As the days shorten and the light dims, we are naturally drawn to spending more of our time indoors. We bring in our pine trees – real or not, decorate our hearths with greenery and light up our houses with twinkling lights and candles. Seeking out the warmth and light we are missing, reminding ourselves it will return. These days, if we are privileged enough, we have a plethora of options to entertain us during this time – an unending list of binge worthy tv to consume, warmth at the touch of a button, ways to communicate without leaving our chair, so winter should be an easy ride right?
Turns out many of us still struggle to get through the season, particularly in the long dark winter of the Northern Hemisphere. Having experienced difficulties with this myself, especially since moving back from much sunnier Southern shores a few years ago, I wanted to share a few simple, creative suggestions for keeping our minds and hands busy over the coming weeks and months.
I stumbled upon Emma Mitchell’s book ‘Making Winter’ a couple of year’s ago, along with her nature diary ‘The Wild Remedy’ and both books have been comforting companions ever since. In ‘Making Winter’ Mitchell expands on how creative activities, especially those that have a repetitive element, have been shown to cause the release of serotonin in the nervous system, leading to a sense of wellbeing. Since then I have found myself giving more respect and credit to even the smallest crafty endeavour, reminding myself that every little helps.
Making things during winter is a cunning strategy to help replace the feel-good chemicals that may falter during these dingier months. Add to this the joy of baking, the thrill of a chocolate fondant made in five minutes, the smugness of a home-made shawl and the deep satisfaction of meeting with friends to make some or all of the above, and the result is a delicious, cosy, baked, yarny toolkit with which to tackle winter’s onslaught.Emma Mitchell – Making Winter
So, onto my suggestions for three simple and creative activities for winter celebrations. These are easy and straightforward, so will suit most ages and can definitely be adapted to involve children who need occupying over the holidays.
1 : A Dried Orange Garland
Saint Nicholas, the 4th-century Greek bishop upon whom Santa Claus was modelled, one day heard of a poor man who had failed to find suitors for his three daughters, lacking money for their dowries. Nicholas sought out the man’s house and tipped three sacks of gold down the chimney, where the coins happened to land in the girls’ stockings, which were drying beside the fire. The clementines (or oranges) in our modern Christmas stockings are said to be a symbol of the saint’s generosity.https://www.toa.st/magazine/a-brief-history-of-clementines-at-christmas.htm
You will need:
4 – 5 large oranges,
sharp knife, cutting board,
a baking tray, baking parchment
and a roll of string or twine.
Instructions for making:
Preheat your oven to 250 F / 120 C and line the baking tray with the baking parchment
Slice oranges 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and place in a single layer on the baking trays
Place in the oven and bake for 5-6 hours or until the oranges start to turn slightly brown and dried.
Once cooled, string the oranges onto your twine. I use a small skewer to punch a hole through the flesh of the orange, not the rind!
You can string them close together, or leave 1-2 inch gaps for a more minimal look.
You might choose to hang the garland as it is, or add further winter greenery – clippings of pine or fir and eucalyptus look beautiful tied in small bunches between the oranges as do the salt dough stars (see below).
2 : Salt Dough Stars infused with essential oils for winter
I use this BBC Good Food recipe to make salt dough decorations for our tree and to add to garlands. It’s easy, straightforward to follow and involves plenty of hands on kneading and rolling which the kids really love to do and I find really therapeutic (once I force myself to ignore the mess the kids produce!) We use star cookie cutters in a variety of sizes.
Once you have followed the recipe and made your decorations, wait for them to cool – you can add 2-3 drops of essential oils onto each one, this is a really simple way to keep your home naturally scented over Christmas. The scent will evaporate, so I usually add a few drops every other day.
Essential Oils for the Winter Festivities:
Pine – excellent for coughs and colds, an invigorating oil which also combats low mood
Cedarwood – a warm, woody scent which is also a decongestant and encourages our strength of will
Juniper – a piney, earthy oil which combats congestion and supports and fortifies our emotional state.
Cinnamon Leaf – a warm and spicy oil to lift our spirits and boost our energy levels
Sweet Orange – a citrus oil to lift our mood and unblock stagnant energy.
As with any circumstance in which you consider using essential oils at home, please ensure you take suitable precautions around pets and children and check the individual oils safety advice before choosing to use it, especially if pregnant. Remember that essential oils are flammable and should not be stored near an open flame. Click here for the Tisserand website where you can read useful safety advice and locate individual oil recommendations.
3 : Festive Window Art
You will need:
Wipeable Pens suitable for drawing on glass – we have Crayola Washable Window Markers and Kitpas Crayons
A template to copy or trace (unless you are brave enough to go freestyle!)
Masking Tape or Paper Tape
Instructions for making:
Tape the template to the outside of your chosen window.
Draw onto the inside of your window pane following the lines on your template as a guide.
Remove the design with hot, soapy water and a cloth.
For a wonderful list of simple advent activities to try with children I highly recommend this Little Paper Swans Blog Post and for more simple and festive home styling this blog written by the very talented stylist Han Bullivant is full of ideas.
If you do decide to try out any of the above, I would love to see your makes! You can tag me @smallestlight on Instagram or Facebook or leave me a comment below.