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.

cat lying on cloth
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.

feet summer dress sandals
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.

 

Christmas Gifts on a Budget

Most of us have a lot of gifts to buy for many family members, friends and other people that we would like to acknowledge at this time of year. I actually quite enjoy buying and selecting gifts for people, but there’s no denying that it can get pretty costly.

So it’s worth considering how to reduce the costs a little. I tend to keep an eye out for suitable gifts year-round (one of my strategies to reduce stress in the festive season). Sometimes if I’m extra lucky, they might be in the sales, too. Even if not, it at least helps to spread the cost out.

Another way to save money on gifts is to make things yourself. Home-made gifts can also be more personal and appreciated than shop-bought items. As a teacher, I was frequently touched by how much effort the kids would put into making me personalised presents. Over the years, I have received all sorts from home-made lavender bags, notebooks with my name stencilled on, knitted and embroidered items, all sorts of baked goods and more.

Everyone has different skill sets and will be limited by those. For instance, Im utterly unteachable at knitting. Yes, I really am. I even tagged along to a knitting club for seven and eight year-olds with the hope of learning alongside them. They all picked it up while I was left clueless. So knitted gifts will always be off the cards.

However, I have made biscuits and confectionery as gifts. Shortbread is incredibly easy and is a typically seasonal food for Christmas. In terms of sweets: coconut ice, peppermint creams and chocolate truffles are all straightforward to make and taste delicious. It’s easy to bulk-buy suitable sized gift or presentation boxes on Ebay to make them look as good as they taste.

Today in a supermarket there were many potted plants that had been reduced in price. In particular there were a number of cyclamen flowers in shades of pinks and purples in cute galvanised mini buckets. It was easy to see why they were discounted, as several of the flowers in each one had died and they didn’t seem to have been kept well watered. We keep cyclamens in our garden in pots during the winter so I feel fairly confident about looking after them. In particular, they need to be deadheaded regularly, given sunlight and watered sufficiently. So I picked up and bought four of these plants, priced at only £2.50 each.

The first one I set aside as a birthday gift for a relative next week. After removing the browned, dead flowers and a few crunchy leaves, its appearance was much improved. Then, I pulled out a pale pink ribbon from our gift cupboard (I always save nice ribbons that have been used in packaging I have received as they often come in useful when I gift-wrap things myself) and tied it in a simple bow around the top of the silver coloured bucket. It looks pretty nice, don’t you think?

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The remaining few plants were also given the deadheading and watering treatment and have been placed in a sunny window. They looked ten times better just for having had that. When I gift then next week I am hopeful that they will look perfect.

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My daughter is very arty and creative so she was keen to make something for her grandmothers for Christmas. I purchased some small terracotta pots and we pained them plain white in acrylic paint. Once dry, my five-year-old used a combination of finger painting (for the petals and flower centres) and brush painting to create a sweet flower print pattern on the pots. We will just add a little plant and voila, all finished. I’m sure they will be well-received.

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Do you make any of your own gifts? I would love to hear about what you create yourself. Or perhaps you have other tips or suggestions on how to keep costs down when buying Christmas gifts?

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