Our Monthly Journal
We're so excited to share another monthly journal written by the lovely Lola Jones, also known as @pocketfullofbuttercups on Instagram. Lola is a wonderful photographer and all round creator of beautiful content, raising her twin daughters Maya and Chloe & her baby Thea from her house near the Peak District. Each month she will give us a small glimpse into her world, inspiring you with activity ideas, recipes and more.
Autumn has slipped through my fingers this year and I find myself at the end of November thinking and planning all things Christmas. Are you doing the same? My twin girls have a got a countdown on, so we are reminded every morning how many days are left until the big day. The anticipation is somehow greater this year. It could be because they are starting to really appreciate our festive family traditions and actually looking forward not only to the big day when they get to open presents, but to all the other elements like baking, foraging and crafting. Or it could be because it is their baby sister’s second Christmas and she is so much more fun now and it is special to be sharing the whole experience with her. Whatever the reason, I am soaking it up as much as possible.
Our final two journals of the year will be dedicated to winter and festive preparations. I hope you find them interesting and inspiring. Should you decide to have a go at any activities, we would really love to see them. Please tag us #inspiredbynelliequats
FRESHLY FORAGED WREATH
I decided to teach my older girls how to make a simple fresh wreath from scratch - something they wanted to be involved in for some time. So we grabbed our baskets and ventured out into the woods. Our plan was to make mini wreaths just to learn the basics of the process.
We gathered a bunch of thin flexible twigs for the base (you can buy them ready-made, but it is so easy to make one yourself). For the main part of the wreath you can pick pretty much any evergreens (we went for fir tree branches that aren’t too spiky to work with). We also picked small, moss-covered twigs, a few branches with little cones and catkins - they all add so much character when put together.
I have made a reel of the process, which you can see on NQ Instagram page, but here are the steps we followed to make our mini wreaths.
To make the base, take two or three flexible twigs and attach them together at one end (the thicker end) with the florist wire. Then add two or three more branches a little higher up to make the twigs longer. Secure them with the wire, keep adding the twigs in the same way until you reach the desired length. Bend the twigs into a circle and attach the two loose ends together.
Now you can start designing your wreath. Put a few branches together, for example a fir branch with an interesting-looking twig or two different fir branches (one with longer needles and one with short needles), see what looks good together. Is it the right length? Cut the branches if necessary. It is very much a creative process. Once you are happy with your first bunch, place it on the base and attach it with the florist wire (do not cut the wire), then pick your next bunch and place it at the bottom of your first bunch so they overlap. Attach your second bunch with the same wire by wrapping it round the wreath a few times until it feels secure. Continue adding bunches to the wreath in the same way until you have covered the whole wreath. You can also stop half-way like Coco did with her wreath - for a minimalistic look.
FESTIVE BOOK IDEAS
It is finally time to pull out our winter and Christmas book collection. I usually keep them tucked away for the whole year, so it feels quite special to see our favourite stories and titles once December arrives.
Some books we had since the girls were toddlers, but they still enjoy listening to the simple stories or to read those themselves. I tend to add a seasonal book or two to the collection every year, but here are our favourite ones.
Winter Story by Jim Barklem
My personal favourite winter book about mice living in Brambly Hedge. I wish I could transport myself into that magical world and to see their preparations for the Snow Ball.
The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis
A heart-warming story about twin girls (Sam, who is very well behaved and Charlie, who is rather mischievous) and the big question for them this year is whether Charlie would get any presents from Santa at all?
One Christmas Wish by Katherine Rundell
Absolutely magical story about a boy called Theo who is spending Christmas Eve at home with a babysitter. What seems like a rather sad uneventful evening turns into an unforgettable one when he wishes upon an evening star. This book is so beautifully designed and would make a wonderful present.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
An oldie but a goodie.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
A really lovely story about Mr. Willowby’s Christmas tree that is sadly too tall for his parlor, so the top of the tree gets chopped off, but it doesn’t go to waste.
A Dancer’s Dream by Katherine Woodfine and Lizzy Stewart
A story about a young ballerina whose dreams of dancing the role of Clara in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker finally came true, but it won’t be easy as her mind is filled with worries about her poorly sister and a newly estranged best friend.
Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Hendry
A really hilarious Christmas story about a house in Exeter Street, where the guests just keep arriving and having to sleep in some very funny places.
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson
Timeless, gentle story about Santa preparing for his big journey around the world.
The Christmas Fairy by Anne Booth
A story for younger readers, but my girls still enjoy reading it. Little fairy Clara is a chatterbox, who loves to dance and sing and dreams of becoming a real Christmas fairy, but her teacher at the Fairy School encourages her to be sensible and quiet - like a proper fairy should be. Will Clara get her wish?
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Ukrainian folktale about a boy named Nicki who loses his new white mitten in the snow and the forest animals get comfy inside it.
Winter Tales by Dawn Casey
A collection of old tales to brighten your midwinter with magic, wonder, wisdom and delight. Would make a beautiful gift.
Peter Rabbit Christmas is Coming
The perfect book to start reading on the 1st December. A collection of 25 stories about Peter Rabbit Christmas adventures. There is also an activity for families to enjoy every day of the month.
ALFIE - Alfie’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes
Timeless story about little Alfie, who is counting down the days until Christmas. This enchanting book with stunning illustrations is sure to get everyone into the Christmas spirit.
DIY CHRISTMAS CARDS
When my twin girls were a little younger we used to paint a lot of watercolour together. At the time, we were mostly just exploring the colours, so I have a lot of old drawings that are similar in style. I recently dug out a box with their artwork and decided to recycle some of the drawings and make Christmas cards with them.
Together we thought of a few simple designs and here is what we came-up with.
- Heavier paper for the card itself
- Old drawings
- Stamps (optional)
Method:We cut some of the old drawings into strips of different length (you can tear them too), arranged them in the shape of a Christmas tree on the front of a card and glued them. We then added a star with a rubber stamp. We used rubber stamps to make the tree decorations.To create other designs we drew stars, circles, holly leaves etc. on the drawings and cut them out. Then, as with the Christmas tree, we arranged the designs on the front of the cards and attached them with glue. On a couple of cards we added “Happy Holidays” or “Magical Holidays” using rubber alphabet stamps.
I love the way these darling cards turned out and I think they will make a special little present for a family member, teacher or friend.