tilly makes & bakes

Always striving to achieve a state of domestic bliss!

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Homemade Arancello liqueur and a month until Christmas!

Christmas enthusiasts the world over (me included) can finally freely utter the “C”-word without being frowned upon as it is now only 1 month until the big day!!

Time to start thinking about our nearest and dearest and get  those pressies sorted out. I personally believe that all pre-packed gift sets of all kind should be BANNED from the shops- urgh- there is just nothing less personal than being given a soap on a roap and a matching coffee mug in loads and loads of plastic sheet wrapping. I still remember the set of toiletries I was given one year…the box included a little flannel tied in a dinky bow. I couldn’t help but think “Thanks a lot- so you think I need a wash!?”:-)

I am a huge fan of home made presents! No amount of cash to splash can actually rival the gift of time… time invested in making somebody something special.

Homemade liqueurs are such an easy, cost effective gift to make, not to mention fun! I made this Spiced Arancello Liqueur  and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of it.


DSC04589 DSC04590

DSC04591 Apart from the ingredients,  all you need is a 5 litre still water bottle which you can pick up in most supermarkets. When the water has been used, the nice clean bottle is ready to be filled with all your lovely boozy ingredients.  Let it all steep and mingle together for some time before decanting into lots of pretty jars or bottles. Finally, decorate the containers or bottles to your heart’s content.



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Christmas in a mug: Glühwein …that’s mulled wine to me and you!

I had some friends over for a christmassy get-together and decided to make some mulled wine with a few bottles of red wine I had left over.

This is so easy to make, especially if you use your slow cooker (or crock pot) like I did. It means you dont have to worry about overheating the wine and you can easily keep it warm all evening.



2 bottles of red wine

60 ml of spiced rum

2 sachets of mulled wine spices (available in the herb and spices aisle at this time of year- usually contain cloves, cinnamon and orange peel)

ca 100 ml orange juice (out of a carton will do)

sliced oranges to taste (unwaxed ones are best)

2-3 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

ca 60 g brown sugar

1 vanilla pod, split (the one I used had its seeds removed for a different recipe)

Simply place all your ingredients into your slow cooker and leave to infuse on the low setting for at least 5 hours or so, even better done overnight!

Serve with a fresh slice of orange in each mug.


This mulled wine had such an aromatic, yet mild flavour to it. I think the vanilla pod really brings it all together. Gorgeous and so easy to make!

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Edible gifts – Chilli Jam

I usually make my own strawberry and vanilla jam during the summer but 9 months pregnant and then with a newborn I somehow didn’t manage it this year (funny that!).

So now that we are a bit more settled with the little one, I thought it would be lovely to make some edible, home made presents to give to people this Christmas. I decided on Nigella Lawson’s Chilli Jam from her Christmas book. It is so simple to make and the vibrant scarlett colour of the finished jam is just so gorgeous and christmassy.


I followed the recipe as it is and had no problems with the jam setting at all.


150g long red chilli peppers (deseeded and cut into chunks)

150g red bell pepper

600 ml cider vinegar

1 kg jam sugar


You will need a food processor to blitz the chilli and peppers and about 6x 250 ml preserving jars.

1. Pulse the chillis and pepper chunks in your food processor until finely choppped.


2. Dissolve the jam sugar and cider vinegar in a large pan and then add the processed chillis and peppers. Bring to a boil. No need to stir at this point.

3. When your mixture has come to a rolling boil, start timing and continue boiling ferociously for 10 minutes.


4. Decant the hot jam into your sterilised jars, ideally with a jam funnel and leave to cool and set with the lids on.


5. Decorate to your heart’s content with ribbons, paper, labels and bows!

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Keep the cards coming!

We have received our first Christmas card of the year in the post today! Yes, it seems that some people like to start early. But who am I to judge…it has been Christmas central at this very house for a couple of weeks already.

Sending and receiving Christmas cards in bullk is a typically British tradition which I have whole-heartedly embraced in recent years. It is obviously lovely to read the little messages from friends and family, but all those cards also really add a beautiful decorative touch to the house. So to display the cards we will hopefully receive this year, I made some really simple but effective card holders today. All I needed were some little festive pegs, a length of ribbon, drawing pins and a hammer (not pictured but needed to prevent severe finger tip pain).

The photos are pretty self- explanatory but basically you just use a pin to attach the pegs to the ribbon and then hang the finished garland wherever you desire. I put the pegs at random lengths along the ribbon to allow for different sizes of cards.

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These ribbon holders really help keep your surfaces and sideboards clear of cards and look a lot more classy than some of the shop bought card holders you can get. I am already inspired to make similar garlands to hold birthday cards throughout the year…I’m thinking polka dotted ribbon and colourful pegs….oh the possibilities are endless!


Festive jar lights

These little jam jar tea light holders are such a quick and easy craft idea for this time of year. I made these last year and just found the pictures I took. I made these with 7 year old children and they loved how easy they were to make and yet how effective they looked once finished.

We used star shaped stickers, snowflake die cuts made with a simple hole puncher, white tissue paper stuck on with pva glue, ribbons and craft wire to decorate. Don’t they just get you in a Christmassy mood?!

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And the festive sewing begins…

Last year I made a personalised stocking for my Hannah. I started off with a shop bought felt stocking kit and just sewed the pieced together by hand, adding little personalised touches and embroidering her name on. This is a photo showing some of the pieces before sewing them all together.

I was so pleased with the end result- not bad for a first attempt, don’t you think? I got hooked on the embroidery as it was so easy and quick to do. Running out of time, I used a shop bought felt stocking and embroidered my nephew’s name onto that. It literally took me about 30 minutes to do.

Felt is really easy to work with, especially for a beginner like me and if you don’t have a sewing machine to hand. I actually taught myself some simple stitches using this children’s craft book. It has simple illustrations, clear step by step instructions and some lovely ideas for projects.

Naturally, I need to make one of these for my baby girl’s first Christmas this year. I have all my materials ready to go and am just waiting for a bit of peace and quiet to get going… I am hoping i will be able to make a start this weekend.

Fabric sample for the pocket

I am going for a different fabric for the pocket this time to make the stockings for the girls a bit more individual. I just love this material from Emma Bridgewater. The design is called “Joy”. I thought the little holly leaves and berries are very fitting for my little girl. Can you guess what her name is?

Looking forward to spending many happy hours stitching this thing together in the run up to Christmas.

And who knows, maybe I will find one of these under the tree this year?

I have been a very good girl, after all!

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Ding dong merrily on high

I start obsessing about Christmas at around about the end of August each year. It is now early November and my plans and ideas are going into overdrive!

In my opinion, a well wrapped gift is one that you are afraid to open so as not to damage the precious paper and decorations it was oh so carefully encased in. Today I managed to find some really simple, stylish and eco friendly wrapping ideas using brown packing paper and brown paper bags. After a quick trawl on ebay I got everything I will need and spent just under a tenner. Not only will I be able to involve my older daughter in printing some wrapping paper using Christmas cookie cutters,  my presents will just look so expensive and special. Oh I just can’t wait to get those pressies wrapped (err, yes i have got some Christmas presents already).

Some of the goodies I will be using are brown paper lunch bags, rolls of brown packing pape,r gold candy stripe paper bags, white die cut snowflake shapes, cookie cutters, acrylic paints in gold, silver and white, ribbons to match.

I will be using these images for inspiration:

Christmas wrap

Christmas wrap (Photo credit: Gemma Garner)

Brown Paper Packages Tied up with String

(Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

How many sleeps til Christmas?