• Elegant Entertaining

    Easter traditions

    Easter offers the perfect opportunity to re-energise after a long winter. Even if you’re not religious, this is a special time of year; the natural world comes back to life, grey skies lift and everything feels fresh and new.  But for many of us the Easter break passes in a frenzied flurry of manic chocolate eating – and not much else! This year, why not make a little more of the Easter break;  get outside and see an ancient Spring tradition brought to life, try a fun Easter activity or turn your hand to something new in the kitchen…

    Here are three Easter traditions to try with your family this season:

    Chocolate eggs

    Easter has long been connected with chocolate. As far back as Pagan times eggs have been associated with spring, with their potent suggestion of new life and fertility. However it wasn’t until many centuries later that eggs in chocolate form become associated with Easter, and the first chocolate Easter eggs were conceived in 19th-century France. Those first chocolate eggs were a real luxury, and far removed from the standard chocolate eggs that populate supermarket shelves today.

    If you’d like to create something with a little more originality than a shop-bought egg, why not try making your own chocolate eggs this year? You can hand-pick your own chocolate, and use products with unusual flavours and higher quality ingredients than those used by the big-name chocolate egg manufacturers.  All you need is a suitable egg mould and decorating tools.  We found a great recipe for cute mini eggs on Scissorspaperspoon.com. Pop your finished eggs in one of our Easter Chick Sweetie tubs, wrap with cellophane and tie with a ribbon – your handmade chocolate will look truly professional, plus it will taste amazing.

    Painted eggs

    The early Christians took to staining eggs red at Eastertime to symbolise the blood of Jesus’ crucifixion. Since that time, the tradition of painting and decorating eggs has endured, with all kinds of elaborate decorating techniques emerging across all corners of the globe.  But you don’t have to be especially creative to make a pretty painted egg, and this is a fun activity for children to try. You can buy special egg painting kits which include helpful stencils, or go freestyle and use the boards on Pinterest to get some creative inspiration. Make an Easter centrepiece using your finished eggs by hanging from some willow branches, inserted into oasis and placed in a plant pot. Or make personalised eggs as gifts. Pop one into an organza bag, add a handful of mini eggs or foil-covered chocolates and attach a name tag – a unique gift, perfect for children to give to grandparents at Easter.

    If you’re not too precious about your egg creations why not follow the age-old tradition of egg rolling, a practice that has taken place across rural Britain for centuries. Find a grassy hill and watch them go – the egg that gets the furthest wins!

    Easter cakes

    Simnel Cake has been eaten at Easter since medieval times. A flavoursome fruit cake, topped with marzipan, it’s recognisable for the eleven marzipan balls that edge the cake. These represent Jesus’ eleven apostles – the twelve apostle is noticeably absent to signify Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Relatively easy to make, a Simnel cake makes an indulgent addition to your Easter table. Present it on our Easter Chick cake stand, surrounded by a gaggle of cute fluffy chicks.

    Another fruity option to try is the hot cross bun – again, surprisingly easy to make yourself and there are numerous dependable recipes to choose from online.  Traditionally served on Good Friday, enjoy them for breakfast, slathered in butter, or offer them up as afternoon treats, served with fresh jam and a pot of tea.

    For the smaller chefs in your household it will be hard to turn their minds from the temptation of chocolate. If there’s one time to indulge them, Easter is it, so let them whip up a chocolately alternative to the more adult-orientated Simnel cake.  Make Easter nests from chocolate and cornflakes, topped with colourful mini eggs and presented in an Easter Chick cake case. Or how about chocolate biscuits in the shape of chicks or bunnies, topped with icing and a scattering of sprinkles…a fun way for little ones to take part in your Easter preparations.

    For a full range of Easter table ware and accessories, take a look at our Easter Chick Range.

  • Elegant Entertaining

    Creating your very own love story

    While it could be argued that Valentine’s Day has become a tad over-commercialised in recent years, if there’s a time to show your romantic side, February is the month to do it. But if the slushy shop displays leave you cold and you want to do something a little more original during this most romantic time of the year, we have some ideas in this week’s blog.

    Firstly, keep it personal. While it’s hard to move for heart emblazoned cards and red roses in the shops right now, doing something a little unique to you as a couple is a much more thoughtful gesture than resorting to a shop-bought card or pressie.  How about finding a map image on the internet of the place you first met, where you got married or where you went on your honeymoon? Or it could just be a place that holds a special place in your hearts. Scale your image to size, print it off and then cut a heart shape out and stick onto a piece of card – a simple but effective card for Valentine’s or one to keep in reserve for another significant occasion, such as your anniversary.  Use one of our Vintage Rose wooden pegs and clip a small gift to the card – cinema tickets for two, perhaps, or a voucher for a ‘his ‘n’ hers’ spa treatment, a lovely, indulgent treat sure to be more appreciated than an over-priced bouquet of flowers.  If money’s tight, make DIY ‘love tokens’ or vouchers, inscribed with special treats for your recipient to look forward to, such as breakfast in bed, a walk in the park, a fully body massage…you get the idea!

    Alternatively, how about making up a personalised ‘goody bag’, filled with carefully chosen items your partner will love. These don’t have to be expensive, but it’s important to put some thought into your choices. Our Vintage Rose party bags can be used for this very purpose. Pop in a mini bar of luxury chocolate, for example; take a look at the gorgeous goodies created by artisan chocolatier Rococo for inspiration. You can buy online or in specialist stores and larger retailers such as Waitrose – we love the boxed hand-painted chocolate hearts, which would look lovely nestled in your gift bag. Or how about a tube of the classic Love Hearts for a cheaper alternative.  Add in a piece of jewellery, perhaps, a gorgeously scented soap, and for men something that combines a bit of practicality, like a personalised key ring, or a pair of cufflinks. Take a look at the exhaustive range on Notonthehighstreet.com where you’ll find some great unisex ideas that won’t break the bank.

    If you live by the mantra that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then you won’t go far wrong presenting your loved one with breakfast in bed as a prelude to romance. Make it extra special by cutting toast into heart shapes using a cookie cutter, swapping tea for champagne and adding one of our Vintage Romance lottery ticket holders to your breakfast tray. If cakes are their thing, a batch of pink-frosted cupcakes, encased in our Vintage Rose cases are another simple, romantic gesture.

    Perhaps you’re taking advantage of this time of year to make a special proposal.  Why not create an extra element of surprise by adding your ring to a Valentine’s Day goody bag, in amongst the other bits and bobs? Or pop it into an organza bag, filled with chocolate hearts…a more creative way to present your loved one with their special piece of jewellery.

    Simple but imaginative gestures like these are anything but slushy, so go, on, don’t be shy – do romance your way end enjoy the warm glow that comes from showing your other half that you care…

  • Elegant Entertaining

    Looking ahead to Easter

    While recent weather conditions might make Spring feel a long way off, Easter comes early this year so if you need a distraction from the snow and cold now’s a good time to think about your Easter preparations. Easter Sunday falls on the 31st March and the long weekend offers a great opportunity to get together with friends and family and welcome in the new season.

    If you’ve  got little ones, Easter is inextricably linked to chocolate, of course, so even if you’re not going to town with your celebrations an Easter egg hunt is a bit of a prerequisite. Kids have in incredibly perceptive sixth sense when it comes to tracking down the sweet stuff so be as creative as you can with your hiding places. Whether they forage outdoors or turn the house upside down looking for their booty an egg hunt is a great focal point to any Easter celebration.  We have a cute kit that includes everything you need for your hunt, as well as some added extras in the shape of masks, stickers, crayons and colouring sheets. Or you could give each child a sweetie tub or chick bag to collect their chocolatey haul with.

    Staying with little ones, Easter offers lots of opportunities to get creative at home. Spend a morning whipping up some chocolate cupcakes or rice krispie cakes, decorated with mini eggs and nestled in our colourful themed cupcake cases.  Easter biscuits are another tradition children can try their hand at. These simple, buttery biscuits are delicious and easy to make, and make great gifts if you’re visiting family or friends over the holiday. Try this recipe from parenting website Netmums.com. Wrap in sheets of cellophane (try your local stationery shop or a retailer such as Paperchase), tie with a pretty yellow ribbon or attach one of our gorgeous butterfly luggage tags to secure the package – a lovely homemade gift to offer to your hosts.  For more arty ideas how about creating an Easter bonnet, dyeing eggs or making cute pom-pom Easter chicks.

    If you would like to host an Easter party keep things simple with a buffet-style arrangement people can help themselves too. Our Easter Chick tableware range includes everything you need to make your setting seasonal, such as themed paper plates, napkins and cups. Use our Easter chick cake stand as your centrepiece and pile it high with either your kids’ creations or other Easter treats. Traditionally eaten at Easter time, Simnel Cake is the obvious choice for lovers of rich fruit cakes, but if you’d like to try something lighter do as the Italians do at Easter and serve up slices of light ‘Colomba’ cake – many major supermarkets now stock this deliciously light cake, or try your local Italian deli.

    Little guests can sip their juice from our adorable Easter Chick drinking straws, while adults can keep topped up with a fresh, zesty cocktail, inspired by the flavours of Spring – we love the sound of this minty gin ‘n’ juice cocktail on the BBC website, the appropriately named ‘Spring Smash’.

    The beauty of Easter celebrations lies in their simplicity – opening the back door so the kids can run around outdoors for a while, eating a little more chocolate than is strictly sensible (grown-ups included!) and slowing down a gear for a few days and enjoying the beginnings of those much-anticipated long, sunny days….