The Christmas Table

Every year, around October, I start to think about how I would like our table to look on Christmas Day. I love thinking about colours, the place cards, the treat that I put on each persons place. I try to create an atmosphere that ensures that each person who sits at our Christmas table feels special and loved, and excited about the day.

In 2010 I went with an icy blue and silver look. I made personalised baubles for everyone, which were very quick and easy to do, but looked gorgeous. I just used a thin brush dipped in pva glue to write the names, and then shook fine blue glitter over the glue.

In 2011, I chose a cheery green, red and white colour scheme. I sewed up felt stockings for everyone, and placed a few fun treats inside, such as wind up toys, lip gloss, and chocolates.


2012 had a natural theme. I created a table runner using hessian bags that I bought from Bunnings, the kids and I scavenged some pine cones from the nearby golf course, and gingerbread angels lay on each persons plate. I really loved this look.

In 2013, my aim was to not buy anything new for the table setting. I limited myself to things I already had around the house and greenery that I found in the garden. I always cover my placements in gift wrap so that they match the table (Thanks Mum for that idea!), and luckily I had lots left over from previous years.

  Last year, I did a kind of Scandinavian/ foresty/ fairytale look. My Ikea hanging star light was once again put to good use, as were the green cuttings from the garden.

    This year, I am thinking of using a lot of glass, gold, copper and creams, and having an antique look to the place settings. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I always set the table on the 24th, so I have plenty of time to fiddle about with things. 

Even though I love planning and decorating our table for Christmas, I know that the most important thing is that we are all there, family and friends, together on Christmas Day. That’s what makes it special.

Bits and Pieces

chives

My mum divided her chives up and sent me home with a nice clump.

These will be lovely stirred through mashed potato.

choc chip biscuits

Choc chip biscuits making the house smell yummy for when my kids get home from school. I used this recipe.

eggshells

Egg shells sprinkled around my seedlings to keep those pesky snails away.

It’s the gardening equivalent of broken glass on the top of a brick wall to keep intruders out.

oranges

Oranges were on special this week, which is great as I’m trying to keep everyone’s Vitamin C intake up.orange bag

And I used the bag from the oranges as a scourer for the porridge pot.

Works a treat.

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Finally we have sunshine, so I’ve been washing anything that’s not tied down.

sewing basket

I need to sew these pretty flowers on to my daughters ballet costume.

Lucky I have a huge selection of cotton!

teapot flower

A few holes drilled into the bottom of  an old teapot have saved it from becoming landfill. Carmella, who writes the blog Assortment, has been talking about making do with what you have. Her words are always inspiring.

Have a lovely weekend. xx

Garage Sale Goodies

Well, I struck garage sale gold this morning. I hadn’t even planned to go, but with an hour to spare, I decided to have a quick look on Gumtree to see if there were any sales close by, and luckily for me there were two, one in the street behind our house, and the other a five minute drive away.

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These cotton reels were just some of the sewing supplies I picked up. I don’t think I will ever need to visit Spotlight again! It was like travelling through time as I looked at these treasures – baby layette patterns from the early 1900s, buttons from the 40s…the lady who had owned these had obviously been a very keen seamstress.
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These buttons remind me of the dresses and cardigans that my Nanny (grandmother) used to make for me. She always used to add specially chosen buttons to match the clothes that she had lovingly made. blue jug blue dish This Depression-ware dish sparkles like a jewel.greendishA green glass Pyrex dish with a lid that will be great for cooking vegetables in the microwave.cornishjug This Cornishware jug was only $2. Lots of crazing, but no chips.

Looks great on my dresser.hookandeyes ribbons These very old reels of ribbon are fascinating. Obviously chosen very carefully by their original owner, and probably quite expensive to purchase back then. I wonder why she never used them?dinnersetA gorgeous dinner set. I also bought the matching serving platter.Will be perfect for Christmas lunch.pot A little Bakelite (I think?) trinket box.rikrak An old biscuit tin filled with bias binding, rick rack, etc…..garden poem I have put this framed poem on my desk. It is very soothing to read.patternsLook how well worn these old patterns are.

I had such a lovely time when I got home, rummaging through all my treasures. It was like Christmas morning. Nothing cost more than a couple of dollars, so I feel that I have kept to my thrifty principles. (Well, only just!)

I think the ladies who had owned these items would be happy to know that they had ended up with someone who would love and appreciate them.

Moments in Time

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Happy Easter everyone!!

We have been having such a relaxing time of it these school holidays. After a few days away at Kangaroo Valley, we are now home again and have been very busy doing nothing much at all.

There has already been much chocolate eaten (I keep promising myself that after Easter I will start eating better!) and I suspect there will be lots more consumed before the weekend is over.

We went for a walk yesterday, to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather. The kids and Barry kicked the soccer ball, while Molly the dog and I kept a more leisurely pace, and watched the birds diving for fish in the water.

Every now and then, one small, warm hand would find it’s way into mine, and a little person would chat away to me about this and that.  I drink up these moments, realising how fleeting these early years are. When they were very little, it seemed that we would never emerge from baby/ toddlerhood. I was so consumed in the day-to-day, that it didn’t occur to me that one day we would leave this stage, never to return. I now make a point of savouring the little things- tying shoelaces, brushing hair, listening to rambling tales about their day, tucking them into bed, because what seems permanent now, is merely just a moment in time.

While walking, we were also looking for ‘the perfect branch’. One that had fallen from the tree, just the right size, spreading twigs- perfect for our Easter tree. Just when I was about to give up, I saw it, and it now stands on my kitchen dresser, festooned with ribbons, tiny birds, and coloured eggs. It makes my heart sing every time I look at it. It is just so pretty!!

Do you decorate an Easter tree?

Do you sometimes wish that you could slow down time?

Are you planning on eating too much chocolate this weekend?

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One person’s trash….

Exciting times are upon us folks….it’s council clean up week!! I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this concept, but in our city, twice a year, households have the opportunity to place their unwanted goods out the front of their house to be picked up by the council. The sort of stuff that you can’t throw out in your weekly rubbish eg. mattresses, fridges, broken toys etc etc. In amongst the genuine ‘rubbish’ are lots of perfectly good things that people no longer want or need. Hence, the treasure!!

When we were kids, ‘throw out day’ was the highlight of our year. One time my friends and I discovered a whole box of high heels. We immediately put them on (of course!) and teetered all the way home, feeling ever so glamorous. On another occasion, a discarded pram provided hours of entertainment, as we pushed each other up and down the steep hill where we lived.

I am not ashamed to say that clean up week gives me the same thrill now as it did when I was a child. I love going for a quick stickybeak around my local area to see what gems I can uncover.

Speaking of gems……

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Can you believe it?! They’re old, and gorgeous and look perfect on my dresser. I am in love! Especially with this wee fellow..

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My other find was this lantern below. Swoon!! When we (I took my kids along with me for moral support) walked around the corner, I spotted it, in the hands of a man who looked suspiciously like a second-hand dealer. He was holding it, turning it over, this way and that, while I silently willed him to put it down. Luckily my telepathy worked, and as soon as he had put it back and driven off, we swooped over and grabbed it. I gave it a wipe down and put a chunky white candle inside, and it now looks tres elegant on the table on our back verandah. Happy days!

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Over the course of the weekend, we also managed to acquire: two basketball hoops, a hot pink office chair, numerous brand new board games, a wooden garden bench, a set of vintage Christmas decorations, a Pyrex pie dish, three boogie boards, and a hand-knitted blanket. I have meticulously washed and cleaned all of these things; some I’ll keep, others I’ll donate to our local charity shop. I just hate to see waste, and I would much rather these things be given a second chance, rather than end up as landfill. It also gives me a bit of retail therapy without actually parting with any cash!

As Lucie said yesterday…”Mummy, this has been the BEST day!”

Back in the saddle again

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Well, hello again! I’ve decided to get back in the blogging saddle after a long break. It was actually this article that motivated my return, as it reminded me of why I started blogging in the first place:-

I love writing.

There are so many amazingly talented writers out there and it is easy to get discouraged. I had started a few drafts over the past few months, but they just never seemed ‘good enough’. I had forgotten about the pure joy of writing for the sake of writing.

In my work as an early childhood teacher, we are always emphasising the importance of the “process, not the product”.   When a child is doing a painting, for example, we are more interested in the skills the child is learning, and the enjoyment of the experience, rather than the finished product.

I think this approach is just as important for adults. We need to remember to go for a walk because it feels good, not because we want to lose weight. Or to play an instrument because it relaxes us, not because we expect to make a career out of it.

I love that state of flow that writing produces, where you become so immersed in the words and thoughts, that time seems to disappear.

So I’m going to make room for blogging, and concentrate on the journey, rather than the destination.

ps. How amazing is that sunset?! We were driving Lucie to ballet this afternoon, and just had to pull over to admire it. Breathtaking!

What I have learnt from Milly Molly Mandy.

We have, once again,  just finished reading Milly Molly Mandy, the children’s book about a little girl and her family, which was first published in 1925. I love reading these books to my children, as I get as much pleasure as they do (maybe more?) hearing about life in the English countryside in the 1920’s, learning about how they lived their lives, what was important to them, how they grew their own food and sewed their own clothes.

When I am feeling particularly stressed at the end of the day, I like reading about how Mother baked apple turnovers and made jam from the blackberries that Milly Molly Mandy collected. I find it soothing. It seems a long way away from paying the phone bill, updating policy manuals and doing my tax return.

I have also learnt a thing or two from these books:-

Children do not need much to be happy.

Milly Molly Mandy and her friends spend long days fishing for tadpoles, planting pumpkin seeds, making dolls, and picking blackberries.  Their parents are too busy running their farms and shops to be setting up guided play experiences for them.  They do not get driven to ballet lessons and soccer practice; they don’t have playrooms full of the latest toys or wardrobes bursting with fashionable clothes.

When they are not helping with chores or at school, they are free to explore, to learn from and to be entertained by the world around them.

They are also given a lot more responsibilities than children are nowadays. While I am not advocating a return to the work-houses, I do know that children relish being given ‘grown-up’ jobs to do. The children in Milly Molly Mandy cook onions, paint  fences, and polish the brass. These tasks all present challenges, adventures and good deal of fun.

Different generations can live quite happily and productively together.

Milly Molly Mandy lives with her Mother, Father, Uncle, Auntie, Grandmother and Grandfather in their nice white cottage with the thatched roof and “everybody…had some particular job to do-even Milly Molly Mandy”. For example, Mother cooked the dinners and washed the clothes, Grandma did the knitting, Grandpa took the vegetables to market in his pony-cart and Milly Molly Many ran errands.

While I know that this is an exaggerated version of family life in the 1920’s, it was certainly more common then than it is now. Indeed, there are many cultures today where nursing homes are unheard of, and the elderly live with their families, contributing where they can to the running of the household.

Although this is often not a viable or preferable option for many people, it would be nice to see it being encouraged and facilitated by governments through programs such as home visits by healthcare professionals and adequate carer allowances for family members.

‘Make do and mend’ is a sensible and sustainable approach to living.

In the chapter where Milly Molly Mandy is given her own bedroom, her mother and father do not drive to the nearest Ikea and pick up a brand-new, cheaply made and imported bedroom suite that is likely to fall apart within the next five years.

Instead, she keeps the bed she already has, and her Mother dyes the bedspread green “so she has a nice new bedspread”. She also dyes the curtains while she is at it. Grandpa buys a little chest of drawers from the second-hand market, which Uncle paints apple-green. He also paints the frame of an old mirror, to hang on the wall. Finally, Grandma embroiders little birds onto a linen cloth to go on top of the dresser.

Milly Molly Mandy’s bedroom is made all the more special by the love and care that has gone into creating it. Now that it is so cheap and easy to buy everything brand-new, we seem to have lost this ability to repair and refurbish. This book reminds me to think twice before I throw something away and replace it with something new – Can it be fixed? Do I already have something that I can use instead? Do I really need to replace it? If so, can I find one second-hand?

I love being able to share the stories of Milly Molly Mandy with my children, just as my own mother did with me when I was a child. Even she read them when she was young! The stories are as entertaining and relevant today as they were nearly 90 years ago.

Did you read these stories when you were young? Are there any children’s books that have taught you important life lessons? What was your favourite book as a child?