Thursday, 16 November 2017

Making a (reluctant) start on Christmas

Christmas.

There, I've said it.
Christmas.
Christmas Christmas Christmas.

Christmas preparations have now officially started chez Comfy Marmalade.  I'd like to say that they've begun in earnest, but that would be a lie. More of a drip feed, kind of a 'do I have to' on my part. It still feels far too flamin' early to me, but with only 2 weeks (TWO WEEKS!!!) until the beginning of December I'm probably a little behind schedule to be honest.

The kids, of course, are well and truly getting into the spirit of all festive things, which I blame partly on school (is it not too early to be practising for the Christmas play?!), and also on the hideous amount of blatant advertising and promotion that children and young people are bombarded with. The Tesco gift catalogue even contains pages of stickers and games this year - I can't decide whether it's genius or despicable on their part… There is no-one who loves Christmas more than me but, as I've said in the past, I just can't abide how it takes over about one sixth of the entire annual calendar, and how it has become so commercial.  I saw my first festive advert on 1 November, nearly a full two months before the big day - surely that's not right...right?

I have (rather reluctantly) accepted that the 'C' word, banned in our house from being uttered every year until after 5 November, will now be flung about hither and thither with gay abandon, and plans for 25 December already feel like they're taking over all aspects of our lives. Whether it's deciding whose house we'll be going to on Christmas Day, getting the kids to write their wish lists (thank you, Argos catalogue), or planning and starting creative projects for myself and the kids, Christmas is all over us like a rash.

And as a result of being battered into submission on all sides (and in an effort to ensure that I don't leave my creative festive plans too late) I've decided to try to put my 'bah humbug' aside, crack open the Baileys and embrace the Christmas spirit.  A little.

I'll be looking at ways to keep the young 'uns in your family amused in a post next week, but for now I thought I'd share with you some of my creative plans this year, none of which will break the bank and all of which are mega-easy to achieve.

If you're looking to buy (rather than make) some lovely decorations for your home, you really don't have to spend a huge amount of money this year.  I've picked up some lovely festive bits and bobs already, none of which cost more than £3.

For instance, I found bought these two lovely traditional style baubles in Tesco last week. They were very good value full price at £1.50 each but, even better, they're currently part of a 3-for-2 offer on selected Christmas decorations.

Rustic, retro style bauble, £1.50.  The 'snow' in
the bottom moves about, a bit like a snowglobe.


I liked this bauble as soon as I saw it, however I'm now looking at it
and thinking that this reindeer has been eating too many mince pies!

I made up the offer with this beautiful Nutcracker inspired paper gift bag, also £1.50, (although technically free, as I see it, given the 3-for-2 offer!).

Nutcracker gift bag, also £1.50 - what a handsome fella.


You won't be surprised to hear that I haven't used the gift bag as a gift bag. Why use it as a bag when you can hang it on your wall?! As the image is so strikingly and all-year-round friendly, I've carefully cut the front off the bag and have framed it using an inexpensive wooden frame from my stash.  It now resides in the Boy's room, on his fireplace hearth.

Why use it as a bag when you can hang it on your wall?

Drum-roll (I feel he should have a drum-roll).... Ta-dah!

Looking good, Mr Nutcracker! Tree decoration also from Tesco

I disguised the ribbon holes by cutting using small sections from the back of the bag (see, you can just about see them, but only really if you're looking for them). And I've reused most of the rest of the bag as well, cutting it up to make a variety of funky gift tags.

I'm just as pleased with these thrifty gift tags as I am with the framed picture

I'll either stick them directly onto gifts with tape, or punch a hole in one corner and use ribbon loops from my stash that I've cut out of t-shirts and tops and saved for future crafty uses. Not bad - all this lot from a £1.50 paper gift bag!

I also came across this set of simple wooden, almost Scandi style fairy lights in Iceland, of all places.

I LOVE these! Right up my street - simple, almost Scandinavian style. Bravo, Iceland.

They cost £2.99, and require 2 AA batteries each (I bought a 4-pack of batteries from a local supermarket for £2.37 last week). Were they not so Christmassy in design I'd be tempted to keep them up all year.  In fact I may just do that anyway - I'm sure they can pass for stags as well as reindeers...

I've made a rustic, simple, garland-style advent calendar this year, using the chocolate tray inserts I saved from last year's advent calendars.  All in all I don't think this idea has cost me any more than a couple of pounds, and it's technically reusable year on year if you're careful with it. You can make it as basic or as grand as you like. Here's how:

I bought a pack of 80 dinner money envelopes from a local pound shop - enough for one for each day of the advent and a good few more besides.


I took each envelope and folded the flap over into the envelope, using its own gummed strip to stick the flap to the inside of the rear of the envelope, to make a pocket.


Then I punched a hole in the corner of each envelope - it can take some practice to get each hole in the right place, so the spare envelopes come in handy here! I only punched the hole into the reverse of each envelope, so as not to spoil to look at the front.


If you want the holes to be stronger, you could use clear hole reinforcers on the reverse. I then got the Boy to number each envelope 1 to 24 - basic, but not bad for a 5-year old!  If you need some other options, you could use numerical stickers or transfers, freehand it yourself, or add festive decoration (glitter and the like).

Apologies for the picture quality - I couldn't get a good 'un. The stickers came out of a
that gift magazine I mentioned earlier, and I freehanded (I know, you can tell) the numbers



Now take your string - you can buy this for 3 balls for £1, again in Tesco. In random numerical order, and starting at one end of the string, start attaching the envelopes to the string. You do this by taking the string, making a fold in it and pushing it through the hole, making a loop large enough to fit the envelope through.


Push the entire envelope through the string loop and then carefully pull the string tight. The envelope should now be secure on the string.



Continue along (this is why you need a long piece of string!) until you have attached all 24 envelopes.

This advent calendar will hang in our dining room,
out of reach of the inquisitive (and ever-hungry) dog

Simple as that. You can fill them with whatever you like - sweet treats, little trinkets... I'll be putting chocolate goodies in mine, and at the end of November I'll be preparing the chocolates. This is where the chocolate trays you saved from last year's advent calendars come in!

Melt some milk chocolate in a bowl and wash the advent calendar trays out, ensuring they're completely dry. Pour your chocolate into each mould, taking care not to spill over the edge, and leave to solidify again. Pop a chocolate into each envelope - you can wrap it in silver paper or clean sweet wrappers if you wish. I'll show you my chocolates at the end of November, once the calendar is truly complete!

Earlier this month, I saw this gorgeous red reindeer trio from Debenhams in one of my homes magazines.

Debenhams Reindeer Trio. Gorgeous. Pricey.

But at £15 for the set I can't justify the expense, cute as they may be. So I wondered if I could maybe make my own version? I had cause to pass a Hobbycraft store earlier in the week and couldn't resist popping in.  As I was 'browsing' (ahem...) I spotted this lovely wooden reindeer tree decoration for £2, and I had a lightbulb moment.

Lovely, but needs the Comfy Marmalade treatment!


I brought him home and immediately painted him red, just like the Debenhams trio.

Actually I didn't. I was planning on painting him red, but then I decided on grey, for a couple of reasons:
1. I like grey.
2. Most of our Christmas decorations are really colourful, and I suspect that, painted red, our little friend here would get lost in the festive colour explosion.
3. I had a couple of pots of grey tester post in the attic that really needed using up.

I removed the hanging string and unscrewed the hook, then gave him a couple of coats of the paint, followed by a coat of varnish. I left his antlers unpainted though, just because.

Newly grey. Looks fab. Delighted with him!


I think he looks rather lovely, and he'll sit on our living room fireplace or windowsill this year. A unique, thrifty and crafty take on a department store offering!

In total and all together, these three crafty makes - advent calendar, framed pictures plus gift tags, and the reindeer - have cost me less than £8.  I'm really pleased with all of them, and I hope you like them too.

Next time, I'll show you some ways to get your young folk involved in making festive decorations, and ideas as to how you can keep them amused in the run up to Christmas.

(PS I should add here that this is not an advert for that certain store beginning with a 'T'. It just happens that it's our nearest supermarket, and the one I happened to go shopping in most recently. So there.) 

Bye for now! xx


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