A check back on 2012's non-resolution resolutions and a few more

Happy New Year everyone!

It's new year's eve as I write this and we just finished up an amazing dinner of surf and turf at home. It was incredible but I'd be just as happy with just the surf.

Anyway, I wanted to pop in quickly to wish all of you a happy new year and to very selfishly and very quickly revisit a post from last year.

As I mentioned last year, I don't do resolutions. But I do at least think about some things I could improve upon for the new year. So first, I thought we'd see how I did last year.

From last year's list:
1. Blog more. Grade: D. This will be my 100th post this year (and, honestly, that's why I'm pushing it out tonight instead of tomorrow). That's seven fewer posts than last year and just 11 more than the first year I was blogging, which started in April! But I'm cutting myself some slack on this. I continue to resolve that I refuse to post just because I have to. That's no fun for anybody. So I write when I have something to share. I'm refuse to start posting random pretty pictures with no point just to meet a quota. I think this keeps everyone happy.

2. Be a better blogger. Grade: B. I think I'm getting better at this.

3. Use my passport more. Grade: A. I used it as much as I had the opportunity to this year, which was technically just once (well, once for international travel; I often use my passport as my ID when I travel), to England in August. It was the only business-related travel opportunity I had this year, and I'm happy I took it. After all, I obviously became Kate's best friend. Perhaps I'll be named the godmother of the future royal baby!

4. Bring lunch to work. Grade: C. I did really good at this at the beginning of the year but as soon as life got busy I went back to my old habits. I give myself extra credit because I now take yogurt every morning so I always eat breakfast, and that's something. It's something to continue to try to work on.

So what am I thinking about for 2013?  Here we go:

1. Read more. I used to be voracious reader. People say that all the time, but I really was. I just got a  Kindle (the paperwhite one so I can read in bed when Mr. Much More Patient is sleeping without disturbing him), so I think that will help. I've already whipped through one book and I love it.

2. Exercise. I officially give up on looking like Jennifer Aniston. I just want to be healthy. That last sentence is not true. But either way ... it doesn't come from sitting on the couch so the process is the same.

3. Blog better. I strive to make this blog better looking, more interesting and a better read. I want to give you a reason to come back every day (or every third day as the case seems to be).

I could probably go on, but let's not get crazy here. I wish you all a great 2013 and thanks for hanging out with me in 2012.

Wrapping up Christmas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. My holiday was completely lovely. Insanely good food to be found at every turn and great times with family. Perhaps the nicest Christmas I can remember in recent history.

Unfortunately work calls, and has been calling in a big way this week. Deadlines never wait, you know. But I wanted to pop in and show you our Christmas card (you can see some past cards here, but it's been a few years since I showed you any).

The printing didn't turn out as good as I would have hoped and I wouldn't count it as one of our better efforts, but it's getting hard to come up with different ideas to do with the dogs. I'll be so sad when the time comes that there won't be two dogs in the Christmas photo.

The holiday decorations are about to come down here, even though I just got them up. Although I wouldn't mind if they stayed up until New Year's Day, I don't think I'll have time on Tuesday to take things down (I have a date with my couch and the Rose Bowl game; Go Badgers!)  and I would not be happy if they were up until the following weekend. But I did want to show you something new I did this year. I've never decorating the stairs before and while I don't think I'd like a big garland hanging on the banister, I thought these boxwood wreaths (purchased at a great price at Home Depot the weekend after Thanksgiving) would spruce things up a little.

boxwood stair wreaths -- The Impatient Gardener

Even the dogs had a great time opening presents (even though two of them were toys we already had; I know that sounds horrible but we have SO many dog toys and they loved them).
tissue paper eater
Hudson, you have a little tissue paper stuck to your lip.

The stress-free tree

I've had all kinds of Christmas trees over the year. In 2004 I had a giant 14-foot tall thing that fell over within 10 minutes of finishing decorating (all future trees have been tied on top since then). The year we went to the British Virgin Islands right before Christmas we just had a small tree stuck in a pot outside. Last year I put up a small tree in an urn inside.

Many of these trees were fraught with stress (well, not the BVI year). I remember the year I absolutely flipped out because we got a tree that was "too small." It was not a happy year. I have literally been in tears on multiple occasions over the not-perfect tree.

But that was then and this is now. Welcome to the stress-free tree (a bit part of the stress-free Christmas I've been aiming for this year). You might notice that you are reading this just days (hours?) before Christmas. That's because I just finished it. And I'm OK with that.

Because we were shopping for a tree relatively late in the season, we knew a lot of tree lots would be picked over, and trees were already pretty stressed because of our summer of drought. So we decided to go back to the tree farm not far from our house, the scene of many an argument.

(It was also the scene of what certainly would have been a YouTube sensation if anyone nearby had a video recorder --this was pre-cell phone video days. We had both dogs with us. Hudson was probably 2 or 3 and Rita was either 1 or 2. That meant they were both huge and not so well trained. I was hanging onto their leashes when a seriously well-behaved lab--of leash and in a perfect heel-- walked by. They went nuts and I was determined not to be the annoying person at the tree farm with the awful dogs so there was no force on earth that was going to make me let go of those leashes. So they pulled, and I hung on. I hung on to the point where was being dragged by my out-of-control dogs, over the stumps of previously cut down trees. It hurt and I got up bruised, covered in snow and burrs and more than a little embarrassed but I'll be damned, I was still hanging onto those dogs. They don't come with us anymore.)

Anyway, in order to keep the process from going array -- that is to say, lasting for hours while I searched for the perfect tree -- we showed up at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. That meant that we would have a maximum of 45 minutes for the entire tree-buying process before the sun went down.

Our timing couldn't have been more perfect. The owner of the tree farm was heading into the field to pick up a tree in his truck and he invited us to hop in for a ride, which we did. It has been a long time since I road in the back of a pickup truck. It's sort of fun.

tree farm pickup
Pickup truck ride to the tree field.
We hopped out at the Frasier Fir field and he told us to cut whatever tree we wanted at whatever height we wanted (they charge by the variety, not the size). After shuffling around in the snow (a bit of a surprise because at this point we had no snow at our house and this far isn't far from us) and giving a thumb's down to about four trees, I found it.
The one.

Mr. Much More Patient about fell over when I said I was sure of my decision, even after he pointed out a few less-than-full areas. I made a few cuts and then decided that was sort of a lot of work and handed the saw over to the lumberjack-in-training.

Holy cheesy smile.
Better let the professionals take over.
And then we dragged that baby right out of the field. The owner swung back around in his pickup truck for it and we were checked out, wrapped up and full of hot cider  less than a half hour after we arrived. A new record.

tree farm

Sure the tree sat unadorned in the living room for the better part of a week. That's OK. Stress-free Christmas, remember? So I got the lights on (not particularly even or wrapped as nicely as I like, but that's OK) and several more days passed before I pulled out the ornaments and got that thing decorated.

Christmas tree
It's so tall I couldn't the star in the picture!
I like to have the tree down by New Year's Day so it won't be there for long. That's OK too. The ornament boxes didn't have to go far. The ornaments aren't spaced very well (although part of that is on purpose ... only non-breakables can go on the bottom of the tree with two huge dogs around; and all bell-type ornaments hang on the bottom to tip me off when someone is rooting around where they shouldn't be) and it's far from perfect. And you know what? That's OK.

I'm writing this on Christmas Eve. I'm about to head into work and everything, save for a little bit of laundry, is finished. I have never, ever had that happen before. I'm convinced it's because I stopped caring about things being perfect and started just doing the things that mattered to us. Martha Stewart wouldn't approve, I'm certain, but that's OK (never liked her much anyway).

I hope you all have a wonderful, stress-free Christmas!

ugly ornament
The ornament I won in our ugly ornament exchange, front and center on the tree!

My life in sofas

Sofas are sort of funny, aren't they? I mean, it's just a piece of furniture but they are a big deal. People agonize over sofa decisions, but rarely do they feel that same kind of angst when it comes to choosing a chair or side table.

I suppose that's because usually they are the most expensive piece of furniture in a room and no one likes to spend a lot of money on something they end up hating. Also, chairs and side tables come and go, but sofas tend to hang out for a long time.

It's interesting to look back at my life in sofas. I'm not counting the futon I had in college because futons should never, ever be considered furniture. They are actually torture devices. They are uncomfortable to sit on, hard to get up off of (even when you're young and in college), ridiculous to try to sleep on and impossible to move, given that they weigh a ton and constantly unfold. Plus, most futons are pretty gross, because let's be honest, you only really sleep on them when you are drunk.

So not counting the futon, I've had three sofas and the fourth recently arrived (I showed you a little sneak peek here).

traditional sofa leg (weathered maple finish) -- The Impatient Gardener

The first sofa came to me when I was in my second "grown-up" apartment. I was probably a year and a  half out of college (the futon apparently followed me to my first apartment because I don't recall a real sofa there) and had just moved from a small daily newspaper to medium-large daily owned by the same company in a different city. As a young reporter I was making essentially nothing so the priority was to pay the rent and the electric bill and have enough left over to buy gas to visit my then-boyfriend (now Mr. Much More Patient). My mom found me a FREE COUCH! When you're in that position, free is a lovely idea, but is it just me or is the idea of used upholstery from random people just a tad bit creepy? If you said no to that question let me throw this out there: What if that couch was free because the person who owned it was dead (and may or may not, for all you know, have actually died on the couch)?

But I was poor and free is free, even if it comes in a very low orange and blue plaid fabric-covered, as what came to be known as the "Dead Guy Couch" was. I covered in an navy blue sheet and then pretty much never sat on it.

I kept the Dead Guy Couch for the two years or so that I lived in that apartment (apartment No. 2 if you're only counting apartments after college or apartment No. 4 if you count the ones in college, which you probably shouldn't because I'm not sure they were actually habitable, particularly the one where I actually slept in a room out the back door of the house that had been a porch that someone stuck walls around and a wall-mounted propane heater to the wall). After that I moved, briefly, to New Zealand, so I had to purge or store a lot of stuff and as I recall, the Dead Guy Couch did not make the move to the storage unit.

When I came home from New Zealand (I can't tell you what kind of couch we had in our cute downtown Auckland apartment but I recall it being uncomfortable), the now-Mr. Much More Patient and I got a not-terrible apartment together and although between the two of us we had five toasters, we had no couch. And that's how we bought our first couch (this is a big moment in a relationship, let me tell you). And how did we buy that? One Saturday afternoon we went to a big-box furniture store, sat on three couches, said "Oooooh, look at the pretty red one," and bought it. It was rather hideous. The fabric was a cheap cotton that stretched like crazy so it always looked frumpy, the loose back pillows were remarkably uncomfortable, it quickly turned pink with the smallest amount of sun exposure and it was HUGE. The arms were easily 15 inches wide, no lie.

It's funny, the only photos I can find of that couch have the dogs on them, which seems strange because I thought we always had a "no dogs on the couch" rule. Apparently not. This is probably why it's so darn hard to keep Rita off the couch now (Hudson can't get up there anymore so I find this picture of him all curled up with his head on a pillow extra sweet).
Lounging on the ugly couch -- The Impatient Gardener

All cuddled up on the ugly couch -- The Impatient Gardener

When that sofa had all of the life sucked out of it, we got our first "good" couch. I spent a lot of time looking for it and even longer looking for the right fabric for on it. All in all, it was a success. I loved the lines of it and the fabric wore remarkably well, save for a few pulls in it. It faded a little bit, but not badly for a red couch in front of a window. Two things went wrong though: 1. The cat learned to love sitting on the bad cushions, which pretty much turned them to mush so only vigorous fluffing would make them stand up again, and 2. I think part of the frame might have broken. There seemed to be a bottomless pit in the hole where our butts most frequently were. And both of those problems probably could have been fixed but it turns out, I got sick of red. After almost 15 years of red, I just was done. And I was really sick of the French country-ish color scheme I had going on. I think it still looked good, I just got sick of it.

living room -- The Impatient Gardener

It was time for a big change.

And that's how I ended up with my first neutral-colored couch. I'd call it a light greige, but it's a tweed-type fabric with a small fleck of silvery blue in it (undiscernable from anything beyond microscope distance), chosen for its durability (I would have loved linen or velvet, but I was worried about how they would wear with what we put a sofa through). With its English arm and scalloped back, t's far more traditional that I was originally looking for, but I absolutely love it. It's very comfortable (I'm so happy to be finished with back pillows) but I do worry that the cushion configuration only allows you to flip them over rather than rotate all of them. I like to flip and move cushions a lot to keep from getting "butt marks" where you sit most often.

English arm sofa -- The Impatient gardener

English arm sofa -- tHe Impatient Gardener

A new rug should be on the way and I've started making some throw pillows to brighten it up. It was a big purchase, but I only had about two minutes of regret before I fell totally in love.

What's your history with couches? Do you change up the style and color or have you been lucky enough to find one you will always love and just reupholster it? I'm so hoping that's what this couch will be, but time will tell.

P.S. Don't worry, more Christmas stuff is coming to the blog. I've had this post sitting in the drafts folder for two weeks now so I thought it was time to share it. While a lot of blogs are powering down for the next several days, I'll be posting lots of Christmas stuff. I'm just late. Because I haven't done it yet. There, I said it. But it's coming ... honest!

Two great blogs to check out

Every once in a while I run across a great blog that I just want to tell the whole world about. Unfortunately it often turns out that the whole world already knows about them and I'm last to the party.

I have two I want to just quickly mention today, one that you've probably heard about and the other you might not have discovered but you will love, I'm sure.

If you are an HGTV fan you probably know who Emily Henderson is. She's the super cute and a little bit wacky woman who won Design Star a couple years ago. I'll admit, she wasn't my favorite, but since I can't remember who my favorite at the time was, I think it's safe to say that Emily is the goods. She has a show called "Secrets from a Stylist" in which she redecorates a room by melding the styles of its owners.

Style by Emily Henderson photo

Here's what I like about her blog: every single post is full of incredible information and she's not shy about sharing it. There are a couple blogs (a few of which I've previously highlighted in a post just like this) that have completely lost their charm for me because they've either gotten a tad preachy or are trying way too hard to sell me something. You know, they go this close to giving you some really good information and then stop and tell you that their design services are available for a fee here. It's like a blogging commercial except that the show never comes back. Or they purposely post some outrageous design theory presented as a hard and fast rule that you know isn't a rule at all and they are just trying to get people to share their post by being outraged. I'm sure they learned that trick from one of those "How to be a blogger" blogs.

Um, I think I just went into a bit of a rant there. So sorry. Back to good blogs.

To give you an example of the kind of stuff Emily talks about on the blog, here's a video she did on styling a mantel. I suppose some of the stuff is self explanatory, but it's helpful to here why things don't work, as well as why they do. The reasoning behind her selections is more important that the selections themselves.

She has a wonderfully eclectic style with a hefty dose of vintage thrown in that I can appreciate even if it's not exactly the look I would want in my house. I tend to like blogs that inform me and maybe teach me how to do something. A blog that shows me a gorgeous space that costs $50,000 is not really applicable to me on any level beyond just eye candy.

Speaking of eye candy, I found eye candy for anyone who loves beautiful pictures, but especially anyone who loves beautiful pictures of flowers and gardening. Floret Flower Farm is a lovely little blog written by another Erin (I swear the blog world is full of Erins) who runs an organic flower farm and makes amazing floral designs. Her work is stunning and her life looks totally dreamlike (although I'm quite certain there's an insane amount of hard work hiding behind those smiles).

If I had to sum up her blog in two words I'd choose these: charming and gorgeous. You can't go wrong when those two team up.

Floret photo (with delphiniums to die for).
Check these blogs out and let me know what you think.

It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Holiday-type things are a-happening at The Impatient Gardener cottage. Last Friday we got a tree (a feat that is deserving of its own post), which is up in the house and there are lights on it. The decorating will come, I'm not worried. I know a lot of people who decorate their tree on Christmas Eve as part of a tradition so I'm hardly the only person in the world with a bare tree standing in their living room.

Christmas cookies have been baked. There are three more varieties to make and then I need to box them up for the handful of neighbors who I take some to every year.

I did end up decorating the pergola with garland and a wreath because Costco had their 25-foot garland on sale for $8 and I just couldn't pass it up. It took me all of 45 minutes to get it hung so it was well worth the effort.

The Christmas cards will go out in today's mail. I'm not thrilled with how the printing turned out on them, but that's how it goes.

But what REALLY makes it look like Christmas around here is the small snowfall we got yesterday afternoon. It's the first in 288 days which is a record.

I got home at dusk because I had to run a dog to the vet and happily pulled in with just enough light to snap a couple pictures of the pretty scene.

See? Wasn't the garland worth it?
snowy pergola -- The Impatient Gardener

This is looking down the last hill to the turn off to the house. I've been stopping in the same spot on the road when I can and snapping a picture and putting it up on Instagram. I thought it would be fun to see how the view changes throughout the year. This is the 25th picture I've taken there and the first with snow. It should be noted, those are not my crazy tire tracks!

snowy road

The window box looks so festive covered in snow and all lit up.
holiday window box -- The Impatient Gardener

It's amazing to me that we used to light the entire Serviceberry tree. Now we can only reach the bottom half of it.
snow covered tree -- The Impatient Gardener

The dogs, of course, love the snow and were so excited to see it. Rita prefers a snow mattress so I had to shovel around her.
snow mattress

Another snowstorm is on the way tonight and tomorrow but it doesn't look like we'll get much snow from it. Most of last night's snow is already melted but for the first time in a long time, I'm a little happy to see the snow. The white stuff really does go a long way to make it feel like Christmas is a'comin'.

Gettin' my gift wrap on

I love wrapping gifts. I wish I had unlimited time and money to lavishly wrap every gift I give, but that's just not the case. In the past, I've done wrapping themes but now I've amassed such a collection of papers and ribbon that I mix it up quite a bit. 

Paper Source, which is one of those really fun places to get into a lot of trouble with your credit card (and I've never walked into the store, only shopped online) had a holiday craft contest this year that included a wrapping competition. The rules were that you had to use Paper Source papers (not a problem for me since I've bought my paper from there for the last two years), but that you could put on any ribbon or embellishments you wanted. 

I came up with three entries.

I wish I had straightened the bow before I took the picture of my first entry. The ideas was that the bow fell right under the owl's neck. This is the papaya solid paper with their Christmas owls paper wrapped around. The ribbon is Paper Source's satin ribbon in peacock.

Coral owls

I'm really happy with how this one turned out. The paper is solid paper in pool with baker's twine tied in a grid pattern with a flocked velvet ribbon around the middle. I cut a cardboard circle for the ribbon to feed through and then cut a tree out of the ribbon and glued it on, although I like how it looks like I actually cut a tree  out of the circle. I feel bad for my nephew who is this for because there is no way other than a scissors to get in this gift.

turquoise and red Christmas wrapping

I had so much fun wrapping this gift. First I wrapped it in two colors I'm really into right now: navy and coral (papaya)  and then I put on the most yummy ribbon ever. It's Midori's dupioni silk ribbon and it is so lovely. I was going to stop there, but the contest specified that this was to be holiday wrapping and it didn't look very holiday to me, so I started making paper snowflakes. I haven't done that in decades and it is so much fun! Anyway, after I had my fun (and cleaned up all the bits of paper everywhere) I glued them on which helped make the white ribbon relevant and definitely brought in the holiday feel.

Navy and coral snowflake wrapping -- The Impatient Gardener

I didn't enter this gift because I didn't think it said "holiday" but I really love it. The ribbon is more dupioni silk ribbon from Midori in a wonderfully bright plaid. I love pretty packages whether they are in a traditional color scheme or not.

Teal paper with silk plaid ribbon

There are some great entries in the contest so if you're looking for a little wrapping inspiration, check them out on the contest page

What's your wrapping situation? Do you do something special or are gift bags your thing? And are you finished wrapping yet? I am definitely not. In fact you are looking at the sum total of all the gifts I have wrapped so far. In fact, it's hard to wrap gifts you don't have yet, and there are a few of those to deal with too.

What name is this?

As I've mentioned, a lot of stuff was left behind by the previous owner when we bought our house. One item was the Calder-esque mobile that hangs in the living room. Even though it's in a bit of a weird spot, I've always liked it there and we never moved it.

I'd like to know more about it though. It is signed by the artist, and although I can see that the date is 1957 and the first letter may be J, I can't for the life of me figure out the rest of the name. I've searched online for various names that it could be, but nothing comes up.

calder-esque mobile

Mobile signature?

So I'm asking that you take a look at the signature and tell me what you see. And if you actually know anything about these kinds of mobiles, please share!

Thanks, gang.

The slowest Christmas decorator ever

Oh sure, I know the whole world has their houses all done up for Christmas and you probably thought you were going to see some Christmas decorations in mine one of these days. Well, let's just say it is a very slow process, although one that I'm still enjoying. We aren't hosting any parties (that I'm aware of anyway) so there's no real hurry. I can do whatever I want when I want.

Just today I *think* I decided to forego the garland on the pergola that I loved so much last year, only because it's one more thing to do and probably another $50 or so in decorations. We'll see.

But here's a sneak peek at a bit of the process that is being made. I don't usually have a "theme" for my decorating but I seem to be heading in a very traditional direction this year. It surprises even me.

owl in the wreath

magnolia leaves, berries, pine cone wreath


Cute elves and ugly ornaments

It's not often that I report back on Monday with what I did over the weekend (because usually I started a project that I didn't finish so there's not much to report on), but even though I did not one iota of Christmas decorating (whoops) this weekend, it was an excellent holiday time.

Saturday I went down to my college roommate/bestie's parents' house where they have a massive cookie baking day and invite all their friends to come. It's a cookie baking open house and people stroll in and out all day, baking, helping, sampling (what I did mostly) and chatting. I've gone to probably a dozen of these baking days over the years and I enjoy them so much.

This one was particularly special because I got to meet my friend's beautiful baby girl for the first time. Wylie is a total sweetheart and utterly adorable in her elf costume. It's always interesting to see your friends as parents for the first time and my friend is a great mom.

Adorable elf -- The Impatient Gardener
Her brother has chickens (jealous) so he provided all of the eggs for the baking. They were so beautiful. He said the blue eggs came from their Americana chickens, which he said were the nicest chickens he had ever met. They are overloaded with eggs so he kept trying to sneak extra eggs into recipes.

Home-raised eggs -- The Impatient Gardener

Their family breeds yellow labs, so there were about five or six labs running around. They are all sweet as pie and incredibly well behaved.

Yellow lab -- The Impatient Gardener

After cookie baking I headed home to meet with my best hometown girls for our annual Christmas get together. The last couple years we've made crafts.

Two years ago we made beaded snowflake ornaments.

beaded snowflake ornament -- The Impatient Gardener
Jilian modeling the beaded snowflake ornaments from 2010.

Last year we made pipe cleaner figures.

Pipe cleaner figures -- The Impatient Gardener

But this year we decided to have an ugly ornament exchange. We went to a local bar/restaurant (I've hosted the crafting the past two years, but one of my friends is extremely allergic to animals so with two enormous dogs and a cat, it's tough for her to be in our house for too long) and ordered oodles of appetizers and drinks and went about finding the ugliest ornament we could.

The rules are that the ornament you receive must be prominently displayed on your Christmas tree (no hiding it in the back) and photographic proof posted on Facebook.

Ugly ornament competition -- The Impatient Gardener

My contribution was this sweaterball. It started as a real ornament at Target (I had to pay $3 for it, which I think is crazy for a styrofoam ball covered in a sweater) and was plenty ugly to start with. Then I cut out some cardboard poinsettias from some gift tags I had and glued those and some glass vase filler balls to it. Mr. Much More Patient told me to stop decorating it because I was actually making it look better. I'm not so sure about that.

Sweaterball ugly ornament -- The Impatient Gardener
Behold, the sweaterball, complete with hot glue strings everywhere.
I received this ... um, what is this? In the end I decided it looked like Heatmeiser's hair (and later, perhaps after a few drinks, it somehow turned into a fertility symbol, but whatever).

Ugly ornament -- The Impatient Gardener

One of my friends brought this totally inappropriate monkey that she also purchased at Target. I realize that was meant to be a tail, but it SO was not sewn on to look like a tail.

Ugly ornament contest -- The Impatient Gardener

And lastly, one of my friends raided her mother's ornament collection to come up with a hideous collection of three ornaments. The first was this odd tassel angel, which even her mom could not understand what would possess someone to purchase.

Ugly ornament competition -- The Impatient Gardener

Then there was a homemade walnut shell Santa, which we actually thought was sort of charming. Certainly one of her 11 brothers and sisters made it at some point, but her mom admitted that with 12 kids making ornaments every year, there was bound to be an ugly one here or there (and she has plenty). And the last, and the unanimous winner of the ugly ornament competition, was this one that we tagged "Voodoo Angel." We're not sure what made her so creepy, but the hair certainly is part of it.

Ugly ornament competition -- The Impatient Gardener

Later, we went to a bar and decorated their tree with them. But we all took them home where we will indeed proudly display them. Front and center ... living room side (no sneaky window side stuff for these beauties).
Ugly Christmas tree -- The Impatient Gardener

It was so much fun that I hope we do it again next year. I just hope we don't have to display every year's ornaments in the front. The back of the tree needs some love too.

Giveaways galore

Happy Friday, everyone!

'Tis the season to hurry up and get decorating, I guess, so that is on my agenda for the weekend in addition to doing a little cookie baking with my BFF's family (and meeting her adorable daughter for the first time) followed by an "ugly ornament exchange" with my other BFFs.

Posts are written, but photos are lacking (oh dear Santa, a camera, please!) but there are oodles of great giveaways all over the blogosphere this time of year so I thought I'd do a quick round-up so you can get in on them. If I'm missing one at your blog, make sure to leave a comment!

There are in no particular order.

Kylee at Our Little Acre is giving away a copy of Why Grow That When you Can Grow This?

Gen at North Coast Gardening is too!

The Everygirl is giving away a Serena & Lily mohair throw.

Breakfast at Toast is giving away a Lo & Sons bag.

Rayan at The Design Confidential is giving away oodles of prizes this week including a Minwax package, three $50 Home Depot gift cards from PureBonds, a Little Play Spaces French Cafe, a Kreg's toolbox master collection, and a Little Play Spaces Beauty Parlor.

The Pioneer Woman is giving away a set of Wustoff knives.

Apartment Therapy is giving away insane amounts of stuff (too much to list here) including this amazing set of totally gorgeous copper pots.

All of these end at different times, so just hurry up and enter if you're going to. If I find more, I'll update this post over the weekend.

I leave you with this photo of the cutest little linen poinsettia pillows I snapped in the grocery store during lunch. I don't shop at the grocery store with the cute gift department often because for some reason my bill always seems to be higher there. Wonder why?

Poinsettia pillows -- The Impatient Gardener

Holy magnolia!

There is a chance that perhaps I may have underestimated exactly what 40 magnolia stems looks like.

Magnolia leaves -- The Impatient Gardener
Stuffed to the gills in the basement until I can decorate with them. And yes, Mr. Much More Patient is still running around in shorts. And yes, that's a sneak peek of a thrift store find in progress in the background. 

First I tried putting them in a large vase to keep them hydrated until I can use them. Then I switched to a five-gallon bucket, and then I added in a huge Rubbermaid box.

Better start getting creative with them!

Winter containers: A bit of much-needed gardening fun

Gosh, here I was reveling in the extra-week-in-between-Christmas-and-Thanksgiving glow and all of a sudden it's December and I'm freaking out a little bit. Every year I resolve to take time to actually enjoy the holiday season instead of scurrying around doing everything, and every year, I end up totally stressing myself out.

The problem is that I'm just not the kind of person who can do things far ahead of time. I like Christmas shopping near Christmas, and I hate thinking about winter and Christmas in the middle of summer, so I'll never be that person who sees the perfect gift in July and actually buys it. The same goes for interior holiday decorating. I can't live with all those decorations for that long, but then I end up decorating when I feel like I should be "enjoying."

This is just the kind of person I am, I guess.

My favorite decorations are the ones I do outdoors. It's my little shot of gardening after a few months off (from the fun stuff at least; cleaning up the garden for winter does not count as fun). I spent most of the weekend working on four containers (three at home, one at work), with frequent stops for various other activities including helping decorate our work entry for the local parade (and handing out candy at said parade later), beach walks, Christmas card photography (third and final attempt), making beef stew and what must have been a lot of other stuff but I can't really remember.

As I showed you last week, I got my red twig dogwood from the field by my parents' house and as it turns out, I didn't cut enough again. Every year I think I have more than I could possibly need and I always seem to come up short. I've found that I prefer them bunched together in pots rather than scattered about so I bundled them together with green wire ties. For the larger pots I bound a stake in the middle that I can plunge deep into the pot for stability. I learned this trick from Deborah Silver, queen of the Christmas container.

Bundle dogwood with wire ties to keep it together -- The Impatient Gardener

Larger bundles get a stake in the middle -- The Impatient Gardener

The urn in the middle of the garden (purchased last year to hold the Christmas tree) has a plastic pot that sits in it as a liner so I don't have to fill the entire urn up with dirt when I plant it. In that pot I just drilled a hole through the center and stuck the stake straight through the pot. Since I had already removed the soil from it, I just fill it up with a small amount of mulch followed by beach sand to hold everything in there. Everything else I just stick straight into the soil left from the summer planting and wait for Old Man Winter to freeze everything up nice and tight (which has yet to happen again this year).

Provide stability to twig bundles by putting a stake through the bottom of the pot -- The Impatient Gardener

After I stick the dogwood in, I fill in with evergreen boughs. Although our property is covered with evergreens, they are mostly some kind of spruce that has a weeping nature to it, which doesn't make for the perky containers I wanted this year. I went to Home Depot where I found that that some of them will let you take the cuttings from the trees they sell, except someone beat me to it. I did, however, find a fat bottom half of a tree in a corner. The top had been broken off it and although she wouldn't give it to me for free, she did agree to sell it to me for $7. My husband also got a great deal in a short/half-bald tree at another Home Depot and I cut them both apart to fill the containers.

Half tree cut apart for greens -- The Impatient Gardener

With the bulk of the evergreens in, I filled in with "special" evergreens including a variegated boxwood and seeded Cedar, all of which I bought in bundles at a nursery. The window box also got a few faux berries (that claim to be waterproof, but I'm suspicious) for a little zing, and the big pot by the front door  got some curly white twigs I found in the faux floral department. They are not meant for outdoor use, which is why they are no long curly, and I don't expect them to last much beyond Christmas, but I thought a cheap shot of white might be nice in that pot.

Variegated boxwood in winter container -- The Impatient Gardener

Dogwood, fir branches and boxwood -- The Impatient Gardener
Here's the container outside of the office (before I swept up the dirt). It could have used more dogwood branches, but I like the texture of the boxwood in it.
Evergreen boughs, dogwood and faux red berries -- The Impatient Gardener
The faux berries really help brighten up the window box.
Christmas urn -- The Impatient Gardener
Midgarden urn, with more variegated boxwood.

Winter container -- The Impatient Gardener

Winter container-- The Impatient Gardener
The white stems and the seeded Cedar give this container a much-needed touch of brightness.

Throw in a few lights, and I was done. I love them all and hopefully they will last well into March when I'll be ready to be thinking about spring.