29 December 2011


I know, I said would post these on Mondays. I'm late this week. I'm also not even going to present my own idea. It's OK though, because this one is better. And timely, too--it's New Years and you will be dragging a bottle of champagne some place or another...even if it's your own kitchen counter, you/your host will be so impressed with a confetti bomb bottle! And it's super easy too!

Check out these fab ladies tutorial via Etsy:

28 December 2011



Legend has it, my Great Aunt Izora was fond of pink flocking. Back in the late 1950’s she was kind enough to send her sister, my grandmother, Pumpkin, a pink flocked wreath to hang in the front window of what was my mother’s childhood home.
Side Note 1: Those names are 100% real. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Side Note 2: Pumpkin kept a very traditional home. Even back in the 50’s and 60's when turquoise cars were commonplace, Pumpkin leaned toward the Ralph Lauren look...Green velvet. Mahogany wood. Tartan plaid. Dark antiquey things someone brought over on a boat from a place that smells like fish. You get the picture.
With that in mind, it's easy to imagine the confusion raised when an oversize pink flocked wreath landed on Pumpkin’s door step that December day. Described as “huge” and “garish,” it came with silver balls and a “cute little Santa” perched in the middle. Pumpkin wondered why anyone, much less her own sister, thought her home suitable for such a gaudy, unorthodox specimen? 

Surely it was a mistake.

Surely Izora intended her to receive a green wreath, or perhaps a red one. Maybe even a white one, but pink? Heavens no. There must have been a mix up down at store, and Pumpkin even went so far as to pick an argument with florist until he exchanged the pink wreath for a traditional circlet of green holly. It hung in their window for several weeks, until Christmas Eve, when Aunt Izora called to confirm she was coming over the following day and could not wait to see "that pink wreath!"

Oh crap.

Pumpkin immediately sent her eldest daughters on a wild goose chase around town in search of another pink flocked wreath with a velvet Santa in the middle (no easy task on Christmas Eve). Eventually one was located and Aunt Izora arrived the followed day, delighted to see her gift prominently displayed in the front window for all the world to see, never knowing her well intended gift had ever caused such distress and upheaval, telling everyone,“The minute I saw it, I knew Patty would love that adorable pink Santa!”

Side note 3: Patty, now known as Aunt Pat (or as she signs her emails “Yer Olde Ain't Pat”) is my mother's younger sister and the baby of the family. Although she probably doesn't like to be referred to as the baby. She is married to Uncle John, who, when I was eight, taught me how to play poker and bust a grown man’s knee cap with a fork. Not at the same time, though.
Aunt Pat was kind enough to send me a photo of the “adorable pink Santa.” Let's take a look, shall we?
WOW AUNT IZORA, WAY TO BE WEIRD.

Check out the face on that thing.

Creepy.

Like, Black Velvet Clown Painting In The Bathroom type of creepy.

See, I don’t question why someone painted the clown on black velvet; I question the person who wants to look at it while they go to the bathroom. Not that my questioning should stop them. It’s their bathroom. It’s their home. Their life. Their bowel movement. Who am I to judge?

...but, when someone gives me the creepy clown painting and gets offended when I don’t hang it above my toilet, well, we have a problem.

And therein lies the rub: you can't give people things you like and expect them to like them too.

Fact: This week, US retailers will exchange/return/reshelf more items than during the rest of the year combined. This wouldn't happen if we kept our black velvet and pink flocking to ourselves. This wouldn't happen if we learned to quell our inner Aunt Izora.

Sometimes, especially around Christmas, I wonder if I am just like Aunt Izora. Why, if I had a nickel for every time someone tossed one of my home spangled Christmas sweaters, well, I would have a whole dime.

And it hurts.


This Christmas I decided to embrace my inner Aunt Izora and gave myself the gift of a pink flocked tree. I have wanted one for years but always felt guilty wanting to something like that for myself. Now I realize that, if I don't get it for myself, that desire will manifest in other ways and will push my taste, my style, my wants out via someone else's gift, which, will inevitably be returned. And that's not good for anybody. So, I propose a toast...

Here is to Aunt Izora and her pink flocked wreath.

Here is to me and my pink flocked tree.

And here is to all those folks standing in line right now, returning $46.3 Billion dollars in merchandise.

Just be thankful it wasn't a clown on black velvet.

Happy new year!

*** PS: If you want people to quit returning your gifts, I suggest you look into a pink flocked tree for yourself. And don't wait til next year either -- Treetopia.com is having a major holiday sale right now. You can embrace your inner Aunt Izora for up to 70% off!

23 December 2011

Merry Thank You




Warm and glittery holiday wishes to you this holiday weekend. This year I have so much to celebrate and appreciate, including you.

If I never said thank you for coming by to poke around, well this is the time of year for it. This blog started as a whim in 2010, and over the last year, has since grown into my surest and brightest dose of daily sunshine. And that is entirely because of you.

Thank you.

BTDubs, I sent you a gift and stuff. If it's delayed, don't look at me -- Lola was driving the sleigh that night. She isn't as efficient as that Rudolph guy.

 

21 December 2011

Happy Hanukkah Y'all




Happy Channukah! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Hanukah!

Or as my old boss used to say, Happy Jelly Doughnut Week.

He was the epitome of cultural sensitivity, that one.
I'm still unpacking my menorahs (Yes menorahs, I have several. And yes, I am still not done unpacking)...but I caught a glimpse of Lola peeping up in the window. She was looking for a dreidel, no doubt. Cat's love playing dreidel you know...

Hello House Paint!*



In writing this post, it occurred to me  that, over the years, I have spent a lot of time painting rooms. To be precise; 35 rooms in 12 years. Four of them in the last three months. I'm planning on painting another six rooms in the next four months.

Whoa. That is a lot of paint!

Read more...

20 December 2011


I'm not hosting a Christmas feast at my house this year, but if I was, you would find one of these babies at every place setting. Not only are they an easy way to snazz up a table, they are a good way to use up all those ornaments with missing top thingies. That's a technical term, folks.

Do you see me in the reflections?

It's just like one of those Where's Waldo puzzles except I'm wearing periwinkle instead of a striped shirt.

And it's totally obvious.
Tip: use an old jar to hold the ornament while the glue dries.
Another Tip: Fill with greens, feathers, berries, dried flowers...whatever you want, but be wary of using fresh flowers or anything that will require you to clean the inside of the ornament afterwards. The rim will snap right off. I speak from experience on this one. So does the bandage on my finger. Owch!


 You need one next to your soap dish. I know you do.



 

19 December 2011


I'm not buying any wrapping paper this year. Stop by every Monday until New Years for an easy gift wrap idea featuring everyday items. 

Do you know the hallmark of a talented gift wrapper? It's when the recipient spends more time examining the wrapping than the gift inside. They feel special just looking the present on their lap. And what could be more Christmasy than that?

A present like this is sure to look good under your tree. And if you have old holiday photos and access to a copy machine, them wham, you are in business. Use oversize paper if you have access, but letter size paper will cover most handheld items like books, music, etc.

I saw a similar idea in an early 1980's Better Homes and Gardens Magazine using pictures of a birthday boy or girl --cute idea, but I like it with a holiday twist. You could also use old Christmas cards, or Christmas Music. Look closely at the photo above and you might see and image from Donny and Marie's Christmas poking through. Don't hold it against me. I'm a sucker for those Osmonds.


16 December 2011

Happy Weekend




Plans this weekend?

I'll bet you do.

Don't know about you, but somewhere between the baking and the eggnog, I plan to sneak out to gawk at other people's Christmas lights. It's one of my favorite holiday traditions. I'm nosy like that.

Anyone else out there plan on taking pictures? Here are 1, 2, 3 excellent posts on ways to capture beautiful twinkle lights and holiday memories. Even though I like to think I know a thing or two about taking holiday pictures, photographing the trees this year has been a pain in the butt challenge. I appreciate all the help I can get!

Happy weekend :)

Lunchtime in Nuremberg




One of the best parts about my job is working right smack in the middle of downtown Chicago—a city I adore and praise to no end. If you have not been here all I can tell you is come. We have so much to offer!

In December, when I can, I like to spend my lunch time wandering through the Christkindl Market outside city hall. I’ll get a grilled cheese pretzel and hot chocolate in a ceramic boot and window shop my way around the square. Sometimes there is live music and a real festive atmosphere, but sometimes, it’s just me and a handful of other office folk coming out to spend their lunch time. The beer garden in the middle of the square is a happening place for the after work crowd, so I like to take my time at lunch. The Salvation Army tuba player plays Silent Night and a good time is had by all.

I think a lot of people write it off some cliché gimmick—like the city orchestrated some pop-up holiday market to draw in tourists, which, let's be honest--is partially true, but they don’t realize that this is the real deal.  Most of the merchants live, work and create their goods in Europe, then fly in to Chicago for one month each year, then return home on Christmas Eve. Having been lucky enough to live in Switzerland for several years, by my estimation, Chicago’s market could hold its own against any Christkindl market in Europe. Ok, maybe not any market in Europe, but it's as close as you will find outside of Germany.

Not a bad way to spend your lunchtime :)

15 December 2011

For Next Year: Stamp Cards




I need to make some holiday cards so I went trolling through my old stacks...aren't these cute?

I made them a few years ago. They look like vintage holiday stamps, but really, it's just a piece of wrapping paper I cut up into squares. Can't find the wrapping paper anymore though. Poo.

Next year I hope to start stamp collecting (nerd alert!) so I can scan them to create my own paper.

Ah, next year...

13 December 2011

For a long time there, I didn't keep a Christmas tree. Don't ask why, it's a long story. Sufficient to say I got my Christmas itch scratched through, um, other modes of holiday hoopla. But all that changed two years ago when I broke down and bought a $20 tree at Target to start housing my birds.

Yes, birds.

I collect bird ornaments. They used to sit on some branches in a bucket all winter, but now they sit in a proper tree and it makes me giddy every time I see it. No, it's not a huge tree--no bigger than a fourth grader. And since I tend to hoard, I made myself a promise; I would only collect birds that were handmade, vintage, or truly special--like a memento from a vacation or a from close friend. That way I could keep a leash on the rate of collection and only after a lifetime would I eventually fill the tiny tree with exclusively one-of-a-kind ornaments. Good plan, right?

Wrong.

I thought it would take me a lifetime to fill that tree, but this is only my third holiday and it's so jam packed I had to get an annex tree for the living room (more on that one to follow).



This year I decided that the tree needed more sparkle and a little bit of Victorian flair. I ordered some German die cut birds from 32 Degress North (they have some seriously cute stuff y'all), and mounted them on cupcake liners with some touches of feathers and tinsel.


Besides the birds and the paper gift tags used as the base, I didn't have to buy a thing.

Not sure if that speaks to the ease of this project, or the severity of my craft supply obsession, but you get the idea.

I realize not everyone keeps polka dotted guinea fowl feathers in their pantry.

 Yeah, their are some other kinds of birds too. Here are some of my recent aquisions...


You know what they say in Portlandia --everything looks good when you put a bird on it. 

12 December 2011


I'm not buying any wrapping paper this year. Stop by every Monday until New Years for an easy gift wrap idea featuring everyday items. 

Last week, my friend Ann (aka Nutbird) sent me a box of drop-dead amazing vintage wrapping paper. Pictures to follow, but the very fact that it came in a box and not on a roll gives you an indication of how old and cool this stuff is.

Then, as I was flipping through the stack with my co-worker, we noticed how different the paper is from what we see on the shelves today; not only does it look different, it sounds different. It crinkles. Crisp, delicate and precious, "almost like potato chips" she said.

Which got me to thinking...remember last year when Sun Chips came out with a biodegradable bag that was louder than an jet engine? That was fun. 

And since half the joy of getting a present is opening it up, wouldn't it be nice to give someone a gift that made lots of noise along the way? Lots of snack food wrappers, especially potato chips, come in these shiny bags that make the most beautiful crunching sounds. Wouldn't you love to see one under the tree with your name on it?


Clearly, there is no tutorial required on this one. If you don't know how to empty a bag of potato chips, please feel free to bring them to my house. We'll do it together. Lola will help.

Cleaning the grease out of snack bags is easy too --just dip them in hot water with a splash of vinegar or amonia and watch the grease float to the top.

Happy munching :)

  

10 December 2011

Happy Weekend



Happy Weekend to you, and a Happy Birthday to me beautiful niece Abigail!

I can hardly believe she is already TWO years old!

 

09 December 2011

Someone Stop Me




It's no secret: I am big on Diet Coke.

Thank you Geena for informing me that there is a giant portrait of Diet Coke made entirely out of mardi gras beads. I feel better about the world just knowing it exists.

Oh thank you Geena, thank you.

Art and image courtesy of Rob Corley. Click here to see more amazing stuff.

 

08 December 2011

A CD that looks like a fruitcake? Oh really, you shouldn't have!
Here is the thing: I love holiday music.

No, really, you think you love it, but I love it more.

If I owned a car, I'd rig the horn to play Carol of the Bells.

No, really.

There is a radio station in Chicago that starts playing Christmas music 24/7 in early November, and for nearly two months, every time a song comes on, I shake my fists a tiny bit and squeal to myself, This one is my favorite!

No, really.

Years ago, when burning your own mix CDs became a fad, some friends and I all swapped CDs made of our favorite holiday music. Between the five of us and ten songs each, it was a quick way to amass a decent collection. And although my collection was already sizable, hearing other people's "Top Ten Holiday Hits" was an interesting insight to each person's approach to Christmas spirit.

You know, one's musical taste and one's taste in Christmas Music are two separate things. You would never guess that a big burly guy would enjoy Rosemary Clooney's Suzie Snowflake, or that the classical music snob would appreciate Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, but there you go. We all learned a little about each other, and after much discussion, we all agreed that the world is divided into two different kinds of people: people who enjoy Celion Dion, and Everyone Else.

But I digress.

I still like to swap Cds and wish it was more popular. I'm still going to make a few though, and this year, best of all, they will look like fruitcake! Ready for the tutorial? Here goes:

1. Go down to the offfice supply store and get some CD Labels for inkjet printers.
2. Find a picture of a fruitcake.
3. Following the manufacturer directions, place the image of the fruitcake over the CD template.
4. Print it.
5. Stick it.

And that's it.

Now, I'm not going to get into the details on how to place an image in your computer, because every combination of template/computer will be slightly different, but trust me, it's easy. If you are super uncomfortable with this stuff, but you have access to someone between the ages of 8 and 18, get them to do it for you. Bribe them with chocolate if you have to. It's worth it. Everyone will be so delighted and impressed when you hand them this CD of your favorite holiday tunes!



HELP ME. I DON'T WANT TO GET SUED. AT LEAST NOT OVER FRUITCAKE.

It is my understanding that certain federal regulatory entities do not appreciate people like me promoting the concept of folks swapping free music. Understandable. Scroogish, but understandable. So, to offset any free music that might be exchanged, lets' promote some music for purchase, shall we?

I'm asking you to leave a comment indicating your top three holiday songs in the following categories; Classic, Sentimental, and Buried Treasure (something that you never hear on the radio). Include artist preference if you have one.

Hopefully, if a few of us share our favorite songs, some of us will be prompted to check them out and perhaps download them on ITunes (or similar). Cool?

Here, I'll start:
Classic: "We Three Kings of Orient Are" by Ella Fitzgerald
Sentimental: "Dominick the Donkey"
Buried Treasure: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Rolf and John Denver (yes, I am evangelizing the Muppets yet again. The whole album is amazing. 'Nuff said) 
Now it's your turn -- chime in the comments, por favor :)

07 December 2011

Let the throw pillows begin



The orange couch finally arrived.

Slightly more red than I expected, but just the same, it is glorious.

The photo doesn't do it justice (my camera struggles with saturated colors--details and lines just blur), but as you can see for yourself, the thing is massive. Double row of back pillows. Deeper and longer than a twin size bed. It's like sitting on a giant, squishy, velvet tomato.

Let the throw pillows begin! 


 

06 December 2011


As I child, I told myself that if I ever lived in wooden house, come Christmastime, I would decorate it as a gingerbread house, bucket sized gumdrops and all. There would be a motorized train in the driveway and I would hire college students to dress as gingerbread men to dance on the lawn each night. Neighborhood children would come to affectionately refer to our home as “The Candy House” for years and years, long after the holidays were over.

Reality check: WTF was that all about?

Decorating the outside of a house is hard. Ladders are dangerous. Lights are expensive. And what parent is going to let their kids play with drunken college kids dressed as creepy gingerbread men?

Still. I couldn’t kill the dream. I had to try. This is my first attempt at Candyland:


Props to all y'all who go whole hog decorating the outside of your homes for Christmas. I had no idea how much effort was involved. Now I know! 

Well, seeing as this was my first time decorating the outside of a full sized home, I set myself some parameters to keep me on track:
  • It had to look good in the daytime, not just when the lights are on at night.
  • It had to be something that could grow a little ever year.
  • All materials had to be inexpensive/widely available/crap I already owned.
  • No scary ladder climbing.
The end result is a far cry from my childhood visions of grandeur, but as a first attempt, I am very happy! It was easy to do, and didn’t take a lot of time or money. 


The candy lights are my favorite. I may string those up in my studio after the holidays. And they were crazy easy to make too— you have got to see the original tutorial from Brittany Jepsen on featured on Oh Happy Day last week. It's pretty much amazing!
Side Note 1: Per the original tutorial, I couldn’t find corsage boxes for less than $2.00 a piece, so I substituted by stapling together a pair of clear plastic bowls. Now I realize I also could have used plastic bottles with the ends removed, or clear plastic take-out containers. Oh well, next year!

Side Note 2: With bulbs this tiny, I'm not worried about overheating, however, some kinds of cellophane will degas toxic fumes when exposed to heat for extended periods of time. I used no-heat LED lights just to be safe, especially since these may be used indoors in the off-season.You decide for yourself :)
Merry Christmas!



05 December 2011

Happy Krampus Day




A lot of my friends use an Elf on the Shelf to promote good behavior in the weeks before Christmas. Like their kids will quit acting up for fear the elf will tell Santa.  

Sure, it’s a classic fear tactic, I get it, but wouldn’t it be more effective if the kids were really scared? 

Like, what about, instead of elf, they used a goat-horned demon with a foot long tongue carrying rusty chains and bells, wandering the town and wailing for the souls of naughty children?

I think that would do it.

 
Awkward shaped gifts can be a pain to wrap. Do you buy a special box? A fancy bbag? Wrap it in tons of paper and scotch tape? All options seem like such a waste...
 
Then last week, I had an "ah ha!" moment while watching the guys at the home center wrap fresh cut Christmas trees in net tubes. I don't have access to some fancy netting machine, but what about net onion bags? Or better yet, what about loofahs? Just one loofah from the dollars store has yards and yards of colorful, highly flexible, nylon tube. Perfect way to shrink wrap awkward shaped gifts. I experimented with a pot and a cat bed --both came out great and required zero tape or special materials. Cool beans!



02 December 2011


Quiz:

Do you own a Christmas sweater?

Do you resent synthetic Christmas trees?

Have you ever been to Colonial Williamsburg between Thanksgiving and New Years?

If you answer Yes, Yes, and No, I suggest you quit reading this and book a trip for next year. 

Because, my friend, your butt belongs in Williamsburg.
Christmas in Williamsburg is special. Yes it’s a tourist attraction but it’s as close to authentic Christmas spirit as I have ever felt or seen in person. The Historic District’s holiday decorations are made entirely of natural materials available in 18th century Virginia. Some 700+ wreaths and swags are displayed on the various merchant and residential buildings, illuminated by candles and wood burning torches. Fife and drum marches are frequent. And on certain days, if you are lucky, the whole town smells like chocolate. Let's go!

Now, historically speaking, the Colonials’ holiday decorations probably would have been much more humble compared to today, but the tradition here is long and well loved. Every year The Grand Illumination is the official "kick-off" for Williamsburg’s Christmas season (this year it’s Sunday, December 4, if you happen to be in the area). 

Chownings Tavern, above, who serves and excellent welsh rarebit btw, displays a new and interesting wreath each year. Last year it was oysters and dried status on a bed of Virginia Pinecones. This year it’s field flowers, shells and berries in pewter ale cups. 


I have been going to Colonial Williamsburg since I was a kid, as has most everyone in southeast Virginia and the mid-Atlantic area in general. It’s just what you do. It’s a popular place. A tourist trap, I suppose.

It’s hard to explain if you have never been there in person. Sometimes people think Williamsburg is like Disneyland (fake) or Amish Country (real), but the truth is somewhere in-between; Williamsburg is a wonderland of American history. The city, the streets, the buildings and the artifacts within are all real –the people are not. The people are actors hired by the CW foundation to perform the roles of individuals who lived in Williamsburg in the 18th century—everyone from famous presidents to scullery maids can be found in costume, in character, roaming the streets of Williamsburg on any given day. 
Prepare for them to greet you with a “Good Day Madam” and an obligatory bow. 

It’s awesome. 

In a way, it’s sort of like a giant renaissance fair except it’s up and running all year round. And the buildings are real. And the history is real. And important stuff happened here. And there’s no one named Gilgamesh running an elf and fairy tattoo in the parking lot.

Did I mention it’s awesome?

Did I also mention that my cousin works there managing the actors? 

This time we got to roam around town with her and get the background on all sorts of stuff that I had never known. That's her in the blue coat in front of the Governor’s Palace, bottom left corner. Sometimes she gets to wear a costume, and, get this: next week her job will require her to attend a ball. IN A COLONIAL BALLGOWN.

Shut up.

Wreaths utilize everything old shoes to antlers.
Apparently the Colonials were very fond of cards, as this home uses them to decorate their front door.


Want to see more pictures of Christmas decorations in Colonial Williamsburg? Visit my flickr album.
Interested in visiting Colonial Williamsburg to see it for yourself? Visit their website.

 
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