Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, one candle is lit the first week and one more each Sunday after that. The first week is the candle of hope, the second is the candle of love, the third is the candle of joy and the fourth the candle of peace. For 2014 Advent runs from Sunday November 30th to Sunday December 21st. I grew up in a house where the Advent wreath was on the dinner table every night and I think it’s a lovely simple tradition that isn’t about the lists, gifts and scramble.
I grew up with the traditional form of an advent wreath, evergreens, three purple and one pink candle but I really wanted to come up with some alternative “wreaths” that would work in my house.
The first option is a row of four 79 cent terra cotta pots from the garden centre that I distressed using spray-on stone paint, some left over wall paint and sandpaper. The tags are cardboard and painted with blackboard paint and attached with a ribbon from the dollar store. Four white candles and a bag of moss finishes off the first option.
This second version is a slab of wood that I had bought at the garden centre last year, some of the pinecones that I bleached last week, cute little glitter acorns that I made and four pillar candles of varying heights and thicknesses.
This last option is a cream bowl from Williams Sonoma (no longer available), three Christmas Ferns, two English Ivies, the glitter acorns and the bleached pinecones. Please use these in an area where you can keep an eye on them or substitute with battery candles.
I would be happy to include any one of these arrangements on my table for dinner and pause for a moment in all the Christmas rush.
For a softly elegant look, bleached pinecones can easily be made at home.
1. Using regular laundry bleach completely submerge pinecones in a solution of 1 part water to 2 parts bleach.
2. It can be tough to keep the pinecones submerged so I covered the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and weighted it with a plate.
3. Leave in the solution for at least 24 hours, mine were in the solution for close to 48 hours. The cones will close up and look like they are still brown but check the bottom of the cone and you’ll see definite lightening.
4. Remove them from the solution and dry on an absorbent cloth on a cookie sheet. I got really impatient and after about a day and a half I put the sheet into a 200 degree oven for about two hours. That worked perfectly and the cones opened up beautifully.
I think these beauties will be stunning on the mantel and on a wreath, they should really stand out against natural greens.
What are Neighbourhood Watch signs supposed to do? The ubiquitous big-brother eyes are meant to warn bad guys that this is a place where we watch out for one another, we take care of our own and will foil any wrong-doing by our amateur sleuthing and curtain-twitching.
There is a small town homespun cosiness to the watch program and that’s why an installation project in central west Toronto has hit such a pitch-perfect note. As many as seventy Neighbourhood Watch signs have had their red and black stylized watchful eye images carefully overlaid with an image of either a super-hero or pop culture character. The original message “this neighbourhood protected by” image “neighbourhood watch”is still intact but updated to be noticeable and relevant. The original signs are so commonplace they have become background noise and cease to function as they were originally intended so these additions refresh the message in an entertaining way.
Artist Andrew Lamb has carefully altered the signs with a colour image that he glues onto the signs in broad daylight. Is it vandalism? Well yes, in the strictest sense of the word but the mixture of childhood whimsy, nostalgia and wit on display is delightful.
The Hulk, Wonder Woman, Mr Rogers, Nancy Drew, Spider-Man or in this case (pictured above) the Goonies… who wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing they were all on-guard outside your door?