Vintage Cards and Christmas Shortbread

This art journal page evolved over a couple of happy hours crafting in my studio, listening to Christmas songs. The focal point is a Christmas card from my vintage card collection. The card was sent from a father in Italy to his daughter in New Zealand during the Second World War. During a time that was so fraught with heartbreak, with many families being separated from their loved ones, it must have been so special for that little girl to receive a Christmas card from her father from all those miles away across the ocean, and to know that he was all right. It makes me feel blessed to be surrounded by all my family at Christmas time.

To make the page, I painted and stencilled a background, then layered the card with Christmas sheet music, festive papers, fabric, lace and ribbon, finally adding a few little embellishments.

I love doing Christmas baking – homemade mince pies, Christmas cake, and Christmas cookies are enjoyed by all at this time of the year. This is my great-grandmother’s shortbread recipe. I add spices, orange zest, and cranberries at Christmas time to give it a festive touch.

Christmas Cranberry Shortbread

225g butter or non-dairy spread
125g icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
½ cup cranberries
375g flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Cream the butter and icing sugar.  Stir in the orange zest and cranberries. Add sifted flour, cornflour, and spice and mix. Knead well. Roll out the dough ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes. Prick with a fork to stop the dough from rising. (I forgot to do this, but they still turned out nice.) Bake at 160° C for 30 minutes. (I cook on fan bake so that the bottoms of the shortbread don’t burn.) Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

From our place to yours, Merry Christmas!

 

 

Christmas Cornucopias

Originally posted on www.wattlelane.wordpress.com.

Christmas cornucopiaCornucopia ornaments were popular in the Victorian era when Christmas decorations were often handmade. The cornucopias were lavishly embellished using decorative papers and leftover scraps of ribbon, fabric and lace. The ornaments were made in the shape of a cone and were filled with flowers, fruit, nuts, candy, and small gifts.

Christmas cornucopias

These ornaments are easy to make and fun to embellish. Simply use a plate to draw a large circle onto a sheet of cardstock – I used heavy scrapbook paper. Cut out the circle, then cut the circle in half. This will make two ornaments. Fold each half circle into a cone shape and use double sided tape to stick it down. Punch a hole through each side and thread through a ribbon for hanging. Then decorate it however you like, using ribbons, lace, trims and pictures.

Christmas cornucopia

Christmas cornucopia

In my novel, Christmas in Wattle Lane, Neave makes cornucopias to hang on her tree for a vintage-themed Christmas. If you’re in a festive mood and like to read Christmas novels like I do at this time of the year, Christmas in Wattle Lane is available as an ebook and a paperback from Amazon.com.

Christmas in Wattle Lane

Amazon.com

Paper Snowflakes

Originally posted on Wattle Lane
paper snowflakes

While I was writing Christmas in Wattle Lane, I decided to have a go at making paper snowflakes, like Lily, one of the characters from the book. I looked at several tutorials on YouTube, and found that this one was the easiest to follow. Click here to see the tutorial. It took me a while to get the hang of the folding and cutting, but once I did I had fun with making different shapes. Each one is unique depending on the cuts that you make.

paper snowflakes

I practiced with making them out of computer paper. You can make four snowflakes out of one sheet. Once I felt I had mastered the technique, I made a few out of a pretty vellum paper that had a delicate pattern on it. Then I added a pearl embellishment to the centre of each and looped a piece of baker’s twine through one of the holes of each snowflake to hang them from.

paper snowflake

They can be slightly addictive. Once you feel confident about making them, you keep wanting to make more to see what different patterns you can make.

Christmas In My Studio

My craft studio, at the moment, is in a state of creative Christmas chaos as I make Christmas ornaments and Christmas cards, and birthday cards for family members who have birthdays around Christmas.

Nick helped me to make this inspiration pin board. We bought a cork board and covered it in quilting batting and my favourite purple coloured fabric. At the moment it is mostly covered in Christmas related things, including pages of inspiration from my favourite papercraft magazine, Somerset Studio.

Finn has claimed the chair as his own and dares me to try and move him off it!

Ancestor Christmas Ornaments

Originally posted on Wattle Lane

Ancestor Christmas OrnamentsWe often think of our dearly departed at Christmas time and wish they were with us to join in the family festivities. These little ornaments were fun to make, using scraps and bits and pieces from my craft supplies. I used copies of old photographs of my great-aunt and my aunt, who are no longer around to share the festive season with us, but by hanging these ornaments on the tree, it feels as though they are a part of our Christmas. You can even use vintage photographs of ancestors whom you’ve never met. Hang the ornaments from the branches among the other decorations and turn your Christmas tree into a living family tree.

Ancestor Christmas Ornament2I made these ornaments by gluing squares of burlap to cardboard, then adding random touches of gesso and acrylic paints around the edges. I adhered the photos to corrugated cardboard and placed them on the burlap. Next I added scraps of vintage lace doilies, buttons, ribbon, wooden stars, beads, and embellishments. Once I was happy with the layouts, I glued everything down. I printed sentiments onto paper, added a few random splashes of colour and adhered them to the ornaments. Then I punched holes through the tops, attached ribbon, and they’re ready to hang on the tree or across the mantle.

Ancestor Christmas Ornament1I also made one of our beloved Cody, who passed away three years ago, but is always in our hearts and minds.

Christmas ornament1

Book Release: Christmas in Wattle Lane

Christmas in Wattle Lane

I am thrilled to announce that my new novel, Christmas in Wattle Lane, is now available on Amazon as a paperback and an ebook. Just in time for Christmas, this third book in the Wattle Lane novels continues the story of Angeline, Neave, and Lily as they prepare for the festive season.

Here is the description of the book.

Christmas is coming to Wattle Lane.

Angeline is making a very special scrapbook album for her daughter. But as she pieces together the past, will some memories be too painful to relive?

Neave is preparing for her first Christmas in Wattle Lane. As she makes decorations and bakes pies, she wonders if her greatest wish, a future with Ethan, will ever come true.

Lily is staying with Neave at the Wattle Lane Guest House while her parents are overseas. When she notices strange lights in the vacant house next door, what starts out as a quiet holiday turns into a quest to solve the mystery of the night-time intruder.

Pippa arrives at the Wattle Lane Guest House with two intentions – to escape Christmas, and to mend a broken heart. But is the small town of Kerrigan far enough away to leave her past behind?

As the festive season approaches, the residents of Wattle Lane are drawn together in joy, heartache, love , and the magic of Christmas.

Amazon.com

Amazon.uk

Visit my Wattle Lane blog for crafts and recipes from the Wattle Lane novels.

Book Update

Christmas in Wattle Lane, the third novel in my Wattle Lane series, is now finished and has been passed on to my lovely editor and proof reader.

In this third instalment, Neave and Lily prepare to celebrate their first Christmas in the Wattle Lane Guest House. As they make vintage-themed decorations and bake Christmas goodies, a guest arrives with a strange aversion to Christmas, while next door, at Wattle Lane Keepsakes, Angeline relives some emotional memories from her past as she makes a very special scrapbook album for her daughter.

Now it’s on to the all-important book cover. Christmas evokes so many wonderful images that it will be hard to choose one to best represent the Christmas spirit of Wattle Lane – handmade paper snowflakes, vintage ornaments, or maybe some yummy Christmas fare…

Vintage Christmas Cards

I have been collecting vintage greeting cards for three or four years now, browsing antique shops, visiting stamp and postcard shows, and poring through boxes of old cards when the Cartophilic Society fair visits our local town. I love the vintage pictures of a bygone era, and the handwritten sentiments inside or on the back of the cards.

 

vintage Christmas cards

The oldest one I have, that is dated, is a Christmas postcard from 1907. Wonderful to see how the women are dressed!

vintage Christmas card

 

I have a collection of Easter, birthday, Christmas, and New Year cards sent from a father, stationed in Italy during the Second World War, to his daughter back home in New Zealand. I think it is so lovely that his daughter kept the cards all these years.

vintage greeting cards

 

Postcards were hugely popular in the early twentieth century, when improved printing technology meant that high-quality colour images could be mass-produced cheaply, and postcards were cheap to send. For a few years, postcards replaced the earlier, elaborate, Victorian-style Christmas cards. Sometimes the postcard would show a portrait of the sender, along with a festive greeting.

 

vintage Christmas cards

 

By the 1920s, the traditional folding Christmas card and envelope had returned.

vintage Christmas cardsI save a lot of my own cards that I receive and wonder if, one day, many years from now, future generations will look at them with fondness and feelings of nostalgia for a time gone by.

 

Recycling Christmas Cards

My passion for papercrafts began when I was a young girl, when I would save every birthday card I was given, many of which I still have today. I hang onto them for sentimental reasons—for memories of my childhood and of the people who gave them to me, but also for the beautiful images on the cards. I used to save all my Christmas cards as well, but unfortunately you can only accumulate so many before you officially become a hoarder! So a few years ago, out of necessity, I began to be selective in which ones I would keep. I still keep every card that Nick gives me, birthday cards from my family, as well as the beautiful handmade cards that our niece in England makes for us each birthday and Christmas. And of course, there are always a few that have such pretty pictures that I can’t bear to part with them.

However, all is not lost. Instead of discarding our Christmas cards at the end of the holiday season, I found a way to recycle them down to a couple of pages in an album. A few years ago I began a Christmas scrapbook album. Each year I make two collaged pages with pictures cut from the Christmas cards surrounding photos taken on Christmas Day, and some brief journalling on how we spent Christmas that year. The pictures from the Christmas cards make wonderful free embellishments on the pages, and it is lovely to look back through the different years and remember how we spent each Christmas.

What do you do with your Christmas cards once the festive season is over?

Christmas scrapbook page

Christmas Recipe Scrapbook

This year I decided to put my favourite Christmas recipes together into a little scrapbook album to save looking through my cookbooks every year searching for recipes. Most of the recipes are ones I have adapted from others over the years.

I made the album by cutting squares of cardboard and covering them with scrapbook papers. Then I punched holes in them, tied them all together with festive green and red ribbons and embellished the front cover with letters, ribbon and charms.

These are some of the pages and recipes from the album.

Christmas Recipe Scrapbook

Recipes

Vanilla and Cranberry Cupcakes

150 g butter or dairy-free spread
150 g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cranberries
150 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line muffin pan with paper cupcake cases. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla and cranberries. Add sifted flour, baking powder and salt alternately with milk. Divide mixture between cases. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool, then ice with vanilla frosting and decorate with red and green glace cherries.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

 Vanilla Frosting

100 g softened butter or dairy-free spread
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
1 Tblsp milk
Red and green glace cherries to decorate

Mix butter, vanilla, icing sugar and milk to a spreadable consistency. Spread or pipe onto cakes.

Vanilla & Cranberry Cupcakes

Christmas Fruit Mince

2 cups sultanas
2 cups cranberries
1 cup raisins
Grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and grated
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons brandy

Process sultanas, cranberries and raisins until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. Spoon mixture into a screwtop jar and refrigerate. Will keep up to 3 months.

Christmas Fruit Mince

Christmas Fruit Mince Tarts

Pastry

3 ½ cups flour
½ cup custard powder
4 tablespoons sugar
250 g butter or dairy-free spread
1 egg yolk and water to mix

To make the pastry: Sift flour and custard powder. Stir in sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add beaten egg yolk and water. Mix to a stiff dough. Chill for 30 minutes.

To make mince tarts: Roll out pastry to 3mm thickness. Cut out rounds and line 24 greased patty tins. Place 1 tablespoon of fruit mince in each shell. Roll out remaining pastry and cut out star shapes. Place a star in the middle of each tart. Brush stars with beaten egg. Bake at 180ºC for 20 minutes. Dust with icing sugar when cold.

Christmas Fruit Mince Tarts

This chocolate fudge cake recipe is one that my mother used to make when we were children and she still makes it today. Delicious!

Chocolate Fudge Cake

450 g plain digestive biscuits, crushed
200 g butter or dairy-free spread
200 g white sugar
50 g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
Nuts or dried fruit (optional)

Mix cocoa with a small amount of cold water to a thin paste. Place butter, sugars, eggs and cocoa in a saucepan. Stir continuously over a medium heat until butter has melted and sugar has fully dissolved. Add vanilla essence. Add heated mixture to crushed biscuits and mix well. Press down firmly into cake tin and refrigerate until set. Cut into pieces.

If desired, nuts or dried fruit can be added before adding the biscuits. Ice with chocolate icing or sprinkle with icing sugar.

Note: If using dairy-free spread, you may need to add a few more crushed biscuits to the mixture so that it will set properly.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

These stuffing balls are good for vegetarians as they can be cooked separate from the meat. The recipe makes 6 balls. They are nice cold the next day too!

Sage and Apple Stuffing Balls

25 g butter or 3 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 egg, beaten
4 slices bread, crumbed
¼ cup chopped fresh sage leaves or 2 tablespoons dried sage
Salt and pepper to season

Gently fry butter, onion and apple for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in breadcrumbs, sage and beaten egg. Season with salt and pepper. Form into balls. Brush with oil. Bake at 180ºC for 30 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking.

Sage and Apple Stuffing Balls

I added a pocket to the back page for slipping in extra recipes and notes.

Christmas Album Pocket

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a time of traditions. They are a part of our lives growing up, and then after we leave home, we form our own over the years, with our families, our partners, and our friends. Traditions have an air of excitement, fun, comfort—something to look forward to, something we can rely on. They often involve decorating a tree with ornaments that have been handed down through generations, pieces that have been made by children and hold a special place in our heart, or simply decorations that have been accumulated over the years. Decorating the tree can be a fun and special time, pulling out boxes that have been stored away for the year, unwrapping the decorations from the tissue paper and releasing memories that lie dormant from one Christmas to the next.

We always put up our tree at the beginning of December so that we have a whole month to enjoy the festive atmosphere it brings to the room. Each year, Nick and I buy a decoration to hang on the tree, or to stand on the mantelpiece or the hearth. It has become one of our traditions, choosing it together. We often find one at a Christmas craft fair, or sometimes at the Trade Aid shop, handmade by somebody in a foreign land. We never have a theme for our tree, and nothing is colour co-ordinated. It is an eclectic mishmash of traditional, contemporary, and whimsical pieces collected over the years.

Every year, Nick’s family in England send us an ornament to hang on the tree. We have many of them now, and when we look at them, we think of his family celebrating a winter Christmas on the other side of the world, while we celebrate ours in the middle of summer!

Another tradition I have is to do a Christmas craft each year. I make either a decoration to hang on the tree, or something to decorate the room. Over the years I have made an appliqued wallhanging of carolers, a felted Santa, beaded angels, a cardboard nativity set. This year I made up a Kaisercraft wooden kitset advent calendar. The calendar can be decorated to each individual’s taste with colours, scrapbook papers and embellishments. I painted the box with gold paint, used traditional Christmas images on the drawers and a contemporary picture of Santa in a hot air balloon for the back panel of the box. It is a mix of my traditional taste and Nick’s contemporary taste, but I thought the images worked well together. I printed out the numbers on the computer for the drawers. Now all I have to do is to buy some treats to put inside them!

Favourite Christmas Books

Leading up to the holiday season, I love to read books with a Christmas theme. I adore everything about Christmas—the decorations, the food, the music, and the stories, and a good Christmas book is guaranteed to put me in a festive frame of mind.

There are a multitude of wonderful Christmas books out there, but these are a few of my favourites. They include novels, short stories, a children’s book, and a book on recreating a vintage Christmas.

Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne

Paper Angels is a story about the true spirit of Christmas. After fifteen-year-old Thomas, his mother, and his younger sister, Sara, escape from Thomas’s abusive father, they struggle to survive with no home and no money. Too proud to ask for help, Thomas’s mother must work all the hours she can just to put food on the table. When Christmas comes and she can’t afford to buy Thomas and Sara any presents, she swallows her pride and signs up for the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program.

When Kevin Morrell, a husband and father with his own problems, comes across a big tree in a shopping mall, covered in paper angels, each bearing the name of a child in need, he has no idea that the name he picks from the tree will have far-reaching effects on his own life and that of a fifteen-year-old boy he has never met.

Written by Jimmy Wayne, an American country music singer and songwriter, Paper Angels is a story that tugs at the heartstrings and encourages you to think of those less fortunate during the holiday season.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

A Redbird Christmas, like all of Fannie Flagg’s books, contains a colourful cast of characters. When Oswald T. Campbell, aged fifty-two, is given only months to live, he decides to move to a town with a warmer climate; somewhere peaceful to end his days. Ending up in the small Alabama town of Lost River, he doesn’t count on getting caught up in the the lives of the residents, including a young, crippled girl called Patsy, who lives in a trailer in the woods, and a wounded red cardinal called Jack, who lives at the local village store and wins the hearts of everyone he meets. A Redbird Christmas is a sweet story, just the right length for a holiday read, that leaves you believing in the miracle of Christmas.

The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley

Philip Gulley is a quaker minister, who writes the Harmony series of books about the small quaker community of Harmony, Indiana. Although the books revolve around the lives of a central group of characters, each book can be read as a stand-alone story. In The Christmas Scrapbook, Pastor Sam Gardner secretly attends weekly scrapbook classes to make his wife a scrapbook for Christmas. However, his weekly absences begin to arouse Barbara’s suspicions and rumours soon spread through the community as Sam struggles to complete the scrapbook. This is a charming little book, a quick read, and as an extra bonus, it includes a sheet of Christmas stickers.

This Year it will be Different by Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy has always been a favourite author of mine. With richly woven themes of family, friendship and love, her stories are always heartwarming and leave you feeling satisfied. This Year it will be Different is a collection of fourteen Christmas-themed stories set in Australia, England, and Maeve’s homeland of Ireland. They explore the relationships between family and friends, and the stresses, but also the joys, that the holiday season brings.

Sadly, Maeve passed away earlier this year. Beloved by her millions of fans, she left behind a legacy of 16 novels and several short story collections. This holiday season I will be re-reading this delightful Christmas treasury in honour of Maeve and the wonderful story-teller that she was.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic children’s story by Margery Williams, which was first published in 1922. The edition that I have was republished in 1997, a lovely hard-covered book that tells the story of a stuffed toy rabbit given to a little boy at Christmas, and how love can make a toy become real. The illustrations by Don Daily are as magical as the story.

Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas by Susan Waggoner

Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas is a lovely book that explores Christmas traditions, decorating and crafts from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. It is full of vintage decorating tips, and step-by-step instructions for craft projects. There is also a section with recipes for homemade candy, and at the back of the book there is an art portfolio that includes pages of vintage images to use on greeting cards or papercraft projects. This is a great book for anyone who loves Christmas, vintage, and crafts.