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Posts tagged ‘Festive’

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.

No detail too small: the intricate spectacle of a Neapolitan Nativity

In a large number of countries the Nativity scene (Belem in Spain, Presepe in Italy) is as big a part of the Christmas festivities as the lights switch-on in London’s Oxford Street or the Christmas tree at the centre of a family home. Having gone to Catholic school as a boy, I still remember the prominence with which the Nativity set was placed in the front entrance, and how perplexed I was (and remain) that the teachers remained insistent that the Jesus figure should not be placed in the manger until Christmas Day: but this is a school I thought – who on earth is going to see it during the holidays?

Despite the fact that the tradition of setting out a nativity is centuries old in many a catholic country, the general belief is that it all began in Italy where St Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 at Greccio, Italy. There he is said to have recreated the birth of Christ through placing people dressed in the various nativity roles in a cave. A tradition was born, and perhaps for this reason, it is arguable that Italy has remained the predominant master of the nativity craft. This is not least in Naples where, in the famous Via San Gregorio Armeno, the entire street is given over to the craftsmen who make every intricate detail of the characters and setting of the Neapolitan presepe. 

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While last Christmas I braved the crowds who had crammed their way up the dark side streets of the Spaccanapoli to get a view of this famous Neapolitan craft, this year I have had the fortune to see their masterpieces at far closer a proximity. For here in Palma de Mallorca, but 2 minutes from my flat in an inconspicuous church on the Carrer de San Miquel, there is a Neapolitan gem of its own. Set out across a mountain plane simulated from the supple bark of a cork tree, and comprising a phenomenal range of architectural features and carefully characterised figures, this Nativity demonstrates why the Neapolitan craft remains so renowned. Not a single detail of street life has been missed, from the slimy pig’s head sold by the Butcher, to the bag of eggs swung by the old housewife. What tickles me are the gruesome details of their lined faces, and their masterful expressions – so full of personality you’d swear they were alive. 

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In fact Palma de Mallorca holds the nativity or Belem dear to its heart, with a trail tracing once fantastic Belem to another across the city. But few could deny that the real brilliance of Belem craft has been mastered by the Neapolitans, as the nativity photos above demonstrate so well. 

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 

Christmas comes to Palma: Part 2 – Home decor

With the streets of Palma de Mallorca awash with the sparkle of Christmas, my decorations were never going to be far behind. It’s been a bizarre state of affairs – we only moved to Mallorca 3 weeks ago (although it feels like longer) and have been unpacked for barely 2 weeks, and yet now it is time to change the decor again in order to welcome Christmas through the door. And much are the decorations needed, for with the sun still beating down upon us, it certainly doesn’t feel all that Christmassy otherwise.

Regulars of The Daily Norm will know that I love my Christmas decorations, and that each year they become perhaps more extravagant in their scale and abundance. And being unwilling to lose any of my precious Christmas cargo, I faced the somewhat Herculean task of getting all of my decorations from London to Mallorca in one piece. But transport the load I did, and with some 1,000 glass baubles amongst our collection of decor, I think the angels must have graced our move for there was not a single bauble broken when we unpacked the other end – that is at least until I started decorating  and the inevitable breakage or two commenced!

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But with the decorations unloaded into the now bigger space of what is our Palma apartment, we have been able to go to town with our decor, even adding a tree ontop of last year’s scheme. I give you the new golden glamour tree! Abundant in its effusion of elegant embellishments, this tree is a homage to all things golden and gorgeous, and the gold offsets to spectacular effect atop a black tinsel tree, and with flashing warm white lights making each golden decoration sparkle.

Golden Glamour

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But what of the others? Well as with last year, our favourite Venetian-inspired Eiffel-themed sparkling red and silver scheme makes its return, looking wonderful in this new Mallorcan setting, where the higher ceilings of the 19th century apartment block add extra glamour to this sparkling spectacle.

Venetian-Eiffel Splendour

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I’ve also reintroduced the citrus theme of a previous tree, but hung yellow and orange baubles amongst cerulean blue on a tree of white. This modern and fresh Christmas look works wonderfully amongst the paintings and easels of what is my new Mallorcan art studio, reflecting the vibrancy of colours which bounce off my artwork.

Mediterranean Christmas

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My grand red and green hallway tree has also made its way over to Mallorca, although the tree which previously needed to be bent at the top in order to squeeze it into my London apartment looks practically dwarfish in this new space.

Traditional Abundance

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And finally the bedroom scheme, which this year takes on a much fresher blue and white theme to match the blues of our new moroccan inspired space. Stripped of all tinsel and garlands, this is a much simpler look which nevertheless remains full and abundant because of the sheer number of baubles, and a balanced hang throughout. It was something of a struggle to buy a real tree out here in the Med, but we found this 7ft beauty in a side street florist, and since it comes complete with roots and a pot, we’re hoping that it won’t become crunchy and dry within days of being installed.

Scandinavian Arabia

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And of course throughout the flat there are the accessories, the smaller trees, the little scandinavian santas and the sultry comforting sound of Doris Day singing Christmas standards better than anyone before or since. All that remains is the Christmas food and the mulled wine. But it surely won’t be long in coming.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

Christmas comes to Palma

I feel like I am living in something of a hybrid world. By day, Palma feels at worst like a day in early autumn, with freshly fallen leaves still scattering the pavement; at best it could be late summer or spring. However by night, when log fires burn within the old town houses and the late-opening shops glow from outside and in, it can feel very Christmassy. But any doubts that I may enter into the Christmas spirit following my relocation to the Mediterranean were completely dispelled last Friday when Palma de Mallorca initiated the great switch-on of its Christmas lights.

Switch-on in the Plaça de Cort

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In the Plaça de Cort at the heart of Palma’s old town, so many people gathered that it was as if the whole of Mallorca had descended to witness the city leap into the Christmas season. Excited children sat up on the shoulders of their parents, while on a stage set up for the event, school choirs sung Christmas carols angelically. Then finally just after 7pm, the mayor appeared on the balcony of the majestic renaissance town hall and switched on the lights. Gasps of pleasure rippled across the crowd as we saw the walls of nearby houses, balconies, and even the skies come alight with Christmas light. Thousands of lights had been strung across the spaces between buildings, over squares, and even wrapped around tree branches so that the trees seem transformed into magical forests. Even palm trees, normally synonymous with tropical beaches and summer sunshine, had their trunks dressed in Christmas lights forming illuminated pillars lining Palma’s waterfront.

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The city looks nothing short of stunning. Walking around its lit up streets is like being in an open air winter wonderland – a fairytale come to life before our eyes. And it’s not just the children whose eyes are widened by this spectacle. Adults too are visibly excited by the arrival of Christmas, frequently posing for photos before this array of light, and strolling around full of the festive cheer it brings.

And with the lights have arrived Christmas markets in many of the city’s squares and streets, most notable of which can be found in the brilliantly lit Plaza Mayor. There, stalls in their plenty sell nativity figures both traditional and more handmade to be placed within the Spanish “Belenes” – the most important of the traditional Spanish Christmas decorations. There is nothing that has not been thought of when it comes to building a Belen, from little water-running fountains to mechanical blacksmiths and plants and trees of every variety.

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So Christmas has truly come to Palma, and I can’t deny that despite the warmer climes, I am starting to feel the Christmas spirit take me over…Time to decorate!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

Friends, food and fancy: The Sensational Season of Christmas

Christmas is a time of joy, for every little girl and every boy… so go the words (or variations thereof) which pepper the variety of children’s stories written around the theme of Christmas; stories like Snug and Serena at the Rose and Crown and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, where a child’s eyes are widened in anticipation of the pure excitement of the season, and of course a visit from Santa, while at the centre of those stories, families gather in social spirit, to make joy and be merry at Christmas time. Happily for most, the warming conviviality of the Christmas season is not just something confined to the pages of a children’s story, and just as soon as the festive season comes upon us, so too do the party invites begin flying out to all and sundry.

This year has been a particularly manic one for me, with some 8 parties attended over the last 7 days alone, many of which left me wanting in the sleep stakes, but very much over-indulged in food and wine. But the one thing that struck me across all of the parties, weddings, dinners and lunches I attended was the overwhelming capacity of the season to bring people together in happiness and appreciation, the opportunity for guilt-free indulgence, and the occasion to reconnect with friends and colleagues who the busyness of the year has kept apart.

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This post, and these photos pay homage to the delightful jovialities of the season, the latter manifesting as often blurred shots taken in the low lights of winter, but all the more atmospheric, at least to my mind, as a result. Here are my photos of the flickering candles which so effectively create the intimate setting for a chilled party or dinner; the pecan pie which the delectable Cassandra made from caramelising crème fraiche; the purple lit ice rink of Somerset House buzzing with whizzing skaters; the Christmas tree silhouetted against a rosy morning sky. Here too are the jellies and desserts which make us happy and fat; the gingerbread man sat upon a burst of fresh Christmas foliage; the fairy lights, the cheese board, the gifts under the tree; the red leaves, the boxed panettone, the friends who make me happy.

This is Christmas…and I love it!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 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. 

The Daily Norm’s Christmas Tree of the Week | No.2: Citrus Sunshine

Designed to complement the sunny orange shades of my office which is appropriately named “The Orange Office”, this week’s Daily Norm Christmas Tree of the Week is a burst of citrus sunshine bringing with it all of the essence of a sunny mediterranean shore in the midsts of an otherwise wintery Christmas season.

With its vivid yellow and orange baubles, this christmas tree scheme sits well within a season whose cuisine is alive with spiced citrus scents, but loses none of the vibrancy and freshness of a summer’s day. That nod to the summer is referenced in the hints of cerulean blue, reminding of a clear summer’s sky and the vast blue waters of the mediterranean sea, but the orange and yellow sparkling glittery reindeers nod back to Christmas again, in an evocation which is the height of festive kitsch. The playfulness introduced by my reindeer is accompanied by the jovial multi-coloured forms of metalic robots, only to be offset by the rich regality of purple flashes, which reflect the wealth and abundance of the Christmas season. And all this is tied together upon the branches of a contemporary black tree, sparkling under two sets of yellow flashing fairy lights, and balanced out by ample strings of glittery yellow tinsel.

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My “citrus sunshine” tree is a perfect example of how both playfulness and modernity can be achieved within the traditional Christmas season, lending a contemporary air and so blending perfectly with the sleek surroundings of an office environment. Of course such a traditional set up will not be suitable for every setting, in the same way that a traditional fir tree may look out of place in a modern flat. But the best thing about Christmas is its ability to adapt its joy-giving decor to all environments, ensuring that wherever you go or live, Christmas need never be absent.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 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. 

The Daily Norm’s Christmas Tree of the Week | No.1: Scandinavian candy

Christmas time is finally upon us, and with it my home has, as annual tradition dictates, metamorphosed into a festive wonderland befitting the season. For there is nothing quite like the sparkle of fairy lights, the twinkle of glittered baubles, and the Nordic smell of an authentic fir tree to import the feeling of Christmas wonder into the home. In recognition of its power to transform a humble dwelling, I always indulge in abundant homage to the season, installing not one, nor two, but FOUR christmas trees into my home, one for each room of the house. That way, wherever you walk inside in my little London flat, the spirit of Christmas will never be more than a few metres away. In fact upon entering my home and standing in the hallway, you are greeted with the sight of some three of those four trees stood majestically installed in each of their respective rooms.

What with there being four trees, and four weeks left until Christmas, it seemed only proper that I should focus on one of each of my trees each week as I share my Christmas decorations with the world. And for the first week, I would like to share with you what is my newest tree in a scheme of annually recurring decor, and with which I have incorporated all of the fragrant fancy that comes with a real tree, ditching the fake white tree which used to decorate my bedroom.

Tree No.1: Scandinavian Candy

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It was after installing my little Scandinavian Forest on my chest of drawers last year, a composition which nodded to the traditional Christmases which the Nordic countries do so well, that I realised that the fake tree which previously stood alongside it no longer fitted the bill. Yearning always for a real tree, and with the plastic white tree turning a progressively unattractive shade of yellow, I decided to go the full hog this year and opt for the real mccoy – a 7 ft Norwegian fir tree, now decadently decorated with decorations of white, green, turquoise, and by way of incorporation with the hints of pink in the paintings which hang in my bedroom, a touch of candy pink too – hence the name I have given to this scheme: Scandinavian Candy.

The biggest change from my normal decorative schemes came with my decision to ditch tinsel in favour of a more traditional paper chain. I always apply tinsel almost as a matter of course, but when I did so on my real tree, it lacked delicacy, and made the tree look altogether more clumsy. So out came the paper, the glue and the scissors, and the result is a tree which is garlanded and shaped by paper chains, but not swamped by them.

Well that’s more than enough talking from me. Time for the tree to shine through photos. Gosh I can smell its fragrant pine needles as I type…divine!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 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. 

It’s beginning to feel a lot like a London Christmas…

Having lived in London for some 11 years now, and been a frequent visitor even before then, I feel like a true Londoner, or at least as true as a Londoner can be in a city which lacks the small touches of friendly familiarities, of daily pleasantries and community feel which are so abundant in small towns and villages elsewhere in the UK. I know I’m a Londoner because I get ferociously impatient amongst ambling tourists; I can’t stand still on a tube escalator – preferring to walk so as to avoid waisting time; and I feel an indefatigable pride when anything big or beautiful happens in the city – which is frequently. And at no other time does that pride manifest more than at Christmas, when London’s streets become alive with the festive spirit.

While this transformation, especially around the shopping heart of the West End, may happen a little too early for some tastes, I revel in the change as soon as the evenings get dark early, yearning for nothing more than late night Christmas shopping on cold dark evenings, accompanied by a cup of sticky sweet mulled wine and the smell of roasting chestnuts wafting in the air.

This year, with the spirit of economic recovery looming large, London appears to have gone to town for the festive season with more enthusiasm than ever before. An amble through its streets this weekend with my visiting parents revealed just what an Aladdin’s cave of festive treasures London has to offer, with glorious lights strung across streets and inside shops, with ice-skating rinks popping up in front of every important building, and festive flavours easing their way onto the menus of the majority of London’s many cosy warm eateries.

The Somerset House ice rink

The Somerset House ice rink

A stunning window display near Charing Cross

A stunning window display near Charing Cross

Such a cool idea - Eros turned into a snow globe

Such a cool idea – Eros turned into a snow globe

This post attempts to share glimpses of this festive wonderland which has taken the city by storm. The ultimately Christmasy ice-rink in the magnificent courtyard of Somerset House looks glorious as ever, but is accompanied this year by an equally enticing Christmas parade full of festive pop-up shops crammed with the ultimate in unique and luxury Christmas gifts. Meanwhile, down the road, Covent Garden is alive with lights and decorations aplenty, while in Piccadilly Circus, the ultimate in brilliant ideas has been realised as the famous Eros statue has been covered by a large transparent dome and pumped full of fake snow to turn it into the biggest snow globe I’ve ever seen. What a fantastic idea! You’ve also got to love the tree at St Pancras International, where visitors from the continent will be welcomed to London by the ultimate in English elegance – a tree decorated with hampers from the Queen’s grocer, Fortnum and Mason’s. A tree after my own heart.

It’s that time of the year when the Christmas spirit is really starting to creep in… and as these photos show, you would have to be made of stone to escape the first waves of festive happiness washing over London right now. Bring it on.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 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. 

My Christmas Wonderland, Part I

As a young boy I was obsessed with Christmas. For me, the sadness of a summer’s ending was tempered by the onset of Christmas. As soon as October came along, I was always chafing at the bit to get into the Christmas shops and to feast my eyes upon every kind of sparkle and glimmer, gems and gold, ostentation and glamour. Since Childhood through to adulthood, Christmas has always provided an excuse to go completely over the top, to indulge in the kind of decadent baroque-style over-excess which may grate in a year-round interior design scheme, but which, for the month of December, is the perfect antidote for the long dark evenings and the onset of Winter, and the perfect excuse to indulge in every whim and fancy.

In a Christmas tree, with a hundred lights reflecting in tinsel and glitter, in foil and metallic shimmer, every possible dimension is a further excuse to sparkle. Decorating a tree for Christmas is like draping a Monarch ready for a coronation. It is a process of such glamour, of such inexorable elegance that I cannot resist giving myself over, body and soul, to the temptations which Christmas decorating provide.

So now the autonomous adult, free from restraint, my Christmas decorational indulgence increases as each year goes on. I embark upon each room and tree as I would an interior design project, sculpting the tree, balancing its colours, reflecting the scheme to its surroundings, and always ensuring that Christmas has shared its sparkle with every corner of my home.

After a weekend of decorating, it’s time to share my decorations with the world. As I’ve erected rather a few trees this year, as well as various accompanying installations, I thought it best that I split this post in two. Up first are my more playful trees, situated in my bedroom and study respectively. These trees reflect childhood fun, through metallic robots and vivid brightly coloured deer, as well as multi-coloured bohemian glamour. Photos can never really capture the sparkle of the lights and the glitter of the decorations as you move past a tree – half the beauty of Christmas decorations, in my view, is the tree’s shimmer in a darkened room – and this is almost impossible to capture well on camera. Nevertheless, hopefully these photos will give you an idea of some of the creative fun I have had with my trees this year.

Oh and don’t forget to check out Part II tomorrow.

Childlike Charm

In the “Orange Office”, a tree bursting with citrus colours tempered with mediterranean sky blue and a deep royal purple. Upon the tree, vividly coloured deer and playful robots provide prominent focus in a scheme otherwise balanced with patterned and monochrome baubles of the four central colours.

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Bohemian vivacity

From the bohemian revolution to burlesque freedom insouciance, the two trees in my bedroom are a panoply of candy pinks, verdant soft mossy greens, and turquoise blue. From nutcrackers for the new millenium, pink feathered burds, shiny opulent peacocks and a great pink translucent butterfly atop the tree, this scheme is like a stroll in a sweet shop, ever sense tantalised by the array of indulgent treats on show.

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A Scandinavian Forest

In amongst the electric pinks of my bo-ho Christmas comes a moment of calm serenity. Upon my chest of drawers, I have created a forest-inspired installation, a little bit of calming traditional white in amongst all the action. On this mini 2ft tree, I have hung traditional white-painted wooden figures, paper bells, little blue birds and, best of all, the miniature “Moomin” mugs made by Finish homeware company Arabia, crafted as special releases for the festive season. Complete with fluffy owls, snowmen and glittery deer, this really is kitsch at its classiest.

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So that’s it for today. Two more trees to share tomorrow. In the meantime, if you want to benefit from my “tips” on how to decorate the best Christmas tree every, see my post which I wrote on The Daily Norm a year ago.