Wednesday 30 November 2016

Jingle Bell Ornaments

One day when I went through my stuff I came across a bag of tiny jingle bells that I got several years back when making a costume for a friend (Esmeralda in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and thought that they’d make nice ornaments for our Christmas tree. They don’t jingle very well, but they look pretty, and I had lots of them.

As they are so small (each bell 11 millimetres in diameter), I stringed four of them on a piece of hemp twine, grouped them together tightly and made a knot to keep them in place. I tied the ends of the twine together, then bound a little satin ribbon bow around the top, secured with a few stitches to prevent little fingers from undoing it. In the end, I got eleven little ornaments.

They don’t make much of a statement, but not every ornament has to be big or flashy. We have rather a small tree anyway, so it doesn't look ridiculous. I really like how they came out, even if they are very small.

Do you use jingle bells to decorate for the holidays?

Sunday 27 November 2016

First Sunday of Advent

I love this time of year! As I live in Sweden where many people get uncomfortable when one talks about religion, I don’t often mention it, but I am a practicing Christian (Latter Day Saint/Mormon to be exact), and Advent is filled with the hymns I love the best. Music speaks to my heart in a way nothing else does, it allows me to express the feelings I find it difficult to put words to, and the centuries old hymns reminds me not only of Christ and His role in my life, but also of my ancestors that might have sung them during cold December Sundays, wearing layers of clothes made from wool and sheepskin to keep the cold of the unheated, white limed little churches at bay. All the fairy lights, illuminated stars and candles that quite literally brings light to the dark of the Northern winter makes me happy. For me, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

In Sweden many, many people, believing Christians or not, have Advent candlesticks at home. Traditionally, the four candles are set in a line on a special candlestick, but nowadays many variations exist. After trying out one of these modern ways, I have returned to tradition, and I like it better. This year my candlestick is decorated with a brocade ribbon, a plain satin ribbon, both from my stash, and a couple of twigs of boxwood held in place with a hemp string. Earlier this evening I lit the first candle as the children were eating porridge.

 Sometime around the first Sunday of Advent is the time when most Swedes start to put up their holiday decorations. Earlier this week I decorated two of the kitchen windows with greenery, fairy lights and red bows. The greenery is artificial wine vines that we got to decorate for our wedding reception, but with the lights (also from our wedding) and the red bows, it looks Christmas-y enough. When Eldest saw what I’d done he said “How pretty! I’m so proud of you, Mummy!” Children are often good for one’s self-confidence. Although the lights don't go all the way down, it's not as noticeable in real life as in a photo, and it does look rather cosy.

 How do you prepare for Christmas? Any traditions from your country or family you’d like to share?

Monday 21 November 2016

A Paper Chain

A while back I tried making a classical paper chain, but unlike the heavy, clumsy ones we made in school, I wanted a small, dainty one.

I used 12” x 12” two-sided scrapbooking paper that I had in my stash. One sheet of paper made a 57 link chain that is approximately 59” (150 cm) long. I made two, and have not yet decided if I want to join them or not. The fact that my paper had a gingham print on one side made it easy to cut without much measuring and with no drawing at all.

Making a paper chain is really simple, but I took a step-by-step picture anyway.
-          Cut your paper into strips; mine were 5/8” (Ca 1,5 cm) wide.
-          Cut the strips into shorter lengths; I cut every strip in three, making 5/8” x 4” (about 1,5x10 cm) strips.
-          Run every strip through your fingers a few times, carefully making them curl so they won’t chink later.
-          Glue the chain together.

If you want, you can leave a strip or two, in case your chain gets broken and needs repairing – a definite possibility if you have pets or small children.

Do you decorate with paper chains? Please tell how, or share a link!

Saturday 19 November 2016

A Door Wreath for Advent

Next weekend marks the beginning of Advent, and I'm looking forward to start putting up my Advent/Christmas decorations. I have been listening to Christmas music for more than a month already, and been making several types of ornaments that I plan to share, but let's start with a welcoming door wreath that I made today.

I made the base from fresh birch branches that I twisted into a circle. Round it I attached twigs of northern white-cedar (not a native plant to Europe, but not unusual in gardens and parks), spruce and ivy, and decorated it with spruce cones. I picked everything from what was once gardens in our neighbourhood, but have stood abandoned for years. To keep everything together I used string, as it will allow me to take it apart after the holidays, and put the plant materials back into nature.

As a finishing touch I looked through my stash and found a strip of cotton fabric, in a shade of red too bright for me to be likely to use it indoors, which I wound round the wreath.

The result was rather cheerful and pretty, I think, and though the weather is very mild and often wet right now, it did raise my Christmas spirit both to make it and to see it on my door.

Do you make your own wreath (or other door decoration) or do you buy it? What's your style?

Thursday 10 November 2016

Wizarding Halloween 2016

On 31 October four families of friends joined us for our annual Halloween party. Our house was close to overflowing, with ten adults and twelve children, all born within the last five and a half years. The youngest was only a few weeks old. The dress code was “witch/wizard or Muggle”, and most chose to represent the magical community in one way or another. The number of different wands that had been procured for the occasion was rather impressive. 

I had spent the last few weeks putting up decorations here and there, beginning with out of the way things. Most of the decorations I have already blogged about (or will do so), so I’ll not go into great detail about them – if you’re interested you can follow the links to those blog posts. Here's a sort of house tour of how it looked the day of the party.

In the hall the shopping parcels from Diagon Alley where stacked nonchalantly on the window sill, next to a bowl of sweets for trick-or-treaters, and a small "Halloween tree" trimmed with bats, miniature brooms and a black cat. 

In the corner where our pram usually stands I put the broom, an umbrella, some hats and shoes. I left that area pretty empty, as I expected our guests to put their own prams there, which they did.

In the hallway on the way to the kitchen I put a pile of books - I rather liked the image of the toads and mushroom on the cover of one of them. On top of the books I put a jar of dried plants and my twig candle holder (still not sure how I like that one).

Most of the decorations were concentrated to the kitchen, as that's where we'd spend most of the time. The floating candles were up again, but instead of scattering them evenly across the ceiling, I divided them into three groups, one in the corner by the sofa, one above a cupboard and the rest over the kitchen table. I rather like how it came out. Thanks to my mother-in-law who gave me more electrical tea lights to play with :)

In front of the windows curtains of bats were flying - sorry for the poor image quality. The Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff wall hangings were also up.

In the lamp above the kitchen table I had hung various plants to dry, some with tags noting the name of the plant and when it was picked.

In the window above the sink I had a couple of magical plants, and some candles in bottles. 

The bookshelf was filled with potions ingredients, the false book spines and book covers, and a tankard with quills.

The noticeboard was full of ads, notes and flyers from various magical shops, St Mungos and so on. A few hand written letters finished off the look.

I had made new cushion covers for the throw pillows, in purple linen, and I put them on over the green checked cushion covers that was already on them, making one of many small instances of purple and green combined.

On the cupboard in the corner I placed some books, including the miniature guestbook disguised as Tinctures - the Tiny Tome, my miniature forest scene in a bell jar, more candles and our own wands

The party was, as usual, ‘bring a dish’, and the theme was “British or Wizarding”, and to accompany the Ginger Newts, green-and-purple biscuits,

and Yorkshire puddings I hade made,

we had a roast, deep fried potatoes, gravy, roast vegetables, (Little One kept picking food from my plate) 

trifle and cheesecake.

It was a very nice party, but I was very tired afterwards, and for this post being rather late, I can only blame being a bit burned out on the whole thing. But it's not yet time to leave the wizarding word behind; next week my HP-fan sister-in-law and I are going to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, something we're both looking forward to. And of course, several of the decorations and foods mentioned above I haven't posted about more in detail yet.

But that will come when it comes - now I feel ready to start posting about Christmas decorations!