January’s New Year’s Resolution – Good Posture

Good posture is my first New Year’s Resolution.

Slworking editphoto © 2009 Eric Schmuttenmaer | more info (via: Wylio)
In case you missed my introductory post, every month of 2011, I plan to pick a poor habit of mine and replace it with a better one.

I’ve been a lifelong sloucher. I was never told to stand up straight as a child, so guess what? I never did. It’s time to change that.

Good posture involves lining up the ears with the shoulders, with the hips. My plan to get this fabled good posture is to check myself out in the bathroom mirror every time I go in there and correct my posture. Consciously standing up straight several times a day should (hopefully) help it become a habit.

I’ll check in later in the month and let you know how I go, but meantime, if you have any tips on how to improve posture, I would love to hear them in the comments!

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New Years Resolutions – Become a Better Person

New Years resolutions are such loaded things. They remind me of magic wishes, the kind you make on birthday candles or starlight-star-bright, first star I see tonight – as if hoping hard enough for a pony, or a boy friend, or to loose that extra weight will be enough to make it happen.

Newsflash: that’s not how life works.

New Year 2011 - Greetingsphoto © 2010 Madhavan Muthukaruppan | more info (via: Wylio)

So this year, I’ve decided to keep it simple. It takes thirty days to make a habit, so I’ve split up my New Years Resolution into twelve very small chunks. I have (more than!) twelve sloppy habits I need to work on, so I’m going to fix them, one each month.

I hope you’ll join me and maybe work on a few bug-bears of your own.

My New Year’s Resolutions:

January: Good Posture

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Space Invaders Cross Stitch

Space Invaders cross stitch is an idea I’ve been considering for a while.

I finally got around to stitching some up! I made four hoops – one for each type of space ship and one for the defenders of the planet (go Team Earth!).

Video Games Cross StitchI’ve hung the completed Space Invaders cross stitch above my desk at work.

Here’s some details… (Click on any of the pictures to get larger images.)

Space Invaders Cross StitchPixel Art Cross StitchSpace Invaders Cross Stitch is not the most original idea by a long shot, but it was still a fun project to work on! It makes my desk look a little more homely, and my coworkers love it (my work makes software).

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More Free Printable Christmas Gift Tags

Free printable Christmas gift tags is one of my most popular posts – so I thought I’d do another one, to give all you lovely internet people some more options.

I made up some more free printable Christmas gift tags.

Christmas Gift TagPrintable Christmas Tag

Pretty, yes? There’s seven designs in total. I think they’d look great printed onto festive paper, with a note written on the back.

Here’s the downloadable PDF, completely free for personal use. Enjoy!

Free Printable Christmas Gift Tags



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Old Fashioned Recipes You Shouldn’t Use – Questionable Advice for How To Make Jam

Old fashioned recipes aren’t always the best! A friend of mine, knowing I’m on a preserving kick, lent me this book:

Old Fashioned Recipes for PreservesI don’t want to pick on Alison Burt, or the book, because I really enjoyed reading it. However, I think some of the advice is outdated. As I covered in my How to Make Jam post, anything published before about 1990 should be treated as a little suspect – you should get a second opinion, otherwise you risk getting food-borne diseases, such as botulism.

I’m very keen to make Apple Jam, which I’ve never heard of before. But because apples are a low-acid fruit, you betcha I’m going to check out what the USDA says on the matter before I get out my Lovely Jam Making Pot.

But back to Pickles and Preserves! I want to share some pictures with you all:

Home Made MarmaladeYou know I love making marmalade. But my friends and relations would have me institutionalised if I made four different types of marmalade. Maybe people actually ate marmalade in 1975?

Home Made JamsIf I had a sweet cabinet like that, I’d only display my little ceramic civil war figures, good china, and poesy of pink and purple daisies – preserves out to be kept in the dark, or you’ll get oxidisation. But look at all the different types! I wish I’d been around in 1975 – it was obviously a happening place, where no slice of toast went unadorned with preserves of all types.

Home Made Strawberry Jam…Like Strawberry Jam. Is it just me, or does this picture make you feel a little bit ill? There’s something visceral about it – and red never translates well into black and white. Ugh.

Home Made ChutneyThis is totally how I store my preserves: artfully arranged in a rustic setting, surrounded by fresh produce. Yes indeedy.

What old fashioned recipes do you use? Let me know in the comments!

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Not in the Christmas Spirit – Plus Free Christmas Cross Stitch Design

The Christmas Spirit is evading me a little this year. Due to some personal issues, which I won’t go into here, my Christmas is going to be very different than I expected. Not bad – just different.

I have to tell you though, all the Christmas preparation I did in October and December has been an absolute lifesaver! It’s just one less thing to worry about.

So to celebrate this different Christmas, I’ve altered the Christmas Cross Stitch I made earlier. It’s slightly not-safe-for-work, so I’ll put if after a jump…

Continue reading

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Mulled Wine Jelly Recipe

Mulled Wine Jelly is the perfect festive gift! It’s perfect for those bring-a-plate events, or for a special little homemade Christmas gift.

Mulled Wine Jelly Recipe

This is my recipe for Mulled Wine Jelly:

Mulled Wine Jelly

based on this recipe


  • 1 bottle (750ml) Merlot or other full-bodied wine (the cheaper, the better!)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (bottled is fine)
  • 1 packet pectin (New Zealanders look for King’s Jam Setting Mix in the baking isle of your local Pak ‘n Save)
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • Spices (all spice, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, too taste)


  1. Combine wine, lemon juice, and Jam Setting Mix in a large Jam Pot.
  2. Bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar and spices, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly or until setting point.
  4. Remove from heat. Skim foam off top, if necessary.
  5. Ladle hot jelly into hot, sterilised jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  6. Process for ten minutes in boiling water bath.
  7. Serve with a sharp cheddar and crackers. Enjoy!

For more tips on jams and jellys, plus how to sterilise preserving jars, check out my post with tips on preserving!

Posted in Christmas, Craft, Craft Tutorial, Gift Ideas, Preserves, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas Part Two – Homemade Gourmet Food Gifts

Homemade Christmas Gifts don’t have to be limited to sock puppets and handkerchiefs! (You’ll already know that if you’ve Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas Part One!) I thought I’d gather up all my ideas of Homemade Gourmet Food Gifts.

Everyone loves homemade gourmet food, but you need to remember the Golden Rule of Gift Giving: know thy audience! So, if your friend is allergic to nuts, peanut brownies are a bad choice. Dieters probably won’t appreciate chocolate cake – but biscotti have only around a hundred calories each and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Finally, think about when you’ll give your gift, and when it will be eaten. Scones and quickbreads that taste best on the day they’re made aren’t the best choice for food gifts. Unless you’re absolutely certain that your homemade food gift will get eaten on the day, choose something which will ‘keep’ such as…Caramel Coffeephoto © 2008 Razvan Caliman | more info (via: Wylio)

  • Gourmet Coffee Syrup – a splash of this will turn a regular coffee into something delightful! The simple syrup is easy to mix up, and tastes divine. Because there’s no actual coffee in the recipe, it’s great for kids too. And why save it for coffee? It would taste just as good drizzled over ice cream… Check out the recipe for Gourmet Coffee Syrup here.
  • Preserves – preserves are the original Gifts in a Jar! There’s nothing nicer than a gift of three or four shining jars of jam, marmalade, jelly or chutney snuggled together in a cute basket. Baskets can be bought cheaply second hand, and making preserves year round with seasonal produce which makes this a very cost-effective gift that’s quick to put together at Christmas. (If the jars seal properly, jams will last at least a year!) Check out my posts on preserves here, or search the web for a recipe that takes your fancy.Homemade Preserves - Homemade Jam
  • Biscotti – biscotti are hard, dry biscuits which are perfect for dipping in tea! They will last a month in an airtight container, which makes them perfect for Christmas gifts. I love Cranberry, Chocolate and Cashew Biscotti – they’re festive and oh-so-tasty! This is my favourite biscotti recipe – I always double it and add a block of roughly chopped chocolate.
  • Flavoured Vinegars – what can I say – yum! Flavoured vinegars are simple to make and taste delicious. Check out some simple instructions for making flavoured vinegars here. (Note – homemade flavoured oils are a popular gift idea, but they carry the risk of botulism, so play it safe and stick to vinegar.)
  • Potted Herbs – Growing potted herbs is simple, and they make lovely gifts. If you plan ahead and start with seeds, this gift will only cost a few dollars to make. Cheap plastic pots can be wrapped up to make them look that little bit fancier! Why not personalise the gift to the recipient’s tastes? For example, Italiano lovers would enjoy basil and oregano. Check out this simple guide to growing potted herbs.
  • Potted Herbsphoto © 2010 Amy | more info (via: Wylio)

  • Easy Gourmet Food Hamper – this ideas isn’t exactly homemade, but it is quick and easy! Just race around the supermarket and pick up some things that the recipient will enjoy. Try jams, teas, fancy relishes and crackers. You can theme the hamper any way you like, too. Try a Cocktail Party Hamper, with loads of crackers and little things for nibbling, or an Antipasto Hamper, with pickled artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and olives. Or why not a picnic hamper? Throw together some bread-and-butter pickles with some cute glass bottles of fizzy drink – all they’ll need to add is a loaf of bread and a picnic blanket! Hunt out second hand baskets and antique napkins and tablecloths for a stylish (and cheap!) gift presentation.

What homemade gifts are you going to make this year? Let us know in the comments!

Posted in Baking, Christmas, Craft, Gift Ideas, Preserves | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Free Cross Stitch Software Review

Free cross stitch software sounded like a dream come true! Imagine being able to design your own cross stitch designs, all for free. And what if you could import a photo and turn that into cross stitch? It would break down a lot of the limitations of what is a very cool craft.

KG-Chart lets you do that. I’ve been using it for a while, and I am very happy with the results.

Embroidery Floss Multi-Colored 10-21-09 IMG_8048photo © 2009 Steven Depolo | more info (via: Wylio)

I found KG-Chart very easy to use, which is a huge bonus. Having said that, I’m a ‘native’ computer user (I was raised by a 486) – and if you’re not, you might find it unintuitive. The interface isn’t exactly polished – it looks a lot like Microsoft Paint – but that made it easier to use in a weird sort of way.

KG-Chart lets you set the size of Adia cloth you want to use, and has an option for linen as well. It seems to contain infinity different colour choices, which is a bonus too.

Hmong Cross Stitching - Shirt Designphoto © 2008 Garry Jenkin | more info (via: Wylio)

As well as just doodling, you can import a photo, set the number of colors you want the finished product to feature, and have it transformed into a cross stitch chart. Brilliant.

I haven’t used any other free cross stitch software, but that’s because I don’t feel like I need to: KG-Chart does everything I need it to. Highly recommended.

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Jar Labels for my Grapefruit Marmalade

My grapefruit marmalade is lovely, but it was lacking one thing – jar labels!

Homemade Grapefruit Marmalade

Jar labels for homemade preserves don’t always seem necessary – I mean, you know you made jam, right? Right, but you’ll probably make some more… and then another batch… and after six months, it’s hard to remember if you made that jam in January or July.

Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. Ahem.

So I made some jar labels for my grapefruit marmalade:

Homemade Jam LabelHere’s a close up of the label.

Jam Labels For Homemade JamAs you can see by the green squiggly line, I just made it in Word. To do this, I measured my jar and drew a box the size I wanted. Then, I made a bunch of text boxes and typed in the text I wanted, and arranged them pleasingly. Finally, I printed them out onto adhesive paper and snipped them out. The adhesive paper made it super easy – and I think these jar labels make my grapefruit marmalade look much more professional!

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