19 December 2017

4 ways to Customise your Christmas

It would have been easier to  follow the blogmas trends and publish my "monthly goals", present wishlist and gift guides from the High Street. However, as a wise headmaster once said: "we must make the choice between what is right and what is easy" and, for me, 'right' means spreading the TRUE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS and looking beyond the ever-growing commercialisation of the season. 

To quote another literary genius - Dr Zeus - "perhaps Christmas means a little bit more" than 24 days of nail polish... Not that  this means abandoning gifts altogether; instead, I want to offer an alternative to the High Street Hauls and put the PERSoN back in PRESeNt! I have a longstanding tradition of buying novelty gifts for my family; particular favourites include a miniature version of Charlotte's Web for my sister's doll house, photo & quote coasters for my Dad and doggy tea for Millie! 

With less than a week away and wrapping paper still to be purchased, 'customising christmas' is probably the last thing on your mind. Perhaps you've heard about the pre-boxing day sale and are planning a last-minute dash to the High Street? Yet before you pop on your mittens, here are 4 ways you can customise your christmas. Ft. fill-your-own crackers, charitable gifts, calligraphy gift tags, novelty wrapping paper and craftmas creatures, I solemnly swear they are magic managed...  


We've been doing fill-your-own crackers for a few years now, after one particularly bad experience ; imagine the 'Zoella Advent' in cracker form and you get the picture.  I mentioned the 'Always' pendant in my Harry Potter gift guide, which was inside my 2015 cracker. It was one of the most thoughtful presents I've ever received and worth more than anything from Tiffany. #ChristmasWisdom: money and value are not the same thing!

I will be honest, our cracker gifts aren't always humble. In 2015, I was shocked to discover tickets for The Cursed Child! Instead of putting it under the tree, mum put it in our crackers and it was therefore even more unexpected. Another year, dad received a miniature bottle of his favourite beer and Millie discovered  her own doggy-friendly Yule Log!

Yet despite what lies inside a fill-your-own-cracker, there is one universal benefit: POSSIBILITY. Whatever budget, you can customise a gift to someone's interests and ensure they crack(er) a smile/good joke. Oh yes, that reminds me of a new addition to our crackers this year... good jokes!Well I hope they'll be good - it's actually me who's writing them! As with the gifts, they're going to be tailored to each person. So if anyone has christmas jokes based on Star Wars, Game of Thrones or Friends, I'm all ears.

In the meantime, you can find a link to fill-your-own crackers below and some fill-spiration from my happy places. Lush and The Body Shop are particularly close to my heart, because they truly do give back and embrace the spirit of the season. Lush's Charity Pots are the perfect little extra (I picked up two last weekend), while The Body Shop's Play for Peace project is all the more incentive to buy from their Christmas range - along with the fact that their products are dreamy.

Ps: I have used all of the products below, so can hand-on-heart say they are amazing (I would choose vanilla chai over any Yankee candle!)

Butterbear Wash Card, £2, Lush *     * Charity Pot, £1, Lush *      Snowman£4.25, Lush * 

Fill-Your-Own Christmas Crackers, £5.50, John Lewis *

* Personalised Body Butter, £6, The Body Shop *     * Vanilla Chai Candle, £10, The Body Shop

The idea (well, my idea) is to fill an empty bauble with a gift, then hang it up on at some point on Christmas Day. Later in the day is better, to add to the element of surprise! Once you've put the bauble on the tree, casually cast the peoples'  eyes toward it (perhaps a racoon climbed onto the branches?) and they will discover the surprise gift... If all goes to plan, or they could end up discovering it 12 days later when you take down the three!

Okay, this idea is really cheesy and I'll probably be the only person on the planet who does it. Yet they're  a similar concept to fill-your-own crackers: small in size, but mammoth in meaning. Even as adults, I think we can fall into the "quantity over quality" trap (unless the quality is a price tag) so  this is a good way to break the mould. The gifts below  are just little tokens, ranging from £3-24, but they're packed with thought for any nature rambler, crafter, cactus-worshipping blogger and mother of dogs...

Do you know any Etsy makers, bakers or a candlestick makers? You could get them a custom stamp for their creations! Dog salt and pepper shakers are just plain genius and the sprout seed pencils are a throwback to our first ever fill-your-own crackers. They actually do work! On that note, all these items would work as a cracker gift, so the world really is your oyster. Except that I haven't included a link for an Oyster, but I'm sure Not on the Highstreet has it covered. They always do.

Crochet Stamp, £15, Pretty Rubber Stamps *      Fillable Baubles, £2, Hobbycraft *

Personalised Mountain Necklace, £18, Eclectic Eccentricity *

  Mini Cactus Terrarium, £5, BeeCycle *      Beanstalk Message Seeds£3, BeeCycle *    

Sprout Seed Pencil, £3, Letteroom *     Pug Salt & Pepper, £24, Home & Glory *     

      THAT'S A (GIFT) WRAP     

I've spent the last month hunting the high street for wrapping paper and "underwhelmed" is an understatement! Seriously, where is the CREATIVITY? Not to mention the lack of HUMANITY in charging £12 for spots. Spots!? Only cruella De Vil would pay that much for spots and she's the devil reincarnate. The one design I did like was only available as tissue paper, so would require gift bags/boxes and... ah, I see what they did there. Hello capitalism!  

As is so often the case, I was saved by the angels at Not On The Highstreet and their array of 'Sophie-friendly' wrapping, aka dogs, books and 'it's so fluffy!' cuteness. I also included a 'dress-you-own penguin' especially for Katie and found eco-friendly wrapping for those Blue Planet II Blues. On that note, look out for my Christmas with a Consciene post later this week! Yet for now, let's call it a GIFT wrap... 

Highland Terriers, £3, Sirocco Design *       Dress up a Penguin, £5, Clara & Macy *

Xmas Dogs, £2.50, Heather Alstead *       * 'From the Dog' Bag, £3, Red Berry Apple *

Christmas Books£3, Laura Crow *      * Eco-Friendly Woodland£6, Alice Palace *
And a happy new deer... if you decide to crochet them a deer, that is. There's a chance you're now now thinking "but I don't know one end of a crochet hook from the other" and preparing to skip this section altogether, but stay with me! I discovered this free reindeer tag pattern on Hobbycraft and it's perfect for newbie crafters. I also love the idea of giving little clues as to what might be inside. For example, if your present is Harry Potter themed you could tie a miniature owl, house elf, or sock to the ribbon. Alternatively, you could use calligraphy to write your own gift tags....
Oh what pun it is to ride on a... you get the idea. For the last two years, I have handwritten my gift tags with a few christmas puns. This year, I plan to put my 2017 crafting adventures to use and make digital prints, which you may have spotted throughout this post and can also be found on my Etsy Store! Alongside words, there may also be a few cute faces on my Christmas gifts this year.

*Not that I'm giving away ANY plans, but I may have half a dozen dobby heads sitting in my craft box, complete with bobble hats and ready for the Post Owls #SPEWapproved.*

If you're not ready to join the crochet club, there are so many other crafts to choose from and it's never too late to start a new one! Sewing, felting, painting knitting, card-making, pyrography, cross-stitch, baking and calligraphy ALL count. Why not bake gingerbread in the shape of gift tags and ice the person's name on top, or felt a polar bear to tie to the ribbon? My mum did this last year with a little help from Etsy, only to discover that the maker was my friend Yasmin!

If you're looking for inspiration, a trip to Hobbycraft is always a good idea. They have some brilliant kits for the festive period, which I saw firsthand last year - one of the girls in treatment made the most adorable gingerbread bunting and hung it up in the lounge, which brought much needed festive spirit! I visited Hobbycraft last week to stock up on my wool and calligraphy supplies, but I am tempted to go back for some golden bells - reindeers need bells like house elves need socks. ALWAYS.

Ps: It doesn't have to be 'perfect' to be better than a store-bought gift. The meaning alone is worth its weight in gold. Even the Niffler would agree with that. 

* Gold Bells, £2, Hobbycraft *     * Cross Stitch Gift Tag, £2, Hobbycraft
* Crochet Reindeer & Penguin Decorations, £3, Hobbycraft *    

* Typewriter Stamp, £12, Hobbycraft *     * Crochet Animal Kits, £5, Hobbycraft *

How do you Customise your Christmas? 


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