Creating something sweet for Christmas while not spending money is this year's challenge because I have our wedding next year to save for. All romance heroines know, that not having a lot of money to spend doesn't mean you can't do things. It requires being more resourceful, which is a good skill to cultivate. For me that means an appreciation for whatever resources you have available and making the most of them.
One of the lovely things about using what you have is that you can include items that are sentimental to you. I have a broken bead bracelet that Mum gave me which I couldn't throw away, so I used it as a garland on this tree. Many of the buttons were my great aunts and came to me through Mum.
If you don't have a craft stash like mine, go to second hand shops. It's much cheaper to shop the craft section of your thrift store and women's or girl's second hand dresses or shirts in pretty fabric with sweet buttons can help bolster your supplies. The Reject Shop or dollar stores sell bling for only a couple of dollars. My button and bling tree is hot glued to fabric but a sheet of scrap booking or other craft weight paper would be lovely also.
I used an old framed picture that I had stored in the garage. Again if you don't have an existing one crying out for a makeover, thrift one. I painted my frame white with craft paint and covered the mount and backing picture with fat quarter quilt fabric. I added a layer of thin batting under the fabric but I don't think this is really necessary.
The color palette was chosen to go with my Romantic Christmas theme. Romantic for me has a shabby chic feeling. so the colors are soft with pops of pink however it would look wonderful done in traditional red and green or whatever your decorating pallet is this year.
I made an arrangement that I liked without gluing first. I recommend taking a photo of it. I didn't however it still came out okay. I used the big white buttons to create a form work, then I draped the garland down between those. I used three of each brass and green rose buttons arranged in a zig zag shape down the tree. The green ones point left and the brass ones point right. I glued all of that down first.
After that I glued the single feature buttons around the tree to draw the eye over the whole picture. Next I filled in with the random smaller buttons and bling. I layered bling onto buttons to add dimension.
Some of the blingy bits were self stick and I made the mistake of just adding them without hot glue. One has shifted in the picture above so I recommend a small dab of hot glue on the self stick ones also.
I crowned the tree with a vintage gold filigree buckle. Again this was from my great aunts stash. A vintage broach or a sparkly one from a thrift store would be gorgeous also.
If you need inspiration, Pinterest has lots of very beautiful examples of these trees. You don't have to make an arrangement the same as mine. This was inspired by the buttons I had. If you don't have more than one of each kind of button you can group similar ones together and use some of my principles to help get you going. But really it's got to be what you like. Everyone's tree is destined to be unique and special because you created it.
I've hung mine in the hall leading to the bedrooms and bathroom. Each time I pass I enjoy seeing it. When the hall door is open, which is most of the time, I can see it from the kitchen and family room too.
Even though Christmas is nearly here. Just a couple of sleeps away and it's exciting and wonderful, my heart is calling to love ones who've gone ahead of me to spirit. If you are also experiencing sadness at Christmas, I understand how you feel.
I love the memories that this tree helped bring back. They are mine forever. But the greater the love the greater the loss, so at Christmas I have to focus on being grateful for their many gifts over the time I had them for. However, I know it's my turn to carry on and make the most of this festive time of year with the family and friends who bless my life and fill me with gratitude.
So dear readers of my weekly blog, thank you for stopping by to see what I've been writing about each week over the last year. It means so much to me and I'm truly grateful for your support. I hope you have a lovely Christmas day planned for yourself and wish you and your loved ones a very happy Christmas. Sending you all a big hug.
Love Dora xoxo
Eleven years ago, I sat on a bridge the quaint little village of Shere, Sussex, England. I'm happy and relaxed two weeks into my first overseas trip. But I didn't begin that way. I was determined to go but very nervous. You see, if I wanted to do it, I had to go alone.
I'm so glad I was brave and made the leap. I saw so many wonderful things and had the best holiday ever. I later found out that Shere had been used as the setting for a couple of romantic comedy movies at least. What fun it was to see the pub, where I had eaten lunch, in the movie The Holiday. I relived memories eating a delicious meat pie with crisp pastry in that charming Old English pub.
If I'd been too scared to leave home I wouldn't have the memories. I was scared before going, it was nerve raking at times but it was absolutely worth every minute. I have some tips to help you make up your mind to just do it.
Decide where you want to go.
There's no point going somewhere for the sake of it. You'll never press the next button on that flight you're looking at. It has to be your heart's desire. When I went to England it was because I'd wanted to go for twenty years. I got married instead of travelling and the bug never left me. In the mean time I became a huge Jane Austen fan and I wanted to visit Chawton, where she lived, and see Bath where my favorite of her books, 'Persuasion' is set.
Take a solo holiday in your home country first.
I didn't start of my solo travels with an overseas trip. I worked up to it by accident. Most people don't know this about me but I get anxious just leaving the house. It took an invitation to a wedding across the country, that I really had to be at, to travel alone. I boarded the plane from my home city of Melbourne, Australia to Perth, collected my luggage, hired a car and navigated a strange city to my accommodation all on my own.
I wasn't calm but on high alert most of the time, however I think that is a good thing. You need to be more aware when travelling alone. There isn't a second set of eyes to help locate the things and places you're looking for. I found my own way to the wedding and enjoyed a brilliant evening with family. So glad I did it. The next day I drove through Perth on my way South to have a couple of nights in Fremantle. The hire car was great because I had everything with me on the back seat within easy reach, snacks, drinks, maps and information about where I was booked in for that night.
I learned that I could have a wonderful time alone in a country where I understood the language and it was still using a currency I was familiar with. I learned to deal with the mechanics of managing my suitcase drop-offs and pickups and filling out hire car contracts and gained confidence in making decisions on my own.
Plan your trip.
For each holiday I've taken alone, I always have everything booked before I leave home. I spend a lot of time researching on line to see where I want to go and what the attractions are. I book my hire car if I'll need one, train tickets and or airport transfers, and all the accommodation. I also download maps of where I'm staying and what I will be doing.
Make sure you have your phone sorted for travel. Check with your company to see what the costs will be to keep using your own phone for google maps, texts and calls. It may be cheaper to buy a new sim card on arrival and use your sim just until you get it.
Be alert and know where your things are.
Money is important when you're alone, you have to have back up so I keep most of my money in a money belt under my clothes.
I take my wallet and passport in a smaller bag that I take to the loo with me when I'm on the plane. When walking around looking at the sights, be it Fremantle, Australia or Milan, I wear an across the body bag and have it always in front of me. I never have it at the side or worse still on my back. Backpacks maybe easy to carry but never have valuables in them, like your camera or phone, because they're too easy to slit open by thieves. When having a cup of coffee or lunch in a cafe keep that bag on your lap. Don't take it off and put it over the back of a chair. Far to easy for it to get swiped.
Take a bus tour when you first go to a foreign country.
England isn't really that foreign to an Aussie but, it has different money, there's the British Accent to get used to. It also has really busy roads and is much more densely populated. The benefit of joining a tour on arrival included being met at the airport by the tour company, so no trying to find a cab or navigate public transport. Secondly I got to see a lot of London as we drove. I became familiar with the roads getting ready for my self drive holiday when the tour finished.
A tour guide is a valuable resource. They can answer any questions you have and will help you find anything you need. You don't even know what you'll be asking until you're there. Your curiosity will be ignited and it's great to have someone who knows all about where you are and what you're looking at.
The Tour took me to some really amazing places that I wouldn't have thought to go, like Stonehenge. It was more amazing than the photos on line show. Also we went to Sir Walter Scott's house, Abbotsford, so totally charming. I absolutely loved the bus tour that over delivered on expectations. I chummed up with a couple of other women travelling alone on the tour, in the evening we'd all talk about what we'd been doing that day. Excellent and I highly recommend this.
Be adventurous, well what is adventurous for you.
I'm not suggesting bungy jumping, I mean doing what is scary but not unreasonable. Like driving in London. This was more challenging that I like to admit. But I want to keep it real. After the tour was finished I picked up the car a short walk from the hotel I stayed in. I felt like it was the first time I'd driven a car. I got used to it fairly well but it never felt like driving around Melbourne. It was also better though because it was exciting. I had to do it so that I could visit Jane Austen's house and walk around bath for as long as I like. Later I got to sit in the Jane Austen Center tea rooms without having to rush and catch the tour bus.
First night of driving around Jane Austen country on my own I parked my hired Fiat and took a photo. We'd survived. It was the days before selfie sticks so I don't have a lot of me in my photos but I have glorious memories.
I went from Melbourne to Perth then I went to England and after that I took a huge leap and went to Thailand. It wasn't really a huge leap but it certainly felt that way.
Thailand was an adventure. I saw an elephant during the drive from the airport to the hotel. Oh my word, I was way out of my comfort zone. But the things I had learned about being a solo traveler really helped. I knew that fear was really a friend. It gave me adrenaline to be alert and excitement to experience something completely new. I came home feeling so grateful for the opportunity to visit a land where the people are so nice and helpful.
To sum up, do your research and take every precaution. I didn't go out at night alone and was always alert and careful when traveling but oh the wonders I've seen. For me it was absolutely worth the effort, to feel the fear and do it anyway.
The Scottish Billionaire's Secret Lover was inspired during my solo travels in England. So who knows, you might even get inspired to write a book.
As soon as we settled into our unit on the Campapse river we went for a short stroll to stretch our legs and breath the country air. We were staying a short walk from the historic section of Echuca. A bit tired from the drive, we decided to leave a full explore until the next day.
While walking around the town and port area you can hear the clip clop and low clatter of draft horses pulling carriages of tourists. The joy for me is to watch them as they pass and feel the peace of the olden days when a slower pace prevented life from becoming frantic. Our ability to hop in the car and rush to the shops at the last minute means we will but in the days of horse and cart, you made do with what you had and I guess, it was a calmer existence.
The whole historic shopping precinct of Echuca has lots of antique shops and boutiques. It's here we went the next morning. There’s a lolly shop that I am proud to say, I didn’t go into but I did pay a visit to the Christmas shop. This year it greeted shoppers with archways festooned with shiny ornaments. I cannot resist a archway. I was drawn in to discover the magical ornaments.
At lunchtime we drove across the river into NSW and through the town of Moama on our way to Morrison's Winery. We lunched on the deck next to the Murray but it was quite low and we couldn't see it very well. The food was amazing though and sitting under market umbrellas sipping apple cider in the warm sunshine was heaven.
It's so nice being able to take as long as you like over a drink and a meal and just enjoy being outside. I didn't feel like a glass of wine so I went for an apple-cider. It was delicious served over ice in a wine glass. I think I'll always drink it this way from now on. I love the name of it too, " My Mates".
We decided on a quiet evening in after enjoying a day out and about. The vote was for pizza for dinner. The next day we headed back home but stopped at Kilmore for some lunch at a cafe called Rose Cottage. It had a sweet garden on one side full of roses yet to bloom but the daffodils were putting on a lovely show.
We were really blessed with the weather. It was warm and sunny with a cool breeze that didn't make you cold, perfect for travelling.
It was lovely to be back home and that first night back in my own bed was magic. I guess that's the benefit of having a short break, you're happy to go and happy to come home again.
I can recommend Echuca as a place where there is a lot to see and do. I've barely touched on what's available there in this post. But if you want a holiday that you can mainly rest and just go for a wander when the mood strikes then this is a great place for that also.
Collecting tea sets has given me so much pleasure. For years I have always ventured into antique shops while traveling through country towns in search of a bargain or a vintage set that I find so beautiful, it can’t be left behind. I enjoy the energy of antique shops which are laden with history and beauty. It lets me time-travel to an era where beauty married with function to create gorgeous furniture, fabrics, and china.
This photo contains my entire collection. You’d think I have more for my twenty years of collecting, but I really have been careful, budget wise, to not buy every pretty little set that draws my eye. It must be around $30 or less so that rules out a lot. Also I restrict myself to one matched set per holiday. That means there's a lot more looking than buying, but that is where much of the enjoyment lies.
I have also found lots of pretty teacups and saucers in thrift shops, but they aren’t always matching. What I do, is pair them up with a complimentary plate. I will even buy mismatched cups and saucers too. If the pattern is pretty and it’s only a couple of dollars, then why not. You’ll notice that I have set up quite a few mismatched china sets among the few that do match.
I don't care very much about brand names. Of course it's lovely having a Royal Doulton set in my collection but what is most important to me is the pattern and shape of the cups. It's the visual pleasure they give that I value most highly.
I’m inspired to blog about my love of pretty old china because I recently bought a dinner set that I found at the Salvation Army thrift shop. The country scene etching in brown and blue called to be taken home with me. It’s not a full set, only plates, and cups without saucers, so I got it very cheaply. The scene is as pretty as can be. It’s called Castle On A Lake Brown Multicolor and is made by Johnson Co in England. I ask you, can a romance writer pass that up?
I have at times got the cups out and used them. This resulted in a few casualties, so I’ve put the best ones away for safe keeping. I will get them out for occasions though. A ladies afternoon tea is a perfect occasion. A lace tablecloth and strawberry sponge. Can you see it? But for every day I love using some beautiful new cups and saucers given to me by friends and family for birthday and Christmas. I love drinking my afternoon tea out of those.
At the moment, I have my collection tucked away in a kitchen cupboard, but I’d like to display them somewhere. I have a crystal cabinet that I have a lot of crystal and glass in at the moment, perhaps I’ll designate a shelf for the collection. I think some shelves in that corner could be very nice also. I’ll give it some thought.
This post has links for your information only. It’s not sponsored or partnered commercially. However, I am a romance writer and do have links to my books for sale at Amazon. While I write contemporary romance I do love a heroine who treasures family heirlooms and antiques. The elegance of yesteryear is so easily brought into modern day with tea served in an antique cup and saucer set.
Last Thursday, I was on Romancing the Genres with a blog about my fantasy holiday in Thailand. I'd wanted to go since I was a little girl. It's just one of those things I guess. At about age six, I saw the dancers and the decorative traditional architecture on TV and decided that it would be wonderful to actually go there. I never dreamed it would ever really happen in my lifetime.
Actually having the chance to go as an adult came as a surprise. Even though I'd put it on a vision board I'd created for myself. The experience was similar to stepping into a fantasy land. Follow the link at the end of this post if you'd like to read about my solo journey to a foreign land and experiencing a culture very different from my own.
I've been fortunate enough to travel to places I'd dreamed of visiting for years. While my children were growing up I couldn't afford to travel but later I managed to save enough to have a lovely trip to England and Scotland. The highlight was when I visited Jane Austen's house in Chawton. A few years later I also went to Italy and saw many places including historic Rome and fashion capital, Milan. The highlight was an evening tour of Venice.
I have no fantasy holidays left to take. My bucket list travel plans have been ticked off but I think they were so special because I'd looked forward to them for so long.
It's highly likely that I will still be traveling though. My partner, Sam has yet to see where his parents grew up on a small island above Sicily. And he has a friend with a house on Cyprus. So I'll be with him when he gets to go on his fantasy holidays. I encourage him to make it happen because I know that the holiday stays with you long after it's over. The excitement of discovery and being in a place that is magical to you creates a wonderful uplifting energy. Every time I think back on my memories I relive these gorgeous emotions .
What isn't a surprise is that I found these experiences inspiring and that led me to set my two published books in places I've visited. The Scottish Billionaire's Secret Lover and the Italian Billionaire's Secret Baby were written with the energy and excitement I felt at visiting these countries.
Have you ever traveled alone? Did you have a fantasy holiday that came true or do you have one yet to be realized? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.
If you'd like to read about my Thai Fantassy holiday, here's the link to
last Thursday's blog post.
The first Easter I remember was all about chocolate eggs that the Easter Bunny had left overnight. The smell of the chocolate wafted up as I opened the foil wrapper before breakfast promising pure delight. But more than this was the supreme indulgence of having chocolate for breakfast. I can still remember the thin chocolate melting into creamy, chocolaty sweetness on my tongue.
I was the sort of child who couldn’t resist the eggs. By dinner time I would have eaten all three of them, one large, one medium and a small one. I never could ration myself so that I could enjoy them for days after. The best I could do was only eat the small one first, then the middle sized one and last of all, the big one. But one year I got so much Easter chocolate, and I was so unwell that I had lots left over at the end the of Easter Sunday.
When I was nine, I was diagnosed with a kidney condition. I was admitted to the Royal Children's Hospital, I think in February. I was still there when I had my tenth birthday in early March and then along came Easter. I’d been in the hospital for many weeks at this point. The staff were wonderful but I was wondering when and whether it would all end. But Easter brought chocolate. Not just from the Easter Bunny but from our extended family and friends too. There were many of the treasured eggs but also chocolate rabbits and a chocolate hen sitting in a chocolate basket.
Boy, I felt so spoiled, but more importantly, it let me know that while I was away from them all, they hadn’t forgotten me. For many days I enjoyed little bits of chocolate, and it lasted a long time. Eventually, I started to feel better, and all the eggs were gone by the time I came home. The condition couldn’t be cured, and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. But the gift of the Easter chocolate had been a bright spot during a difficult time.
I wish I could say that was a turning point for me, in regards to having discipline around chocolate, but it wasn’t. As soon as I was well again, my appetite returned, and I was back to my old tricks feasting on chocolate on Easter Sunday. Whenever my condition makes its presence felt I lose my appetite and drop some weight. For the last couple of weeks I haven’t been well, and so I dropped a couple of kilos. Don’t worry I have plenty more to spare (she chuckles) but aside from that, I’m feeling well again now and will be able to enjoy some chocolate this Sunday. As you can see in the photo above, I'm prepared.
This year, while I’m enjoying my traditional chocolate breakfast, I’ll be grateful that I’m still here after all these years, and for the love of the family and friends that I have about me.
Thank you for supporting of my blog; it means so much to me that you drop in each week to see what musings I have to share. I wish you and your loved ones a very enjoyable and healthy Easter.
I wonder if it's possible to write an Easter Romance. I'll have to think about that one. It would have to include chocolate. That reminds me, I hope you get lots of chocolate!
In the evenings we walked along the foreshore and stopped at a restaurant that took our fancy for dinner. The sun would set as we sipped a cocktail or glass of wine and listened to the waves patting the shoreline. We were treated to a full moon one night and I managed to get a picture of it
Last year, we had just moved into our house when we had to leave it again because we had a holiday booked. For me, Sam and I were starting our lives together. I’d looked forward to it for so long and had expected to be in our house a month or two earlier. But delays in the renovation put us back so far that our holiday had rolled around just as the removalists finished bringing in the furniture. So we locked the front door and left all the boxes and headed off to Palm Cove, just out of Cairns. For non Aussies, Cairns is the tourist capital of northern Queensland
We caught a gondola back down, which also had the most amazing views. We did have to share with another couple but you know, we were high up. Even though the view was wonderful, there was plenty of eye contact too.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, including rescuing a couple of old rose bushes and planting new ones.