Saturday 17 March 2018

Jenny Bristow: Deck the halls

Jenny’s homemade
wreath for the door
which she made
using greenery and
pinecones she
gathered for free
Jenny’s homemade wreath for the door which she made using greenery and pinecones she gathered for free
Jenny uses recycled kitchen roll to make her pretty, personalised crackers
Jenny loves old things, such as the pine Boston-engraved fireplace with a grate that is 400 years old on which she puts her homemade garland of winter greenery

Jenny Bristow is inspired by nature and there is a chic rustic and rural vibe to her festive decorating style. The well-known cookery writer and TV personality grew up on a farm and every November, she pulls on her wellies and heads into the countryside to pick the best of what nature has to offer -- and it's all free.

We watched Jenny as she gathered large armfuls of holly, ivy, laurel, spruce, hips and haws and pyracantha berries and swung into action, creating a wreath for her front door, generous garland for her mantlepiece and decorations for around the house.

"Nature has the most amazing colour scheme that anyone could possibly create," says Jenny who lives in Cullybackey, Co Antrim. "I look out the window to see the colours and they inspire me. I think it makes sense to use what's free for the taking."

Her style is to arrange holly, laurel, spruce and trailing ivy in an oasis placed in little dishes along the top of the mantlepiece and that way they last longer. In front of the dishes, she places candles, pinecones and twigs of pyracantha berries. As well as looking great, it creates the most invigorating, festive fragrance.

"I believe in keeping Christmas preparations casual, easy and uncomplicated, nothing organised or arranged too much," said Jenny.

And to prove her point, in a matter of minutes, secateurs in hand, she has created a stunning wreath for the hall door.

"There are so many easy ways to decorate your front door using an oasis ring which has been steeped in water. You can put all sorts of things in and I use cinnamon sticks, red apples that have dropped from the tree and lovely winter greenery. Sometimes I use chillis from the kitchen for a bit of colour and then I add a pretty big bow. I love it when they look untidy."

The getting-ready-for-Christmas experience was all the more three-dimensional because of the fabulous smell emanating from the famous pine kitchen which features in Jenny's TV shows.

"I like to make a day of it and really get in the mood so I usually put the Christmas cake in the oven before heading out with my basket to pick holly and ivy. You come back in to the wonderful rich smell of the cake, which is heralding the onset of Christmas. It's the emotional connection and with the fire roaring, it adds to the whole sense of Christmas. I just love it."

Jenny recycles cardboard from used kitchen paper rolls as the basis for her personalised Christmas crackers.

"I cover my crackers with leftover fabric, like simple hessian and I add ribbons and berries and winter jasmine. Another idea is to put little gifts inside, like homemade sweets."

This year Jenny is having a traditional family Christmas at home. "Our sons and hopefully our daughter will be with us, and my mum, and we always manage to pick up a few strays.

"I love spending time decorating the house and making lovely meals but my advice is to keep it simple," says Jenny.

"Christmas is not the time to show off. I love the whole day, going to church and the carol service, having neighbours and friends in for mulled wine. The next few weeks are a great time to do all the fiddlely things and then on the day, keep it simple. The real prize is being at home with your family and loved ones."

Irish Independent

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