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Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Revealing my Festive Wonderland

A few weeks ago, the three photos I posted signified the official arrival of Christmas in my home, even though back then it was still November. Now, some 30 Christmas trees later (most of which were for work I should add), time has galloped onwards and as only ten days remain until the full celebration of Christmas truly begins, there can be no doubt that we have well and truly arrived at the festive season. What better time then to share with you the very Festive Wonderland which is this year’s Christmas manifestation of my home.

Christmas decoration is very much part of my annual creative calendar. I relish the opportunity to transform my home with seasonal touches which have the power to add insuperable cosiness and magic in every corner. Thus, over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of baubles and trees which, while changing slightly throughout the years, retains the same core of cherished pieces, each involuntarily launching their own sentimental tale of memories past. However, the rather open-plan layout of my apartment in Mallorca means that my various trees, which in London would have each graced separate rooms, are here seen together in more of a unified space. The effect is quite magical, as tree is reflected in tree, and different coloured light sparkles across the entire living space.

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So here I present a miscellaneously mixed magical gallery of decorating touches, featuring bauble details, whole tree portraits, and my favourite photos of all – those blurred out of focus light landscapes which in themselves seem to carry the festive magic which is the effect given by such a mixed scheme of light and glitter.

Merry Christmas everyone!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Three photos suggesting the onset of Christmas

It’s the 25th November. Which means only one thing: no no, not black Friday. I would frankly rather pay double the original price than fight my way to near death for the sake of a much tried and tested cut-price pair of Calvin Klein boxers. No, the 25th November means that the final countdown to Christmas has finally begun. And with one month to go, its time for the sceptics and the anti-festive moaners to return to their holes of gloom, for the festive season is truly upon us. And indeed in my home, its onset has come early.

Yup, that’s right, my home is well and truly a Christmas wonderland as this year I took to decorating even earlier than usual. The reason is largely a practical one – travelling a lot during the latter weeks of November and the early ones of December, I pretty much knew that it was now or never. And as the evenings get even darker as each day passes, I am surely enjoying the festive cheer which this prompt decorating spree has brought.

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So as we begin this final month’s countdown to Christmas day, here are three photos – just small snapshots from my very Christmassy home – suggesting that the onset of Christmas, at least in my world, is very much here. Merry pre-christmas everyone!!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Memoirs from Venezia, Part 1: Christmas on a Gondola

As most of us look, somewhat gloomily, towards a mediocre post-Christmas period with our homes becoming sparser as decorations are packed away and everything returns to normal, I am sustained by a head full of daydreams, as I recall the time I spent this Christmas in Venice.

I am no stranger to this utterly unique, magical floating city, but no matter how many times I go, I am equally if not increasingly held captive by its enchanting spell. For where else on earth can you find palaces whose golden doorsteps are laced with a layer of green algae; whose magical buildings appear and disappear within veils of mist as mysterious as the masked characters who walk the city’s streets; and where you can spend Christmas day on a gondola.

The jewel of the Adriatic, as photographed on Christmas morning

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For with my partner’s mother making our Christmas a family affair, this festive season was going to be special for all sorts of reasons. And first on the to-do list of the day was to toast Christmas and the city from the luxurious comfort of a gondola. Despite its being my fourth visit to the city, I had never before been in one of these iconic vessels, fearing the grossly inflated prices and tourist traps. But when you discover that it is as expensive to remain on land in Venice as it is to embark upon the water, this cheeky half an hour on board one of the world’s most famous boats can be easily justified.

On a gondola for Christmas!

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And so as families all over the world toasted the day over a roast turkey, we started ours floating gently over the milky green canals of Venice, gazing in wonder as we passed cracking palaces, rosy-pink street lamps and some of the most beautiful churches ever built. The day continued with indulgent feasting in the Taverna la Fenice, a stroll across the Accademia Bridge to the gentle Dorsoduro district, the purchase of far too many handmade glass santas from the island of Murano, and later prosecco bubbles with homemade Tuscan panettone munched in-between the exchange of presents aplenty.

Magical details, from the water and back on land

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It was, in every way, the perfect Christmas day, and the memory I hold with me now as I reticently prepare to leave Christmas behind for another year.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  

Merry Christmas from The Daily Norm

Sometimes it’s hard to remember, as I look out of my window onto palm trees swaying in a gentle sunny breeze, that Christmas is upon us. Yet come nightfall, when the temperatures drop and that very same palm tree becomes emboldened with the thousands of fairy lights which have been wrapped around its trunk in celebration of the season, I know that this very special season has arrived. Mulled wine – that exquisite perfume of sweet cinnamon, citrus and rich red wine – ginger spices, old cloister carols and the flickering flames of candles fill my home now, and all around me it is truly beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

The Tree at San Miguel (2015, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

The Tree at San Miguel (2015, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

But amongst the wrapping and the carols, the alcoholic indulgence and the preparations for the visit of Old Saint Nick, let me not forget all of you, my amazing Daily Norm readers, who have made blogging such a pleasure this year. I’m wishing you all the very happiest of Christmases, and a wonderful, prosperous and very exciting New Year. And as my parting Christmas gift, I hope you enjoy this last of my gouaches of the year – the incredible Christmas Tree (one of my own in fact!) at Cappuccino San Miguel, here in Palma de Mallorca.

Merry Christmas everyone! ¡Feliz Navidad!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Reinventing the Ribbon: My Christmas Trees, 2015

As a largely self-appointed Christmas tree expert (although to be fair, I was the official House of Fraser Christmas decoration expert in 2014 don’t you know…) the festive season is always a busy time for me, and that is just with the four trees that spring up lovingly in my house. But this year, I had the charge of some additional 18 trees for my employment, as well as my parents’ tree back in the UK, bringing this year’s efforts to a grand total of 23 trees. That’s a lot of baubles, lights, prickly branches and this year’s addition – ribbon – to contend with. Is it any wonder the Daily Norm has been so quiet of late? But finally I am in a position to share some of the fruits of my labours with you, my dear readers.

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Rather than focus on each tree in detail, I have instead decided to bombard you with a post full of photographs showing decorative detail. The trees featured largely comprise those in my own new Mallorca home, all four decorated in a unique and individual scheme of their own. But also featuring are a few of the trees I put up for my employer. Across the board, and as I have already mentioned, the newcomer of the season has been ribbon.

I was always a big fan of tinsel, despite its reputation as protagonist of the 80s, to such an extent that some would almost declare its adornment today to be “vintage”. However, my mantra has always been that anything is better than the draped strings of beads of the 90s, and for this reason, tinsel, which glitters and sparkles from every angle has always been a feature of my trees. But tinsel is scarcer out here in the Mediterranean, and when a chance visit to a local florist saw me rummaging in big box of multi-coloured ribbons like a child on Christmas morning, I was hooked. For the way it can crumple and crease, wave and undulate, hang in loops and in haphazard formulations across a tree, I was a tinsel-man transformed. And now all of my trees feature this truly versatile construct, in every colour and texture. For me the result is a level of elegance which my trees have not reached before and which, when coupled with branches fully loaded with baubles both monochromatic and patterned, round and cutely shaped, produces a truly festive display, both at work, and at home.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.    

Cabalgata de los Reyes

Christmas in Spain is altogether a different experience from the UK. Yes, you have the Christmas lights hanging in their abundance throughout the streets of Spanish cities, but the warmer air around them feels less Dickens, and more Diego Rivera. And where many would place a large twinkling tree in their house in the UK, here in Spain, they might instead place a wonderfully detailed nativity. But of all the differences of the season, the one which surely brings the most cheer is the celebrations of the Three Kings festival on the night of 5th and the day of the 6th January. For while in England the 12th night is possibly the most depressing night of the year, when decorations come down to reveal a bleak and empty January, here in Spain it is one of the most joyful celebrations of the year.

At the heart of those celebrations is the Cabalgata de los Reyes, literally the ride of the Kings, when Spaniards in their hundreds of thousands line the streets of their respective cities to watch huge carnival-style parades. At the heart of the parade are the three Kings themselves, each enthroned with their various gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, while both before and after the Kings, a number of other widely varying floats of every kind of fantastical theme, colour and performance entertain the crowds. Most importantly of all, sweets and other gifts will be thrown in their hundreds from the floats to the eagerly awaiting audience.

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Here in Palma, the Mallorcan brand of Three Kings parade did not disappoint – I’ve never seen one on such a brilliantly spectacular scale with unicorns and fairies, devils and acrobats, live musicians and dancers all brought into the mix. With sweets showering the air, and the streets packed with people, it made for an unbelievable atmosphere which enabled the festive season to end with a magnificent bang. Now, filled with such positivity, I feel not sadness at taking down my decorations, but excitement and anticipation about welcoming in the onset of Spring!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Seaside Sojourn to celebrate the Season

While the sea may be the same globally-unfied expanse of water wherever it laps and wanders around the world, the nature and appearance of the sea as it washes up upon a shore will differ widely from beach to beach. While on the Mediterranean shores, sandy beaches and clement conditions are conducive to crystal clear seas tinted cerulean by the sunny skies, in England in the winter, the waters of the South Coast take on an altogether more electrifying, menacing quality. And yet those waters, while not inviting the viewer in amongst their freezing watery fold, are nonetheless as enticing as the sea in a warmer location.

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So on Christmas morning, with the meat left roasting in the oven, and the family table freshly laid with a Christmas centrepiece made from lustrous winter foliage and gold candles, I was drawn to the Sussex Coast, which happens to be a mere minute from my family home. The weather was not unreasonable, but the beach was frosty and cold. Its waves were charged with so much energy that the water’s edge frothed and bubbled as it collapsed upon the stoney shore – so much so that it reminded me of egg whites whipped manically into meringue. Its wooden groins were almost totally submerged by the sand which had been newly hurled up upon the beach; Its plentiful pebbles were freshly scattered with shells gifted to the shore by the depths of the ocean.

As ever, I was on hand with my camera to capture these details. For Christmas Day is not just about the glitter and gold, but about taking time out from the busy schedule of the festivities to appreciate people, and nature, and the gifts of the season.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Happy Christmas from The Daily Norm!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and in the office of The Daily Norm, we intend to get thoroughly sloshed on mulled wine. Meanwhile the blobby white Norms are toasting their favourite snack – marshmallows – over a glittery Christmas candle, and trying to solve the age-old dilemma of how best they should hang out a stocking for Santa when they don’t have feet.

After several weeks settling into our new abode in Mallorca, my beloved and I are newly returned to England to pass the season with family. For us, that means a trip to Sussex, and here in a county of green rolling hills, crackling fireplaces, smoke puffing from old stone chimneys and homes alight with the glow of Christmas, we have spent Christmas Eve exploring some of the more Christmasy spots: the County Town of Chichester, whose rather magnificent cathedral was alive with the Christmas spirit when we visited this afternoon, and the little hill top Seat of the Dukes of Norfolk: Arundel. In both historical towns, there was plenty to photograph, what with the Georgian townhouses trimmed with seasonal ornamentation, and the little shopfronts alive with a Christmas glow, but with only my iPhone to hand, what follows is a series of mobile phone square-framed shots taken in last-minute homage to the season.

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So with these pictures, and with these final sober words, I bid all of The Daily Norm readers a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for your loyalty, your interest and your support. Have an amazing, suitably indulgent seasonal celebration and see you soon! Right, that mulled wine smells about ready…

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Venice without the water: Plaça de Sant Jeroni, Palma

I can’t quite hide the fact that apart from being deliriously happy surrounded by the Christmas spirit of my new home in Palma de Mallorca, there is still a little piece of me that yearns for Venice at Christmas. It’s always been this way, ever since my blissful gap year spent in Italy, when an extended stay in Venice introduced me to the city enveloped in an enchanting wintery mist which made the glowing shops selling golden masks and glass Christmas trees all the more inviting. Every Christmas since I have yearned for Venice: my Christmas trees are invariably peppered with sparkling Venetian masks, my Murano glass trees are in pride of place amongst my decorations, and in fact this time last year I was in the pearl of the Adriatic herself.

So it was perhaps in part because of this yearning, but also because of its inherent characteristics that when I stumbled into the Plaça de Sant Jeroni, a tranquil little square deep in the old town of Palma the other day, I could have sworn I had stumbled into Venice. And having now declared the square my favourite in all the city, I just had to share it with you.

The Plaça de Sant Jeroni

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For me there are many features that make this square Venetian. For one thing, its taller than average narrow buildings, which remind me of the palaces fighting for prowess along the Grand Canal or the tall blocks of the Venetian Ghetto, squeezing gradually upwards for space where there was none at ground level. Second it’s the colours: pinks, yellows and terracottas, these are almost certainly the colours which reflect so majestically in the canals of the city. Third the fountain at its centre – glamorous enough to be a city superstar, but appearing almost forgotten in this nostalgic backwater far from the tourist trail. Fourth the two churches, both incredibly ornate – for where else do you find churches in such neighbourly proximity than in Venice? Fifth the general sense of dilapidation – the cracks and flaking paint; the tired romanticism which have attracted so many artists to Venice since its historical decline began. 

The details I love

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But where are the canals I hear you ask? Well true, they are missing, but like so many of the hidden gems in Venice, this is like one of the rare squares tucked away between buildings where the canals do not pass. I love them there as I love this square here. 

I know nothing else about this square. Only its name. But for me it will always be characterised by its Venetian tones. And for that reason, it’s a comfort to know that this pretty piazza is but a stroll away, for a moment or a visit whenever I yearn for Venice. 

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Christmas Corona to Crown a Seasonal Soirée

I love nothing more than a Christmas party, and as I write, the excitement is building for the first soirée to be held in our new Palma apartment. It’s become something of annual tradition to light the candles, give the baubles an extra polish, stack up the bubbles and smoked salmon, and host a party for friends just before Christmas. Those nearest and dearest  to me in London will be sadly absent this year, but Palma is a very friendly place, and already friends made through my  new job here in Mallorca will be only too welcome at our 2014 fiesta.

But pride of place at this year’s party will be the latest addition to my Christmas decor. Gathered from the abundant stalls of flowers and foliage sold at Palma’s flower market along the leafy boulevard, La Rambla, this wreath or corona as the Spanish call it (meaning crown) has truly brought the outside evergreen in. Packed with fragrant fir tree branches, red berries, mistletoe and this year’s special touch – cotton, this foliage display is truly Christmasy, and brings the very essence of a Scandinavian Christmas directly into the heart of my Spanish home. The Scandinavian feel is even further emphasised with these amazing birch tree candles I’ve placed at its centre – wrapped with real tree bark, they look like something straight out of a snowy forest.

My Christmas “Corona”

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I should not end this post however without paying due homage to the flower market itself. For La Rambla in Palma is truly one of the most beautiful streets in the city. Boasting a central pedestrianised avenue nestled between two roads,  and overhung with huge leafy plane trees which always seem to retain many of their leaves, even now in December, it truly is a spectacular place to walk, take a coffee, and breath in the fragrant smell emanating from all of the fresh flowers. And with a special Christmas market also currently in situ, we have discovered it also makes a great place for mulled wine too!

La Rambla

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Happy Christmas everyone!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.