April and the Bear Blog
DIY gifts Interview Irish Design

A Creative Christmas – with Lesiele Juliet

Welcome to the last of our ‘ Creative Christmas’ blog series where we speak to independent, inspirational business women from the Irish creative scene about how they celebrate Christmas + any festive secrets and traditions they might have and don’t mind sharing!

In this festive segment, we chat to the lovely and talented stylist Lesiele Juliet.

Lesiele has such an eye for detail and creating beauty, she is one of the first stylists I met after starting April and the Bear and we’ve been collaborating ever since. Lesiele recently gave birth to her gorgeous daughter Elle, so I was delighted that she had the time to chat to us about her festive traditions.

Tell us how you spend Christmas Day? 

Back home in Sydney we start the day with a morning swim at our local, Bondi Beach. We were lucky enough to have the iconic beach on our doorstep. As temperatures begin to soar, sometimes up to 40 degrees, it’s essential to get to the beach before it gets too hot or busy. Following our swim, we begin preparation for our Christmas Day feast on the barbecue. Barbecueing means serious business in my big, Polynesian family. 

My brothers take care of the seafood and meat while my sisters and I prepare salads and cold snacks. My dad takes care of the Christmas ham and my mum’s in charge of dessert; a Tongan drink called Otai which is traditionally served after a big meal instead of a heavy dessert (however everyone always made room for my nanna’s legendary trifle when she was alive). Mum’s ‘Otai’ drink is made up of watermelon juice, coconut milk, shredded watermelon and coconut, chunks of pineapple and mango topped with plenty of crushed ice. Bliss!

After our mammoth barbecue, the rest of the day is spent grazing on leftovers, playing with nieces and nephews, having the lols with my brothers and sisters, a battle of charades and sometimes an evening swim if our big, full bellies permit it. 

In stark contrast to our balmy Sydney celebrations, Christmas morning swims in Dublin at The Forty Foot are a shock to the system and require a morning nip of dutch courage. I actually look forward to that swim the most, as it feels like such an accomplishment and really sets the festive, celebatory tone. 

After our teeth chattering swim, we head over to Stephen’s (Lesiele’s hubbie) mums place for bubbles, smoked salmon on brown bread and cheese, and to greet first guests, who will continue to pop over throughout the day. Stephen’s mum – Tess is an insanely amazing cook, in fact she used to own a restaurant in Dun Laoghaire many moons ago called Food for Thought, all about home made food, where they made their own bread with a big offering of vegetarian dishes which was really unique for Ireland at the time. 

Tess puts on her Christmas roast late in the afternoon / early dinner which consists of turkey, ham, stuffing, lashings of gravy, mountains of roast veggies and all the trimmings. There’s also a nut roast, veggie gravy & salmon for Stephen (he’s a Pescatarian), but I actually love her nut roast and veggie gravy too. Tess also makes a killer trfile, which dare I say it, absolutely tops my nannas. 

Then it’s quiet time in the evening with a Christmas movie, a port or whiskey and one of my favourite things about Christmas in Ireland – a Christmas ham sandwich with a side of crisps. I’ve never eaten so many crisps since moving here!

This year I’m looking forward to Elle’s first Christmas, so in addition to this we’ll have breakfast treats & opening her presents.

How do you decorate? 

Like everyone else, my favourite part of Christmas decorating is the tree and every year I like to do it a little differently but my colour scheme is always pretty much the same – white with accents of gold, silver, bronze and textures of paper, glass and fabric. This year, I’m going a little DIY by making my own paper decorations and trying my hand at a popcorn garland (not sure how that will turn out to be honest!). 

I always have fresh eucalyptus and greenery in the house. I’ve decorated my living room window with a beautiful garland from The Foliage Florist as I don’t have a fireplace mantle or staircase this year. I took off my curtains to make room for it so that it frames my window perfectly. It’s become the focal point of our living room and gives us tremendous joy whenever we walk into the room and the scent is heavenly! 

What is your most treasured Christmas decoration?

I adore handmade decorations from nieces and nephews over the years but this year I fell in love with your April & The Bear Hidden Compartment ornament, I think it’s really unique and a great gift idea. I’m having friends over for a pre-christmas lunch and plan on using it as a name tag at their place setting. I’ll fill it with chocolates and dried orange for a gorgeous scent when they open it.

Failsafe gifts for home lovers? 

Candles! Who doesn’t love a gorgeous scented candle? I always gift friends and clients a candle at Christmas. This year I’ll be gifting your Sandalwood & Sea Salt candle which are absolutely divine, love that they evoke salty fresh air and walks by the sea – a celebration of winter. Also the votive can be re-used with a tea light, and as a vase or utensil holder. The gift that keeps on giving!

Any inventive ideas for wrapping?

I save ribbons, string and scraps of fabric throughout the year and use these to get creative with my wrapping. I think it’s a great way to re-use and save money plus some ribbons are just too beautiful to throw away and really deserve a second life! A great way to wrap awkward objects like bottles is to wrap them with a beautiful cloth, like Kathryn Davey’s beautiful natural dyed fabrics or you can dye your own for a personal touch. This cloth wrapping also adds a layer of gifting with re-use as a tea towel, napkin or placemat. Lastly, a christmas ornament like your star decoration is the perfect styling touch to wrapping a gift and makes for a lovely keepsake.

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