Book Review: Johanna’s Christmas

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and/or happy holiday time with your family and friends. I also like to wish you a Happy New Year over the next day or so, depending where you are. Today I have finally have for you my review and finished pages from Johanna’s Christmas. This is the only other book that I worked in over the past month.

Johanna’s Christmas: A Festive Colouring Book is a Christmas themed colouring book by the great Johanna Basford. It was published back in October 2016 and its been quite popular during the last two holiday seasons. I wasn’t sure about buying it last year. However, a few months ago I found it for a really good price, so I though why not add another one of Johanna’s books to my collection and have plenty of beautiful pages to colour during the holiday season.

Johanna’s Christmas is a similar format to Johanna Basford’s other books, but it doesn’t have removable dust cover. Instead it has a soft cover with a french flap, The front and back covers are decorated with a collage of Christmas inspired drawings and has gold foil detailing on the front cover. Inside there are 80 pages, which are perforated for easy removal. The paper has a nice, soft texture, ivory in colour and is thick like Johanna’s other books. Although there are 80 pages, there are only 37 pages of illustrations, which doesn’t include the title page, name plate page or colour palette tester page. On the back side of the pages there is a pattern that has been printed in grey ink. Through out the book there are three different patterns on the back side of the pages. You could colour them, but they are more decorative or allow you to feel more free to use different mediums with ease. I know some people feel that they are getting less for their money, however it really didn’t bother me. I liked having the freedom to use wet media, which I normally don’t in Johanna’s books because I am paranoid of bleed through. I also liked that I didn’t have to worry about colour transfer onto the other page, however there are quite a few double pages spreads. I am careful to place a piece of paper on those pages to protect the facing image, even when storing the books. Just note the I have UK edition, so if you would like to see a comparison to the US edition, see this great article by Colouring in the Midst of Madness.

The images in this book undeniably Christmas inspired, however there is plenty of variety and all have Johanna’s signature style. There are drawings with wreaths, mandalas, round and full page collages, full page scenes and images with large blank backgrounds. There are plenty of Christmas trees, baubles, winter animals, presents and much more.

All in all, I am very happy that I bought this book for Christmas colouring. I love the format of the book, that gave me the freedom to experiment, I love the variety of pictures, which included many cute animals and cosy scenes. The paper is just fantastic and takes pencil and watercolour like a dream. My only criticism is the the black french flap, attached to the cover is in black, which has left black marks on both the front title page and back colour palette test page. Although this can be erased it will be constantly rubbing and I will have to protect it with paper for storage.


Below I have included a video flip through of Johanna’s Christmas and photographs of seven pages that I have coloured from the book. They are listed in order as they appear in the book, rather then when I coloured them.




The Christmas polar bear is one of the first pages I coloured for the holiday season. I have seen this page done in a variety of ways, but I wanted mine to be more unique, so I created a background, which was inspired by the northern lights and forests in Scandinavia.

I first roughly drew in the tree line and tried to mirror it the best I could for the lake. I then added in the skyline, which was also mirrored on the water. This took quite a while, but on this paper my Prismacolor pencils blended quite well. Next I coloured the polar bear and ice and added white gel pen for the fur and to go over the black ink lines. Lastly, coloured the water line, scarf and presents. I tried to reuse the same colours from the background, with an additional pop of limestone green and yellow orange. I also did some extra detailing for the stars and presents with white gel pen. This pages didn’t turn out perfect but I am happy with the pastel colours and the concept.


The Gingerbread houses is a double page spread, which I coloured last in this book. I didn’t take this one too seriously, I just wanted to do something fun and pretty.

Since there was so much to colour, I put a base of layer of Inktense pencil activated with water. I found that this worked really well with another one of the pages I coloured below and it really sped up the colouring time. Since I had to go all the way to the edges of the page, the paper did buckle a little, but over the next couple of days it did flatten out, by having the book closed. The texture of the paper was affected in anyway, so its was lovely to colour over the top with Prismacolor pencils. I quite liked how the pencil was quite chalky over the top and helped soften the black ink lines. In saying that I did still go over all the black lines with a white gel pen. I was nearly able to finish it however I did have to use a bit of white Posca pen when my gel pen ran out. This was not idea, since its just absorbs into the paper, but it was only a small section.

For the sky, I had originally just coloured it with darker pink Inktense pencil and light pink Faber-Castell Albrecht pencil. It was a little flat though, so I tried to draw in some clouds with different shades of pencil. I did end up outlining them with white gel pen and going over the sky again with pink Prismacolor, just to give a point of difference. Its not perfect but its better then having no sky and it was quite easy to do.


The Rocking horse was the first page that I had used Inktense as a base and Prismacolor pencils over the top. I found this technique really sped up the colouring time and gave a richer colour. It also softened the black lines and the pencils gave a lovely soft finish. The only thing that I am not happy with and was a learn curve was the green circle background. I originally went in with a dark green and white Inktense pencils. After activating it with water the texture looked horrible. When I tried to go over the top with light green pencils, it just looked very scratchy. I think the problem was the white Inktense pencil. Overall then the paper took the water quite well, since I didn’t have to colour to the end of the paper. So I have mixed feelings about this one.


The next double page spread is my least favourite of the bunch and was more of an experiment with Mungyo Pastels. I am a bit nervous to use pastels, since when I have used them over pencil they kinda washed out the pencil vibrancy. I know you can use a colourless blender to protect the pencil but it seems I still worry doing a rich layer of pastel. So I thought for these pages I would do a really rich layer of pastels and then go in over the top with pencil. The only thing I didn’t count on was that I was not able to erase the pastel as well as I hoped. So it was a little hard to cover the drawings with pencil and it took on some of the background colour, hence why my gold is so orange. I don’t think I would do this again but it at least now I know.

The last picture is my favourite and is the first picture I did for the Christmas season. I took quite a while filling in the background before colouring the rest of the picture. I don’t normally do this but it was well worth it because when the other colours did smudge on the background I was able to erase it. Although it looked like quite a simple design it quite a detailed picture and it took me a while, but I just love it.


I hope you like the last of my Christmas colouring for this season. If you are curious about this book and see it for a good price I really recommend buying and putting it away for next year. I think it will still be popular next year like all of Johanna’s books and it’s just a beautiful quality colouring book. At the moment, the prices are quite low but also look out price drops prior to the next Christmas season.


This book can be purchased from:

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone! Some of you may be celebrating Christmas or Christmas Eve today. In Australia it’s Christmas Day, so I will be spending the day with family.

During this past month I haven’t been able to post anything on this blog, do Christmas shopping and prepare for today, as I have been very unwell. After initially getting a virus, I recovered, then my daughter got it and she recovered. However, then I got a mutated version which lead to a viral and bacterial infection. So I have been bedridden most of this week. However, today I am feeling well enough to be around people and enjoy one of my favourite days of the year.

Christmas Presents

Unfortunately for my family they won’t be getting any presents from me today. I normally start doing my Christmas shopping in November but I was a bit late to start this year and then I wasn’t able to do any. I guess I’m also not feeling as materialistic this year. In saying that Santa and Marco did leave me some presents. I got a these gorgeous two dresses from Baby Lemonade. The cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat. I am so excited about this book after watching her series, Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix. As for colouring books I finally got Johanna Basford’s new book World of Flowers and Emelie Lidehall Oberg’s Fairy Tales Colouring Book. I am a big fan of both these ladies work, so I knew eventually they would be joining my collection.

Christmas Colouring

Over this past month I planned to do as much Christmas colouring as I could. I didn’t do as much as I would like to since I wasn’t feeling up it, but I did about nine pages in a few books. Today I will just share a couple page, since the rest are from Johanna’s Christmas. I will do a book review and flip through, to showcase that book in the next few days.

The very first picture I did for Christmas colouring this year is from one of my recent books that I had yet to start. This Christmas Angel is from
Creative Haven Beautiful Angels Coloring Book, by Marjorie Sarnat. I coloured her with Prismacolour and used white gel pen for some of the details and cover some of the black lines. The paper in this book is quite good, but it was a little challenging to blend too much with Prismacolor. I also find most of the pictures are quite busy, so I tried to just reuse the same colors. I am not too sure about the flowers and the pink, but I prefered not to use red. Overall I’m quite happy because the original sketch is quite flat so I think I bought a little dimension to it.

The next picture is from ESCAPE Collage Art by Marty Nobles. This is my second picture in this book and the perfect Christmas image. The paper in this book is a little different. It is thick but its closer to a old children’s colouring book. I do find that soft Prismacolor pencils work well, which is what I used. I just found it challenging when layering for animal fur. It took me a while to do this one as well, as I wanted the right colors that would be harmonious and more old fashioned rather then bright and modern. My background is a bit strange, but I had to give it a little texture. The snow dots where actually already drawn in the picture, so I just used a white gell pen to bring them out. I don’t mind this picture so much now its done. What I reallly like about this book is that you can focus on different sections, which don’t take too long to complete.

Marco’s Birthday Feast

The last thing that I will share with you today was Marco’s birthday dinner, which was a week before Christmas. If you remember last year I made him the Feast of Seven Kingdoms. Well I didn’t go that overboard this year. Octavia had just gotten better and I was on day one of my second bout of illness. I took a couple of short cuts, but I tried to make everything from scatch. We didn’t have a huge amount of guest, so there was plenty for food for that night a couple days of leftover.

So when they arrived to served this platter, which included Proscuitto di Parma, Organic Nitrate Free Legham, gerkins and Rice Croquettes. These croquettes are my Nonna’s specality, which she makes at every family event. I finally tried my hand at making them. I also made a couple gluten free for my nephew. According to Marco mine were really good, but not as good as Nonna’s since she fries hers a bit longer.

For the dinner I served homemade Papardelle with a Traditional Bolgnese sauce. I used this recipe from Food Nouveau and it was pretty good. The traditional ragu uses butter and milk, white wine and much less tomatoes. I cooked it for three hours and it was just so full of flavour. I think the secret is really pushing the meat to carmelise. Since I’m not in the habit of using milk I did use lactose free, hoping that it wouldn’t affect anyones allergies. I also made homemade Gnocchi with pesto and topped with Pecorino Romano. I normally make my own pesto but I used a good quality organic brand to save time. I also made Baked Tuna Canneloni, which had Fontina cheese in the bechemel and filling. Everyone was surprised to really enjoy this one. I also made a green salad and sauted kale with raisens (forgot the pine nuts). For bread, since Serbian’s need their bread I made Focaccia. My sister and brother in-law actually have their own Pizza restaurant, so I was able to use their dough to save time. I added lots of EVO to the dough and a salt brine and let is rise a couple of times. I should have probably split the dough in two, so that it would be more crispy and not as high. Nobody cared, they actually really liked it and there was really not much left at the end of the night.

Lastly for the birthday cake, I purchased this as an impulse buy from a the French bakery, Jocelyn’s Provisions. It was a small Chocolate Sour Cream Cake Small Round, topped with white cholate ganache and sprinkled with
candied violets.  It was extremely rich, but really delicious.

If you made it this far down let me know what you did for Christmas? Any special art projects, cooking or eating endeavours?

Srećan Božić: Merry (Serbian) Christmas

Today our family celebrated the Serbian Orthodox Christmas. It was held at my mother-in-laws home, where we were greeted with “Srećan Božić” and given 3 kisses on the cheeks.

Serbian Christmas held every year on the 7th of January. They follow this date from the Julian calendar, which was created under the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BC. Other countries that are celebrating on 7th include Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Israel, Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

I’m not Serbian and Marco has been here living in Australia since he was 7 years, so we are not informed about all the traditions. My inlaws lived in Serbia when it was a communist country as well so I’m not sure they follow the religious customs for this day. They did mention fasting on Christmas Eve, but that was it. It was wonderful to celebrate their Christmas with a delicious Serbian lunch and luckily this year the whole immediate family were able to attend.

We started the meal with chicken soup with vegetables and pasta. I think this is like a Domaća supa (domestic soup). This was followed Pogača (bread), which everyone has to grab at the same time and rip off a piece. This was accompanied by the roasted lamb, roasted potatoes, carrots and pumpkin; Serbian green salad,  and sarma (cabbage rolls). For desserts, we went a bit vegan. My sister-in-law made a Double Layered Chocolate Fudge Cake (linked photo last time I made it) from the Oh She Glows Cookbook. I made the Crispy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie from the Oh She Glows app (which I also made for my Christmas).

Do you celebrate Christmas on the 7th or on an alternative date?
What do you traditionally eat for Christmas?

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Merry Christmas: gifting and feasting

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy holidays to everyone! This is my absolute favourite holiday of the year. It’s a day of good food, lots of presents and enjoyable family time. It’s a day when everyone is happy, generous and relaxed and when we can finally catch our breath as the silly season comes to a close.

I started my day at 4:30am when my daughter came into my room to sleep. She was actually quite late because we were up late making Christmas cookies. We made three batches of cookies to share with our family and for Santa.

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The first batch were Pillowy Pumpkin Snack Cookies, from Angela Liddon’s new cookbook, Oh She Glows Every Day. I love the flavours of pumpkin and spices for Christmas. They seem so cosy and warm and I like to pretend I’m not living in the heat of summer. The recipe was only for 11 cookies, which didn’t seem like enough. Since I ran out of light spelt flour, I thought I’d try another recipe from the book, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. I still had plenty of fresh pumpkin puree, so swapped that for the majority of the peanut butter. Then I realised I only had 12 more cookies. So by that stage, I now ran out of maple syrup, pumpkin, oats and honey (from a double batch of Lemonsweet, I made earlier). Frantically I found another recipe on the Oh She Glows App for Crispy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie. I have made those before and they taste amazing. I had to swap the oat flour for plain flour but they still turned out just as delicious. I can always trust Angela’s amazing plant-based recipes to make something that will wow. Everyone the next day was really impressed with the flavours of each.

Octavia was very excited to leave out cookies, soy milk for Santa and her Magic Reindeer food and carrots for the reindeers. This is actually the first year she understands what is Christmas, who is Santa and that he’s bringing presents if she’s been a good girl.

She was so excited the night before that I’m surprised she didn’t remember at 4:30am when she woke up. She actually didn’t get up until 8:30am, which is very unusual. Once I reminded her it was Christmas she was back on board and couldn’t wait to see what was under the Christmas tree. She was very spoilt this year. Her favourite things right now is Doc Mc Stuffins and Rapunzel. She got a few Disney toys and books from the franchises, as well as a Djeco Red Riding Hood puzzle and some new goggles (so she can stop stealing other peoples). She also received some beautiful organic Purebaby clothes couple of Vilac puzzles, Penny Scallan backpack, a wooden cash register and a Vtech Digi Art Creative Easel. She’s been so spoilt I’m not sure she even knows what to play with firsts.

I took this photo after we had opened up all the presents and she was in her Christmas bests before we left for lunch. The little reindeer on the tree is the ornament she chooses for this year.

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My Christmas List…

Something I love about being an adult is being able to fulfil my own Christmas list. No more disappointments or being told that my wishes too numerous and unrealistic. Ok, some of it may be even too unrealistic for me to fulfil but at least I get to decide what is attainable and will remain a dream. Unfortunately with adulthood, so come the understanding of the value of money and that ‘things’ don’t make you happy. Nevertheless, ‘Santa’ has a sack of presents for me this year, so Christmas is going to be fantastic!

My interest (and obsessions) this year mostly revolve around colouring,  reading historical, politic and fantasy novels, Disney and travel. This is probably pretty obvious if you’re a frequent visitor to my blog. My life has changed so much since becoming a mother. I prefer to spend my spare time blogging, colouring, reading, watching late night and TV series, playing Disney Magic Kingdoms, planning future travel and eating out with friends. Shopping was previously a lifelong passion, but now it just seems too hard to look in a shop, let alone try something on and make it to the cash register to buy it. Until recently, everything I bought needed to double as nursing wear. So I expect in the new year I may try to get a few new items to update my wardrobe. I’m not too worried about that yet. At the moment I’m more interested in hobbies that are a bit more solitary since I spend my of my time accompanied by a small person, whose needs are more important than my own.

 

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Family Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas. I look forward to it all year. For me its a time for magic, lots of presents, self-reflection, quality time with family and extra special delicious food. A few years ago the Christmas baton was handed to me, so I have been holding Christmas at my house ever since. Yes its a lot of work, but I love it.

Since I had my daughter, it’s been so wonderful to pass on the Christmas magic on to her. This year will be Octavia third Christmas and she will be 2 years and 8 months. Now she really understands who Santa is, what presents are and why mama keeps going Christmas shopping. She is so excited about this and has made going shopping with her easier if we are looking for things to tell Santa we want and need. We haven’t discussed the religious aspect of Christmas yet, I think this will be a conversation for next year or the year after.

Before we had Octavia’s first Christmas we began some Christmas traditions. We only started with few and will add a new one every year. I think it’s important to make traditions because it’s something we can all look forward, activities we can do together and will create magical childhood memories that we cherish forever.

 

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