Monday, December 20, 2010

Handmade Christmas Crackers - Inspiration/Ideas

I have created this collage to show you the Christmas crackers or bon bons as they are also called, that I made last Christmas and the ones I have just put the finishing touches on for my table this Christmas season.

I had decided on a gold theme for the table taking my inspiration from a gold tablecloth purchased in a pre-Christmas sale. I found the glittery gold paper at a department store - it certainly has lots of sparkle but it was quite difficult to work with - a little too stiff for tying and crimping off the ends and the glitter drops everywhere! After making four gold crackers I decided to return to making the rest with my paper of choice - white crepe paper. The white vintage inspired crackers are my personal favourite. They are trimmed with vintage lace and grandmother's brooches - yes they really are grandmother's brooches (they belonged to my daughter's great grandmother). Each year I use them in some way to embellish a gift - a personal touch for what has become a family tradition!

After making the crackers for my family table I decided to experiment with some more creative ideas for crackers - something a little different to what I usually create. I've seen old maps in frames so why not use them to create an unusual vintage style cracker? This, I feel would suit a more rustic or even a modern Christmas table setting.

They would also make a great personalized gift for a friend from overseas. The cracker on the right is for a Samoan friend. I chose a more tropical style of flower to trim the bow. I know she prefers pastel shades so opted for lilac ribbon. I am so looking forward to giving her this when I see her later this week! All my crackers for this year contain wrapped chocolates plus a little extra gift of pretty hair clips for my twin girls. If you need directions for making your own Christmas crackers check out my post from last year which gives step by step instructions.

A set of the Pacific style crackers could be used to decorate an outside Christmas table. I'm thinking shells on the table, candles in glass hurricane glasses surrounded by coloured sand, a fresh orchid on each napkin. A Christmas picnic at the beach perhaps? If you live in the Southern hemisphere that is!

Hope you have enjoyed seeing my crackers/ bon bons for 2010. I look forward to showing you my Christmas table for this year sometime after the event!

Wishing you a blessed and beautiful Christmas.

With Love and Joy,


Monday, December 13, 2010

Gathering Greenery to decorate the home at Christmas

I am so blessed here at Eight Acres of Eden to be surrounded by abundant, verdant greenery. Just perfect for setting out at Christmas time around the home, bringing the gifts of nature inside to enjoy for a time. There is so much to choose from - it is just a matter of grabbing a basket off the pot hanger, picking up a pair of scissors, enlisting the help of a volunteer 'gatherer' and stepping outside the door!

After recent rain the garden was flourishing - the magnolia's shiny green leaves are always lovely in arrangements and the roses have started to bloom - the girls wanted to pick the flowers but were happy to follow mum's instructions and leave them in the garden to enjoy!

They did take the time though to stop and smell the roses!

This is the selection of greenery we brought inside to decorate the top of the Stanley Stove which is the focal point of our family/dining room. Of course it is summer here - the fire will not be lit again until winter so I can decorate the stove to my heart's content without fear of setting anything alight!

This is a list of my top three favourite items of greenery to use at Christmas time

1. Cypress snipped from my favourite tree at this property - a kashmiri cypress which graces one side of the main entrance to my home. It is so tall and majestic. I love its sage green fronds which drape so beautifully. It is perfect for setting out along the edges of shelves.

2.Cedar - I feel so blessed to literally live 'beneath boughs of cedar'. The tall tree that stands on the other side of the front rocky path which leads to the front entrance is a Himalayan cedar. It's spiky needles really do bring Christmas inside and are the perfect finishing touch for the loose natural arrangements that I prefer. I used to hang Christmas lights in this tree but it has now grown too tall - I enjoy its splendour unadorned all year round!

3. Bay Leaves - I planted this bay tree when we first moved to this property. It has flourished and I resisted the temptation to turn it into a standard bay tree - this is a forest property, it is wild and untamed - a manicured garden with straight lines and hedges and rows of flowers would not be quite right and I don't mind - I don't have to keep trimming it back all the time to keep it neat. An occasional pruning and I have bay leaves to pop into a casserole in winter, to add to jars of dry ingredients to keep weevils at bay (excuse the pun!) and at Christmas I can gather armfuls of leaves for decorative purposes.

There are other conifers I can snip from, there is also an olive tree which has never fruited but I like to use its branches in arrangements and the tips for trimmings - tuck a sprig under a ribbon tied around a jar of Christmas preserves or biscuits or tuck into a napkin. I can also find lots of ivy to wrap around the handles of wicker baskets - it is a weed that needs to be pulled out but a useful weed for the Christmas decorator!

Here is the result of our greenery gathering expedition - my Stanley stove affectionately known as 'Stan' bedecked in greenery for the Christmas season. This was my trial run - after a few days the greenery will wilt and I will remove it - there is plenty more to replace it. I occasionally make longer lasting more structural arrangements using oasis taped into trays but when time is limited I simply layer, drape, tuck and scatter! I think I prefer this more natural look for my home. I plan to gather some greenery on Christmas Eve morning and in the evening as we sit down to dinner I will light all the candles!

A closer look

I love my enamel kettle which is the perfect match for the Stanley. I hope to add to my white enamelware collection - in the gift store where I found my kettle, there is a sweet milk jug and a small bucket which I can see now filled to the brim with green or red apples!

I love these little metal white tea- lights with their dragonfly design. I found them at a garage sale for just $2. I hope you have enjoyed seeing a corner of my home and how I use what is freely available to me from my garden to decorate at Christmas time. I believe nature makes some of the best decorations! Don't have enough baubles to pile up in bowls on your Christmas table? How about apples? Or oranges? Nuts from your pantry? Cinnamon sticks and snippets of greenery from the shrubs in your garden or ask permission from a neighbour with a garden of hedges that need to be trimmed for their prunings!

Don't have time to drape the banisters of your staircase or sufficient greenery to make swags for your mantel piece? Don't own a chandelier? Why not just add sprigs to an afternoon tea tray or tuck greenery into napkins - a little touch here and there - you will be surprised at the difference these simple embellishments of green will make to you home! I'm hoping to make some more of these gingerbread wreaths this week - the chocolate leaves and a few fronds of cypress are all that is needed to make a simple but stunning gift - and so much easier than constructing a gingerbread house!

Happy Gathering!

With Love and Joy,


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Choosing a Colour Scheme for your Christmas Tree

Last year I started this blog to show you how I create a beautiful Christmas in a beautiful place. I want to do the same this year but there is no need to repeat the tutorials I posted last year. You will find the 'how to' posts in my archives. I'm hoping to have a simple but beautiful Christmas this year - recreating the traditions I have always held dear such as trimming the tree and making my own bon bons but not allowing myself to be distracted by decorating dilemmas and spending money in an attempt to keep up with the trends and have a fashionable Christmas - I've realized I prefer the old fashioned kind of Christmas and that reflects my choices for the colour scheme I chose for my tree this year.

I have a collection of tree decorations in the traditional red, green and gold associated with Christmas. I was so tempted to dispense with the red and go for a more modern look but realized that those decorations now have memories attached. The red bead garlands my twin daughters adorned themselves with when they were two. The cream and gold 'Russ' angels that my girls loved from the moment we saw them on sale in the store. They will come out every year so the traditional colour scheme has to stay - and I've realized that green is the perfect background for red. Think of a field of red poppies, a garden bed of red tulips, the red native flowering shrubs of Australia. All the work of the Master Designer So eye-catching, vibrant and nothing says Christmas to me more than red and green.

Garlands of beads - I have had these in my collection for over 10 years they last so much longer than tinsel and do not drop strands onto the floor!

So the gold and lime green tree I saw in a magazine is staying there - on the pages of a magazine but lime green? I love that idea for my colour scheme and green is my favourite colour - why not red and green with a twist of lime green? Be inspired by the images you see and love but use them and work them into what you already have to suit your home and lifestyle. Urns of apples at the door? Lovely but 1. I don't intend to buy urns to do this and 2. I might as well put up a sign saying 'Welcome possums and any other bush wildlife especially rats - and attracting rats means attracting snakes! I think I will not try this at my home!

Each year I add to my collection just one or two decorations and with the thought of lime green and Granny Smith apples in my head but knowing I would not hang real apples on the tree in our humid climate I opted for the baubles - two sets of lime green from Target on sale at $3 a box. Total cost of updating the tree for this year $6! And having just added the lime green baubles to the tree this morning I really think it has given the tree a 'lift', sets off the red and coordinates with the gold too!

So thinking of updating your tree decorations? Don't abandon the whole of your collection - replace ragged tinsel, shabby or broken decorations by all means but is there something you can add to your collection - an extra colour? Some handmade decorations? Would gingerbread stars or paper icicles give your tree a homemade rustic touch and occupy the children over the holidays? Don't be wasteful, spend money wisely and don't be in too much of a rush to keep up with the trends - an ultra modern black Christmas tree with its silver decorations might look good on the page of that design magazine in its minimalist setting but look totally ridiculous in the corner of your living room with the presents sent by nana underneath wrapped in santa paper! Think of how everything goes together and ask yourself is this going to work with everything else? Will it suit my home? Even if it is just one tree decoration you are considering purchasing, ask yourself these same questions - that dollar saved is after all a dollar saved!

And don't forget to recycle decorations from previous seasons. These Christmas cones were created from old Christmas cards last year for a unique handmade advent calendar. This year the cones have been hung on the tree and I intend to fill some of them with little surprise gifts - bags of homemade popcorn are just one thought. The one in this picture holds a spice bag - you pop the spice bag into a pot of simmering hot water on the stove and fill your home with the traditional smells of Christmas - spicy cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. A neat little gift idea too and so simple to create.

The Christmas cones also make neat little containers for wrapped baked biscuits and sweet treats such as truffles - a lovely little gift for a friend. I like to make biscotti for the cones - they are the perfect fit for the narrow cones.

I'm making more of these this year. I love to make truffles and biscotti at Christmas and of course gingerbread. Traditions extend to the kitchen - there is something about Christmas and traditions isn't there? It's how I intend to keep my Christmas simple and uncomplicated - a new recipe here and there but some traditions cannot be replaced - the children are already asking 'When are we going to make gingerbread? - we always make gingerbread at Christmas!'

It is also why my twin girls insisted on putting up the tree on their birthday the first day of Christmas. How exciting it is for them that they realize that the arrival of their birthday marks the start of the preparation of our home for Christmas when we celebrate the birthday of a Saviour.

What colour scheme do you have for your home? What are the traditions of your family Christmas and how do you update/modify them without going to great expense or being a slave to fashion and trends?

With Love and joy and a twist of lime green,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Creative Recycling of Christmas Cards and Gift Bags

It is almost into the third week of January and I am still receiving Christmas cards from friends and family overseas. I love to hear from people at this time of year (I don't mind if they are late sending out their greetings!) and I am always grateful to those who pop their newsletters into a lovely card - not only can I create an attractive display for lighting my window in the evening (the pegs incorporate LED lights) but they provide me with a resource for creative Christmas crafts. So before you toss your cards into the recycling bin here are a few different ideas (aside from making new cards or gift tags) for reusing cards that will save you money next Christmas!

All you need to create these items are your stash of cards, brown paper bags and/or gift bags - (another item I always recycle!) scissors, craft glue, ribbon or string and self adhesive gold or silver letters.
Idea No 1 . Unique Gift Bags

Jazz up a plain paper bag with an unusual design. This quirky Pukeko adds a real touch of 'Kiwiana' to a brown paper bag. (Pukeko is the name New Zealanders use for swamp hens!) Match the size, colours and design of the card to the bag you are using - choose more 'rustic' designs printed on matte paper for brown paper bags and glossy modern designs for the foil gift bags which are popular choices for Christmas presents.

Simply use the front of the card and glue into place - what could be easier? I will add a coordinating tag when it comes time to reuse the bag next Christmas.

Idea No 2. A CD/DVD Gift Envelope.

This square card was a perfect match in size for an unused silver envelope, ideal for enclosing a CD or DVD disc, i tunes card or gift voucher - why waste money purchasing a special card or envelope for the gift card for that hard to buy for person, when it only takes a few minutes to make your own?

Disguise a rough edge with narrow adhesive foil tape if you need to

Reuse any extra embellishments attached to cards - this silver star makes the ideal seal.

Idea No 3 . Menu Cards

For an extra finishing touch for your Christmas table create a menu card. This is quite useful if you are having lots of guests, it adds an 'eating out at a classy restaurant' feel or it can simply be a special momento of the lovely dinner you enjoyed that year! Choose a card which coordinates with your table decor and add 'Menu' to the front using self adhesive gold or silver letters.

Type out your menu, print, cut to size and attach inside your card. You may wish to add in the year, guests attending and venue. This was the Christmas meal we enjoyed a few years ago, it reminds me of how thrilled I was to find freshly dug organic baby potatoes at the farmers' markets on Christmas Eve! A menu card with the dessert recipe inside could also be a lovely little gift to give to guests - I would attach the recipe to the facing page.

Idea No 4. Christmas Candy Cones

This is the third time I have reused these particular cones. I made several paper cones at Easter to hold chocolates, small gifts and eggs for my children. (Instructions for Easter Cones are at my main blog archives in 'The Craft Cupboard' section.) The card I used for these came from a picture frame box. I recycled these cones and made a lot more from old Christmas cards to create an Advent Calendar for Christmas 2009. I added a Christmas sticker to the front and attached ribbon for hanging the cones. This is a wonderful craft activity to do with children - the cones are very simple to make but look very effective!

Next year we will create a different Advent calendar ( making our own unique Advent calendar is a family tradition!) but reuse the cones as tree decorations - you could also fill them with wrapped candy or popcorn and enclose in cellophane. They could also be used to hold special treats such as biscotti or truffles to give as gifts to neighbours and friends.

I always find I am sent a card which I love which will not be rolled up, folded or cut. This 'nostalgic' card from my sister in England is my absolute favourite for this year. I like it so much, I might even frame it! It will certainly not be placed in the recycling bin where some of the boring santa and snow scenes do end up! I hope you have found some ideas at this post to creatively reuse and recycle your Christmas cards. How do you creatively reuse and recycle your cards? - let me know if you have any ideas!

With Love and Joy,

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! 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

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,