“That’s it for another year.”

29D1772F-EE05-4EE3-AB98-5983ED555A96.jpegThere’s always one. One person who gets up and announces at about 9pm on Christmas Day: “Well, that’s it for another year!”. It’s usually Dad.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

I remember Dad putting me to bed one Christmas when I was little (probably around 7 but I can’t remember that well). He tucked me in surrounded by my new toys from Santa, stood up and said those words: “That’s it all over for another year.” Being the sassy little so-and-so that I was (some might say argumentative… some might say I still am) I turned round and said “No, it’s not Daddy, we still have everyone coming for dinner tomorrow.” He laughed, and said I was right as he left the room.

(Of course I was right. I’m always right. Nearly.)

The thing is, it doesn’t have to all be over for another year. Okay, we don’t have the whole Santa and present thing to deal with everyday, but what about everything else?

The cheery greetings to everyone we pass,  the family dinner at an actual, real life table, the spirit of thankfulness and giving, the willingness to help another in need, the generosity towards charity- why are these only for Christmas?

If you’ve ever read or watched Charles Dickens’ famous tale ‘A Christmas Carol’ you’ll know Scrooge was one mean-spirited, grumpy, tight-fisted, old badger of a man. (Plot spoiler coming up here… although if you haven’t read the book, I don’t know how you couldn’t have seen at least one of the 738426 movie adaptions). He hates Christmas and everything it stands for, but by the end of the story he makes a vow: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

By January, we’ve loved Christmas, over-indulged in it even… but forget to keep it with us throughout the year. We might not be as grumpy and mean-spirited as the former Scrooge, but we lose the smiles, thankfulness, generosity, even the proper ‘family time’. It’s like we tick the box in December and that’ll do us until we need to top it up again in 12 months’ time.

I’m not a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ type of girl, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all resolve to spend the next year with the spirit of Christmas in our hearts- smiling at strangers, being thankful and giving, helping the more vulnerable people in our society, or even just putting the phones down and having good, old-fashioned conversation with family over dinner at the table.

I’ll probably need reminded again and again to wipe the frown off my face and cheer up. I’ll probably be in a bad mood and not say “thank you”, because I don’t feel like it. I’ll probably avoid people collecting for charities who do valuable work, because I’d rather spend my change on a wispa. I’ll probably walk past a homeless person, or a little old man who’s struggling to find the change he needs in his wallet, because I’m in a hurry. I’ll probably even lift my phone out and start flicking through Instagram over dinner, because I can’t be bothered telling anyone about my mundane day, or listening to them talk about theirs.

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But I’m going to try to honour Christmas in my heart, and keep it all the year.

Gillian x

Winter Garland {Collab}

Recently I was approached by the lovely girls of Your World Blog to do a collaboration. These three gorgeous young ladies encourage having a voice and making it heard, loving and looking after the world around us and creativity, which is something big, sad adults need a little encouraging in sometimes. They each post a new blog on Sundays, and reading them is like sitting down and having a good, honest chat with an old friend. They share their own thoughts, ideas and influences, and spread a little bit of much needed sunshine and positivity.

To be honest, I haven’t done a collaboration before, so hadn’t a clue as to what to suggest, but after taking a look through the girls’ blog we thought it would be fun to give the old ‘DIY Autumn Garland‘ a festive revamp for them to try and get others involved with too.

It’s pretty much the same process, using the same natural products, but just for Christmas I’ve added in a little decoration and of course, glitter.

You will need:

– 2-3 large oranges (depending on how long you want your garland to be)
– Greaseproof paper, a baking tray and a sharp knife
– Cinnamon sticks
– Twigs/pine branches/pine cones/ anything you can find!
– Twine

(Optional)
– Glitter
– Glue
– Miniature baubles/Christmas decorations (mine are little, white, wooden stars from Sostrene Grene, but supermarkets, Home Bargains, B&M bargains, Primark etc would have something you could use).


Instructions:
Slice the oranges about 2mm thick and pop them onto a baking tray on greaseproof before putting them into the oven at 50-70°C for four hours, turning them about halfway through this time. Once cooled, pass a short length of twine through each slice and tie a knot, leaving a loop to attach the orange slice to the garland.

Bind a couple of bunches of 2/3 cinnamon sticks tightly with twine, leaving a gap or loop that you can pass the twine for the garland through.

Cut the twine to your desired garland length, leaving a little extra for the knots you will be tying along it. Lay out your pine branches, pine cones, orange slices and cinnamon stick bunches as desired – here you can add any little baubles or decorations to your arrangement. Thread the twine through the loops on the orange slices and cinnamon stick bunches and tie a knot before moving on. For pine cones and pine branches wrap the twine around a couple of times and tie a tight knot.

If you like a little bit of sparkle, spread a little bit of glue over parts of your garland and sprinkle with glitter. Allow to dry and hang up your festive garland for everyone to see!

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I love a little bit of sparkle (actually, I love a lot of sparkle, but I do try to control myself), so I added some red glitter to the red twigs I foraged from a plant in the garden.

To find out how Tea and a Read is getting on with her garland, go and read her latest blog post on Your World Blog, linked here. You can also follow them on Instagram @yourworldblog. We’d love to see you give it a go and share it with us- why not try your own festive garland and share it with us via instagram, using the hashtag #createwithgillandtea!

Happy Christmas crafting!

Gillian x

The Savvy Shopper: Christmas

Remain calm.

We’re now using the C-word openly. With only 2 paydays left, it’s time to talk about everyone’s favourite task: Christmas Shopping.

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I always start my Christmas shopping early (I actually had my sisters’ Christmas presents bought and hidden by March one year- fluffy blankets are a whole lot cheaper when the weather’s getting warmer). If I’m honest, if I haven’t got at least the majority of it done by Hallowe’en I freak out a little. I love buying gifts for people and combining that with my favourite time of year and my love for a good bargain makes Christmas shopping something I actually really enjoy. Here are a few of my tips for keeping the cost down at the most expensive time of the year.

1.Make a list (checking twice optional) and set a budget.

It’s so easy to get completely and utterly carried away with it when it comes to Christmas shopping. Why do we think everyone’s going to be offended if we don’t buy them something? If anything, they’ll probably be relieved they don’t have to send money on a gift in return.
Make a list of who you need to buy a gift for, and be brutal if you have to – you probably don’t need to buy your neighbour’s granddaughter who visits once a month a perfume set. After you know who you’re shopping for set a budget for each person, and stick to it, otherwise it can still get out of hand.

2. Plan ahead.

Now that you know who you’re shopping for and how much you’d like to spend on them, think of what you’d like to buy them, and write it down before you even go near a shop. It’ll save you from wandering around (or internet browsing) aimlessly, before potentially overspending to buy something you think they might like out of desperation to get the job done.

3. Work the offers.

FYI: this isn’t an ad, and I’m not being paid to say this next bit (I wish!), I’m just a major fan!
One of my favourite shops, especially for Christmas gifts, is Boots. I collect advantage points throughout the year and hit Boots for their 3 for 2 offers on everything from Nando’s sets, to toys, to the Laura Ashley photo frames that they pull out of the woodwork for the season. If I have 3 £20 gifts to buy, I only have to pay for 2 of them, and if I’m paying with the points I’ve collected, they’re completely free.

Happy days!

I’m sure some other shops do the same, I just know of them..yet. (Give me a break, I live 5 miles from the nearest town, shopping is a great adventure from where we are.)

4. Outlets and discount sites.

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If you’re in N.I and remotely local, Kildare Shopping Village is only a couple of hours drive away, and filled with great outlet shops for designer items. Junction One and The Outlet are fairly handy too, although outlet stores can be hit and miss, but sometimes it’s nice to just have a Festive day out.
Your best bet for designer discounts is outlet websites – Secret Sales, Brandalley, Achica, etc. I’ve briefly mentioned them before, but they have surprisingly good discounts on massive brands and a huge variety… just be careful with their shipping times as sometimes it can take up to 6 weeks for an item to arrive.

There’s also old faithful TK Maxx (the Aladdin’s cave of shops- you just don’t know what you’ll find!), and of course bargain shops like Home Bargains and B&M Bargains, which are especially good for toys. Buying in a bargain or discount shop doesn’t mean you’re being cheap on someone’s gift, or that you didn’t put any thought into it, it just mean’s you’re being smart about it.

5. D.I.Y

Make something! Anything! Fudge, chutneys, shortbread, a scarf, a candle- even putting together a little hamper of goodies can make a beautiful gift. The possibilities are endless and if you’re stuck for ideas consult Pinterest, knower of all things arts and crafts! Handmade gifts are usually less expensive but will cost you more in time, and will mean so much more to the recipient because you made the effort to make something especially for them.

As per usual I could go on (I’m a bit of a blather, really), but I’ll stop. Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a chore, and it doesn’t have to cost your savings either, you just have to know what you’re looking for and where. Happy shopping!

Gillian x