Blogmas day 7 – Hygge Hy-what?

img_1709As this blog goes live we are just two weeks away from the shortest day of the year. As I drove home this evening at 6:30 PM it was raining, just on the edge of snow. The road was wet and black and hard to see, the headlights of the other cars were blinding me and I longed to be home in my PJ’s and curled up under a blanket eating a grilled cheese and sipping a cup of tea. And all of that is hygge.

It is a Danish word and concept that became a bit of a buzz word over the last few years. I am not sure who started to export it from Denmark but from everything I have read the Danes are rather amused by outsiders trying to grasp something that they take for granted. In one article I read it compared it as – hygge is to Denmark what chic is to France. So much a part of their culture that there is no single definition.

The closest and most commonly used definition is a sense of cozy-nes. But equally it is an appreciation of the simple things, like PJ’s, grilled cheese and a cup of tea.

teacup 1  It’s no wonder it has caught on. And as like most trends in the fast paced world it spread like fire. Alex Beauchamp of the website http://www.hyggehouse.com recently tweeted “I get about 5 media requests a day for hygge & have had about 15 book offers in the past 6 months. A craze!”

But lets face it the world can be a bit scary these days. Is it any wonder that people want to retreat to safe, more comforting ground? While undoubtedly there are many advantages to the world that includes the internet, fast food, and instant 24 hour news, the downside is that many of us feel like our heads may explode at any moment. I would never want to give up my smart phone. Living in Canada, just lee of Lake Huron, winter travel without my own weather radar in my purse seems unthinkable now. But all this connectivity is still very new, and we all need to learn our own boundaries and levels of restraint.

knitting1Hygge is not the only craze that has seen an increase over the last few years. People are turning, or returning to things like journaling, knitting or yoga to help them find balance in their daily lives.

But back to Christmas.

As I mention at the start, this is the darkest time of the year. Most cultures have some sort of celebration in late December to help pass those long dreary nights. They almost always include, family and friends, warm and hearty food, and lights and candles. Often they are about reflection of the year past, thankfulness for the growing season recently completed, and showing gratitude to friends and family with the exchange of gifts and the sharing of food. There is much talk of Peace on Earth and Good Will Among Men. Resolutions are made, and promises to keep in touch, or we should do this more often. 

IMG_2397All of this is hygge too. And part of why I love this time of year. For me the week between Christmas and New Years is the one week a year that I really let out a sigh and completely relax. Usually I will have several new books to peruse, or new gadgets to play with. There is not much left to do for the old year, and plenty of time to figure out the new one. I light a fire, bake some bread, and only venture out to do the fun stuff.

snowshoesBut for everything good, there is also the bad. We should never forget that the whole reason for down time is the recharge for the up time. Sooner or later you have to go back to work, or school, fight the traffic or sit through a ridiculous meeting. It would be so easy to let ourselves forget the problems that exist in this world, to let it all slide over us as we snuggle under the eiderdown. So let us use this hygge time help us be ready for the world of 2017. Because man, it is going to be a doozy.

Blogmas day 6 The Christmas Village

Hello my little Christmas Carolers!

I was not sure what today’s topic was going to be until I sat down after dinner (last night) and looked up at the Christmas Village. I had already taken the photos so it is a good last minute one.

I knew when  started this crazy idea that some days I was going to struggle to get it all done. And it is especially hard on work days  when I have no time to get anything ready. I did take some extra pictures of random stuff ahead of December that you will see as we go.

img_1741

A Christmas Village is an important part of my festive season. My parents always had some kind of village to put up. At times my Dad built huge and extravagant multi layered shelves with lights and snow  – they were truly magical.

I think the idea of a tiny perfect place where the snow is always the right amount, and the happy little people are strolling around singing carols fits in with our fantasies of how Christmas should be. Wouldn’t it be nice to live there? Most of the villages I have seen are Victorian, but in those huge Christmas Stores there are often all sorts of themes. I saw a Dickensian one that I really liked. I also like the ones that are animated and have music. Little ponds with people skating, or carousels that go round to Christmas music.

img_1744

For mine we place a board across the end of the living room wall way up near the ceiling. In part because I don’t have another surface big enough for all my houses and shops. But I also have grown to like the soft lights up there. It is way above the TV and I look at it during commercials.

img_1742

I have ten buildings. The closest one in the picture above is the tea shop. There is a bookshop, an antiques store, a very fancy restaurant, and even a Christmas shop. I only add the kinds of shops I like to go to…it’s my village after all. Now if you are thinking how did you afford so many pieces? Are you nuts spending that much on something that is only out for a month each year…well I am a frugal shopper. I added each one from the after Christmas sales. I started with 3 or 4 the first year when I got to the sales early and there was a good selection – all 50% off. Then I have added one or two for the last few years.  I don’t need fancy themed ones, I am happy to create a village with the shops and houses I like. But I really have run out of space on my street.

img_1740

Miss Murfin picked one up for me recently and I have put it in the spare bed room as a night light. I kind of want to get  another one to have beside my bed next year. We also have a layer of snow and quite a few trees. And beside the barn is Santa on his tractor!

img_1743

Not sure if you can see him…the light in the barn is a bit bright. maybe it is elves working on Christmas toys in there.

It is so dark at this time of the year, even right after dinner, they add light and warmth to the room. I will miss them when they are put away.  But only having them out for a short time makes it all the more special.

Blogmas day 5! Felt Crafts

Hello my little festive crafters. Today’s post is going to be photo heavy, Lots to look at.

img_1675

I love using felt for crafting. It is such a versatile medium, has great colours, requires only basic skills, is inexpensive, and makes you look like a crafting genius.

I made these little felt guys a couple of years ago. Miss Murfin and I sat around the kitchen table for a couple of hours and had a blast.

She created an entire set of Charlie Brown character Christmas ornaments, while I went for the more traditional route.

None of these shapes are difficult. I drew them free hand, but if you are not too confident with a pen, you can trace a cookie cutter or a colouring book. And of course the internet is full of templates. One of the glories of felt is that is doesn’t fray so you can just cut on the lines you want and sew together. If sewing intimidates you glue works too.

One of my favourite felt designers is Laura Howard. Her book “super-cute felt” is pictured on the right, and her web page is http://bugsandfishes.blogspot.ca/  I learned a lot of my basic techniques from her and still want to try more of her designs.img_1774On the left is a book + kit that Miss Murfin gifted me.  “Cath Kidston Make your own Christmas Decorations” is a favourite and all the supplies were included. I still have more of those to finish.

But today I thought we would make a replica of Geoffrey! img_1759

As I said above I like to find a shape and free hand the design. Felt is very forgiving and if in doubt add a little extra and cut it down as you go. Geoffrey is basically 3 blocks of colour with only a little shaping. I added a little to the top of the face over-lay piece and the bottom of the hat so I could join the pieces together. I layered them with the hat over the top of the face colour.

img_1761When I am laying design elements over other pieces I like to use sewing thread in a matching colour and a whip stitch being careful to keep the stitches similar length and spacing,

img_1764

Then I add all the elements together. using my eye to keep it looking even.img_1765

I laid both sets of pieces together to make sure both front and back will be the same length. Also, as I finish sewing each piece I just do a couple of back stitches on the wrong side – they will be on the inside.

img_1767

After have both sides assembled  and I add the eyes and nose, I pin them wrong sides together to sew the edges. OK in truth I forgot the add the eyes at this point and had to sneak them on at the end. It would have been EASIER to add them now.

img_1768

I decided to use a running stitch around this guy. He is going to hang on the tree so will not be getting handled too much. If I was making a toy or a jewelry, I might use a blanket stitch to close up the edges.

img_1769

Before I closed him up I added a bit of stuffing, but not too much as felt will rip if you over stuff it.

And there he is ! Geoffrey 2.0 along with his pal Geoffrey the 1st.

img_1771

Of course Christmas is not the only time of year that felt is great. Laura Howard has a great design in her book Super-Cute Felt that I HAD to make.

A Hedgehog Hill mascot of course!hedgie 3

 

Blogmas day 4 outside trees

tree3

Hello my little Pinecones!

There are only two reasons when I don’t like the snow. One is when I have to clean it off my car the other is when I am driving my car and can’t see the road. Other than that I love snow. I would miss it if I lived in a warmer climate.

I miss it a lot right now because it would make the pictures of the outside tree look more seasonal and festive.  So again the picture above is not from this year.

It was nice to put up the lights on the big tree this year as it wasn’t even cold. But is is still a huge process that takes 3 of us. The tree is now about 20 feet tall. I am amazed at how much blue spruce grow every year.

img_1733

Trying to wrap lights is a good way to understand that it grows a lot in one year. Last year we could wrap both the big and small tree but this year it is only the big one.  It takes this 8 foot ladder, a long pole with a hook on the end and the fairly tall Mr Murfin to reach the very top. Then my son and I do a May pole dance feeding out the strings of lights  and loop over the branches.

image

But we did not have enough lights for both this year. So yet again a picture of last year. These tress are right at the end of the drive way very close to the road.  I love that you can see it for a long way as you approach the house at night.

img_1734-copy

I love Christmas lights and decorated houses. But I have rules…in fact I have a rating system. When we are out and about at this time of year I like to look at all the house decorations and I call out what score each house gets as I pass. Certain things get you more points. as well as an overall effort score. I prefer multi coloured lights – that’s an easy 5.  I don’t like all blue lights that will lose points. I like it when people include trees as well as house lights, but I’m not keen on those inflatable figures and scenes. All white lights is good if you have lots of them. I’m especially fond of the white lights in balls hanging from deciduous trees that look like over-sized Christmas baubles.

Some houses – when all my favourite items are present, get the ultimate “full marks”. In fact I will drive out of my way just to go past those houses. It pleases me to think that people enjoy our tree as they drive down our road and I hope we score at least an 8.

img_1746


 

Blogmas day 3 – The Christmas Tree

Tree1

 

Hello my little Tinsel Toes.   It’s Christmas tree day!

Well I’ve done well so far haven’t I ? Day 3 and going strong. But first let’s talk about the advent goodies from the first couple of days.

December 1st tea –  “Snow Day” The scent was really strong even in the tin so I was not sure how I would feel about this one. But I really enjoyed it. It was more mint than chocolate and there was almost a tingle to the palate. I would buy it again for a nice winter warmer.

Short Story day one was “Hunger Strike” – by Kevin Wilson. I really enjoyed this story. Well drawn characters and a really funny premise.

December 2nd tea was “Jumpy Monkey” Hmmmm not for me.

Short Story day two was “Under the Taps”  by Anakana Schofield  Another funny story. I did not know this author before I read it but half way through it mentioned Dublin and when I started reading it with an Irish accent I enjoyed it even more.

True story – Any time I read something written by someone from Ireland I find it is more enjoyable when I get the accent right in my head. There is something about how they construct a sentence that is different from any other writing.

tree close up

But now on to the tree. I like to get the tree up and decorated as close to the first of December as I can. Here at Hedgehog Hill we are lucky to have a sun room that has a higher ceiling because I like to put my tree up on a table or bench. I love that it feels taller and it creates more space for presents underneath. When the kids were little it helped to keep tiny hands from some of the more precious and breakable ornaments, I also used to tie the tree off to the wall after one memorable crash with Miss Murfin on the floor amongst the branches blaming it on the cat.

Putting up the tree is always a big chore. I am so glad someone invented the pre-lit tree as un tangling lights is a nightmare. I am a white lights person on the inside tree, but enjoy the multi coloured lights outside. Are you white lights or coloured lights person? Static or flashing?  No flashing in my house please!

I have a really eclectic tree. several years ago I found some stringed bobbles and tinsel garland that is dark red (almost burgandy) and antique gold. You can see a bit of it in the picture above. I treasure these carefully as I have never seen others like them. I do watch at thrift stores and such in case someone else is changing colours and gets rid of some the same.

Most of my ornaments are glass. I really like the way they reflect the light and are so delicate. My favourites are the antique ones. The little glass pinecones are the most adorable. A few are from special gifts. My decorating theory is to  just keep stuffing them on until I can’t find any more branches.

img_1758

 

 

I also have a couple of other trees around the house. a tiny one beside the fireplace that glows over my shoulder as I sit to read my short story and sip my tea.

 

 

And a special one in the bedroom. When Mr Murfin was 10 years old his beloved Grandmother asked him what he wanted for his birthday at the end of November. He asked for a Christmas tree all of his own for his bedroom. So she had one sent to him. img_1755Just last year his Mom brought it to him and I have found a spot for it in our room. I think it was a lovely gift and so special to still have it. Even if it is a bit worse for the years…

I love the idea of a personal tree in your room, or somehow making your tree your own, be it decorating a plant you already have, or creating a tree out of objects. I could certainly find enough books to stack and make into a tree.

Of course we don’t only decorate inside trees, there is the 20′ one in the yard. But that is for tomorrow. I wish there was snow for those pictures…

Blogmas day 2 – Advent Calendars

Hello my little Advent Angels

Well here we are at day 2. So lets get right to it and open up some advent calendars.

I love advent calendars, but not the usual ones with the little waxy bits of chocolate. I’d like to think we deserve better than that wouldn’t you?  Happily lots of other people – retailers, crafters and even writers are jumping on the advent calendar train. I think there are more available and more variety every year. Let’s look at a few of mine shall we?

Full confession, I may have gone a wee bit over the top. And you will be seeing the offerings from December 1st as we are one day behind here to allow for writing etc.

First up is my David’s Tea calendar. I really did not intend to buy this one. But I was in the mall, I just popped into the store, and whoops it came home with me. But I am so glad I did because I’m really impressed with the construction of this one. It opens up like a book and has an adorable woodland scene on the left hand side,

The picture below is a split picture showing the cover on the left and the open calendar on the right.

Davids advent

 

There are 24 numbered drawers and inside each one is a little tin of tea. The drawers come right out and after you have “opened” them you replace them backwards to slowly reveal the rest of the woodland scene.

 

img_1725

I think this is really clever and makes the whole thing totally reusable next year.

img_1727

 

 

Each tiny tin has the name of the tea on the back and a clear top. I’m not sure if I will enjoy them all, I tend to be a pretty plain tea girl, but I plan to brew up every evening. I’ll let you know as the month progresses how I feel about the flavours. It is a great way for me to test them out before purchasing a large amount. Well done Davids Teas!

 

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to discover the next one. The Short Story Advent Calendar. Published by Hingston and Olsen it is the brain child of Michael Hingston of Edmonton and designed by Natalie Olsen.

img_1729

Beautifully boxed in a sliding cover case each story is simply bound and numbered  1 – 24. Each has a different image highlighted in orange against the neon green cover. Will this be a clue about the story? I’ll have to see. The image on the story for the first is a drumstick….with a bite out of it.

img_1731

Hingston and Olsen have created a whole social media community to enhance the enjoyment of the stories. After you read the day’s story you can visit the Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts to read about the author and discuss with other readers the themes, ideas, and your reactions. I LOVE short stories as a medium. I so admire when a author can transport you away with so few words. I’ll be reporting back on this as well. Maybe enjoying a read as I sip my  Christmas tea.

But really would it be Christmas if I didn’t also have a chocolate advent calendar? I had to do it. So I opted for the Lindt one. At least the chocolate should be of a better quality.

I think advent calendars are a great way to work up to the big day on the 25th. It really is a lot of pressure and expectations  to put on a single day, a mere 24 hours. The calendars help to build that excitement through the month and give you some kind of present each day. There are so many choices: makeup and body care, yarn/wool, wine or beer. But I also think homemade is best –

so I pulled together a simple one for my Mom this year.

img_1737

 

Using a pre cut 5″ charm square bundle of assorted Christmas prints I created pockets with a green felt back.

img_1717

 

I didn’t do any fancy lining or turning, I just folded down the edge to make a faux cuff and sewed them with a zigzag stitch around the edge.img_1735

 

I found a great string of numbered mittens attached to mini clothes pins to hang them on and slipped a Christmas tea in a foil pouch in each one.

But really you could add all sorts of treats to the little pockets.

This year I have seen more ideas for advent calendars than ever before. I hope this trend continues, I know I have several new ideas for next year!

Until tomorrow…

First day of Blogmas!

img_0765

Hello my little Candy Canes.

Welcome to Blogmas 2016!

(No it has not snowed here, I cheated and used a picture from last year)

The plan, as you may already know, is to upload a festive chat every day from now to Christmas. We’ll have a go at baking, crafting, decorating, and many other festive activities.

There may also be a few deep Christmas thoughts as I muse this wonderful season. Please feel free to join in and add any comments, ideas and tips you may have.

Cath K plannerHelping me along on this journey is my Cath Kidston Christmas Organizer.

Miss Murfin and I bought these earlier in the year. We also discovered a fellow Christmas enthusiast and vlogger Zoe Sugg – AKA  Zoella. She reviewed the planner on a “haul” and I was hooked instantly.

Zoella celebrates December and the build up to Christmas by posting two You Tube videos every day. They are fun and festive and that is what I hope to do here – only in Blog format…you really don’t want to see videos of me.

To be honest I am doing this for myself. I’m very glad you have wandered in and are reading along, but this is all part of my own festive activities for my birthday month.

So what do I have planned for you? I have a full calendar of ideas, the tree(s), the lights, the movies, the crafts, the baking, the shopping, and of course the snuggling in and getting cozy.

image

 

You will get to meet this guy, Geoffrey the gnome. I knitted him from a free pattern by Rebecca Danger  http://rebeccadanger.typepad.com/

Look for the Gnome Nugget pattern, there is also a sewn version as well as a more complicated knitted gnome that has arms and legs….

Geoffrey is going to be showing up now and then in the pictures, he may even have a thing or two to say about things, I hope he is polite.

As I write we don’t have any snow. In fact on the evening of the 30th of November we are having a huge thunder storm. It was odd to be standing in the kitchen admiring the outdoor Christmas lights only to be shocked by a flash of lightening!  No snow is a bit disappointing for me, but on the other hand I don’t really enjoy driving in the snow so it can wait.

The trees and Christmas village are up and decorated, the house lights are on, the baking started, and I even have a couple of presents wrapped. Let the festive season begin!

But first Geoffrey and I are doing a little blog planning  by the tree with my Cath Kidston planner and mug. Let blogmas begin…..

img_1754