In praise of advent

I wanted to bring you a little advent project and share with you why advent is so important to me.  So in this season of business, of sparkle, of mince pie making, present wrapping, card writing and nativity costume making may I invite you to make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a moment of quiet and reflection with me.

Advent seems to be  forgotten season/tradition the first of December arrives and its up with the decorations, out with the Christmas jumpers and boom Christmas is here. As a Christian advent is one of my favourite seasons, the waiting, the anticipation, the savouring, the preparation. I enjoy all these things … dare I say it…more than he big day itself. I hope what I write doesn’t sound like a sermon, that’s not my intention.  I simply wish to share a few of he things that help us as a family to savour this precious season each year. I do an advent calendar for my children. We have one of those cloth advent calendars with the pockets.  I do include the occasional sweet treat but I’ve always tried to make it a little more meaningful too.  One year we had a calendar of random acts of kindness I included thing like donating toys to charity, writing a letter to a friend, holding a door open for someone and we had a lot of fun doing it. In fact my children got quite competitive about who could complete their act first, or be most generous.  When my girls were very young they had a snippet of the Christmas story and a wooden nativity piece to add to the stable each day. In other years we’ve had  bible verse or Christmas activity each day  We’ve had a lot of fun and I have found these traditions bring meaning, joy and anticipation to the season of advent.  This year however, Granny showed up with a chocolate Frozen themed advent calendar and a Thomas the tank engine one for my son – I was frankly horrified. My children where amazed such things existed (7 years I’ve kept it a secret that other children get chocolate for breakfast during December)  and of course absolutely ecstatic. Once I reigned in my slightly over the top reaction to the chocolate advent calendars & accepted that my beautiful cloth advent calendar would just have to stay in the loft this year I set about trying to think of a simple way to  capture the true meaning of advent in our home this December.

My plans (and this post) were delayed when I spent most of the first week of December in hospital with my son, Beau who had just turned 2 and has Asthma.  That first night in hospital my son was absolutely buzzing with all the medication he had needed and at 8pm (way past his usual bedtime) I was feeling tired and emotional after what had been a difficult and long day. I’d read him every book in that place. Feeling unable to face yet ANOTHER tale of Apple Tree Farm or round of Dig, Dig Digging I got out the Gideon’s bible that the Gideon society place by every hospital bed. I began reading  the story of the birth of Jesus from Mathews gospel. I got no further than 5 versus in and Beau was asleep, at that moment it felt like a miracle – definitely an act of God, I was so relieved. I continued reading and took in all that wondrous story with a very grateful heart. So familiar is that story and yet I so rarely find the time to stop and read it in the busyness of December the words seemed new to me.  They stayed with me that week. My son now asleep I tired to make myself as comfortable as possible (not easy in a hospital) I watched Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas (I love that program) and flicked through a Christmas copy of Country living magazine – oh comfort and joy! Stuck in hospital away from all the distractions of home although not where I wished to be actually gave me a unique opportunity to just be.  To savour and slow down. Both the magazine and the television program full of beautiful images and lovely ideas for Christmas reminded me of the words from the Christmas song “Joy to the world”

“Let every heart prepare him room

And Heaven and nature sing…”

 Over the following few days as we left hospital and we continued to nurse my son back to health and make sense of that strange other worldly experience that is staying in hospital. Gradually an idea for making advent meaningful for all in our home came to me. It is wonderfully simple (well it needed to be with a very poorly tot to care for), not in any way original or new but it has given us pause for reflection this year.

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4 candles, some black paper and chalk, some raffia string, foraged foliage and some clementine’s and apples I sliced and baked in a very low oven for a few hours. I created this advent centre piece for our dining table.

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We have marked the Sundays of advent (Peace, Hope, Joy and Love) we have lit our candles at our evening meal every day and included a simple prayer on the theme in our usual mealtime grace. Next Sunday when we light the final candle we will put our decorations up.  AND eat gingerbread and Christmas will really be here but only once we have reflected on the meaning of Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.

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November Styling the seasons

Its been a while since I’ve shared a styling the seasons post on here. Its a monthly photography challenge hosted by Katy & lotts. I have enjoyed the opportunity to slow down & notice the subtle changes from month to month that this challenge affords.  It has inspired our nature tray that I have posted about and which the children always help with.

November certainly is a month of chance. It begins in Autumn but by its end there I no denying winter I here. There’s bonfire night & pumpkins galore at its start & now its almost over the hustle and bustle of Christmas is all around. I wanted to reflect this in my pictures & tried a floral flat lay in a wreath arrangement. I included glitter to reflect both Christmas and fireworks night & the last of my munchkin pumpkins was tucked in there. November is a tricky month for taking photos and the light was all wrong.  So I went back to the drawing board & decided to channel a little more Hygge in my flat lay. (Have you heard of hygge? f not read about this fabulous Danish ideal here) My favourite cosy blanket, a candle & pumpkins provide just the right amount of cosy.  The foraged berries give a nod to Christmas, without being over the top. I like its pale subtle Christmas vibe & for me it captures November pretty well.

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Styling the Seasons May

Last month my styling the seasons post went horribly wrong, broken glass all over a freshly spring cleaned room! I posted an image on instagram but I wasn’t entirely happy with it and I never wrote it up here.  I think I was just trying to say too much and do too much and so this month I’m keeping it really simple. Styling the seasons has really helped me to think about each month and what it means to me. To embrace slow living and appreciate the subtle changes in nature month by month rather than more generally each season.  I wanted a way to share this with the rest of the family, my children especially.  I saw an idea for a nature table and loved it, my nature loving 4 year old would just adore one however with a toddling 16 month old it just wasn’t practical.  Over Easter I was clearing out some decorations and found this little tray.  Perfect for a little mood board or…a nature tray!  So here it is each month the children and I gather little items to reflect the changing season.  Items may be replaced and refreshed throughout the month as new things catch our eye & the little tray sits in our living room for all to enjoy (although out of reach of Beau’s mischievous little fingers).

I do love May, spring is truly here and the flowers are almost at their very best.  May excites me as a month.  It begins with the romantic May day full of tradition and legend and nature.  This year we made May day posies and my girls enjoyed washing their face in the morning dew so much they did it twice. And whats not to like about two bank holidays in one month.  I do hope you enjoy our nature tray.

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Our nature tray for May’s styling the seasons featuring blossom, a Robins egg, a feather, bluebell, late snowdrops, box leaves and a catkin.

Styling the Seasons March

March is a funny month. Technically its spring but as far as the weather is concerned its still winter.  There is however so much promise and hope of warmer weather.  Blossom on the tree, bulbs in the garden, longer days and those bright trumpets heralding spring, the daffodil.  One thing I have really enjoyed this month is watching (and hearing) the birds returning from their winter vacation.  I do so love bird song and so my styling the season post for march is an ode to birds, and blossom.  I chose to style this little copper wire basket.  I picked it up at Tiger after Christmas, I loved its quirky style.  I may spray paint it a sweet pastel colour as it reminds me of a little bird house.  Initially i was thinking of injecting lots of colour into my vignette with daffodils and pastel coloured pom poms but a lovely friend bought me some beautiful blossom branches and this is what evolved.  I think the cooler tones reflect the cool weather and yet the bird and blossom say spring.

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Styling the seasons – February

Here we are in February, my least favorite month of the year. It is endlessly grey and cold and the warmer weather seems a distant prospect. Then we have this delightful little day in the middle of the month all about love and pink and little hearts and flowers. I love how girly it is. So I’ve decided a light and airy valentines vignette on my living room bookcase would bring a smile to my face when skies are grey.  Yet again I struggled enormously with lighting my photo’s this grey month & I am still not happy with my results.

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Sadly you can’t read the titles of the books. they are Love Letter of Great Men and Love Letters are Great Women. A valentines gift I bought my husband a couple of years ago, he didn’t take the hint in fact I don’t think he’s read them. Romantic gifts for men are so tricky.  This year I have decided to live by that old phrase “the way to a mans heart is through his stomach”.  I’ll be making truffles for my husband.

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Happy valentines day to you all.

Styling the seasons – January

I’ve decided to join in the Styling the Seasons this year. Read more about this lovely project from its originators here and here

I found out about Styling the Seasons through Instagram which I joined about 8 months ago. It’s a platform that’s always appealed to me but as I’m not an iphone or android user couldn’t access. Finally an app was released I could use & I have enjoyed the Instagram experience even more than I anticipated. I began practicing my photo skills with the photo a day challenges run by fat mum slim.  I love that Instagram is all about camera phones (mostly) it makes it such a level playing field.  I’ve always enjoyed photography but never have (and probably never will) owned a proper camera. Once I found my feet I began looking at other hubs and tagging my photos to them. I’ve found such inspiration through Instagram and made some lovely friends. I have even had the great honor of having a few of my photos featured. This sends me screaming around the house and leaping up and down with great excitement. I have got much better at taking landscape and outdoor shots (natural light is the best) and I’m getting better at macro shots, still life and little vignettes but lighting is my nemesis. Our home sadly lacks much natural light and all windows are north facing. However I did get some small photography lights for Christmas. I thought joining in with Styling the Seasons would not only give me great pleasure but also a chance to practice lighting and styling areas of my home.

So without further delay I bring you January. I am not a fan of January and February, they are tough months from me. It took me quite a while to find the inspiration for this month. The area I have chosen to Style is my bedside table. Getting out of bed In the dark in January may well be my least favorite thing so I thought waking up to this pretty scene and hopefully the smell of hyacinths in the days to come would be a good tonic.

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I spent A LOT of time on this first photo and honestly, I’m still not happy with it. However as I said this is a learning experience.  I’ve also given our bedroom an early spring clean so it feels clean and inviting. I’m hoping to spend some time like this.

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Don’t be fooled by this serene little vignette just off camera there is a baby wreaking havoc.