Good evening and welcome to my first Jingle Belles post! Today has been so bitterly cold it is not hard to imagine that we are back in December, and it doesn't seem too unseasonal to be talking about Christmas!
As everyone knows, my favourite drink is tea, but I do like a nice cup of coffee too, and tonight is just the evening for a cinnamon latte...deliciously warming, and it makes me think of Christmas! Join me with a cup of something warm and slightly festive, and let us sit in candlelight and start making plans. for a merry Yule in 2011!
Bearing in mind it is only January, this is not the month for us to start knitting gifts, crafting our cards, or getting out the glitter! No, this evening is for us to start making plans, that we will spend the rest of the year bringing into being. There are few things I love quite so much as a new notebook, and one will be useful for the coming months, but for tonight, just some sheets of paper will do. (Although do try and go on a little shopping trip soon to get your Christmas notebook! Mine is not often Christmassy in itself, and usually has plain pages).
What word do you like to use for Christmas? Are you a Christmas, an Xmas, Holidays, Yule or Winter Solstice person? For me, it is Christmas, sometimes Yule. Whatever your word is, put it right in the middle of the page to start what we used to call 'spider diagrams' when I was a little girl, but now seem to be called Mind Maps.
Your first branch is for 'spirit'...what kind of look and feel do you want to bring to Christmas this year? Red and white, a la Nigella? Gold? Tartan? Brown paper and red gingham? Brights? Champagne and antique gold? Shades of white? Victorian? Vintage? Shabby Chic? Choose one or more and put down any words that come to mind. Jot down any scents, colours, flavours, anything at all that describe the kind of Christmas you are drawn to this year. What will your signature symbol be this year? A dove of peace? A sprig of holly? Snowflakes? Robins? Choosing one thing to make your focus makes it easier to carry your theme through your cards, wrapping, decorations...If you have the time and inclination, you could creat a whole mood board for this...go through some December magazines and rip out pictures that appeal to you. Last year, I went for gold sparkly wrapping paper, ribbon and little pastel feather bird ornaments to clip on.
Your next branch is for cards...how many are you giving this year? Are you going to make them? If so, have you got any ideas yet? Are you going to go semi-made by taking a photo and having your cards printed? Will you be making them all from scratch? Buying charity cards? Buying handmade cards from etsy? Sealing them with stickers? Sealing Wax? Will you write them in fountain pen or gold pen or silver pen? Will you fill the cards with glitter or Christmas confetti? Those wind up paper butterflies?
Now for wrapping..and this will probably be influenced by the 'spirit' that you have chosen, and by the gifts you choose to make. Brown paper with gingham ribbon? Metallic paper? Will you use gift bags or boxes? What about vintage scarves or Christmas print fabric tied Japanese furoshiki style, perhaps fastened with a vintage brooch? What will you use as gift tags? Baubles painted with the recipient's name? Their photo? What about your trimmings?
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without any gifts said Jo from Little Women, and she was right! The last year or two, I have taken the approach of making batches of gifts for different groups of people in my life, and buying individual gifts for others. For example, all my work friends got the home made bath melts. All the boys got fruits of the forest rum and rum and raisin fudge. Uncles and Aunts got homemade jam and chutney. What groups of people do you have in your life? Could the members of your book group have a notebook to use as a reading diary? Or as I did one year, a vintage tea cup and saucer planted with a hyacinth? Would you like to make all your gifts this year, or some of them, or none of them? Would you like to buy handmade gifts from somewhere like etsy? Or will you buy gifts and put them together as little gift baskets?
There are still of course lots of other little things to think about....decorations need planning, especially if you want them to tie in with your theme. Are there any from last year you can reuse? Are there things you would like to make or buy for this year? Could this be the year you just use candles and greenery? Or will you spend time making a magnificent wreath for the first time? Will you sew Christmas stockings by hand? Jot it down! Then there are activities to muse on...do you make a day of making your cake? Is carol singing the highlight of your festive season, or would you like it to be? Do you want to take ice skating lessons so you can go and skate on a beautiful rink somewhere? Are you going to have a cupcake and cocktail party? Put it all down there! Are there foods that you would like to have a go at making for the first time, or are there recipes that it just wouldn't be Christmas without? Down it all goes!
It all looks a bit overwhelming on the page to begin with, but as you start to jot down your preferences, you should start to see the distant twinkle of Christmas begin to take shape. After all, we put so much effort into it, we may as well make sure we are spending our time creating something we like! One of the best compliments for me is when someone says 'that is just so...you. That is the aim this year, make sure that you imprint your likes on the season!
Hopefully by now you have a sheet of paper covered with ideas and you are starting to feel really excited and enthusiastic. Don't worry, we aren't going to go into overdrive here and start doing everything all at once. Tonight is just to get a picture of what you like, and where you want to go. So much of this is in your hands, and you get to choose how to do it. For example, with your cards...say that you have put down that you are going to make all your cards this year..it is down to you whether you want to count up how many you are going to need to make, and then make a few a month for several months, or if you would prefer to put a card making day in your diary and get it done in one hit. Whatever suits you!
If all this hasn't been too exhausting, there is one last thing before you. Make a rough, a very rough list of who you would like to send cards to this year, and who you would like to give gifts to. It can be as rudimentary as you like...for example 'family x 10, work x 5, book club x 8' or you can go into more detail. This list will be your starting point when we start to plan some of our projects later in the year...it helps to have a rough idea of how many jam jars or knitted scarves or whatever else you are making you need to make!
Oh, and before you go and put the kettle on for a congratulatory cup of tea for working through this, a word about pennies. Christmas costs, there is no way around it. Have a quick think about your spending strategy this year. Will you work out how much Christmas cost you last year, divide it by ten and put that much away each month? Or will you buy one thing each month? Make or buy someone's Christmas gift when you buy their birthday gift? Of course if you are going to be making things throughout the year, you will spend money on ingredients, but the cost will be spread, and you will have less outlay in December. Whichever is your chosen method, find a pretty jar or tin or teacup or somewhere to slip away a little bit extra. Perhaps you will collect £2 coins or 50 pence coins...or just empty your change into it every now and again. This money is just for you...so in December you can buy yourself something wonderful. Maybe a dress? An expensive lipstick? Something from a Christmas catalogue that you would not normally dream of spending money on? A trip to Cath Kidston?
Until next month, Jingle Belles!