Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 912: Christmas snapshots

Our Christmas wasn't quite as exciting as this one, but it was lovely in its own right. Hope yours was, too!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 907: the Homies are back!

The Homies awards, hosted by Apartment Therapy, are back. From now until December 29, you can nominate your favorite blogs in five categories: Home Design, Home Tech, Kids at Home, Green Home, and Home Cooking. Voting on the top nominees will take place from December 30 to January 6, and the winners will be announced on January 7.

I hope you'll take the time to nominate and vote for your favorite bloggers, and it's okay if it's not me, haha.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 906's Christmas Essential: Festive Tunes

I love Christmas music. Yes, I am a little sick of the line-up on the local radio station (at least they seem to have banned the Hippo song), but there is still lots of good stuff out there. And it helps me get in the Christmas mood. We grew up listening to the classics on a record player -- Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and yes, Gene Autrey, the singing cowboy.

This year I've been playing Chris Tomlin's album Glory in the Highest pretty much on repeat. I love worship music and it is a great daily reminder of why Christmas is so special.

This is my favorite holiday album, ever. I've been listening to it for so long it's about time to get a new one (or I could just put it on my iPod!). I confess that I love Jewel (early Jewel mostly), but even if you don't, you will like this. Beware, there is yodeling. Wes hates it, but I love it! Where else can you hear yodeling? Her version of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is my all-time favorite. What are you listening to this year?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 905's Christmas Essential: Sugar Cookies

This week I'm going to share what I consider Christmas essentials -- the things that make the holiday special to me. First up, a certain recipe for sugar cookies that my mom has been making for as long as I can remember. She still uses the recipe card she first wrote when she got it from a friend while living in Kansas (did you know that I was born in Kansas?). It's stained and wrinkled and smells slightly of Crisco oil, but we pull it every year. These probably aren't the kind of sugar cookies you're used to having, but they are delicious, with a little lemony bite. Santa must approve, as he used to gobble them up on Christmas Eve at our house.

Sugar Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup Crisco oil
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 eggs
1 cup margarine, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Put all of the above ingredients in a bowl and mix at medium speed for 4 minutes. Then add:

4 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Blend until well-mixed. Refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours (overnight is best). Roll into walnut-sized balls and roll in colored sugar (available in the baking aisle).

Place on ungreased baking sheet and flatten with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 902's pretty

Arrangement by Saipua, Photo by Emerson Merrick via Style Court

It is going to be a super-busy couple of days at our house: we're hosting a small family gathering tonight, some of my high school friends are coming in town tomorrow, and on Monday we'll be toasting an admired co-worker. Let the holiday madness begin!

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 901: easy Christmas wreath ideas

I'm kind of plain-Jane when it comes to Christmas decorations, but I know that my personal style doesn't float everyone's boat. Here are a couple of ideas for jazzing up my favorite Christmas decoration: a real evergreen wreath.

My wreath is hanging by just one ribbon, but I love this (from Cottage Living). I also really, really love wreaths hanging indoors. They're a great way to lend some Christmas-ness to the rest of your house. They also take up much less space (and cash) than adding another tree. Try hanging one over a window or a mirror.

This is just too pretty. I don't think my Frasier Fir wreaths would quite work -- they wouldn't hang as nicely -- so look for a cyprus version. This is lovely under a chandelier, especially for a festive dinner or party.

If you're looking for a great double-faced satin ribbon like this, I love Midori. It is on the pricier side (pricier than what you can find at craft stores), but I think it's worth it for the color and width selection. I give mine a quick iron every year and it looks as good as new. Locally, I buy it at Smith's Variety.

I love the idea of adding whatever you can find in your yard to a plain wreath. Holly is widely available this time of year and is especially festive. A sprinkling of fake snow is fun, too.

This plain Juniper wreath wrapped in a string of wood beads has some country charm. If you can spare a string of garland from your tree, this is a nice way to tie the two together.

This photo has made its way around, but I couldn't leave it out. If one wreath is nice, three is certainly better! I have noticed that the smaller sizes of wreaths seem to go more quickly, so if you want to do this next year, act fast!

By the way, I noticed this year that Lowe's and Home Depot sell live wreaths and garland in addition to Christmas trees (that may not be news to you!). In Birmingham, the local garden shops are a good source as well (try one of the Leaf 'n' Petal locations). Of course, you can easily make your own with scraps from tree. This year, I hit up Lowe's twice.

If you like some sparkle, why not layer an ornament wreath over your evergreen wreath?

Remember how I wanted to use my bells on my wreath? Well, the ones I had were a bit too large, so I put them on the tree instead. But then, I happened upon a few smaller ones while shopping at Leaf 'n' Petal for a gift.

I untied the knots and used the rope to tie them to the wreath form -- pretty simple! For once I managed to create what I saw in my head. By the way, I'm a little sad to say that my supposedly-unique bells (which came from here) are now available at Pottery Barn where they are billed as -- of all things -- cowbells!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 900's nursery ideas

Perhaps you've heard, but sweet blog friend Brooke is going to be welcoming a little one to her family and has put out the call for nursery ideas. So here goes!

When I saw the top photo, I instantly thought of Brooke. All of the walls in her home are Monterey White by Benjamin Moore, and she likes to use neutral colors and cool vintage accessories. She could recreate this room (like she needs my help -- she's the designer!) with a cute rug from Dash & Albert, pretty linens from Serena & Lily, and a crib painted blue.

This is along the same lines. A little architectural salvage and some sweet florals, and voila! Instant Windsor Smith.

I believe Brooke is planning to keep the gender a surprise, but I could resist including some inspiration for a girly nursery, too. I love the combination of pale, sort-of shell pink and gray, like in Martha Stewart's guest cottage.

Add some jolts of hot pink, and the room can grow up with baby girl (image from Cote de Texas). Congratulations again, Brooke! And I know you'll come up with something lovely!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 899: Christmas trees in containers

I've had a small obsession with table-top Christmas trees for about a year now. Specifically, with trees sitting in pretty urns. I fully planned to apply these instructions to our own 5-6 foot tree (with a bigger urn, of course) but Wes was skeptical (that's the engineer in him, I guess).

The problem with my plan was the center of gravity. The darling urn I picked out was fiberglass, and Wes was certain it would tumble over. Plan B was to place the tree stand in a basket, but I couldn't quite find what I was looking for.

Plan C is to make it my mission in 2010 to find a suitable urn for our tree. And if that doesn't work, I think a galvanized bucket will do just fine. What is your tree in?

Photos: House Beautiful, Monica Buck for Cottage Living, Country Living.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 898: chests from Wisteria

I love a cute little chest. They're pretty and practical. Wisteria has some great ones at the moment.

My favorite is still the French Directoire Dresser.

The Demilune Console would be lovely in an entry.

I would put the Green Four-Drawer Chest in a bedroom.

The Directoire Chest will be pretty anywhere, but especially between a pair of chairs in a living room.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 895's pretty

This is the next-to-last weekend before Christmas -- can you believe it?! I can't. I'll be spending it getting the last of my shopping done (I hope) and getting the house ready for some fun visitors next week. How about you?

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 894's old favorite from Cottage

This Birmingham house is one of my old favorites from Cottage Living. I have a copy in my stash (I think ...), but it recently appeared on in a story on holiday decorating and thought you might like it too.

The dining room is sooooo great. The owner -- a jewelry designer -- taped and painted the walls herself. I also love the sideboard (and its contents), the shutters, the raffia-backed leather chairs, the chandelier and the wonderful ceiling! Most designers advise using a matte finish on the ceiling, but how fabulous is this?

The mantel swag is so clever it kills me. But I can only imagine how much fun my cat and dog would have destroying this one ...

I spy a lone antler! Guess my affection for them goes back further than I thought. It's hard to see here, but this arrangement is four club chairs around a coffee table -- so cozy and unexpected.

Love the dark kitchen cabinets and the backsplash behind the range.

And a good banquette always gets my vote. Beautiful brass hardware on doors, too. If I recall correctly, her daughters' rooms were just darling. Might have to dig out that issue ...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 893's holiday decorations

Christmas really brings out the traditionalist in me. All I can picture when I think of decorating is lots and lots of evergreen, so to Lowe's I went (twice) to collect the trimmings from their Christmas trees.

And, of course, we had to have a real Frasier Fir tree. There is always a moment during the process of getting it up (and straight) and of winding what seems like a thousand lights around it that I see the value of a pre-lit tree, but after it's up, it's totally worth it. The tree is decorated with all glass ornaments -- my small collection of Christopher Radko ornaments, and the random assortment that we've collected in the last few years. This year we added a blown-glass garland from Restoration Hardware (bought at 80 percent off at the outlet!). I love it and wish I had bought a couple more strands! I put the bells I bought after the holidays last year to use as the topper.

I have a weird obsession with hanging wreaths over mirrors, so I made a simple Fir wreath for the one in the dining room. I've got some paperwhites that I hope will bloom the week of Christmas, and I put greenery on nearly every other surface I could think of -- can't get enough!

I reused the moss wreath I made last year, and added some juniper and Magnolia leaves to the garland for more texture. Last year I used a red ribbon, but I swapped it for green since it faces the one in the dining room.

Outside, a lit garland of Fir and juniper hangs over the door and the big wreath. I originally wanted to put the bells on this wreath, but just couldn't get it to look quite right.

At Wes' suggestion, I used some of the leftover greenery to decorate the mailbox. It's kind of wild-looking (Wes calls it the Christmas peacock) but think it's festive! Are you all decorated yet? What's your philosophy?

I'm going to try something new and link to a few holiday decorating parties. If you are here for the first time, thank you so much for visiting, and I'd love to "meet" you in the comments. Check out these ladies for a ton more holiday inspiration: Southern Hospitality, Hooked on Houses, The Inspired Room, The Nesting Place.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 891's surprise

We woke up to a fun little surprise on Saturday morning: a dusting of snow!

You people with real winters and real snow will probably scoff at this, but hey, this is the Deep South. We get excited about snow, in any amount.

Luckily, this one came without much warning, so there was none of the usual snow-hysteria and the grocery store shelves we not depleted of milk, eggs, and bread.

Of course, the sun was out by 10am, and it was pretty much gone by 11. I was glad I headed out a seven to at least snap a few pictures of what could very well be the only snow we see all season. (I love this tree. Too bad the power lines are in the way!)

But it sure was nice to have our French toast and (not very photogenic) breakfast casserole while feeling like it was actually winter.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 891: The Kitchen In My Dreams

I'm quite sure I've said this at least a dozen times before, but this kitchen is completely perfect in my eyes. Joni posted it -- along with the rest of the beautiful house -- on Cote de Texas last week, but I couldn't help but share. The recently remodeled home has a decidedly European feeling, and the kitchen is no different (in fact, it reminds me of my favorite English cupboard-makers, Plain English).

Next to the range, utensils are scattered in ironstone pitchers. Bread boards and antique copper contribute to the European feeling.

Most of the counters are Belgium bluestone, but the island -- an antique cabinet from Watkins Culver in Houston -- is topped with marble.

The kitchen is without upper cabinets, but clearly storage is no problem.

On the other side of the island, the breakfast table is surround by bistro-style chairs.

And beyond that is a sitting area. If I lived here I would call it a "keeping room," just for fun.

Even the pantry is outfitted with a cute antique lantern.

Notice the hardware on the doors, Joni points out that it was all special ordered unfinished brass and given a special tarnish to look old. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing this wonderful house, Joni!