Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Month: October 2023

Happy Calan Gaeaf!

I have moved on from little gnomes made from fir cones to witches full of character and mischief!

Warm greetings for a very stirring, magical and mischief-filled Calan Gaeaf! (Better known by some as Samhain or Hallowe’en.)

For those of us who follow the seasonal celebrations around the wheel of the year, this is the last day of the old year, a fitting culmination to all the growing and harvesting of the light months before we plunge into the dark, cold days of winter and a precious time of introspection, rejuvenation and renewal.

As we move from one season to another, we pass through this special liminal few hours when various levels of life and existence temporarily collide and the normal status quo is disturbed. This gives us great opportunities to breath and expand in ways not normally open to us – to connect with layers of life not normally possible for us… to let go and enter into temporary chaos where everything is shaken (definitely NOT stirred!)  and we can shed our old perceptions, actions and goals to re-emerge from Ceridwen’s metaphorical cauldron reborn and ready to begin planning our next sparkling cycle of seasons for the coming year.

However, this year is a pivotal time in our existence – not just on a personal level but in a global context. As you pass through the thinning veils tonight, bear in mind that, intentionally or accidentally, you are currently determining all our futures – so make it a good ‘un! Look deep within, plan carefully, and celebrate joyfully.

Have fun!

My love and blessings to you all at this very special time!

Party Inspiration

I have just received an amazing book through the post!’ The Book of Wizard Parties; in Which the Wizard Shares the Secrets of Creating Enchanted Gatherings’.  I bought it from Bibliophile, a mail-order book suppliers. It is really for children, but to my (possibly) juvenile mind, I feel that some of the ideas could easily be adapted for adults too – I don’t think much of so-called parties where one simply sits and eats and talks – I like activities and something to do!

The themes are varied and interesting as well as magical. There is the Alchemist’s Gathering, the Aladdin’s Cave Party, and the Egyptian Summer Solstice Party, as well as Merlin’s Birthday Party , Springtime Fairy Frolics and the Wizard’s Winter Revels, the Chinese Dragon Fete, and, most applicable to me and this time of year, the Spirited Druid Hallowe’en Gathering.

Each themed party has instructions on how to make a suitable costume or accessories to wear, decorations for your party room, games to make and play, food to assemble or bake and little stories to tell. One of my favourite suggestions is how to make a royal throne, (this one of for King Arthur, but would do for any royalty, or adapted for a celebratory ‘birthday chair’), and is simply formed by taking a rigid plastic garden chair and covering it in silver kitchen foil, then decorating the back and arms with fake jewels or other similar haberdashery. What fun children could have creating their own very special chair. Heck! What fun I could have!

The pages are all beautifully laid out – it is an absolute joy to just to handle and certainly to read.

Or how about adapting a fallen tree branch into a Christmas Bough (as opposed to a tree) and making all the decorations for it in the form of silver icicles, glittery snowballs (fir cones could be adapted here) and paper snowflakes. You would only need to spend a very little money on craft supplies to enjoy a lot of family fun and shared activity to produce something utterly personal and unique for Midwinter celebration.

At the front of the book, there is also some sound advice on how to both give and attend a party – and the activity really is a two-way street with just as much responsibility on the guest as the host to make the event enjoyable and successful for all. There are also a couple of pages about how to make, send and respond to party invitations – again, valuable and sound information based on good manners and thought for others, something which we perhaps all need reminding of occasionally.

The book originates in North America, but the differences in names for hardware and kitchen items aren’t too difficult to get around. It is beautifully written and presented and I find it simply inspiring, which is why I wanted to share it with you all.

Anyone who has read any of my books, (but especially ‘Merry Midwinter’), will know that I do not normally encourage consumer spending, but there are certain items which are incredibly helpful, fun and full of the feel ‘good factor’ as well as invaluable in getting one started on creating, making and baking for oneself, and this is certainly one of those instances.

I have found ‘Wizard Parties’ on Amazon, priced at £12 54,  but from Bibliophile, it was a paltry £3.50      Give it a try – I promise you that old and young alike will not be disappointed.

Happy Partying!

The Joy of a Pencil

Small things amuse small minds, as the saying goes. Yet simplicity need not necessarily be boring or banal. Often, the simplest thing can have about it an elegance and grace which is obscured or totally lost in more complex, intricate items or situations.

Here I need to let you into a secret – I am actually referring to my pencil.

How many of you reading this now still use a pencil?

It is an amazing invention which has contributed in no small way to the progress of civilization. Consider: it is robust, lightweight, made from natural and largely renewable resources and is totally biodegradable. it does not need electricity or other energy to power it. It will operate under water or if the writer is upside-down, or in any other less usual, awkward position. AND, if you wish, you can erase the marks you have made with it. Amazing!

Recently, due to early autumns storms (just how many tail-ends of hurricanes have we had up to now?) our electricity supply was playing at lighthouses, flashing on and off, and our internet connection got fed up and went to sleep. So, no access to my webpage. However, feeling inspired to ‘chat’, I decided to carry on and joy down some thoughts in long-hand which I am now transferring to my computer. Fountain and ball point pens are great, but I often derive great pleasure from holding and writing with a pencil on fresh white sheets of paper.

My current pencil is slim, cylindrical and black, with a shiny metal top into which an incredibly useful eraser has been inserted. Functional, smart, it is a joy to hold and use.

Yes, perhaps this ‘small mind’ is finding pleasure in a mundane item and activity, but why not?

If satisfaction and joy can be discovered in all our basic repetitive activities, how glorious our lives might become. Hence my favourite catch phrase: ‘make much of little’.

What can YOU find in your everyday tasks to which brings you pleasure? And if you can’t find anything, what can you do to change your daily round to one which is more appealing and satisfying?

I would dearly love to hear from you, my readers, as to what simple little things in your daily lives gives you pleasure. It doesn’t matter how seemingly trivial. From such minutiae comes the metaphorical ‘glue’ which cements our life into a cohesive whole.



Just Another Afternoon

How is it that some of the simplest activities can be transformed into something special and everyday actions into memorable occasions? I tend to think that it is how we chose to view something, how we seize an opportunity, how we allow it to inspire us and – to coin one of my favourite phrases – how we make much of little.

This is exactly what happened to me yesterday when I travelled the thirty-five miles or so up the coast with my husband to the seaside town of Llandudno. We left home in rain and wind but arrived to brighter skies and sunshine just beginning to peep through the clearing clouds.

First we went to lunch in one of my favourite restaurants, ‘The Habit’ which has a huge selection of tasty dishes and delicious cakes, clean, relaxing, and cosy decor and excellent service. I hardly had time to enjoy my pot of tea or the selection of daily newspapers and books provided before my meal arrived.

You would never know all this fascinating information and deliciousness was behind this unassuming facade.

As we left the ‘Habit Tearooms’, I almost bumped into a sandwich board on the corner, advertising a chocolate museum down the little sideroad – now when had that sprung up without me noticing? My husband went off to his afternoon of voluntary work at the North Wales Wildlife shop on top of the Great Orme (which he does once a fortnight) and I disappeared down John Street to investigate the museum which is housed in old buildings alongside a very modern chocolate producing factory, all of which was started by entrepreneur, Timothy Winstanley, shortly before the pandemic. Regardless of its apparently small size, an amazing selection of delicious chocolates are produced here (for sale in Maisie’s Chocolate Shop just across Mostyn Street round the corner into Vaughan Street ) as well as creating between one and two tonnes of chocolate flakes each week. Anything to do with the handling and processing of chocolate is a black art and takes a great deal of skill, technique and care.

It was disconcerting to find some of my favourite chocolate bars, tins and boxes among the exhibits!

The museum was an intriguing and delightful experience; a veritable warren of small rooms and corridors full of chocolate-related artefacts, interactive experiences, scenes, models, information boards and recordings. I travelled 5,000 years from the cocoa-rich kingdoms of the Olmec, Maya and Aztecs (including bird song and other sound effects) through to the Crusades and Mediaeval Europe when both chocolate and sugar first found their way into modern western society, the chocolate houses of London, Songhai, the last indigenous empire of North West Africa, the slave trade, piracy, fashions in eating and drinking and monarchs who promoted it. To enhance my experience, on entering the museum I was issued with a plastic beaker containing five gorgeous chocolates, all of which are made on site, and which I was gently instructed to eat at various stages of my visit to help enhance my experience and illustrate the changes in chocolate and what it actually meant.

Floating in a warm fuzzy haze of sweet treats, I finally exited the museum to explore my favourite kitchen shop (where I did a little Christmas shopping for useful but much-needed items which I know will be greatly appreciated) and my favourite craft shop across the road. Here I found lots of little goodies for gifts to fill our Christmas Elf’s sack on the breakfast table on Christmas morning, or pack the model Victorian Snowy House which graces our dining table on New Year’s Day. I bought spools of 3mm wide ribbon in various shades of green for tying packages to go under the Tree, and gorgeous purple satin ribbon to make into bows to adorn the herb pillows I plan on making later in the autumn. I also found synthetic orange berries which will look great clutched in the pipe cleaner fists of my little autumn fir cone gnomes and extra sheets of felt for the making of pointy hats for my fir cone witches – more on those in a week or so as we approach Hallowe’en!

I also found a bunch of pretty gold fabric poinsettias which I might use to decorate our Christmas or New Year crackers this year. On the other hand, I might just adorn myself instead – such simple decorations can pull an outfit together for a seasonal occasion – one in my hair with two or three more as a corsage sewn onto my dress… or perhaps attached to my evening bag – or stuck on my shoes… or…

Entering a different kind of ‘fairy land’ through an archway of beautiful synthetic autumnal leaves!

This autumn I have been enchanted by all the seasonal decorations – the garlands of coloured leaves alone are glorious. Yes, I love authentic decorations straight from garden, but how long does a trail of beautiful brown and red Virginia Creeper leaves last in the warmth of our living room? About two hours before it wilts and curls away to practically nothing. Yes, we should use less plastic, but let’s not throw the metaphorical baby out with the bathwater. There are some truly beautiful items manufactured with which to decorate our homes and celebrate the seasons (not just Christmas) and if stored sensibly they will last many years – I still have a spray of plastic harebells which my mother bought when I was eight years old and sixty years later they haven’t even lost their colour.

The delicate, life-like shading and colouring make these garlands, flowers and sprays works of art in their own right.

In another shop I discovered lovely Christmas cards which depict an snug shed in a snowy winter’s garden but which to me looks remarkably like our Hafod down on our land on the Llyn Peninsular. (Oh, that we might actually get some snow this winter!)

Later, I sat on one of the old wooden benches in the sunshine beneath the trees in Mostyn Street, cooled by the unseasonably warm breeze and made lists: planned and dreamed my coming autumn and winter celebrations into being. Someone sat down on the bench beside me. I took no notice as I squirrelled away with my pen and paper. Finally a voice spoke… it was my husband! The shop had been fairly deserted all afternoon and he had decided to close a little early.

Happily, we drove home together, back along the coast and into the mountains where strong gusts of wind whipped up white horses on the surface of the water all down the Menai Striates, Anglesey was merely a thick black line on the horizon and the skies still wept above cloud enshrouded mountains. Apparently, it had been pouring with rain at home all day… I smiled as I remembered my lovely afternoon in the warm breezes and sunshine of the town… but then that is part of the magic of Llandudno and a very simple but special afternoon!


Contact Us | Privacy Policy & GDPR |

Copyright © 2018 Gillian Monks.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén