Dear blog friends~ My mom used to say that I was born talking and haven't stopped~ and I'm pretty sure Larry agrees. Yet here I sit stiffly in front of my computer, finding myself at a total loss for words. You haven't heard from me since I wished you all a Merry Christmas, and now I'm writing to say goodbye, in a sense.
The last six months have been fairly emotional and intensely transitional. I won't burden you with detail, but we've both experienced challenges at several fronts. Medical challenges are always the most unnerving, but for now it seems all is calm, thankfully. And as I've heard it well-said, "at my age it's patch, patch, patch". I think that's just the way it's going to be. Anyway, I feel as if I've lived these many weeks in a cocoon of sorts, and then emerged as something new. Or perhaps I'm the same old me oriented in a new direction. While underground, I spent the better part of this half-year massively decluttering~ my home, my head and my heading. In all areas of my life I have attempted to shed unwanted stuff. I'm so tired of being yoked to stuff. I recently shared a photo I took with my good friend and photography mentor. He told me he liked my photo because it has a 'vibe'. Vibe is such a cool word. My redefined life has a vibe too, along with all things downstream~ priorities, projects, personal style. So naturally my blog and blogging goals have been revisited and something totally different is in the works. You will soon find me at a new address with a new name. I'm not quite there yet, but as soon as I am up and running I will post here one last time in the hopes of redirecting you to my new cyber hangout.
Many of you are muttering, "not again". To which I can only respond, I can't help it. I blog because I like to write and I love to take pictures. My blog is an online scrapbook of sorts that chronicles my interests and creative pursuits, and also parallels my style. And yes, there have been many [styles]. The new me, the newest in a continuing series, needed a new blog. So I'm stepping out in faith. I really hope we can still be friends.
I would like to end by saying that I really, really do not like fireworks. Despite my peculiarity, I am seriously patriotic because I love our country so deeply. I get misty when I hear songs like, "God Bless the USA". I love mammoth-sized American flags blowing in the breeze. But most importantly, I feel inordinately blessed to live life with such incredible freedom and relative wealth. I hope you share my profound and unwavering devotion, irrespective of the political climate. I wish each of you a wonderful and meaningful Independence Day!
At some given moment, Christmas decorating has to stop. And that moment for me happened last night about 10.
I need to mention that we have had more consecutive days of rain and more rainfall in November and December than I can remember ever. I love rain and I'm not complaining, but the days have been so dark there's hardly a sunrise. This has made picture taking awkward because I don't use flash and I rarely use unnatural, overhead lighting. Anyway, last minute-new to the kitchen is my tiny tree bedecked with tiny vintage ornaments, many of which are original Shiny Bright balls from Germany.
See? I have to take multiple shots of everything trying to get the lighting right. These are some of the few for which I compromised my policy and turned on the can lights in the kitchen. I bought this tree so long ago, in a past life. I think it was mid-1990s, St. Louis. To be sure, it never ends up in the same spot; entryway, bathroom, sunroom, bedroom, hall, wherever. I like it more this year than ever because this past summer I thrifted yet another box of the small diameter Christmas balls.
I'm so happy with the red barrel I was gifted by a friend. What an easy way to add such festive color to my living room, right? Laugh as you might, my red barrel-based, glass top table is a great fit. Last night I rearranged a few things to create a red-themed tablescape atop the barrel.
Here is a vignette or centerpiece idea you might want to pull together even at this late hour. If you have a favorite large bowl, consider creating a showpiece with fresh fruit. I chose a pineapple, red apples, red pears and pomegranates. Begin with the apples on the bottom of the bowl which will support the pineapple. And then encircle the pineapple with the pears and pomegranates. Presto! You have a new focal point for a table! Notice the photo holders? I made them last year, and if you would like to read about them and a bit about our grand winter adventure, you can click here.
I added a bit of grapevine that is leftover from fall projects. The grapevine was an afterthought, but a much needed touch. I didn't realize how much something was missing actually, until I looked at the before and after photos. Consider adding a few naturals to the bowl, such as grapevine, twigs, or dried wheat as examples. Did you know that the exotic pineapple is the traditional sign of welcome? For this reason I like using it during the month of December because we seem to have so many more drop-in visitors. I certainly got a late start this year, but no matter. I love having the pineapple and will leave it up until the fruit begins to wither.
I just yesterday framed a favorite photo~ A picture of the red buses in Glacier National Park that I took this summer on my big adventure. I would like to suggest that you look around the house for any favorite photos that would bring Christmas spirit to your vignette. To add a little more spirit, I included a few favorite Christmas cards as well.
Love the little redhead!
Another final tweak is the addition of a softly-aged Pottery Barn wreath to my cherished door. The wreath was among the vast inventory of Christmas decor that we moved from Arizona, and because my mom is on a Christmas trip to the Midwest, I took the liberty of hanging in my living room.
Never out of style!
Well friends, my decorating is complete, though in reality I think it never really ends. Let's just say I've self-imposed a stop.
I still have a few packages to wrap, and menus to think about. Larry and I are going to staycation on Friday; we're taking a little motorhome journey close to home. It's the only sunny day in the forecast for at least 2 weeks. So the plan is to have a leisurely Christmas morning~ breakfast, stockings, a few gifts. And then with our beloved Dallas in arms, drive about 40 miles to a lovely camping spot at the water's edge. We'll return Sunday for a belated celebration with a friend. He will be here in time to watch the Seattle Seahawks, have dinner and stay the night. Am I missing John? Yes, that goes without saying. But though it's an unusual Christmas, it's blessed nonetheless. We have our health, our friends, and each other.
Thank you for the gift of your readership this past year. It means more to me than I can adequately express.
Glad tidings of great joy!
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:13
Each year during Advent I realize once again that the real joy for me at Christmas is the getting ready.
I celebrate the opportunity to create at a kind of pull out all the stops pace. But this year, because of an endless string of distractions, I really got off to a slow start.
However, this past weekend I had the opportunity to seriously indulge in a crafts day with my dear friend Corrine. I'm talking 6 straight hours of creative output.
Corrine arrived with a glass milk bottle of fresh eggnog from a local dairy, so we began our day with an eggnog coffee. Every good get together starts with coffee. Then we jumped right into a productive craft session. We made everything from Kahlua to Christmas trees; it was a blast!
A few weeks back I made my first-ever batch of Kahlua. Did you know it takes 14 days of mellowing before it's ready to bottle? Kahlua also requires twice-daily stirring. Because I'm giving pretty bottles of my witch's brew as gifts, I had to get a head start. But that which I made with Corrine will be ready by New Year's Eve. Hostess-appropriate gifts are great to have on hand.
Part of our craft session was spent making tags for gifts. I have really gotten a huge kick out of creative packaging for bottled gifts, and I have a variety of ideas for you.
Because this particular bottle is a gift for a guy, I tried to make a few masculine embellishments. Corrine and I tore an old linen tablecloth into countless strips, and I coffee-dyed some of them.
Wow! So Ernest Hemingway
Can you see that the linen strips are tied tightly on an old bedspring? The spring fits perfectly on the neck of the bottle. I imagine our guy-friend, at work in his home-office, with this pretty bottle and a tiny liqueur glass. I used craft colored chip board because of the natural coffee color, rather than choosing something sparkly for the tag.
As I said, we tore a huge number of linen strips~
We used rusty springs and linen to create the cutest little trees.
Here is another good idea I'm excited to share. I have been collecting a variety of wool sweaters the last couple of years; sweaters I've thrifted or sweaters that have fallen victim to laundry disasters. I felted each of them and then cut the sleeves away.
I used the sleeves to make wraps for bottled gifts. There are a variety of gifts represented here. To a few I'm giving wine, to a few, olive oil, and of course the Kahlua. Even if you are not a wine drinker, gourmet items such as olive oil or nice vinegar is a wonderful gift.
But as an alternate gift or even party idea, consider filling a lovely bottle with a small candy. In this picture I have used M&M chocolates. And then I snuggled the bottle in a sweater~
And added a pretty tag. Wouldn't it be fun to sit around a cozy fire and pass a lovely bottle of candy from guest to guest? You could create several bottles of treats with healthier snacks such as nuts.
Making tags is fun and easy. I used a very strong instant coffee solution to dye white tags. Then I used a beautiful red stamp pad and a few Christmasy stamps. It really doesn't matter if you aren't a coffee drinker. Buy the cheapest instant crystals available and add it to your craft supply inventory. I am always coffee-dying something. You can even use it to create an aged effect on photographs!
I spent a goodly amount of time crafting small bits of pretty. I think details are an important part of gift giving because details are a demonstration of caring. Great tags and wrap do not require a huge dollar investment, but rather an investment of time and creative thought. This time of year I seem to have a lot of fun ideas but a shortage of time. That never changes. Corrine and I vowed to start Christmasing in July. It sounds like a plan, right? But it's probably the first of many resolutions I won't keep.
Thanks for taking a bit of your valuable time to read along.
The winter solstice lasts just for one moment. It occurs when the earth’s tilt is the farthest away from the sun. ~ Dictionary.com
Monday December 21st at 8:49 PM PST, the winter solstice happens; in the blink of an eye. It signifies the onset of winter and the beginning of increasing day lengths. The change is subtle at first, measurable in mere seconds. But there is great emotional benefit in the knowledge that each day is a tiny step toward spring. It's as if the darkness has been dispelled and the light is about to break through. And for Larry and me, that is the true spirit of the Christmas celebration we anxiously await.
The solstice is a nice excuse to make the table pretty and share dinner with close friends.
I have a large piece of vintage gray flannel, appropriately sized to for use as a tablecloth! I've said this before, but every creative woman needs a good friend with a serger. The edges of the wool are now neatly finished.
Isn't a lovely length of wool flannel perfect for a cold winter's night?
Once again I created a mostly neutral tablescape. (Honestly, I wonder often why I am so partial to neutrals).
After setting the table it became obvious that a little emphasis was needed, so I added touches of red~ both on the table and in the room. Red pears are always look so pretty as part of Christmas decor.
My close friend is a watercolor artist. She gifted me this print of an amaryllis from a Christmas past. It's stunning, truly, and it makes me happy.
And although I wrestled with whether or not to hang the stockings, Larry was insistent. So here they are, ready for surprises.
I used a hurricane and candle as a centerpiece, but I added the sheet music curls and a bit of 'snow' to the base. I also wrapped our bottle on wine in a wool sleeve from an old sweater to add to the coziness. I feel like all that is missing is Dean Martin singing, "Let It Snow".
I like the addition of unexpected details to dining table decor.
One of my favorite elements of this tablescape is the vintage airline glasses. Only four of the many international destinations served by Larry's airline (TWA) are represented here. Each place setting is set with a different country. But we've been to each these four together and to so many more.
Solstice happens~ obviously not just here but around the world. Selfishly however, I always think the advent of longer days means more to those of us in the northern latitudes. Right now the sun comes up at about 8AM and goes down just after 4PM.
This year we will be celebrating so much differently than in years past. Just the two of us, as you know. But creating festive decor has been no less fun.
Well we made the emotional decision to have a Christmas at home this year. I use the word emotional because this will be one of only two Christmas mornings that our son won't have been with us since making his first appearance in 1982. We are tentatively planning a drive to Southern California in mid January however, which is something I will look very much forward to.
My job now is to create a warm and festive Christmas for two, so I have begun to dig through my large inventory of well loved decorations. Topping my list are the very vintage Pottery Barn reindeer. They were a gift to us, from my folks, in 1994! We were living in Missouri then, and my parents had just moved close by. These guys have dominated our Christmas mantle for 21 years.
I don't use fresh greens on the mantle because they dry out so quickly and create a fire risk. But I do layer, layer, layer as many attractive artificial boughs as possible.
I also love sparkly crystal, so the Waterford hurricanes are part of the mantlescape.
I also debuted even more mercury glass, or "poor man's silver" as one reader called it. I have so much now because of my mom's contribution, that she and I were able to festively accent our coffee table!
On a rare sunny, bright day, everything sparkles!
But truly, nothing surpasses fresh greens. And one positive, among many, about living where I do, is that there is so much evergreen available for cutting!
Here is a first look at what I've brought in the house~
So far, this arrangement is my favorite. I awoke to sunlight streaming in the glass doors and was pleased to be able to capture these images. I have two holly trees, each laden with red berries! Red berries serve as attention grabbers in a sea of green.
I filled a small Mason jar with fresh greens, anchored by epsom salts. It feels snowy.
My living room is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I have transitioned from bah humbug to bring-it-on. Yes there will be tons to put away in January, but that dread has been replaced by the joy of the season. I hope you are experiencing the same!