Create a Scene

Remember the once loved dolls’ house/train set that was consigned to an attic along with your school reports and the cute shoes you wore when you were one? Well, miniatures haven’t stopped being charming and this season, though it pains me to say it, there’s a trend for not putting a candle into a lantern and instead creating a little seasonal tableau within its glass walls.

This is not as easy as it looks. There’s a real danger of stepping over the line into twee, naff or decidedly eccentric.  The key to making it work is to keep it simple. You’ll need a large modern lantern with clean lines and clear glass walls; the storm lantern below is ideal. Outdoor scenes work best. Use a lot of faux snow and greenery then add a stag deer, a lamp post or a timeless form of transport. Just don’t over do it, aim for Nordic simplicity rather than Victorian kitsch.

Storm lantern with snow and fir trees

Snowy pines inside a storm lantern

Alternatively, go traditional; swop the snow for sand and hay and add a few farm animals and a manger. Shepherds, camels, kings, an angel and a star in the East?  Bit more tricky.

Finally, smuggle some light into there if you can; tiny LEDs with a buried battery case work well and miniature lamp posts with real working lights are magical. Please note, though, that no LED is a magical as a candle and these lanterns do look their level best when there are lit candles nearby adding movement and warm reflected light.

If twee, naff or decidedly eccentric hold no fears for you then by all means follow your heart. You could add a flying snowman, a lion, witch and wardrobe or two singing Disney princesses. Or use what’s to hand. An angel, a dinosaur, a tardis… If it’s the only scene that’s created this Christmas you’ll be doing really well.

When Did You Last Dine by Candlelight?

Not counting meals in restaurants, when did you last light a candle at your own dinner table? Most of us only think of doing so whilst attempting seduction. This is a shame because, although there are many things you probably shouldn’t attempt by candlelight (reading small print, sharing really scary ghost stories, the plumbing), dining isn’t one of them.

Dining by candlelight

Here’s how to indulge more often:

  • Don’t restrict yourself to dining à deux.  Experiment!  Have a candle-lit meal with a friend, or a bunch of friends, or see your family in a different light. And what about when you eat alone? Instead of a late night snack by the light of fridge, sit down and light a candle. You’ll eat more slowly, enjoy your own company, and stop once you’ve had enough.
  • Unscented is unsurpassed.  Scented candles will confuse your palette and dim your appetite, whereas letting the food provide the fragrance maximises your enjoyment. The only exception might be kitchen candles that smell naturally of citrus, spices or herbs and complement your dishes.
  • Candlelight makes everything look better. That includes food, glassware, cutlery and people. It’s lovely to pull out all the stops for a special event, but when you have guests at two hours’ notice and it’s already been a long day, just light the candles. They’ll change your mood, throw a new light on the room and flatter everything, including you.
  • Try candles at breakfast.  At this time of year many of us get up in half-light if not actual darkness. Morning rituals can include a mindless breakfast rushed down by the light of a mobile phone, or else a sparse standing one as you orchestrate everyone else’s. Try taking an extra 10 minutes, make something hot and fuel up by candlelight – it’s a much gentler preparation for going out into a cold morning. If you work from home, whether it’s with a laptop or a series of domestic appliances, you can indulge yourself without the clock-watching.Copper lanterns on a dining table
  • There’s a reason taper candles are known as dinner candles.  Being tall and slender, tapers are ideal for shedding light over your table, though it’s useful to check sight lines so that diners can see each other. If you’re planning a Halloween event and want people to mistake the burrata for monsters’ eyeballs, by all means use just one tealight. Otherwise, if you love tealights. do use them, but bear in mind you’ll need to use at least twice as many as you would tapers. The white porcelain tealight holders (pictured above) go with a variety of schemes and the copper mini box lanterns are just stunning. 
  • We are like moths to flames.  It’s innate in us to gather around fire, it’s not just the light, it’s the movement; the way it dances. It draws us together and helps us to forge connections. It creates an intimacy that makes conversations more real, more reflective and more relaxed. Give it a go because it’s probably been too long since you last ate by candlelight. Plus, it makes you look gorgeous (so don’t rule out attempting seduction).