Christmas Traditions

circle of herbs hanging from red ribbon

This morning, the house is quiet and unadorned, apart from a tiny circle of bay, thyme and rosemary that hangs in the kitchen so that I don’t have to search for herbs in the dark outside.


Later, I shall get out the boxes of decorations, arrange the nativity scene and slot together the candle fuelled chiming angels. If I can find all the bits. Mistletoe, holly and ivy will be gathered, the Christmas tree dragged inside and the house decorated while listening to carols from Kings College, Cambridge.

Many people might sniff at the naffness of the chiming angels and think that Christmas Eve is far too late to start decorating the house, but I like the family traditions that we’ve built up over the years. They change a little each year but provide a sort of certainty in life that’s needed more than ever in this year of nastiness in politics and social media along with the harrowing stories of flooding in this country and bushfires in Australia.

Wherever you are and whatever your traditions, I hope that you can have a Happy Christmas and wish you a Peaceful New Year.


December Diary

As usual, December has passed in a blur and find myself surprised that Christmas Day is just over a week away. How did that happen?

 Have been trying to find balance between keeping Decorations Barn look reasonably full against not having to carry over too much stock to next year. Shelves looking a little bare but not as empty as Christmas Tree Barn, which has very few trees left (hurrah!).

Very glad to see back of dancing, singing moose from Decorations Barn. Fun to see reaction of customers who walked close enough to trigger moose to wiggle his hips and sing Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells Rock but a little wearing when children worked out how to activate him. Again and again. Suspect family who bought him may have already unplugged him several times. Perversely, rather miss his singing now he’s gone. A little.

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 Called the bluff of all the witty customers who saw the sign outside

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 and asked for gin wreath. Not a wreath to hang on the front door if it is to stay intact.

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Reached sparkle and glitter saturation and cut foliage for making natural wreaths. Cut back thyme that had grown leggy and tied woody growth into loose knot to make tiny wreaths. Added extra herbs to make wreath bouquet garni to hang in kitchen and save traipsing outside in cold and wet.

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Decided to entertain two-year old with printing. Made great mess with rubber stamps and ink. Used excess ink on hands to make thumbprint robin prints. Took longer to clear up than do the printing and rather regretted not using washable ink.

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Buoyed with success of autumnal stationery printing, decided to make and decorate Fold & Send Mail letters for Christmas. Subsequently, enjoyed time sitting quietly in the evenings writing letters. Even received letter in reply. Forgot how good it is to get handwritten letters instead of email and texts. Got carried away and masqueraded as Father Christmas. Thankfully, received no reply to that letter so won’t have to attempt sleigh ride and slide down chimney.

Realised that last gift ordering dates imminent and house has no Christmas decorations up. Searched out checklist for Christmas dinner. Wondered if time has come (after twenty years) to change slightly.  Continue to wonder.

Plenty of time to decide.


How to Make a Country Style Christmas Wreath

At this time of year, it’s good to take time out from the frantic Christmas rush and clear your head. My favourites are to get out into the fresh air and to do something creative, so what better than taking a pair of secateurs and snipping some greenery to make a Christmas wreath.

While I greatly admire the glory and perfection of a florist’s wreath, I’m more than happy with a simple, country style wreath using foraged plants. I don’t mind if it’s a little wonky and isn’t made with the season’s must have flowers, as it’s as much about the gathering and making as it is about the finished wreath.

 

Make a rustic Christmas Wreath

 

If you’d like to make a country style foraged Christmas wreath, here’s what to do.

 

making Christmas wreath with fresh foliage

HOW TO MAKE A CHRISTMAS WREATH

BASE

Cut a few willow whippy branches of willow and twist and twine them together to make a circle. Tie them with string if you think your circle might spring apart. Alternatively, buy a wire ring which has the advantage of being round and won’t fall to pieces.

GREENERY

The trimmings from your Christmas tree are excellent foliage for your wreath. I presume you trim and shape your Christmas tree? Snip a little off the back to make it fit close to the wall? Prune back any wayward branches? Haven’t you read our tips at Slamseys Journal for decorating your Christmas tree? Some people worry about cutting anything off their tree, but I always do, just to give it a good shape. Also, the offcuts are very useful.

As well as your Christmas tree trimmings, cut some holly, ivy, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme or anything green about 20 – 30 centimetres long. The larger your base, the longer your stems will need to be.

Binding foliage for country style Christmas wreath

Using florists wire, bind the greenery to your base. Place a few stems on the base, wind the wire around to hold them firm and then lay the next stems on top to hide the wire and continue to wind the wire round the stems and base, working your way around the circle. When you get back to the beginning, gently lift the heads of the first stems, bind the final stems and then drop the first heads back down to cover the wire. Cut and secure the end of the wire.

DECORATIVES

Collect some pretty seed heads, berries (fake or real), fruit, feathers, baubles or anything else that takes your fancy and poke and weave them into the wreath by slipping them under the wire. If you can’t do this, wire them in separately or stick them on with a hot glue gun. This is the chance to cover any bits of wire that may be showing.

FINISHING OFF

Choose how you want to hang your wreath. Are you decorating it with a ribbon? Will the ribbon hang at the top or the bottom? Decisions, decisions. Either wind the ribbon around and tie a bow or make a ribbon bow and attach it to the wreath with wire or glue. If your ribbon is at the bottom, make a hanging loop at the top with a piece of twine or ribbon.

Find a door, hang your wreath …

Christmas wreath from the hedgerow

… stand back and admire.

Simple triangle shaped Christmas wreath

Of course, you don’t have to make a circular wreath. Tie some sticks together in a triangle shape and decorate as little or as much as you like.

twiggy heart shaped wreath

Make a heart shaped wreath.

Giant Christmas wreath hanging from ceiling

Make a giant wreath and hang it from the ceiling. Using the same technique, but on a larger scale, this wreath is a metre across and dangles from above.

If you don’t have the time or the greenery, buy a plain fir wreath and personalise it with your own decorations.

Whichever you choose, have fun.


Slamseys Christmas

Sloe Down for Christmas

Tomorrow we will open the Christmas Shop for the last time this year. There will be last minute buyers for Christmas trees and decorations, people stocking up with Slamseys Gin and the final customers will collect their turkeys and geese.

Cranberry sauce with Slamseys Sloe gin

At noon we’ll shut the doors of the Christmas barns and walk to the plantation to cut down our Christmas tree and pick holly, ivy and mistletoe to decorate the house. The smell of cooking will fill the house , the radio will be tuned in to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge and the festivities will begin.

Today, the house is quiet and unadorned as I write the blog for the last time in 2016. When I have finished, I shall light the fire and close the shutters. Perhaps I might have a festive drink after supper. We devised this Sloe Down cocktail back in November when we were surrounded by cardboard boxes, glitter and baubles as we rushed around trying to get everything priced and displayed before the Christmas shop opened (which now seems an age away).

The recipe is below should you need to take time out to relax with a little squeezing and slicing as you inhale the Christmas smells of cloves and orange.

Whether you’re freezing in snowy conditions, sweltering in the summer heat or somewhere inbetween, I wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.

Will be back in 2017.

Sloe Down for Christmas


Cloves and orange combine with fruity sloe gin to make this simple Christmassy cocktail

Slamseys sloe Gin cocktail

Push a few cloves around the ‘equator line’ of an orange and then slice off the top and bottom of the orange to leave a wedge or slice of clove studded orange. Squeeze the juice from the remaining orange.

Drop ice into the bottom of a glass, add two measures of Slamseys Sloe Gin with one measure of the freshly squeezed juice.

Garnish with the clove studded wedge and enjoy.

Add tonic water for a long drink.

Cranberry sauce with Slamseys Sloe Gin

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