candy cane

A Chill in the Air…

Striped Holiday Candles

Arctic winds have blown through our corner of the world this week, hustling the trees into a frantic leaf fall and turning our minds to thoughts of cold, crisp mornings and snow.  The newfound chill is novel enough to feel fresh and exciting, and to make us a little giddy at the thought of Christmas approaching (I’m an unashamed Christmas person; although the grown-up in me joins in the general tut-tutting at the sight of Christmas cards in the shops in September, the child in me gets very excited…).

Preparations for the festive season can never begin too early in this house, so I waited for a break in the gusting wind and then rushed outside to practice making candy-cane striped candles, a plan I’d had vaguely formulating since the neon candle experiment earlier in the summer.  This was an experimental DIY but proved to be a very easy one.  You’ll need;

  • A handful of inexpensive red candles
  • Nail varnish remover
  • A roll of masking tape or washi tape
  • A ruler, if you are precisely minded (I did mine by sight and guesswork)
  • A can of matt white spray paint (whilst the propellant is highly flammable, the paint itself is usually fine to use; check the small-print on yours before buying).

Firstly rub the candles lightly with a cotton wool bud soaked in nail varnish remover, and then rinse and pat dry.  This will help the spray paint to adhere better.  Now, starting at the bottom of the candle, run the tape around at intervals of about 1″ (or as wide as your tape).  Repeat until the top, and then smooth around the tape to ensure it is stuck to the candle all the way around each ring (this minimises the chance of smudging or paint runs).  At this point they should look a bit like this;

pegged candles

I pegged mine up for spraying, but equally you could simply don an old rubber glove and hold them by the tips before spraying.  The bands of tape mean that you can lean them against a wall to dry, as long as you position them carefully.  I gave mine two light layers, about 3hrs apart.  If you have more patience, 3 coats would look even better… just don’t be tempted to try and give it a double-coating in one; it will run and look horrible.  Trust me.  when they are dry, carefully peel off the tape and examine;

candles drying

At this point, you can use a craft knife to gently scrape away any paint to neaten the edges, and dab any gaps or chips using a cotton wool bud with a little paint sprayed on top.  And then… well, that’s it.  Ta-da!  Have a cup of tea and congratulate yourself.

Candles in black tissue

These burn very normally without strange smells or firework effects (always reassuring to know), and look very pretty.  Not as finessed as those in high-end shops which are made from layers of coloured wax, but a very cunning and serviceable thrifty alternative (and where Christmas is concerned, any opportunity to be thrifty has to be good…).  For ultimate holiday table chic, use a handful of these candle spikes and stick them in glossy red apples.  Gorgeous.

(ps if we were partying at home this Halloween, I think I’d be making some of these using black candles for stripy witch-stocking effects).

Have a great weekend!




Preparing for the big countdown…



Whilst Christmas is still some way off (thankfully), Advent is fast approaching.  This week I’ve spent the evenings cosily wrapping a myriad of tiny boxes with surprises, notes and treats for Harry to uncover through each day of December.  I’ll string them from an armful of silver-sprayed branches and position them in the hall where they can offer a tantalising reminder of the excitements to come.

For my advent boxes I’ve used a random collection of matchboxes, raisin packets (both full and empty), old jewellery boxes and others, and used  offcuts of white, red and brown paper to wrap them all with scraps of ribbon and silver thread – each one is different, but the repeating colour palette gives them a harmonious appearance when hung from the branches. I’ve used pretty buttons and embellishments extravagantly because I know I can just gather them up once discarded in the thrill of opening, and reuse again next year.

A number of the advent boxes contain chocolates, raisins or other sweet treats, but there are some surprises too; I found this tiny nativity set here, and have packaged each member up individually and spread them across the month, so that Harry can collect them all and we can tell him the Christmas story as we go… there are also a couple of decorations to hang on the tree as Christmas approaches.

With Harry’s birthday falling in early December, we’re anticipating something of a swelling of the toy cupboard next month, so one advent box provides a bag for him to carefully choose some toys he’s grown out of and no longer plays with that we can take to the local charity shop to be loved again by someone else – and to create some crucial space for new arrivals.  At risk of sounding pious, I want Harry to understand how lucky we are, and from the outset to see Christmas as a time of giving as well as receiving.

Harry’s advent calendar also marks a few of the events that we know will happen over the month; the nursery school nativity play falls in the middle of December, and Harry has been cast as Joseph (how my heart secretly swells with maternal pride!  Harry himself is a bit cross because he wanted to be a reindeer).  It’s the first time he’ll have performed in any kind of play or production, so feeling the safety of this ‘magic button’ in his pocket may help keep wobbles at bay when he sees us in the audience.

The most important box of all will be opened on Christmas Eve, and is immediately identifiable by its sparkly gold exterior.  Inside, Harry will find a tiny letter from the elves, sealed with a button, explaining all the things we need to do to prepare for Father Christmas’s arrival (carrots for Rudolph, stockings over the fireplace and a myriad of other anticipation-building activities..).  There are also a couple of little treats for the elves themselves; a tiny half walnut-shell bed, with a down feather to ensure the softest nap ever – because they must be exhausted at this point in the year, and everyone benefits from a power nap –  plus a few ‘elf donuts’; Cheerios sprinkled with powdered sugar (in case Harry is tempted to sample one himself).

If you fancy making one of these for the little (or not so little) people in your life, here’s a wee list of some of the other things in our boxes (just don’t tell Harry…)

  • Chocolate ‘gold’ coins and racing cars
  • Lego mini men
  • Raisins
  • A handful of ‘snowballs’ (white pompoms) to thread together
  • A few real coins for Harry’s moneybox
  • Paper chains to make to decorate the playroom

What Christmas traditions do you have for your children? It’s the first year that Harry is really, properly aware of Christmas and excited by it, so it feels like the first time we can start to create some family traditions and memories for him; all further inspiration welcomed please!

Have a wonderful weekend…