There are 36 sleeps until Christmas. Have you started decorating? Or at least thinking about it?🙂 Last year, I was inspired by alternative Christmas trees and posted a roundup of them here. This year, I’m finding myself drawn to chic, modern wreaths which actually give a great excuse to get decorating well before December, because the simplicity of these wreaths makes them a lovely addition to autumnal and winter decor. These wreaths are not just for Christmas, and they’ll look lovely hanging anywhere in your home or on your front door!
Will you be crafting any festive decorations this year? For lots more creative Christmas decor ideas, CLICK HERE.
Apples are my favourite autumn fruit, and we’re lucky to have a little apple tree that gives us a great harvest of delicious Cox apples, which means a flurry of apple-based cooking and baking at this time of year. Yum.
Making an apple chutney is a great way to use a fair chunk of the harvest, and making it in early November means it is beautifully matured by the time the cheese platters roll into our house in December. Jars of homemade apple chutney also make great gifts for the festive season.
I can’t take credit for the scrumminess of my chutney because I use the recipe from The Cottage Smallholder almost exactly. The only difference is that their original recipe uses cooking apples, while I use eating apples which are sweeter, so I have amended the recipe to use about half the sugar which I think works great. If you’re using cooking apples (e.g. Bramley apples), please click on the link to follow their recipe. If you want to use eating apples, here’s the recipe for you (a printable-friendly PDF version is attached at the end):
Preparation time: depends on whether you’re doing all the chopping by hand or have helpful machines/staff. If it is the former, it’ll also depend on how fast you can chop. So let’s say between 15 and 60 minutes. Don’t let that put you off though; once the chopping is done and everything is in the pan, it’ll be so worth it!
Cooking time: about 4 hours of occasional stirring and enjoying the gorgeous aroma filling your home
1.5 kg of eating apples (weighed before chopping)
500g of onions (weighed before chopping)
500g of sultanas
400g demerara sugar
500ml of white wine vinegar
Zest and juice of two lemons
1 small chilli
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
½ tsp of sea salt
1 tbsp of mustard seed
Wash, peel, core and chop the apples finely.
Peel, chop and mince the onions (if you don’t have a mincer, chop them very fine).
Deseed and finely chop the chilli.
Put all ingredients into a large heavy bottomed saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Then simmer very gently on very low heat, bubbles barely breaking the surface, until the chutney has thickened, stirring every now and then. Don’t cover the pan.
It is ready when drawing a spoon across the surface leaves a definite track mark. This should take about four hours.
Pot into warm sterilised jars with plastic lined lids. (How to sterilise jars and lids: See Tips and Tricks below)
Label when cold and store in a cool, dry place.
Leave to mature for a month. The longer that you leave it to mature the better it will be!
Tips and Tricks
How do I sterilise jars and lids? Why do I need to use plastic-lined jars?
Here is a simple sterilising method: When the chutney is cooked, quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160°C (140°C fan assisted). When the oven has reached the right temperature, turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while.
It is best to use plastic lined metal lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. Boil the lids for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If using Le Parfait jars, do the same with the rubber rings.
Don’t use cellophane lids as the vinegar will evaporate through these and your chutney will dry up.
This chutney, once sealed in sterilised jars, should last for about a year, so you can enjoy it for a long time. I love using this chutney with cheese and biscuits, in a ploughman’s sandwich, in a grilled cheese on toast, with roast dinner, with deli meats, and even just as a dip with crisps or pitta bread… it’s so versatile! How do you like your chutney? Do let me know if you make this one!
For your convenience, below is the link to a printable PDF version of this recipe. Enjoy!
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the wall elevation I posted when I was trying to figure out what to do with one of my dining room walls. Since the Instagram post, I’ve been requested to write a blog post explaining how I create a wall elevation in my word processor. I’m only too happy to oblige, even if it takes me over a month to get around to it!😉
Being more of a planner rather than someone who can just ‘eyeball it’, I often whip up an elevation in Pages (the word processor on my Macbook) when I’m trying to work out what to do with a wall because it helps me visualise what size and type of art / shelves / furniture will work before I make any purchases.
For example, I created a quick elevation when I was planning the gallery wall in my son’s room to help me determine the size of art + frames and how to space them relative to the bench that sat against the wall:
and here’s how it turned out:
A wall elevation uses the same concept as a floor plan – it’s a drawing to scale, except instead of a top-down view, it’s a straight-on view. Below are the steps I follow to create a wall elevation in my word processor. (NOTE: I use Pages, not Microsoft Word. I haven’t touched Microsoft in about a decade so I can’t comment on how well these steps will translate to MS Word or any other word processor. As long as you’re able to draw lines, rectangles, insert images and specify exact sizes for these in your document, then you’ll be fine.)
First, roughly draw your wall on a paper (it’ll probably start as a rectangle) and include any features such as skirting, picture rail, panelling, fireplace, door or light switch… whatever is relevant to your plans for the wall. This needs to be nothing more than sketchy.
Measure your wall and note down these measurements on your drawing. To draw an elevation using a scale of 1:10, you’ll need each of these measurements divided by 10. You may find it useful to write down the scaled measurements next to the actual measurements on your drawing.
On your word processor, open up a document and size it to A3 landscape: most walls scaled down by 1:10 should fit within this document size. A3 = 42cm x 29.7cm so if your wall is larger than 420cm x 297cm, then you’ll need to either use a larger document size, or use a scale of 1:20.)
Use rectangles and lines to draw (and colour, if you like) your wall, sizing and positioning them according to the measurements you on your sketch. Select Text Wrap = None for your shapes, so that the position of one doesn’t interfere with the position of another.
Finally, plan your wall! For any objects that you want to add to your wall, you’ll need to save the images from the internet, note down their actual height and width so you can work out their scaled down measurements (keep the scale constant at 1:10), and remove any background (if you’re not sure how to do that, google how to remove background from an image in Photoshop / Photoshop Elements – whichever you use – and check out the tutorials). Drag the image into your document, select Text Wrap = None, resize it according to the 1:10 scale dimension and play around! Why not even indulge in styling up a virtual shelfie?🙂
A wall elevation isn’t totally foolproof of course. When I put up my shelves and styled them, I realised I didn’t want Klimt’s sunflower print, but instead something with less colour, so I went for this gorgeous Tree of Life lithographic print from Degree, which looks like a tree ring, except the image is made up of little animals. Very clever, I think, and highlights a very important message about conservation. Even though I didn’t stick to the plan fully, creating an elevation did help me to figure out the layout for this wall, which now looks like this. I’m pretty happy with it.🙂
Taking a shortcut
If you find drawing to scale a little cumbersome, you could take a shortcut: take a straight photo of your wall and resize it to a 1:10 scale in your word document (100cm of wall width = 10cm on your document), then embellish it with your ideas of what to do with it. For example, when I was thinking of painting diagonal stripes in my son’s reading nook, I used a scaled photo of the wall and played around with the thickness and positioning of the lines until I was happy with it.
This showed me that 10cm thick stripes worked best and made it easy for me to know where and how to position them. This is how they turned out:
So there you have it, folks. I like to visualise my ideas before I implement them and I find digital elevations are the best way to do this. Do you use any visualisation tools to plan your decor ideas or are you one of those with the enviable talent of being to design with just your gut feeling and have it turn out beautifully? I’d love to know!
Following my garden bench makeover, I bought a couple of fantastic navy outdoor chairs from John Lewis for our patio – great value at £50 each, made even more affordable thanks to some gift vouchers we received last Christmas. They look fabulous next to my blue bench and are super comfy, but felt like they could do with little cushions.
During my hunt for inexpensive, easy care, tropical print rectangular cushions (which turned out to be fruitless), I chanced upon this duvet set from Accessorize Home on Very.co.uk, on sale at £19 for the single size.
The fun bold pattern is perfect for my colourful garden. So it was another case of “if you can’t find it, make it“. I’m no expert on the sewing machine, but I have taught myself basic sewing skills through online tutorials and I find sewing to be a perfect rainy day activity.
I was able to make 4 cushions (35x50cm) from the duvet set, 2 for the garden chairs and the other 2 for sale.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll have seen a few progress photos of the dining room makeover, but I’ve not shared a Before photo, till now. In the interest of a good Before and After, I think you have to see what I had to live with for over a year before I was able to get around to making some changes to this room. This is how the room looked shortly after we moved in, sans the dining table and chairs.
How many shades of beige can you count? There’s FIVE: carpet, panelling, wall above panelling, cornicing, and even the ceiling (which happens to be covered in textured paper… are you cringing yet??) – all different shades of beige. And those eyesore bookcases… yuck yuck yuck. For me, this sea of beige was hell to live with. I really can’t bear to look at this ugliness anymore, so let’s just get on with the makeover.
The carpet has to stay for now, but I got to work banishing all the other beige as soon as the cause of the damp on the chimney wall was rectified and the wall was dry. It was important to make this a light, bright, inviting space because we spend a lot of time in this room as it is next to the kids’ play area.
I went with Little GreeneFescue 231 (a gorgeous pale warm grey) for the panelling and Loft White 222 (a fantastically bright white) for the wall above. I’m delighted with how much difference these paint choices have made to the feeling of light in this room.
I was so glad to see the back of those bookcases and commission a joiner to create built-in shelves and cupboards in the alcoves. They smartened up the room no end. I love the look of a dark backdrop to shelves so I painted this area in Lamp Black 228.
The alcove cupboards were painted in the same grey as the panelling, and the shelves in the same white as the walls.
The pièce de résistance which I couldn’t wait to hang since I bought it in a sale several months ago was the beautiful octagonal mirror from West Elm.
Here’s how the room looks now:
There are still many more changes I want to make, like sand off the dark Jacobean Oak stain on the dining table and finish it in a different (lighter) stain/wax (yet to be decided), paint the dining chairs (colour to be decided, I’m leaning towards a charcoal grey), and find art for the walls. So lots more work, but this Phase 1 has me satisfied for now. I’m chuffed with how much difference the paint, the alcove joinery and of course, the greenery has made to this room.🙂
If you take away anything from this post, let it be this – beige is never the answer. Never.