On the mantel: December

Ahhh, the Christmas mantelpiece.

It’s the one I remember most fondly from my childhood. Hundreds of cards jostling for space. An ever-growing nativity scene, ultimately boasting four baby Jesuses made out of clay, the child/sculptor’s name scrawled into the bottom and the constant pestering to my Mum to decide which of us had made the “best Jesus.” An advent calendar and advent candle hiding in there somewhere, the candle lit ceremoniously in the evening – though we’d frequently forget it for days on end, or leave it burning for longer than we should, so it rarely showed the right date.

Christmas is really all about creating traditions for kids, isn’t it? It’s something I look forward to with more excitement each year as the sproglets get older and more able to understand what’s going on.

December mantelpiece | Wolves in London
Oh so hard to take photos in these dark days!

My mantelpiece now is nowhere near as full, riotous or jolly as those we used to have when I was little, but I’ve got a nod to some of the same elements.

On the right, perhaps my favourite Christmas decoration of all time: an angel candle holder. The angels spin round and round when the tea light is lit… I’ve had it for four years now, but it was only when examining in closely with the sprog, that I realised each angel is carrying a different offering.

Angel candle holder
I could watch these spin round for hours…

The beautiful poppy illustration to the left is an RHS 2014 calendar that I discovered in the attic just last week… I must have put it away when we moved out last Autumn for the building work and then forgotten about it once we moved back in. It is absolutely stunning, so I’m pleased to be enjoying it for the last few weeks of the year, anyhow, ha ha.

All is not lost, however, as I plan to cut out some of the illustrations and frame them, so they can have a more permanent position in the room.

RHS calendar | Wolves in London
This is a poppy illustration in festive Christmas colours…

Of course, we don’t only have one Christmas card, the rest are on the bookshelves in the alcoves surrounding the mantelpiece. But I am quite fond of this little polar bear in his woolly hat…

Polar bear card
It must get cold in the Arctic. I’d want a woolly hat too…

On the far left, a fabulously kitsch Mary, Joseph and Jesus, nestle next to an offcut of our Christmas tree and some pinecones. The little nativity trio were sent to me by one of my oldest friends a few Christmases ago when we were out in Hong Kong, as part of a fabulous Christmas bundle to bring a bit of the classic British Chrimbo to our little patch in China. (Also included, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, a CD of Christmas songs and some Christmas tree hairclips.) It might well be the favourite parcel I’ve ever received.

Nativity | Wolves in London
Shiny shiny

In a slight aside, I’ve been pondering a lot this year how to explain the whole Christmas thing to the sproglet. I was raised (very loosely) CofE, but am not religious at all anymore.

(For anyone interested, the nutshell version of what I believe is that this short life we have here on Earth is all there is, so let’s all be nice to each other and try and make it as enjoyable and as much fun as we can. )

I’m not quite sure, though, what line to take with the sproglet when explaining various (mainly Christian) religious things. Obviously, we are actually celebrating Christmas, so do I just give him the story of Jesus, or do I preface everything with “some people believe that…”?

It seems like there’s quite a fine line to tread in there somewhere, explaining about all religious festivals, but why we only celebrate certain ones of them if we’re not, ourselves, actually of that religion. And why other people, such as friends or relatives, believe things different to what we (or rather I) do.

Anyway, he’s only two still, so perhaps I can worry about all that another year.

On a much lighter note, the ginkgo garland below is still hanging since last month (missing on a central leaf). I had planned to take it down and replace it with something more Christmassy, but I just love it so much, it’s stayed up there. I’ll leave it til Christmas Eve and then put some stockings up.

The fireplace remains unlit, again something for Christmas Eve, I think. Meanwhile, the wicker basket is full of blankets, for snuggling up under in these dark cold nights.

Candlelight, blankets and kitsch ornaments: I need nothing more from Christmas!

I’ve been showing you my mantelpiece each month since September, but have decided not to carry on in 2015. I’ve become aware that there are lots (and lots and lots!) of other bloggers out there showing beautifully styled, beautifully photographed vignettes from around their houses. Now, I’m not a stylist, nor an especially proficient photographer (see my struggle to get these images in gloomy winter weather) so I started to think I’m not really adding anything especially interesting to the mix…

I’m planning on sticking a bit more to what I’m good at: crafting, gardening and a lot of wittering, ha ha.

I’ll be popping back in tomorrow (Christmas preps all going well, at any rate) to show you a little crafty / papery project I made for my guest room and then it’s off to the mulled wine and mince pies and duck that we’ve got planned. Hope you’re all settling down to enjoy festivities…

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On the mantel: October

October for me is usually a month to stay at home, tucked up warm with my slippers on, or out and about in wellies, tramping through the fallen leaves.

Wolves in London October mantelpiece
Flowers, pumpkins, books and invitations: what more could you want from a mantelpiece?!

This month, though, has been one of celebrations and parties; with two invitations up on the mantelpiece.

First, my Mum’s “second 50th” (eg, she’s not letting on her actual age) – a lovely afternoon spent lounging on the balcony of Court Gardens House in Marlow, looking across to the river and enjoying the unseasonally summery weather. After I gave a speech (slightly nerve-wracking) we all sang happy birthday and then members of my Mum’s ukulele group played a few songs, while I got a rare chance to dance with the hubby as the kids romped around with their extended family. The 50 50 card on the mantelpiece was our invitation.

Then last weekend, we were down to Somerset to celebrate my sister-in-law’s wedding. She was married in the utterly stunning and ancient church in Shepton Mallet (I’m not religious, myself, but I do love a good church) and then a fantastic reception in a nearby local hall.

Hand-stitched wedding invitation | Wolves in London
This was the hand-stitched front of the invitations.

She’s as fond of a crafting opportunity as I am and everything was handmade, from the invitation that you can see here, to the table displays, order of services, cakes, food, decorations… I was chuffed to have a part to play too: advising on and collecting the flowers from Covent Garden flower market. These blue monkshood and white lizzies in the vase were some I bought when I went to check them all out.

Blue monkshood | Wolves in London
Just utterly beguiling, I think…
monkshood veins
I love the amazing veins on the flower heads
White lisianthus | Wolves in London
I has these in my bouquet too, last year

I just adore going to the flower market. Firstly, there are just loads and loads of flowers, for extremely cheap prices. Secondly, you feel like you’re someone in the flower industry, which is real dream job stuff for me…

The bouquet was made up with these two, along with some purple lizzies, white astrantias (my favourites, actually), thistles, wax flowers, viburnum berries and rosemary and eucalyptus leaves from her garden. Just heavenly. (I think it ended up even more beautiful than the one I did last year for my own bouquet, actually…)

Portuguese bag | Wolves in London
Isn’t this a fabulous bit of packaging?

The glorious Aloma bag was brought back by the hubby from Portugal, after he spent four days there for work one weekend. It was filled with egg custard tarts. They may be one of my favourite, but it’s not enough of a sweetener to make up for the horrors of solo parenting (even with my Mum’s help)…

Underneath, a James Baldwin book that I have been meaning to read forever, but which is finally making its way to the top of the list: Go tell it on the mountain. I read the utterly mesmerising and haunting Giovanni’s Room many years ago now, which must rank as one of my top books ever. I have high hopes for this one.

Pumpkins | Wolves in London
The obligatory October pumpkins

The pumpkins, well, they’re self-explanatory, aren’t they? Actually, I am a bit sick of seeing pumpkins all over instagram now, so I apologise for adding to the pumpkin spam. I roasted these after I took the photo and added them to a really delicious beef shin stew. Now that is a good winter feed…

Of course, I haven’t managed to paint the mantelpiece still, despite my plans to do so last month. Nor have I switched round the painting, but hey ho, the days pass by and somehow nothing manages to ever get done in the way I’d like it to.

Next month, though, there will be great changes to come and witness! For, we are the proud new owners of a mantelpiece mirror. I’ll show you more in November, though I have a feeling it might make the photography a little more complicated…

Joining in with a few other lovely blogs who have been showing their monthly mantelpiece decorations: Tales from a Happy House and A Quiet Corner.

On the mantel: September

September mantel
A little glimpse at my sitting room mantelpiece…

You may recall that our house is in a near permanent state of being done upness. (I’m pretty sure that’s the official term that all property developers / architects / interior designers use…)

We have little flurries of activity here and there, but fundamentally progress is slooooow.

The last few weeks, however, have been one of those rather wonderful periods of flurry. Brought about, as is usually the case, by having booked a tradesperson to come and do some work, which necessitates us getting of our lazy behinds and doing a lot of work beforehand…

In this instance, it was an excellent carpenter (female!) who came and built shelves and a lovely cabinet in the alcoves of our sitting room. Necessitating us to actually get round to painting the sitting room first. (I may be lazy, but there is no way I am going to risk spilling paint on some exceedingly expensive bespoke shelves by painting the walls after they’ve gone in…)

So, as I sit here writing this on the sofa, I am looking not at bare plaster walls, with a bare pine mantelpiece and a load of boxes all around me, but at some beautiful grey walls, lovely books on even nicer shelves and… …well, the mantelpiece is primed, though still needing its final coats of paint.

For the first time since we’ve lived here, this room is starting to feel like a home I would actually choose to spend time in.

Rather fortuitously, just as I was thinking about how nice it will be to arrange things on the mantelpiece, I came across a wonderfully evocative piece on Gillian’s blog, Tales from a Happy Home, with some pictures of her September mantelpiece. Did anyone else fancy joining in? she asked. I was already feeling tempted but was completely won over as I went on to read:

“It’s not about styling or making things looks beautiful necessarily (although that is fun). It’s more about the meaning behind beloved objects and pictures, and the place nature has in our lives, and the way we humans like to surround ourselves with treasures and memories throughout the year.”

So here I am, a whole load of wittering at the top of the article first, but finally ready to begin what will hopefully become a new monthly series showing you what’s on my mantelpiece.

September is an auspicious month to start. Perhaps because it’s the month of my birthday it’s always been one of my favourite times of the year. The flowers on the right of the picture were a birthday bouquet from the hubby, stuck in my favourite flower arranging vestibule: an Ikea jug. (The same jug of fame from my post about attempts at styling…)

 

Bouquet | Wolves in London
Lovely birthday flowers

You can see the hubby himself in miniature form next to the flowers. This little peg doll version of us was painted by him for the top of our wedding cake. This month is also that of our first wedding anniversary and the card behind was from the hubby to me on that auspicious occasion. We first met out in the Philippines on a marine conservation expedition five years ago and hit it off straight away. But it was upon discovering a mutual love of lindy hop (swing dancing) that we really connected. Though, realising that we went to the same class in London (me in beginners, him an hour later in intermediate) was temporarily so freaky that it actually put me off a bit, ha ha.

Wedding cake toppers | Wolves in London
Diddy me, diddy him

The bowl with the lion on has recently come out of storage as we’ve finally put up some shelves in the kitchen for all our crockery. It was part of our wedding crockery and is a mighty fine holder for conkers as well.

Conkers in soup bowl | Wolves in London
This is the first year the sproglet has really enjoyed conkers. It feels like a rather momentous childhood occasion…

The picture behind it was a present from sister for my birthday last year. As we’ve not had a decorated house since then, this is the first time it’s come out into the open air. I love it. A lot.

Wolves in London mantelpiece
My sister knows me well, I don’t think you could get a picture more up my street…

The huge bronze urn belonged to my Granny. When she moved into a home a few years ago, she left everything in her house and I went round one evening with my Dad, collecting a few things that I liked. I adore the urn, but am not entirely sure about keeping it on the mantelpiece – I think it looks a little bit as if we have someone’s ashes in there, no?

Urn | Wolves in London
Beautiful but a little sinister in that position I think. Must find it somewhere else to sit…

Underneath it, a selection of poetry books. I am currently absolutely addicted to the website The Book People (www.thebookpeople.co.uk). Have you come across it? When I worked in the communications department of a giant corporate bank they used to come and do book sales outside the canteen once a month, but I’ve only just realised they also sell online. There’s a huge amount of commercial tat, as you’d expect from a large discount bookseller, but you can pick up some absolute gems for next-to-nothing as well. These beautiful books cost me a few pounds I think. It’s pretty great for birthday presents, especially for children. (Lots of Julia Donaldson on there too…)

Poetry books | Wolves in London
Oh these just look far too beautiful not to be on display

(Yes, yes, I know I shouldn’t be buying books on the cheap from a website, but should instead be putting money into my local independent and absolutely wonderful bookshop, it’s just I am so fricking skint right now, I can only really afford books if they’re massively discounted in the first place.)

(Even as I write that, it sounds like a bad argument to me, so, hmmm, perhaps I should stop using the Book People and just buy fewer books at a normal price.)

But anyway, onwards…

The fireplace below is glorious isn’t it? When we moved in, the original fireplace had been removed and instead we had a 1960s electric fire, which looked as if it might be about to set the whole house alight while we slept. We ripped it out and got this original one in its place (bought from the wonderful Blue Mantle on the Old Kent Road for anyone interested and local…)

Oh, and finally, the clock is just our clock. No story there, ha ha…

So, that’s it, the September mantelpiece. Come and have another look in October will you? Hopefully by next month I will have painted it properly as well… And thanks so much to Gillian for inspiring me to join in.