Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Memory Making and a Swedish Bread Recipe

 Christmas 2016 was finally upon us, and this year I was more than ready.
Now I can devote my full attention to every detail, and its certainly something I enjoy.
Our family is growing and adding daugter-in-laws, which means sometimes switching things
up a bit, and so our Christmas Eve is now celebrated on the Eve of the Eve.  
The house and the trees were decorated and lit and it never looked prettier.
Adding daughter in laws?  My son, Brandon, is engaged to his long time love, Mimi!
They live in Los Angeles but this photo was taken at our house a few years ago.
I couldn't be more excited!  (Trying to lure them back to the East Coast as well.)
So while Mimi and Brandon couldn't join us this year, we hope that will change.
 Colby was content to lie in front of the fire or in front of the tree when
he got too hot.  Visions of sugar plums danced in his head!  
I always loved that verse, although I never quite knew what a sugar plum
was, it sounded magical to me.
 Following our Christmas eve tradition, the table was set with English Crackers for all.  A new addition to my table were the large monogramed French napkins I bought from one of my favorite French dealers.  These linen napkins are as big as dish towels, and they feel wonderful!
 The crackers have crowns in shiny gold and festive red paper and this set had musical horns and a set of sheet music with each of us blowing a different note at our conductors command, played by my son Justin.  It brought many laughs and we as an orchestra got better with each tune.  Then we sang songs from the caroling books I made, and it made for a jolly time around the dinner table.
After dinner we ate pastries while this charming film was played in the
green room.  Have you seen it?  Made in 1982, it was one of my children's favorite
holiday movies, and I highly recommend it.  Its so wonderful!
I purchased it from our cable tv for less than ten dollars, and it made
for a sweet way to finish out the evening.
 The morning brought Christmas Eve day, and a bit of a mess to cleanup.
I love looking at a dinner table after a party....
it tells a story, and this one was all good.
 Then Christmas morning came and it was nice and mellow, with Colby and I the first by the tree.
My new book is a winner!! If you love French interiors, 
this  beautiful picture book by Veranda  has some beauties.
The day followed with presents and a trip to New Hampshire to my 
brother-in-law's home for a big family gathering on my husbands side,
and another engagement announced for his son, Matthew and gf Sarah! 
Nothing more romantic than a Christmas Eve proposal under the stars!!
 One special gift from Santa to me, was this Oyster bread maker. 
I always thought bread makers were pricey appliances, but this one had
great reviews and cost $60.  Well worth it, in my opinion. 
(no, I am not sponsored in this post.)
 I have always wanted to make Swedish coffee bread for my husband and his mother. 
 They have enjoyed it for their entire lives as it has been a recipe made by
 previous generations and finally I gave it a go!  Swedish coffee bread, 
or Cardamom bread as some call it is a bread that is often enjoyed
 with coffee and its just delicious!
 The dough is mixed up in the bread maker, and after it goes through
 two rising cycles you put the dough out onto a floured board and 
divide into sections so you can braid into a pair of loaves.
 My first loaves were a GIGANTIC success!! hahha! I did it!  
I made Swedish Coffee Bread, and my mother in law said it was perfect, 
so it doesn't get better than that. 
Here is our old family recipe, from cousin Bob Johnson.
If you have a bread maker and want to give it a whirl, you
will be delighted at the outcome.  Merry Christmas to you all,
my blog friends and readers!  
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Monday, December 19, 2016

Make a Christmas Carol Songbook

A Christmas tradition for many is caroling, or at least it used to be.
 Have you ever had the fun of going out caroling at Christmas time?
When I was in my early teens a group of neighbors did that and it was such
fun and really put you in the holiday spirit. Its such an old fashioned thing to 
do and has such tradition, two things that seem to make it a good thing this time of year.
We all had tiny songbooks to follow along to make sure we knew the words to 
each Christmas carol.  If you want to create a songbook, you can do what I 
did last night.  Martha Stewart (of course!) has an easy to make songbook
for Christmas Carols on her website.  The link to the Songbook will be at 
the end of this brief post, if you are interested in creating one for yourself.
The reason I came to search for "how to make a caroling songbook" was because of
 my mother in law, Claire.  She loves music!  
Above you can see us all dressed up to enjoy the 
Boston Holiday Pops orchestra, with their wonderful Christmas program.  
Music is such a nice part of Christmas. 
 The Boston Pops at Symphony Hall
Boston Symphony Hall, decked out for their Holiday Pops show.
Just yesterday, Claire asked if we could sing some carols at our Christmas party.  
I know that her own traditions of celebrating had her aunts and uncles and parents 
and children all gathered around a piano on Christmas eve and there they sang 
Christmas Carols. Its easy to picture that scene, isn't it?  
Claire herself played the violin and the cello, 
and her father was a piano tuner, so musical ability ran deep in this family. 
 While I can't play more than chopsticks on the piano, I can belt out a carol or two.  

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Charming Gift Wrap Station

 We have all seen the fancy craft rooms that some lucky people have,
and in those rooms the wrapping papers hang from rolls and there are
loads of ribbons to choose from.  If you are like me, and don't have a 
craft room, you can create a dedicated spot for your gift wrapping, as
well as your card writing.  This small vintage desk that I recently 
bought is turning out to be a very handy piece of furniture!
 It is in a corner of our dining room, and it has become the place for mail
to land.  But along came the holidays and overnight it seemed to turn into
a gift wrap station!   Wrapping paper and ribbon look so pretty, and to have
them displayed openly in a room feels very festive!  The small drawers hold
tape and notecards and stamps for Christmas cards I have yet to send.
Maybe a console table or sidetable could be repurposed into a gift wrap station
at your home.  Use pretty containers to hold pens and pencils and notecards.
An old waste basket holds rolls of gift wrapping on the floor next
to the desk.  Its so convenient!  I have been wrapping as I go, so it won't
pile up on my at the eleventh hour.  When I was about 12 years old, my dad
set up a folding card table in my bedroom and anointed me as his personal gift wrapper.
He said I did such a nice job, as I loved wrapping gifts using matching 
colored ribbons and making tags.  So I guess Dad was ahead of his time, creating 
a gift wrap station.  Anyway, I love having this spot.  I don't have to pull 
everything out of closets and drawers to find what I need, then put it all back.
 Its been quite a joy actually.  
I love that something so simple can be so useful and joyful.
 I still rely on my old methods of making tags by clipping 
a square of wrapping paper and then just writing "to and from" inside
 and taping it to the package.
  Sometimes I buy the fancy tags, but mostly I do it the way I did as a kid.  
 And where do my wrapped gifts go?  Well since everyone knows 
Santa is coming, I no longer have to hide them.  
So now I use them to decorate spaces in the house.
 Loaded up and layered on top of this old green bench,
I put a few of the gifts in green and red papers.
 They are very cheery in the kitchen!
 The pastel pretty packages are under our living room tree.  
Speaking of which, Colby has been so good about ignoring 
the wrapped gifts under the tree.
But last night I wondered why he wasn't hanging out 
with me and hubs in the tv room.  
Well he was busy "opening" his first gift. 
 Hahhah!  It was a small package that had an ornament inside. 
 I have no idea why he found that particular package interesting.  
Except other than  the wrapping I had used was recycled paper 
from a gift I received from Matthew Mead.  
Maybe Colby smelled little Oscar all over the wrapping?  
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Monday, December 12, 2016

Blue Angels and Pink Santas

My favorite things...
 Tis the time of year when I transform our home with the magic of Christmas 
decorations and delights.  I tend to decorate over time, adding bits more
after the initial decorating burst.  Back into the eaves I went to look for 
some of the sentimental things that make the season more meaningful.
So that meant hunting down my blue Angel. 
Believe it or not, once upon a time, blue was not a color I liked,
so that meant I never had anything blue in my home!  One year my 
dad surprised me with a big box prettily wrapped from a little shop.
Inside was this large blue angel figure, in a billowy periwinkle and grey
dress, with blue pearly wings.  I wondered where I would put this
angel in blue in my pink and yellow house?
Over the years I would place it on a bookshelf or a tabletop, nestled in evergreens.   
 Fast forward many years and now this angel in blue has turned
out to be one of my favorite Christmas decorations!
 Mostly because my dad saw it and thought of me and I appreciate that the older I get, 
and also because it looks so pretty in my living room.
It's definitely one of those special pieces that I cherish.
Another special but newer addition, is the Pink Santa stocking that my mom knit for me.
It has angora wool on Santa's beard and fur trimmed suit, with a sparkly
belt buckle on a pearl grey background, my name spelled out in pink.
Its one of many my mom has knit for all of my children, my husband and my daughter in law,
all in different Christmas designs, like snowmen and wreaths and snowflakes.
I can't think of a more meaningful "decoration" at Christmas, than a personalized
stocking made with such care and love.  Packages wrapped in heavy embossed foil, also in 
pink are under the tree, and the effect is quite magical!  I found this luscious pink paper at Marshalls
and I wish I bought ten rolls of it!! A few pink balls, new and vintage, mix in the tree
with the blue,  silver and gold ornaments.  I am in love with our tree this year!  I think
part of the fun of a tree is how it comes out a little bit different than the year before.
Not having a shop to run has let me really enjoy the decorating part of the season.
Just a reminder, my home is in a ten page feature in the current issue of
Romantic Country magazine, on newsstands now.  
Here is a cute story:
My dad went to his local Publix supermarket in Florida to look for it
 and came up empty handed.  So he asked to speak to the manager 
who ordered a bunch of them and then called to tell him the shipment was in.
How cool is my dad for asking and how nice of the Publix manager to order them.
I can just imagine him telling her proudly that his daughter's home was on the cover!
My friends around the country have seen them in Barnes and Noble, Walgreens, 
CVS and places like that.  If you don't see it, just ask.
Hoping you have time to hang up a few baubles around your home,
and get in the festive spirit! 
 Its amazing what a few white lights and Shiny Brites can do to a room.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

A fabulous addition to our foyer

Its that time of year when you try to make your house really sparkle!
Maybe you do projects in time for the holidays too?
Finally!  I have done something in this space that I have been wanting to do 
since the day we moved in! Can you guess what it is?
(Hint:  Look at the staircase.)
Our entryway is a space I have talked about in less than glowing
terms, because it opens right into the stairway and our living room.
  The staircase is very prominent, and it needed some appeal.
A new runner softened the space and gave it a finished look.
But where did I find this runner?  You may be surprised...
The Perfect Rug company is an online rug shopping place that has 
a zillion rug types and colors and weaves.  Honestly it was so easy to use
this site, and their customer service was great. Originally I was going to 
get an area rug for the dining room, but the more I thought about it, I 
knew I wanted a runner, and because they are custom sizes, The Perfect Rug
was the best solution.  I also love that they have cost estimates as you shop
online for the various types and sizes of carpets, so you can be mindful of your budget.
Being on the stairs, I wanted a rug that would stand up to traffic,
as well as a color that would hide paw prints and work boots.
My carpet style was a natural grass carpet, called Sisal.  It got a 4
on a scale of 1-5 in The Perfect Rug's rating scale for wear and tear.
It also got a 5 out of 5 for its Green Ratings! LOVE! 
That scale was very helpful in choosing the correct type of carpet.
Each carpet choice on their website has a "details" link to click on
to see the various ratings, so you can make a good choice.
 Since it is custom, you also select what binding style you want for your
rug, but they do include their recommendations for each carpet, which is great.
  I went with a bound edge in a color that blended with the rug.
It looks so polished now! 
 I love how the runner looks with the recent wallpaper we added in blue and grey.
What a difference these upgrades made to our entry area!
Here is how the process began~I shopped online at The Perfect Rug for samples.
When I got my samples, I narrowed it down to three choices in shades of neutrals.
Getting to see the samples in person in your home makes your decision foolproof.
My choice?
with a Serged Border in Light Slate Grey.
 Sisal is not soft underfoot, but the wear and tear factor was the 
deciding factor for our home.  It couldn't look more perfect!
Also I want to point out, our stairs are open to the railing
for the first five steps, and then it narrows down between the walls
as you head up the staircase.  I based my width of the runner on something that 
would look appropriate between both treads, which was a 27" wide runner.
We did use an independent installer. 
(Initially I thought I would try it but I wanted it to look perfect!)
He said that this was an exceptionally high quality carpet
and in fact he had yet to ever see, or install, a runner made out of sisal.
That made me a very happy girl!
Our home has a lot of natural grass style carpets which are great for
active homes with pets and kids.  The living room has a tan colored
jute rug.  I could have opted for a tan runner, but I went with the grey
like you see in our wing chair.  I love mixing grey and tans together.
 So if you are thinking about refreshing your carpets or getting a rug
for a space that needs a special shape or size, you will find just want you 
need at The Perfect Rug.  I am simply thrilled with this company!
And get this: Bob, a company representative, called me almost instantly
 after he got my order online to discuss the particulars about installing runners. 
 He was so thorough, making sure I would get the right amount of carpet 
and not come up short.  That says a lot about a business, 
knowing that they want their customers to be happy with what they have ordered. 
 High marks from me on that!
Add in a two week turn around time, and it doesn't get any better.
My tiny entryway looks so much prettier than it did just a month ago.
My wall mora clock is decked out for Christmas with a mix of
grey and tan with a bit of gold ribbon, echoing the carpet colors.
I am truly looking forward to greeting my guests for the holidays,
and I won't be feeling badly anymore when I open my front door,
thanks to The Perfect Rug.  That's for sure!

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Note: This post is sponsored by The Perfect Rug, however all thoughts and opinions are my own. I couldn't be happier to work with and recommend this company to my readers. 
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Monday, December 5, 2016

Our Traditional Christmas Tree

Our family room is the one room that we all gather in every evening.
Its also the smallest room in our home. We have filled the room
with a leather furniture set to fit as many people as we can get in here.
I never thought it would have room for a Christmas tree, and yet when 
Tree Classics asked if I wanted to try one of their space saving trees, 
I was more than happy to see if I could squeeze in a tree!
I am joining Tree Classics, the artificial Christmas Tree company, along with 
a few of my design blogger friends in this sponsored post.
  Real trees come in so many choices, so don't be surprised to see just how many 
varieties of faux trees there are at Tree Classics.  My tree is the 
Kennedy Fir Slim SnapTree, which means it is a snap to set up!
The Snap Tree technology means it comes in two sections.
 The tree is pre-lit, and it couldn't be more easy to set up this tree...
I did it myself in a few minutes!
 (Check my video out at the end of the post to see how quick and easy 
the set up is on the Tree Classics Snap Trees.)  
Our slim Kennedy Fir fits in the corner of the room, and I placed it
in front of the window so it could be enjoyed from the exterior of our home.
Since I have another tree in our living room window, it looks beautiful when you
drive up to the house and see both trees in the front windows of our Colonial home.
Our family room was painted an Emerald green, so I thought it
would be nice to decorate in a totally old fashioned way, 
using the traditional Christmas colors of red and green.
Red isn't a color that is used in this house very often, but at this time
of year it feels just like the Christmases I had as a girl.
I played up the traditional look even more by wrapping packages in plaid paper, 
and adding a red velvet tree skirt.
 Most of the glass ornaments on the tree are from the big collection 
of various ornament styles found on Tree Classic's website.  
They come in heavy duty boxes with foam liners and are going
 to be great for putting them back into storage when I take down the tree. 
I selected ornaments that had old fashioned appeal,
like the ones we had on our trees growing up.
 My favorite collection is the Vintage ornament set in the
Merry and Bright Collection.
A gorgeous mercury glass reproduction set with frosted glitter accents. 
 The red and green theme carries over into the pillows that are on the sofas.
I just adore how the tree came out, and so does Sylvia! 
 Lets take a closer look at the  luscious velvet quilted tree skirt from Tree Classics.
It is the Velvet Buttoned Up Quilted Tree Skirt in red with green piping.
It feels so traditional and rich!  A great place to layer on the plaid packages too.
At night our tree is simply magical and the entire room glows from its tiny lights.
I am so thrilled we have a tree in the family room, so we can enjoy it nightly.
I confess I miss the smell of a live tree, and to handle that I light a Balsam candle 
when we are hanging out.  I have tried all kinds and brands, and haven't
been disappointed.  Some of the least expensive Balsam candles have been the best!
 The kids are the ones who seem to love a traditional red and green Christmas
the most, don't you think?  But I will say, I am more than surprised at how
warm and cozy and memory stirring it is to have a traditional tree.
If you want to see how I set up our Snap Tree, check out the 40 second video
below.  You will also see in the background, the first Snap Tree that
 I got last year from Tree Classics.  After assembling the tree,
I simply wheeled it down the hall on its rolling stand, into our family room!  

In partnership with Tree Classics, our group of Home Decor bloggers

have been provided with trees, ornaments and tree skirts to 

create trees that fulfill our own visions and traditions, offering inspiration

to our readers.  We hope you enjoy this Christmas Tree tour! 

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