Unboxing

Unboxing #10

Do-do-doooooo. Let’s unbox some more before this year ends! This time it’s yet again my Mr’s monthly Toppbox. Woohoo! I’m not going to drag this one out, let’s get straight to it.

Toppbox didn’t make a special festive box like my women’s beauty boxes did, but I think it’s fair enough. Not everyone should go down the same route. I actually quite like it that they stuck to what they would do every other month – just introduce men to different products. (I still LOVE the little moustache in the ‘O’)

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The December box appealed to both men in our household. One of them (Mischief) found it difficult to get out of the shot for long enough for me to get decent pictures of the contents of it. I don’t know what it was, but he just kept sniffing and exploring the box, knocking everything about, digging in… Yeah, he was having fun. So much fun in fact that I had to take my little photo shoot elsewhere because it just wasn’t going to happen with him around.

Inside the box were a face & stubble wash, a face scrub, a pack of face & body deodorising wipes and a bar of soap. Let’s take a closer look.

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First up – Percy Nobleman Face & Stubble Wash, RRP £12.99 for 75ml. It’s 98% naturally derived from coconut and scented with peppermint and cucumber. And boy can you smell the cucumber! I could smell it from the other room when my Mr used it in the bathroom. It’s a very fresh scent. My Mr said: ‘I don’t know what special stuff it does to my stubble but I like how it feels and the smell of it.’ Thumbs up! http://www.percynobleman.com/

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Next is the Rogue Face Scrub, RRP £9 for 100ml. Another very fresh and ‘manly’ scent (I don’t know how else to describe it). I just tried it on the back of my hand and it felt pleasantly exfoliating, not too rough, but not too gentle either. It contains witch hazel which is supposed to help with acne control by reducing inflammation and decreasing oil production. It’s also supposed to help heal bruises. Mr says: ‘I like how scratchy it is, but it’s a bit dry. Although once it’s all washed off you do feel fresh-faced.’ http://www.rogueuk.com/

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Niche for Men Face & Body Deodorizing wipes, RRP £9.99 for 10 pack. They’re infused with aloe vera, ginseng, soothing oils and signature cologne to revitalise, cleanse and moisturise. I can’t tell you what the signature smell is though, as my Mr hasn’t had a chance to use them yet. I’d say I’ll let you know, but I’m sure we’ll have all forgotten about it by then. http://www.yes-sir.com/

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Last but definitely not least – Faith in Nature for Men Blue Cedar Soap, RRP £1.95 for 100g. It contains natural vitamin E and organic green tea, is naturally fragranced and paraben and SLS free. I have to say, it’s awesome. It smells soooooooo good that I just want to keep washing my hands all the time. Mr: ‘I love it. It’s amazing. It’s the first thing I can say that I’ll definitely be getting more of.’ Overall verdict – just got distracted by their website, planning our haul. Go get some now! https://www.faithinnature.co.uk/

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Overall Mr said he liked the products from this box and will actually be repurchasing some. Toppbox you’ve done good!

G.

My life

Festive Crafts Parts 1 & 2

Happy Yule to all of my readers! Ho-ho-ho. I don’t know. Today has been one of the days that confirm I’m one of the clumsiest creatures that roams this planet. I’d just finished vacuuming when I knocked over a massive box of soft crumbly gingerbreads all over the floor. And then I managed to knock a dent in my heel with the vacuum cleaner. Well… yeah.

Anyway, you may remember that a few posts ago I mentioned that as my SD card decided to die on me, which meant I lost all the pictures of my crafts I’d done to post here. Well, my Mr has come to my rescue (yet again) and taken more pictures of the end products back home. So I still don’t have progress pictures, but let’s face it – it’s Xmas now, way too late to be crafting your butt off anyway. So I’ll just show off what I did. And I’ll be more prepared next year.

Part 1 – Snowy Lanterns and Cute Bobble Hats

These little lanterns were super simple and fun to make. I started off with a few clean jars (it was an absolute pain to get the labels off), black cardboard, scissors and a can of snow spray. That’s pretty much it. I cut out silhouettes of little houses and some trees in a row and fastened them with a little bit of clear tape. I then sprayed the tops of the jars with the snow and popped tealights in them. Tadaaaah! Snowy lanterns.

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Then I made these cute little bobble hats. For these I used empty toilet rolls, wool and scissors. I started off by cutting the cardboard toilet rolls into rings – I think one roll made about 5 rings – to make a base for the hats. I then cut wool into even strips and wrapped it around the cardboard rings. I then tied up the ends and trimmed them. It’s a bit harder to explain than the lanterns, but hey, here they are. Cute little bobble hats!

Part 2 – Ribbon Trees and a Pretty Swirly Thing

For ribbon trees, I just used some ribbon, beads/pearls, a needle and thread. I folded the ribbon up to remotely resemble a Christmas tree (I mean, you have to REALLY want to see the resemblance), and put it together with thread, placing beads or pearls in-between the layers. Worst description ever. You can check out the picture underneath though, maybe that’ll help.

 

Last but not least, the pretty swirly things. You can see one of them on the pictures above. I made two though, I’ll show you the other one in a bit. For these I just used some golden cardboard and all kinds of decorations. The first one I decorated with the crafty bits I’d made. The second I decorated with little pom poms and sequins. I just cut out something that resembled a circle from the cardboard and then followed a somewhat spiral course to make it swirly. I then hung stuff off it. They were perfect to hang off curtain poles where I didn’t have any other decorations.

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These were my festive crafts and I absolutely loved doing them. Even if I could’ve spent my last day home before leaving for a week packing or baking or doing anything else. In any case I’m glad I did them. I hope they brighten up our house whilst I’m gone for the holidays.


On a different note – apparently today is the 1 year anniversary of my blog. So I’d like to thank everyone who’s been reading my ramblings, whether you joined me a year ago or if this is the first post of mine you’ve read. I’ve got some exciting new things planned for next year, so stay tuned.

I’m not sure if or how much I’m going to post before next year, so I’ll wish you all a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year! 🙂

G.

My life

Uhmm… I’ll think of something.

I was writing my next unboxing post, but then I realised I don’t actually remember much about the products in it. I tried to jog my memory by reading some reviews of them, but that made me think I didn’t actually enjoy the products from that box as much as I thought. It’s so weird, because I remembered the products from my Glossybox perfectly well. But not from the other one for some reason. Don’t know. We’ll see. I’ll do it when I’m back home and can try them again.

Anyway. I’ve been chilling to the max in Estonia. Yesterday my little one and I decorated the Christmas tree. I had to redo the tinsel about ten times before it looked even half way decent. Then I did something a bit mean – I put all the presents I’d brought with me under the tree. My little one then asked if we were going to open them that night. That’s when I realised what I’d done – I had to tell her that she’s got to leave the presents be for quite a few days and can’t open them until the weekend. Her face fell and she said she’ll try to make it until then. A bit later I caught her going through the pile, checking which ones are for her. Luckily my Mr did a great job wrapping them (thank you!), so there’s no way she can sneak a peek in any of them and the surprises are safe!

Today I paid a visit to my hairdresser. I’ve lived in the UK for a few years but I still wouldn’t trust anyone else with my hair. I absolutely love my hairdresser. She’s never let me down and isn’t too mad at me when I do something stupid with my hair yet again (like dye it blue) which leaves it a wreck that she’s got to somehow pick up and sort out. Today however she brought out hair clippers and said ‘don’t panic!’ well you can bet your bum I panicked haha. I know I sometimes tell my Mr I envy his short hair when his is dry in 3 minutes after the shower and mine takes hours upon hours, but I still wouldn’t want it to be just zssshwooomed off. Anyway, back to the hair clippers. She then showed me that she had a sort of a special attachment for it to catch my damaged hair ends throughout my hair. And it worked! It worked a treat actually. My hair feels amazing now. So healthy and shiny and I’m so happy! It smells great do. She’s made me a total fangirl of Wella products. I absolutely swear by their hair oils. If you haven’t tried them yet, I absolutely 100% recommend them. Go-go-go buy them! All of it! Ok, I’ll stop now. No pressure.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on for long enough now. I’ll be back soon with more rambles 🙂 Oh, I just realised I don’t have a title for this post yet. Uhmm… I’ll think of something.

I’ll leave you with a thought: ‘Take time to do more of what makes your soul happy. Forget ‘should’, ‘could’ & ‘would’ and just wear a tea cosy as a hat if you want.’

G.

My life, Unboxing

Unboxing #9

Another unboxing woohoo! The last one I made was about a box my Mr got and it feels like it was ages ago. This time it’s yet again one of my favourite monthly beauty boxes – Glossybox. I was especially excited for this as I could choose between two boxes – would I want to have sugary or spicy Christmas? I chose spicy and was sent a gorgeous box with amazing products in festive dark red colours.

The first thing I want to gush about is the box itself. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s sooooooo beautiful. I can’t even… Lost for words. Absolutely amazing. I’ll leave it at that. Wow. Mistletoe kisses!

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Once I got over how pretty the box was (I actually never got over it, still loving it) I couldn’t wait to open it. Glossybox, you’ve done it again. Another absolutely awesome box. Inside and out (still in awe about the box haha). I got The Deepest Red Lipstick, Face Shimmering Palette, Stick Your Lip Stuff On Sealer, Weird But Works Eyebrow Thing and a Beautiful Red Nail Polish. Let’s take a closer look.

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I’ll start with the lipstick. It’s MDMflow Semi-matte Lipstick, RRP £18. It’s a gorgeous dark red colour, glides on very easily and really suits my skin tone. It stayed on quite well and I’ll definitely be using it a lot over the holiday season and probably more. Why should I limit my use of something so pretty for just a small amount of time a year? Off with the ‘rules’, I want to use it all year round! It’s definitely on the pricey side so I’m really glad I got a chance to try it through Glossybox who have once again proved it’s such good value for money. Love it.

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Next I got an Essence Light Up Your Face Luminizer Palette, RRP £3. This is exactly what it says in the name. There’s three different highlighters for different purposes. I loved the outer two, they gave me such gorgeous soft shimmery glow. However I think the middle colour was perhaps just a little too glittery for me. It does say the middle one is for ‘intensive shimmer’ though, so they’re not lying. Altogether it’s an extremely good value for the price you pay, you really can’t go wrong with it. I’ll definitely be looking to see what else Essence have got to offer.

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Then I got a Lipcote Lipcote, RRP £3.99. Is it Lipcote twice? The company is called Lipcote but is the product called Lipcote as well? I think it may be. Anyway, it’s a sealing finish for a lasting lipstick. When I first applied it, it stung a bit. It also felt like nail polish on my lips. However that passed and then it felt quite nice. So far I’ve only tried it once so I can’t really give a definite opinion about the results, but I’ll use it again when I get back home and let you know what I think. So far I’d say it’s worth the price.

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Next up is something from a company I’m already familiar with and love. Collection Define & Perfect Eyebrow Powder, RRP £4.19. I found this a bit weird to apply as it’s a powder but looks like an eyeliner. It’s completely in my head though, as after I’d applied a bit of it, I realised it’s actually doing a great job. It was very quick and easy to use. It filled in my eyebrows where they needed filling and left them looking quite natural. Again, amazing value for money and you can’t go wrong with it.

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Last but not least is Revlon Nail Enamel in Valentine, RRP £6.49. When I saw this, I instantly thought of a friend of mine who’d suit this amazingly, so I decided I’m actually not going to use it myself. And because of this I can’t comment on almost any aspects of it. I can just sigh at how beautiful the colour looks and hope it looks as nice when applied.

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Overall Glossybox have once again proved how brilliant they are. It’s great to try out the more expensive brands and (re)discover some very affordable high street lines. If you have not subscribed to them yet, I’d definitely recommend you do so.

G.

My life

Well that’s just not good

Hello everybody! This post may reach you from Frankfurt, if I finish it before my flight. How exciting! Hold that thought… I went to get the pictures I took of my festive crafts and it looks like my SD card has been wiped. That means all of my pictures are gone. And the hours I put into the crafts I was going to share with you are gone as well. Uhmmm… Right, I guess I’ll change the title of my post then. No more ‘Festive crafts, part 1’.

I looked into it and it’s saying the files on my SD card are corrupt and the only way to go about it is to format the card. I feel so disheartened right now. I spent hours making all kinds of Xmassy crafts yesterday so I could post about it.

Oh well. It’s a lesson to be learned. Don’t count on daily manual backups. I didn’t want to have every picture I’ve ever taken uploaded as I take a lot of pointless ones (as does everyone with a smartphone these days, I guess), so I’ve been uploading the special ones manually. But I guess I’d rather have some pointless pictures saved than lose any special ones.

Anyway. Yes, I’m in Frankfurt right now. Hmm, does it still count if I don’t leave the airport? I guess it doesn’t. It’s like I’m in-between two dimensions. Or is that too deep? I think it might be. I’ll just stick to ‘I’m at the airport, waiting for my flight’. The flight from Manchester was awesome. I was awake for just long enough to get my complimentary pecan strudel and then I fell asleep and woke up as the plane wheels touched the ground. That’s the dream.

OH!!! I almost forgot. I checked in my massive suitcase with presents for everyone but I also have a carry-on suitcase with just one item in there. Guess what’s in it? Ok, I know nobody likes the guessing games. My wedding dress! I’m taking my wedding dress to Estonia so I can have it altered and ready for the summer. It’s amazing how this much fabric can fit into such a small suitcase.

I think that’s all my sleep deprived head can come up with for now. I’ll see, maybe I can save my pictures somehow. And if not, well who needs progress pictures anyway, I’ll just show you the end results.

G.

Food, Recipes

Festive Baking – Gingerbreads

There’s no way around gingerbreads during Christmas time. The smell of freshly baked spicy biscuits wafting through the house is enough to make anyone feel festive. I love baking my own gingerbreads and then decorating them with royal icing. It is a bit more work than my previous recipe, so I’ve divided it into three parts, so it’d be easier to follow. Even though it’s more work than the Xmas tree brownies (which were made from brownie mix so can’t get much simpler than that), I hope you’ll still enjoy making your own gingerbreads from scratch. My favourite part is always the decorating in the end and once again my Mr joined in with me and we had a lot of fun experimenting with different icing techniques.

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Part 1 – Making the dough

What you’ll need (it makes quite a lot, so if you’re not that keen on gingerbreads or don’t have a big Christmas party coming up you can half the ingredients):

  • 250g of golden syrup (or black treacle)
  • 170g of soft dark sugar
  • Spices, there’s a lot of room to play around with what you like and what you have at hand, so go crazy:
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 1 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    • Pinch of pepper
    • OR you can use gingerbread spice mix, which is what I did
  • 250g of unsalted butter, melted  
  • Freshly grated orange peel/zest
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 600g of plain white flour, sifted
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • A saucepan
  • A wooden spoon

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Step 1 – Pour the syrup, brown sugar and spices to a saucepan. Stirring frequently (so it won’t stick to the saucepan) heat until the ingredients have fully combined (melted) together and bubbling away. Then take it off the fire and stir in the orange zest.

Step 2 – Let it cool a bit and then add the melted butter and eggs. It’ll look pretty disgusting and reluctant to mix together, but keep at it and eventually you should have a nice dark and spicy mix.

Step 3 – Add the sifted flour bit by bit. It’ll get increasingly harder to mix in, but in the end it should come off the saucepan with no effort. You can add more/less flour as needed.

Step 4 – Split the dough and wrap in cling film. Put it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, but best left there overnight. Mine look a bit like kidneys, but that’s ok.

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Part 2 – Baking

What you’ll need:

  • A rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters
  • Baking parchment
  • A baking tray
  • An oven set to 190C/gas mark 5/375F

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Step 1 – Once the dough has firmed up in the fridge, take it out, break a chunk off it (I prefer rolling it bit by bit, rather than the whole thing at once, as I wouldn’t have the counter space for it), sprinkle some flour on it for easier rolling and roll it out quite thin. It doesn’t even matter too much how thick or thin it is, as long as it’s as even as possible (so it’d bake evenly). Then use the cookie cutters to cut out the shapes from it. You might find that you have to wriggle the cutter around just a little as you’re doing this, to make sure you get a clean cut and your gingerbread will come away without any damage. You can also cut shapes out with a knife if you’re more creative.

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Step 2 – Place the shapes on the baking tray covered with parchment. You don’t need to leave too much space between them as they’re not going to expand much. Stick them in the oven for 6-9 minutes, depending on your oven and the thickness of your gingerbreads.

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Step 3 – It can be a bit tricky to know when they’re done as they don’t change colour like biscuits normally do. I like my gingerbreads quite soft so when the edges start to get a little darker, I know they’re done to my liking. Take them out of the oven to cool. Repeat the steps of part 2 until you’ve either used up all the dough or realised that if you bake any more you’ll have to throw a bake sale or a party. You’re going to have a lot of gingerbreads.

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Part 3 – Icing

What you’ll need:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2+ cups of icing sugar
  • Lemon juice or vanilla extract or almond extract or orange extract or… well, you see where I’m going with this. I used orange extract myself.
  • Food colourings
  • Zip lock bags or anything similar
  • A hand mixer (or a tabletop one. Or even a whisk if you’re brave enough)

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Step 1 – To make royal icing (it hardens when it dries so you can stack the gingerbreads without having to worry about losing any of the icing) whisk your egg whites until they’re frothy. Then start adding icing sugar about half a cup at a time. Now, I’m not going to lie, I had a big disagreement with the first batch of my icing and had to scrap it, which left me with a bit less icing sugar than I would’ve liked but hey, that’s baking for you. Full of exciting twists and surprises (well apparently it’s actually supposed to be all very measured and accurate but I just… I’ll make it work. Usually.)

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Step 2 – The above mentioned disagreement with the first batch of icing I tried to make is also the reason why I don’t have any pictures for this step, but I’ll do my best to describe it. Once you’ve added all the icing sugar followed by lemon juice/vanilla extract/etc and whisked it all about on high speed for a little bit and reached the desired consistency – it should be thick enough to hold but thin enough to pipe (or as in my case… you know, never mind. Everything that could’ve gone wrong with my first attempt, did go wrong) – spread it between different bowls for colouring. Or if you just want white icing, leave it as it is.

Step 3 – Spoon/pour the icing into plastic bags and then whilst pushing the icing to one corner of the bag as best as you can, tie a knot to the bag for as mess free work as possible. Then snip the tiniest little bit off the corner of the bag with scissors. You can always make the hole bigger, but it’d be quite a challenge to make it smaller.

Step 4 – Start decorating! I made a freestyle cut dragon which I then piped with green, yellow and white. Then my Mr joined me and we spent quite a long time just decorating away, creating some really cool patterns and colours. Let the icing set for a bit and enjoy!

Here’s a summary of the steps:

For dough

  1. Mix syrup, brown sugar and spices in a saucepan. Stir and heat until simmering. Take the saucepan off the fire and add orange zest.
  2. Let the mix cool and then add melted butter and eggs. Stir to combine
  3. Add flour a little bit at a time. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Split the dough and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate overnight.

Baking

  1. Roll the dough out to a couple of mm thickness or according to personal preference. Cut out desired shapes.
  2. Bake at 190C/gas mark 5/375F for 6-9 minutes.
  3. Leave to cool.

Icing

  1. Whisk egg whites until frothy. Then add icing sugar a bit at a time.
  2. Once icing sugar is added, keep whisking until desired consistency is reached. Add lemon juice/vanilla extract/etc. (Optional: for colouring divide the icing between different bowls and mix the colouring in)
  3. Spoon icing into piping bags and prepare the bags for icing
  4. Decorate the gingerbreads

Thank you very much for reading if you’ve reached this far. I’d love to know if you’re going to make your own gingerbreads this Christmas so don’t be shy leaving the results in the comments. Me and my Mr had lots of fun making these and we’ll probably be eating them for a while, with the amount we made.

G.

Food, My life, Recipes

Festive Baking – Xmas Tree Brownies

Is that title too long? I want there to be no mistake what this post is about – re-organising wardrobes! Just kidding. Today I finally made the Xmas tree brownies that I’ve been wanting to make for so long now. I used as many shortcuts as I could, to make this easier. Nobody’s got time to be making things from scratch during the festive holiday period. Also, it’s a great recipe to make with kids (or your other half – greetings to my Mr who helped me decorate the trees!). I promise it’s a minimal amount of effort and a lot of fun instead.

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What you’ll need:

  • A box of brownie mix (or a brownie recipe of your choice)
  • What your brownie mix says you need to add. Mine asked for an egg, 75ml of water and 45ml of oil
  • Vanilla flavoured frosting (or you can whip up your own)
  • Green food colouring
  • Sprinkles
  • A mixing bowl and a spatula (or a spoon, whisk, etc)
  • A lightly greased brownie tin (I give you my permission to use a round tin instead of a traditional rectangular one, if like me you don’t have a rectangular one big/small enough)
  • You’ll also need a little bowl where to mix your frosting and food colouring together
  • And an icing bag with a simple nozzle

 

Step 1 – Empty the brownie mix and add the ingredients it’s asking for (egg, water and oil. Doesn’t look too appealing at this point, but just wait until step 2)

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Step 2 – Mix it all together. Now that looks better, doesn’t it? Make sure there’s no lumps by the time you’re finished.

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Step 3 – pour the mixture into lightly greased tins. Or a single tin if you’ve got the right sized one. I actually found the round ones worked really great to make them Xmas tree shaped.

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Step 4 – Bake them according to the instructions on your brownie mix pack. Mine were ready in 25 minutes at gas mark 4. I poked holes in one to test if it was ready. The dimple you see on the second one happened when my oven mitt sank into it when I was trying to fish it out from the back of the oven. Once they’re cooled, cut them into triangles.

Step 5 – Whilst the brownies cool (they need to be completely cooled before you can ice them), prepare the icing. For this put a couple of dollops of icing from the tub to the bowl and add some food colouring. You can gradually build the colour up by adding more colouring, until it looks like you want it to look. Mix well to avoid any clumps of colour.

Step 6 – Turn the edges of the icing bag down (like turning it inside out but stop half way) and spoon the icing in. Once you’ve got a good amount in the bag, fold the edges back up again and twist the bag a little, to make sure all of the icing is in the nozzle end of it and that it won’t escape out of the back when you’re piping. Honestly, trying to explain piping when you’re not too sure what you’re doing yourself is great.

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Step 7 – Start piping! My nozzle was a bit small so the lines came out wavy in some places and lumpy in others. That’s ok though, we’re having fun, not looking for perfection in piping. You’ll get better it with practice (mind you, mine seemed to get worse as I kept going but hey, I enjoyed doing it)

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Step 8 – Add the sprinkles straight after icing, before it gets to dry. Go nuts. That’s the best part so enjoy it!

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Step 9 – Repeat with the other trees. Wheeeee!

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Step 10 – Tuck in!

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Here’s a quick summary of the steps:

  1. Add the liquid ingredients to your brownie mix
  2. Mix it until there’s no lumps
  3. Pour the mix into slightly greased tin(s)
  4. Bake according to the instructions on your brownie mix. Once baked and cooled, cut into triangles
  5. Prepare the icing by mixing it with food colouring. Add more colouring to reach desired intensity.
  6. Spoon the icing into the icing bag
  7. Pipe one brownie with side to side movements
  8. Whilst icing is still wet, add sprinkles
  9. Repeat with the other brownie slices
  10. Enjoy 🙂

I had a lot of fun making these and even my Mr joined in with the  decorating and it looked like he was enjoying it, too.

G.