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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Garden Wanderings and Flower Play

Hello,

Today I would like to share with you a fun nature activity that we enjoyed recently. We began our sunny morning with some outdoor exploring as spring has transformed our garden into a floral wonderland. Brightly coloured flowers, interesting gum nuts, berries and pinecones scattered throughout the garden kept Aniela captivated for the morning. We named the plants and flowers, and their colours that stood out to her. We talked about how some flowers close in the evening and move towards the sunshine, and the purpose of flowering during springtime. She was so happy and looked so cute wandering around with her flower basket, so I used the opportunity for a little photo shoot to capture this wonderful memory.

Nature really offers so many opportunities for learning and play. Since moving to Stirling our children have rarely played with their toys, even on rainy days. There is something so fun and adventurous for them when they explore the outdoors. Playing in nature has helped them develop creative freedom, a courageous spirit and involves all their senses (including their sense of motion in a way the indoors cannot).

While there is still value in some toys, I think nowadays some have become so sophisticated, expensive, specific and easily broken, which can really defeat their purpose for their little inquisitive owners! I have realised now as a mum of two how you can gain the same learning and entertainment from simple things found free in our environment. In our garden, Aniela often becomes engrossed in breaking little twigs, making little pictures from stones and throwing camelia petals into the air. Alex is at the stage at enjoying gardening skills and building things that spark his imagination. Playing outdoors also allows them to develop these tactile senses without the worry of damage that may occur indoors.

These experiences in nature help with their development and understanding of the world. For example, when Aniela breaks the twigs she is experimenting with the physical variables for a breaking point (such as width, length and flexibility) that can help her develop skills for building and creating things later on. I’m particularly impressed that many schools and councils are taking note on the importance of nature in learning and it has been wonderful to see more nature-based curriculums and playgrounds. I have been fortunate to find a playgroup that offers only nature-based play in an outdoor setting.

Now with Spring in full bloom, I highly recommend having a wander outdoors with your little ones; be it on the way to school, around the neighbourhood or in your own garden. Children love collecting things and in addition to flowers you can look around for what is in your local environment such as nuts, pebbles, twigs and interesting looking leaves. You can count, name and categorise them and even use them for a craft project. Recently we have enjoyed using pine branches as paint brushes and gum nuts as stamps. When they no longer show interest in their collection you can simply compost them or put it into green waste without having to worry about the waste of money like with abandoned toys.

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Play dough recipe

To extend our nature playtime, we made some home made play dough for Aniela to get creative with the flowers she had picked. I found a great recipe here and I added a few drops of rose water that I had for an added sensory element.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 tbs cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbs oil
  • 3 drops rose coloured food colouring
  • 1 tsp of rose water or scented oil as desired

1.  Combine ingredients together and continuously mix over medium heat until the dough no longer sticks to the edge of the saucepan.

2. Cool down slightly before play to avoid burns. (Aniela loved playing with the dough while it was still warm and the dough is more pliable.)

3. Store in the refrigerator sealed in a container or plastic sealable bag.

We made two batches of dough in orange and pink and we enjoyed making little flower pots for our floral displays and little cute macarons and other little pretend cakes. Our little wander through the garden turned into a whole morning of nature and creative play and one very happy little girl.

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Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed this flower play idea for your children.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

Our New Life in Stirling

Hello,

After much anticipation and planning, we have finally made it across from Perth to our new home in the beautiful town of Stirling, in the Adelaide Hills. We have been living here for nearly two weeks and our experience so far has been nothing short of magical.

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The absolute abundance of nature everywhere is so breathtaking! Everywhere you look the sky is filled with layers of various types of pine trees, luscious green ivy wrapping itself around anything in its path, beautiful bursts of remaining red Maple leaves, and the prettiest soft petals of pink and red Camelia’s sparkling with raindrops. While some trees including Elm and Oak are bare in the current winter season, their trunks are covered in the greenest moss and fit in beautifully with the evergreen trees.

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Growing up, I was always surrounded by gum trees so the experience of seeing bare trees is quite lovely as an Australian. Also quite distinct for Stirling, are the never ending Agapanthus plants lined up right onto the boundary of streets and roads. I cannot wait to see them flowering their beautiful blue blooms in Summer.

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Adelaidians who make the annual Autumn pilgrimage to Stirling and Hahndorf, would be really impressed by the sensory wonderland Winter has to offer here in Stirling. Taking the scenic route off of the main street is certainly worth it. I have made it a habit to take the longest way back home down some enchanting residential streets, after an errand or school drop off (even getting lost with low fuel this week! 😂).

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Our garden has been so exciting to explore. Our children especially love navigating around the rugged pine forest below our house, and the winding path towards the gardening beds at the top of our property. There is frequent drizzle of rain here, and while we have been lucky so far to escape the heavy showers (usually occurring in the evening), we have been surprised by how much time our children are spending in the garden. Some days, afterschool, they play outside until sunset and happily rug up and explore in their gumboots with their umbrella in hand!

Walking around our garden, my lungs are constantly filled with such lovely crisp fresh air with the occasional waft of comforting wood fires escaping chimneys that surround us. Gentle sounds of birds singing, rain water trickling into our creek, with bursts of majestic kookaburra calls; often draw me to pause and take in all that surrounds me.

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At the bottom of our property we have a winding creek that also runs through our neighbours’ properties, and it’s quite full at the moment after the recent rain. The cascading trees on the creek’s bank reminds me of that scene from one of my favourite movies “The hundred foot journey” where the two chefs form their friendship and love over their picnic by the river bank.

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Mark and I have enjoyed making countless plans for garden projects that we can’t wait to get stuck into and share with you here. For now, it’s been so wonderful just to enjoy and explore our new home amongst the great unpacking task we are yet to complete! Stay tuned for some more of our adventures in the coming weeks.

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Have a lovely weekend,

Jacqueline