Thursday, December 29, 2011

Montreal at Christmas

A rosy warm glow of red and orange lights covering the trees and flowing down McGill College Avenue in Montreal.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let There Be Light

Even though the shortest day of the year is behind us, there are still lots of long dark nights yet to come. So why not bring a little light into the house with votives that you can design yourself?

To begin, all you need is a clear glass votive and a tea light, along with a selection of plain or patterned papers. Once you've selected a paper, cut a rectangle to the size of your votive and allow a little extra for overlapping. Wind around the votive and glue the overlap down.

These votives were covered with Japanese origami paper whose flecks of fiber become evident when lit by candlelight. Origami paper comes in such a wide selection of colours and prints that the only difficulty you might encounter is limiting yourself to just one. So rather than make just one, perhaps you'd like to make a coordinating set of votives in similar or contrasting colours and patterns.

This plain white paper, slightly thicker than bond paper but thinner than card stock, looks lovely when various shapes are punched in to let out the light.

A metallic finish was created by using a piece of kraft paper, then swirling and rubbing metallic paints across the surface, then going over the whole with a coat of dark brown shoe polish cream.

The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination. And this a is quick and clever way to instantly create votives that coordinate with any table setting you might come up with.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Indulge in a Tasty Treat

Now that Christmas is done, take some time to relax and enjoy all that baking that you did in preparation for the big day, or the baking you may have received. Whichever the case, indulge yourself with a plateful and a nice hot drink, a good book and either a cosy fire to nice view to the outside. The point being, to rest and relax a little and treat yourself.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Last-Minute Decorating

Here are some ideas for quick and really easy last-minute decorating. Each of these ideas can be achieved in minutes, and hopefully you can find most of the materials around your home.

This natural looking design is achieved by using only plant material... whatever you can gather from your garden or by trimming bits from your Christmas tree. A few evergreen boughs, some pine cones, and then if you have them... some twig and moss balls. If you don't have either of these balls you can substitute something else, perhaps a few bare branches or some berries. Try to find a container that has a similar natural feel to it.

This arrangement also has a natural feel to it but is a little more colourful thanks to the addition of the red berries, and pine cones that have been painted white. The birch branches add another shot of white and the red is emphasized by using the red container.

The absolute easiest of the three options, is as simple as finding a glass container and adding some Christmas balls.

The tone is set by the colours you choose, either a festive mix that contrasts nicely, or by going for an elegant monochrome choice.

If you have different shapes and textures in your colour range, they can add additional interest to your display. Whatever you choose, it would be hard to come up with something easier than this almost instant but snazzy display.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thrift Shop Find of the Week

When I saw these old hand-knit socks with their bright cheery red at a thrift shop, I knew right away that they would somehow be used during Christmas. So I "socked" them away in the basement with the rest of my Christmas decorations until it was time to decorate the house for the holidays.

It didn't take long to come up with an idea of how to use them this year. I stuffed them with cedar and pine cones, some cinnamon sticks and candy canes and then attached a ribbon to hang them. A very quick decoration and so informal and fun. Maybe next year they will be filled as stockings for someone, but who knows...

Quick Christmas Cards

If you find that you've run out of Christmas cards, and just need a few more, don't go out a buy a whole box, consider making some.

These two designs are deceptively simple and just require paper, some glue, and a little strategic cutting.

Fold a piece of paper in two to make a card, then trace half a star (or half a tree) along the fold. Cut out around the shape, but do not cut at the fold. Then using the cut-out shape, trace around the star onto a contrasting paper, this time tracing a whole star. Cut out the star. Open the card up and glue the contrasting star onto the first star.

Open the card, making sure that the star is bent so that it sticks away from the card. Your card is done!

Follow the same instructions for this card, except, instead of cutting and gluing the whole tree shape in contrasting paper to the inside of the card, cover the whole of the right-hand side of the card in a contrasting paper. Your tree will then become half one paper, and half the other.

If you have edging scissors, you can cut a decorative edge along the side of the card.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thrifty Birch Bark Candles

After blogging on December 8th about my idea of how to get more out of candles by hollowing out a space to use replaceable tea lights, I saw another version of my idea using birch branches. They were for sale at a local Christmas Farmers' Market.

I think these look very elegant and I love that they will never burn down and have to be thrown out. And if you're handy with tools, you can make them yourself.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vintage Ornaments

Vintage ornaments can be so lovely and with their delicate colours, these are so pretty and feminine.

While it can take quite some time to find enough old ornaments to be able to decorate a tree from head to toe in vintage, the hunt is half the fun. By staying on the look-out throughout the year, you can add to your collection whenever you come across them and when the price is right.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Place Cards

Even when there are small numbers, having place cards as part of your table decor can elevate a dinner to an occasion. And what better time than at Christmas to take a few minutes to place a card with a person's name at each setting? It makes everyone feel just a little special.

There are endless ways to personalise each setting, some requiring a little more time and effort (like buying a small gift for each person and wrapping it), but some of these ideas take only minutes and can be done even at the last minute.

Cutting a slip of paper, writing on the person's name, and slipping it between the tips of a pinecone is fast and easy. If you wish, you can take the time to paint the tips of the cone or add a little glitter.

If you have access to a birch tree, select a branch that is about an inch in diameter and saw small segments into tiny logs. Cut a slot along the top, write your card in contrasting coloured paper, and slide the place card into the slot.

If you are baking, you can monogram an icing initial onto a cookie for each person as a delicious and ready-to-eat place card.

Three small candy canes can be used to support a name card.

Just tie them together with a ribbon to create a tiny stand.

Small Christmas balls can be pressed into service with ribbon threaded through the metal loop and tied in a bow to hold a place card in place.

Small fruits such as mandarine oranges become place card holders with the insertion of two old-fashioned hair pins.

Push the hair pins through the rind until only the loops are still visible, positioning one directly in front of the other. Then, simply guide the name card through the middle of the wire loops.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Take a Moment

With Christmas just a week away it's a good time to take a break from the chaos and bustle of getting ready for the holidays.

So step back from the mad shopping and all the items on your list to take a moment to enjoy a hot chocolate or some other soothing drink. Take the time to make it a little special, perhaps add a cinnamon stick or candy cane, froth some milk to drizzle across the top. Then sit down to drink it leisurely.

Spend those precious moments to slow down and catch your breath. Pause to consider what truly needs to be done and what isn't really all that important. It will help you gain perspective and set you back on the right path for the coming days.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gift Tags

Gift tags are one of those things you often forget to buy and only remember once faced with a wrapped gift. But they are such an easy thing to make. If you have blank tags, then it is as simple as drawing on a design with pastels, as above.

Simply gluing on a spare button makes a gift tag that is, well... cute as a button.

If you have a little more time, you can get out some markers and create something that is slightly more elaborate but still light-hearted. Best of all, you can match the tag to the giftwrap.

The key is not to stress. Almost any small scrap of paper can become a gift tag. Everyone knows about cutting up old Christmas cards to make gift tags, but any interesting paper can be used. Soaps often have beautifully designed wrappers so they are good candidates. Look around at the packaging on things you have at hand, and see what you can re-use as gift tags.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Pomanders were used centuries ago to sweeten the air with the delicious scent of citrus and cloves. To make these lovely old-fashioned decorations, first pierce the skin with a skewer and then press a whole clove into the fruit's rind. You can experiment with various patterns. I have used oranges, clementines and lemons for variety.

If you would like to keep the fruit for years, cover the entire fruit in cloves and place in a bag with some orris root powder. Shake the fruit until it is evenly coated with the powder and remove. I have an orange that I made in this manner over ten years ago and it has dried beautifully. You can also give your pomanders a dusting of cinnamon powder for added scent.

Gathered in a bowl or hung by a ribbon, they are a traditional and natural way of adding festive touches to your Christmas decorating.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Card Display

Once the Christmas cards start to arrive the question of how to display them comes to the forefront. Maybe you'll tape them around a window or door frame, or stand them along the mantle. Perhaps you'll gather them in a basket or tape them to a ribbon and run them down a wall.

Or you could try something a little different, using that classic toy from 1945... the slinky! Tape one end to a surface and stretch it out and tape the other side down, then place cards between the spirals.

Or twist the slinky into a circle and tape the ends together to make a circle, then place cards all around. If you want to make the circle larger, wrap the slinky around a glass ball or bowl (which you can fill with pine cones, cranberries or Christmas decorations) for a table centerpiece.