Charlton Christmas Chutney

As promised here is a second installment to my Christmas themed entries. Today is a recipe of an old classic but with my own personalised packaging, much like my Chocolate Truffle Gift Jars post which were also presented in recycled baby food jars. A perfect little gift of…

Charlton Christmas Chutney

large jar

(Incase you didn’t know already, my surname is Charlton, hence the name of the post).

I will admit that I am a novice chutney maker so I have cheated slightly by getting some inspiration from various books. But then again, I don’t believe you can be completely unique when it comes to this kind of chutney as its so simple and to be Christmassy you have to stick to traditional spicing. I do think I’ve played around enough with flavours to brand the family name!

The recipe fills about 8 x 250ml baby jars or 4 x Ikea’s smallest rubber sealed jars.

Make sure that the jars and lids are thoroughly cleaned in hot soapy water, rinsed and left to dry in a oven of 150c for at least 15 mins. Making sure that they do not touch in the oven. As this is a hot recipe you need your jars to be hot from the oven to stop the glass shattering. So have your jars in the oven 15 mins before you chutney is finished. Also, if you can have a small extra jar for any extra chutney you make as it will be too late to sterilise anything when you begin to transfer things.

**I wasn’t quite sure about putting the rubber bands from the Ikea jars in the oven, so I washed these in soapy water and then left them in a bowl of boiling water for 5 mins**



For the chutney:

  • 800g of cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 500g fresh cranberries
  • 250g pitted dates, chopped in three
  • 2 satsumas/clementines
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 250ml white wine vinegar
  • 250ml cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • Wax paper for sealing

You can mix you the recipe as much as you want depending on what you have in the house. I made two batches and one had plums in it that I needed to use up, it also didn’t have the cayenne pepper as my father in law is allergic. So make sure to think about that sort of thing when giving any food as a gift!

I didn’t have a large enough pot for this recipe so I split mine into two. So to begin with I combined my apples, onion, cranberries, dates, sugar, spices, vinegar and salt into a bowl and gave it a thorough stir. Take your 2 satsumas and zest them over your bowl. Cut in half, squeeze in the juices and then scrape the pulp in also. Give everything another stir and than transfer into your two large pans, or one if you have it!

Bring to a boil and then turn down to the a very low heat and leave for about a hour, stirring occasionally to check it doesn’t stick to the bottom. It’s done when the fruit is no longer recognisable.


Carefully take your jars out of the oven and fill with your chutney. Seal with a piece of wax paper and leave for 1 minute then seal your lid on too. And thats your chutney done! Happy to sit unopened for 1 year!

Now for my little bit of crafting!

Before anything else, I painted my small jar lids with specialist metal and glass paint in a shimmer teal colour to cover up any old text from the baby food.



I’ve decided to make some personalised labels and Christmas Pom poms to go on my jars to make my gifts look that bit more special than supermarket conserves. You can find printable labels in lots of places online, especiallyPinterest. I’ve done a combination of bought paper and printed labels. There are so many beautiful papers out there at this time of year, with colours that you’d never get with printing. Mine is from Paperchase and has a vivid magenta, violet and gold pattern.

Depending on the size of my lid, I cut a circle of the special paper to cover top of the lid and then a smaller printed circle with my chutney name to stick on top. If you want to keep things simple though, the paper on its own looked great with the teal edge of the lid.

Still looks good with no label

Still looks good with no label

Then for my finishing touch, my teeny tiny pompoms! The easiest cutest thing you will ever make. They can then be reused by the recipient as a Christmas tree decoration. So hopefully a little part of you will be around long after the chutney is gobble up. Aw!

Pom pom supplies

Pom pom supplies

You will need.

  • Some wool that compliments your label.
  • Ribbon that’s contrasts or matches your wool.
  • Small scissors
  • A fork
  • Crimping scissors for you ribbon (optional)

4 steps

Pom pom!

Pom pom!

Take your wool and wrap and over lap it approximately 20 times around the centre of your fork prong. Cut a length of ribbon, long enough to wrap around your small jar or shorter to dangle from you large one. Thread you ribbon through the centre prong of your fork and tie the ribbon as tight as possible into a double knot. Slip the wool off the fork and snip down the tow edges to get your fluffy Pompom.

Enjoy with a cheese platter or as we have been doing in our house, with a teatime cheese toasty! Yum!

Festively fabulous!

all jars

Homemade gingerbread house.

The Christmas season has arrived and with it comes a never ending list of craft and food ideas. Toddler permitting, I’m hoping to be able to make a few festive treats to show here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a stay at home mum, so in order to fit with the one salary budget, there will be a lot of homemade gifts in my household this year. So, watch this space! For now though, I’m going to combine both food, craft and my most popular post to date my homemade cardboard dolls house, with a…

Homemade gingerbread house…


First things first, the recipe I use isn’t exactly gingerbread, but tastes just as (if not more) christmassy. Spiced black pepper bread house just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!

For the dough you will need:

  • 600g plain flour (plus more for dusting)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2.5 tsps freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g soft unsalted butter
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 2 larges eggs beaten with 4 tablespoons of runny honey

In a food processor, combine your flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper. With the motor on medium speed, slowly add the butter and sugar. Then very slowly add the egg mixture. Do not use all the mixture up if you find the dough comes together before it’s been used up.

Split your dough into four balls, flatten a little into disks, cover in cling film and store in the fridge until needed. The most important thing about a gingerbread house is to draw out your design first and create template of your walls. A simple design is best as a gingerbread houses detail and wow factor come from the decoration.


Cut out your templates. Lightly flour your surface and rolling pin. This is important so you dough does not stick to the surface. Roll out your first disk till in it around 2mm deep. Place your chosen area over the dough and cut around the shape. I use a pizza roller cutter but any sharp knife will do. You can decide here where you’d like to cut out your windows and doors, or you can ice them on later. Continue until you have two of every template and transfer onto a lined baking tray. Depending what size your house is, you may have to do these in batches, so I recommend not to start rolling out all your parts at once.

Place in a preheated oven of 160c (fan assisted) for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. This should only take 10 minutes. Once you have all your pieces baked and cooled its ready to start icing together.


Find a very sturdy base to mount your house. I’m using a spare tile we had lying a round. You can buy good large cake bases though from most cookery shops.

For the icing you will need:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 500g sifted icing sugar (powdered sugar for all my US readers)

Place the egg whites into a large mixing bowl and slowly add the sugar stirring every so often. The mixture should get quite stiff but don’t add all the sugar if you think it’s going to be too still to pipe. Once all mixed and your happy with the mixture, fill a piping bag or gun with your icing. For the wall gluing I would use a nozzle the same thickness as you wall. If you have more icing than will fit in your piping bag/gun, put the rest into a small airtight container or cover with clingfilm. Lay your four walls out on your base to show how big your footprint will be and pipe the outline. Take your first piece of wall and again pipe along the bottom edge and two sides and stand in place. I found that my icing was thick and secure enough to hold this in place but if yours isn’t find something like a small box or some glasses to hold it upright. Repeat this for each wall until you have the outside shell of your house. Leave to dry for at least an hour.

Once dry pipe another thick line around the four top edges of your shell. Take your first piece of roof and secure in place. Pipe icing down the central line of the roof and then secure the second piece in place. Secure with books or boxes or even a little masking tape if you have to and leave to dry completely again. You may also wish to add a chimney once this is dry. For this, follow the same rules as before.



Now the fun bit. Collect all the sweets, sprinkles and cake decorating pieces you want and use the remaining icing as a glue and painting tool. I think all gingerbread houses look great no matter how messy or neat they are. Its definitely fun to do with your kids or some friends instead of cupcake decorating parties. The more sweets and icing you use the tastier it will be when you eventually come to eat it! I’ve been a bit more of a fancy pants because I wanted to test my icing skills as I’ve not got the most steady hands. I also baked some window frames with leftover dough, painted them with a bit of watered down icing and carefully stuck them with icing inside the house frame. I think I did well considering it’s only my second attempt at building one.

Happy house making!




Also, if you have dough leftover why not get some star, snowflake or any shaped cookie cutter and make some Christmas tree decorations. Just roll out the dough as before, cut your shape and make a hole in the top to put string through before baking and then ice and decorate when cooled. The combination of the spiced smell and the aroma of a real Christmas tree is just wonderful.


Homemade Halloween Decorations!

Well hello there, it’s been a while hasn’t it?!

Apologies for the extended radio silence, it does link directly with my baby becoming a toddler and the whole new world of walking and the customary mischief that comes with!

I suppose then, the later I left things, the more I felt the need for an amazing “come back” post and then the pressure set in and the avoidance began.

However, I could see this continuing for a long time and have decided to get back in there with a simple crafty post of…

Homemade Halloween Decorations!

Halloween Decorations

I decided to host a little Halloween party for all my baby friends at the weekend and as I always go mad for decorations at Christmas time I thought why not do the same for a Halloween party and at the same time perhaps utilise some of the same decorations.

Ghost Lanterns.

What you need.

  • Christmas tree lights
  • Paper cups (you will see I used plastic but paper is much better)
  • Pin or small nail
  • Knife/scalpel
  • Permanent black marker

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find paper cups in any of my local shops and found that the plastic ones were a little more tricky to work with as the tend to split when you cut, so Id strongly recommend paper ones if you can.

Prick, cut, cross.

Using you pin/nail prick a whole in the top of your cup.  Use this whole to then make a cross cut with your scalpel.  Again, I couldn’t find my scalpel at the time and used a kitchen knife that was probably a bit naughty and unsafe so do as I say and not as I do again and get a scalpel!

Next with your marker pen draw on you ghostly faces.  I had 80 cups to do which took a bit of time and can be quite tedious.  I recommend have 4-5 characters that you repeat.


Take you fairy lights and poke through the cross hole and pull through, pushing back the flaps of the cross cut to secure the chord in place.  I had a 120 light string of LEDs so alternated my cups with a 1 bulb gap in between to give space for the cups.

There you have it, Christmas lights come Halloween lights!


Lampshade Bats.

Easiest Halloween decoration ever!

  • White Paper
  • Scissors
  • Sellotape

Bat stencil

Cut out various sizes of bats using my bat stencil provided if you click here.  Stick inside lampshades with sellotape.  The more bats the better.


Bat Lamp!

Ghost Milk Cartons.

Second easiest Halloween decoration ever!

  • Milk carton
  • Permanent black marker
  • White Floralyte

Remove your label and clean the milk out of your carton and leave to dry.  Once dry. draw on your ghostly face.  Then pop in a floralyte.  A Floralyte is a small led and battery that is used for floral displays which you can buy online here.  They are 100% better than tea lights for fire safety.  You can get ones that can be switched on and off but I have the single use ones which can last up to 3 days.  I recommend the white ones as these have the strongest light.  However, if you want colour just pop two lights in instead.

Ghostly fire safe lanterns for your doorstep etc.

Moo and Boo!


Of course no Halloween would be complete without the customary jack o’lantern  and sticking with the idea of mixing Christmas and Halloween decorations I’ve made mine the Jack from the Nightmare before Christmas! Perfect for my Trick or Treat display!


Homemade Floral Baby Hair Band

In recent weeks Isla, who is now 14.5 months old, has had a sudden growth of hair. She was born with a full head of dark hair but (like many) lost this after a few weeks.
Today, it’s grown back into beautiful blonde hair that’s just starting to thicken out. She’s a proper girly girl with it; whenever she finds a flower or a hair-tie of mine she always tries to stick it on her head. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit too fine and short to be tied up. I have tried it and although ridiculously cute, I worry it’s a bit too tight to hurt her head or damage what little locks she has.

Hair bands on the other hand are perfect! Especially as she has a few wispy bits at the front that are always getting into her eyes or food! I find they are great at completing a pretty little outfit, especially for a party of special occasion.
We’ve got given quite a few of the classic Alice bands which I’m getting addicted to. But at £5 a pop it could soon start becoming an expensive addiction!
Therefore I decided to attempt my own…

Homemade Floral Baby Hair Band

Hair Bands

This is a really easy project. The flowers I have previously made for my Sensory Play Mat.

The following items were bought for £2 from my local haberdashers and it could make at least 4 hair bands. Today I’ve made two.


You will need

  • 2 pieces of craft felt in different colours
  • 1m thin elastic
  • Some buttons to match felt
  • Some thread to match the felt
  • A needle
  • Scissors
  • Craft glue (preferably non toxic for chewing babies)
  • Small bit of paper or card

First get your small piece of card (or paper) a cut out a 5cm circle for a template. With this then cut circles from each of the felt.  Also cut two extra smaller circles approx 1.5cm diameter.


Next cut your elastic to your desired length. Find this out by wrapping it around your childs head for a snug fit.

Thread your needle with doubled up thread at around 30cms (when folded) and tie a knot in the end.

Flower Steps

Take your felt circles and fold twice into quarters.  Sew through the outside edge and then 1/4 way along through to the front again, then back through another 1/4 way along and then finally through to the front again at the inside edge. Repeat for all 5 circles.  Scrunch the petals tightly together and then take the needle and thread back through the petal.  Once at the end again, pull tightly and tie the two ends in a knot (image 5).  Next thread through the opposite end petal and stitch at the back a few times, then trim and there you have your flower.


Next take the small circle we cut earlier and glue this in the centre of your flower.  Once dry, sew your button securely to this circle.  You may wish to stitch this to the flower also for extra security.

Elastic sew

Next take your elastic and stitch the end to one side of the opening on the back of your flower. Take the other end of your elastic and overlap this by approx 1.5cm, going over the opening, then sew through both layers of elastic onto the flower.  Make sure your elastic isn’t twisted!  For neatness you can also cut another bit of felt and glue over the join.  This might also be less of an irritant for your little one!

And there you have your cute little outfit topper!

Isla wearing her hair band