Christmas Decor: Using Ornaments

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whenever this time of year comes a callin' I begin to get excited. I bust out my boxes of decorations, lights and garland. This year I began sifting through what I've truly been using and what it just simply clutter. Once I organized it all, I made a box for the Goodwill and then looked at what was left over for my home. It wasn't much. I've realized that though I have 3 strings of garland, tree ornaments, a nativity scene, decorative candles, wreaths and lights galore I didn't really have any semblance of order or style to my adornment. So, I went to a few stores searching for any kind of idea. And then it hit me: use ornaments all over to tie it all together! It was like that light bulb just went "ding!" inside my head. So, if you want to use this concept for your home christmas decorations, here are a few great ways to string your ornaments together.

  • Of course you'll use them on your tree, so if you're planning on doing an ornament theme all around the home make sure the round ornaments on the tree are in the same color scheme or design as the one's you will be using all over.
  • Create a beautiful centerpiece on a table - or anywhere really - with a few pillar candles gathered together on a plate while round varied ornaments, jewelry, and frosty snow surround them.
  • I have a tall, thin vase and love to fill it with items for every season. In the the fall or winter I usually place discarded christmas tree branches, fall leaves and pine cones inside. But this year I've decided to use ornaments too! You don't want this to come across too orderly so the it's best to use at least three items (branches, berries, roses etc.) and different sized ornaments to complete the ensemble.
  • My parents have a grand staircase and my mother always wraps garland around the railing at Christmas time. The past few years she has hung gorgeous ornaments from the garland with pretty, soft ribbon in varied lengths for depth. She just tied the ribbon to the garland or rail, but you can also attach the ribbon to an ornament hook and hang the hook on the garland. It's always classically beautiful.
  • And don't forget about the bannister! This is the place where you want to start off your staircase decor with flair. If you hang a few large pine branches, hooked to the bannister in floral wire and gather several ornaments in varied sizes and colors in front that cascade down towards the floor, you will wow anyone who begins a journey up the fabulous staircase.
  • And speaking of ornaments attached to ribbon, there are many other options for this duo that you're home will just love! Just wrap an embellishing ribbon around hanging towels and tie a knot. Then attach an ornament with a piece of wire or ornament hook wrapped around the knot. This looks especially fantastic on the backs of dining room chairs! Better Homes and Gardens suggests draping a pretty towel, large napkin, lovely scarf or any other fabric over the chair and then proceed with the above instructions.
  • If you plan on using the dining room chair suggestion, top of the table look with ornament place cards and napkin rings. For the place cards, just adhere a small embellished piece of paper with your guests name on it to the ornament. For the napkin ring, attach an ornament or two to ribbon and tie it around a rolled up napkin.
  • Ornaments also look great atop candle sticks. They don't even have to be matching candle sticks as long as they have the same look and style. This idea works great with varied heights. Simply gorgeous!

Wedding Trends: Centerpieces

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Changing the pace again, I'll be talking about centerpieces. The traditional centerpiece is usually big flowers of one or two colors maybe with some baby's breath. This is obviously overdone by now, making people long for different flowers, flower lengths, colors or something completely different from flowers altogether. This is truly an area of originality for bride (and maybe the groom) to let their design skills shine. As with other aspects of the wedding, there is a return to old-fashioned beauty, intricate elegance and a down-to-earth feel.

Most centerpieces nowadays are not simply flowers. They usually incorporate one or several other elements, depending on the motif of the wedding. If it is an outside evening wedding, the centerpiece could involve a lantern for an old-fashioned yet elegant charm. With white roses, it could truly add sophistication to the wedding. If the wedding has a more natural ambiance, then maybe a bird's nest, bird's house, or branches tastefully laid out with wildflowers. For a whimsical approach, consider many other elements such as several colors of ribbon, and perhaps some candy with bright colorful arrangements. My favorite unique centerpiece was a group of tiny green roses (which I've never seen before) with four tall feathers encircling it. Now that took some creativity to come up with and even more to tie it into the wedding motif!

Some newer centerpiece designs don't involve flowers at all. Some give the illusion, which can be very original and fit the couples' personality. I've seen this usually done by using paper, yarn or feathers. Another major trend emerging is simply using fruit for the centerpiece, especially for summer weddings. The blending of yellow lemons and green limes works splendidly for warm summer affairs. It's an original and much cheaper option. For a more festive wedding, a beautiful idea is porcelain eggs of many bright varying colors a nest or straw box/container. The last huge centerpiece trend that you see at debatably most weddings now are small trees. They're especially prevalent when made of metal and painted white (white for weddings ;)). It's cute fad, but is becoming quickly overdone. I advise that it is better to avoid this for a more original idea.

No matter which centerpiece you choose, the size of it will almost certainly differ from the traditional size. Think about the old photographs of the table centerpieces from your parents' or grandparents' wedding. They were probably an array of several flowers or roses with baby's breath that were a good height in the usual vase. In the modern day, that customary set up is out the window. Yes, some over-the-top weddings opt for the massive almost-baby-tree size flower arrangement, but the trend presently is a more quaint display. Along with simple and unique features (yarn, ribbon, feathers, etc), and a sundry of unexpected flowers, the arrangement size has shrunk substantially. There is an abundance of charm in antique, simple flower arrangements.

Use this area of your wedding to let your personality and true design for your wedding shine :) It is one single thing that you can point at and say 'this is our wedding motif'. And just like every other element of your wedding, have fun with it!

A Poem For Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pretty flowers
Lovley linens
Precious china and silver
Candles are lit and all aglow
Smiling faces
Laughing voices
"So good to see you."
"I am glad you could come."
I am thankful for Mommy
I am thankful for Daddy
I am thankful for my husband, my children
I am thankful for my wife
I am thankful for God above, Who keeps us through life
The aroma of turkey is arresting
Bright colored cranberries are tart to eat
Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, savory stuffing
"Have some corn, my friend."
Now there is pie!
How much can one eat?
Table talk draws us closer
Some is serious
Some is hilarious
Some is reminiscent
All join and participate
What a wonderful gathering
Memories in the making
Remembering all those of the Past
Looking forward to those of the Future
Cultivating love that will last

Count Your Blessings

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Well it's Thanksgiving and though I didn't expect to be writing on a holiday, I feel it necessary to share. Planning this holiday with my family has been tough. I have a busy weekend away from my family coming up and so I can only visit my sister and brother who are in town until Sunday today, on Thanksgiving. Of course this upsets me because I only get to visit with them a few times a year and they are so dear to me. I also wanted to spend time with my grandmother who is sick as well as an aunt who has cancer, but they are not well enough to join in the Thanksgiving festivities. There are also many other things in my life that are not exactly going as well as I would like. In fact, my life as it currently stands feels miserable. So, when this holiday rolled around I felt depressed and sorrowful. I was not angry today but simply did not feel thankful or even upbeat.

After having a bit of a breakdown and remembering a film I happened to watch last night, I decided to take a helpful hint from Bing Crosby: 'count my blessings'. Regardless of what is going - or not going - on in my life I have so many things to be thankful for. I have a roof over my head when many do not, I have a few places I was invited to today when others may have nowhere to go and though my finances are a bit frightening right now, there have been times when I had 'none at all'. Sometimes life is pretty and sometimes it's not, but even in those ugly times there is still a blessing or two you can shine up and make pretty on Thanksgiving.

How to Be Thankful This Turkey Day

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's that special time of Thanksgiving once again. All around the country people are rushing home today to get to their family and away from the bustle. I love holidays and traditions. There's nothing like everyone in the entire country stepping away from the daily routine to come together with family, food, relaxation and time together. What makes it even greater is the fact that we're following the footsteps of those from nearly 400 years ago. When you realize the exceptional and earmarked this day is for it's heritage and it's purpose, you begin to become quite grateful. That's what Thanksgiving is all about, too. It's being honestly thankful in a heartfelt way for all that is real in life. It's for the things that got you through the year since the previous Thanksgiving. And when you truly think about it with a little bit of effort, those 'things' aren't things at all. They're the people that were there when push came to shove, whether you appreciated them (all year or at the moment) or not. They're the people you always went to for advice, or the ones you had to call when you were excited. And they're also those who come to you in this way, too :)
As you race home today, don't dwell on the hassle of traveling. Don't worry about the one or few people you don't want to be bothered with around the table tomorrow night. Instead, realize that you have food and at least (I guarantee) one smile that you're happy to see. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and coming together. Take a tip from our ancestors who created this tradition and come together with those around you, even if you have nothing in common (despite popular belief, the Pilgrims did not harm Native Americans. That came from other Europeans that followed). Be thankful that you weren't created to be alone, and that God gave you the people you are grateful for whether they're with you or far away. Remember to count your blessings, and say a fervent grace. After all, it only comes once a year :)

Hostess Gifts: Southern Hospitality

Monday, November 22, 2010

So here we are, getting ready to approach the hostess gift officially. I have decided to start this series in the south where I believe manners and traditions still run strong. Though I live in southern california, you may be surprised to know that I am not well versed in these southern traditions. Crazy, I know! But in all seriousness, the folks at Southern Living Magazine have compiled some fantastic gifts which will be perfect for this holiday season's many parties, gatherings and weekend visits. And all of these goodies are made with southern hands in the bible belt. Just remember that you are a guest and should desire to show your gratitude for the open home. Give them one of these and your hosts will surely be thanking you!

These Yellow Grit Sandies hail from the Town House restaurant in Chilhowie, Virginia where they hand make many cookies, crackers, honey, granola and maple syrup. These delicate cookies made with yellow corn grits from South Carolina and powdered dry corn kernels will entice even the pickiest of cookie eaters. And at $9 a bag you can surely keep them coming!

Beeswax Candles from Seda France are perfect for those of us who love the soft glow of candle light but have sensitive noses. I am one of those who can not handle the strong aroma that many of today's candles radiate. But with these rustic candles hand-poured in homey German glass jars, I would be more than pleased to strike a match.

A Guest Book is always an unexpected, yet entirely appropriate hostess gift. By giving your host or hostess a gorgeous leather keepsake guest book you will be helping them contain and cherish memories of friends and family visits for years and years to come. This is especially ideal for people who love to share their home with others by opening it up for weekend getaways and vacations. This San Antonio, Texas handcrafted book will be well worth the $82 at

Chicken Soup may not seem like a customary gift, but that may just be it's attractiveness. Obviously, you could make this on your own, but purchasing a yummy old-fashioned jar of Bradenton, Florida's Spoonful of Comfort will make things simpler on you and warm the heart and belly of that special host you love. Plus, this woman's story and mission is just amazing.

Don't forget the ever popular dessert. Sure you could bring a pound cake or box of chocolates, but if you were to bring an incredible Vanilla Crepe Cake from the Charleston Crepe Company, you may just end up the life of the party! Don't fret if you live in Seattle.... this signature vanilla crepe cake ships nationwide to serve all 12 people at your friends gathering.

Lastly, I love the idea of giving your host something for their home like these Vintage Hand Towels from Oklahoma or Monogramed Napkins from New Orleans. But I'm also mad about decorative Soaps which are not only pretty in the bathroom but will be nice for you when you visit!

Now that you have your gifting ideas, don't be afraid to share them with your hostess! She will after all be the recipient. Happy visiting!

Friday's Fab Etsy Finds: Knitted Accessories

Friday, November 19, 2010

Brrrrrr!  The cold weather is upon us and I don't know about you, but I need knitted accessories.  During this time of year I love to throw a scarf around my neck adding just a bit of flare.  Or a hat on my head to keep me warm and cozy.  Even a pretty knitted sweater will do, but I never thought of throwing something knitted around my coffee cup!  Heading to the ever fabulous Etsy, I discovered some knitted wonders that make want to jump in the snow just so I have a reason to shop.

I'll start with the knitted coffee cup sleeve I just mentioned.  When I saw this, I almost died!  I love coffee and now I can have warm - but not scorched - hands and be fashionable while holding it.  Just amazing.  And for only $12 this is the perfect Christmas gift or stocking stuffer.

Of course, I am a hat girl.  They just look good on me and so I'm always in search of new a classic trends.  When I discovered a knitted flapper hat I thought, "I can be warm and trendy?  Yay!"  Though this is a bit expensive for my taste at $38, I believe having a warm and pretty head is well worth it.

Didn't you know that knitted bracelets are all the rage this season?  Well they are.  And this particular company is having an amazing deal right now.  You get three of these little beauties for only $20.  I'm ready to be head to toe full of knit!

And speaking of toes, crochet slippers can seriously be yours if you know anything about knitting.  Spend just $5 and you can make slippers for yourself and everyone in your family!  I am crazy about this idea.

Pretty Thought of the Day

Cold. Rain. Cup of Coffee. Relaxing Movie. Perfect Day.

Pecan-Cranberry Pie: A Thanksgiving Specialty

Thursday, November 18, 2010

While rummaging through my Williams-Sonoma cookbooks last year looking for something yummy to bake for Thanksgiving, I turned a page and saw pecans and cranberries in one dish and thought, " wow! I've got to try this!" I made this pie and it turned the heads of everyone at my parents house, including my grandmother and aunt who do not like pecan pie. Even my other grandmother (who is getting to old to bake these days) loved this pie and she is known for good ol' southern pecan pies. Needless to say, this is a great recipe and will be one to pass down from generation to generation. The cranberries add tart and sweetness to an otherwise rich pecan pie. Give it a shot this holiday season.

Pecan-Cranberry Pie

What You'll Need for one 9-inch pie:
  • 1 pie crust
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tbsp. light molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
How to Make it:

  1. First, toast your pecans! Preheat the oven to 325. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until they are fragrant and just beginning to change color, 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer immediately to a plate and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Then position a rack on the lower third of your oven and turn the heat up to 400.
  3. In a large bowl, combine eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, molasses and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Stir in the pecans and cranberries.
  4. Pour pecan-cranberry filling into the pastry shell. Bake until center of the filling is set, about 45 minutes. Check periodically and cover the edges with aluminum foil if the crust browns too quickly.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.
If anyone tries this, please let us know how it goes!

Pretty Thought of the Day

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I want a yummy cupcake. Maybe from Sprinkles.....

Handmade Wednesdays: Thanksgiving Napkin Rings

Sorry for neglecting my Handmade Wednesday Crafts for the past couple of months. But they have now returned! While looking through my Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts for a project I could tackle this week, I stubbled upon these napkin rings which I knew would make any Thanksgiving table pretty next week. So, thank you Martha!

Acorn Napkin Ring

What You'll Need:
  • Oak leaves
  • Glycerin (available at drugstores)
  • Water
  • Rotary tool
  • 1/16 inch drill bit
  • 16 inch length of gauge wire
  • matching acorn nuts and caps
  • Wood glue
  • Brown floral tape
  • Brown seam binding
To preserve oak leaves, mix 1 part glycerin in 2 parts hot water, and let the leaves soak in the mixture for about 2 days. Then hang them to dry on a clothesline for around 5 days. To make the napkin rings, start by drilling two 1/16 inch holes through 2 acorn caps. Insert one end of a 16 inch length of a 22 gauge wire into each one; bend the wire and twist. Attach nuts to the caps with wood glue. Attach wire to the end of the leaves. Wrap wires with floral tape. Wrap leaf wire and 1 acorn wire together with brown floral tape, stretching the tape as you wrap it tightly. Repeat with the other acorn wire, facing in the opposite direction. Wrap wires with brown seam binding. Glue at each end. Bend into a ring and put napkin inside.

Wedding Trends: Ceremony Designs

Monday, November 15, 2010

Before I tire you out on the subject of wedding attire, let's move onto something different. The ceremony is truly what the wedding is all about. There's not much room to differ from the tradition in this part of the wedding, though. The only thing that really can be altered is the exchange of the vows. The set up of the ceremony though, can go any way you wish :) The main trends I have noticed are again a return to simplicity, elegance and the outdoors.

Most weddings are now occurring outdoors. It's as if people are rejecting expensive wedding halls for the raw and simply beauty of nature. I personally like this fad, especially weddings that take place far away from the city. These basic, rustic ceremonies seem to outshine those performed in expensive places, such as a country club or upscale hotel. Basically it sums up to: indoor is out and outdoor is in.
Like other details of the wedding, people are refraining from modern motifs and opting for more quaint, old-fashioned, intricate designs. For the ceremony, one defining detail of this is the aisle itself. What can be laid on the ground of the aisle in a wedding? That's kind of a difficult question to be answered for any outdoor wedding. Sometimes the grass needs to covered so heels don't puncture the ground. A classic and elegant solution (with many options) is to use rugs. You can truly make the style completely your own, giving off so much of your personality in the ceremony. If you want an aisle with only grass, add touches to it with flowers. This could mean sprinkling petal all over, creating a design with petals or lining the aisle with small bushes. Your theme will determine what the best option is.

The aisle is one of the two main portions of the ceremony design. The other is the altar. There is no true trend for this, because it changes with each individual couple. It also does greatly depend on your faith. Jewish altars will be quite different from a Catholic altar. Whatever you may choose, be sure to have it's colors and details match the aisle and other ceremony details.
Lastly, complimenting details around the ceremonial area are becoming quite important. This may be a flower on the back of the chair or ribbons on bushes near the guests' seating. One major trend is the seats themselves. For a traditional feel, some choose pews. It's a whimsical touch to have seats usually only used in a church outdoors. Some also grab several different types of chairs giving a casual ambiance to the ceremony. Or, you can go very old-fashioned and simply use hay for rows. No matter which choice, it's sure to be a return to an antique and overall olden motif.
It may seem that the wedding ceremony does not have much room for deviation from the common method of operation, but you can change it more than you think possible. For an outdoor wedding, the possibilities are almost limitless. Look at other weddings to see the return to old-fashionedness and see if these ideas breaking away from the ordinary work for you.