our traditional christmas dessert

christmas-bread-and-butter-pudding-mycreative

For at least the last five years (if not longer) my mother has been making a twist on bread and butter pudding for our Christmas dessert. As I won’t be with her this year I asked for the recipe so that I could make it in South Africa. I tried it out on the weekend to have with friends at a “friendly Christmas” (I think that is an appropriate name for a Christmas celebration with friends). I don’t have a recipe as such as my mom just makes it by magical mom skills but I thought I would share with you what we do.

Ingredients

  • a large panettone (I used a 750g one)
  • butter
  • apricot jam (although I am thinking fig jam or a cranberry jam would be pretty awesome too)
  • 1 pot double cream and  (you don’t actually get this in Italy so I used marscapone)
  • 1 pot single cream
  • milk as necessary (I used almond milk)
  • 4-5 eggs (depending on size, I used 5)
  • raisins (soaked in juice)
  • brown sugar

Method

Slice the panettone and make sandwiches with the jam and butter. I cut from the bottom so I have rounds which I think quarter to make little triangles. Place them in a dish with the little triangles pointing up.

Separately combine the single cream, double cream, milk, eggs and a bit of sugar (I just sprinkled it in) and beat until combined. Making this marscapone it kind of separated strangely but cooked to look fine.

Sprinkle the raisins over the sandwich ‘spread’ and the slowly coat with the liquid. It should  come as high as possible in your dish (although not cover the top of the sandwich peaks). Leave to sit for a while if you can. Then pop the pudding into the oven for 45 minutes to an hour at 180 degrees. Keep an eye on it to make sure the peaks don’t burn.

Serve with custard or ice-cream. It makes about 8 portions and is great for breakfast the next day!

Also check out my guest post on Leanne’s blog about what Christmas is to me.

how did it get so late so soon?

so-late-so-soon-mycreative

Since before December I was planning on a whole bunch of Christmassy-ness that was going to happen in real life, some of which I was going to share with you. But the time has run away with me and I haven’t stuck up one single Christmas decoration! The fact that we are leaving for South Africa on Saturday and won’t be at home for Christmas kind of makes it feel not worthwhile for three days either so I am afraid this year will be the year I didn’t decorate. Oh well there is always next year and there are plenty of festive feelings flying around.

But to share some Christmas love I thought I would link up to some Christmassy loveliness from across the web.

Decorating Love

Wrapping inspiration

  • A great idea of using DIY printables in a different way for this  wrapping idea.
  • The simple addition of a wreath brings a bit of greenery to your presents.
  • Or some watercolour on paper. I think I have a roll of ikea white paper somewhere.
  • An old post of mine with some ideas for reusing shopping bags for wrapping (I am truly terrible at wrapping presents so bags often win)

Winning Gift Giving

  • Chocolate bark is always a great last minute gift idea (can literally knock some up an hour before leaving the house for a last minute Christmas engagement. This combo sounds delicious.
  • I think I might gift this to myself to read on the plane to South Africa. I am not the tidiest person and any tips I can get to not have to spend half a day cleaning on the weekend would be magical. I think many might appreciate the sentiment for a new year.

Let’s Eat

  • For those to squeamish for eggnog how about a vegan version. Looks good to me.
  • These mincemeat and clementine rolls are great for a last minute Christmas gathering, or you know any reason.

Also check out my post from last year on photographing Christmas lights if you are heading out for some evening walks.

capturing christmas light

capturing christmas lights A lovely reader recently asked for some tips on taking some pictures for an event where the Christmas lights were being turned on. Night time photography can be the hardest, especially if you prefer the use of natural light. So these are just a few things that I keep in mind.

Ideally you don’t actually want to be shooting pictures of lights once it is completely dark. As it is just becoming dusk there will be more light so you might still be able to ‘free hand’ it plus you will get some more interesting details in the sky. That said I can’t imagine a company will be turning on Christmas lights when it is just dusk and if you live a bit too far north it is dark before you leave work anyway.

christmas-streets-mycreative christmas-tree-piazza-unita-trieste-mycreative Settings: all ISO 400, 1/80s, aperture at 2.8, 3.5 and 4 respectively

Shoot in RAW

Shooting in RAW will allow you a little bit of grace in your pictures as it holds a lot more information and so if your shot is a bit underexposed you can lighten up the picture. Some cameras have an option to see where it is 100% black or white. Use that and try not to go 100% of either in too much of the photo. I have photoshop but if your camera allows you to shoot in RAW it should hopefully come with some software which you can edit it in. I’ve never used GIMP but this video explains how to use an accompanying programme to edit RAW photos.

Use a tripod

The nice thing about Christmas lights is they don’t move – which means you don’t have to move! If you have access to a tripod this is the best way to go to get sharp photos. You will also need to put your camera onto timer or have a shutter release so you don’t shake the tripod when taking the picture. Set your ISO to 100 (or as low as it will go), set your aperture (this is an artistic decision but if you want it basically all to be in focus I would say 8 and up) and then change your shutter speed until you get the correct exposure. Note that for the examples in this post I have not used a tripod so it is still possible.

If you don’t have the option of a tripod push your ISO up as high as you are happy with. This requires a little bit of playing around – the super expensive brand new cameras can go really high but more entry level cameras might only look good up to 1600 ISO. You will also probably have to open your aperture wide up (f1.4 – 2.8 is great if you have it). Try and keep your shutter above 1/60s but if you have to drop below that keep your position steady – stand with legs shoulder width apart, hand holding under the lens to keep it steady. Lean against a wall if you can.  The great thing about Christmas lights is that blur works really well!

christmas-street-lights-focus-mycreative christmas-street-lights-bokeh-mycreative Settings: all ISO 400, 1/80s, f3.5, f3.5

Shot variety

Variety is the spice of life and it also helps to tell the whole story of an event. Don’t be limited in just shooting the full scene. Move in close and get some detail shots too. Get some ones with lovely bokeh blur (just move to manual focus and get the lights out of focus).

christmas-lights-mycreative Settings: ISO 400, 1/80s, f2.8

It’s not just about the lights

If you are also shooting for an event it is important to remember that it is not just about the lights themselves but the people ‘interacting’ with the light. The same applies if you are going out with friends or family to see some lights. Use available light, boost your ISO up to a high number. Set your shutter speed to a ‘hand held’ level (1/60 or above) and then set aperture to however low it needs to get to get properly exposed photos.

christmas-market-gingerbread-mycreative christmas-market-mycreative Settings: both ISO 640, 1/80, f2.8

This photo below is far from technically perfect but it gives an idea of how people where interacting with, in this case, the band that were playing. I wouldn’t blow this photo up to an A3 print but works well on the web and a Facebook page and might even pass as a small print in a photo album. Making photos black and white can also be a useful artistic decision…

shooting in the dark - crowd pictureSettings: ISO 5000, 1/60, f1.4

Learn from others

Head over to flickr to see what others got up to. The nice thing about flickr is that it more often than not tells you what the camera settings where for an image. It is a great way to learn about settings. You can also see some of my other ‘dark time’ photos

I hope this is helpful to those taking some Christmas photos. Let me know if you have any questions and share a link to your Christmas pictures for some inspiration too!

cheap and dirty christmas

cheap and dirty christmas star Yay it is December! You know what that means. Full out Christmas posting time.

A few weeks ago Freya of Nishantishu asked about some DIY christmas ideas.  Ché from Indieberries and I joined in a discussion with a couple idea. We then thought we would join forces to create a couple of “cheap and dirty” DIYs – things scrounged from the earth and your cupboard type ideas. Honestly these are more some inspirational ideas (because they are so easy) than DIYs but hopefully you find it useful. In the end the only thing I bought was some string and ribbon which was less than €8 all together (and I still have loads left).

Having moved country and not brought any Christmas decorations, with the added bonus of a really minimal budget to spend, I was keen to use things I could find for free or had on hand. We don’t have much floor space either in the living area so I thought garlands and wall decor was the way to go.

christmas garlands and mobile So after a walk around our local park picking up sticks and Tim finding some pinecones near his work here are a couple of ideas I came up with.

cookie cutter stars Cookie cutter mobile

I had some large star cookie cutters and simply tied them to a stick! (Told you this was easy). You could obviously use any seasonal cookie cutters you liked and make more layers with more string and sticks. You could even do a sort of Christmas tree shape.

cheap-and-dirty-christmas-stars-garland-mycreative Paper star garland

Keeping in theme with the stars… I am not one to usually cut up books but honestly this book had last been taken out of the library in the 70s and was basically a list of American historical fiction. I didn’t think anyone would miss it if it turned into a garland on my wall. So I used this tutorial for origami stars. I used washi tape to stick the two pieces of the stars together. I then used mini pegs (which I had) to attach them to the string. I am sure you could also use washi tape to attach them. Admittedly these would look better on a painted wall but that would have stretched the budget! Alternatively use different coloured paper in the festive colours of your choice.

Glitter tape garland

Not an idea of mine at all but I thought the wall could do with a bit more sparkle. Just fold some glitter tape over string and cut at the bottom to make tags. I had the tape but you can stock up on endless colours at Papermash.

pinecones and ribbon pinecones Pinecones in a jar

First take a nice walk to pick up some pinecones. If they are closed placed them near the heating and they should open up soon. Then put them in a giant pickle jar. If you are feeling fancy tie a pretty piece of ribbon around the top. I had thought to do some Sharpie drawing on the jar but my gold sharpie wasn’t up to the challenge.

Told you simple right! Head on over to Ché and Freya’s blogs to see what they have been up to. We would also love you to join in! So if you have any “cheap and dirty” Christmas ideas to share leave a comment or tweet/instagram about with the hashtag #cheapdirtyxmas.