Christmas table styling ideas with natural materials, handmade ceramics and vintage glassware

A simple and beautiful Christmas table

The key to creating a Christmas table that you’ll love to share with your friends and family is to use things that are meaningful to you. To me the magic of Christmas lies in the holiday rituals I’ve created with my children. It’s so special because it’s only once a year. In Australia we don’t get the feeling of Christmas from the first snow fall and roasted chestnuts that we hear about in the Christmas carols. I imagine that it must feel a lot like Christmas in the northern hemisphere just from the weather. Here it’s sunny days at the beach and it’s quite funny to be cutting down a Christmas tree in 37 degree heat! To create the magic of Christmas I decorate my home and pay special attention to how my table looks. My main goal each Christmas is to avoid it being stressful. I have a few tips on how to create a table that’s beautiful without taking hours to put together. After all, the real joy is in being with family and friends and creating memories with them.

Start with a neutral base.

I have a wooden table top which is stunning all on its own. Even so its nice to add some texture and warmth with fabric. My go to for tablecloths is linen. I never bother to iron it, I like the creases, it makes it feel more friendly. This year I’ve found this stunning throw in a golden sand tone that I’m using as a table runner. You can find it at Once Was Lost.

Choose items that are inherently beautiful.

I love vintage cutlery, it’s worn and tarnished with age. It has a rustic beauty that shiny new cutlery doesn’t have. There’s something so special about objects that get more beautiful the more they’re used. I think about this often, our perception we have of objects and their value. Most of the things we buy brand new tend to become worth less when they’re aged, damaged or marked. Like a new kettle, if it gets a scratch or a ding we see it as worth less than what we paid for it. Compared to an old copper kettle, it’s the dings and scratches that give it character and soul. I aim to use these types of objects in my table styling, it brings a feeling of ease that we don’t have to be precious when we’re using them.

Use things that are meaningful to you

Handmade ceramics have a soulful feeling that can’t be replicated by similar items mass produced. Setting your table with plates that are made by hand, gives you a connection with the maker that’s grounding and calming. It enhances even the most simple dishes.

Add accents.

Glitz and glam isn’t my usual style, but Christmas is an exception! It’s nice to have a bit of sparkle this time of year. You can’t go wrong with classic silver and gold, I’m using these pretty copper decorations to add a bit of fun to the table. I’ve chosen gold hued vintage glassware to give an extra hint of metallics.

Go foraging for foliage. 

You don’t need buckets and buckets of foliage to create a feeling of beauty on your table. I had a bunch of berzillia that has dried out and they still look so pretty (the blooms look like little baubles) and a bunch of native broom for a bit of green. I love to forage around my neighbourhood and pick leaves and branches for my table. It’s a really lovely way to spend a morning, grab a basket and a pair of secateurs and go for a wander, you’ll be amazed at what you see when your walking that you completely miss when you drive past. Bunches of herbs in glass jars from the garden look gorgeous and smell amazing, rosemary is perfect to give a feeling of Christmas.

What’s the feeling you want to convey?

When people come to sit at my table I want them to feel special and loved. That I made an effort to create a space for them to enjoy that’s beautiful and thoughtful. I’m not going to try and make everything perfect or too fancy, I want my guests to feel comfortable. It’s hard to relax if you’re worried about spilling food on the expensive linen. Think about the feeling you want people to have at your table, is it cosy and warm, excited and glamorous, wholesome and nurtured. When you’ve got an idea of the feeling you want to share, it becomes easier to choose the tableware and decor to match.

Louise Coghill

Conversations about mindful travel with Louise Coghill

Louise in her Fremantle Studio, where she's based between overseas adventures.
Louise in her Fremantle Studio, where she’s based between overseas adventures.

Louise Coghill is a storyteller, photographer, an adventurer and a caffeine addict. She’s hiked to Everest Base Camp, walked along the Great Wall of China, hitchhiked through Laos, and rode horses through Mongolia. She splits her time between her home in Perth and living months at a time in challenging and beautiful foreign countries. I’ve been enjoying chatting with her about how she manages to live intentionally to make the best of both ways of living. Here she talks to us about how travelling to far away places helps us to live our best life here at home.  

Tell us about how you got to be doing what you’re doing.

I was a storyteller first, so I studied Film and TV. I took one unit in photography and didn’t like the assignments and figured it was never going to be my thing.  It wasn’t until I moved to a sleepy little town in the Daintree rainforest, where there was no film industry that my love for photography started to grow. I bought myself a camera so I could make my own films, but I started taking pictures too. I didn’t have many friends at first, so I would take my camera and go on little adventures. Photography got me out of the house, I didn’t mind doing things on my own and immersing myself in nature, and so very quickly photography became about the lifestyle that came with it.

But it wasn’t until I went to India to film a documentary for my friends charity that I REALLY started to fall in love with it. I was capturing portraits, and life in the slums of India. I put it online and people were liking the images, and I started to realise that I enjoyed taking the photos more than I liked making the film, and so it’s been photography ever since.

Although my beginnings in the film industry is what shaped my style, telling stories is still my favourite aspect of being a photographer.

You often travel solo, what’s it like to be far away from home on your own?

It’s a humbling experience being alone in a foreign culture, immersed in a new country and not speak the language. Surrounded by people, yet feel so lonely. Travelling though rural China, I spent weeks not having a conversation with another English speaker. I had to learn how to be alone with my own thoughts. Talking to people tends to give me energy, so I had to figure out how to be who I am with nobody else around. 

Yaks heading home with equipment from Everest base camp
Yaks heading home with equipment from Everest base camp

What is it about travelling that makes you a better version of yourself? 

You only learn certain things about yourself when you’re really pushed. Going up Everest I had a chest infection, and I found – this is going to sound lame and clichéd  right now – I found an inner strength that could only be found by doing something so gruelling. Now I have that, it was always there, but I unlocked it in that moment. I’m sure if I was at home in a tough situation and I needed to find that strength, I would, but I’m just never really forced that far out of my comfort zone. That’s the thing for me with travel, I get pushed out of my comfort zone, and so it grows.

Image from 'The Dreamer' photography series
Image from ‘The Dreamer’ photography series

Do you have any daily rituals when you’re at home?

First thing in the morning, I make a big pot of coffee and read my book. I generally drink way too much coffee, so I can keep reading, so I might have to replace it with tea!  It’s such a big one for me, if I don’t get the chance to do it, my day doesn’t feel as calm or content.

I also love to go for a run and listen to a podcast. I tend to run longer when I have a good podcast, and I feel like I take in the conversations more when I’m doing something active. And bullet journalling, it’s just filled with to do lists, weekly and monthly spreads and I’ve started sleep and mood tracking, I just feel like my brain works better on paper.

What’s one of your favourite simple pleasures?

I enjoy drawing, but I never give myself time to do it because I think I’m too busy. I was sick in bed the other day and started drawing for the first time in ages, it felt so good and I sort of realised it’s ok to take time out for these sort of things. If my life is too busy to do the little things that I enjoy, then I’m not really living the life I want to live. 

Do you come back from travelling with ideas on how to live differently at home?

When I was in Mongolia, I spent most of the month without a phone, with no Internet. I was outside all day and living moment by moment. On the way home I kept telling myself “I’m going to cut down on the internet, I’m going to cut down on the internet.” I never manage it for very long though… 

There’s always so many new rituals I want to implement when I come home, like ‘watch a sunset every day’ ‘go on more walks’ but I only ever manage to keep a tiny portion of my new goals. Though each time I travel the resolution strengthens, so I find myself always searching for the next trip to shake up that comfort zone.

I’m putting more effort into enjoying my home life now, making peace with the fact I can’t always be jumping on a plane, I have nieces and nephews to play with, a job and a studio I love. I’m starting to implement all those things I put off for years. Trying to live slower, do little things each day so I feel content, rather than only ever working towards big goals and big trips.

A portrait taken while hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
A portrait taken while hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

What does living your best life look like for you?

Living a good life to me is centred around time. Having the time to do the things that matter to me. Those little rituals, the big goals, the trips I want to take, the books I want to read. Often I choose to work less, so I have more time. I actually only work about 6-8 months. I might have a crazy few months but I make up for it by having a few lazy ones too (preferably abroad). Living that sort of life often means I’m not as cashed up as some of my friends, but I don’t often regret it.

I think if you can invest time doing the small things that you really enjoy, you don’t have to spend as much money on buying things to make you happy. I’ve learned to enjoy things that don’t cost a lot. Instead of meeting up with my friends for an expensive dinner we’ll meet up and go for a walk.

I realise how lucky I am that my job lets me live that life, not everyone has that freedom, and I try and appreciate it as much as I can.

Tell us about your upcoming exhibition.

It’s called Terra, and it’s showcasing landscapes from a four month trip through Nepal and Mongolia. I’m also selling my first zine, filled with pictures and stories, like hiking up Everest with a chest infection, while also exploring the role of the traveller and the impact globalisation can have on these countries. 

Climbing to Everest Base camp
Climbing to Everest Base camp

Louise’s exhibition opens at Kidogo arthouse in Fremantle, on November 29th, 2018, from 6.30pm, and continues from the 30th till the 5th of December, 11am – 4pm. 

furoshiki cloth wrapping

Gift wrapping with fabric –using the Japanese Furoshiki technique

There is so much joy in gift giving. When I have the time to really think about what a friend will love, I so enjoy choosing them a thoughtful gift and lovingly wrapping it. Giving a beautifully wrapped present to someone and watching them delight in opening it is often more exciting than getting a gift myself.

The whole process is a joy. I find it therapeutic to lay out a sheet of paper, fold it gently around a shape, creasing the paper as I go and wrapping it with twine to finish. I think it’s a natural progression from my obsession with stationery, paper and washi tape. I’ve a whole Pinterest board dedicated to gift wrapping ideas! I used to print my own gift-wrap with stamps on brown paper, but it was disheartening to know that the lovely paper is used only once and then thrown away after the present is opened.  Have you had that feeling on Christmas morning when the living room is piled with scrunched up balls of paper after the frenzy of opening presents is over? It’s feels so wasteful. I’ve discovered a much more sustainable way to wrap and it’s now my go-to way of wrapping objects. It’s the traditional Japanese art of cloth wrapping, called furoshiki.

Furoshiki cloth wrapping in Kyoto

I experienced the art of furoshiki when visiting Kyoto this year. I had a hands on class in a quiet, ancient wooden townhouse. I learned to wrap all kinds of objects in particular ways from wine bottles to apples to chocolate boxes. There’s a preferred method to suit the type of object you’re wrapping. Coming home I find I use the simple method of tying two bows across the box. Watch the video below for a quick tutorial on a simple cloth wrapping technique.

For wrapping my Winterwares pieces I use calico, I love the simplicity of it. For your Christmas gifts you can find beautiful patterned scarves in op-shops. One of my favorite places to find fabric for furoshiki is at Lush Cosmetics, they often have a box of beautiful vintage scarves behind the counter they sell for the purpose of wrapping. I find that oversized square pieces of fabric are the easiest to use. The most commonly-used in Japan are squares measuring 70cm or 90cm wide.

The fabric becomes a gorgeous part of the gift that can be used for lots of things. I bought myself one piece of furoshiki fabric in the mountains, in the south of Japan and I carry it with me everywhere I go. When I forget to take a bag to the shops I can use it to carry my groceries. If I’m at the park it’s big enough to lay out a little picnic on. I use it as a scarf and to tie my hair back. There are so many fabulous uses for it. Next time you give a gift, try furoshiki, I’m sure you’ll see the delight in your friends who get to unwrap them.

furoshiki cloth wrapping

Photographs by Stevie Elle & Rae Fallon

Yogurt, berry and granola breakfast popsicles

Summer Popsicles with Granola, Berry and Yoghurt

Summer is almost here, and with it that feeling of youthful happiness. Mornings spent at the beach, soaking up the warm sand and staring up at clear blue skies that go forever. The taste of summer is sweet watermelon and summer berries. This recipe uses delicious fresh berries, mixed with yoghurt and granola to make perfect summer popsicles. They’re a whole breakfast on a stick, made with just four ingredients! I love them so much I have them all day, not just for breakfast.

Yogurt, berry and granola breakfast popsicles

Summer inspired yoghurt, granola and berry popsicles.

Ingredients

  • 2 punnets of berrieswhatever’s in season, I used raspberries and strawberries (frozen berries work great too).
  • Two Tbs of honey
  • 3/4 cup of granolaespecially delicious if you make your own but you can buy some yummy granola already made.
  • 1 cup of yoghurtI use greek yoghurt, but you can use whatever good quality yoghurt you love.

Method

Roughly chop the berries and add them with the honey into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Once they start to soften, mash them up and remove from heat when they’ve turned to a thick saucy consistency. Let the mixture cool down.

To assemble the popsicles. Scoop a few spoons of the fruit mixture into the moulds. Add a layer of yogurt and top with some granola.

Pop them in the freezer over night and tomorrow morning you’ll be enjoying the quickest yummiest breakfast you’ve ever had on a stick.

Yogurt, berry and granola breakfast popsicles Yogurt, berry and granola breakfast popsicles

Images above show the Gather Together Platter, the Spice Bowl and Dip Bowl.

Photography by Angelica Talen

Winterwares chai latté

How to brew the perfect chai

One of my favourite ways to slow the morning is to have as few plans as possible. To spend the time brewing chai and enjoying it with no place to be but home. I’m an introvert at heart and I really like quiet times in solitude, baking, snuggling under blankets on the couch and generally doing things that feel cosy. There’s nothing cosier than sipping a freshly made chai in bed.

If you’ve been to one of my workshops recently you’ll have been treated to a delicious cup of chai. Not just any chai, my absolute favorite – Prana Chai, made by hand in Melbourne by founders Vincent, Koray & Mario. I brew mine slowly with soy milk (Bonsoy is my go to). It doesn’t take long for the aroma of cinnamon, cardamon and star anise to gently fill the air and the experience of the perfect chai begins, even before you’ve had the first taste.

I spoke to Mario, one of the founders of Prana Chai about how he got to be creating their winning version of authentic masala tea.

Tell us some background on who you are, and how you got to be doing what you’re doing

I first got into hospitality when I started my apprenticeship as a chef after I left school at 16. I eventually moved to front of house and later running my own cafes with my best friend and partner Vincent. At one of these cafés we made chai ourselves for our customers and eventually we started supplying other cafes in the area. After Koray joined our team and many years of hard work, that side business has grown into what is now Prana Chai

What does mindful eating mean to you?

For me personally I practice intermittent fasting and try to eat whole foods and avoid eating too many processed carbohydrates.

Can you share a daily ritual you have that brings you joy?

I can’t go without a bowl of berries with coconut yoghurt, coconut milk, a bottle of yakult, cinnamon and a sprinkling of “the wild” gluten free muesli. Its so delicious and I can’t see myself ever getting sick of it.

What are your tips for brewing the perfect chai?

My best tip is to brew it slowly and to use a spoon to taste the chai every so often until it tastes right. The trick is to catch it before it is over brewed.

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Prana Chai and Winterwares

Perfectly brewed chai