The School of Christmas

When it comes to Christmas, I can sometimes be a bit bah-humbug (ok, full on Grinch), but having been in Australia for Christmas last year we didn’t have any of the usual festivities at home so I’m well and truly ready to get my Christmas on this year!

Having followed Fabulous Places on Instagram for a while now (I’m obsessed with their feed) I was intrugued to discover that they were holding a ‘School of Christmas’ in collaboration with Birds In The Attic

I booked to attend the first of three workshops on Sunday 27th November, held at Worth Brothers Wines in Kirk Langley. The description on their website said that it ‘offers a special opportunity to join us for an exclusive workshop covering all the elements of a fabulous Christmas… festive table decor, entertaining, gifting, home decor, drinks, canapes and gift wrapping’

I had been at Worth Brothers just two days before for their Christmas wine tasting so when I arrived I couldn’t believe how different the room looked!

We were greeted by Deb from Fabulous Places & Klara from Birds in the Attic and were handed gorgeous prosecco cocktails (which they kindly let us into the secret of during the workshop!) or tea & coffee

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Festive inspiration was EVERYWHERE… the wreath below was huge and looked really expensive but as we were about to discover that afternoon, not all was as it seemed – Klara had actually made it using ivy she’d collected whilst on a walk! These ladies definitely had plenty of tricks up their sleeves…

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First up was alternative advent calendars (which unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of 😦 ) but we saw examples of a fantastic DIY version which used an offcut branch from a Christmas tree and was hung with 24 numbered card baubles that you could fill with treats yourself! I promise you it was gorgeous and a really different idea!

After that was things for the little ones, such as a box of goodies to start the Christmas eve excitement stuffed with things like pyjamas, a Christmas book, hot chocolate and personalized ‘letters from Santa’ from Polar Post – a really nice way to start a Christmas eve tradition

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Another great idea was the Reindeer food – a diy mix of oats and glitter to head out to the garden on Christmas eve with and sprinkle on the ground so Santa can find where you live – such a sweet idea!

And we can’t forget Rudolph’s carrot and Santa’s mince pie and tipple on a lovely wooden platter handmade for the occasion!

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Next were tips and ideas for wrapping presents – I completely agree with Deb that wrapping strangely shaped presents is a nightmare. Something so simple as putting oddly shaped items in a cheap brown parcel-posting box gives you a perfectly shaped gift to wrap

I also loved their use of brown craft paper – so inexpensive and can be decorated with anything from coloured ribbon and ink stamps to foliage and twine. I thought using a polaroid for a tag was a great idea, as was adding letter beads to string to spell out the recipients name and tying that to their gift. Klara suggested having a kit of bits and bobs in the house so you always have something on hand for that emergency present which is a great suggestion so you’re not left short!

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For those gifts that are more of a gesture than anything, they suggested re-packaging something such as cookies or sweets (or making your own if you’re so inclined) in a glass kilner jar or similar, and adding an expensive looking ribbon and a name tag. This gives you a thoughtful and pretty gift that doesn’t cost the earth

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The lovely Klara bringing out half time treats!

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There was loads of amazing of calligraphy from Mint Green Calligraphy – a skill I am completely envious of! Luckily Alison from Mint Green takes bespoke orders so you can leave it up to the professionals!

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Food and drink are always my number one priority when having people round so tips on drinks, nibbles and hosting are always handy. Having a signature cocktail that you can make ahead and that can be tweaked to match the season is easy & time saving but impressive, and using high-end fruit cordials as a base for these is genius! Adding things such as pomegranate seeds or ice cubes with fruit frozen into them also takes it up a notch

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They also shared ways to easily elevate your usual party food – baking chutney glazed cocktail sausages in the oven until they caramelize, and using ready made mini meringues and dipping them in chocolate and nuts make it look like you’ve spent hours in the kitchen when you haven’t

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A baked brie is something that we make for ourselves at home but would never have thought to have as a warm snack for people to dip into – stab with a knife and push in garlic, fresh rosemary and drizzle with honey, bake until molten and then serve with crusty bread – voila!

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Then it was time for my favourite part – the table settings! I always really appreciate when someone has taken the time to create a beautiful tablescape and personalized place settings so I wanted some tips so I could do that for others

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Each setting was similar in terms of the elements on the table but I loved the different variations in design and the feel of each setting. Placecards ranged from modern silver laser-cut names to classic calligraphy – something you could buy or have a go at making yourself

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Various types of foliage were also used throughout – an idea I’m definitely pinching, along with the different napkin folds, some formal and others more relaxed

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Every setting also had a ‘table gift’, one of my favourites being the hearts and stars – made of paper and sewn together, they can be ripped open to reveal a personalized gift or chocolate inside – a great alternative to a cracker

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Brown paper bags and boxes can also easily be used for favours – decorate to match the colors of your table and add a name tag for each person

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The bouquet and eucalyptus wreath below were courtesy of The Greenery who take bespoke orders for arrangements. I really liked how they felt Christmassy but were still very modern

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Utilising things you might have at home such as Christmas cookie cutters as favours or tags is not only pretty but can actually be kept and used by the recipient

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Look at this gorgeous cake made by the lovely Deb – whipped up that morning no less – which was then topped off with bunting that took Klara about 10 minutes to make! If you’re not as handy in the kitchen as they are, they suggested you could get a similar effect by icing shop bought sponges stacked on top of eachother meaning the whole thing will take you minutes

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I always have lemon water on my dinner table but had never thought to use fresh cranberries to give it that Christmas touch. Something so simple but it adds both colour and more festivity to the table

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As I’m hosting Christmas brunch this year, I’ll be pinching this idea of mini menu cards so that my guests know what each dish is

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Everyone at the workshop received a goody bag (I won’t spoil everything that’s in it for anyone attending on 1st or 3rd December!) and included were recipe cards for Deb & Klara’s favourite cocktails – which was a lovely touch and showed again how much thought had been put into the day

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I literally couldn’t sleep that night as I had so many ideas going through my mind and have already made trips to TK Maxx and Hobbycraft for supplies!

What I found most useful from the workshop is that you can really make something beautiful without spending the earth. Most of the things you see online can be sourced cheaper elsewhere or even made at home, and with just a little time and thought (and help from the experts!) you can make something as simple as brown paper wrapping look glamorous and expensive

Thank you so much to Deb & Klara for hosting such a great afternoon – maybe we’ll see you at a ‘Summer Party’ or ‘Wedding’ workshop in the future…

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