Category Archives: Christmas

Loving Winter’s Chill – The Best Bits of Winter

Winter is the season of warmth and chill –
the warmth of sharing and loving and the chill of blizzards.

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Night Sky and Scented Candles…
I love it when the clocks go back… Night draws in and the stars twinkle with winter diamonds, and this winter Venus has sparkled like a gem in the sky. Inside, I burn scented candles: Cherry Vanilla, Chocolate, Berry Trifle, Honey Clementine, and the sweet aroma of Macaroon, Apple Strudel, and Snowflake Cookie waft down the stairs from my daughters’ rooms…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Frosted Leaves and Winter Trees…
I adore the bling that Jack Frost brings, sifting icing sugar across nature.
Leaves fall from trees, leaving them bare, and swathe the ground in glittered jewels.
Moss, the emerald survivor of the season, carpets the forest floor
and adorns the naked trees, clothing them in winter beauty.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Warm Boots, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, and Cosy Blankets…
Don your best boots, wrap a cosy scarf about your neck, pull on a hat, and slip your hands into fleecy gloves – and you’re all set to wander out in the winter wonderland. If that doesn’t entice you, then snuggle down beneath a warm blanket and enjoy the central heating!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Woodland Walks and Winter Landscapes…
The skies are a mixture of clear and frosty, rainy and dull, and rolling mist and fog,
enjoy those late sunrises and early sunsets and warm up with a walk.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Hot Chocolate and Winter Baking…
Baking takes centre stage with Christmas on the cards
from cookies, cakes, and pastries to hearty soups and winter cuisine.
Enjoy homemade fayre and settle with a steaming mug of creamy hot chocolate…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Winter Flowers…
Delicate fairy-bell snowdrops peep through the snow or push through the soil to bring
new growth to the dormant season, accompanied by the beauty of hellebores.
Let winter flowers bring colour and hope.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Ruby Red Berries…
Like flowers, red berries, often associated with Christmas, shine bright like rubies, especially against the frost and snow, and they’re great sustenance for birds coping with the cold.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas Joys…
My favourite holiday season is Christmas; it’s filled with so much joy and so much meaning. There are a multitude of celebrations during winter, all wrapped in lights, warmth, and love.
I love the Christmas cake, decorations, gifts, giving, food, and family time –
a time for peace and goodwill to all…

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© Lisa Shambrook

All That Glitters…
Glitter everywhere – frost, snow, jewellery, stars, Christmas decorations, lights.
December glistens with Christmas sparkle,
and the rest of winter embraces the shimmer of nature
and the crackle of fire in the hearth.

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© Lisa Shambrook

A Crystalline Carpet of Snow…
When it snows I hurry to my window to watch the fluffy white stuff then rush outside to let it fall around me! That moment when you wake up and look outside and see a blanket of snow sparkling in the early morning sun is pure magic.

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© Lisa Shambrook

How is your Winter and what do you love about it most?

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© Lisa Shambrook

Check out The Best Bits of Autumn

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie – Christmas Cake 2016

It’s an exhausting business protecting your castle ruins…
but it’s good to keep a hoard of snowballs at the ready while you take a nap…

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It wasn’t difficult to choose a theme for my Christmas cake this year – I’d spent November writing a first draft of my next novel dragon post-apocalypse fantasy, and over the past few months I’ve been making dragons and castle turrets in pottery, plus a secret piece of art involving dragons, and putting together my book of dragon short stories… It’s funny, really, that I chose dragons, lol.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I made a vegan cake, as Bekah’s been vegan for about a year now. It meant using vegetable fat and switching eggs for an egg substitute. Last time I used the egg supplement, I made a chocolate cake which tasted amazing, but crumbled straight away. This time, it worked better, the fruit cake held together, but I didn’t risk moving it around too much before covering with marzipan and fondant. It may still be a bit crumbly when we cut into it!

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© Lisa Shambrook

I had to slightly alter my design when I realised I’d thrown out my deep 7” cake tin, and only had a shallow 9” tin. I had wanted to create a turret all the way round the sides of the cake with a door in the side, but I think I prefer the ruins my dragon’s ended up with.

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© Lisa Shambrook

My dragon is based on the sleeping dragon I made in pottery class, and I added the ruined wall, a broken wooden door, a log and snowballs. After all, defending with flames will just melt the snow and my ice dragon enjoys the fun of winter, so it’s snowball ammunition!

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© Lisa Shambrook

I’m hoping for snow this Christmas, not really had any for a few years, and I’m looking forward to my feet crunching through the white stuff, building snowmen, and breathing dragon smoke in the frost…

What’s decorating your Christmas cake this year?

I hope you all have a great Christmas!

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Ten Winter Wonders of Nature

Jack Frost creates a winter wonderland as the temperature drops,
and nature still has a few gems up her sleeve as you don a scarf and hat…

Ten Winter Wonders of Nature | The Last Krystallos

This year hasn’t given us as much frost and lacy webs as I’d have liked;
it’s been a warm and rainy winter so far, but there’s still magic…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Holly and Ivy: two of the most iconic plants of winter and abundant at Christmas. Immortalised in song and gracing many, especially Victorian, Christmas cards.
Holly, with its red berries, is often pictured with robins, though an interesting fact shows it is rather the mistle thrush that is known for vigorously guarding the berries of holly in winter, to prevent other birds from eating them.  The tree was seen as a fertility symbol and a charm against witches, goblins and the devil. It was also thought to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree.
Ivy is a popular groundcover plant and found throughout woods and forests, climbing trees and weaving through the undergrowth.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Early daffodils and Narcissi (Narcissus): This year, with the warmth and rain, daffodils are flowering early. Generally small narcissi flower first, heralding spring and paving the way for the daffodils and their huge trumpets of colour, but this year in February they’re already throwing out their glorious golden trumpets to brighten the gloomy days.

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Frosted EvergreensNothing delights me more in winter than gazing at the garden decorated in icing sugar frost. Spider webs are encrusted with diamonds and sugar strands and glitter as the sun dances. Leaves and trees are dipped in ice and create a true winter wonderland. And last year’s Christmas tree grows a few more inches!

cyclamen, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Cyclamen: I’ve tried growing these as houseplants, but I’m not good at keeping plants alive indoors… I struggle a bit with cyclamen outside too, I don’t think they like my damp, clay soil! Still, I persevere every year because they’re so delicate and pretty with their bright red or pink, pastel pink, or white blooms and dark, heart-shaped leaves… One day I’d love a patch of naturalised cyclamen coum to cheer up winter.

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Hellebore: also known as the Christmas or Lenten Rose, are stunning additions in any winter garden. They grow into large clumps and can be divided or you can plant the little babies that grow from seed around the parent plant. I love their simplicity and beauty as they grace the garden with slightly drooping heads that, when lifted, often show a freckled face. I love the pinks, deep reds, and almost black flowers, but I particularly love the pure white with a lime green hint staining their petals.

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn: This is a favourite of mine as it flowers in clumps of pink blossom on bare, dark stems as winter progresses into spring. Strangely the leaves have a pungent smell which I rather dislike when touched, but the flowers have the most divine heady fragrance which makes up for the leaves.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Moss and Lichen: on bare branches and stone. When the season becomes sparse, and flowers are hard to find, if you look closer you can delight in the intricacies of lichen and moss. Grab a magnifying glass and search out the smaller pleasures of nature. There are numerous varieties of both; in the UK there are over 1,700 species of lichen and over 18,000 species worldwide. I love the curl and sage colour of common lichen found on trees and enhanced in winter on bare branches. Moss delights me, I cannot resist brushing my hand across a carpet of peridot moss, and they offer me my favourite colour! Rainy Wales and our woodlands are the most amazing places for moss. (I love moss so much I may well do a separate post in the future for it!)

bronze fennel, frosted fennel, fennel seedhead, ten winter wonders of nature,the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Fennel: I grow bronze fennel in my garden for the haze of purple it gives me in the summer. It grows tall and feathery, and then gives long stems and stunning seedheads in winter. When Jack Frost visits he always decorates the seedheads, creating even more works of art in my winter garden.

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Red Berries Cotoneaster: Cotoneaster comes in many varieties, from trees to shrubs and ground-cover. Red berries are the epitome of winter and every garden should have some!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Snowdrop (Galanthus): I’ve said it before, I adore the tiny British Snowdrop, I look forward to its little nodding head and vibrant green marks. It’s a sign that winter is beginning to draw to a close. It generally flowers before the vernal equinox marking the arrival of spring in the middle of March, but can flower from midwinter on. One of the most beautiful winter sights to me is a patch of snowdrops peeping through a fresh coating of snow…offering new growth and hope.

What are your favourite winter flowers?

What inspires you to wander winter’s woodlands and
what flora do you search out as Jack Frost bites?

Rudolph on Ice – Christmas Cake 2015

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer – won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

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Rudolph found his way onto my cake this year, though it looks like he’s got more grace in flight than on ice…

I found some great ideas on Pinterest and amalgamated a few to make my own design, but Rudolph came from this brilliant You Tube tutorial. My sugar-paste (fondant) skills are basic, but after a wonky Rudolph, I produced this one and was quite happy with him.

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Rudolph © Lisa Shambrook

I made small hills and covered the whole cake in smooth fondant, then placed Rudolph on top and shattered ice behind him. If you place Fox’s Glacier Mints on baking paper you can melt them at a low temperature (about 100C) for ten minutes and create ice. If you smash the mints first you get broken ice. (My mint/ice always bubbles, so if you know how to get smooth ice, please let me know!)

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© Lisa Shambrook

I bought a little set of small star stamp cutters, (I love TKMaxx) and made Christmas trees with them. Four of the large stars placed on top of each other overlapping ‘branches’ then four more smaller and finally four more tiny stars and a point on top. Very effective!

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© Lisa Shambrook

A shimmer of royal icing snow and edible glitter and we’re done.

When I asked here and on Facebook for guesses, we had some great ones, including some left of centre Star Wars and Dr Who themed ideas – maybe I’ve been posting about Star Wars on Facebook a little too often 😉 We had starry nights, angels, Narnia (that would be pretty), reindeer, Santa and Rudolph, penguins, robins and Christmas Trees, and I’m not beyond trying something twice…and poinsettia…

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© Lisa Shambrook

The idea had been cemented and my plan printed out before I posted my last blog post, so the guesses were fun to watch and Eilís Phillips mentioned reindeer so she wins a signed paperback copy of ‘Beneath the Rainbow’, but it’s Christmas and I decided to send copies out to those who also mentioned Rudolph or reindeer, so both Carly Sewell and Nick Johns win copies too.

At home Caitlin guessed reindeer on an icy road, which was right, and in Canada via emails Dan finally chose reindeer too, though he commented: I am probably completely wrong because I can’t read your face, ha ha… So that’s how he guesses!

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© Lisa Shambrook

So here’s to the most famous reindeer of all!

How are you decorating your Christmas Cake this year?

Decorating Christmas Cakes…and a Competition

Christmas cake – are you enticed by taste or decoration?
In our family, Vince and the children make the cake
and I decorate it – and we get the best of both worlds!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Decorating the cake has become a bit
of an event in our household

and this year you can join in…

So, gifts have been bought, nativities visited, carols are being sung, my frosted icicles are up, and the tree is clothed with an eclectic assortment of baubles. Steampunk, glass, and wood ornaments, Santa and reindeer, snowmen and frost, stars and angels…and much more. I love arty trimmings and my tree is pretty much a mix of shop bought and homemade. And this year we even invested in a real potted tree, which I adore!

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© Lisa Shambrook

But now for the cake. Several years ago I watched Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Christmas where they made polar bears for the Christmas cake. I made notes and sketches, and disappeared the next day into the kitchen with fondant icing… A few squashed bears later, I had my cake. I revealed it to the family to much delight, as the most I’d ever done on our cake before was rough royal icing with a couple of shop decorations placed on top, maybe a sprig of holly if I wanted it to look posh!

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© Lisa Shambrook

The next year I upped the stakes, shut myself away, and created penguins. Let’s just say several penguins got thrown across the kitchen amid tantrums, as black food colouring in white fondant seemed not to be the easiest icing to work with. The family were refused entry into the kitchen, purely because I wasn’t sure it would work – and I’m sure they wondered what on earth I was doing! In the end the penguins sat enchanted beside a melted glacier mint pond.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Then I decided to learn how to cover a cake in smooth fondant icing and we got cute, fat robins atop a winter tree.

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© Lisa Shambrook

My most favourite cake came next, and Pinterest was pretty influential. Wow, the ideas! I saw melted snowmen cookies and took it another step, placing three on my cake. This time the cake was covered with smooth fondant and topped with rough royal for snow. The actual snowmen were marshmallows melted for a few seconds in the microwave and decorated with eyes, nose, twig arms and silver sugar balls for buttons! This one was so effective!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Not sure how to top my melted snowmen, I was inspired by creative Christmas card designs on Pinterest using buttons. I made a classy Button Christmas tree with chocolate fondant and green sugar strands and added fondant buttons and silver balls.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Last year I took the traditional Yule log idea and covered the cake with smooth chocolate fondant, then it snowed with rough royal icing and I twined fondant ivy all around, adding sprinkles of glitter powder for frost and crushed, melted glacier mints for ice

Each time I decorated the cake, my family were kicked out of the kitchen with not a peek at the cake until I was done. They were soon offering furtive observations and asking crafty questions to discover clues, but I jealously guarded the secrets until the reveals. Now they put in official guesses and we see if anyone comes up with the same idea as me!

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So, this year I’m opening up the question… What will I put on my Christmas cake? If you can guess how I’ll decorate the cake, you could win a signed copy of ‘Beneath the Rainbow’.

You’ll have to trust me that I won’t be swayed by guesses that appear here or on Facebook or Twitter…I am a woman of integrity, and I already know exactly how I’ll be decorating the cake this year!

I’ll put all the correct answers into the proverbial hat and pull out a winner when I reveal the decorated cake. Until I post the photographs of this year’s cake, you can keep guessing…

So, how do you think I’ll decorate our Christmas cake?

Beneath the Rainbow AD with SynopsisLeave your guess in the comments below, or on my Facebook post, and I’ll contact the winner in a post or message once the cake is decorated. I’ll post here and on FB, and the winner will get a signed paperback copy of ‘Beneath the Rainbow’ just before or just after Christmas!
This contest is open internationally
.

If I can’t contact the winner, or there is no reply to my winner’s post within a week, I will choose the next correct or closest answer as winner.

 

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amaranth alchemy winter gifts, etsy shop christmas, the last krystallos,Pop over and see what you’d love…0. Logo Complete Rectangle