Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Christmas Table 2009

These are some of the pictures of my Christmas Table. The crackers I made for each family member were pulled and all the trims were saved to be recycled for more Christmas crafting next year. The younger children were delighted with their gifts and the older ones enjoyed the chocolates! We enjoyed a traditional lamb roast with a summer twist - it was marinated in a mango sauce overnight and served with a mango salsa rather than the traditional mint sauce. Plum pudding is not the best choice for a dessert on a hot summer day so we indulged in an ice cream pudding instead. I will post the recipe soon for those who want to try this when their summer comes around!

Two of my lovely daughters!
Meet the rest of my beautiful family at my family blog eightacresofeden

I have written about our very special Christmas at my main blog where you will also find these pictures of my Christmas table. What is missing from the pictures of just the Christmas table is what makes Christmas truly special - the people, especially family and friends. They are the reason why I put so much effort into making Christmas special - it is my way of not only expressing my God given creativity but also showing my family how much they mean to me. I want them to grow up and have beautiful memories of Christmas at home, when they pull a cracker or light a candle, wherever they are in the world, they will think of me, their mother but more than the gifts carefully chosen or the lovely details on the table, they will recall the laughter, the fun, the joyful atmosphere around our table and in our home - for this is what I truly desire to create, not only at Christmas but all year round - at every meal! On every occasion! Knowing that they grew up in a home where they were accepted, loved, cherished and where God was honoured and Jesus was the centre of every celebration but especially Christmas and Easter - this is the desire of my heart!

I will continue to upkeep this blog. I want it to be a comprehensive resource of ideas and inspiration for Christmas. There were many more posts I had planned but they can wait for next year! Do save those cards though, don't toss them away, not even into the 'Planet Ark' bin at the supermarket - I have a few ideas for creative recycling!

Something, or should I say someone, more important than blogging or preparing for Christmas, came into my life in the days before Christmas. A very special gift from God whom I brought home to my family on Christmas Eve. A baby boy, my seventh born and a beautiful reminder that the greatest gift of Christmas was a baby.

With love and Joy,

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Inspirational Christmas Decorating, Craft and Cooking Books

I have quite a collection of Christmas books and lots of December issues of home interior magazines. In this post I would love to showcase my favourites.

I always buy the Christmas edition of New Zealand House and Garden magazine - the front cover is always a stunner! When I lived in NZ I always looked forward to this magazine arriving on the newsagents' stands. I own quite a collection from the 1990's and early 2000's including the first edition. Over the years, it became quite upmarket, featuring mainly affluent homes and too many minimalist homes for my liking - too much chrome, zany artworks and very expensive designer home wares, so I stopped buying it but the December issue always features at least one beautiful country home and tonnes of inspiration for Christmas decorating.

Such as this gorgeous home with the tree embellished with glorious silk flowers. I am in love! Notice the baby bump - still waiting for my baby to arrive, I was due yesterday, could this baby be waiting to come on Christmas Day? Oh, the anticipation!

I hope I get the chance to make my version of this ice cream pudding for our dessert on Christmas Day! Hope my family saves me a slice if I do go into labour on Friday!

Today I made the white chocolate truffles which feature in the 'White Christmas' cooking segment. There is also a recipe for white chocolate brownies which look very decadent indeed. I used Swiss organic, white chocolate for my truffles. I made a 'baker's dozen' and taste tested the 13Th one earlier - they are fantastic. You will have to buy the magazine if you want the recipe (I only publish my own recipes - sorry!) or check out their website to see if it features there! www.nzhouseandgarden.co.nz I also made a batch of my almond- free, coconut flavoured biscotti today. I hope to share the recipe at my main blog this week, unless I go into labour of course!

This is my absolute favourite, inspirational decorating book of all time. 'Home Living Life Beautifully' by Sandra Kaminski features gorgeous ideas for every season of the year and includes a special section for Christmas. There are lots of beautiful table settings that leave you gasping! Sandra's work as a stylist featured in NZ House and Garden for many years and it was always her sections I turned to first. When I found out she had published a book I was just beside myself and almost collapsed with excitement when I saw it on the shelf of a local bookshop. I have never loaned this book out and never will!
Here is just a peek inside - look at the tiny gift boxes tied with green, gingham ribbon sitting in a silver urn and posies of garden mint on a mirror base - rustic style meets glorious sophistication!

Green will always be my favourite colour but isn't this table beautiful in blue? Very suitable for a summer Christmas! For further inspiration from this talented designer you really do need to buy the book. She also has a website www.sandrakaminski.co.nz

My favourite cook Jo Seager also hails from NZ. I have quite a few of her cook books but I love the title of this one! Her recipes are simply the best! I have been using them for years and don't even need to look some of them up. Many are very suitable for Christmas baking sessions, especially her mini pecan pies! Her sticky date pudding recipe is to die for!

In 2001 Jo co-authored a book called 'Celebrations Stylish Food & Decorating Ideas' with renowned floral designer Fiona Hill. This book is packed with recipes and inspiration for tables at every kind of celebration. Christmas is given special treatment with ideas that will enthrall both those who love rustic style and those who prefer a more modern, stylish table.

An artificial garland, white lilies and a feather boa make for a stunning long table arrangement.

This year, I added another wonderful compendium of Christmas ideas for the home to my book collection. This is the American Better Homes and Gardens Best of Christmas Ideas Book. I love the scope and variety of design ideas for the home at Christmas and if you are a Christmas afficionado such as me, you will enjoy dipping into this book. It is available here in Australia and is very reasonably priced - around the $25 mark. I purchased mine at a local bookstore.

My favourite home featured in this book is in Michigan. This decorating scheme would work equally well for a Southern Hemisphere Christmas. This home sold me the book. I opened this book in the store at this very page and knew in an instant I would be buying it!

I hope you have enjoyed browsing my collection of favourite books and magazines for the Christmas season. If there is one you really like the look of, I hope you do buy it for yourself - there may be still time to shop online but beware of Australia Post strikes and adverse weather affecting deliveries in the Northern Hemisphere! I prefer the real deal - bricks and mortar bookstores. I just love perusing the shelves and I can become quite distracted! It is very dangerous thing to let me go inside a book shop at this time of year, especially if they stock lots of craft and decorating books!

I do hope I can put up some more posts before Christmas but can't promise - my baby could arrive any day now. If this is my final post before Christmas Day, may I wish you a blessed, beautiful Christmas. My next post may be typed one- handed with a babe in arms - what a wonderful reminder of another baby born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and for me and so many people around the world, the true meaning of Christmas!

With Love and Joy,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

'The Big Red Store' A Poem about the Commercialization of Christmas

'The Big Red Store' is a poem that I wrote in the year 2000 to share at my Christmas seminars. It is indeed about a 'Big Red Store' which those who live in New Zealand and some cities in Australia will be familiar with - the place 'Where Everyone gets a Bargain'. Most bigger towns and cities around the world have a 'Big Red Store' or maybe your big store is blue.

It is the type of store you do not want to visit the week before Christmas and especially not on Christmas Eve - the queues there are the longest and even if you carefully select the shortest queue, clutching your tin of Danish butter biscuits for Grandma and two giant rolls of 'economy wrap', I can guarantee you will wait just as long, for the guy in front of you will have a trolley piled high with the latest gadgets and toys for his two kids who they always spoil at Christmas because well 'It's Christmas!' and 'This is what the kids requested in their letter to Santa - can't let them down'. It would ruin Santa's image!

It is at these stores where you will observe the worst of the Christmas madness and I must explain the reference to the 'Teletubbies' which appears in my poem. It was at a branch of the big red store in New Zealand where two mothers were caught on camera fighting, tug of war style, over the last 'Teletubbie' toy left on the shelves! - Such had been the media and retail hype over a TV programme for young children which featured creatures with TV sets in their bellies and antennas on their heads who could only babble but toddlers became 'addicted' to the show and parents believed that their child would suffer serious deprivation if he or she did not own one of the toys!

I have left in the references to the toys of the time - to remind you that the latest 'must have' trendy toy will always be replaced by another more expensive gadget that will now appeal to mum and dad as well as the kids - you just need to buy some extra consoles for each family member!

Perhaps, like me, you despise the commercialization of Christmas and some choose to turn their backs completely on any celebration of what is only seen as a ' Silly Season of Spending'. So they choose to have a 'low key Christmas' and just have a barbecue (I'm referring to the Southern Hemisphere here!) but they have barbecues most weekends over summer, so there is nothing really special or significant about their celebration of Christmas.

My seminars were a reaction in a way, to both of these trends I observed when I came to live 'Down Under'. Christmas had always been the most wonderful time of the year when I lived in England. There were always traditional trees in the town square, the aroma of roasted chestnuts on the streets, Christmas carolers and at my house - decorations inside the home (not an OTT outdoor light display that blew the fuses and rocketed the power bill skywards) special foods on the table, Christmas crackers, 'satsumas in stockings' and my favourite treat because it was only given to me at Christmas - a 'Terry's Chocolate Orange'! Whenever I 'tap and unwrap' a chocolate orange, it always reminds me of my childhood Christmases at home! My dad knew this was my favourite gift - in many ways I looked forward to this more than anything else - in my eyes it was better than the 'big present'!

Down under, Christmas was different, much more casual and laid back, it was hot and although the turkey was still on the table with salads instead of potatoes for Christmas dinner and presents were distributed by an uncle in a Santa hat, that was basically it. I found some people never bothered with a tree or if they did it was a 'tinsel stick' showing where to pile up the new toys for the kids which was their only family tradition - along with a tin of Danish butter biscuits for grandma which they had stood in a queue for an hour to purchase when all the ingredients needed to make biscuits where actually in their pantry!

I wanted to tell people there was a better way, that they could celebrate Christmas in style without going into debt or joining the madness at the mall, 'creating' a Christmas for their family to enjoy, introducing simple traditions which would be remembered by the children in years to come and even passed on to future generations. Discovering the joys of creativity and blessing others in very personal and practical ways. And to encourage Christian families to give honour to Christ, making Him the focus of their Christmas rather than a fat guy in a red and white suit.

So without further ado, here it is my poem to challenge your thinking and attitudes towards Christmas. I hope you enjoy it!


Christmas is coming, Retail 's doing okay
For I joined the horde of shoppers
In the big, red store today
As I grabbed a trolley and sped off down the aisle
The blow up Christmas reindeer couldn't make me smile
I had a sinful wish
'I'd really like to punch that singing rubber fish!'

'Dad I want a Pokemon, like all the kids at school'
Having lots of plastic cards
Makes him look so cool
'Mum I want a Barbie house, it simply isn't fair'
'Santa didn't bring that much to our house last year'

Oh, the sights and sounds of Christmas
You'll experience at the store
But it's all artificial, nothings real any more

The Christmas tree is PVC, it's made in Singapore
There's even a matching plastic wreath
To hang on your front door

Nowhere was a manger scene on prominent display
To remind us of the meaning of this very special day
There were lots of jolly santas stacked high on every row
The loudspeaker bellowed

The enticement to spend and spend some more
'Don't have money?'
'That's what credit is for!'
People in debt and suffering stress
Was it really Christmas that caused their distress?

Christmas traditions are now used as a ploy
To get you to buy the latest toy

St Nicholas was a saint with a heart for the poor
People don't talk about him any more
He's now known as 'Santa'
He's been hijacked to sell
On the books at Apple
And loved by Mattel
Down at Harvey Norman he can really draw a crowd
He's good at selling Christmas spirit
Does Liquor King proud

A plastic man- made Christmas
Commercial through and through
But have you ever thought what Christmas means to you?

To me, it means a Saviour sent from God above
Into a dying, desperate world to show them of His Love
Hope, Joy and Peace can be ours to receive
All He asks is that we truly believe

And I believe in Jesus, the Son of God Most High
I think of how He's blessed me
As Christmas time draws nigh
Each Christmas, my gratitude to God I express...
By using my gifts and talents to bless

Opening my home, I fulfill my desire
To reach out to others and hopefully inspire!
So celebrate Christmas and show that you care
About this special time of the year

Take your children to choose a tree
Bake festive goodies for afternoon tea
Decorate your home - now here's my advice
Lose the tinsel, it isn't that nice!
The best decorations I'm sure you'll agree
Are those made by nature - what's more, they're free!

So if you home is looking stark
Collect some pine cones from your local park
And if you're feeling really bold
You could even spray them gold!

Resist the urge to buy gifts to impress
Instead look for ways in which you can bless
You family and friends, the people you meet
The elderly neighbours who live on your street

You could give them something - perhaps made by you
Something you baked, crafted or grew

Would you open your home on Christmas day?
Invite someone on their own to stay
To be part of your family and share your meal
These kind of gestures make Christmas real

In spreading goodwill, we can all play a part
For the actions of people reveal their true heart

But in the big, red store, the queue's to the door
Where they fought over Teletubbies, it was shown on TV
On the six o'clock news for the nation to see

But we can choose a better way and redeem Christmas Day
By rejecting the hype and pressure to spend
What kind of message could we send?
For the stores don't own Christmas
It's ours to enjoy!
And to remember the birth of a baby boy
Named JESUS and He's still the REASON why we celebrate the SEASON!

Penned in December 2000
by Ann at eightacresofeden and christmasateden

Please - if you want to share this poem with others or read it aloud at a Christmas function, feel free to do so, all I ask is that you direct them to my blog for the source and acknowledge me as the author - thank you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Christmas Table Centrepiece using Candles and Natural Materials

I am captivated by the glow of candle light at Christmas time and I love to create displays using candles. In previous posts I have shown you some of my elaborate wreaths which do take some time and effort to make but today I want to show you a simple, natural arrangement that took just minutes to create using items which I had to hand around my home. You do not need oasis, florists wire or any experience in floral arrangement! You could create a display like this for your Christmas table just before you sit down to dinner - it is that easy!
The perfect finishing touch - my favourite 'succulent' candles - I use these candles all year round and have only ever seen them in discount stores!

Here are the natural materials I gathered. I raided the fruit bowl for green Granny Smith apples. You could use red apples, pears, oranges, mandarins, cherries - just select fruit in uniform sizes. I snipped some greenery ( sprigs of cedar) from my garden. Darker green leaves are a lovely contrast to the lime green of the apples. If you do not have a garden, consider snipping a few cuttings from your Christmas tree - you do not need much greenery for this arrangement.
Nuts (not shelled) are the other item I raided from my pantry. Many households have nuts in their Christmas pantry. Macadamias or hazelnuts are ideal, you could use walnuts - again, whatever you have to hand.
My younger children gathered some small pine cones at the local park yesterday - just a small handful was all I needed. I already had cinnamon sticks in my craft cupboard but these are entirely optional and not integral to the arrangement.

You will need a large, shallow, round dish or bowl with a flat bottom in the centre. I bought this shimmery, gold bowl at a discount store for $15. It is perfect for this type of arrangement. It has a diameter of approximately 30 cm. If you have a square or rectangular platter, you could create a similar arrangement with smaller fruit such as cherries, strawberries or grapes.

Step 1. Place 3 or more church candles in the centre or you could use just one thicker candle. I like the effect of several candles flickering or more if you have a larger bowl or platter. Shorter candles are more suited to this type of arrangement than taller ones, especially if it is for a table where people will sit down to socialize and dine. Use whatever colour candles you wish and coordinate with your table linen or other decorations.

Step 2. Place the apples around the candles. I used seven apples for my bowl. Using apples or oranges means your arrangement will last for several days or longer.

Step 3. Next add the pine cones arranging evenly around the bowl. I love the contrast of the texture of rough pine cones next to the smooth, shiny skin of the apples.

Step 4. Pour nuts into the gaps between the apples and pine cones. Try to use nuts that are a lighter shade than the cones that you use.

Step 5. Tuck sprigs of greenery under the pine cones around the perimeter of the bowl. You may wish to replenish it, if it starts to wilt and it is so easy to do this when you do not have to pull it out of a block of oasis - just lift up the pine cones and replace!

Step 6. Finally, if you wish, arrange some cinnamon sticks on top of the apples. I have also used some extra candles - my succulents - use real or faux succulents if you do not have candles such as these. I just love how the texture of these candles 'mirrors' the texture of the pine cones.

And now the hardest part - deciding where to display the arrangement! It would be a perfect centrepiece for my Christmas table. It looks good on my kitchen island bench, particularly as it has fruit and nuts from the pantry. It would equally, be a good choice for a buffet table or dresser. A low arrangement such as this would also be ideal for a coffee table as it is a display you look down upon. I think it contrasts well with a timber table and therefore, I have chosen to place it at one end of my hall table.

I also wanted to give you a glimpse of the display I have created here. I have been searching for an ornate frame for my reproduction print of an old map of New Zealand for some time. Last weekend I found the frame - at a garage sale for $5! This is another reflection of my family's heritage.( I am married to a New Zealander of Maori descent!)

Another recent garage sale find - wooden letters that spell out PEACE. They were already painted gold and cost me $2.50! I think I may leave these out all year round for peace is something I truly want to experience in my home. Peace on earth is not just a message for the Christmas season but something we can also have in our hearts and in our homes when we meet and enter into a personal relationship with the one who brings real and everlasting peace - JESUS! The reason why I celebrate Christmas with such a passion!

I hope you have enjoyed visiting my home today and gained some inspiration for creative displays using candles and the gifts of nature. More ideas coming soon!

With Love and Joy,

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Time to Trim the Tree Part 2 Beads and Bows, Garlands and Gifts.

Today I have been 'dressing' the corner of my formal living room where my Christmas tree stands, bedecked in all its traditional colours of red, green and gold next to the cast iron fireplace.

This is the perfect opportunity to show you how I 'finish' off my tree with beaded garlands and bows and introduce to my angel - she needs a name and I'm giving you the opportunity to name her - I'll choose my favourite - so leave me a comment and suggest a name for the angel who has graced the top of my tree for almost ten years! I'm also going to show you my fireplace display and give you a glimpse of some of the gifts I wrapped today to place under the tree. I hope to do a separate post on gift wrapping but with my baby ready to arrive during Advent, I should not be 'promising posts' - so I'm showing you some of the ways in which I embellish my gifts for my family - always wrapping them with love of course!

This is my lovely fireplace which warms our home during the winter months; of course, it is summertime in Australia. I am English born and have experienced the occasional 'white Christmas'. Decorating my tree in traditional style is one way in which I express my heritage - I think it is lovely to incorporate some traditions from your 'homeland' into your Christmas celebrations. This is why I have not been tempted to go for a totally 'Australian' look - no 'surfing santas' in this home, though I do have a ceramic kangaroo ornament hanging from one of the branches, I use gum nuts on my wreaths and my dining room has a different 'cooler' colour scheme of white, green and silver which is better suited to the strong Australian light.

After the lights, baubles and ornaments are hung on the tree, I move onto the beaded garlands, draping them as gracefully as I can. I admit I take some time to do this, I want the garlands to drape evenly in 'gentle, even waves'. I am never fully satisfied and have to set aside any 'perfectionist tendencies' or I would spend all day on this! I have always added bows to the ends of the branches using ready wired bows which are designed for this purpose. Sometimes I also add in silk flowers but as my collection was a little faded I have not used the silk 'Christmas lilies' this year. I have seen some beautiful trees adorned with silk flowers instead of bows in the December issue of NZ House and Garden magazine. This is something I might try next year!

And here she is - introducing ---- Oh yes, she is the Angel with no name! Please suggest a name. She's a Kiwi by the way! I purchased her from a well known NZ department store 'Farmers' where I bought many of my decorations in their wonderful post Christmas sales.

This is a glimpse of the gifts and decorations under the tree. I don't see the reason in decorating a tree if you are not going to place any gifts under the tree! It all adds to the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. My twin girls have opened the occasional gift before (usually the wrong one!) but now at four are old enough to know they have to wait - we are counting down the days to Christmas with our homemade Advent calendar and they are receiving tiny gifts when it is their turn but just to be sure, they check with me each morning asking 'Christmas today?' and sigh when I say 'No, not today ' and tell them to go and count how many days to go using the calendar.

I do like to coordinate my gifts with the tree. The gifts that will be placed under the tree are wrapped in gold and I have added embellishments which reflect how I decorate my handmade wreaths. I use ribbon, silk leaves and flowers, cinnamon sticks and even silk butterflies. Usually, I decorate at least one gift for each family member in a more elaborate way. I place these at the front of the present pile for greatest effect. On others I just use ribbon or a simple finishing touch such as a gold star or a glittery decoration. Any gifts I receive from family which do not match in, go into gift bags or boxes. Tucked away in the set of 3 gold boxes tied with red ribbon are gifts from my mum in the UK. This gives the recipient an extra surprise. I usually add a tag to the box 'Gifts from Grandma'. So do not be afraid to place those gifts from grandma which she wrapped in 'Mickey Mouse' Christmas paper into a gift bag. Don't waste time re- wrapping them (and possibly offend grandma in the process!) if they do not tie in with your decor, just disguise them! There are so many inexpensive gift bags and boxes available at the discount gift shops or better still, reuse a plain paper bag and have your children decorate the outside with cards recycled from last year. I have used the same set of gold 'hat boxes' to 'hide' gifts for many years. I just use a different bow and decorate the lid of the top box for variation.

I gathered some greenery from just outside my front entrance (I am so blessed to have this decorating resource a few steps away!) to decorate my fireplace - remember the fire will not be lit! I have also tucked sprigs of conifer around the gifts under the tree. Other items I have to hand are pine cones gathered from a recent trip to a local park, cinnamon sticks, green apples from the fruit bowl and a set of coloured, glass tea light holders.

I purchased these tea lights at the 'Reject Shop' for $1 each a few years ago. I use adhesive gold letters to spell out 'Faith, Hope, Love, Joy, Peace' and of course 'Jesus' who brought us all these when He arrived as a baby in a humble stable at Bethlehem all those years ago. I have set out a few of the figurines from a tiny Nativity set - another reminder for my children of why we celebrate Christmas. My main Nativity set, my Willow Tree figurines, a very special gift from my husband, are the focus of my Christmas display on the timber table in my hall. I will show you this display in another post.

I hope you have enjoyed visiting my home and seeing just a corner of my formal living room. The lights have been twinkling for several weeks now and I have loved spending evenings with my family relaxing in this room. Tonight I will enjoy it even more when I sit down and watch one of my favourite shows - You might be surprised, it's not 'Better Homes and Gardens' but 'Man versus Wild', (the ultimate 'How to Survive' show) on SBS. My children love this show too and I enjoy being with them, watching something of excellence which is also educational. 'Bear' has not yet done an episode on 'How to survive the Christmas season' but my advice would be to simply enjoy the preparations, start tomorrow, if you haven't already and don't leave it all to the last week. For further inspiration and ideas visit me again at 'Christmas at Eden' but just remember if I am not here I'm probably having a baby!

With Love and Joy,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Time to trim the Tree Part 1 - Lights, Baubles, Action!

I always like to have my tree up and decorated by the 1st December but this year my tree has been up since the second week of November! Why so early you ask? - well several reasons 1. I wanted to do posts for this blog on how to trim a tree 2. I adore Christmas and simply couldn't wait, so I chose to celebrate my birthday by decorating my tree! 3. I am almost 38 weeks pregnant and standing and stooping to hang ornaments and twirl lights and garlands around branches for long periods during our current heatwave would have not helped my poor, swollen ankles! I am so pleased I chose to set up my tree earlier than usual - I feel organized and prepared knowing that one of the bigger tasks involved in decorating for Christmas has already been accomplished.
This is my tree, unadorned and set out in the spot I chose for this Christmas, next to our cast iron wood burner in the corner of our formal living room. Remember - I am in Australia - it is summer here and the fire will not be lit, otherwise, it would not be so close to the fireplace!

It is a faux tree and I have owned it for ten years. It is starting to look a little tired, the needles are starting to drop off and I hope to replace it with a taller, bushier spruce or conifer but not this year. Maybe, I will purchase one in the New Year sales. This tree was purchased in a Boxing Day sale - we were disappointed to find all the trees had been sold so I took the liberty of asking a sales assistant whether I could purchase the tree which stood decorated at the front of the store at the 50% off price. They said yes and just asked us to return a few hours later so they could remove the decorations!

I always used to have a real tree and I loved our family tradition of visiting the Christmas tree farm to choose a tree but I was running Christmas decorating seminars out of my home during November and finding that my tree was just not lasting until the end of December. One year (the year I was expecting a baby) I had to take down my tree the week before Christmas and find a replacement - a very sorry looking specimen- a self-sown pine seedling cut down from the side of the road. On the morning I chose to decorate my new 'weedy' tree I went into labour and was hanging ornaments in between contractions! By morning tea time, I had a decorated tree and even managed to get the angel on the top - it was not my best decorating effort but if you have ever tried to decorate a tree during labour you would understand why! Shortly after this, I had made my way to the bathroom, my husband had come inside after being out on the farm and following a few more powerful and painful contractions and with just one push, my son was born and delivered into the hands of my husband! The midwife was still on her way but I was ecstatic - my fourth child had arrived in time for Christmas and my tree was decorated!

After this experience, especially as I surveyed the pathetic pine I said to my husband - 'That's it - no more real trees!' I have found too, that the faux tree is much easier to decorate, it holds the ornaments well and the branches do not droop. The effort of keeping a tree alive is avoided and the needles do not endlessly drop all over the floor. If you want the scent of a real tree you can actually buy a pine scented spray. I believe 'Crabtree & Evelyn' make a beautiful 'Christmas scented' room spray which can be used for this purpose.

Now I have shared my most infamous tree decorating story, I can show you how I decorate my tree. I always start with lights, beginning at the top of the tree and winding them down towards the bottom, ensuring that the strands are set well back into the branches. Many people make the mistake of putting the lights on last. The plastic strands are then visible which ruins the effect - I have even seen this mistake on the pages of a top interior design magazine. I prefer clear lights and have used two sets on this relatively small tree. Professional decorators always advise to use as many lights as your budget can afford - in this case 'less is not more'.

Next step for me is baubles. I am using a traditional colour scheme of red, green and gold. I have more red than gold baubles, so I choose to use these first, ensuring that they are spaced evenly around the tree - don't forget to decorate the back of the tree too! These baubles are not glass and although I would prefer to have glass, because I have tile floors I have opted for plastic - this also means my younger children can help hang the tree ornaments without any risk to themselves or financial loss to me when they inevitably drop some!

I then use the gold baubles and space them in between the red baubles. If you are using a silver scheme, consider buying more silver baubles than your other chosen contemporary colour. If next year you change your couch or soft furnishings or decide you do not really like the purple colour scheme you chose this time you can go out and buy more baubles in a different colour that also works with silver. I have more red than gold because I found several sets in the Christmas sale at Spotlight last year for a drastically reduced price!

Once the baubles are in place I move onto the hanging ornaments. I have quite an assortment of tree ornaments that I have collected over the years. Each year I add a few more to my collection. I usually buy them in the post-Christmas sales. As much as I love some of the contemporary designs and colours for Christmas, I resist the temptation to purchase ones which do not work in with my traditional tree. I have a few novelty angels but even some of the cute ceramic children's tree ornaments (such as Winnie the Pooh characters) do not look quite right with my gold mesh reindeer and Russ angel figurines.

The ceramic airborne 'St Nicholas' is one of my favourite tree decorations but the wooden heart decoration reminds me of the person who Christmas is really about and the reason why we celebrate. Jesus who lives in my heart will always be the focus of my family's Christmas!

This is my tree with the baubles and most of the special decorations in place. The garlands of beads that I wind onto cards each year are to go on next and need to be unravelled. Some have fallen off in the storage boxes and become tangled, untangling them is one of the most time-consuming tasks - never mind the girls enjoyed decorating themselves with all the strings of sparkly beads. So much more glamorous than tinsel! I personally, have an aversion to tinsel - sorry for those of you who love it but I always advise others to 'lose the tinsel' and I once put up a sign on my door for one of my seminars 'You are now entering a Tinsel Free- Zone'! I'm not sure why I dislike tinsel so much - perhaps it was the straggly tinsel that went onto the tree in my childhood home that overshadowed the beautiful vintage glass ornaments or the fact that my dad used to wind it around the television - this is one item in my home which I would never choose to accentuate! Neither do I use spray on snow on the windows - this is Australia for goodness sake and it is totally unseasonal! It is also why Frosty the Snowman never makes an appearance! My mother once made a snowman covering a plastic wastepaper basket with cotton wadding and she brought it out every year to sit next to the tree. I think she thought it would delight us children and he was rather amusing, very kitsch and quirky (he also turned yellow over the years!) but truth be told I was more fascinated and mesmerized by the delicate Polish glass ornaments with their pointed spires and glorious colours which shimmered when the lights reflected onto them - so the lesson is, don't think your children will prefer childish decorations, you may be surprised at their appreciation of some of the more beautiful tree decorations!

If you wish, you may choose to have a second tree just for your children to decorate to their heart's content. In some years I have had a second tree in the kitchen which we decorate with gingerbread stars, popcorn strands and homemade paper angels. This year the younger girls have helped construct paper cones for a special hand made advent calendar which I will show you in another post - still have to make a few more cones and buy some treats to go inside. These cones also make lovely tree decorations and can be filled with nuts or candy, so I thought I would share with you now, a few pictures for inspiration.

I'm aware that for some of you reading this that you are barely over all the preparations you made for Thanksgiving and are now only thinking of pulling out the boxes of Christmas tree decorations. Perhaps you do not even set up your tree until Christmas Eve! Each family and different countries and cultures have their own traditions. I do love the stories of Victorian Christmases of days gone by, when the parents would send their children to bed and then later on the true Eve of Christmas, would call down the children to see the Christmas tree, all decorated and sparkling with real candles lit just for that moment. How magical would that be!

I could not possibly leave decorating my tree until the night before Christmas and who knows I could even be in labour if my baby is a late arrival (and most of my children are!) I will show you more in my next post of how I trim the tree and add the finishing touches - the garlands, the bows, the Angel who sits atop and the displays that accompany my tree (not a cotton wool Frosty the snowman of course!) It's time - lights, baubles, action!

With Love and Joy,