Decorating for Christmas (while also redecorating the living room…)

When do you feel the urge to deck the halls in your home? As an unspoken rule, the Christmas decorations make an appearance in our house on the last weekend in November. My husband and I have generally found ourselves unable to resist sneaking them out at that point most years even pre-kids, but in recent years we inevitably resign ourselves to an early date to end the incessant tree requests from our three young, seasonally excited children!

This year, something has got a little in the way of festive trimming feeling like the carefree and straightforward event it usually is, though. On a whim, my husband and I decided to redecorate our living room a few weeks ago. I know, I know: who would make such a crazy decision at the end of November?!

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The living room is the main space that gets prettied up for Christmas in our house. Our six-foot tall tree is always positioned in the corner living room (as this is about the only space it will fit). As the decorating won’t be completed for another couple of weeks, we mulled over the options before deciding to buy a second tree, (just a small 3 foot one) to rest on a coffee table in our family snug in the extension. As you can see in the pic, it is one of those snowy branch effect trees, which I have always hankered after. We soon faced a hurdle: to figure out how to wind the cumbersome lights around it. Ok, I should admit that they were only cumbersome because I accidentally ordered the twenty-metre light string instead of the two-metre string, oops. Still, once we (well in truth, it was mostly my husband) sorted it, the lights looked great switched on.

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Obviously, there is limited space to hang ornaments on a little three foot tall tree. So we just selected a few favourites and I indulged in buying a few new ones this year. There is a set of four whitewashed Scandi style woodland animals (a fox, rabbit, squirrel and hedgehog). I couldn’t resist the two fluffy penguins which were a steal at 69p each. Then when I returned some library books at the weekend, it just so happened that a Christmas fair was in full swing and I spotted these adorable knitted characters, a toy soldier and a Santa. Only a pound each for something handmade is a bargain in my book.

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All in all, I’m pretty happy with the way our tiny tree is bringing plenty of Christmas cheer to the room we are spending the most time in at the moment.

We also have our traditional musical animated fairground set on display. The kids are all mesmerised by this, even though it is the third Christmas running that we have had it. They sit and watch the coloured lights and moving rides for ages.

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We have two rustic wreaths hung up inside, too. They look great in place of our usual pictures and the more traditional feel of them holds huge appeal for me at the moment. I don’t change our Christmas colour scheme or style much from year to year, as fast trends just don’t hold much appeal. There is a real nostalgic value in unpacking old favourite ornaments that haven’t been seen for almost a year and I would miss that if we simply bought all new decorations each year. Not to mention the wasteful aspect of doing so.

I will post pics of our refreshed living room as soon as it is completed. I can’t wait to get the full-size tree up in there, too.

Do please share pics of your Christmas decorations or tell me about them by adding a comment below. What sort of colour scheme and style do you favour? How early (or late!) do you tend to decorate. I would love to hear about it.

Decorating the House for Autumn

I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying autumn so far? Or the arrival of spring, for any southern hemisphere readers! Even though recent years have seen me gain an increasing appreciation for the beauty of autumn in all her colourful splendour, this year I have striven to bring some of the colour into my home. I have taken a lot of enjoyment from both researching decorative ideas and then setting them up in our home.

What sparked the idea in my mind…

Although I have gradually come around to the notion of decorating the house for Halloween in recent years (heavily influenced by the presence of excitable young children), I must admit that the prospect of decorating the house in a general autumn theme had never really occurred to me. In truth, it was seeing Ann’s beautiful decorations in her home on her blog www.ournewvista.com that sparked the interest in my mind. Since then, I’ve enjoyed taking part in Dee’s ‘Welcoming Fall 5-Day Challenge’ which sparked plenty of ideas.  A number of shops here are also brimming with beautiful rustic items in appealing, rich shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. They reflect the stunning hues that nature begins to bestow upon us at this time of year.

Borrowing a few items from the outdoors

Tempting though the countless shop displays were, with their wares of cushions in autumn-themed prints, animal lamps and ornaments, I decided to attempt a simple homespun decoration in the first instance. Thankfully, the branches of several shrubs in our garden were foisting inspiration upon me, in the form of bright, ripe berries dangling heavily from branches in vivid hues of red and yellow. After snipping off a few small branches I arranged them in a white vase and was pretty pleased with the result. Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will have seen the images the day that I filled my vase.

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Autumn Bedlinen

I have two main sets of bed linen- a spring/ summer set and an autumn/winter set. With the temperature steadily dropping, the time felt right to switch to the autumn/winter set. Even though we have owned it for at least five years (and it was only a budget buy at a supermarket even then), it raises my spirits each year when I make up the bed with it for the first time. As you can see from the pic here, it depicts deer, rabbits and other winter animals in red on a paler background.

Vignette Displays

Then I wandered onto Pinterest to fuel further decor ideas. There, I fell in love with the idea of using pumpkins and gourds as table centrepieces and sideboard displays.  Alas, I am months too late to have planted my own, but sourced some artificial ones from an eBay supplier. I also bought a pack of artificial leaves in a variety of autumnal shades, which I’ll be able to reuse year after year. What do you think?

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Here is a little mock berry and pinecone candle holder that I couldn’t resist buying:

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How about you?

Have you grown your own pumpkins or gourds before? I’d be interested to know how easy or difficult it is. Perhaps I can add it to my list of things to try next year…

I would love to hear or see pics of any autumn decorations in your home that the moment. Feel free to add a comment. Hearing from readers makes my day 🙂

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7 Reasons to Enjoy September

As a recent convert to the joys of Autumn, having previously been a lifelong spring and summer fan, I find myself increasingly aware of the abundant joys to be savoured at this time of year. They say that what we focus on increases, whether positive or negative, so let’s dwell on the finer details of the pleasures to savour of September.

The Bounty of Harvest

In early September, my family enjoys foraging for blackberries growing wild on bramble bushes. Simply delicious baked in a crumble. Apples, pears and plums drop from the trees, signalling their readiness to be consumed at their best. There is nothing like taking that first bite of ripe, juicy fruit bursting with flavour at the start of Harvest season. My grandmother used to have a huge walnut tree in her garden and I have fond memories of I excitedly gathering handfuls of them up with my cousins before cracking the shells.

red green fruit in close up photography
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Crisp Mornings

As autumn begins, I love the pearlescent quality the sunlight takes on at sunrise, a muted version of the harsher summer rays. They reflect to highlight the shimmer on the droplets of dew that suddenly appear on the grass most mornings.

The Autumn Wardrobe

As the temperatures dip, I am sure I am not alone in eagerly pulling out my autumn and winter clothing from storage. Cord dresses, tights, boots, cardigans… I love colder weather clothing and always feel more chic wearing it.

The sense of a Fresh Start

Having spent ten years as a school teacher (as well as many years of being a student), for me the start of the academic is strongly associated with the opportunity to carve out a new start, often having taken on brand new classes, areas of curriculum responsibility etc. Even now that I am no longer in teaching, that sense of starting afresh remains. Making resolutions or goals to make improvements in my life holds greater appeal in this month than in depressingly grey January. Perhaps now is a good time for you to consider setting one or two of your own, or at least taking stock on the progress you’ve been making towards goals you set yourself in January?

The Anticipation of Autumn and Winter Festivities

We have a couple of family birthdays in September and October which are great excuses to gather the extended family around and catch up on recent news in their lives. Plus Halloween is just around the corner. Before having children, Halloween came and went almost without my noticing, but now I’ve fully yielded to participating in the fun it brings. My kids adore choosing and dressing in suitably spooky costumes, knocking on a few neighbours doors to ‘trick or treat’ and taking a trip to the pumpkin patch to play with the mass of pumpkins and pick out one to take home. This year, I quite fancy cooking something from the pumpkin flesh for the first time. Do any readers have any suggestions I could try?

Bonfire Night with its firework display spectaculars closely tail Halloween, and before we know it the anticipation of Christmas dangles within tempting reach…

Snuggling on the Sofa with Blankets

During September I avoid switching on the heating if possible, but on those slightly chilly evenings a supersoft, fleecy blanket is the perfect solution to keep me warm as I watch TV or read on the sofa.

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Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

The Return of Routine

Of course, the summer holidays are a time to luxuriate in lazy mornings and take life at a leisurely pace. But there is a lot of comfort to be found in the routine that school days provide. My kids also thrive on the extracurricular activities that only take place during school term time. On a slightly selfish note I get more of an opportunity to sit down and focus on writing. I’ve really missed being able to write regularly during the summer, both blog posts and my book, and can’t wait to dive back into it.

What do you enjoy the most about this time of year? I’d love to hear about it, so please drop me a comment below 🙂

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Simple luxuries of summer

Indulge in Simple Luxuries In The Summer

What are your simple summer luxuries? You know, those little pick-me-ups that perk up your day in the summertime. I know I have written about simple pleasures to be enjoyed during the winter before, so decided a summer equivalent was called for.

Summer Fruits

Even though all types of fruits, even exotic fruits, are available in shops year-round these days, nothing beats eating locally grown, fresh fruit that tends to be abundant during the summer months. I am hoping to take my kids strawberry or raspberry picking this year so they get to experience the joys of carefully selecting the ripest, juiciest fruits in the field and cheekily popping one or to in their mouths to enjoy the burst of flavour. We take to the hedgerows in late August to track down blackberries growing wild which is usually a rewarding pursuit.

Enjoying an Evening Drink in the Garden

There is something verging on the magical about sitting in the garden soon before dusk falls. A sense of peace fills the air and the only sound to be heard is melodic birdsong. We are fortunate in that although we live on the outskirts of a town, there are no main roads or railway lines close by so you could easily believe you were in the countryside. I usually pour a glass of sparking elderflower and read a book while soaking up the serene atmosphere.

Flowers From The Garden

As you know, I adore fresh flowers all year round but at this time of year I can acquire a plentiful supply from my own back garden. Amongst my favourites are lilac and hydrangeas. Some years we grow sweet peas which I adore for their heavenly scent and vivid shades.

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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Strappy Sandals

Warmer weather calls for lighter footwear and I am always happy to don my sandals. Personally, I find a mid-height heel or an inch or so to be more comfortable than flat shoes a lot of the time and I often opt for sandals that have a bit of pretty detailing with beads. Then I get to enjoy glancing down at them as I walk, naturally with painted toenails to finish the look.

Eating Al Fresco

Somehow, just carrying our dinner plates outside to enjoy eating al fresco elevates the experience. It feels akin to eating a meal on holiday in a warmer country and anything that induces that holiday feeling is to be encouraged in my book!

Ice Cream Treats

Admit it, when you hear the word ‘summer’ ice cream is one of the things that first comes to mind. Or perhaps it’s just me! There aren’t many better ways to cool down that enjoying a cool ice cream or lolly. Alas, authentic handmade Italian gelato may not be an option for me right now, but I have recently discovered the joys of Magnum’s Praline Minis, with chopped hazelnut pieces on the shell and Belgian chocolate ice cream in the centre. At a mere 152 calories each they are not overly sinful, either.

Please do share: what are your favourite simple summer pleasures? Whether they are the same as mine or different ones I would love to hear.

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Decorate the home for Easter

Decorating The Home For Easter

Isn’t the springtime just wonderful?! I adore so many things about this season such as the vibrant colours of spring flowers popping up all around, newborn lambs frolicking in the fields and going for walks in woods carpeted with vivid bluebells, amongst many more. Plus, for a self-confessed chocoholic, Easter itself is a pretty fantastic time in itself! The two bank holidays create a lovely four day break for my husband and plenty of precious family time.

A couple of weeks before Easter, we like to decorate our home with Easter-themed decorations. The focal point is always our Easter tree, a white, wooden tree a couple of feet tall (which happens to be resurrected several times a year and renamed the Halloween tree, the Valentine’s tree…you get the idea). This tree was purchased from John Lewis five or six years ago now, but I am sure they are easily available from online sellers too. It comes in useful as a centrepiece for special meals held over the Easter weekend, too.

Decorate the home for Easter with an Easter tree

The kids show great enthusiasm each time I bring the tree out from storage ready to decorate and insist on “helping” to arrange the ornaments on it. I happily let them, though can’t deny that a fair bit of rearranging takes place after they have all gone to bed.

We have built up an assortment of different types of ornaments over the last few years. We began with the just hollow pastel-coloured eggs, and they are now joined by various types of bunnies (some with little bells that chime in the breeze of a nearby open window), chickens and nests with eggs.  There are two large-sized ornaments that get hung near the bottom of the tree: a fluffy yellow hen made from wood and wool and a brightly painted blue ceramic hen, both bought from (different) local gift shops.

Easter tree ornament chicken

Easter tree ornament decoration chicken

This year, we were given a length of bunting with these cute orange and white bunnies on. Apparently they were a bargain from Poundland. Even though they are only made from card, they should last for at least a few years if I pack them away carefully. It was difficult to get a decent photo due to lack of light but the ribbon hangs almost all the way across the top of our bifold doors.

Easter spring decoration bunny bunting

As a nod to my own childhood, I’ve carried on the tradition of making chocolate Easter nest cakes with my children. Rather than using shredded wheat as I used to, though, we tend to just use cornflakes, then mix with melted chocolate before placing in paper cases and adding two to three chocolate Mini Eggs to set in the fridge. No-cook baking at its finest!

How about you? I know some of my southern hemisphere readers are now on the cusp of autumn, which brings its own joys. you decorate your home for Easter (or just the springtime)? Do you have any Easter or spring traditions that you follow, with or without kids? I would really love to hear about them and reading comments from any of my readers makes me smile.

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celebrate Valentines day

Valentine’s Day (my take on it)

Do you celebrate Valentine’s day with your loved one?

Perhaps this post should come with a warning that it definitely won’t be all gushing about how wonderful the fourteenth of February is. That way, you have the choice to skip reading it!

I’m in two minds about it, really. On the one hand, I dislike how hugely commercial it has become- even our local florist shop replaced their Christmas window display with a Valentine’s display in the first week of January. Although, to be fair, flowers and plants as gifts don’t bother me, unlike the piles of tacky soft toys and plastic tat that grace the pound shops and supermarkets at this time of year. Contemplating the environmental impact that many of these quickly discarded, mass-produced items will have is a concern in itself. It goes without saying that prices of flowers and restaurants are inflated sky-high around this date, too.

My other issue with it is the ‘enforced romance’ aspect. Should people really need a specified day to prompt them to treat their loved one? Do they buy gifts and make an effort because they feel they should, because society dictates so? It seems far preferable to me that partners choose to surprise each other with little gifts on random days because they spontaneously feel like it, perhaps they spot something that reminds them of their loved one.

The reason why I’ve never been a fan of being presented with a dozen red roses is precisely because they are a cliched symbol of love. Zero imagination or thought need go into them, especially on Valentine’s day as identical bouquets of them are available everywhere to pick up mindlessly. My dear husband knows very well by now that I prefer to be given almost any other type of flowers than red roses- I happen to love yellow or pink roses, though. He is fortunately very thoughtful when choosing flowers for me and always selects ones that he thinks I will particularly appreciate.

However, the end of the day, it is supposed to celebrate something positive: love. In a world that often seems to be filled with depressing news (endless violence and crime), love can surely only be a good thing to encourage. Plus I admit that I do enjoy marking special days and events, including Valentine’s day. I just prefer to do so in a low-key way. I tend to have fresh flowers in the house most of the time anyway, selected by myself, so my husband usually gives me a card and a small box of my favourite type of chocolates (which is invariably well received).

I give my husband a card, too and in recent years I have made him heart shaped chocolates in a silicone mould. Our two eldest children love helping to make them. Usually we melt large bars of milk and white chocolate then gently swirl the two colours together a little in a bowl, before pouring into the mould. This results in a pretty marbled effect in each chocolate.

Some years we put our our indoor decorative tree and decorate it with hearts and other Valentine’s themed items. We re-use the same ones each year and never replace them with new ones.

We have always made more of a fuss about each other’s birthdays as they seem more personal, special days.

How about you? What’s your take on Valentine’s Day? I appreciate lots of people love it and it certainly adds a little fun to what can otherwise be a cold and dismal month.