Has the thought of pine needles all over the floor and hiding in your furniture all year round driven you to the edge of sanity? Is it time to give up on the need for that “real tree” smell in your house in favour of fake and easy this year? Well, no longer are fake trees the rudimentary pieces of plastic they used to be. On the contrary, there’s a whole world of artificial Christmas tree wonders out there to behold. Whether you look in stores or online, you’re guaranteed to find a tree to suit every style or requirement.
If you’re living in a small apartment then all you need is a box of miniature trees to give just a subtle hint of yuletide. Place them on tables, in windows, beside your computer or at your bedside to create a little magic in your home. You can get trees that come in a variety of colour schemes to suit your own decor and are adorned with small and tasteful trinkets or none at all if you prefer to take control and do the decorating yourself. These styles of trees often come in stylish boxes and make a perfect pre-christmas gift for friends and family who need a fresh new look this year in their workplace or home.
When choosing a full sized artificial tree, they come in sizes that range from 1m tall for the cosiest of rooms, to well over 2m tall for an appearance of grandeur. The best part of buying a bare tree is the excitement of getting to design the look from scratch and the freedom to create a piece of artwork in your own home. You can even choose the colour of the foliage, there is a growing trend towards silver and black Christmas trees with a minimalist approach to colour but a very open-minded approach to style of decoration involved. A very modern look for Christmas.
For those who love Christmas tree lights above all else, there’s always the option to choose a fibre optic tree that require no other decorative items as the forever changing coloured glow that emanates from these would overshadow anything close to it. These varieties range from small green table top trees to large white trees that can be as tall as any other artificial tree on the market. With the room lights switched off, these trees take centre stage as they glow majestically, instilling the common belief of the Christmas tree being the most effective symbol of Christmas in the average home today.
If time is not on your side this year, don’t add extra burden to an already bewildering schedule and order yourself a complete Christmas tree package available in many stores and online shops. This action is surely going to reduce any stress for those who don’t have time to shop for decorations or panic at the thought of assembling a stylish look for their tree. An artificial tree that comes with a full set of pre-designed decorations – problem solved. Have fun with the family putting it all together without having to put a bit of thought into it.
As you can see, there are numerous paths to take when choosing your artificial tree this year, all of which will add a touch of class and style to your winter wonderland and will add a little sparkle to your overall Christmas experience as you count down the sleeps to Santa’s arrival.
So many lights to choose from and so little time left to deck the halls in a more stylish way than last year’s efforts. What a disaster! It all started out with a handful of fairy lights subtly placed around the living room and ended up looking more like millions of glo-worms lining the walls but without the cute factor. Don’t even ask me about my electricity bill as I’m still trying to pay it off. No, this year will be different – I’m on a mission to create a Christmas glow around the home without causing eye damage due to high voltage glare.
What seems like such a simple task, purchasing indoor Christmas lights, is made so impossibly stressful on account of the vast number of styles available, the better than ever sales on the high street and the immeasurable number of websites offering great deals on the latest lines of fashionable designs. Nevertheless, this will not get the better of me; I will proceed with confidence whether it is for a box of fairy lights or the biggest fibre optic tree in the store.
Some friends of mine actually admit to enjoying the process of walking for hours around crowd-infested shops in a bid to find the best, brightest and cheapest lights for their homes. They search through messy shelves that are teaming with opened boxes and scattered random items that have so obviously been abandoned by some other customer who decided they weren’t getting the deal they were hoping for. What’s worse, they often have their children with them when they do this who have an innate skill for knocking things off such messy shelves. Not my idea of a fun shopping experience. This is why I do the majority of my Christmas purchasing online.
There are some fantastic websites now that are completely dedicated to Christmas items, with pages specifically for lights alone and often with guidelines on what’s new and how to get the most stylish look for less money than other sites of similar content. The easy to read sites are designed to assist people like me who have difficulty choosing from all available styles. They explain what each kind of lighting system is best used depending on your styling needs: with LED, solar, outdoor/indoor lights, fairy lights, fibre optics all separated, I can make a more informed and less impulsive decision for the first time in my “Christmas-light-buying” life.
So long as I plan ahead and give myself plenty of time to search these websites effectively, cuppa in hand of course, I’m sure to find the whole process much more satisfying than braving the inevitable queues at the shops. I’m too easily dazzled by packaging in the shops and would come out with so many “bargains” that, as usual, half of them would end up staying in their boxes as I contemplate my foolishness when it comes to bright sparkly things with a price mark down. Yes, it’s safer for a woman like me to shop online for lights.
We prepare for weeks, spend hours chopping vegetables, scour the shelves for those “must have” items that are only ever available at Christmas time like sponge fingers for the trifle and what do we get out of it? We get that awful feeling of over-indulgence remedied by antacids and Panadol and an afternoon nap. Why do we go to so much effort in order to do this to ourselves? Because it is Christmas and it’s what we’ve always done and will continue to do so every year. You might even say that eating vast quantities of food in a one day period is rooted in tradition with most families at Christmas.
Choosing the ideal Christmas dinner menu in Australia however can often be a major dilemma as a direct result of the high percentage of families originating from, or recent descendants of, the northern hemisphere where Christmas is celebrated during the thick of the winter months. Weather has quite clearly influenced the traditional dinner cooked on this day. In the United Kingdom the tradition includes the roast turkey and ham with stuffing (unique stuffing recipes from household to household as each individual takes the opportunity to show off their special technique with secret ingredients handed down to them by their nanna, and so on). Roast potatoes, peas carrots and the dreaded brussels sprouts, which everyone loves to hate and yet continue to be a main addition to every Christmas dinner, and lashings of gravy and cranberry sauce set this meat selection off perfectly. There are many variations of this meal around the world as many daring individuals attempt to create a modern twist on the traditional classic, but it all stems from this original set up.
If this is the meal you received on Christmas Day every year as a child, it’s quite likely that when trying to capture the very essence of Christmas with your own family, this is exactly the meal that you will create for your own family. However, while this may be a very suitable meal in the middle of winter, all warming and comforting and substantial, it’s not exactly appropriate when you’re perspiring heavily in 40 degrees heat. In Australia, being the middle of summer when we celebrate Christmas, this traditional meal causes a bit of stress for some families. On one hand, it’s the memory, the tradition that urges us to recreate the roast dinner if that’s the culture you were born into. On the other hand, the weather on Christmas day is better accompanied by a cold buffet, a barbeque lunch or something that wouldn’t be out of place at a picnic on the beach.
So what do you do? Do you put childhood memories first and slog it out in the steaming hot kitchen for hours only to spend Christmas eating hot, bulky foods that will have you sleeping with the air-con on full blast? Or do you let sense rule the decision and prepare a seafood salad with plenty of cool drinks, cold meats and head to the pool side for a lazy but highly refreshing day? That, of course, is entirely up to the individual who controls the Christmas dinner tradition. There is always the option to combine the best of both worlds – decorate the dinner table heavily with the traditional decorations but instead of carving a great big turkey, have a large plate full of garlic prawns. Problem solved!
Entertaining this Christmas? Want to have an amazing looking table to share Christmas dinner with but have no idea where to start? So long as you have the food side of things covered, then you definitely can afford to spend some time putting details together for a fabulous looking table. If, on the other hand, the food isn’t up to scratch, then no fancy designs in the world will cover that fact so you have to know that the food is good before taking on the next challenge. Assuming this is all good, let’s discuss ideas for creating that magical look for even the pickiest of guests this year.
If bringing the Christmas tree to the table sounds good to you, why not arrange evergreen foliage around each plate in the manner of a wreath, or displayed in the shape of a star underneath the soup bowl. This is a very effective way to bring colour and texture to your design while still summing up the very essence of Christmas nature.
Sparkles always bring a table to life – whether you choose single colour glitter pieces, or multicoloured Christmas shapes to sprinkle all over the table, or even in isolated spots such as around each place setting, this look will brighten up even the darkest of corners.
A simple added touch that can transform your table is to attach a coloured bow to your wine glasses, around each napkin or even around the cutlery set. It takes no time at all to arrange and yet if the colour scheme is considered carefully, can really make the setting look special.
Sticking with the nature theme, the traditional poinsettia in a decorative plant is always a beauty to behold on any table with its simplistic elegance and contrasting colours.
Candles make an excellent focus point when spruced up with some natural foliage, berries and glitter. Consider placing in a wide low-sided bowl with a snow effect for its base.
Being very creative is the key to an original looking centrepiece, and you can achieve this by bunching together some natural tree foliage and assembling on top a favourite Christmas figurine surrounded by some glittery baubles – very cute.
Place Name Cards
If time isn’t on your side this year, try looking online for some pre-designed name cards that you can personalise and print out in a hurry. There are numerous designs to choose from, traditional or contemporary, sensible or fun based, get the professional touch without the professional price tag.
If time isn’t an issue and you are a fan of arts and crafts, try the original approach and paint names onto Christmas baubles with white glitter paint. These little embellishments to your table will have everyone talking.
Painting directly onto Christmas ornaments isn’t always the easiest of tasks so if you want something special for your guests, create a decorative place card from traditional materials but attach to a Christmas item with a decorative bow.
With all these ideas, you’re well on your way to producing a very memorable experience for your guests this Christmas!
During the month of December, it can be so easy to get sidetracked with planning Christmas, getting gifts for family and playing the “Santa” role. However, it is important to spare a moment’s thought for those who so rightly deserve that thought and often don’t get it because of being so incredibly busy with other things. Your kids’ school teachers. They have just finished spending a year educating your child and most likely arranging a beautifully thought out Christmas present for you that they have hand crafted to perfection, or thereabouts. Perfection should never appear too high on the agenda when it comes to kids; it truly is the thought that counts.
Most parents don’t stretch the imagination too far when considering a gift for the teachers and this can lead to a bit of a problem for them. A box of chocolates is a nice idea, but just think about this: if all the kids in the classroom buy their teacher a box of chocolates, which amounts to approximately 30 boxes of chocolates for one person. That’s a little on the excessive side and a rather difficult dilemma for the teacher – housing that amount of chocolate in the heat of the summer might prove to be quite tricky. Don’t get me wrong, teachers usually love chocolates and are grateful for any gift given from their students. Just keep this problem in mind if you do decide to go ahead with this gift idea.
So if chocolates are out of the equation, then what? That can depend on whether the teacher is male or female. For female teachers there are many options available. Candles are an excellent present at Christmas time as they look very pretty, can be suitable for all budgets and will last long into the new year making it very good value for money and a memorable gift. On the same train of thought, photo frames are another great idea for teachers as they can be personalised with their own photos and changed as often as they require. Both candles and photo frames are gifts that can be purchased online in advance of the holidays so they don’t have to be a last minute scramble. If you are stuck at the last minute this year, you could always go with a bunch of flowers or a pretty plant, both of which are actually best bought just before the last day of term.
For male teachers, candles and photo frames just won’t work. What would work very well are funky and unique cactus plants. There are so many varieties available these days, just go and have a look through the local garden shops and try to pick out a plant that would suit your teacher’s personality. Quirky is always good. Other great presents for male teachers are anything barbeque related – personalised stubby holders, barbeque utensils or a cool apron. The majority of men I know love to show off their cooking skills in the back garden to their friends and family in the hot summer months. Presents like these will be well used.
If buying a present from the shops doesn’t appeal, you could always spend a little extra time this year and get your kids to make a present for their teachers – home made Christmas decorations, chocolates and other such items are always very well received as teachers understand the value of the effort involved in these gifts. You could accompany these little treasures with a sachet of cappuccino and any individual pamper packet (facial mask, foot soak, etc). This is personal instruction to the teacher that now it is their turn to look after themselves rather than all the children for a refreshing change.
Many countries such as Australia experience hot weather on December 25 and July is their coldest month. In recent times in Australia the custom of celebrating “Christmas in July” has been adopted and is gaining momentum. July offers an opportunity to capture the atmosphere of a traditional cold weather Christmas with logged fires, a hot roast and hot plum pudding. For many people who yearn to experience a traditional Christmas feast, “Christmas in July” is the only way they can experience it, without having to spend lots of money to travel to another country in the northern hemisphere. Not many people want to leave family and friends behind in December for the experience of a “white Christmas” so “Christmas in July” is the perfect alternative!
The earliest known occasion to make the phrase Christmas in July literal was in July 1933 at Camp Keystone, a girl’s summer camp in North Carolina, which celebrated with a Christmas tree, gifts, and a visit by Santa Clause. The concept of Christmas in July was given a significant boost in 1940 with the release of the Hollywood movie comedy “Christmas in July”. It is the story of a man fooled into believing he had won $25,000 in a slogan contest. He buys presents for family, friends and neighbours, and proposes marriage to his girlfriend.
The precise beginning of the “Christmas in July” tradition in Australia is not totally clear. Although it is sometimes attributed to an Irish group who enjoyed the winter snow in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, and decided to party. The “Christmas in July” tradition is now so well entrenched in Australia that most restaurants and clubs have an official advertised annual catered menu for Christmas in July, and are often booked in advance. It’s always a great excuse for work teams to get together and party, and at a time when they don’t have to battle to reserve a table and pay premium prices.
It is the Australian snowfields however, where Christmas in July traditions really come into their own. July being the peak season for the snowfields they all have special events connected with their Christmas in July celebrations. Of course all of the young revelers love to build a snowman when they are in the snowfields, Santa skiing on the slopes is quite a treat and, since everyone that is there is on holidays, the nights are full of dining and cheer and merriment, so it is a perfect scene for Christmas in July celebrations. Many families make the brief excursion to the Australian snowfields just for the Christmas in July celebrations.
“Christmas in July” is a wonderful time for people to be reminded of the virtues associated with Christmas: giving, forgiveness, love and gratitude. Reflection mid-year offers a healing opportunity for people to start the process of transforming from the inside out by reviving and rekindling the spirit that belongs to Christmas!