How To, Seasonal

Seasonal How to: Dress the Christmas Tree

So this is the first of my How to guides and to be perfectly honest it’ll probably be my favourite.  Dressing the Christmas tree is after all one of my favourite things to do.   I find it really therapeutic and relaxing, I do understand though that some people find it very stressful and feel they can’t seem to ‘get it right’.  With a little guidance and patience though you can achieve a lovely dressed Christmas tree without too much extra effort.

Now whether you go for the real deal or artificial the main principals of dressing the tree are the same so following the process below should have you a beautiful tree in no time at all.

Step 1:

Turn on the Christmas tunes and get your tree in position!
If it’s a real tree it’ll want a good drink of water so make sure your base has a well you can fill up and turn the tree around to find it’s best side. 
If it’s artificial be sure to spread out those branches.  It really makes a huge difference!

Step 2:

The first thing you’re going to dress the tree with are the Lights – Take them out of the box, plug them in and check all the bulbs are working.  If all is good the next thing is to take the string of lights and start at the top of the tree.  Wind the lights from side to side across the tree trying to keep as evenly spaced as possible.  If you can make the room dark do so, it makes it easier to see any big gaps so you can adjust accordingly.
I like to use 3 sets of lights on our tree; 2 sets of Warm White Cone style lights and a single string of Candle lights which give the tree a nod of traditional style.

Step 3:

Next comes the tinsel, now I’m not a huge tinsel fan but I like to use it to add depth to the tree by pushing it in towards the main trunk filling out any gaps between the branches and giving colour further into the tree.  I think this gives a much nicer effect than swaging it all over the tree. 

Step 4:

Beads – I use some lovely chunky bead strings on our tree (they’re about half and inch diameter beads.)  They are draped around the tree in the same way you do the lights.  I find the beads add colour and a sense of luxury without over powering the tree.  

Step 5:

Flowers – Now again this might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love to use flowers on the Christmas tree.  I have sprigs of artificial Blossom, Mistletoe and some miscellaneous with butterflies.  Be sure to place these throughout the tree, ensuring they stick out enough to be seen overhanging the edges of the tree. 

Step 6:

Next come the Large Fabric Bows – I use wired ribbon for these as they hold their shape beautifully.  I’ve chosen a lovely white ribbon with a gorgeous scrolling tree detail also in white.  I use only a few placed sparsely over the tree.

Step 7:

This is the best bit, the baubles! When it comes to placing the baubles take your time and place them by size and colour combinations.  Larger baubles towards the bottom of the tree and smaller ones towards the top.  If you use sets of baubles try and make sure you space them out equally and if you can don’t place two of the same colour shape or size right next to each other otherwise it can look unbalanced.  Also don’t forget the tree is a 3D thing and the sides and back will need the same attention as the front.  Make sure the decorations aren’t all hung on just the ends of branches, create layers to add to that depth of decoration.  Step back away from the tree from time to time to check the balance of ornaments is right.  Another thing I always try to do is make sure my favourite baubles are in view from my favourite seat too!

Step 8:

The fairy! – No tree can be deemed dressed until it has a topper.  In our house we have Fairies and the one for our main tree is absolutely beautiful.  She’s always the very last decoration to adorn our tree.

Step 9:

Finish off with a beautiful tree skirt to complete the look!

There you have it, a beautifully dressed tree perfect for Father Christmas to leave your presents under on Christmas Eve!

Now as this is Georges 1st Christmas and 80% of our baubles are very fragile Glass ones with deep sentimental value we have chosen to baby proof the tree this year.  We have done this by way of a wooden play pen and it’s fantastic! Tree looks great and George loves having free reign still and being able to get close without touching it!

Baby proofed! We have pretty much 90% Glass baubles so for safetys sake the Wooden Play pen is a MUST!
Seasonal

Christmas Traditions

So its nearly time for the tree to come down from the attic, the lights to be detangled and the spirit of Christmas to take over the house.  I really do love this time of year and one thing in particular is all the traditions that come with it.  As a child you often don’t realise just how special some of these things, that seems a little silly at the time, actually are!  Before I had the children I used to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve however with little ones in tow that isn’t so practical anymore.  We do however strive to keep up as many traditions as we can and also create some new ones!

So I’m going to share with you some of our Christmas Traditions and maybe it will inspire you to start some new ones too!

  • Decorating the Tree – This is definitely my most selfish tradition…. only Mummy is allowed to dress the main trees.   You see the problem is I appear to suffer with the seasonal “illness” of so called “Perfect Ornament Placement Disorder” meaning that I deem no one else capable of decorating the main trees to the perfect standards I expect and love. No little mittens shall be getting involved with the precious glass ornaments here! Now YES this is SELFISH and YES Christmas is meant to be all about the children and in every other way it is but please don’t despair at me yet! I have solved the unfairness of the “P.O.P.D” issue by providing each child with their very own 2ft tree that they can decorate in any way they see fit and Mummy won’t get involved (promise!) unless they ask for help of course! 
    This tree dressing tradition has been ongoing ever since I got my own home and it’s one that sadly for anyone else is not going change anytime soon! #sorrynotsorry !
One of my “P.O.P.D” Christmas Trees
  • Miniature Village  – This tradition was started by my Auntie Ann who adored Christmas just as much if not more so than I do.  Her house was always filled to the brim with Christmas decorations and her Christmas Village scene was always amazing!  I began my collection when I got my own home and now have amassed rather a large amount of Lilliput lane cottages.  I love creating my Christmas Village and I try to make it different each year. This is also a very important tradition I would like in time to pass on to my children.
Christmas Village scene
  • A New Bauble/Decoration – This is a Tradition that started between my Mother and I when I got my own house.  We buy each other a new tree/Christmas decoration every year, the challenge is generally trying to find something to fit our strict colour schemes! (I do believe Mother has the same “P.O.P.D” as me but she just isn’t as reactive as I am!) 
    I really love this tradition because I just love bauble/decoration shopping, and this gives me the perfect excuse to usually find some more for us too!  Over the past few years I have started buying my eldest a decoration each year for his tree too and I hope in time he will also continue on this tradition.  Georges 1st Christmas will see him receive his own special tree and 1st Christmas Bauble which I had handmade especially for us by Dudley & Roo.
George’s 1st Christmas Decoration – Picture Credit Dudley & Roo
  • Chocolate Tubs/Tins – So this is a special and very dear tradition to me, one I remember as a child and one I am making sure my children will always continue.  My Grandad George started this tradition and it is now impossible for me to not do it!  Roses or Quality Street it doesn’t matter which but it has to be the big round/hexagonal tubs. 
    So the tradition goes that you take the tub of sweets and before anyone is allowed to eat a single chocolate you have to tip the entire contents out onto a table or better still the floor and sort them into their different varieties.  Once you’ve sorted them only then can you select only 3 chocolates you would like to eat.  Once you’ve made your choices you then have to mix all the other chocolates back up and put them back in the tub ready for next time. 
    Now I’m almost certain Grandad made this up just so I wouldn’t sit there eating all the sweeties but I’m so very pleased he did.  It is one of my fondest memories of him and of family Christmases when I was young.  It is so important to me hat this is done each time you open the sweets tub in our house and regardless of if you’re guest or not you’ll be obliged to join in too!
Roses Chocolates – Picture Credit Amazon
  • Chocolate Gold Coins – This is another Grandad tradition, when I was little he used to hide chocolate gold coins all about my Mum & Dads house when he came to visit so I could go off and find them! Such a nice little treat to do when visiting friends or family with young children around Christmas time (just be careful if they have dogs that they are shut out or that the chocolate is safely out of their reach and of course ask Mum & Dads permission first!)
Gold Chocolate Coins – Picture Credit Amazon
  • Films – Ok so this is a bit more of a vague tradition but over the Christmas period I will always watch all the Harry Potter films and The Polar Express even if the kids aren’t interested!
Harry Potter DVD Boxset – Picture Credit Amazon
The Polar Express DVD – Picture Credit Amazon
  • Christmas Eve – So far we’ve stuck to the fairly traditional plate with a Carrot for the Reindeer with a Mince Pie and Schooner of Port for Santa (as rumour has it Santa prefers Port to Whiskey if you know what I mean, wink wink). We also hang up Santa’s special key and some years ago we also left Sparkly Reindeer food outside too (although at the time we didn’t realise just how harmful those glittery mixes were so we’ll definitely be searching for an Eco wildlife friendly version in future!).  Now unfortunately Santa was a bit heavy handed a few years ago and broke his special key to our house so this year we had Dudley& Roo make us a lovely new one that we hope Santa will look after a bit better!
    This year we are looking into doing Christmas Eve Boxes as this seems to be a really sweet idea that’s very on trend at the moment.  I love the idea of the kiddies having a surprise little token pre-present and lovely new Christmas themed bedtime story with a mug of Hot Chocolate and maybe even some Lebkuchen, who knows the possibilities are endless! I found these lovely ones from Seth & Noah.
Seth & Noah Christmas Eve Boxes – Picture Credit Seth & Noah
  • Present Opening – Tradition for us is this is done first thing in the morning but not before 6:30am! I have two rules after that the first being; I get a coffee before we even start and the second; that before you move onto opening the next present you let me make a note of who bought you it otherwise the thank you cards can go VERY wrong!
Coffee 1st – Polar Bear Mug
  • Crackers – In our house you simply can’t have Christmas dinner without pulling a cracker first!  We try and go for ones with useful things inside rather than cheap plasticcy things that are of no use nor ornament! I’ll be on the look out for more Eco-friendly ones this year, maybe even some Charity ones. I found these Mistletoe ones at Graham & Green!
Set of 6 Mistletoe Eco Christmas Crackers – Photo Credit Graham & Green
  • The Food – Again we’ve always kept things very traditional and cooked either Turkey or Goose, my personal favourite being the Goose.  I always make sure we buy local meat and last year ordered a fantastic Christmas Meat Hamper from Simpsons.   No Christmas day meal is complete without a Christmas Pud despite no one else in the house liking it! I have to have one and I love the whole tradition of setting the Pud on fire and making a wish before the flame dies out. Granted this can go wrong in so many ways (and on the odd occasion it has, setting light to not only myself but the kitchen too!) but it simply wouldn’t be Christmas any other way!
Goose Christmas Dinner – Picture credit ukgamefair.wordpress.com
  • The Queens Speech – Now I am a Royalist and I am extremely proud of our English Heritage. For me the Queens Speech is the calm amongst the crazy of Christmas day and I love the tradition of everyone gathering together after dinner with a coffee or sherry and watching the Queen address the nation. Very humbling.
The Queens Speech – Picture credit the Express
  • Christmas Supper – Traditional Turkey and Mayonasie sandwiches! Nothing else will do!
Turkey & Mayonnaise sandwich – Picture credit Allsandwiches.com

So those are just a few of our families traditions, if you’ve got an interesting family Christmas tradition please let me know!

Seasonal

HALLOWEEN

Ok so I promised a Halloween blog post and here it is, in all its glorious ghoulishness!
halloween lettering copy
Halloween at our house is as big an occasion as Christmas, it is HUGE! We love the fact that we can do something special for all the neighbourhood children and scare a few of the grown-ups along the way!

We spend at least a day dressing the outside of the house with all manner or scary props and then on Hallows eve the floodgates open and the entire neighbourhood is filled with ghosts, ghouls, zombies, werewolves, spiders and everything equally scary!

Our exterior decorations have grown over the years, we started out with just a few bits like cobwebs and do not enter tape we bought at the likes of Wilkinsons etc but our first significant purchase was “Bones”.  He is our static life sized ghoul who holds a steaming goblet which changes colour. My partner bought an outfit to match and so the pair of them stand at the front of the house. One obviously isn’t going to move but the other will and my goodness he’s made some people jump over the years! We’ve added to Bones by way of a few floating ghosts which come to life when they hear a sound so again, when Bones and my partner are stood still they are silent but when the Trick or Treaters knock on the door they come to life and are quite terrifying! We have bubbling cauldrons, skeleton dogs and cats, bats and gravestones.   Another thing we tend to do is open the door VERY loudly and quickly, again this is something most people don’t expect, and even those returning year upon year don’t seem to remember and they jump!

Vampire Costume
Inflatable wings Vampire costume

My eldest has been a number of different devilish things for Halloween; A werewolf, the scream character, but my favourite was a vampire with inflatable wings! Super cute!  Now he’s nearly a teenager he’s gone off the idea of going out trick or treating (apparently it’s not cool!) so no doubt this year he’ll just be joining in the sweet eating at home!

My outfit is custom made by my fair hands! I created a corpse bride outfit made from a second hand wedding dress purchased from ebay! I absolutely LOVE it and have roamed the streets with my son on many a hallows eve! Face and body painted the lot!  I adore Tim Burtons the Corpse bride and I can’t wait till George is big enough so I can wear my outfit and do it all over again!!!

Our pumpkin carving is also a huge event in our house and generally involves the entire kitchen being taken over with carving tools, buckets and drills etc. My partner favours a more mechanical technique, a Dremel, for carving intricate designs, I prefer the more traditional approach but I must admit I was tempted last year to give the Dremel a try! We’ve done some lovely designs over the years, granted none of us will win a turner prize but I think they’re great.

We hand pick our Pumpkins from Maxeys Farm Shop Pumpkins, their pumpkin field is phenomenal! They make complete event of it with Pumpkin Bouncy castles, a BBQ, even a Halloween Shop.  Their Pumpkins are great, very reasonably priced and the fun really is in the picking!

All our carved pumpkins stand pride of place outside the front of the house cordoned off so no one can get burned by the candles. I also like to make a mean Pumpkin soup with the leftover carvings too!

Halloween is such a great night! Living on such a large estate I love that it starts off slowly with the really little ones who are just adorable in their cute Halloween outfits (We’ve already got George a few outfits including a Pumpkin, Ghostbuster and my favourite Harry Potter even though he won’t be going out this year!) We always try to be as friendly and inviting as we can with the little ones as we don’t want to absolutely terrify them BUT as the night goes on the mood generally gets scarier and scarier until all that’s left are the teenagers and in the end they usually poop their pants too!

We’ve hosted neighbourhood parties on Halloween which included apple bobbing contests and other games but after the marauding masses subside it’s our Halloween tradition that as a family we always have Hotdogs, cake and sweeties! It’s a tradition that I love and will continue to do with my children (and in lots of time hopefully grandchildren) as long as I am able!

When it comes to the Trick or Treats we always opt for treats and usually end up spending a small fortune on Sweet shop favourites such as Drumstick Lollies, Refreshers etc etc.

So when it comes to Halloween get your best scary outfit on, and have a great time!

Be safe, take a grown up and our main rule is ONLY knock on the houses with Pumpkins – Those are the ones who want to join in the fun!