Christmas Decorating with Forest Gatherings

 

Hello,

We are nearing the finish line with our Christmas preparations and during this busy time of year many of you are busy finishing your shopping, baking, cooking or perhaps already starting to enjoy the festivities. I’m currently in the midst of Christmas baking and preparing for our Christmas Eve dinner. While my poppy seed is soaking and my dough is proofing, I have taken a moment for a little rest and would love to share with you a decorating idea for your Christmas gathering.

During our first Christmas living in Stirling, we decided to decorate using mostly elements of nature, which initially was a fun celebration of our new forest life. Rustic wooden decorations are inadvertently trending recently, so I thought you may find value in seeing how easy they are to make yourself. My aspiring lumberjack husband made a few wood slices using pine logs lying around our garden, using a simple handsaw. A chainsaw can speed up the process, but a handsaw does the job just fine. 

I went for a little forage into our garden and collected some pine needle branches, pinecones and a few Hydrangea blooms. Naturally I extended my foraging for an excuse to wander around town and I was excited to discover Christmas Holly growing in the wild. This was the first time I had ever encountered real Holly, realising it’s not just a mythical plant featured on Christmas card illustrations. I found some thin burlap ribbon that I had saved from a previous gift, to wrap the pine needles around the napkins.

I find store-bought Christmas bonbons always so wasteful and lacking any real value, so our children handmade them for a fun Christmas craft project. We found some plain gold wrapping paper and my son wrapped them around cardboard rolls and filled them with hand-written jokes. I personally found these jokes more sweet and funny than what the standard bonbons contain! They also added some chocolates and sweets and wrapped them in foil ribbon. We loved these so much and I hope making these will continue to be a very special tradition in years to come.

To decorate I used a plain white table cloth, cloth napkins and candles that we already had and arranged all our garden gatherings on top in a rustic style. Christmas Holly is very prickly so I didn’t want to use too much on the table. I made a simple hanging wreath wrapped in this Holly to hang above our table which looked quite pretty and kept fresh for a long time. Be sure to use gloves though, as those leaves can be quite sharp. Also, I found a gold sleigh that was the packaging for an old gift and reused it to display some pinecones. For our Christmas tree I purchased a few wooden decorations and mixed them with some golden glittery ones for a unique look. Ideally I would love to make my own wooden Christmas decorations from the garden in the future!

Our family really enjoyed the creative process of gathering and making these simple nature inspired decorations. This little decorating project became a talking point with family during the festivities. The decorations were appreciated for being environmentally friendly and a sustainable alternative during a time of year where excess and waste is often paramount. What started as a celebration of our new garden has now become a new tradition that we all are eager to continue, for many Christmases to come.

 I’m yet to forage for our table decorations this year. Perhaps tomorrow morning I will go for a wander when the weather is cooler. If you don’t have a garden then perhaps as a suggestion you could go for a nature walk somewhere locally. The idea is to look around your own natural environment and use what inspires you. For those living near the coast; frangipani and palm leaves would be so lovely too. I hope you have found some value in our idea that Christmas can still be wonderful with less excess. For us it presents an opportunity to express personal values, such as our journey to a more sustainable and mindful lifestyle.

Wishing you all a wonderful and peaceful Christmas,

Jacqueline

  

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Building our Cosy Stone Fireplace

Hello again,
In Autumn we made one of the best decisions since moving to chilly Stirling, we built our very own fireplace. This cosy little corner has become central to our daily lives throughout this past winter. I’ve been so drawn to its soothing radiant warmth and it has become a refuge where I plan my day, make phone calls, read, knit and kick back with a night cap when the children have gone to sleep. The fireplace has also become very useful to leave yeast dough to rise for freshly baked breads and my Polish cakes.

I have had several friends and family ask us how we built the fireplace, especially after our recent storm where the fireplace was our savior during several blackouts! I thought it may be useful to introduce a DIY section to this site, since we have many more projects we are working on. Part of my absence from blogging recently, has been due to getting stuck into various projects and renovations, that have been keeping us busy. So I will endeavour to share our experiences and provide any tips or lessons we learn along the way.

It is quite common to renovate and customise properties here in Stirling. I love how individuality is celebrated in the unique culture up here. No home or garden looks remotely similar to the other. Century old heritage homes sit next to modern architectural designs, with quaint cottages and partially renovated country homes in between. Such an electic mix, with the only similarity being the abundance of majestic trees wrapped in vine, weaving these homes together. Our dream is to achieve a harmony of rustic and modern, in natural tones with a subtle elements of mountain culture, that we fell in love with on our last trip to the Alps in Europe.

When we decided to build our fireplace, we took a while to decide on the perfect location in our home. We currently have ducted heating upstairs, but not downstairs where we have our bedroom. Fortunately, we also inherited a significant amount of firewood with our property, so we wanted to use the opportunity to reduce heating costs in the cooler months. My clever husband devised a plan to have the fireplace installed in the corner of our lounge room, where the main bedroom sits directly underneath. We did this so we could direct some of the heat downstairs from the fireplace through a floor vent using a ducting system and fan. This has maximised the use of heat energy we have produced, without the need so a secondary heating system. A smaller fireplace in our bedroom was considered, but our concerns were the possibility it may produce too much heat for a bedroom, and the space required for the installation.

The fireplace  was an opportunity to add style to our lounge room,  so we decided on a mix of natural grey stone tones and rustic timber for a cosy Alpine chic feel. My husband Mark built the hearth himself using a simple timber frame, topped with a fibre cement sheet and durable tiles. We chose modern large grey stone tiles in a matt finish and matching grey grout. To achieve that stone-wall look we used stack-stone tiles that were easy to install using a tile adhesive called tile mastic. This adhesive is more suitable for heavy wall tiles and allows some flexibility compared to other tile adhesives. For a natural look, Mark offset the tiles so the end point of the tile did not line up and reveal a line along the wall.

We chose a wood heater by Ultimate and have been very happy with the design and quality of the heater. There are three fan settings and the flue was included in installation price organised by the store.  My favourite feature of the fireplace is the timber shelf that Mark carved from a log laying around the garden. He used angle brackets recessed behind the stone wall to hold it in place. It is so nice to have a hand made element and token of our garden inside our home, it has become a great mantel piece for displaying garden gatherings and candles.

We are really happy with the result. The new fireplace has brought a new homey cosiness to our home. Mark’s clever idea worked and we have managed to heat our bedroom through the offset heat upstairs by about  5-6 degrees more during winter .  We are also happy with the location we decided on as it is lovely having a window nearby to wander off and daydream while siting around the cosy warmth of the fire.

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I hope this has been helpful and would love to hear feedback on whether it would be useful to continue to share some of our DIY and renovation projects with you. Please don’t hesitate to ask any further questions you may have
Products we used:

  • Ultimate Wood heater, in Champagne / Adelaide Woodheaters & Gas Log Fires
  • Hearth tiles and stack-stone wall tiles / National Tiles
  • Hearth timber and  fibre sheeting / Bunnings
  • Tile mastic (adhesive) / Bunnings
  • Dunlop grout in grey / Bunnings
  • Angle brackets recessed in wall / Mitre 10

Have a lovely day and stay warm,

Jacqueline