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December Slow Living Tips (Part Two)
Each month, I’ll be sharing my seasonal slow living tips: things to make, do and celebrate to stay in the moment and appreciate the wee things. Here’s how I’ll be celebrating home and hearth in small, simple ways this Yule. You can read part one here.
The time and effort that goes into making something special for your loved ones means so much more than your average gift. I’ve always made edible or homemade treats for my family and friends, and it’s such a part of my Christmas build-up that I’d miss it! In the past my sloe gin chocolates have been a hit: recipe here. Christmas spiced fudge is my current favourite festive make: mix 500g sugar, a tin of condensed milk and 120g butter in a medium-sized, heavy bottom saucepan. Line a 20cm square baking tray with baking paper and melt the ingredients together over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and stir frequently until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (use a sugar thermometer). You want the fudge to start catching a little on the bottom making flecks of caramel-y goodness. Add the zest of half a lemon and half a clementine along with ½ tsp of ground cinnamon and ½ tsp ground mixed spice and stir until combined. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly dunk the base in cold water (I fill my sink with a few centimetres of water) then beat the mixture as it cools. Pour into the prepared tin and mark into squares once cooled a little. Wait until completely cool before cutting the fudge into bitesize pieces.
At this time of year a heady mixture of festive preparations, busy work calendars, social obligations, a lack of daylight and general end of year fatigue can combine to leave us feeling frazzled. Plus the news feels really heavy at the moment - adding to the impending sense of doom. There’s so much pressure at this time of year, especially with social media, to be busy busy busy. To have the perfect tree, have all your presents sorted in November, to be going out every night of December. Reflect on festive seasons past: what do you want to hold onto, and what would you let go? Decide what’s important to you and yours, not other people. Stop scrolling, and remember that others’ feeds are a highlight reel - not always the real deal.
A Festive Tablescape
You don’t have to break the bank to make your festive table special. In fact, often the simpler the better! First, decide on your colour palette. I favour red or green with white or gold at this time of year. Colourful linens can come out year after year and over time I’ve thrifted several affordable cotton tablecloths in a range of festive hues and patterns from charity shops and vintage fairs. Tie napkins with leftover ribbon and pop a piece of evergreen foliage on top. Mismatched crockery and cutlery add charm and a plethora of dinner candles can make even the plainest of rooms cosy and welcoming. I love to decorate on the Winter Solstice (Yule - more on that soon!) and then leave my tablescape in place until Boxing Day.
One of the best parts of Christmas preparations has got to be gift wrapping. The most sustainable option is Japanese Furoshiki: wrapping with fabric. You can repurpose any fabric – great for those snippets you’re always left with after making something that you don’t quite know what to do with. I also favour recycled brown paper, stamped with woodland designs from wonderful independent business the English Stamp Company. I collect ribbon offcuts all year - saved from candles, cakes, anything – and finish my wrapping with a bow and a brown luggage label for its tag, plus a dried flower or piece of evergreen foliage (just avoid holly!).
Christmas Eve Reading
In Iceland there’s a wonderful tradition called Jolabokaflod, where families give a new book to each other on Christmas Eve and spend the evening reading alongside one another. I’ve amassed quite a collection of second hand and vintage books, and they can be picked up for a few pounds in your local charity shop. I love to give old books at this time of year, seeking new editions of my family and friends’ favourites, or a title that I know will appeal. This would be especially fun with seasonal books for the little ones in your life. If you want some more seasonal reading inspiration check out last week’s newsletter in my archive. I’ll be re-reading Little Women.