Ho ho ho get your Christmas secateurs out

Hi All,

I thought that it was time to share some Christmas cheer with you all. There is too much doom and gloom around and that is certainly true of some of my posts of late! Christmas isn’t just a big commercial spend up and a major boon to the banks with credit card sales, it’s also a time when we can tell our friends and our relatives that we love and appreciate them. It’s also a time when you can get quite creative and interesting (almost like ‘windswept and interesting’) around your home in how you choose to decorate it for the silly season. I love making things and Christmas is a good time to hone those crafty skills! 2 years ago I made a Christmas Wreath for our door. As usual, I turned to my handy reference material (the internet) to find out just how to go about making our fresh Christmas wreath. We collected some variegated holly leaves and actual red holly berries from a large tree that no longer exists. We had to squish a very bad case of elderly scale bugs living on our collected specimens. I actually felt bad about squashing them as they were obviously elder statesmen of their community but horticulturalists can’t be importing pest species into their gardens along with their fresh wreaths now…how would that look on our prospective C.V’s eh? After the squishing event that we shall not talk about any more from this point on…we collected some fresh Cedrus atlantica leaf sprigs and some cones from a Sequoia gigantean and using our online instructions, a bit of pretty Christmas ribbon from Chickenfeed ($2 a roll) and a bit of green wire that we bought for $2 at Chickenfeed we made ourselves a wreath. Oops, I forgot the free willow canes that I picked from the poor long suffering golden willows that are behind the Riverside BWS bottle shop. I have plundered them for all sorts of woven items in the past. Now we live out here, I am just going to have to find another source of willow canes for my impromptu cane work. Here’s what the wreath looked like…

I hate plastic things. You just have to ask my family about how strenuously I will refuse to embrace a plastic Christmas tree. I don’t care if it’s better than cutting down a real tree. We have been using home-made versions of Christmas trees for years now (curiously, ever since we developed a huge and enduring passion for conifers…). We started off with a couple of branches hunted from dead shrubs in native bushland and sprayed silver and gold. Next we built our amazing stick tree. I wanted to build a driftwood tree this year but have come up against unexpected friction with Steve regarding its implementation. Steve usually lets me do what I like when it comes to crafts but he isn’t too keen on a driftwood tree. We are most probably going to use our twig tree again. We sourced the twigs from dead eucalyptus branches in the same spot that we sourced our first twig tree. Here are our past 2 Christmas trees and how we chose to decorate them. My daughters don’t share our conifer passion and our friend who shall remain anonymous lives alongside a tree plantation with many adventitious sapling pine trees growing wild and she allows us to collect one free every year. Thanks to our anonymous friend, our girls can have a scented Christmas every year. At least they don’t embrace the throw-away plastic Christmases that a lot of people have. Sorry if you choose to embrace plastic in all its myriad forms but it’s not for me and mine. Here are those (if you are my girls “sorry” if you are me “lovely”) specimens of Christmas tree originality. We don’t care if anyone else likes them or not, we love them :o)

This is the 2 branches held together with wire and sprayed gold and silver. We made dehydrated citrus slices to put on it as well as hanging whole star anise and I made an orange pomander with cloves that we still have today and it still smells lovely so its been included in our decorations this year. We also collected and sprayed all sorts of different pine and other conifer cones for this tree. First this is how it looked undecorated…

And it didn’t look all that different decorated, but we really loved it anyway :o)

Next we have our present tree before the borers woke up and did a number on it. We were especially proud of this tree because when it was lit up at night, it was lovely and would have been a very pretty sight for people driving by. Firstly in the day…

and a bit closer…

and lastly at night with the lights on…

We are getting in early with all of our Christmas shopping. We have almost finished and just have our respective mothers to allow for. Steve’s mum gets Marks and Spencer’s vouchers. A great way to give Pat what she wants and hopefully she can pick out something that she likes rather than us trying to pre-empt what her personal tastes are. Vouchers and gift cards are an amazing way for families that are overseas can give their relatives something that allows them to choose for themselves. My mum will be getting cash. I know that cash is boring, but it’s also a way to get what you want, when you want it and as such, mum gets her freedom to choose what she wants. My youngest child hit 21 this year. That has now become the cut-off point for expensive Christmas’s. Now we are focussing on giving gifts that the person actually likes, rather than forking out large wads of cash (which penniless student hippies can ill afford). Seeing as all of our children earn and receive more than we do, we figured that the doling out of vast quantities of moolah must stop. I have been informed that my children are apparently boycotting our price limit but that is up to them. Now it’s a matter of choice, rather than an expected outcome. Stewart has his hamper of certain diabetic coma, the girls have chosen themselves various articles online that they are currently enamoured of and once we have gifted our respective mothers, we are out of the woods.

Now we are living out here we are able to do what we want. Steve and his father before him are “Christmas-a-holics”. I am sure that Steve’s mum will agree with me on that one. Steve is somewhat contented with a packet of mince pies and a tree but it was quite hard to reason with him when he first came into our lives about our family’s total disregard for fake Christmas trees. He has had to take a back seat with his desire for a ceiling high fibre optic white Christmas tree and before we gave up the murder of innocent Pine species, poor Steve was to be found furtively hacking small specimens on the side of the road at night time with a torch after first having to drive around for miles identifying a specimen worth all of this effort. I have been bitten by tiny West Australian Christmas spiders in the process of cutting down pine trees, we have gotten wet, bogged, and Steve is not the only one who has had to suffer my need for a ‘real tree’. My ex-husband was forced to walk with his heavily pregnant prospective wife for kilometres in search of a large tree for sale and then carry it all the way back to our tiny unit. The year that our son was born, we managed to cram a 15 foot magnificent specimen into our tiny Volkswagen beetle and I can still see our tiny bemused son barely visible in the middle of the back seat with branches all around him. Sorry about that Stewart…hopefully it didn’t affect you mentally any more than any of my other crazy ventures did…

Here’s a website with photos of the West Australian Christmas (properly known as Jewel or entomologically known as Austracantha minax) spider and the little buggers can bite! Make sure to scroll down past the rest of the terrifying looking endemic West Australian spiders including wolf spiders, red back spiders etc. till you get to the humble, but beautiful (and still able to bite…) Christmas spider. They are only around in their jewel colours at Christmas time and when you see the first Christmas spider waddling around in its web, you know that it’s time to start doing some shopping…


Here’s a photo of the magnificent Western Australian Christmas Tree (as well. Nothing to do with this post, but an amazing hemi parasitic tree that steadfastly remains one of horticultures conundrums… ”how can we propagate this baby because it’s a gold mine!” Again, just like with the little jewel spider, you know that it’s almost Christmas because these amazingly beautiful trees shine out in the paddocks in a glorious mass of vibrant golden orange.


By the way. The humble house daddy long legs spider is up near the more terrifying looking spiders. Did you know that it’s venom is much more potent than that of most of our feared spiders and that if you allow daddy long legs to live in your home (as I do) that they will hunt down and scoff red back, wolf, black house and any other spiders that they can get their scrawny little legs over? Here we are scorning them and their wafting web tendrils when they are more effective than Mortein! Again, learning to work WITH nature rather than against it, gives us a myriad of benefits. Enough about spiders and on to Christmas crafts to save big bickies and other things to minimise your Christmas monetary expenditure… (Don’t say that I don’t put my magpie need to research above the needs of my flustered blog readers…)

I decided that this year I wasn’t going to buy any Christmas decorations. We decorated the tree today and here is what it looks like


and with the lights on (not that you would know because the stupid flash kept going off…)

We decided that the lights were a bit top heavy and so we added another set of lights to the top. This first photo was taken with the flash going off to its hearts content (those of you who are professional or amateur photographers might be getting a hint that I know sweet bugger all about the camera apart from ‘point and click…POINT AND CLICK!’ and if the camera doesn’t ‘point and click’ I hand it over to Steve so that he can ‘fix it’ :o)

I think that the poor thing is starting to show signs of overdecorators syndrome. We are going to hide the cables at the bottom and decorate the log bit that the trunk is stuck into, but we figured that if this was going to be this little trees last Christmas and it was going to get an honorable Viking funeral at the end of it’s life (via our woodstove), that we would give it a Christmas to remember! It has 4 sets of lights on it. 2 sets of lovely little round lights that we got from Chickenfeed, an iconic Tasmanian shop that sells discount products and the only place that we could get these lights, a set of little star LED lights that I got for $3 from City Mission shop in Alanvale (a great thrift shop and well worth a look) and a set of lantern lights that we inherited with the house. We found them at the back of a cupboard. They were made by a company in Melbourne that makes aluminium (yes that IS how you spell it all you Americans!) products now but who seem to have abandoned their tiny Christmas lantern lights. We are using them along with a small scary doll Santa thing that we also found in memory of dad and his partner Val who obviously once owned them. Again…if our tree isn’t what you like, it really doesn’t matter. It’s what WE like and it makes us happy :o). This next photo was taken out of extreme frustration and involved me…Steve snoring on the couch (so I was unable to get his assistance), the lights off (to facilitate Steve snoring on the couch), “Australias Christmas Lights Sensation” hosted by another damned sporting ‘hero’ (why do Austar/Foxtel ONLY hire old has-been sporting ‘hero’s’ eh?) on the telly (you can see a little bit of it off to the right in this shot) and me muttering (quietly, remember Steve was asleep…) and deciding to make technology do what I wanted it to do for once which resulted in me holding the automatic flash shut (it tried valiantly but it was no match for my angry fingers) to take this shot. After all that build up it’s not all that great a shot, but it shows you the lights and the added set on the bottom to make a more balanced tree as well as a tiny bit of the ‘Light Spectacular’ that everyone out there without pay TV wouldn’t have gotten last night so you are getting it for free! What a bonus! Don’t say that I don’t give you lot anything…

Here are a few sites to get you Ho-ho-hoing and into the Christmas Spirit. I tried to make them interesting and varied so that everyone has something that might interest them…

This first one is how to make the prettiest rum balls that I have ever seen. Fit for a queen (but surely the gay men can share? ;o)


This next one is a good idea. You measure out all of the ingredients for home-made biscuits (or cookies if you are American) and gift it to people in a lovely preserving jar. What a good idea! This site even gives you ideas for the cookies/biscuits recipes to put into the jars…


Here’s a few for what to do with old terracotta plant pots to give your gardening friends…


(This one could scare the birds AND the grandkids :o)


I like this one…it’s given me some good ideas for the basket market


I don’t know about you, but this looks like something that you wouldn’t want to be making for Queensland and that toady interloper looks suspiciously like a cane toad!


This one is interesting AND educational but don’t try giving it to your own children, they will just think it is lame. Best you give it to other children so that they can think that you are lame on their own time…


Here’s a template for a free printable calendar that you can give to relatives or friends. You can customise it with your own photos (incriminating or not)


Here is a lovely idea for printed out coupons for things like “hugs”, “doing the dishes” etc. A perfect gift to give your parents (if you are a child…a bit lame if you are an adult!) and a great way to teach children that Christmas is about giving because once you give this gift, it is like a credit card…it wants paying back…


I think that’s enough for today. If you can’t find something interesting to you in that lot you are not looking hard enough (or you are a lazy bum. Your choice :o) Have a great day obviously making at least one of the Christmas anticomercialisation gifts here and remember that there are not all that many days until Christmas so you had best get cracking or put your head back under the pillows and pretend that it’s New Years already…


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mum
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 12:38:18

    Hey Pen, your latest in Christmas trees looks great love ! Did you get a photo of the incumbent Steve at the same time? When you think, we have it hot, not like the northern countries where a big pine tree is the norm this time of year. Mind you, I still love that pine scent! Those sites are interesting too. The christmas spiders are already out, Jim spotted them a few weeks ago! I noticed a good few ripe loganberries on the bushes so am off to start picking & freezing. This Christmas will be so much more relaxed after the last couple eh? Just all the cooking to get done, which I am looking forward to with you all.


  2. Kym
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 20:46:17

    I talked Mum and Dad into getting a real pine tree for xmas once. It looked lovely and smelt nice too. Only trouble was Mum’s arms blew up to twice their size, which looked hilarious as she was the size of a twig, and went all bumpy like orange peel. The doctor said she was allergic to the tree! Oh well plastic it was from then on lol. Much safer 🙂


    • narf77
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 09:02:36

      I could well imagine Iris with her arms balooned up and yelling to all and sundry that Christmas broke her :o) We had real trees for ages till we fell in love with conifers and it stopped being “nice to have a real tree” and started making us feel like we were eating our children! Had to stop and that is why we have our lovely (read ‘lame’ from my kids) home made Christmas trees :o)


  3. Pinky
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 08:54:38

    I have no tree, i have no time yet to get one. It will be a plastic one probably, maybe I’ll spray it with pine-o-clean to give it that “natural” scent. I have decorations somewhere in the cupboard under the stairs. Last time I had a real tree, I got ants everywhere so as much as I love them, I dont love ants, nor picking up pineneedles that have fallen all over the place. I’m scared of christmas lights but desperately want some! I’m scared they’ll set fire to things, silly, I know. I love your trees Fronkii. You put so much thought and effort into each and every one. I especially love the little Santa claus you’ve found at the op shop.


    • narf77
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 09:00:59

      Get a hunk of sheok…close your eyes and toss your decorations all over it, throw on a few lights and voila…a tree :o)


    • narf77
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 10:46:52

      I will send you one of our chicks (most probably a rooster) to eat the ants and scratch up the pine needles. It will amuse Bubbles and Squeak and you can feel good about your scraps as it will eat them to. Apart from that, We don’t take long to decorate the tree. We just wind stuff around in the direction that the sticks are pointing. The little Santa didn’t come from the op shop, he came from the tip shop and would have most likely gone straight into landfill to slowly decompose into the dirt. Now he takes pride of place at the top of the Christmas tree along with the large sparkly star that we bought from the Exeter thrift shop. Get Jason onto the Christmas tree case and tell him that he hasn’t lived unless he has been covered in Christmas spiders, hacked down a small pine tree at dusk so as to stop people recognising who he is and gets spiked by needles all the way home :o)


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