December is here, and as we all know that means hundreds and hundreds of Christmas decorations flying from store shelves into everyone's homes. It would be hypocritical of me to pretend like this didn't excite me, I love Christmas and honestly, by October I'm more than ready to decorate every room in my house, although I do stop myself and wait at least until December 1st. Having said that, it does pain me to watch the amount of plastic thrown around this time of the year, not only in presents but also when it comes to decorations. Granted I've been guilty of this, except for a few glass and wooden pieces, most of my baubles are plastic, but those come from a time when I didn't know better, they've lasted me for decades, some of them are older than me, and I'll continue to use them until they break, but I won't be supporting the plastic consumption anymore. Having said that, and hoping you're on the same train as me, what can we do to replace what we know for something sustainable that'll last us for a long time? Keep reading and find out...I'll start with something most of us are already familiar with, dried oranges! Not only will they make your house smell amazing while you're preparing them, but they'll look beautiful in several forms, AND, if you keep them well stored, they can be kept and used for years.
Dried Orange Slices
To dry your oranges all you'll need to do is slice the orange into thin slices, around half a centimeter thick, the thinner you cut them, the quicker they are to dry. Next, make a hole in the top of each slice so you can later thread it. Once that's done, place them in a wire rack and bake them in the oven at 60ºC for up to five hours. Take them out once they look as dry as possible and leave them to cool on the wire rack overnight so they can continue to dry. And there you go, you're ready to start decorating. There are plenty of things you can make with these, you can simply hang them in your tree or, like the picture, in small branches around the house. You can also thread them in twine and make a few garlands and either let them hang beautifully on their own, or you can add a few cinnamon sticks, star anise and even a few sprigs of pine and they'll make a beautiful and fragrant decoration.
Being a big fan of anything Scandinavian inspired, especially their Christmas decor, I think greenery is a great way to add a pop of colour, and an inexpensive way to decorate your house for the holidays. Not only that but it can be kept even after the Christmas season as it looks great once it dries. Truth is, you don't need to use only what seems obvious, anything like pine branches, eucalyptus, rosemary, even bay leaves, everything goes, and it all adds a different shade of green and a different texture, making it even more interesting. These can obviously be bought at different flower shops or markets, but if you go for a crisp winter walk on Sunday morning I bet you can find them around your nearest park or woodland area.
Now you might ask what to do with all of it, and there are plenty of options, from adding them to your garlands, to simply laying them on your mantelpiece with a few candles, or even placing them inside a glass jar, with some water and topping it with a simple white candle, like the picture below or, a personal favourite, placing them inside a glass bauble, which you can fill with anything you want and change them as your tastes change over the years, you can use mistletoe, small pinecones, even some bits of organic cotton to resemble snow, the possibilities are endless. You can go on Etsy to find these, and they come in many different shapes, you can have the regular round baubles*, flat round*, flat hearts*, teardrop*, and even these round ones* with a small opening on the side, which look adorable with candles inside, although obviously, you should use battery operated candles. If you'd rather keep them empty you can draw on them with a white pen, which also looks quite nice.
If you're a bit more artsy, you can shape them into a gorgeous wreath, there are plenty of tutorials out there on how to achieve this, but the one I'll be trying this year needs only a metal hanger you can shape into a circle, some foraged greenery, and twine to hold it all together.
Go Candle Crazy
Let's be honest, candles make everything look cozier, even when they're not on, and Christmas isn't Christmas without some plain old white candles. The good news is that you can find these pretty much everywhere and they're quite inexpensive. Whether you place them on your mantelpiece by themselves or being swarmed by enormous amounts of greenery, or if you gather them inside a simple bowl or on top of a wooden slab* with a few eucalyptus leaves or olive branches, they'll look effortlessly beautiful.
Nothing screams Scandinavian Christmas like a few branches simply knotted together to make something beautiful. Whether you use them to make a simple star where you can later wrap twinkly lights or let them be on their own, or use them to make a simple and different wreath, you can be sure it'll scream Christmas in the best way possible.
Use What You Have & Do What You Can
Ultimately, what we want to achieve here, is to buy as little as possible, while making your house look Christmasy. The simplest way to do this is to use what you already have, for instance, you might already own a few Christmasy cookie cutters, I know I do, but I bet you've never thought of using them as a decoration. This year I'm using mine to decorate my kitchen, hanging them with my mugs, laying them next to my coffee pot, they add something without overcrowding it, and you can still use them when you need them, they're right there.
You might even want to use them for the next tip: gingerbread cookies. Why not decorate with edibles? I sometimes use candy canes in glass jars as a little pop of colour in my kitchen during the holidays, but I've always loved the idea of baking gingerbread cookies and hanging them on my Christmas tree. I've never personally done it as I was afraid I'd eat them all instead of looking at them, but if you want to stop this from happening you can use Nigella's trick and add a bit of pepper to the dough which will stop most from eating your decorations. Otherwise, you might want to bake salt dough ornaments instead, I've tried this once but I could never make it work, maybe it was just bad luck... But, these are a great way to keep you, or your kids entertained, simply make the dough and go to town with your seasonal cookie cutters.
As you can see we don't need to use nearly as much plastic as we do to have a beautiful Christmas, especially if we get our creative juices flowing and, to inspire you during this, here's a playlist to keep you company, which I've been listening to for over a month.