Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas Home

One of my favourite parts about Christmas is decorating the house in celebration of one of the loveliest times of the year. I change elements of it each year but the essentials stay the same; a tree, the nativity, candles and ornaments, an advent calendar, a wreath or greenery of some kind. I start late, add slowly and I really enjoy it. 

Since we moved down here almost three years ago, we've always bought our tree from a local garden centre that I favour for the simple reason that I know they stock pink poinsettias, which I absolutely adore and are hard to find. We did not mean to buy such a big tree. It didn't look that big in the garden centre, honestly.

I bought a Christmas tree skirt this year and I really like the way it finishes and frames the tree. I worried that Ziggy might chew the wicker but no, he's ignored it for the fairy lights and decorations. 

After a few breakages, all baubles have been moved to high branches out of reach, and all the really precious decorations (ie anything the children have made) remain out of harm's way in the loft, but still. It's been challenging. But, after lots of firm "no!"s he is slowly getting the message. Or more likely he's just grown bored of the tree.  

I've strung fairy lights around the living room window and trailed some outdoor lights through all the shrubs in the front border. I never used to see the point of outdoor lights at Christmas - all that expense, all that climbing about on ladders, all that electricity - but I am slowly being converted. There is something very cheering about arriving home in the dark to all that sparkling light and the promise of warmth within.

Just give me another year, and it'll be full-on National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation style. Our sixties house is not blessed with the kind of festive features that look so pretty at this time of year; I have no wooden front door, painted in Farrow & Ball colours or otherwise, from which to hang an evergreen wreath; the four metre wide windows are hard to dress with fairy lights; there is no potted Christmas tree on my doorstep, only a couple of dead dahlias. But fairy lights make everything pretty. 

I also added a few lights to the advent calendar, although this photo was taken last week and there are a sparse seven parcels left on it now. (Today's gift, Christmas socks, was a huge hit with both kids which was rather lovely.)

This year's advent calendar has been the most popular yet. Bella and Angus have developed an almost civilised rota of who's turn it is to cut down the parcel and open it, and I think they've genuinely loved it. The other rather sweet surprise has been how much they still enjoy playing with the little wooden nativity scene. I remember buying this when Bella was tiny and hoping it would be something that would get used and touched, not just sit on a shelf looking beautiful, and that it would stay with us as a family through the years. 

Of course I had the most fun faffing around with the mantel. You knew I would, didn't you?

I love how the two indoor wreaths look up there. Hanging anything square or rectangular on that asymmetrical chimney breast is problematic, but circles seem to work. 

I tried to stick to a fairly minimal colour palate. Lots of white with a little red and green.

The round shelf in the dining room was given a little wintry dressing too, with fairy lights that usually live in our bedroom and trimmings from the tree. 

I very much like this shelf, I think it's one of my favourite things and changing the displays with the seasons is so much fun.

I spent a lovely night - I think it was last Sunday night - writing my Christmas cards in front of the fire. John was out, the kids were in bed, Ziggy was asleep, and it was just me and the TV (with full control of the remote, winner) and a cup of tea.

I know that writing Christmas cards is a chore, but I am so happy every time I receive one, that I don't mind sending them too. It's the one time of the year when you actually get nice post. 

I also have a bit of a thing about Christmas stamps. They make me happy.

Despite all this twinkly prettiness and festive industriousness, I have found it hard to find my usual Christmas spirit this year. It's nothing major, just that I am very tired and have, for the last three weeks, been fighting off a lingering cold/virus that has sapped my energy and left me looking and feeling washed out. In Hampshire, we don't break up for Christmas until next Thursday which is much too close to Christmas for my liking. I have come to rely on that week between finishing work and Christmas Day to get jobs done - wrap gifts, last minute shopping etc - but more importantly to slow down and enjoy spending some time alone with the kids, doing things like making gingerbread or paper chains, something relaxing. But this year, it will feel rushed. On Friday I will clean the house and await the food shop (I'm so impressed with myself for actually remembering to book a delivery slot this year) and bake, and on Saturday family come to stay. 

So, no slow pottering this year, or at least not until after Christmas, but I went to a carol service tonight and that was just wonderful. I do love a good sing. Today I baked and baked (teacher gifts, mince pies, birthday cake) and we have been watching all the Christmas films and TV and I've had Christmas music on repeat at home and in the car so I am trying really hard. I think I just need to slow down, but that's virtually impossible in December, especially when your daughter turns eleven tomorrow and you have balloons that need to be blown up and a cake to ice....

Stay sane lovely people. If you have found that elusive Christmas balance, then please share your secret.


  1. Your home looks beautiful and you are so organised. Schools here don't break up until 2 30 pm on Friday so I will try and get my food shopping before then. Enjoy time with your family and then have some chill time. Catriona

  2. it all looks so good, that is the most unusual and wonderful Advent calendar I've ever seen, just love it.

  3. I love your decorations--simple and beautiful. My adult daughter and I are trying to find a way to celebrate a season we both love, while dealing with the realities of life in the US. We don't have a tree (first time) but we have lots of light--Ikea supplied wonderful pierced paper 3-D lighted stars that are hanging in our front window, and we've enjoyed making small scenes in different places in the house. I cut out a flowered reindeer from a magazine and put it together, and somehow that scene, with candles and a bit a greenery, catches my eye and makes me happy.
    I wish life were not so difficult for everyone right now, but I do take comfort in narrowing down to what really matters to me--light and greenery and the people I love. And my connection to my past--I made 3 absurd candle holders from mason jars, glue, Epsom salts, and small led candles, which connects me to my mother's wonderful home-made Christmas decorations and gifts. And they are actually quite pretty! Please know that the efforts you are making now to create lovely memories will be remembered. Best regards, Kate in Oregon

  4. Looking beautifully festive... love the little bristle tree in the red pot on your mantle. I too love the writing of Christmas cards-and the satisfying pile with matching stamps when they are all done! The festivities have come slowly in our house this year as I have had that horrible virus, but I am determined to enjoy this week. A week of cooking and finishing the prechristmas clean! Oh, and the pre-Christmas emptying of the ironing basket...

  5. Your decorations always look beautiful, not just now for Christmas, of course. Usually, this is the only time of year when I really feel like decorating, but not so this year; I have been too busy, too tired, too little time at home. But although it does not sound like it, I really am in full Christmas mode - especially now that it has snowed again and looks really pretty out there.
    All presents are there, I only need to wrap them and will most likely do that on the morning of the 24th, just before going to my parents' for Christmas Eve (when we exchange our presents here in Germany).
    Work is keeping me busy right up until Friday afternoon, and I am still in two minds about working between Christmas and New Year, but definitely have the first week of January off.

  6. Lovely post. I think the stress of Christmas is there when you have a lovely family. And therefore two sides of the same coin. I have a stress free time, but that reflects Dan growing up, parents no longer here and brother in Australia. So see it as a reflection of the joy around you. (Does that sound like lecturing
    , sorry). And Thank you for sharing your lovely Christmas with us. X

  7. I love your Christmas decorations and hope that Ziggy is indeed losing interest in the tree. At is a pain when they are after it all the time. For the first time this year I find myself hankering for a little bit more simplicity in my devorations, bit of a departure from my usual 'more is more' attitude! I also agree on the outside lights. I personally love the. But there is no way I'm getting ladders and such out so I've also gone with the lighted windows look. Why on earth didnt I think of it before? I also want to do the outside tree thing but they are so expensive! Maybe next year, although I've said that for about 3 years now!

    S x

  8. Lovely tree and decorations, Gillian. I've not been well so am all behind, but will get there - baked the cake yesterday, but it will be ready for Chirstmas. I like your simple, non-gaudy decorations. We have just a tree, plus a garland over the mirror above the mantelpiece, plus cards and flowers and fruit. I always find it hard getting fired up for Christmas but perhaps that is because I've seen rather too many of them now I'm into my 70s. But it's lovely getting out the decorations and seeing the only one left from our first Christmas as a newly-wed couple in 1964, the decoration which - then - cost me a small fortune, all of five shillings!!!
    Margaret P

  9. I am sorry you feel rushed off your feet Gillian and hope you can slow down soon. When cleaning the house, stick to the main thoroughfares and use gentle lighting, hides dust bunnies very effectively :-) Your house looks lovely, very festive and calm and I can imagine slumping on your armchair with the pink cushion and read a good book, or maybe just gaze into middle distance. I love your style and keep hoping that some will rub of on me. We are baking Lebkuchen today, teacher presents, I look forward to this. Have a lovely week xx

  10. Your house looks beautiful. I hope you find some time to slow down and it's not all too much of a rush. I share your views on cards and look forward to the post each day at this time of year.

  11. I understand how you feel. I hope you can slow down very soon. It's just hard when there is so much going on. Your house looks really great, your taste in Christmas decor is terrific. I had hoped to get a pink poinsettia this year myself but I can't find one now, I waited too long. They had only red and that weird white with red veins when I tried to buy one over the weekend. Maybe they'll bring back pink ones this week. I'm enjoying my amaryllis bulb, though, hope to see that bloom in the next few weeks.

  12. It all looks lovely Gillian. I'm working quiet a lot over the festive period but I'm lucky to get Christmas day it's self off, and doubly lucky to be invited to family for the day so no cooking :0)
    Hope you have a joyful and relaxed family time.
    Jacquie x

  13. Thanks for the lovely Christmas decorative post & it makes me smile. I seem to think this year has been hard for so many trying to find the seasonal spirit for many reasons, some unknown & some from being so busy. Hope you can relax of the holiday period with family & friends. Take care, happy Xmas & New Year to all.

  14. How beautiful your mantel is looking. Calm, serene and pretty. Carol service here tonight as well, and another day of school tomorrow for the littlest boy. The other two finished on Friday, much to his fury. Well done on the civilised opening of the advent parcels. Here there has been much drama over who opens the window, who lights the candle and who blows it out. I kid you not. It has taken the entire mealtime to restore peace on occasion. Lots of work still to do here as well before Christmas, or at least before the end of the month. Heaven knows when once the littlest boy finishes school, there will be no peace to be had. But of course it will all get done somehow. Very impressed that you have a tree and a puppy, well done you. Enjoy the rest of the week. CJ xx

  15. Hello,

    Thank you for your lovely blog. I read it every time you post. Could you tell me where you circular shelf is from? I looked back over lots of posts to see if you mentioned it, but I can’t see it! Thank you and happy Christmas,


    1. Hi Claire. It's the Round Dorm Shelf by Ferm Living.

      Gillian. X

  16. Your Advent Calendar is so clever! Today I finished the gingerbread house decorated by the family and am now calling it a "rustic" gingerbread house.Your decorations are lovely. Very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Deborah

  17. Hi Gillian,

    I hope the final week before Christmas you get to slow down a little! I'm like you, I have found it hard this year to get into the Christmas spirit. However, it always seems the final week I just seem to chill a little bit more. Crochet, mulled wine and cheesy Christmas films this week for me!

    Have a super Christmas, and I hope that the New Year brings lots of happiness and creativity. I, as always, will so look forward to reading about it!

    Take care

    Vanessa xxx

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