GET creative with festive tips that will turn you into the king and queen of the castle.
Dick Strawbridge and Angel Adoree have attracted legions of fans on hit Channel 4 show Escape To The Chateau, which follows the pair as they renovate a 19th-century property in France.
Now they are helping Sun readers to give their ho-ho-home a posh makeover on a budget. From home-made decorations, gifts and edible goodies, the couple tell LAURA STOTT their top tips for a Chateau-style Christmas.
We love a traditional gingerbread house in the chateau. Our children Arthur and Dorothy enjoy making them so it’s become a seasonal Strawbridge family tradition. You can make gingerbread and assemble the house yourself (an extra pinch of cinnamon is our top tip).
Or the easy option is to pick up a kit (try Gingerbread House £4.50, asda.com) so you still have fun constructing it without the extra hassle of baking the parts.
The best bit is decorating so let the kids run wild with the icing.
Every year, Arthur and Dorothy help make our Christmas cards. It’s fun and saves us money too. You don’t have to be an artist, you just need to get a few supplies.
Buy card-making kits with envelopes included to use as a template (from £10, hobbycraft.co.uk) or cut your own from paper card then go to town.
We love using packs of Crimbo stickers (try etsy.com), stencils, glitter, washi tape, ribbons and special felt toppers (all available at craft stores).
Younger kids enjoy a good old-fashioned potato stamp in a seasonal shape. Whatever the design, if it’s made with love, it’s perfect.
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Stockings are a tradition around the world and in the Strawbridge household we wouldn’t be without them.
Simply print out a stocking template – there’s lots available for free online – and sew together using your favourite fabric. Why not add your children’s names or an initial in felt too.
Homemade Christmas crackers: You don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy crackers for your table. Reuse old toilet roll tubes this year to make your own, then you also get to choose what treat goes inside them yourself.
Simply wrap toilet roll tubes with a patterned Christmas paper of your choice, thread through a crackersnap for the pop on pulling (£2.99 for 24, amazon.co.uk) and secure with sticky tape. Then twist both ends neatly and tie with a festive ribbon or pipecleaner.
Personalise with names, handpicked surprises and, of course, a rubbish joke (the cheesier the better). Personalising the outside means these also make a great place setting.
DECORATE THE TREE
Whatever your skillset, you can make your own Christmas tree decorations.
If you enjoy sewing, make your own fabric decorations – we have one of these for every member of the Strawbridge family.
Or, if that isn’t your thing, there are plenty or other options. If you’ve got plain decorations, personalise them with calligraphy using a metallic pen – gold or rose gold would look extra festive.
Buy plain wooden decorations to design yourself (£5.95 for 12, bakerross.co.uk) or pick up a tree-shaped hanging frame decoration (£1.50 hobbycraft.co.uk) and fill it with a special photo, it’s still personalised but doesn’t require as much time.
Remember when decorarting your tree – always lights first, then add the baubles.
Move the goalposts by repurposing footie balls as eye-catching decorations.
Making giant Christmas baubles using old kids’ foam balls is a lot of fun and not too fiddly. You can use discarded soccer balls or buy new ones cheaply (sponge footballs £2.99 therange.co.uk).
Simply cover the football in festive fabric you love and secure neatly with glue, make bauble “divider” sections or patterns with festive braiding strips (secure with glue) and tie a ribbon or colourful string from the ball. These look great hanging in groups of three in a window or over the mantelpiece if you have one.
No festive door is complete without a Christmas wreath.
To make your own you’ll need a wreath frame (£5, hobbycraft.co.uk), or use a small hula-hoop, hobby wire (£1.75 Wilko), scissors, evergreen branches or seasonal foliage such as holly and conifer, and anything else you’d like to decorate with.
Start by wrapping your branches and foliage around your wreath frame, overlapping to make the base and secure it with hobby wire.
Then get as creative as you like. There are so many personal finishing touches we love.
Try adding dried fruit or berries, fir cones spray-painted in gold or silver, festive ribbons, feathers or little ornaments.
You can theme by colour, style, go contemporary or stay traditional.
Paperchains are recyclable, budget-friendly and look fantastic. They may remind you of the Eighties but are back on trend in the chateau.
Simply cut your chosen paper into strips, take one and curl it around so the two length ends meet to make a circle and secure with glue or staples.
Then thread your next strip through the circle and make this piece’s two ends meet to make a chain link. Do the same with other strips of your paper until you have the chain length you want.
You can buy ready-cut strips of paper but why not use up leftover wrapping paper to create your own garlands or use brown craft paper and draw your own festive designs? Drape them over fireplaces or picture frames, or hang from the ceiling.
Homemade fudge, right, makes a lovely pressie. We may be biased but Dick’s mum’s fudge recipe is the best – it is delicious. If you’d like to gift your own, this is tried and tested in the chateau.
375g can sweetened condensed milk
450g demerara sugar
½tsp vanilla essence
METHOD: Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment. Place all the ingredients in a large non-stick saucepan and melt slowly, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Bring to a steady boil and cook – stirring all the time to prevent sticking and burning on the base – for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture reaches 113-115C on a sugar thermometer.
Remove the pan from the heat and cool for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Then beat with a wooden spoon until it becomes very thick and loses its shine – the longer you beat it the more granular it becomes. Creamy fudge is beaten for less time.
Press the fudge into the prepared tin and smooth flat with a metal spoon. Leave to set and cut into squares. Place into gift bags.
Gifting a loved one something that’s been handmade comes straight from the heart and it will save you some pennies, too. If you’re a fan of cooking and love making preserves such as jam and chutney – like us – then a lovely gift idea is to fill up vintage glass jars and seal them with a fabric lid.
I often use old pieces of fabric (I’ve even used Dick’s underpants in the past, all clean, of course). Then tie a label round the top that features a lovely festive message.
A candle, below, is a wonderful gift, especially at Christmas time. Making your own is not as tricky as you might think, so give it a try this year.
Start by melting soy wax in a pot over a low heat or in the microwave and once at the right consistency, add your chosen essential oil for a festive fragrance.
Orange, cloves and frankincense are lovely for Crimbo but have fun blending your own signature scent.
Anchor your wick to the base of a clean glass candle jar – I like using old mason jars – and pour the melted wax into it.
Trim the wick and leave to set (wax and wicks, are priced from £3, suppliesforcandles.co.uk).
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