SIMPLE WINTER DECOR

SIMPLE WINTER DECOR

Hey y’all! Or all y’all if there are more peeps than my Granddaughter reading this. I haven’t posted for a while due to a lingering case of “the Januarys,” apparently this is a common ailment in the blogging community, who knew?? I just thought I was tired and didn’t have “the feels” for anything other than snuggling with Mr B and the puppies and watching endless hours of meaningless TV.

Turns out “the Januarys” is something that goes around after the holiday hoopla which leaves designers, decorators and bloggers without inspiration or energy. Hmmm….isn’t that the same as “I ain’t got no feels?” Where did the term “Feels” come from anyway? Oh, yes, that’s right, young people. They have a knack for simplifying terms and boiling them down to the essential. I actually like it. Why waste words describing how you feel about something if you can just say “Feels?” or “No Feels?” In this world of instant gratification, big words aren’t necessary, no one really cares if you find something astoundingly interesting, or if viewing a masterpiece leaves one with a racing pulse, breathless, or overcome by unnamed emotions…..does it give ya the feels? Or not? Communication by short words. Bleh.

winter decor staples, pine cones, deer antlers and a little greenery

As usual I got off track. I don’t even remember what this post is about. I must take a look at the title to be sure. So. Winter. Let’s talk about winter here in the sanctuary. It’s tough doing a post on winter when Florida winters are usually sunny and 75°. Except this year. This year we got winter!!! Yay. Or sort of Yay. Or even, “oh big deal” if you live in Alaska.  But it hasn’t been this cold in my part of Florida since 2010! My birdbaths were frozen solid. SOLID. The heat has been on in the sanctuary for a couple of weeks, and we’ve used the fireplace almost every night during that same time span. I love it.

Winter in Central Florida

 

A simple throw and pillow warms up the love seat and says “winter.”

Before you laugh at the 20° weather here, let me remind you that nine months out of the year it’s 90+ here with high humidity. We get used to the heat. Our bodies are acclimated to that heat. So when the temps drop 40 degrees overnight, it feels COLD here. Any where you live that experiences a rapid 40 degree drop in temperature is going to feel cold. So yes, we are cold. What does this have to do with decorating you might ask? Nothing.

A bit of winter in the kitchen
A jar of pine cones says winter and will stay til spring

Doing winter here is like dressing up for Halloween. Everyone knows who’s under that costume. Winter here is a bit like that. It’s still Florida underneath that throw.  I long for a change in seasons, so I  bring it inside, even when it’s 75 outside. It’s why I use fake snow for Christmas. If the calendar says December, the fake snow comes out and I’m bringing out my throws. The fake snow is gone now, but the throws? Oh yeah, they are still out.

The world’s tiniest living room dressed for winter

The dogs enjoy the throws  even if Mr B raises an eyebrow and continues to run around in shorts. I, on the other hand, insist on wearing jeans and boots and sweaters as soon as it hits 60.

I layered the chairs with throws (Geez, how many times can I use the word “throws” in this post?) and my new “winter pillows,” purchased from H&M Home. I used them at Christmas as well and bought them specifically so that I could transition from the holidays to winter without changing everything out. I’m happy that winter decor can last for a few months.  I shared my winter mantel in a recent post, but here’s a photo in case you missed it.

I never get tired of seeing Oscar’s big head

 

Dining table centerpiece

My winter decor staples are the a fore mentioned wool and knitted throws, pine cones, silver leaf deer antlers, succulents and a few left over sprigs of cedar and juniper. Easy. This year I left out my vintage brass deer as well. Deer always make me think of fall and winter. Ditto pine cones. I also crave a simpler look once Christmas is over.

The dining room table is simple, but has a lot of texture

 

Displays don’t have to be over the top to evoke a season

I’m not using any faux  fur even though it’s trendy right now. I enjoy looking at it in other homes but somehow seeing the pool from the windows and palm trees waving in the breeze don’t mix with fur in my mind. The argument could be made that neither do pine cones, wool throws and deer but I draw the line at fur. It’s a personal choice! I mean no disrespect to furry pillow lovers!  If I lived farther north, with snow and ice I would be doing fur. So decorate your home with whatever says winter to you, and what suits where you live.   Or your state of mind!

Create your sanctuary, no matter where you live or what season you’re in. Create the home you see in your heart.

 

Winter Mantel

Winter Mantel

It’s winter. Even here in Florida where we’ve enjoyed a week of freezing temps. That’s COLD for my part of the world! I’ve seen the photos of snow piled high throughout the country and I know I’m lucky we didn’t have that. It’s beautiful to look at but I don’t want to drive in it or go to work while it’s sub-zero and blowing with hurricane force winds. My heart goes out to anyone who suffered through the blizzard conditions without benefit of a warm home.  I’m a wimp after all these years living in a sub tropical state. But it was cold for Tampa Bay and we actually turned the heat on, enjoyed the fireplace and drank hot cocoa loaded with marshmallows.  I did anyway, Mr B still enjoyed his nightly glass of wine, albeit by the fireplace.

I spent most of the time bundled up in sweats and actually got to wear jeans and boots and a comfy sweater for New Year’s Eve. Woot. Those boots hadn’t seen the light of day in a couple of years!

Hanging out on Instagram means I get to see some really pretty homes and follow the “grammers” who inspire me the most. Most are showing off winter decor, so today I thought I’d share my simple winter mantel. I’m all about the simple this year as I try to pare down collections and be intentional with my decor. Mr B….I hear your eyes rolling……I think you may need to lubricate them, what with the work out they’ve been getting lately. They sound all dry and rusty and make a weird clanking noise. Like a Vegas slot machine gone bad……without the benefit of bells and flashing lights.

 If you’ve followed me for a while y’all know I was born missing the simple gene but got a double dose of the collector’s gene. I do enjoy my stuff. Trying to teach myself to enjoy the whole “less is more” concept is like a trial by fire for me. Baby steps have been taken however!

Christmas was different this year as I struggled to get in the mood without a big tree. I never quite made it and the decorations started coming down the day after. I always enjoy decorating for winter though, so left out a few pine cones and cedar and my beloved reindeer. But my decor is a far cry from winters of the past.

Today it’s all about the mantel. A cotton boll branch, some cedar and a bleached pine cone are all I needed to give it a winter feel. It brings a hint of the season without the need to pack away my normal decor. I’ve grown to loathe moving things into temporary storage to go over board for seasons and most holidays. Even Christmas this year meant I only moved one lamp to make room for my little tree. Much easier, if not the holiday extravaganzas of the past. Elsewhere in the room are throws and pillows to add texture and candles to give that ambience that only real candle flames can bring.

Oscar’s photo, printed on canvas is still center stage, I have no plans to move it any time soon, but ya never know around here. I get the change bug frequently and vignettes sometimes only last a day. I also kept my vintage glass bottles out, I still like those.

 

And that’s it. A simple winter mantel that cost nothing. Use what you have to decorate for the seasons. You don’t have to go out and buy new decor every year. I spent zero on the mantel and love the way it looks.

Create your Sanctuary, no matter where you live. Use what you have in new ways to create the home you see in your heart.

 

2018

2018

Hello, 2018! What do you have planned for me???

Huh. The better question is: What do I have planned for 2018? My 2018 word of the year is, “INTENTIONAL.” 

Adjective, meaning: done on purpose, deliberate, calculated, conscious, intended, planned. Meant, studied, knowing, willful, purposeful.

How does this word relate to My Suburban Sanctuary? I want to live my life with intention. I want to make studied and calculated decisions about what I bring into my home and into my life. I have cut back on my “big box” decor shopping over the years, especially anything made cheaply from China. Not that everything made in China is cheaply made, but you only have to look at the decor being offered at Michaels, Joannes, and Hobby Lobby to know what I am talking about. I intend to continue supporting small, local businesses, whenever possible, buy authentic vintage items and antiques for my home and then  use them in intentional ways.

I’ll be purposeful in my purchases and not fill up the car with a bunch of impulsive buys, just because we pass an antique store.

I intend to choose healthier foods and intentionally support my body. I intend to lose weight in a thoughtful manner. I intend to improve myself and by doing so, I will improve the life of those around me as well.

I intend to be kinder. More forgiving. Withhold my opinions until they are asked for, unless it’s a situation that involves someone’s safety or well being, then I reserve the right to “opinionate’!  Yes, I just made up a word. A pretty cool word too.

Intentional is a strong word. It implies knowing what you want to do before you actually do it. That might be tough for me, because I’ve always ascribed to the  flying by the seat of my pants way of life, making snap decisions, acting on impulse, having only a vague plan……it’s recently left me feeling a bit discombobulated. Adrift, and re-doing things I hadn’t planned well. Purchasing things that didn’t really fit my vision because my vision kept changing, it wasn’t carefully planned! It was more like….”ooh, that’s cool….I want that!” Hence our Goodwill box filled up more than once and Mr B was making almost weekly trips to donate things I no longer liked or wanted or could figure out how to use. I saw dollar signs flying out. It wasn’t a good feeling.

Intentional is a good word for me.

I will also be very careful about who I let in my life, I have systematically divorced “friends” over the years who were negative or mean spirited. I developed that “skill” many years ago after experiencing a major hurt from a friend. A friend I trusted. From then on I became distrustful and had a “don’t suffer fools gladly” attitude. I no longer want to be as distrustful, but I do want to be careful. I want to be intentional about people and how they impact my life… a few I will have to let go, but there are more than a few who have brought passion, joy and light to me, and those are the people I will take along with me this year. 2018, just wait to learn what I have in store for YOU!

What word is yours for 2018? What changes will you make this year? Email me and let me know! MySuburbanSanctuary@Gmail.com

Be intentional in creating your sanctuary. Love the home you’re in now, not the one you may never have.

REPRINTED BY REQUEST: The Christmas Stocking

REPRINTED BY REQUEST: The Christmas Stocking

Every family has traditions. Things that are done the same way, year after year. Things that are counted on. Traditions provide a foundation and a feeling of coming home. Of safety. And happiness.  Of continuity. Maybe it’s the way the mantel is decorated. Or the ornaments remain the same each year. Or it’s the cookies that Grandma always made, still being made long after Grandma is gone. Or perhaps it’s Lasagne for Christmas dinner. But what if a Tradition doesn’t “fit” anymore? Becomes too expensive, too “big” or too difficult? Is it OK to change a tradition?

In my case, our tradition was Christmas Stockings. I was a single mother. I didn’t always have enough money to buy a tree. I sometimes put red ribbon bows and candy canes on a Ficus and called it “Our Charley Brown” tree.  But the one thing I had without fail was Christmas stockings. Mine rarely had anything in it. It was more for show. But I always made sure my son’s was stuffed with fun things. Matchbox cars when he was young. Bubbles. New crayons. And a new ornament. (which remains a tradition).  As I’m sure all kids do, he begged to open his gifts on Christmas Eve. He was filled with excitement, his eyes big at the sight of boxes wrapped and piled under the tree. He almost vibrated with excitement. I had a rule, no gift opening til Christmas morning. Despite the groans and moans and the, “Please, Mommie?” I stuck to that rule. Except. (You knew there was going to be an “except”, didn’t you??) OK, ONE gift on Christmas Eve and we’d get our Christmas stockings to see what was in them. He was well past the age of believing in Santa so there was no fake story about the fat one coming early. Those stockings became our “thing.” I put a lot of time and energy and money in being creative as he got older. The gifts became more elaborate and more expensive. Gift cards to favorite restaurants or to the zoo or some outing to do together. Always a new ornament. And then the teen years hit. So there was after shave and young man things. I think he loved opening the stocking more than anything else.

Enter a marriage and instant siblings. The stocking tradition continued well into adulthood. I was rapidly spending the bulk of our Christmas budget stuffing those stockings. So one year,  I decided to go another route. This was the year the whole family was going to be together. All the siblings. My husband was home (He frequently traveled on holidays), the Grandchildren were here. It was a perfect time to introduce a new tradition. I made gift bags. BAGS. I thought I was being clever. I could put larger gifts inside, the bags held more. Brilliant.  Not so fast, Christmas Mom.

My son walked into the family room and saw no stockings hung by the chimney with care. In fact there were no stockings to be seen! He promptly grabbed my attention by quietly bellowing, “WHERE ARE THE STOCKINGS????” “WE DON’T HAVE STOCKINGS??” I saw him looking frantically around the room, searching for his stocking. By this time, the rest of the group became restless and I could hear murmurings……“Did Mom forget the stockings?” “Is Mom OK?” “What’s going on?” You know, concerned that I’d had some sort of mental lapse. Which, as it turns out I did. What was I thinking?  I explained that this year I didn’t do stockings, I did gift bags!!! Woot!  There were no return Woots. My son, drew himself up to his full height, and announced to no one in particular, “This is unacceptable. UNACCEPTABLE”. (In case I didn’t hear him the first time.)  “What do you mean, gift bags?? GIFT BAGS?? And he stomped off. OK, maybe not stomped exactly. But very firmly put one foot in front of the other and left the room. Dead silence. I stood for a few seconds, in a mental hamster-on-a-wheel moment, searching my brain for a solution to this calamity. Did I have time to get the stockings from the attic, stuff them, bring them out later, and yell, “SURPRISE! ONLY KIDDING, HERE ARE YOUR STUPID STOCKINGS!” Nope, not happening.

I honestly didn’t consider his reaction. I should have known. We’d moved around quite a bit when he was young and he hung on to things that were familiar. I suddenly realized the stocking meant more than just stuff for fun, it was one of his few remaining touchstones, a symbol that while everything else in his life had changed, this one thing, his Christmas stocking remained. We went on with Christmas that day, it was filled with fun and great food, music, the kids tussling, me yelling, “Take it outside!” and “Don’t slam the door!”  The Grandkids overwhelmed with gifts and too many cookies, protesting the taking of pictures, hanging out with their beloved Aunts and Uncles and the rest of us.

It was a great, big, typical, noisy, messy holiday. And I loved it. I was the subject of affectionate scorn from every.single.member.of.my.family. In good fun, and it would become another family joke, told the next year and the year after that. My son, that sweet, goofy, big hearted prankster, never let me forget. He continued to shoot me the stink eye all day, (lovingly, accompanied by his grin, but the stink eye nonetheless), and I could hear him muttering in my direction all weekend long. I couldn’t hear all of it, but I caught enough of, “Unacceptable, and “For petes sake” and there was the odd eye roll. Whatever. I got it. I got it already! Stockings were hung by the chimney with care every year after that. Stuffed to the tops, overflowing. Bonus. There were also gift bags for the things that were too large for the stockings.

My son was killed in an accident three years after that Christmas. I don’t do stockings anymore. Except his. His is hung every year. His last, and favorite Hallmark ornament, a Mustang, hangs from it. A little stuffed reindeer we got from McDonalds during his teen years is in it. This year it hangs from the door to the room he stayed in whenever he came home. That stocking means more now than ever. It doesn’t hold gifts anymore, it holds memories. Years of memories. It is overflowing.

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MERGING MY TWO CHRISTMAS STYLES, OR MY MERCURY GLASS ADDICTION

MERGING MY TWO CHRISTMAS STYLES, OR MY MERCURY GLASS ADDICTION

I suffer from horrible MCPD, and each year it’s gotten a bit worse.  I fear it will become a permanent condition. You see, I have Multiple Personality Christmas Disorder. It’s real! and the struggle is on-going people!  I try every holiday season to give my home a cohesive look. I’ve  managed to do that over the years by repeating the same decor items in different amounts throughout my home. Pine cones, candy canes, stars and snowflakes. If it sounds like it was a bit chaotic, it really wasn’t. OK, do NOT ask Mr B for his opinion. Mine is the only one that counts anyway, so let’s just let him sit and watch golf in peace, Kay?

Using those few elements throughout the house helped join disparate ornaments, Santas of all kinds and all manner of Christmas. BUT, and this is where the problem lies…..I want to go simple and a bit rustic. I need to simplify. I crave Christmas simplicity. Except…… I also LOOOVE faux Mercury glass. I adore it the way some little girls adore pink.

I must have.it.everywhere. So there goes simple and natural. Nowhere in nature does mercury glass grow.

I’m fond of saying that Christmas style should be whatever strikes your fancy, there really isn’t a right or a wrong way to do Christmas. I truly believe that. But I also want a cohesive look to my home. How am I going to merge these two opposite styles?  I want my home to feel cozy and warm and smell delightful. Should be simple, right? But it’s a struggle to find the balance between simple and bling. I’m all about that mercury glass bling at the moment.

The dining room table is off to a good start, the rustic wood piece makes a good base

It started with the purchase of two small battery operated glass trees several years ago. When I went full on neutral I wanted neutral Christmas as well, so I retired all the red, green and blue ornies, gave away lots more when I downsized the tree and started buying silver and gold ornies. (ornaments for those who hate slang). I even made my own faux vintage silver ornaments by removing the scratched finishes. Read about that here.

The little trees that started it all. I bought two at a CVS drugstore for pennies.

I became addicted to the faux mercury baubles showing up at Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware and I stalked the aisle of my local Home Goods and Marshalls and snapped up the shiny orbs after Christmas…before mercury glass ornaments became a big thing. Fast forward to 2017. Otherwise known as the The year of the shiny little tree. Those  faux mercury glass trees started exploding on Instagram and I decided I wanted HAD.TO.HAVE.MORE. So I bought 6 more. Plus a big shiny orb that lights up.  WHYYYYYY??? What is wrong with me??

Bought two of these hurricanes years ago, Hmmm, a hint of what was to come??

I want rustic, natural and simple. I want to sprinkle my heartfelt displays throughout my home.  Why does this shiny stuff call to me? GAH!!!  There is nothing natural or rustic about glass trees with various silver linings. Nothing authentic either. How am I going to merge these two styles? I like putting things with totally different finishes in a room. It gives texture and movement and each piece stands out, yet plays nice with the other. The Beekman 1802 guys do this well. Opposites attract and all that. It’s one of the principles of good design. So adding a little mercury glass bling to a rustic centerpiece is good, but not when it just looks like a neurotic person designed it and the room can’t make up its mind what it wants to be when it grows up!

Love doing my windows each year, note the lucite ornies, there seems to be a trend and it ain’t rustic!

The dining room table is close to achieving the perfect marriage. I used my rustic piece of wood down the center as the base of my centerpiece again this year. Then I layered a cedar garland, my mercury glass hurricanes and the 2 original trees. A couple of pine cones and it’s looking good. But then…. I added two lucite reindeer, and some little ornaments. Um….getting a bit off track but the rustic wood and the cedar tie it together. And the window dressed in its annual garland and lucite snowflakes relate, so I’m good. Right? um, noooo. Because the rest of the room is pretty rustic. An old stained serving bowl with pine cones and silver leaf antlers. And then the woodland Santa on the sideboard. Now it looks like someone with MPCD came in and threw Christmas everywhere and  nothing matches!!! BECAUSE I DID….I’M THE ONE WITH MPCD!!!

The rustic Santa on the sideboard. I love him but feel he’s just not connecting to my bling

I need an intervention or a stylist. The world’s tiniest living room isn’t too bad. It has some of the glass trees and the little table top tree is groaning under the weight of 5,ooo faux mercury ornaments. (This may be a tiny exaggeration.) The entry portion of this space is more rustic but it doesn’t feel chaotic like the dining room.

 

On to the master bedroom where a few glass trees are grouped on the dresser along with some greenery and the a fore mentioned orb that lights up. Another glass tree and my Grandmother’s silver rimmed bowl full of special ornies on my nightstand complete the look. Not too bad, right? Except the feel of this room has recently made a return to a more rustic, country vibe and the glass trees look out of place. Or dooo they??? ugh. I’m all over the place.

Bling in the master. And yes I left the price tag on the big shiny orb thingy. Not sure I’ll keep it, need to hedge my bets

Maybe I’m making too much of this. I expect that over the next couple of years I’ll scale back on Christmas even more. I may forego a tree altogether. It’s in the back of my mind. If you read my Christmas Tree post, you’ll understand my angst. If you didn’t, you can read that post here.   I do know I’ll be doing something different with all those mercury glass ornaments.

I may even rearrange some things before Christmas. Since.I.can.never.leave.well.enough.alone. And apparently I’m bored since I just finished everything.

Siigggh. Is there a 12 step program for those of us with mercury glass addictions?? Or medication for MPCD to keep me from arranging, then rearranging every stinking room until it’s time to pack it up? Somebody help me.

UPDATE:

So, of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and to make this post  even longer, here’s what I did today. I removed one of the lucite deer from the dining table and added it to the coffee table arrangement. Lucite for the win!  I removed the brass deer from Santa’s side and put him on the grain box in the entry. OKAAAY. Then I added mercury glass to the Santa arrangement…….and still hate it. Oh noooo. Santa’s time on the sideboard may be coming to an end. But I’m tired. This MPCD is exhausting. Think I’ll take a long winter’s nap. Wake me when Christmas is over.

 

Added the lucite deer. It’s a win.
Added some bling to Santa. arrgh. Still not a winner

While I nap, go ahead and create your Christmas sanctuary. Get as crazy as you like. You’ll be in good company.

 

HEARTFELT DISPLAYS

HEARTFELT DISPLAYS

I like using things that have meaning to me in my holiday displays. A heartfelt display can be anything that speaks to your heart. It doesn’t have to be valuable in the monetary sense, but rather invaluable in the personal/emotional sense. Things passed down over the years from family, a gift from someone special, even photographs. Anything that evokes emotion in you. Anything that can hold greenery or ornaments can be used as part of your Christmas decor.

I don’t like hitting Big Box stores to shop for Christmas as much anymore. Since I  made the move to simplify my Christmas, I like shopping my house to see what I can incorporate into my holiday decor. I do enjoy going to friends’ homes to see what personal things they use. I won’t lie…. I LOVE Christmas, even the over the top “Big Box” bought extravaganzas. So whatever your holiday style, rock it like a Boss. But add some personal too, tell your history through heartfelt displays and vignettes.

A photo of my son with Santa, a card he “sent” his grandparents combine to make a sweet sentimental display on my vintage toy box that my son also used when he was a boy.

Some of my things are on display all year, others, like my Mom’s Christmas bell, is only out for Christmas, and my Grandmother’s Christmas cross stitched hand towel.

My Grams’ Santa Elves that now hold Mr B’s special golf balls, I used to change out all the towels for Christmas themed ones, but honestly, why bother? Aren’t the elves enough?? OK, maybe the all green holiday towels do look better, note to self, keep the green towels for next year.

 

 

My Grandmother made this little tea towel and it’s now one of my treasures

 

Mr B’s baby shoes get greenery and candy canes at Christmas, (is there anything that doesn’t look like Christmas with candy canes??) while my Grandmother’s Santa Elves hold some of Mr B’s golf balls from special courses he’s played. Those Elves look like they were made to hold those. Right?

 

Mr B’s baby shoes get all dressed up for the holidays

My Mother collected bells of every description. She picked this one out for me and I use it at Christmas

The snowman from my childhood days adorns the kitchen counter now. And my Grams’ little “elf on a pillow” and a box of  ornament hooks I found in her cedar chest many years after she passed away. These are the Christmas things that are most precious to me. The things that have memories attached.

I found the Elf and the box of ornament hooks in my grandmother’s cedar chest years after she died. Now they are a special part of my Christmas displays.

 

My Grams’ plastic snowman, complete with a new cord and bulb, now graces my kitchen counter. He brings back so many memories of my childhood

Many of the things I hold dear are my Grandmother’s. I miss her every day but most of all at Christmas. I use her dish with the sterling silver rim to hold ornaments, one of them being my son’s memorial ornament honoring his big heart. It’s precious to me and so is that bowl. That old bowl held everything from “Three Bean Salad” or potato salad in summer to mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner, and I remember it well. She always served whatever dish she’d labored over with a big sterling silver spoon. I don’t remember where she got it, but I can’t remember a holiday without it. It will probably never hold Three Bean Salad again, (and trust me, this is a good thing), but it does hold memories now as well as the seasonal decor I use. A bird’s nest and faux eggs for spring, shells in summer, pine cones in the fall and winter and of course, ornies at Christmas. You don’t have to use something “that’s just Christmas” to get the look and feel Of Christmas. So drag out those old bowls, the shoes and boots, family photos from holidays long ago, old Christmas post cards or greeting cards, or use last year’s. It doesn’t matter, just add heart to your Christmas and not so much “Big Box.”

My grandmother’s cut glass serving dish with the sterling rim is perfect for holding ornaments

In the kitchen is a vintage spoon holder that is now home to the teaspoons my sweet sister in law gifted to me. It gets treated to candy canes and greenery at Christmas. The vintage pretzel jar my son and I found while junking in Sisters, Oregon holds pine cones. I just noticed I forgot to remove the orphan ornament hooks before photographing. Ha, extra holiday cheer!

 

 

The teaspoons from my Sil are displayed with greenery at Christmas

Look around your home. Find those things that tell a story of you and your life. Add them to your Christmas displays.

There is nothing better than your heart at Christmas.

 

My son and I were out junking at a flea market in Sisters, Oregon when we spied this vintage pretzel jar. Of course it came home with me. It’s held everything BUT pretzels. Dog treats mostly. But this year, it got the seasonal treatment and this display will take me through til spring.

Create your sanctuary one display at a time. Create the home you see in your heart.

EASY PEASY SUGARED CRANBERRIES AND WONDER WOMAN

EASY PEASY SUGARED CRANBERRIES AND WONDER WOMAN

I’m SOOOO excited! Today’s post is about me in the kitchen! The KITCHEN y’all! And I made something, actually a couple of somethings and it all turned out so good I just had to share. Because this is the season of miracles after all, and me in the kitchen creating anything is a minor miracle.

Have you ever had sugared cranberries? Yes? Well, where have I been? I mean, I’ve seen pictures of them, all staged just so on scrumptious looking cakes or in pretty little goblets. But I always thought making them would require following a complicated recipe involving mystery ingredients and math. You know I don’t do math and I’m a total loss in the kitchen, all because I was born without the all important Betty Crocker gene. But even all us Betty Crockerless people can successfully make sugared cranberries. And do it like a boss!

My sad miniature single layer cake made from left over batter looks like a high end dessert just by adding magic sugared cranberries

So here’s the recipe and list of crap things you will need:

Cranberries obviously. You can buy fresh cranberries in a bag at the supermarket. Who knew? I used a 12 ounce bag.

Granulated sugar. You can use super fine sugar for a more sparkly, upscale look, but why? These babies look good with granulated and you probably have it on hand

Parchment paper or foil

2 Cookie sheets or other rimmed baking thingy. (See? I’m gettin the hang of the kitchen lingo.)

Colander for draining the cranberries

Covered container with lid (Tupperware or the like)

That’s it. Nothing fancy.

So here’s what to do with all that.

Rinse the cranberries and pick out the soft, cruddy ones. Let the berries drain in your colander in the sink while you are doing the next part.

Add equal parts sugar and water to a sauce pan. I used a cup of each.  Use more or less depending on the amount of cranberries you are using. Mine were in a 12 ounce bag. On medium heat, stir the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t let it boil. Heat until the sugar and water thicken a bit. Turn the heat off and add your cranberries. Stir to cover completely. I was told that if your sugar solution is too hot the cranberries may “pop.” But I let my simple syrup cool slightly and had no problem.

Pour the mixture in to a Tupperware container and seal with a lid. Put in refrigerator overnight. You don’t have to do this if you are in a hurry. But all the “expert” cranberry people say that it helps the cranberries absorb the sugar and increases their sweetness.

After soaking all night in the sugar syrup, drain the berries. You can see the sticky syrup has coated my berries well.

The next day (or after you’ve covered your berries in the sugar mixture and let soak for at least an hour), pour them in to your colander again and let them drain over the sink. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour a good amount of sugar on the sheet. I just eyeballed it and made a pile.  Using a slotted spoon add the cranberries to the sugar and roll them around,  use your hands or another spoon to make sure the cranberries are covered well with the sugar.

Place the sugar coated cranberries on another parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer, making sure the berries don’t touch. Allow them to dry. IF you can wait that long to eat them. About an hour is all it takes. Mr B began snacking on these almost as soon as they hit the cookie sheet.

lay the cranberries on a parchment lined rimmed cookie sheet, making sure the berries don’t touch

These are amazing little sweet tart treats. They make a beautiful garnish for cakes or brownies. Need a quick snack for guests? Or something that looks like you’re a kitchen wizard at the next potluck party? These babies will be your ticket. Fair warning, they are a bit addicting.

Don’t plan on storing them for long. They get soft after a couple of days or so. I read that placing them in a covered container over a layer of rice will help keep them crunchy. I’m trying that right now. The ones I stored without rice were soft after 3 days, but still edible and tasty.  Just know that these treats need to be eaten soon after making.

Not a problem, I can assure you.  I made these for our 22nd wedding anniversary as a culinary surprise for Mr B. I came off looking like…..

Kitchen Wonder Woman. Those tights tho. egad.

Holiday magic right there

I made chocolate cupcakes. From a mix. But I still had to read the ingredients and use the measuring cup to, well, measure. And they were edible! I didn’t burn them, or cause a kitchen fire, and for that I’m happy. I had a bit of batter left after filling the cupcake cups  and used that to make what looked like a giant thin brownie, or a thick spongey cookie, but was really a sad, thin one layer cake…..if you got down to eye level and squinted. But some powdered sugar and a couple of sugared cranberries later and I looked like a genius!!! Maybe I’ll start a bakery, move over Magnolia Cupcakes….I’m lookin at you Joanna Gaines! (It’s good to have goals).

Such a pretty dessert

Mr B had the cranberry garnished cupcake the next day and said they were still delicious. And he ate 3 pieces of the sad layer cake. So there you have it. Give these a try. And if you’ve known about these forever, don’t mock me. Be kind to those of us who are Betty Crockerless.

Create your sanctuary one room at a time. Even the kitchen. Kitchens need love too.

CAN I HAVE CHRISTMAS WITHOUT A TREE???

CAN I HAVE CHRISTMAS WITHOUT A TREE???

Well….of course I can. What a question. But it was an issue for me. Because my Christmases  have almost always been celebrated around a decorated “Christmas Tree.” There were those lean years as a single mom that meant spending money for a tree meant cutting back on presents, so trees were out. I wanted my son to enjoy Christmas abundance even if it meant no tree. We always had other decorations out, stockings, things inherited from my Grams, but a few years it was my Ficus tree decorated with tiny lights, ribbon bows and candy canes. Festive yes, but not exactly the Christmas vision in my head.

Looking back those Christmases were some of the best. We had a big, over the top dinner, presents picked out just for my son and homemade Christmas cards, cookies and candy for friends. There was an abundance of love. That was enough.

Trevor during the single years. Christmas was still a magical time. Look at that smile!

 

As my finances improved, so did our Christmas celebrations, there was money for a tree, perhaps just a small one, but a tree nonetheless. And always the stocking filled to the brim with all manner of goodies. There were Christmases filled with friends, music and laughter and those big dinners.

I don’t know when the tree became such a big deal to me. Decorating a tree was something I looked forward to, year after year. I loved the white lights, the old ornaments, the sparkle. Decorating a tree to me is an art form. Each branch must have multiple ornaments, beginning with larger ones at the trunk and ending with tiny decorations on the tips of the branches. I use dozens of decorations. Bins and boxes of ornaments were stored waiting for their holiday release. It could take anywhere from two days to five to get it just right.

 

When Mr B and I moved into this house with the high ceilings, we got a 10 foot tree.  Not a huge tree by today’s standards, but I was in Christmas Heaven!! It was time to buy even more ornaments. Insert smiley face and ignore Mr Grumpy Pants over in the corner. Each year I give a new ornament to every family member. I started this tradition when Trev was very young and now his old ornaments have been passed down to his children, the ones we can still find anyway, apparently he was denied the hoarding gene.  sigh.

I continued the tradition after marrying Mr B and with the addition of the Grands, I’m a happy ornament shopping Grams!  As the kids grow into adulthood and leave to begin lives of their own, they’ll have a box of Christmas memories to  enjoy and a head start on decorating their own trees. It’s a tradition that I still follow today, even thought the kids are grown, they still get a new Christmas ornie each year. It’s sweet to see the progression of ornaments, from Super Heroes and Princesses to more sophisticated choices, they’ve grown up and out grown the super heroes, although I still have princesses, I mean come on! Princesses born are Princesses forever.  Right??

Where was I? Oh, the year of the 10 footer. I was beyond excited! I got to shop for new ornaments for me! ME!!! Oh joy! (Still ignoring Mr Grumpy Pants.) Those days there was a tree in every room in the house, even the bathrooms. Furniture had to be moved to make room, regular decor needed to be packed away to make room for Christmas.  I was the Queen of  Christmas! In some rooms there were 2 trees, sometimes 3. These were mostly small but they were still trees, and each room had its own theme.

The dining room had a 7 foot tree and  was snowflakes and snow people. Mr B’s small tree was aviation inspired, a nod to his military service as an F16 pilot and then a commercial airline guy. His bathroom was all about golf, the guest bedroom was always festooned with girlie Christmas and the guest bath was my junker’s tree, decorated with escutcheons, door knobs and skeleton keys.  A woodland tree and Santa decorated the tiny living room and the kitchen tree was an ode to eating, adorned with cookie cutters, old spoons and tiny china cups and saucers. You get the idea. There were trees, lots and lots of trees. The first year we had the “big” tree I was embarrassed at how skimpy the decorations were. But no one else seemed to care in the free-for-all of opening gifts. I hit the after Christmas sales and loaded up, determined not to feel embarrassed again.

 

Mr B, putting the crowning touch to the main tree in 2002. Not enough ornies!!

As the kids got older so did I, and decorating that tree became a bit of an issue since I had to climb a ladder to decorate the top. I have major back issues and it became painful to “do’ the tree. Still I persisted. Mr B is not the Christmas King, he went along for the ride when the kids were young and even when the Grands were still living close by. But the tree was my domain and he was happy to let me have at it. He would put it up, and do the lights and hand the holiday baton to me. Then the miracle of pre-lit trees!!! He no longer had to fuss with, or fix those pesky light strings. He could put the tree sections together, place it where I wanted it, plug it in, then go enjoy a glass of beer while watching college football, or golf, or god forbid, tennis, while I fluffed, and cajoled the tree into shape and did my magic thing, turning faux into fabulous.

 

 

Gloria in all her glory
That’s a lot of ornaments!

I gave up our 10 footer several years ago, it was just too much. So we gave it to our neighbors and bought a smaller 7½ footer. It lasted a couple of years but succumbed to the heat in the attic and disintegrated. Enter “Gloria.” A flocked, glorious pre-lit beauty. I loved Gloria with a Christmas passion, I moved all the Hallmark and brightly colored ornaments to a small 4 foot tree in the family room. Nothing but silver and gold and copper for Gloria. Oh my, the days spent getting the ornaments just right. Again I was spending 2-3 days bending over, stooping, squatting and yes, standing on a little stool to place Grandma’s angel. My back couldn’t take it even though I had stopped with the whole ornies on every branch thing. Besides, Gloria had like 700 tips or something astronomical like that. Even I couldn’t justify purchasing 1,000 ornies.

No Hallmark here!

Plus there was Mr B who became a stranger, known only as Mr Grumpy Pants when it came time to move the bins, bags and boxes of “Christmas crap beauty,” down from the roof furnace, otherwise known as that “hotter than hell” attic crawl space. It took an afternoon, then I commandeered the ladder and headed to my closet’s top shelves to remove even more boxes of precious Christmas decor that couldn’t take the heat in hell. It was quite the production.

Last year I had to be honest and say it was too much. I cut back, I sent boxes of ornies to my Dil, I stopped with most of the trees, I had only 3 or 4 small ones plus Gloria. It required 3 trips to the chiropractor and a couple of days in bed, but I got the house decorated for our Christmas party and I was happy.

Putting it all away was a chore. I’m not one to keep Christmas up for long, by the time January 1 rolls around I’m craving simplicity. It takes longer to pack everything up because of course things have to be wrapped, placed in original boxes, etc etc. There are boxes stacked for days during the take down. And even I begin to wear Grumpy Pants, although mine are prettier than Mr B’s.  When it’s finally all put away, Mr B is  happy  not having to crawl into the hotter then hell attic for another year. He returns to his good-natured self the minute that attic door slams shut and he can say goodbye to Christmas and Mr Grumpy Pants. Me? I’m already making notes to myself for Christmas the next year. My Grumpy Pants are stored with the ghosts of Christmas Past.

Ugh. Putting it all away

This year, I actually dreaded getting the tree out. WHAT???? Was I ill? Did I suddenly catch a bad case of Grumpitis?? What the hell was wrong with me? I just wasn’t looking forward to all the pain and the issues that decorating Gloria would cause, what with the chiro visits and pain meds. So I made the decision to sell Gloria. Then I spent a couple of days whining and being the guest of honor at my very own pity party. How could I have Christmas? What would the house be without a treeee??? Oh whine, and then whine some more. I became ashamed of myself. Here I was, whining about not having a tree when so many have no homes, no money for gifts, and may not even know where they will be living January 1st. That put things in perspective.

So Gloria was sold to a nice family who promised to glorify her with lots of ornaments and sing carols around her. I brought out the little 4 foot tree and decorated him with lots and lots and LOTS of ornies.  I still had to bend and twist to do the little tree even though it was on a table, and I still had to see my chiro. Sooo, it’s a sure thing, I need to make even more changes.

 

The funny thing is, I’m OK with that. Not having a larger, main tree actually stirred my creative juices. I started donating boxes of ornies and greenery. I sold several more things. The more I sold and gave away the more excited I became. The years “Of Hallmark” didn’t make it down from the attic. I could have a simple farmhouse Christmas! Yes!!! If your idea of simple is greenery adorning every surface, and bowls  of ornaments and fairy lights, then Yes! It will be a simple Christmas.

The original Hallmark family room tree moved to the living room and the Hallmark ornies were retired. That little red Santa is mine from my childhood and will always be displayed, front and center.

Next year there may not be a tree at all and I’m OK with that. I already have ideas for using some of my more precious ornaments.  Or maybe I’ll have a pencil tree, pre-lit, unadorned except for the lights and the angel. Maybe not. Christmas isn’t about the tree. It’s about spending time with family, it’s about generosity and love. It’s about the birth of Christ. I’m definitely OK with that.

Create your Christmas sanctuary no matter where you live. Use a tree…..or not. Love the home you’re in.

QUICK AND EASY HOLIDAY PROJECT

QUICK AND EASY HOLIDAY PROJECT

I was thinking a couple of weeks ago. I mean, I think every day, all day and until the wee hours of the morning. But on this day I wandered aimlessly through the house, eyeballing rooms and looking for inspiration. What still needs to be done? What can I change? Am I happy with this vignette? Hmmm, my thoughts wandered to Christmas. I needed a quick and easy craft or project, and as I walked through that room that confounds me with all its gadgets and blinking lights, tools,  and timers, otherwise known as the kitchen, I suddenly remembered a recent Miss Mustard Seed post.  “Eureka!” I’d found my inspiration.

Remember making pomanders as a kid? I do. I made them almost every Christmas…..until I got to be a teenager and was just too cool to do elementary school crafts. My Grams would hang them in the closet where they would smell good for awhile and then just….smell. But she loved that I’d make them for her. So I thought if Miss Mustard Seed makes them, I could too. So I did. (Not that I can do everything Miss Mustard Seed does…. I mean come on, she’s Marian freaking Parsons.

I made these in time for Thanksgiving

Talk about easy. This is a great project for you to do with your kids. If you have any, if not, borrow your neighbors’, the moms will love you and the kids will have fun and go home with a present for said mom. Bonus!

The supply list is simple, you’ll need oranges, whole cloves and something sharp to make a pilot hole. I used a bamboo skewer but you could just as easily use a long nail. Just make sure whatever you use doesn’t make a hole larger than your clove stem. And supervise the kiddos so no one ends up with an eye poked out. Trips to the ER are sooo not fun. And will ruin your holiday mood. Plus there’s the whole “what-did-you-do-to-my-child thing if you borrowed a neighbor’s pride and joy.

This is so easy, I completed 3 while watching a Hallmark movie. During commercials. Took all of about 30 minutes. If you are artistic, you can make a pattern by using a sharpie and making small dots along your pattern line. You can use rubber bands to make sure you get your lines straight. Or you can use the eyeball it method. Guess which method I used?? If you guessed the completely helter skeleter eyeball it method, you know me pretty well!

Random patterns is how I roll, I see I left a little clove hanging out by its lonesome.

I pushed holes with the skewer approximately every ¼ inch. Randomly. Then just pushed my cloves into the holes. If one looked a bit lonely, I made another hole and gave it a brother…or sister clove. That’s it. Then I cleverly put a dot of hot glue on top and used a star anise to add some pizazz.

Tips: Cover your work space with something you don’t mind getting juicy. I used an old cookie sheet covered with foil.

Dump some cloves out next to your oranges, so you don’t have to pick them out one by one from the tiny little jars.

Star Anise can be purchased in small amounts in your grocer’s Hispanic or international food section.

Soak your oranges in a bleach water mix  for a few minutes (dilute your bleach with water, I did 3 parts water to one part bleach and then rinsed,   patted my oranges dry and left them for the afternoon to make sure they were totally dry). It’s said this helps them last longer. It kills any fungi lurking on the orange skin. This is also recommended for keeping pumpkins longer in your autumn arrangements. (a little tip for next fall.)

Use barely ripe oranges for the longest life. If you use really ripe ones and don’t use the bleach rinse your pomanders will likely begin rotting in a few days.

And here they are two weeks later, still going strong and dressed for Christmas

If you want to hang your pomander, add T pins and ribbon to your supply list. Cut a length of ribbon and fold it so that the 2 ends meet and push the pin through the ribbon ends and into the pomander. Wait 24 hours for the juice to stop dripping and hang in your closet, or entry or mud room. Anywhere you want a lovely scent to waft.

From Fall to Christmas just by adding a candy cane. Using the vintage colander adds farmhouse charm and allows for air circulation

The pomanders will last a couple of weeks. I made mine on the 11th of November and two are still going strong. I don’t think they’ll last much longer, they’re beginning to look a bit squishy and one has grown a lovely gray fuzzy sweater. And eeeuux, gross.

 

I seem to remember rolling them in some sort of powder when I was a kid. Orris Root maybe? Some fixative to help them last longer? For the life of me, I can’t recall what it was. If anyone knows, please email me.

These make a lovely hostess gift or something handcrafted for a special teacher. Or a gift you give to yourself.

Create a sanctuary no matter where you live. One room, one project at a time. Love the home you’re in.

MAKING NEW MEMORIES FROM OLD

MAKING NEW MEMORIES FROM OLD

I’m one of those people who fuss with tablescapes. I set something up that I think looks fine, even good and within 15 minutes I’m adding or removing things. Sometimes I even take everything off the table or the sideboard and start over. This autumn was no different. I started out with one look, couldn’t leave well enough alone, and through the weeks, I changed it up 3 or 4 times.

Imagine my surprise when, getting ready for Thanksgiving, I discovered something long overdue for the one-way trip to Goodwill. It isn’t as if I didn’t know it was in the Goodwill box, Hello! I put it there. But my mind sometimes conveniently forgets where I put things, and like a child I’m newly excited to re-discover something I’d forgotten about. This time it was the Thanksgiving platter I’ve had for years. It’s ugly. And scratched. Annnd made of Melamine. Oh yes, Melamine. That practical material manufactured in some mad scientist’s lab, something that was hailed as virtually unbreakable (that was big lie) easy to clean (lie again) and the answer to housewive’s prayers. (another whopper).

Here he is, gracing the sideboard. Art, yes?

Melamine…. what’s in that anyway? Some god awful cancer causing ingredient? I don’t know but it’s not in my kitchen anymore. I remember we had lots of it and my Great Aunts were the Melamine queens. They even had ashtrays made of it, which always sported dozens of burn marks from the not-quite-extinguished butts. ugh.

The origin of my platter is lost to my memory, I have a hazy recollection of purchasing it at some big box store, maybe in the 70’s,  but couldn’t say when or where. Except that it traveled with us wherever we moved, and ended up in Florida in the early 90’s. I remember when my son was just a youngster and still capable of being amazed by his mother, that platter was brought out at Thanksgiving. It held no turkey, instead it held two roasted cornish game hens with all the Thanksgiving fixings. Trev was so excited to have his very own “turkey,” albeit a baby one, but one that was all his. This little treat was our tradition until he got old enough to figure out Mom had pulled a fast one and what he was eating was not turkey, but rather some strange little bird that may have been chicken is disguise.

He started  asking for “real” turkey. It made me a bit sad to give up that silly little cornish hen tradition that we shared. But what are old traditions if they no longer serve us? So we had real turkey, but always presented on that tacky melamine platter. I don’t remember when it got relegated to the the back of the cabinet under the sink, but we discovered it when I was preparing to marry Mr B and merge households. It got packed up and I forgot about it. Trev never mentioned it and perhaps he had forgotten it too.

After he died, I removed his things from a storage room he kept. Where all  his important things lived while he moved around. I saved some things for me, the rest was divided between his two daughters and close friends. The platter was in a box marked “kitchen” in his handwriting. In that box I found not only the platter but some special edition Crayola canisters, some vintage cracker tins and a small Jim Beam box. All things I remembered from the past. And as it turned out, he hadn’t forgotten the platter after all.

I couldn’t part with the platter. It held the memories of those baby turkey days, years of real turkey dinners and the days spent together. This past summer I was sorting things again, doing one of my semi-regular purge sessions. (when you have as much crap as I do, those semi-regular purges are necessary to keep a clear walking path through the house. I drew a map for Mr B so he wouldn’t get lost on his way to the bathroom.) The platter was put in the Goodwill bin, awaiting its final resting place with another family. And then……

And then the other day when I was in the midst of simplifying the dining table decor, I crawled into the attic in search of a vase I put up there. I spied it peeking out of the box, patiently waiting. Tail feathers gave it away. Inspiration struck. I told Mr B, “that old thing would make a cute art piece for fall in someone’s home.” He raised his eyebrows and smirked. I read his mind. It read, “Who would ever consider that crappy thing art?” Um……me, I did!! And so my most favorite autumn decor became….you guessed it, that ugly, scratched, tacky turkey platter. Proof positive that art is truly in the eye of the beholder.

It’s found its purpose. It will forever serve as the centerpiece on my sideboard where it displays its faded colors with pride.

What do you have stashed away in your home? What’s in your Goodwill box? Your attic? The basement? Bring out your memories and glory in your history…..no matter how tacky  or scratched. My son kept that platter with things that were important to him. Maybe he remembered those cornish hen days after all. I’ll never know. But I cherish the memory of that little boy, face split by a huge smile as he dug into his very own turkey.

Create your sanctuary with your memories, find a way to include your memory makers. Art can be anything. It doesn’t have to match your decor. You don’t have to spend lots of money. Decorate with things that make you smile, that speak to your heart. Your home is your sanctuary. Fill it with YOU.

Crystal

Wife, Mother and Grandmother, lover of junking and vintage stuff, photography, music, books, and critters. I heart Hersheys, Barqs Rootbeer and Keds. Join me as I create my own suburban sanctuary and help you create one too.

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