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Update Your Old Ornaments

Update Your Old Ornaments

 

 

 

So sorry I’ve been MIA. Food poisoning. ’nuff said. But I’m back, so here’s the latest in the Christmas posts for this year. If you have ornies (that’s ornaments for the unenlightened) that have seen better days, here is an easy way to update them. This works on older glass (not plastic) ornaments, those made prior to 2005. (I just picked that date arbitrarily.) I’ll get to that point in a minute. But, yes, this is easy, peasy.  Remove the tops and wash them with hot soapy water! Who knew?? Well, now YOU do. Hold your ornies by the stem UPSIDE DOWN under hottish water (as hot as you can stand). I usually squirt a bit of dishwashing soap on them (sometimes I don’t even do that). Rub gently and the old paint should slide right off. You may have to use your thumb nail on stubborn spots but really it’s that simple. If you find that the ornies are slipping from your fingers and smashing to smithereens in the sink, try wearing latex gloves.  WARNING: Do not get water inside the ornament. It will remove the “silvering” from the inside and you’ll be left with dingy clear ornies, not exactly the “updated” look you’ll love. After washing just dry with a soft cloth and put the top back on. You’ll be left with silver ornies that have little speckles of the old paint or even better, with some areas of discoloration that lend that old mercury glass look. Of course the ones pictured here in the “after” shot don’t have those discolorations. sigh. But the next batch probably will. After this post is published.

 

ornies-2

 

If you don’t like the look of the  hanger top, you can paint it by dabbing gray or brown craft paint on it to age it. I usually don’t bother with it, but some may find it more appealing to age the top as well. That’s it. Now back to that arbitrary date. I’ve found that ornaments made within the last 5 or 6 years may scratch a bit but the finish will.not.wash.off. For those, back when I needed silver ornaments and was really determined, I used acetone or once  even paint stripper. But those products are stinky and the process is messy. So I don’t. Because really, I’m lazy and I don’t like stinky. Plus I don’t want to wear a mask and rubber gloves just to update an ornament. I send those to Goodwill cause you know, they don’t fit my “look” anymore and there are lots of people who don’t care about a few scratches. They use them in other ways, like those wreaths with a bazillian old ornies glued on. Just turn the scratchy part to the back.  I now own boxes of updated “old” silver ornaments. I may never have to buy new ones again.

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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.

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.

THE FARMHOUSE CHRISTMAS THAT WASN’T

THE FARMHOUSE CHRISTMAS THAT WASN’T

Oh my goodness. Time flies. I already packed up Christmas. My house looks naked. I always hate to begin to pack everything up, mostly because I have way too much holiday crap treasures. I purged last year and pared down in anticipation of a scaled back farmhouse Christmas. Didn’t happen. I started out fine, my mantel was simple. I didn’t even remove anything to add Christmas. Just some greens, a few pine cones, a couple of ornies and I was good to go. Then I added fairy lights. OK, still simple. I added 3 little naked pines to the top of the entertainment center. Yay! Simple Farmhouse Christmas. Oh yes, simple.  We Mr B brought down the boxes from the attic with the plan to use just a few things.  I opened my first box. Big mistake. I went from simple to “OH, LOOOK, ORNIES!!” in the blink of an eye. Within an hour 3 trees were up and 10 or 12 boxes were in the tiny living room, waiting to be opened and the adorning of the main tree to begin. My plan was thwarted by boxes. Boxes of years of ornament collecting. And my inability to look away from those wondrous shiny orbs.   My simple farmhouse Christmas goose was cooked. It was an explosion of holiday at my house.

Within a week every room in the house had its share of Christmas joy. I love it. I love Christmas decorations and lights. Yes, I go overboard. But if you can’t go overboard at Christmas when can you?? I basked in the glow of lights every night. I adored each twinkle. I savored the oohs and ahhs of our guests. It was magical. Until it wasn’t. Which was two days ago when I decided Christmas had.to.go. This was the week I’d planned to relax and enjoy some down time by the glow of the Christmas lights. That week between Christmas and New Years when I usually curl up with a good book, listen to music and just chill. These plans went the same way my simple farmhouse plan went. Buh bye. I woke up and said, “I’m done with Christmas.” So the boxes came in the house and I began putting things away. Let me just say, putting Christmas up is a lot more fun than taking it down. A LOT more fun.

 

Besides trying to remember which mercury glass ornament went into what box, I wrapped each individual ornie in tissue. Every stinkin one that didn’t have the original box. Annd there were dozens, maybe hundreds. I may have more ornaments than I need.

So after purging 4 more boxes of crapola goodies to gift to a friend, I still ended up with 22 boxes of Christmas. TWENTY TWO. (This may have something to do with Mr B’s crankiness each year he heads into the attic.) Did I say I may have more ornaments than I need??? To be fair, some of the boxes contain nothing but greenery, which.I.must.have.  I can’t have Christmas without sticking greens in every conceivable place. It’s not normal, I know. But I do it. And I do it with a great amount of joy. And that’s the key. It brings me joy. So I’ll make plans to cut back again next year. Maybe I’ll pull it off. There are Christmas miracles, right?

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STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT…….FIRST STAR

STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT…….FIRST STAR

 

 

 

I’m a big fan of using what I have, don’t get me wrong, I’ll buy if I really want something, but Christmas is a wonderful time to incorporate old things, things that may not exactly “go” with my current style, or things that in another life were garish (and probably still are), but who really cares?? It’s Christmas! And so it is with Mr B’s star tree topper. It cost a whopping 53¢ in its day, in the 1970’s. He remembers it as being the first ornament he picked out and purchased. That first year of dating bliss, our first Christmas was spent visiting one another’s homes and honestly the only stars I saw that first year were the ones he put in my eyes. I never noticed the 53¢ tree topper.

 

I DID notice it the second Christmas, the year we moved in together and began blending our things (read, I packed up most of his hideous decor as soon as my boxes were unpacked. (I had empty boxes…..I mean, come on…..couldn’t waste those, right???)  I set about the task of making his home, our home. Christmas came and we began decorating the house. Out came our boxes of Christmas ornaments. The lights were on the tree and we had fun hanging all our different ornies, laughing at some of our crazy old ones. And then it was time for the topper and he pulled that star out of its shabby package, the original package I might add, with the price clearly marked.  My beloved Christmas angel, the one that belonged to my Grams and featured in a  previous post, was in danger once again of being replaced by something modern.  CHEEZITS! No way. Nu uh, not ever again. So we compromised. He still had children who lived with him ( and eventually became mine as well) and it was important to continue their traditions in a time of change. So I put my angel on a small tree decorated with my family memories and we proudly installed Mr B’s star (OK, one of us was proud, the other not so much, I’ll leave it up to you to decide who was, and who wasn’t in the proud corner).  I disliked that star immensely. I decided immediately it was tacky. But I was in a new relationship and had already packed up lots of his things so I didn’t rock the Christmas boat. But I swore an oath that the next Christmas my angel was goin up on the big tree. Yep. No doubt.

Mr B and the star tree topper, circa 2010

 

Well, the next year and the year after that and maybe even the following year that stupid star graced the top of our main tree. Along with colored lights. Because our daughter (yes, she officially became my daughter after a holiday wedding, and I also gained a second son. WOOT),  loved colored lights while I adored white lights. So we compromised again. And went with colored lights. (Clearly I hadn’t mastered the art of the compromise thing yet.) It was OK though. More than OK, we were a family. It was Christmas. The tree looked beautiful, albeit with colored lights and that 53¢ star. We kept the colored lights until the daughter graduated high school and went off to college. Numbers 1 and 2 sons were out on their own. I finally got my tree with white lights and when it came time to put the topper on the first year as empty nesters, Mr B stood quietly beside our glorious tree with the star in his hand. And something happened. I suddenly didn’t hate that star. I actually liked it….. in all its tacky glory. So up on the top it went. And that star remained as the topper for all the years our “big” tree stood in the family room. My angel? She adorned a smaller tree in the living room, the first room you see when you enter our home. All  was well in the Brown home. Harmony and Peace.

Harmony and Peace still reign in our home. The angel tops the main tree in our tiny living room. The family room is now home to a small tree, purchased to showcase the Hallmark ornaments I’ve collected for years. There are none on the tree. Because, well……that’s a story for another time. But the 53¢ star? It’s on that little tree, loud and proud. It doesn’t really fit. It sits way up on top and that tip is too thick to cut. So just under it is the ribbon from my wedding bouquet to hide the bare spot. I love that star. It isn’t Christmas without it. It’s a glorious star. 53¢ well spent if you ask me. I’m firmly in the proud corner with Mr B.

The glorious 53 cent star adorning the family room tree

 

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Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories

My memories of Christmas span about 6 decades. Getting close to 7! whew! That’s a long time. I remember holidays when both my Grandparents were still alive. Halloween meant homemade  popcorn balls, and I can still remember the smell of scorching sugar if one or the other forgot to man the stove. There was a lot of love in the house, the two of them dancing around the kitchen or my Grandmother bent double with laughter at something my Gramps said or did. Caramel apples were a special treat and watching my Grams at the stove, wearing one of her numerous aprons, stirring the caramel, laughing at something my Gramps said, still lingers today, many years after they passed. Thanksgiving and Christmas always came with my Grams bent over, pulling the pan  that held the turkey out of the oven, steam rising like a cloud all around her head, the kitchen passing for a native american sweat lodge.

Christmas meant no school or homework, sledding, and snow forts (and the required snowball battles to protect our forts),  singing and dancing, family dinners and gaily wrapped presents under a huge tree.  It was cold snowy mornings with big breakfasts, it was homemade pies and brownies, hot chocolate and late night movies. There were trips to Ebys Pines where we all trooped to pick out just the right tree. My Grams like the shorter fat ones so there would be plenty of space for her ornaments. I remember paper chains, popcorn garland and homemade cookies, my Grandfather practically passing out from the effort to blow up the huge snowman to adorn the front yard, and all of us kids laughing at the faces he made.

I was just about 13 when my Grandfather died unexpectedly. It changed our lives as most deaths in a family do. Traditions fell by the wayside, too painful to continue and new ones slowly took their place.  By that time, my Mom and Stepdad and my siblings were living “in town.”  I stayed with my Grams and she and I continued to decorate every year. There were still family dinners with all the Aunts, Uncles and siblings and over time those new traditions became the norm. As the years went by, I married, had a son, divorced, and after her death, I continued the traditions my Grams and I had carved out over the years. Traditions and memories for my son to enjoy and pass on to his children.

 

My favorite Christmas ornie, that little plastic santa, takes center stage on this year’s Starry Night tree.

 

I can’t remember a Christmas without a little plastic Santa, he was my favorite ornament as a girl and he is one of my favorites now. He’s hung on every tree, even on my ficus trees during the lean years. My Grandmother’s angel still adorns the top of my tree, just as it did hers. Or it did until I convinced her to get a new tree topper, a hideous plastic minaret that was filled in the middle with angel hair. Did I mention it was hideous? Sigh. As a teenager I thought it was beautiful. But what did I know? I’m the girl who talked my Grams into getting rid of her beautiful antiques so that we could go modern, as in Danish Modern. Oh, the heartburn I suffer over that! I clearly had no clue back then. My lack of family heirlooms is because of me. ME! arrgh. The pain.

 

The plastic snowman

 

 

The little elf sitting on the pillow came a long time before “the elf on the shelf” and the box of ornament hooks I now use as an ornament are surrounded by bottle brush trees on my childhood toy box in my office.

My Grandmother, a wise woman, put some things away in her cedar chest for safekeeping from my modern loving eyeballs. I’m ever grateful to her. Because of her foresight I still have not only her angel, but also her little plastic snowman that still lights up, her bird ornaments and two angel ornaments I updated with new paint. If she could only know how much I treasure those timeworn pieces now…….and that I am the “Memory Keeper” in the family. I wear that title proudly. I guard those few things I have ferociously and will pass on my title to one of my grandchildren when the time comes.

One of the now shabby birds and an angel head still grace my tree each year as they did while I was growing up.

No Christmas is complete without those ornaments and the few vintage holiday things I still have. The snowman, the angels, the little plastic santa. The trio of santa elves who now grace Mr B’s bathroom, where they hold special golf balls instead of  christmas ornaments. The little elf who sits on a pillow, even the unopened package of ornament hooks, still wearing the 2/25¢ price, the box now an ornament in its own right. These things keep the memories of my parents and grandparents alive. The memory of my son is still fresh with special ornaments that he loved. No matter what style my home is, whether it’s “Modern Farmhouse” or “Danish Modern” those memories will always be front and center.  Old things and old memories never go out of style. 

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How To Decorate Your Christmas Tree

How To Decorate Your Christmas Tree

Why do you need a lesson in decorating your tree? You’ve been doing it for years, right?  Just put it in the stand, wrap some lights around it and hang some ornies. And Bingo! Done. Not so fast my little helper elves. There are a few things to consider. For the sake of this post I’m dealing only with the faux tree, there are other considerations for live ones but I’ll save that post for another time.  If you’ve already done your tree like the majority of can’t-wait-to-put-up-my-tree people,  then just file this away for next year.

When you take your tree out of the box, it’s smushed (technical term) to fit. Take it out and put the bottom section in the base and secure it, if it’s a pre-lit tree, check the lights on this section before proceeding. You don’t want to get your tree all together and find that one section of lights doesn’t work. It’s aggravating. Trust me on this. FLUFF this section (another technical term) and insert the next section(s) in the same manner, checking each section of lights and fluffing a bit as you go. The fluffing step is the most important! (After lights, lights are really the most important, but fluffing is second on the important list.)  You want a full looking tree, not one that looks like it survived a tornado. You’ll need to give your final fluff after you’ve put your tree together and checked all the lights. Tree branches are forgiving so bend them and manipulate until your tree looks like it’s all one glorious full product of nature.

If your tree isn’t pre-lit, add your lights. There are many methods of “doing lights”. None are wrong, whatever works. But I’ve found that starting at the bottom of the tree and working up is the easiest for me. Count on using a minimum of 100 lights per linear foot of tree. (Example: a 7 foot tree would require a minimum of 700 lights.) I like to use more because….well, I love lights. If your lights are worn out with lots of burned out bulbs this may be the time to upgrade to LEDs.  Just as bright but don’t use as much energy and don’t get hot. Don’t throw your old lights away. There are a number of recycling options. Google “Recycling old Christmas lights” for sites and shipping instructions. If your tree comes in sections, it may be easier to do your lights a section at a time, right after the fluffing. String your lights by wrapping each branch and tucking your lights into the greenery before moving on to the next branch. The object is to hide the wires so that your tree looks like it was born with lights. You know, “natural.” Place lights the length of the branch all the way to the trunk so that you give the appearance of lights coming from within the branches. Do a final light check and fluff. This is the most tedious part for me.  I want to get on with the decorations! But nothing destroys the look of a  beautifully decorated tree quicker than visible, dangling wires. So take your time and get it right.

Once your lights are on, add your topper. What? Isn’t the topper supposed to be done last? Perhaps by raising your little darling up high enough to adorn your creation with the crowning glory? I’ve had the pleasure of watching a 10 foot tree laden with ornaments fall over by leaving the topper until last. Lesson learned. Add any smaller ornaments to this area now as well. You can thank me later. Taller trees, especially slim ones can be a bit prone to wobbling, particularly if the “front” of the tree is laden with ornaments and the side that’s in the corner has none (why waste the beauty of ornaments hanging them on a section that’s never seen?) My tree sits in front of a sliding glass door so I have to put ornaments on so that it’s purdy from the “back side” too.  It still wobbles and I find I hold my breath when people come to admire it and want to touch it.  My Christmas nightmare isn’t of Christmas past. Nope. It’s of that tree falling over and crashing on top of a dear friend. Who will be picking mercury glass out of her hair for years.

Place your largest heavy ornaments at the bottom, towards the trunk where the branches are sturdier. Reach into the middle of the tree and hang ornaments close to the trunk the entire height of the tree. This will also help with giving the tree a full look and help disguise the inevitable spaces in the interior. No matter how good you are at fluffing, you’ll end up with empty spaces. Large ornaments make these look like part of your design. Clever, no? Work your way out on each branch, adding ornaments as you go, ending with the smallest lightest ornaments at the tips. I like putting more than one ornie on each branch.  EACH branch. It gives dimension to the tree. Don’t be one of those people who throw a dozen ornaments on and call it a day. Those people have no respect for the beauty that is a Christmas tree. I pity those people. Don’t be one of those people. Buy more ornaments.

If you have a set of ornaments with only three or four to the set, place these in a triangle so that it appears you have more than just three. Two lower, spaced apart, one higher and in the “middle.” This tricks the eye in to believing there are more ornies. Do this with every small set of ornaments you have. Don’t be afraid to overlap ornaments. Hang smaller ornaments on the same branch in front of a larger one.

 

 

Step back frequently during this phase so that you distribute your ornaments equally. Add any florals at this point, or feathers. These can be tucked in and help disguise the fact that there aren’t a lot of ornaments on a tree. It’s a good trick to use if you like to change the color of your ornies every year and don’t have many, or if you are just starting out. (And an old window designer trick of the trade.) I’m a garland  goes on last woman, so after you’ve placed your ornaments add your garland. If you’re into ribbon, there are two schools of thought. One is to add the ribbon after the lights. The current ribbon craze is to go vertically with ribbon, starting at the crown of the tree, tucking it into branches as you make your way to the bottom. Then add ornies and floral picks, feathers, etc whatever you’re using to adorn your tree. The second method is to put your ribbon on after the ornaments. You can also add your ribbon the garland way, just wrapping it around the tree. If going vertical, plan on purchasing about triple the amount of ribbon you think you’ll need, each length of ribbon should extend from the top to the bottom of the tree. That’s it, you’re done. And look at your wonderous, glorious tree. There is no prettier tree in all the land. Except mine. Mine is the prettiest.

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The Best Ornament Hooks

The Best Ornament Hooks

If you are like me you hate the flimsy ornament hooks we’ve all used for years. I’ve collected ornaments for many years and I almost cry when one falls to the floor and shatters in a million pieces when the hook fails. Plus I’m not a big fan of sweeping up tiny shards of glass. I’m always afraid I’ll miss some and one of the dogs will end up with cut tootsies. So I was filled with joy (yes, I’m easily wowed) when I found a new style hook a couple years ago. They’re decorative and sturdy and hold ornaments securely. Bonus….They hold heavier ornaments without a problem. I like that they add some detail to the tree. They are longer than regular hooks however, so bear that in mind when placing ornies on your tree. Plan to go up one branch so the ornament actually ends up where you want it.

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The new design is not only decorative, it’s secure as well

I also use twine to tie any especially fragile or vintage heirlooms on the tree. Green twine for natural trees and either silver or white twist ties or sheer white ribbon for flocked trees. Hide the ends within the tree’s branches. The new hooks have a spiral end, and once on the ornies won’t come off the hook, just make sure the hook end is securely on your branch. I found a different design last year and like these as well, especially for heavier ornaments. These are also longer, and have bulbous ends so that ornies won’t slip off. I found both brass and silver at Target. Both hook designs are also available on Amazon. (What isn’t available on Amazon?) So get the new hooks and feel secure in the knowledge your ornies are safe and your tree has some hook pizazz. And who doesn’t love pizazz?

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Bulbous ends mean ornaments won’t fall off

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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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