When is Twelfth Night?


Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 10.25.11Twelfth Night is upon us, and whether that’s January 5 or 6 seems to be a matter of opinion. It depends on when you believe the 12 days of Christmas start.

Hundreds of years ago, the consensus was that Christmas started at sunset on December 24, and therefore the 12th night after that was January 5. However, if you count from December 25 itself, Twelfth Night falls on January 6. So perhaps it’s safest to take down your decorations on the 5th, because if you leave them up beyond Twelfth Night then, according to tradition, you’ll have to leave them up until next Christms to avoid bad luck!

Whichever date you choose, we’re faced with the guilt-inducing problem of what to do with all those Christmas cards. If you want to keep them – and you have the space – problem solved. But if you like to make a clean sweep, here are some green ideas to hep keep you clutter-free, and do your bit for the environment.

Burn them

If you’ve got an open fire or a stove, colour-printed cards burn pretty well.

Turn them into gift tags

Simply cut out an attractive part of the design, with blank space on the back. (It could get confusing if it’s on a gift to Uncle Fred from you, but says ‘all at no25’ on the reverse.) Using pinking shears gives a truly handmade, retro feel. Add a hole using a hole punch, and add a loop of ribbon or butcher’s twine.

Turn them into baubles

Make them now and keep them until next Christmas, or keep the cards and the instructions and do it nearer the time. Here’s how to make Christmas baubles from old Christmas cards.

Use them as bookmarks

Simply cut strips from areas that aren’t too Christmassy, and place between the pages to keep your place.

Make dinner-table place settings

Cut small rectangles from the cards on the fold, so they stand up, and write on your guests’ names. If they’re cut from a Christmassy part of the card, keep them for Christmas. If not, use them all year round.

Help environmental charities

Drop your cards into special boxes in Marks & Spencer stores until January 31 to help the Woodland Trust. Last year over six million cards were recycled this way, enabling the Trust to plant 6,256 trees.

Or take them to Sainsbury’s (in over 1,000 stores until January 13) to help the Forest Stewardship Council.

Turn Christmas cards into Christmas baubles


Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 10.15.44Use up your old greetings cards by turning them into these beautiful decorations to hang on your Christmas tree.

You will need

• old Christmas cards
• jar
• pencil
• ruler
• scissors
• paper glue
• needle
• thin ribbon or string

On the cards, trace around the base of a jar to draw 21 equal-sized circles. Cut them out.

On one of the circles, draw an equilateral triangle, ensuring each point touches the circle’s edge, and cut out.

Use this triangle as a template and trace onto the back of the rest of the circles. Fold along all lines.

Glue the flaps of five of the circles together (meeting at a central point) to form the top of the bauble. Repeat to form the bottom of the bauble.

Glue the remaining 10 circles together so that they form a long line, then glue the ends together – this will be the bauble’s middle ring.

Glue the top and bottom to the middle ring. Pierce the bauble with a needle and thread through a thin ribbon or string.

A version of this project originally appeared on Allaboutyou.com, from Country Living

Get the most from the Christmas post


I’m currently doing some shifts as a Christmas casual for Royal Mail (not a career change; just broadening my life experience while earning extra cash). Seeing how people prepare their post, and how it’s handled, has been eye-opening. Here’s my advice:

  1. Put an address on the envelope. Then check that you’ve put an address on all of the envelopes before posting. Yes, we all think we do but my recent experience has shown a startling number of envelopes, some even stamped, with a first name only.
  2. Sending something abroad? Add the name of the country! Wellington in New Zealand is not the only place with that name. Standing at the frame (postcoded pigeonholes) isn’t the best-equipped place for a sorter to work out where in the world you mean.
  3. Lots of place names occur more than once within the UK, even within the same county, eg St Ives, Newport, Gillingham, Richmond… so it never hurts to add the county.
  4. If your handwriting is tiny, consider writing slightly larger than normal. Not everyone sorting the post has perfect eyesight. And squinting gives you wrinkles.
  5. Make sure the colour of the ink stands out against the colour of the envelope. If you find it hard to read, so will the sorter (who has to look at thousands of envelopes a day).
  6. Breaking news alert: there are these things called postcodes. The last one for the UK was introduced back in 1974. Not sure of it? Don’t invent your own or leave it off. Look here: www.royalmail.com/find-a-postcode. Top tip: if you don’t know all of it, the first two letters are a big help. (Post is initially sorted into the areas designated by the first two letters of the postcode.)
  7. If your handwriting is appalling scrawl, don’t be afraid to write like a child, particularly the important bit – the address.
  8. Don’t write ‘local’ on the envelope. The person who opens the pillarbox doesn’t run round the corner to pop it through the letterbox; it all goes to a central office and is sent back out again.
  9. Writing ‘fragile’ on a parcel doesn’t automatically consign it to a cushioned-as-a-cloud, feather-lined container. It may be gently placed in the wheeled crate in which it will leave the sorting office with all the other post. But another, heavier parcel may land on it later. See no.10. And see Royal Mail’s tips on packaging fragile items.
  10. Wrap those parcels up really securely. They may be lobbed from a distance of up to four metres into the crates they’re transported in.

Christmas gifts for cyclists


If someone you know is happiest on two wheels, here are some ideas for perfect presents.

Bike chocolate bar, Design Museum

Power that pedalling! Milk chocolate with sea salt, 50g, £795, Design Museum

Tatty Devine bike necklace


Cycle chic with an acrylic necklace by Tatty Devine, £40, exclusive to the Design Museum


Ted Baker bike clip

For the smart cyclist around town: a slap-strap style bike clip in a brogue finish. Ted Baker bike clip, £13, John Lewis 



Green up the garden and free space inside with this planter that functions as a bike rack. PlantLock, £155 from Front Yard Company 


Bike pasta

Perfect for carb-loading with sauces like carbon(frame)ara. Foska Pasta da Bici, £5.95 for 500g from Evans 

See my Christmas gift guide for colouring-in fans

Christmas colouring-in gifts


Colouring-in is a popular creative hobby, and if someone you know is keen on keeping within the lines, here are some ideas for perfect presents.

Giant pencil sharpener pen pot

Giant sharpener for storing pens and pencils, £17, Bloomsbury Store



Winsor & Newton Pigment Marker

Revolutionary Pigment Marker pens by Winsor & Newton come in 100 colours, using fine art pigments, plus the unique White Blender pen which lets you blend colours like paint. Pigment Markers, £4.95 each from Cass Art

Rebecca Vorperian Tweed Pencil Case


Sturdy storage in traditional tweed. Rebecca Vorperian handmade tweed pencil case, £14, Royal Academy


OMY Design & Play collaring-in posterWork on the wall with giant colouring posters for adults by OMY Design & Play, £9.90 each from stonegift.com



Sketch & Sniff pencilsAdd an extra dimension with scented Sketch & Sniff pencils, including peach, watermelon and coconut scent, £9 a set from the Royal Academy