Christmas/Boxing Day wishes

I     n honor of my Christmas cards going out late this year, I thought I'd send Christmas wishes to all of you out there by giving you a little look back at our holiday cards featuring our dogs. We weren't planning on sending out pictures of the dogs (Newfoundlands Hudson and Rita) every year, but the first year was a hit  and a tradition was born.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and let me tell you, today I'm so happy that Christmas was a Friday because I'm looking forward to a weekend of catching up on some projects (like laundry, which is in such a sorry state it has been elevated to project status) and just relaxing.






Finally, some Christmas decorations!

I     t's been a bit since I've had a post here, but that's because I've been busy Christmas-ing things up at our house. To say that I got a bit late this year would be something of an understatement. Since I'm sure most of you already have done your decorations, I'm not expecting to inspire you at all, but I thought I'd show you what I've been up anyway. I do, however, have a few holiday decorating tips for you that might be helpful to you next year.

1. Wear disposable latex gloves when you put your lights on the tree to keep the sap off your hands. I actually buy these gloves 200 at a time at Costco and use them for so many things beyond just sap prevention. I use them anytime I paint, when I handle mass quantities of raw meat (which I do on occasion in the process of feeding my dogs) and even gardening. I'm a random weed puller but I also hate having dirty fingernails, so if I'm doing a quick garden chore and don't have one of my dozen or so pairs of gardening gloves handy I'll throw on a pair of these.

2. Fishing line is a wonderful thing. I have 60 pound test and 25 pound test rolls in the junk drawer and I use it more often than you would think (and I don't fish). I especially use it at Christmastime. We screwed two small hooks into the beam on the wall on either side of the fireplace (they are so small you don't notice them) and string a length of 60-pound test monofilament line between them, then use a cheapo carbiner to attach the wreath on the fireplace to it. That way I don't have to put a hole in the mortar or the stone of the fireplace. We also use it to tie the Christmas tree up (standard operating procedure ever since 2004 when I had just finished decorating a 14-foot Christmas tree when it fell over). I never want to lose that many ornaments again, and with all the animals we have in the house, a bit of prevention is a very good thing. Lastly, I use lengths of fishing line to attach the beaded garland to the mantel since there are no 3m hooks that will stick to it.

3. Go LED. For about three years now I've been planning to convert to LED lights for our tree but have been avoiding outlaying the cash. Of course that means I've not been replacing our regular incandescent lights as they stop working, so we were pretty short on lights this year. I decided to just go for it, but I bought about half as many LED lights as I usually put on the tree. It was all I could afford for this year and I planned to pick up the rest next year. As it turns out, LEDs are so much brighter (I bought the "wide angle" ones) that I'm not sure I'll have to buy more next year. It was the perfect amount of lights (although this is the smallest tree we've ever had). I really like them and I feel much better knowing that the odds are much better that when I pull them out of the box next year they will actually work.

4. Stuff your stockings. I fill the stockings up with tissue paper to give them some form (before Santa fills them up Christmas Eve, of course). It makes them look so much better.

OK, enough tips. Onto the pictures. Here's the before and (almost) after of the mantel area (I put greens on top of the mantel to hide the cords, etc., some silver pinecones and a hurricane full of silver ornaments after the photo was taken). The before by the way, is not great. I have a horrible time accessorizing and looking at the picture I realize just how boring my everyday mantel is. I'll have to work on that. The after features a clear beaded garland my mother-in-law bought from Pottery Barn several years ago that I've twined rice lights through and then I added a starfish garland from Wisteria (bought on sale earlier this year).

I love our little Nepalese-knitted stockings. I think I got them from an outdoor store (maybe REI) several years ago but I like how traditional they are. A stylized Santa I got as a gift from PB years ago serves his duty holding them up. I have to polish him every year, but he's cute so I do it anyway.

I did much simpler decoration than I normally do on the wreath. I thought there was already a lot going on on the mantel so I wanted it to be a little understated. I also opted for a regular bow rather than the floofly multi-looped variety I've been partial to in past years. I cut three of the starfish off the garland and wired them on and stuck a couple silver pinecones on for balance.

As I mentioned, our tree is much smaller than usual this year. In fact I only put on about 60 percent of the ornaments I have on it, but I still like how it looks.

I have oodles of glass icicles on it (and lots more that stayed in the boxes this year). I love how it looks like it's just dripping with icicles. It adds so much sparkle and shine. My favorites are some that look like real icicles.

Here are a few other ornaments I like:
1. A glass beaded snowflake I made Saturday night at a little crafting night with my girlfriends. None of us are crafters, so it was fairly amusing, but I think we did OK. We were guided, of course, by none other than Martha herself, and after a few glasses of wine we were having a good giggle about her VERY specific directions.
2. My ruby slipper. I always wanted to be Dorothy. This is the closest I think I'm ever going to get.
3. I have a lot of birds that clip onto branches, but this peacock is my favorite.

Grow Amaryllis, Grow!

L ast year I bought several interesting amaryllis bulbs to give as Christmas gifts. They were very well received, especially by the people on my list who don't want or need more "stuff."

I guess I was bit over anxious last year because I planted them sometime in November. I ended up giving most of them away before Christmas because they were on the verge of blooming.

In fact, here's how they looked on November 26, 2008. 

This year I wanted to start a little later, but then it seems I started TOO late. Here's how they (I mostly bought new bulbs) looked this weekend. Three of them have bits sticking out of the bulb, but that's it. Rather unimpressive Christmas gifts as they are right now. Hopefully they'll hurry up! I have them on a seed-starting mat so they are getting bottom heat and as much light as I can give them. I guess now it's just a matter of talking really sweetly to them.

Ikea chair before, during and after

O K, so I'm missing the before and during pictures, but I do have an after. This is one of those really uncomfortable Ikea chairs that the whole world gets when you need a chair. After awhile it ends up in your basement where your cat takes up residence on it, making it so disgusting that you would be too embarrassed to give it away. So while it's on the porch waiting to be taking to its final resting space it gets a remarkable after.

So I give you this chair turned cat bed turned ....


My project list

I   've found that mentioning projects here makes me far more likely to actually accomplish them. Keeps me honest, I guess. So, here's my list of things I'd like to accomplish around the house this long, long winter. Someone please make me revisit it in March so I actually hurry up and get some done.


1. Kitchen
  • Finalize design for banquette and have oh-so-handy and friendly cabinet maker guy come over to measure and build them.
  • Get cushions and pillows made for said banquette.
  • Fix the damaged table and decide if it's going to be painted or not.
  • Pick out light fixture (maybe something like this) for over table and have electrician move the electrical in ceiling and relocate outlet (that is currently where the banquette is going to go).
  • Replace hideous light over sink. Maybe with this or this.
  • Fix hole in ceiling and paint wood ceiling.
  • Paint walls.
  • Paint back door and trim.
Bonus projects (i.e. only if I get really ambitious): install undercabinet lighting and display boxes on top of cabinets

2. Basement
  • Organize the storage side of the basement 
  • FINALLY finish the finished side of the basement (this has been a project that's been going on for a good three years)

And ... the really fun project, assuming everything comes together:

Pick out fixtures and finishes for new bathroom (hallelujah!), new roof (no more drip, drip, drip) and revamped bedrooms (they're getting cathedral ceilings and a whole bunch of new windows).

That last one is probably where I'll put most of my energy but I am a bit superstitious and I don't want to start doing anything until we get all the bids in and we made sure it's all financially possible.

Wow, I didn't realize how much there was to do. I better get going. Of course, I should probably deal with the holidays first!

A little Christmas decorating

C  hristmas, apparently, is right around the corner. Apparently even though I have calendars in front of my face constantly, that is a fact that has eluded me until this weekend. What really got me in gear was the threat of our first real snowfall, and I thought I had better get some decorations up, if they're going to go up.

Like the rest of the world, we're on a budget this year. So, especially on my outdoor decorating, which is done primarily for the residents of the house (since we're not planning on hosting any holiday parties this year), I'm on the hunt for budget-conscience decorations.

Here's two projects I whipped out Sunday in about 45 minutes for a grand total of ZERO dollars!

The first was  just a little merrying up of the large fiberglass container that I leave out all year (don't try that with clay pots) by the front door. I waited a little long on this project, so the dirt was already frozen in there and I had to drill holes to get the greens stuck in. The red twig dogwood came from a field near my parents' house, and the rest of the greens were trimmed from our trees. It was looking a little boring so I stuck some dried hydrangea blossoms in there as well.

And here's the before and after of our little address post. I call it "The diver." Can you figure out why? Squint your eyes a little, and maybe that will help. I see two legs and a person with their arms over their head bending over to dive (like how you learn to dive as a kid). It's a driftwood find I snagged off the beach several years ago. It's not in great shape, so I know it won't last forever. The actual address plaque was made by my husband out of carbon fiber. I like the juxtaposition of the seriously rustic driftwood along with the super high-tech carbon fiber. The solar lantern at the end is something my husband added. I don't really like it, but hey ... he lives here too!

Anyway, to give it some holiday flair, I just used the same greens I used in the pot and wired them together. Then I grabbed some net-like ribbon I found in the basement (red would have been better, but I seem to be all out of it!), made a bow and stuck it on there. I like how it turned out, and when it cost nothing but a little time, I definitely can't complain.

A big departure

A  llow me to indulge myself just a bit (as though this whole blog isn't an indulgence). I love the television show "Lost" and particularly the character Hurley, played by Jorge Garcia. (Well I really love Sawyer, but that's something else entirely).

Anyway, Jorge (the actor) has a blog that's pretty funny and this week his cute girlfriend found a rat in their house. He's been playing home movies about it all week and they are definitely giggle-worthy. So, just in case you're also a Lostie (or you like to watch funny home movies) I thought I'd link you up!

The Rat Part 1
The Rat Part 2
The Rat Part 3
The Rat Part 4
The Rat Part 5
It's a rat, not a mouse

And just so you know I haven't gotten completely off topic, a little holiday decorating is coming your way tonight or tomorrow!

Brainstorming wrapping ideas

A    m I think only person who gets more excited about wrapping presents than buying or giving them? I've always loved wrapping presents and a big part of the fun is coming up with new ideas every year. Often my "theme" follows a color trend I'm particularly into at the time, but sometimes it flows from a paper I just love or an idea I saw in a shop or online.

Some of the wrapping "themes" I've done in the past include:
• All silver and gold, with real seashells painted silver or gold (OK, this one was admittedly a bit over the top.)
• Chartruese and hot pink
• Lime green and red
• Blue and silver
• All white paper with plaid Christmas ribbons (this one was particularly cost effective as I got an end roll of heavy weight offset press paper--ask at your local newspaper for end rolls that are good for all sorts of things like this--free)

I'm not sure what I'm going to do this year (we're cutting back on our gift-giving so there aren't a lot of gifts to wrap, and I'm giving "living" gifts to a lot of people), but I couldn't help but peruse some online paper stores (gosh, I just love paper stores). Anyway, I thought I'd share a few wrapping ideas that might be fun to do (or just dream about.)

This gift from the designers at Broadway Paper isn't really holiday themed, but it's just full of great idea that are customizable for any holidy. The paper is simple kraft paper that has been pleated. The ribbon is a silky, wired ribbon with a tissue paper flower in the middle. What a wow package.

This package (also from Broadway paper) is so full of wonderfulness. I LOVE that paper (and can't find it anywhere), and carrying it over to a rich brown bow is fantastic. I think this would be a refreshing look under a Christmas tree.

Snow & Graham's cherry blossom paper is so fun, and its pop of red offers a taste of the holiday without being too traditional or in your face.  It would look great with a satin bow in red or a chocolate brown to pick up the color of the branches. Later in the year it would make a perfect birthday wrapping with a pink ribbon.

I love this bold print from Paper Source, which is almost reminiscent of a tropical print because of its large scale. I'd go really simple on the ribbon though, with just a white satin ribbon.

This paper is a great masculine-looking pattern, again from Paper Source. Since I'm more than a little into aqua/turquoise these days, I really like this one. I think it would be really cool to bring out the thin black stripe with a black ribbon or maybe even a combo of the moss green color and black.

So there are all these great printed papers out there and what am I drawn to?  Would you believe a paper called "gravel"?

I know this because I'm way into the gray thing right now, but think about all the great ribbon combinations you could put with it to make it Christmas chic: red and chartreuse

Or what about yellow? It's not at all Christmassy, but it's oh so fun!

Or this irridescent ribbon called "Old Willow"

Well, obviously, I could go on about this for awhile.

In case you're wondering about the ribbon sources, two great ones I've found and used in the past are Papermart and Nashville Wraps.

So ... what's your wrapping plan this year?

I love this wreath

I  'm more than a little in love with these succulent wreaths, featured yesterday at Apartment Therapy.

If I had time I'd make one now, but I think this would be an equally great summer project.