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: November

Phew, I’m posting this in time by the skin of my teeth.

But, yes, though my thoughts have been to that big event towards the end of December for a good few weeks now, my diary tells me that it is still (just!) November, and here I am with my November mantel…

November mantelpiece | Wolves in London
What November’s like round my mantelpiece…

Of course, I’m far from the first blogger to tell you that there’s nothing like a bit of naychur on your mantelpiece to cheer up a gloomy and rainy day. I adore the good old ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) – it’s amazing history, weird biology (the only tree in the world to have motile sperm, doncha know) and most of all the beautiful fan-shaped leaves, a stunning yellow at this time of year.

I collected a handful of leaves from a tree that I like to visit (and photograph) in my local park and – ever at the vanguard of blogging trends – decided to make a little garland with them.

I used some red thread and just stuck a needle through the very end of the leaf stalk. I have to say, it was really rather a fiddly and irritating way of making the garland; leading to lots of swearing and pricked fingers. But still, the end result is rather beautiful (if highly fragile)…

Ginkgo garland | Wolves in London
Lovely, lovely ginkgo leaves

Not content to stop there, but ever a fan of overkill, I’ve also got some rosehips from the front garden (the roses themselves only stopped blooming in the past few weeks) and some pine cones from the park that I made into firelighters for my Christmas hamper. The fire is yet to be lit, so they’re just cheerfully sitting there for the time being.

Rosehips on the mantelpiece | Wolves in London
Sitting in one of my favourite Hong Kong Trappist milk bottles

It was the hubby’s birthday a few weeks back and the amazing rhino illustration was his present from the sproglets. (Bought from Mrs Robinson on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, along with an elephant and hippo.) Haven’t they got good taste?!

It’s just resting here for now, waiting for the hallway to be painted so it can assume its final position.

Rhino illustration on the mantelpiece | Wolves in London
Love this rhino…

The Letterpress card is really a beaut, sent by my cousin in thanks for some garden design advice I gave her last weekend. Tea and coffee mugs, what could be nicer?

Letterpress card | Wolves in London
Coffee or tea?

If you’ve seen my previous mantelpiece posts (September and October) then you may be relieved to note I have finally got round to painting it. Hurrah for small jobs completed.

So that’s November. Next month, ah, now that’s the biggie. I might actually try and get that sorted in good time for once…