Category Archives: Christmas

A very Merry Christmas…

Gathering greenery for Christmas

The Christmas tree is up, the house is twinkling and excitement levels are high. We’ve got a jar full of shiny chocolates and enough sparkling wine to see me through to the New Year. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I’m just about ready. Or as ready as I’ll ever be.

Gathering greenery for Christmas

We’ll be having a simple Christmas spent with our family. We don’t do fancy. It’s just a lovely jumble of traditions that we all hold dear.

All that remains is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! 

Victorian Christmas card

How to gift wrap like a pro!

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

My friend Emily is a whizz at wrapping. She used to be a visual stylist at Fortnum and Mason – one day her duties would be creating beautiful window displays, the next she’d be wrapping Christmas presents for the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. It’s little wonder she’s got an eye for detail.

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

This year I decided it was time to brush up on my wrapping skills. Naturally, the first person I thought of was Emily. She’s now helping small businesses with all their styling needs – so I made sure I was next in line. Want to learn the secrets of great wrapping too? Step this way…

What will you need?

Good, thick paper – Emily likes the old-fashioned brown kind.

A decent pair of scissors

Double-sided sticky tape

Ribbons, tags and greenery to decorate

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Take your time and get things right

1. Lay your present on a sheet of paper and get a feel for its size – you’ll need a lot less paper than you think.

2. Pull the top of your paper forward over your box.

3. Fold the edge over the side of the box by about an inch.

4. Press down firmly to create a defined fold line. Repeat for the other edges.

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Be precise. It’s a bit like origami

5. Unfold your paper. Your folded lines show you how long your piece of paper needs to be. Now you need to work out how wide it needs to be. Use a pencil to mark out the edge of your box on the paper, then add an extra allowance for the sides of the box. Make sure there’s just enough to cover the ends.

6. Cut out your piece of paper. It won’t look like much when you’re used to wasting as much paper as I do.

7. Now you’re ready to wrap. Lay your box back on your paper, carefully matching the fold lines. Place a piece of double-side tape on the top edge. Roll your parcel up towards this top edge and stick down as neatly as possible – ideally so it lines up one of your edges.

8. Neatly fold the ends of your parcel. Attach three pieces of double-sided tape to hold in place securely.

Now you know the basics, here’s the fun bit: making those neat parcels look pretty! 

First up, here’s a simple way to add greenery to your parcel:

Use a pencil to mark out the edge of your box on the paper, then add an extra allowance for the sides of the box. Make sure there's just enough to cover the ends of the box.

1. Take a piece of ivy and attach a small piece of double-sided tape to the stem. Trim it until it’s roughly the same size as the ivy stem.

2. Stick to your ribbon.

3. Attach an extra decoration to a piece of florist’s wire. Try pinecones or nuts.

4. Wrap the florists wire around the ribbon and twist to secure. Flatten the ends of the wire neatly under your ribbon.

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Next, we created this beautifully traditional design with velvet ribbon and thistles fit for a Scottish castle… 

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

1. Start by attaching your ribbon. don’t worry about twisting and knotting – just use your trusty double-sided tape.

2. Secure the ends of the ribbon on the bottom of your parcel.

3. Twist florist’s wire around a small bunch of thistles, or greenery.

4. Attach to your ribbon using the wire, twisting and hiding ends.

5. Create a decorative bow to hide the wire. Cut a length of ribbon and pinch into a bow shape.

6. Hold this shape in place with wire – leaving the ends long. Add a small piece of ribbon to create the illusion of a bow. Fix in place with a piece of double-sided tape.

7. Use the long ends of wire to secure your ribbon to the parcel.

8. Trim the ends of your ribbon at a neat angle.

Feeling inspired? Here are some other ideas…

Add a hint of luxury with copper…

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Create a gorgeous children’s gift with a blackboard pen and felt shapes…

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

I love all of Emily’s ideas and I’m feeling inspired to tackle my own pile of wrapping! They’ll be no excuses for wonky corners and torn paper this year…

A big thank you to Emily Bradley of Bear Cub Creative for her help with this post. Emily is available for window dressing, product styling, shop layouts, training and event styling.

 

An indie wish list: your guide to the best independent shops this Christmas

An indie gift list

Buy independent this Christmas and you’ll be supporting small businesses up and down the country. 

I love the big high-street stores as much as the next girl, but they’re not where I look for beautiful and unusual Christmas presents. Instead, I like to delve into the world of small indies. Thanks to online shopping, it’s now easier than ever to discover these  artisan businesses.

And, luckily for you, I’ve made it even easier by compiling this list of my favourites. Enjoy!

Soap Folk Winter Skin Box

Soap Folk: for natural beauty treats

Treat someone to Soap Folk’s Winter Skin Collection, £30. It contains one of their gorgeous wrapped soaps, a jar of chamomile rescue balm and a bottle of beautifully scented safflower and rosehip bath oil. All their products are made in small batches in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside. They’re are as kind to the environment as they are to your skin. No time to wrap? Luckily, this collection comes in a beautiful gift box which can go straight under the tree.

Winter Skin Collection box by Soap Folk

The Printed Peanut: for gorgeous paper goods

I discovered Louise Lockhart’s The Printed Peanut through Instagram. Her bright, retro designs are perfect for children and adults alike. I’ve bought her Paper Doll and the Playing with Food activity book for the children in my life – and her affordable art prints and postcards make perfect little gifts for family and friends. All Louise’s homewares are designed and made in the UK.

Paper Doll, £5.95 / Coffee Pot print, £10 /Playing With Food Activity Book, £12.95

Paper Dolls House, £10 – all by The Printed Peanut 

Gourmet Brownie: For a sumptuous foodie treat

This family bakery, based in Ely, makes the most incredible brownies. Their Christmas Brownie Box, £28, is the perfect way to send someone some festive love! Each box contains eight delicious Christmas-inspired flavours. I can vouch for their deliciousness.

Jeff Josephinefor beautiful ceramics to treasure

This is an indie shop I return to again and again. Sophie Elm is an illustrator, surface pattern designer and ceramicist. Her shop is stocked with beautiful ceramics and delightful prints. Invest in one of her Christmas decorations for your tree – or find someone a gift that they’ll treasure for years to come.

Jeff Josephine Christmas gifts

Vegetable Garden print, £38 / Set of Garden Decorations, £30

Ceramic Decorations, £14 each / Radish Pot, £48 – all by Jeff Josephine

Melin Tregwynt: for the best Welsh blankets 

This little woollen mill, deep in the heart of rural Pembrokeshire, makes the most beautiful and useful things. A welsh blanket is a family heirloom in the making – why not treat someone this Christmas? Or if your purse won’t stretch that far, they also do a lovely range of more affordable accessories like purses and cushions.

Melin Tregwynt homewares

Knot Garden Throw, £149 / Vintage Rose wrist bag, £30

St David’s Flag throw, £149 / Knot Garden Purse, from £22 – all by Melin Tregwynt

There are so many wonderful small independent shops to discover this Christmas. I hope I’ve inspired you to visit some of them! I’d love to hear about your favourites too. 

A big thank you to Soap Folk who sent me their Winter Skin kit as a gift. 

Creating new traditions with a Christmas Eve Box

A Christmas Eve Box

We all have our own Christmas traditions. Some are the ones we’ve inherited from the people we love. Others are ones that we’ve created for ourselves. 

I’ve always loved the thrill and excitement of Christmas Eve. In our house it’s a happy, low-key day – full of the scents of baking and the sound of carols on the radio. And we never forget to leave a mince pie and glass of sherry for Father Christmas out at bedtime – plus a carrot for Rudolph.

This year I’d like to add a new tradition – the Christmas Eve box. This is an idea which floated into my consciousness a few years ago. I think it’s an American thing, but I can’t be sure. The concept is to fill a box with special treats for the night before Christmas. I like the idea and it’s a new tradition which can continue even as the boys get older.

White Stuff: Stuff & Wonder Children's range

So, what’s going in our Christmas Eve box?

The most important thing is a pair of new festive pyjamas. This year, I’m rather excited that one of my favourite brands, White Stuff, have launched a new range of children’s nightwear in time for Christmas. It’s a gorgeous range with lots of mix and match pieces for boys and girls. The boys look very dapper in theirs.

White Stuff: Stuff & Wonder Children's range

Next in the box goes a new Christmas children’s book. This is one of our family traditions anyway, but I love the idea of presenting it like this. I always lean towards traditional choices and this year have invested in a beautiful hardback copy of One Christmas Wish by Katherine Rundell. It’s illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Emily Sutton and it’s the perfect choice for a cosy evening by the fire.

A Christmas Eve Box

And you must have some special hot chocolate. We always take our boys out for a walk before bedtime on Christmas Eve. A big mug of hot chocolate is the perfect way to warm up when they get home. This hot chocolate gingerbread spoon (available from Oxfam) is perfect!

White Stuff: Stuff & Wonder Children's range

And last but not least, I’ve put in some new ornaments for the tree. Because you can never have too many, can you? This year I’m loving bright, vintage-inspired decorations.

A Christmas Eve Box

I’d love to hear more about your favourite festive traditions. Do you make a Christmas Eve box too?

A very bookish Christmas

A very bookish Christmas

Giving, and receiving, books is one of my favourite festive traditions.

There’s something incredibly comforting about getting a pile of beautiful new books for Christmas. I’ll sit and leaf through them by the fire – with a glass of wine in one hand and a chocolate orange in easy reach. Opening the pages of a gorgeous new book is like taking a reviving breath of fresh air. Press pause on life and lose yourself in wintry tales, inspiring recipes and beautiful illustrations.

I don’t work in a bookshop anymore – but once a bookseller, always a bookseller. Here are the books which have got me hopping with excitement this Christmas… 

The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

£12.99, Quadrille

A beautiful little book packed with charming and comforting recipes to make the weekend feel longer. I was inspired to buy this book after meeting Rosie at Pint Shop in Cambridge, where she’s the development chef. Highlights include Caerphilly with leeks and mustard on toast, ham and macaroni soup and a wintry fireside drink inspired by the Bloomsbury Set. Read it by the fire and prepare to feel hungry.

Moomin Midwinter

Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson

£10.99, Sort Of Books

Any Moomin fan will be delighted to receive one of these beautiful new editions which have just been published by Sort Of Books. I can’t decide whether to give it my eight-year-old, my husband, or just keep it for myself! It’s a beautifully illustrated hardback to treasure

A Passion for China by Molly Hatch

A Passion for China by Molly Hatch 

£14.99, September Publishing 

I’m going to gush about this book because I love everything about it. It’s a celebration of the objects we eat from, live with and love. Molly Hatch is an acclaimed ceramicist, artist and designer – you may have spotted her beautiful designs while browsing in Anthropolgie.

A Passion for China by Molly Hatch

Molly combines anecdotes from her own family with the history of pottery and porcelain. Every page is covered with beautiful illustrations and snippets of text – there’s everything from an eighteenth century Meissan Chocolate Pot to 1970s coffee mugs from her Grandmother’s house. I love it and I think you will too.

An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe

An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe

Penguin, £9.99

I’ve really fallen for Nina Stibbe’s funny and insightful writing this year. This little book is the perfect stocking filler with decent literary punch. Nina’s breezy, anecdotal ode to Christmas will make you smile amid the chaos of turkeys, wrapping paper and temper tantrums.

Ok let’s be honest, I’m probably going to keep all these books for myself. They’re all that good. Ask for them in your local independent bookshop and spread the love. 

A very bookish Christmas

A big thank you to September Publishing for sending me a copy of Molly Hatch’s book to review. It was a real pleasure. 

Merry Christmas!

I’ve wrapped my presents, bought my turkey and iced the Christmas cake. I have sparkling wine, chocolate oranges and a fridge full of cheese. There’s bound to be something I’ve forgotten, but  I’m ready as I’ll ever be…

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you in 2017! 

Last minute ideas to make, buy and create

The big day’s almost here and suddenly there doesn’t seem much time left for all the ideas I’ve been dreaming up. However, I’ve just had a final burst of shopping and creating and I wanted to share these last minute ideas with you.

Make… Bailey’s fudge. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a bottle of Baileys. This recipe from Lily Vanilli is quick, easy and possibly the most delicious fudge I’ve ever tasted! The boys’ teachers all have a big bag each and are very lucky indeed. Make it now for a friend, or just for you. I would recommend using a jam thermometer if you have one, it makes the whole process much more straight forward.

Baileys fudge

Buy…a festive soap. A winter themed soap makes a great last minute present to have on stand-by. It’s a little more virtuous than fudge, but just as nice. And how about treating yourself to a nice one too? It’s important to remember to find a moment of me time in amongst all the festive madness – my favourite thing is a hot bath, nice soap and a magazine. This one is by the Somerset Toiletry Company.

Create…a Christmas tree in a jug. We had lots of trimmings from our big Christmas tree which I’ve casually arranged in galvanised jugs. They look great unadorned, but I love twisting a few wired decorations onto the fronds. This would look beautiful on your Christmas table.

Christmas tree in a jug

Good luck with all your final preparations! 

Deck the halls!

Christmas mantelpiece

I haven’t actually decorated my tree yet – we’re saving that for this weekend. But I’ve been busy adding festive touches around the house – the little traditions we like to repeat every year.

Every year we always decorate the study mantelpiece. When it was a playroom, we tended to stick to homemade cards and a twig tree, with a bit of greenery. This year I’ve chosen a different theme. I’ve swapped my usual swagged greenery for a simple theme in red, white and green. I’ve christened it the shiny-woodland-candycane theme. Catchy.

Christmas mantelpiece

I’ve combined my houseplants with a little faux Christmas tree with lights – which look great paired with my little red toadstools and some candy canes. I have a lot of candy canes this year. I can never normally buy any in Ely, so I stockpiled about ten boxes back in November. They’re going to be everywhere (unless my boys steal them all first). My little fawn is from Wilko – I’ve snipped off his hanging thread.

I’ve filled my little shelves with baubles and a little wooden Father Christmas…

And I’ve filled a glass jar with battery-powered fairy lights…

A festive mantelpiece

I always love to decorate our stairs with greenery and little decorations. I simply take a couple of faux wire garlands and twine them around the bannisters with fairy lights. You can then twist various little decoration onto the greenery. I used to do real greenery, but faux is lot more practical with young children (and cats) around. This year I’ve added little wooden hearts and rosehips – plus a few little toadstools.

Decorating the stairs for Christmas

Decorating the stairs for Christmas

This is Mog and Tabby’s first Christmas with us, so my usually relaxed stair decorating was a more painful affair this year. Every time I poked my hand through the bannisters Mog was there to scratch it. The best game ever.

Mog's Christmas

How’s your decorating going?

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Gorgeous greenery: a quick and easy display for your door this Christmas

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

Wreaths aren’t the only way to decorate your front door this Christmas. How about trying a gathered, rustic bunch of greenery this year? They’re great if you’re short on time and money – it’s possible to make one in ten minutes for less than ten pounds. It’ll look and smell amazing.

All you need is a branch of spruce (trimmings from your Christmas tree are great), long strands of eucalyptus, ivy, rosemary and a few delicate twigs or seed heads – plus some string, ribbon and simple wired decorations. I bought my greenery from the local market, then gathered the ivy and twiggy bits from my garden. I got my decorations very cheaply in Wilkinson’s.

Start with your pieces of pine, then gradually lay your twigs and eucalyptus over the top. I used one large branch of spruce, but you could use lots of smaller pieces depending on what you have.

Make a gathered bunch of greenery

Once you’ve arranged your main pieces of greenery, add a sprig of rosemary and some ivy…

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

Tie the whole bunch together securely with some twine, making a loop at the back for hanging.

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

Add a few simple decorations (if these are on wires, wrap them round the string or greenery) and complete by tying everything together with a ribbon.

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

I chose a simple cream ribbon…

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

But red velvet also looks amazing!

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

I think I love these kind of gathered displays more than wreaths. The variations are endless – you could add berries and holly, or perhaps sparkly twigs and baubles. What do you think? 

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Our Christmas, in photos

Christmas 2016

I know it’s all done and dusted now, but I can’t resist sharing some of my photos from the last few weeks. We forgot to take lots of photos on Christmas Day – mainly because we were too busy having fun! Which is how it should be, don’t you think?

Here are my favourites – from playing Kerplunk to brisk walks at Wicken Fen…

Christmas 2015

Sloe Gin

Christmas Tree

Bauble

Sleepy angel

Wicken Fen

Wicken Fen

Christmas Cake

Christmas cake

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas too. Now, back to January!

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