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Posted on December 24, 2016

A Christmas Gift

December has been a busy month, and I can’t believe I’ve not posted anything here since the 1st, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of Christmas preparation: meeting friends, writing and sending cards, wrapping presents and thinking about the festive feast that is almost upon is.

It’s also the Season of Gifts in the Get Messy art journal group that I’m part of; the idea being to give yourself the ‘gift of time’ to invest in and on creativity at this busy and often stressful time of year.

I’ve managed a few pages but nothing more.

A Christmas GiftSo now the time is finally here to relax and nurture the self, and I’m going to commit to it wholly. It doesn’t feel selfish, it feels well-deserved.

I’m giving myself the gift of time to create, draw, write, stitch, stick, glitter and gesso. There’s a Christmas jigsaw waiting for me too; a Christmas tradition I always love between me and my Mum.

I read a quote a few weeks ago that really spoke to me: PRESENCE not PRESENTS. I think that sums up how I feel about ‘the silly season’. There is no better gift than the finite resource of time.

What’s your gift to yourself? Make time. Make it special.

Merry Christmas to one and all x

Christmas gifts in a woodland forest

(Visit my Christmas archive for previous festive inspiration and a story of hope!)

Posted on June 15, 2016

Perseverance, hope & reinvention

I’ve been single-focusing on a passion-project of late which hasn’t left much time for creative play.

I’ve been in the ‘dark forest’; lost in the details of my debut novel. That’s how my new fav creative guru Jessica Abel might describe it, anyway – ‘the dark forest’ – (I’ve spent the last few days ingesting her podcast).

But all the while a little miracle has been unfolding right outside my window.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

His name is Bob. Don’t ask me why. It just is.

I’m a personifier. I’m a bit crazy (a lot crazy). It brings me comfort to name things (and to know/admit I’m crazy).

Last Christmas was Bob’s second year with us, and until then he flourished, but a few months back I noticed he was constrained by his pot. It was like I could hear his desperate, silent screams.

I decided to move him. It was a struggle. He scratched and clawed. There was blood.

I made a new bed for him; a bigger pot, half a whisky barrel in fact.

I tucked him into rich, earthy folds of fresh compost and lovingly fed and watered him. I felt like I’d rescued him from the brink. But instead he began a steep decline, shrinking into himself and turning brown.

I tried talking to him. Nothing.

I tried prodding at him. His needles began to shed even faster, the ground literally littered with his skeleton, the spindly broken bones of his body.

I felt bad. I left him alone. I kept watering him. Still nothing.

I realised the move had finished him off (similar to my transgression with the seedlings, but I can’t even think about that just now).

I realised it was time to get rid of Bob.

He was taking up valuable real estate in the whiskey barrel. I had other fish to fry. I would drop him into the depths of the garden recycling bin and we would talk of him no more. My tools were at the ready, gardening gauntlets primed for the fight.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

But then.

I noticed signs of life. Little green shoots sprouting from the centre of his uppermost branches: Bob was alive.

I kept on watering him, caring for him, waiting to see what would happen, wondering if I was imagining this stunning reinvention.

Almost daily more green needles appeared: bushy and smooth and strong and healthy. Bob flourished. Bob is flourishing.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to beReinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

He’s reinvented himself from the inside out. He’s shed the ghosts of Christmas past, he’s shed the memory of his time trapped in the too-small pot. And now he’s king of the whisky barrel; king of the whole garden!

It feels like a message of hope to us all but to me especially.

Just keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t give up. The seeds you’ve sown are growing, growing stronger and more visible. Your time is yet to come.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to beReinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

I’d like to thank Bob for this little lesson. He’s going to be this year’s Christmas miracle!

Posted on December 24, 2015

A Gallery of Snow

For me, snow at Christmas makes the occasion that much more magical.

It becomes Narnia-esque and fragile and bright and fairytale, like being inside a snow-globe for a day.

I’m not sure if it’s going to happen this year, and for those in the Southern Hemisphere, I think snow on Christmas Day would be a definite sign that the world’s weather systems were in complete revolt!

But in Scotland, there is always a good chance that a flurry of snow will come to bless Christmas.

I’ve been obsessed with winter-wonderland images on Pinterest – check out my Winterland board for inspiration:

Follow Rebecca Johnstone (Dainty Dora)’s board Winter-land on Pinterest.

And just in case it doesn’t snow in time for Christmas Day, I’ve created a Gallery of Snow from the ghost of Christmas (and winters’) past.

Enjoy, and Merry Festives to all x


Posted on December 14, 2015

Krakow Christmas Market: Photo Diary

This time last week I was on my way to Krakow, Poland, for a few days of touristic wanderings and festive indulgence.

Market Square festive scene, Krakow

Even the airport had a beautiful Christmas tree, and the shopping centres too, festooned with baubles and lights.

Around the city oversized baubles lit the way, providing an opportunity to pause a moment and take in the surroundings. They were a good way to orient yourself in the dark too…once you realised there was more than one.

Christmas Bauble, Krakow

In the heart of the ‘Stare Miastro‘ (old town) the market square, one of the largest in Europe (the largest?) boasted the illuminated stalls and oversized barrels where you could buy the Grzaniec Galicyjski (the Polish version of ‘Gluhwein’), with its pungent blend of red wine and spices.

It was strong. It was hot. It was delicious.

IMAG3824 Polish Bread, Christmas Market, Krakow

The horses and carriages lent the square a fairytale charm, and I never tired of taking pictures of them (even the man who had to keep jumping off the back to collect the dung…!)

Horse & Carriage, Krakow Christmas Market

The image below has gone a bit wrong, but I love it. It conjures a lovely sense of movement and atmosphere, like a reflection or a glimpse of another time?

Horse & Carriage, Krakow Christmas Market Read more

Posted on December 1, 2015

Thoughts of Advent

So the 1st December has rolled around again; the first day of Advent.

I can’t believe it’s a year today that I launched this blog, and published my first post showcasing the Christmas Stocking Advent Bunting that I’d been working on for weeks.

Christmas Stocking Advent Bunting

I’ll never forget how to make a lined Christmas stocking (after sewing 50 stocking shapes to make the outer design and also the lining). But it was worth it. It was made with love as a gift for my Mum, with the idea that she could bring it out each year. An advent heirloom.

This year I haven’t done anything so ambitious, thinking the stocking bunting would be the new eco way to enjoy advent, but, but, I couldn’t resist buying my Mum a real calendar too.

It’s a fun family tradition, and she in turn surprised me with this beautiful, traditional scene (the rocking horse! the dog!):

Advent Calendar 2015

My perennial image of Christmas is of a roaring log fire, a beautifully decorated fir-tree, candles lit, stockings hung, presents wrapped and a glass of sherry, mince pies and a few carrots left out for Santa and Rudolf.

It’s a bit of a naive image perhaps, rose-tinted and conjuring old-fashioned films like The Railway Children (I still cry when I watch it – always the sequence on the platform at the end when the steam from the train clears and… sob), but it’s how I love to think of this magical time of year: a big Victorian influence, and not a hint of chocolate in sight.

So behind the door for today: an image of Santa reading a letter, presumably a Christmas list from a child.

Advent Calendar 1st December 2015

I remember once asking for a piano… Read more

Posted on December 24, 2014

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Going to see Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is such a great festive tradition, however I only ever did it once. And missed the beginning.

It's a wonderful life

But every time I think of the film, I smile, and remember the tears that came when I first saw the ending. What a beautiful message to remember.

It really is a WONDERFUL LIFE and we all add our own special uniqueness to the mix and influence so many others, just by being ourselves.

Merry Christmas to all the wonderful people in my life, and thanks for reading.


Posted on December 23, 2014

Holly Leaves Watercolour Sketch

I haven’t drawn in years, but I loved art at school.

A few months ago I bought some watercolour pencils in the sale. And today I finally got them out.

Holly Leaves & berries watercolour sketch

I was inspired by the holly leaves on so many Christmas cards and on tins and wrapping paper, so I quickly sketched out this holly leaf and it’s lovely bright red berries.

I’d wanted to sketch the autumn leaves and twigs and toadstools, but time just seemed to slip away. Today I had 23 minutes left before the washing machine finished its cycle, and so I just thought I’d have a go. And that’s how long it took.

It’s not perfect and I’m out of practice, but I intend to do more!


Posted on December 19, 2014

Decorated Christmas Twigs

I had this amazing and inspirational plan to decorate foraged twigs and branches from my garden with flossed threads, metallic yarn and beautifully festive wool.

I got the sticks.I sand-papered the sticks. I gathered the threads and wool.

Foraged twigs to decorate Foraged twigs to decorate

But I haven’t done it.

The branches that I gathered in October are still in the same metallic pot, just as I placed them ‘for now’, back then, weeks ago.

And now when it comes to it, we’ve ended up with a real Christmas tree anyway. A tiny, plump little spruce that is still alive and that we can plant out after Christmas and that will grow with us. I love our tree, and I love this plan. But what about my amazing idea?

Well instead, I’ve simply hung a few of my decorations from the sturdier branches. There is no festive metallic thread, but I think it still looks reasonably gathered and foraged and unintentionally minimal.

Christmas Tree Twigs Christmas Tree Twigs Decoration Christmas Tree Clock Decoration

Some artfully wound metallic threads would have made it a properly festive arrangement. But there’s not always time for everything…

Reindeer Dust & Fairies

Maybe it’s not as inspiring as it could have been, but still perfectly acceptable as a ‘second’ tree. I’ll decorate the twigs next year.

And I’ve got my ‘reindeer dust’ ready to sprinkle on Christmas Eve.


Posted on December 17, 2014

(Not homemade) gingerbread biscuits

I didn’t make these myself, but I wish I had.

Gingerbread Biscuits

I bought them from the supermarket for a very small amount of money. In fact it doesn’t seem right to be able to purchase so much manipulated sugar in a plastic box, for so little money or effort.

Those smiling faces mock me.

I’m inspired to bake my own gingerbread biscuits; I just haven’t managed it yet.

Do you bake your own biscuits (gingerbread or otherwise)?

I think the Christmas holidays might be the ideal time…


Posted on December 16, 2014

Christmas Bauble Wreath

I am so excited to share this bauble wreath, because it was so quick and easy to make, and cost next to nothing.

Christmas Bauble Wreath

Inspired by an image  I originally saw in Pretty Nostalgic magazine last year (Issue 10, page 19, a feature on Kate and Adam from My Vintage Life), I thought: I could do that.

Christmas Bauble Wreath

I didn’t look up any tips online or instructional videos on YouTube, but just grabbed a few thin wire hangers (the kind you get back from the dry cleaners), and started moulding them into a circle.

I kept one hanger with the hook still on, and cut the surplus hooks off with pliers. Then with gold wire that I had in my craft box (you could use thin ribbon instead, or wool), I started tying baubles onto the wire frame at random, building up the layers.

It looked a bit rubbish at first. Forlorn and home-made and amateur-hour, but these things require a bit of creative thinking and vision.

It needed the fullness of completion. A feast of shapes and colours. New and vintage baubles. Big and small. Bells and stars. Red, green, pink, gold, blue, silver, white…

Christmas Bauble Wreath Christmas Bauble Wreath Christmas Bauble Wreath

I got lost in the flow of winding and creating and imagining. (This is a great activity to do while watching a fav Christmas film).

My stock of Christmas decorations had been slowly increasing to the point where I was going to give away the surplus baubles that had no real provenance or sentimental significance.

But instead, now: WOW.

I am so proud of how my Christmas bauble wreath looks. And the best thing is, I made it from things I already had, creatively, so it cost nothing extra.

I want to highlight the white glittery snowballs. These have been in my family since the 80’s, and I remember them from my very first Christmases as a child. They have little bells on the bottom and holly on the top, and are a bit naff now, but I love that I have preserved them in a new heirloom Christmas decoration.

If I hadn’t upcycled them into this wreath, I think I’d have ended up getting rid of them, which would have been such a shame. They’re much easier to pack away in wreath form too!

Christmas Bauble Wreath

It was fun to make; deciding on which colours to group together, choosing different sizes and throwing in the odd gold star or acorn or little bell.

I made this Christmas Wreath Bauble last year, and posted this story on the blog I had at the time.

Unpacking it again for Christmas 2014 was a real delight as I remembered the creative process of choosing the baubles, and the uncertainty of whether it was going to work out or not. It felt so special and festive that I wanted to share it again here to inspire others.

And the great thing is – there’s still plenty of time to make one. Or more…

Give it a go. I’d love to see the results!


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