I have been loath to take out my Christmas box of decorations. I have felt no motivation to do so. I feel I am however committing some kind of mortal sin if I don't.
I know it's nice to get these things out every year and reminisce where each bit came from. A few things in there have to go, those blue baubles maybe. The dreaded glass snow globe that plays jingle bells, definitely. Every single time the kids reach for it I have a coronary. I don't like it, but I don't want them dropping it either.
I have taken just one thing out of the box, a cut out angel that Beatrix drew seven years ago. It's on my dining table, hanging from some pine needles. She had made one for each of her teachers from three-year-old kinder, one recently told me they still pull that angel out every Christmas.
I wanted more heart in my Christmas this year, more soul. This little paper angel of hers got me thinking about simplicity, and about the beauty in making do.
I know I am not like most people as Christmas comes around. I never queue up for the photo with Santa, I don't threaten my kids with him not coming to you like every other parent I hear in the shops these last few days. I just think it all too much.
But, is it wrong of me to deny my children tinsel? I hate the stuff. Even as a child I disliked fiddling with it, it never looked right, ours was always thin and had lost most of its bits so it was really just string. My kids can get their tinsel fix elsewhere. I can never tear them away from the trees in the shopping malls. I drive a little slowly by the house with the tackiest of Christmas decorations on our way to school, they love it. I am not entirely depriving them.
This year I was inspired to take away the materialism that comes with Christmas. I wanted to make do with what bits and pieces I had about the place to create some new decorations. My spare room is filled: beautiful fabric scraps from my neighbour, my roll of french string I am in love with, the metres and metres of linen aprons I bought for a dollar each at Ikea.
Those aprons have made cushions, bags, owls, even a bird shaped pillow. Aaron has made a calendar out of one. It was the best ten dollars I have ever spent.
I had a heap of ideas and limited available time. Eliza is in love with heart shapes - she cuts them out, she draws them, she likes to feel her own heart beating. I thought this would be the perfect thing to make with her.
I pulled out my bags remnants of beautiful fabrics I am so very lucky to receive from my wonderful neighbour. I would never be able to buy some of these bits and pieces they'd be very expensive and I couldn't just pick them up at spotlight.
I remembered some pieces of a beautiful silver fabric, fabric that reminded me of my antique oroton glow mesh purse, but had never known what to do with it. We cut out some simple heart shapes and stitched and stuffed them and attached some string, teamed them with some linen ones for contrast. I had found a nice bit of branch outside school which had of course loaded into the car. I hung those hearts from the branches.
I was excited too about transforming my mantle. I it change whenever I am bored or am inspired by something I see. My lounge is fairly colourful. I own an Ikea rug which has multi-coloured squares, I love this rug. My mantle therefore needs to be striking but low key. I think I succeeded.
A few days later I made some small tissue pom poms to also sit along side the hearts. None of this is perfect or from a pattern. I am freestyle, rustic, fraying at the seams. Anything goes there is no right or wrong.
I thought about making a wreath out of some sticks I usually do one every year, but now that they were out I kept looking my remnants and thinking I am surely able to make something? I was inspired by SouleMamma to make a fabric wreath.
I couldn't find a suitable pattern so Aaron and I made it up as I went along. There were many laughs whilst making this, I believe I had one of those "I haven't laughed like this in ages" times.
I began with a length of fabric sewn into a tube, double stitched for strength. It has to be stuffed it full with stuffing, it needs to be quite hard, firmer than a draught snake. This is where the laughs came in. Then about three inches are left unstuffed at the ends and tied off with rubber bands. The ends got tied together, trying to get a circle shape. I cut small lengths of fabric and wrapped then around the wreath, with some french string as I went along adding more bits of fabric, all reds and cream. I added a couple of buttons, to decorate and just because I love buttons. In an hour I had my wreath. I have now learnt that a foam round wreath is available at spotlight, my life would have been a little easier had I seen that sooner. Although we would not have had the laughs like we did.
At the beginning of the Christmas hooo haa my kids remembered my advent calendar of years past, I use small white paper bags, like the ones you'd get at the milk bar for your 20 cents of mixed lollies. I hole punched the bags in the middle of each along the top and fed the string through string a knot with each bag to keep it in place as you are making a line of 25 bags to be strung up. I strung mine on the doorway to my lounge room. I stamped each bag from 1 to 25. Other than the lollies I didn't have to purchase anything to make this.
I am now pestered daily for today's lolly. I also didn't factor an extra lollie for our other daughter, Bea's best friend. There have been many a teary compromise over these lollies.
One of the highlights of this Christmas had to be assembling a fifty-two year old pop out Christmas scene from 1958. I remember being sent this by Aaron's mum a few years ago. I was a little hesitant to get this out, to show Aaron, I thought it might make him really sad. It did make him sad, but he said it was fine, it was good even.
I had wanted to wait till the kids were old enough to appreciate the importance and the oldness of this beautiful cardboard scene. We cleared the table and sat around carefully pushing out and assembling the bits. Cardboard really gets fragile over time so we were very careful. Do note the particularly quaint little chair. There were many ahhhs when one of us would assemble our particular bit: a bed, a fireplace, a doll's house.
Things went wrong a bit, towards the end.
I had really wanted this putting-it-together time to be nice, really co-operative. But as is the case with a lot of what I set up as being ideal in my mind I get a little disheartened when it doesn't quite go as I wanted. This was ironic considering we were assembling a "happy family" scene. It had been a tense day, I had earlier stormed out on everybody that day, to go where I didn't know. I'd ended up at a movie, trying to enjoy being alone but missing my family all the same.
So when it went wrong, I felt it. I heard Aaron tell Eliza as she was having major tears over the final assembling, that Granma would want you to be happy. I had a tear there. I often think of Aaron's mum, watching over Eliza, the little one she so wanted to meet but didn't.
We are not the picture perfect family of the Christmas scene. We don't have the 2.5 children with cat and dog, nor do I look anything like the Mum when I am going to bed. Aaron doesn't even own pyjamas let alone a dressing gown, believe me I get an ear full on the "why don't you buy me PJs." We don't even have a tree as yet. And if I don't get to Christmas shopping soon, I can assure you my kids are not going to look so darn sweet.
But still, when the thing was all assembled Aaron and I and the kids stood, arms around each, and looked at it proudly. With my picture-perfect Christmas sitting on my shelf and my easy-on-the-eye-mantle, I can find some solace in the madness come this time of year.