Christmas Decorating Tips for a Fun and Festive Home

Aldiss.com – Norfolk’s largest range of home furnishings

This week’s guest blog is from Nanci Gillett of Burnham Interiors

Among everything there is to do in December, decorating your home for the holidays is sometimes the most difficult task to accomplish as everything else takes priority.  Even if you have the time, all the Christmas shopping can make budgeting for seasonal decorating tough on the wallet.  Fortunately, there are a myriad of ways to inject some holiday spirit into your home, even when you’re short on time and money!  Here are some Christmas decorating tips to help make your holidays less stressful and more enjoyable.

Hang some holiday sparkle

An easy, yet splashy holiday decorating tip is to hang baubles at various lengths from a pendant light for extra bling.  I like to use iridescent ribbon cut in varying lengths and inexpensive Christmas balls in an assortment of colours and finishes to give my home some extra holiday sparkle.

Simplify the season

Offset the hustle and bustle of this year’s parties with a pared back approach to holiday home decorating.  Soft lighting and sparkling mercury accents offer just the right note of seasonal charm and will look just as stunning in the new year.  Achieve the look effortlessly with a simple grouping of candles and flowers set in glistening votive holders and vases.

Christmas decorating tips

Instant holiday style

Decorating the house for the holidays is always fun and doesn’t have to break the bank.  Adding ornaments, pinecones or winter florals to everyday bowls and vessels instantly creates holiday style.  I especially love white pinecones in polished silver bowls or an ornament-filled tall vessel.  I also love incorporating fresh winter florals like white amaryllis or hydrangeas with magnolia leaves throughout the house.

Christmas decorating tips

Serve up sparkle and shine

Repurposing everyday objects is one of my favourite decorating tricks.  Create a simple but stylish look for the holidays using a tiered serving tray.  I like to pile it high with shiny ornaments in tones of gold, bronze and white mixed with rustic pinecones for a look that is textured and unexpected.

Keep it green

Decorating with fresh greenery is the easiest way to bring a festive mood into your home.  I love the simplicity of an unadorned, square boxwood wreath especially when layered in front of a mirror.  Add a ribbon in a vibrant colour (such as pink, tangerine or turquoise) and you have holiday decorating that is unexpected and elegant.

A vintage display

I love to group a few treasured vintage pieces together in something unexpected like an old apple crate to create an impromptu tableau.  Simple things like using old canning jars to display cherished ornaments or small items is a quick way to add a holiday touch.

Fun, festive and affordable

One of my favourite holiday decorating tips is to use common objects from around the house.  The challenge of finding suitable items and using them creatively is what makes it fun.  This year, I’m loving the simplicity of red and white and decided to decorate the dining room sideboard in this colour palette.

Colourful Christmas cheer

I love getting down the big boxes marked “Christmas stuff” and pulling out all the wreaths and ornaments like, well, a kid at Christmas!  My decorations are a real mixed bag of sentimental things I had growing up, new items I seem to pick up every year, and handmade ornaments from my children.

I love a true berry red and I try to tie all the various bits together by using a consistent red throughout my holiday decorating.  I find it such a bright and cheery colour in the dreary winter, and having punches of it everywhere always puts me in the festive mood.  Year after year I never tire of it, and it also helps keep me in line when tempted by all the pretty decorations out there.

Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Advertisements

Christmas Cake Recipe – Part 2

Aldiss.com – Norfolk’s largest range of home furnishings

This week’s guest blog is part 2 of a recipe for a Christmas Cake from Pixie Hall Cakes
– how to decorate it!…

So, the lights are twinkling, the supermarket aisles are full to the brim with gifts and treats and the air is cold and crisp. Christmas is just around the corner and honestly? I cannot wait. I love this time of year. I am a big kid.

Last month I showed you how to make a delicious Christmas cake and as promised, I have some decorating ideas for you today. Your cake should smell pretty amazing by now. Packed with fruit and soaked with rum (or whatever you chose to anoint your glorious creation with) it should be ready for its final festive flourish.

Where to start? I’ve decided to go for some quite traditional ideas as they are simple to do and look lovely. There is plenty of room to tweak these ideas to your personal tastes and that’s the beauty of making your own cake, you get to make it how you like it.

Covering the cake

I’ll start off by showing you how to cover your cake in marzipan. It’s really simple. Before doing any of these, you’ll need to pop your cake on a cake board (or make your own by cutting some cardboard to the same size as your cake and covering it in foil. Make sure it’s nice and flat.

You will need:

Marzipan (I use shop bought)

Ready to roll icing (white or ivory colours work really well)

Smooth apricot jam

Start with your block of marzipan (I chose golden but you can go for the white version if you prefer) and knead it slightly to make it pliable. Dust your surface with some cornflour (top tip: icing sugar may have been your go to choice but it can make things a bit sticky. Cornflour will work perfectly), place the marzipan down and dust that too. Take your rolling pin and roll the marzipan out to around 3mm thick. You can check that the marzipan is big enough for your cake by holding the cake over the marzipan sheet – there needs to be enough to cover the top and sides of your cake in once piece.

Marzipan for Christmas CakeMarzipan for Christmas Cake

Pop your jam in a microwave safe pot and cook for around 10-14 seconds until it boils. Using a pastry brush, brush the jam all over the top and sides of the cake (this helps the marzipan stick to the cake).

Carefully lift the marzipan sheet up and over the cake and position it centrally. Gently smooth down the sides of the marzipan with flat hands and ease out any creases.

Coating Christmas Cake in Jam Marzipan for Christmas CakeMarzipan for Christmas Cake

Trim the edges of the marzipan so there is still a bit extra and continue to smooth over the cake. Trim the rest off to form a neat edge.

Marzipan on Christmas Cake

If you are not a fan of the traditional white icing, you can use dried fruit and/or nuts on the top or your marzipan layer. Just arrange them in a pattern and then glaze with a bit of the apricot jam. The jam is easier to spread if it’s hot, so pop it back in microwave as necessary.

Christmas Cake decorated with fruit Christmas Cake decorated with fruit

If your cake is for your family, it might be easier to store in the lid of a storage tin so that you can easily cut slices off throughout the festive period. Just pop the main part of the tin over the top to keep it fresh.

Christmas Cake decorated with fruit

If you wish to apply white icing to the cake, follow the same steps as above and smooth carefully. You’ll need to apply a thin layer of jam to the top of the marzipan to help the icing stick. When trimming and finishing, gently fold the icing where it meets your work surface to create a neat edge around the bottom.

Icing a Christmas Cake Icing a Christmas Cake

If you wish to ice only the top of your cake, use a cake board the same size as your cake as a template for marzipan and icing. Then, just brush the top of the cake with jam and place the marzipan on top, brush the marzipan with jam and place your icing circle on top. Finish the cake with a festive ribbon.

Icing a Christmas Cake Icing a Christmas Cake

Finishing touches

I like to use Lustre Dust to add gentle shimmer to decorations. I cut some stars from the icing and, using a dry, clean paintbrush, applied a little gold lustre before arranging them on the cake and securing in place with a dab of vanilla extract. Lustre Dust is available in lots of colours so you can experiment as much as you like.

Icing a Christmas Cake Icing a Christmas Cake Icing a Christmas Cake

With the fully iced cake I chose a festive ribbon and a plastic holly decoration to keep things classically simple.

Christmas Cake

I also made some Christmas cake cupcakes. I used the same mixture as with the large cake but cooked them for a shorter time (around 40 minutes), fed them with rum and decorated them really simply with marzipan cut with a round cutter and icing cut in the same way with a star cut from the centre. It gives a lovely two-tone effect.

Christmas Cupcakes

So, there you have it; a quick tutorial to inspire you to decorate your Christmas cakes at home. If you made a cake this year, why not send me a photo and I’ll upload it to my Facebook Page

I hope you have a fantastic Christmas whatever you are doing and I’ll be back in the new year with lots more recipes for you to try!

Linds Hall runs Pixie Hall Cakes in Fakenham and can be found selling her delicious baking at Fakenham Farmers’ Market on the 4th Saturday of each month.

Photographs by Keith Osborn Photography

Looking after Leather Upholstery – Part 2

Aldiss.com – Norfolk’s largest range of home furnishings

This week’s guest blog is from Glyn Charnock, Owner of Chameleon Cleaning.  Glyn is also a Director of the National Carpet Cleaners Association.

Looking after Leather Upholstery

Last month we looked at unfinished and lightly finished leathers, which are more expensive and more difficult to look after.

This month we look at the more easily cared for types of leather.

Pigmented Leather

Most domestic upholstery leather is Pigmented Leather. This has a layer of pigment (paint) on the surface which protects the leather underneath. This is the easiest type of leather to maintain and stands up well to the rigors of daily life in most homes.

Absolutely any colour or pattern is possible and leathers with a mottled appearance are called “two tone”, as two colours are used to make the pattern or effect.

Water based spills will not soak in quickly, and this type of leather is pretty much “wipe clean”. Regular wiping with a damp cloth or sponge is the best way of cleaning this type of leather, although leather protectors do help to keep them clean.

Pigmented leather will still absorb body oils and this can eventually make the pigment crack, peel or rub off, so regular cleaning and protection of contact areas is recommended. Scuffs and scratches can usually be repaired to a good standard as any repair can be painted over. These leathers fade less than aniline leathers in sunlight, although two tone leathers can suffer from lightening of colour in wear areas due to loss of the darker top coat. This is usually repairable.

Colour loss on pigmented leather

An extreme example of colour loss on an old chair – not one purchased from Aldiss

Repaired pigmented leather chair

As you can see, repairs can be very effective

These leathers can absorb dyes from items such as dark coloured clothes, (especially jeans) and brightly coloured cushions. On lighter colours this can be very noticeable. This can sometimes be cleaned off, but more often will require removal of the pigment and re-finishing to repair the damage.

Occasional professional deep cleaning may be required, but pigmented leather is generally very robust and easy to look after compared to aniline leathers.

Bicast Leather

Bicast leather is leather which has a layer of polyurethane bonded to its surface using heat. The finish is basically plastic, so it is extremely hard wearing, very easy to clean and difficult to damage. Think patent leather shoes.

The down side is that it has a stiffer feel than pigmented leather, often having a very high gloss shine and is cold in the winter, hot in the summer, is slippery and not very comfortable to sit on.

Great for homes with pets and children, it is a cheaper alternative to most other types of leather. The only cleaning it should require is wiping down with a wet cloth or sponge, with a mild detergent if necessary. However, upholstery covered with Bicast should not be sold as “Real Leather”, as the finish is thicker than the 0.15mm allowed for a product to be called real leather.

Split Leather

When a hide is made in to leather it is too thick, so is split in to several sheets. The outside of the hide is called Top Grain, and this what is made in to aniline, pull up and pigmented leathers. It is sometimes also used to make Bicast leather.

Split leather is the next layer down from the top grain. With a more loose fibre structure than top grain, it can be very soft and pliable, but is also nowhere near as strong. There can be up to 3 or 4 splits from each hide, each layer being weaker than the one above.

Split can be finished exactly like pigmented leather, and the two can be difficult to tell apart. Typically used as a cheap alternative to top grain on the backs and sides of upholstery, if used on the contact areas, the item should not be sold as “real leather”, but identified as split leather.

So Which Is Best?

Well, the answer to that is “Best for What”?

How you use your upholstery is the most important thing to consider when deciding what type of leather to buy. The natural leathers we looked at last month are high maintenance but “top end”. The finished leathers above are much easier to care for so are more suited to homes with pets and children. Top grain pigmented leather is the most durable of the three types above, but they all have their place.

Next month we will look at the products which might be called leather and could be passed off as real leather by some less scrupulous upholstery retailers if you don’t know what you are buying.