Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Gift Of Giving Homemade

As you may have noticed, Christmas recently occurred.  As the parent of a just-turned-three year old, there was much excitement to be had; indeed, Jas delighted in everything.  From making cookies to decorating cards; from helping to wrap presents to leaving a glass of milk and a mince pie for Father Christmas - everything added to her festive experience.

Of course, the aforementioned were merely the trimmings; the real meat of her excitement stemmed from the promise of presents from the mysterious and yet omnipresent Father Christmas.  I still get excited about receiving a surprise gift so to get a whole heap of them in one go at the age of three must be mind-blowing.  And yes, both Jas and Sonny had a lot of presents.  Some expensive, some cheaper, but all were things that they had either asked for, or that we thought they would enjoy.

However, being on a tight budget this year, the majority of people received homemade gifts from us.  I have been meaning to give homemade presents for years now, but never seemed to have the time or inclination to go through with it.  But this year, I found a few recipes that inspired me to put good intentions into practise.  It was a lot easier than I had always expected; and the results weren't too bad either.

I made pfeffernusse, as pictured above, for my partner.  He loves the stuff and Lidl had sold out, so it seemed like the perfect gift.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a little on the hard side, but the flavours were all there.  James loved it, thankfully.

I made two batches of chocolate and walnut fudge (using Dairy Milk rather than the specified "semisweet chocolate pieces") and it turned out really well.  I was impressed by the speed of the process, the low cost of the recipe and the finished article; and enjoyed a whole lot of positive comments from young and old alike.  For gifting, I collected six squares into medium-sized silver organza bags (available online for pence).

For one young cousin, I made my own hot chocolate, which I poured into a cellophane bag and presented with a bag of mini marshmallows, a packet of chocolate sprinkles (left over from a trifle packet mix), two candy canes and a mug I knew would make him smile!

For my sisters, it was chocolate brownie jars - a one litre glass jar with airtight seal, filled with layers of flour, cocoa powder, caster sugar and finished off with a festive ribbon tied round the top, a bag of milk chocolate chips and a luggage tag on which I wrote the baking instructions on one side and their name on the other.

Finally, for my best friend, I found a mocha recipe which, once made, was packaged in a small glass jar and presented with a festive ribbon and a bag of mini marshmallows.

Other gifts were less homemade but still personal; we had photos of Jas and Sonny taken by Charlie from Bigger Pixel at their local music group, which we then framed and wrapped.  These went down very well!

The feedback we have received from our homemade gifts has been much more positive and appreciative than in previous years when we have spent large amounts of money at Boots and the like.  A homemade present displays the thought and effort that has gone into choosing and then creating it and, sometimes, you just can't buy that.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Words My Baby Knows

For the purposes of remembering just how much Sonny, our 15 month old, has amazed and delighted us with his growing vocabulary over the past few weeks, here is a list of the words he now can say (some of them perfectly; others a little less well!):


New words on a daily basis!  We are so proud of you, little man.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Happy Birthday Jasmine

Dear Jas,

My baby girl is three.  I am still struggling to find where the time has gone since you were tiny and pink and screaming.  And yet it also feels as though you have been with us forever.  My life before you seems so dull compared to how it is now, with you in it; bouncing and laughing and so full of life.

You have learnt so much this last year: how to do a forward roll, unaided; how to scoot really quickly; how to crack an egg (more successfully that I can); how to count to 20; how to recognise numbers and letters; how to be the most excellent big sister and how to make anything into a great game.  When you turned two, you were not the big girl you are today; you were dependent on nappies, dummies and bottles.  Now, at three, you are completely potty-trained and can settle yourself with a book; although we must have a chat about your bedtime delaying tactics soon.

I am so very proud of you, Jasmine.  Admittedly, this blog is called Smiles and Trials because of you and your ability to bring so much brilliant fun and horrific frustration to any day.  But even through the difficult times, I am proud of you.  You are fiercely independent and headstrong.  You know your own mind better than some adults I've encountered over the years - how could I not be proud of that?
You also have the incredible ability to walk into any situation and just get on with it.  Whether it be gymnastics, ballet, Caterpillars, art class, a brand new preschool or just the local park, you get stuck in and invariably end up giggling away with some new friend or other.  And you are getting really, really good at concentrating.  I am very impressed with this.  The foam mosaic you made with Daddy was beautiful.  Your enthusiasm for reading and writing is brilliant.  Your new-found adoration of the Wizard of Oz is less fun, but I can deal with that.

Sometimes, it would be nice if you listened to us.

But it is always lovely to have you here, Jas.  I miss you when you go to sleep.

I love you more than my arms can show.  I love you to the moon....and back!

Happy birthday!

Love, Mummy xxx