Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Towards a homemade Christmas

Who wouldn't like a few homemade touches about the place for Christmas? It makes it nice, it makes it cozy and it makes it personal. And, there's nothing quite as personal as a homemade gift.

Sure money's tight right now, but giving a homemade present isn't about saving money, it's about giving something of yourself. Even rich, famous people give homemade gifts: Vic Reeves for instance, half of Reeves and Mortimer, makes bars of homemade soap for his family and friends.

We're in good company.

So here's a couple of ideas that i think are lovely, Homemade Firelighters and Edible Tree Decorations.

First, Homemade Firelighters that when treated each burn with different colours.

Pine cone firelighters

These are really easy to make, but the standard Blue Peter caveat applies: make sure you're a grown-up or have a grown-up around to help.

To start with, you will need:

Dry pine cones

Wax - the old ends of used candles are ideal

Sawdust/wood shavings

Additives to colour the flames (see below)


Melt the wax very carefully in an old saucepan. You just want it melted, you don't want to cook it or heat it any more than you need so don't put it on the hob and wander off - in fact, if you're at all worried, make up a double boiler with one saucepan inside another and water in between just to be on the safe side.

Dip the bottom half of a dry pine cone in the wax, and then straight into the sawdust so that the sawdust sticks to the wax, and hold in the air to dry.

To make the sawdust burn with different colour flames, you can mix a little sawdust with one of the following (don't be tempted to mix the colourants as they tend to cancel each other out and just burn normally):

For yellow flames - Sodium Chloride (table salt)

For orange flames - Calcium Chloride (bleach powder)

For violet flames - No salt substitute

For green flames - Borax

For white flames - Epsom salts

These are great firelighters, fun to make, romantic to burn and special to receive.

To jazz them up into a present, maybe get a small wicker basket and half fill with pretty dry leaves and put the treated cones on top. Then add a festive ribbon.


Edible Tree Decorations

For these you will need:

350g plain flour

1tsp bicarbonate soda

1tsp cinnamon and/or sweet mix spices

175g brown sugar

100g butter

1 beaten egg

4tbsp golden sugar

Coloured boiled sweets

Okay, now the method:

Heat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line 2 baking sheets with grease proof paper. Get a bowl and add the plain flour, to which put in the bicarb of soda and Cinnamon/sweet mix spices. Put the butter in and rub together with your fingers until it becomes like fine breadcrumbs. Next add the egg, syrup and brown sugar and hand mix until it comes together.

Separately, crush some boiled sweets with a rolling pin.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it's about as thin as a pound coin. Now to be creative. Cut out shapes, you can cut circles or triangles, but if you're feeling bold, cut out Christmas tree shapes, or stars, anything you fancy. In the centre of them all, cut a circle so that the middle is missing. Then place them on the lined baking tray. In the cut out middles, sprinkle some of the crushed sweets, and maybe make a hole near the top if you want to hand them up later.

Bake for 10-20 minutes until golden brown, then leave to cool.

When cool, thread with ribbon, and away you go, edible Christmas tree decorations!


  1. Cool - thanks. I think I might do the firelighters for my parents.

  2. Fantastic, I'm sure they'll love them.