recipe Ginger and Cinnamon Christmas Biscuits

350g plain white flour

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 level teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

150g butter

175g golden syrup

150g raw cane sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Sieve first 4 ingredients together into bowl and rub butter into them. Heat syrup gently until runny, add sugar and mix well. Add to dry ingredients and mix. Roll out (if it is too crumbly to roll you can add a spoon of milk). Use assorted Christmas cutters to cut stars, trees, gingerbread men, snowflakes etc and lay on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 15-20 mins. Leave on tray for 2-3 minutes, then lift off with a spatula and cool on a wire tray before decorating with icing, silver balls etc. If you want to hang them on the tree, make holes with a skewer before they cool and harden, ready to thread your bakers twine or ribbon through.





making bath bombs

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I love it that my daughter is as enthusiastic as I am about making home-made presents. She started young, plopping bits of vegetables into my biggest saucepan for Christmas chutney when she was a toddler. With a little input from her I labelled them up as ‘Ruby’s Christmas chutney’, we painted a cardboard box together and glued on letters spelling ‘Ruby’s home-made goodies’ and filled it with our preserves. Ruby delved into it on Christmas day, handing out our very rustic but home-made/home-grown chutney to her Aunties, Uncles and grandparents.

The box is still in use although showing signs of wear and tear. Ruby is as enthusiastic as ever about filling it, but aged 5 she now has her own very strong ideas about what to make. Very keen on modelling clay (the type that sets hard and can then be painted – or found weeks later underneath tables and chairs) she announced the other day when we were pondering present ideas: “I know, I’ll make tea cups and saucers out of my modelling clay”. I think I’ve mentioned before that her enthusiasm/ability ratios are similar to her Mum’s and not feeling too confident about our ability to tackle this project together, I was relieved when I thought of bath bombs.

I must admit I had a go at making these in a child-free moment to check they worked first. Making chorizo and salami with my friend Katie recently reminded me that while it’s great fun making things with your children, occasionally it’s nice to have a go without them too. And it feels even more decadent to have a go at making something during daytime hours when you’re actually properly awake.


So my first attempt was at lavender bath bombs with my friend Chava, who’s a wonderful photographer and took these lovely pics. Ruby was very pleased to find one of these fragrant bath bombs in a pocket of her advent calendar.

We experimented with a recipe from a Neals Yard book I’d had for years, finding that you needed to add water to make the bath bombs stick together, but it’s ideal to do this drop by small drop so the fizz of the bath bomb doesnt happen immediately, rather than waiting for when it’s plopped into the bath.


Ruby is very keen on bath bombs at the moment. When I put a note in her advent calendar saying we were going to make them after school she was very excited. It will be interesting to see if she manages to actually hand them over to her friends or cousins. Chutney was definitely easier.

My vision of how easy and mess-free these were to make was revised after making them with a 5 year old after school. The restrained versions at the top were obviously from my first attempt. The session with Ruby involved more food colouring, glitter, a bath in the middle so she could test one (they fizz lots, we were both very pleased) and a muddy coloured batch when she tried to mix red and blue. It was great fun.


How to make bath bombs:

These really are very simple. All you need is 3 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda, 1 tablespoon citric acid, your choice of essential oils and a little water. Dried lavender or flower petals such as calendula are lovely to add.

Mix the bicarb and citric acid and add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice. Chamomile and lavender are lovely child-friendly essential oils that feel like calming additions to bath-time (worth a go anyway) and it’s a good idea to be sparing, only adding a couple of drops for children. Tiny bits of dried lavender is nice added to the lavender version.

Add water very sparingly (you will notice a slight fizz as you do) drop by drop, just enough to bind the mixture into a ball. You can place your balls in mini cupcake cases or simple wrap in cellophane and tie with pretty ribbon. I have some rolls of snowflake washi tape from Pipii (or Christmas cellotape as Ruby calls it, she’s very partial to cellotape anyway and finds this vertion particularly enticing) that I think may be used when Ruby and I are making our parcels look pretty.

pipii washi tape

For a Christmas version for grown-ups, add a few drops more essential oils, choosing from Frankincense & Myrrh, Juniper, Orange. Lavender and flowers are very lovely for grown-ups too of course. Very soothing after a frenetic evening of late-night Christmas preparations.