This piece from a few years ago made me grin, so as we head towards what may well be a strange Christmas season for many, I wanted to make you smile too. If you laugh at me, that’s even better!
Photos by Hamlin Grange
How hard could it be to make your own Christmas arrangement? Looks easy enough in the magazines, and on the internet, right?
It’s almost Christmas and my family is full of women who cook and bake AND do great home decor. My sister, daughters, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, girlfriends: domestic goddesses, every one. Some even sew and knit.
I, meanwhile, am a failed domestic diva. I baked a cake – once. I failed knitting – twice. I try – Lord knows I try – but I’m still an exceptionally underachieving cook.
But it’s Christmastime, after all. A time of great hope.
So I decided to make Christmas stuff. The kind of stuff that won’t give my family indigestion, catch fire and burn (as the solitary cake did), or that anyone needs to wear. (That sock I tried to knit is indescribable AND a family joke.)
In the past, I used branches from the trees in my garden, tied together with a big red ribbon – and called it a Christmas bough. Hanging on the front door, it was only seen from a distance, or when we had visitors. Very polite visitors.
But this year, I decided to go big or …. no, I was already home, so let’s forget the rest of that saying. I decided to be ambitious. To arrange greenery in containers. One in the plant-stand outdoors, one in a container indoors. Artfully composed, of course.
Did I mention that I failed BOTH art and photography in school? Something to do with composition.
I collected branches of everything that grew right next to the verandah of our home. I’m under a kind of house arrest, you see – mandated by my doctor because I overdid it with the book-related activities and also started a new medication with woozy side-effects. I figured that as long as I went no farther than the verandah, it would still qualify as “resting at home”.
I put a double layer of plastic in the bottom of the containers, and placed the wet florist foam on it. (The foam was wet, not the florist.) Then I stuck branches of stuff into it. Spruce. Juniper. Euonymus. Boxwood. And pine cones on sticks. I stepped back to admire my handiwork.
It needed something. Aha! More red dogwood sticks.
It still needed something. But I was worn out and achy and very woozy. I wisely took to my bed.
Two days later, I felt brighter. Contrast, I thought! I need contrast!
So I fetched some “brownery” –– brown-leaved branches from last Christmas, forgotten in a tall container in one corner of the verandah. But when I cleverly tried to add them, the florist foam had frozen hard due to cold weather and the brownery crumbled, leaves falling from brittle stems.
I searched the house and found a little fake bird and some loose pine cones and judiciously placed them among the greenery.
But it still needed something. I just never figured out what.
As for the inside container? There was a coup de grace: garlic. Yes, garlic on stems. Harvested from our garden this fall, it’s surprisingly decorative, will deter vampires and spice up my cooking efforts after Christmas.
But that bit of creativity wore me out completely. So I stuck some shiny red Christmas ornaments on branches in the container and called it a day.
Lord, give me strength. Clearly, you withheld the talent.
This post is dedicated to everyone who struggles with domestic arts. And to all domestic goddesses: you give me something to aspire to. Or maybe that’s ‘perspire’. This stuff is a lot of work!
40 thoughts on “Christmas Arrangements – Bad Ones”
Your arrangement is so pretty!
The beauty is that you created this, and it can’t be brought on the shops.
So it is unique
That’s a whole different way of looking at my failures, Annette! Thank you.
I enjoyed your post immensely. I smiled all the way through and chuckled at the end. You are especially talented but not at everything. 🤗🤗
Thank you for making me giggle with that last line.
Thank you for the chuckles, Cynthia! I was having that very sort of struggle this morning. My little artificial Christmas tree refused to be prettily decorated this year. I think she is old and needs to be replaced next year. But a Charlie Brown tree is perhaps a propos for 2020. Might as well laugh!
May you and your family have a beautiful Christmas.
You have genius as much for decoration as for writing books, Cynthia.
Your arrangement is made with love! What could be more beautiful? ❤ 🙂
Thanks for the laughs Cynthia. You the Goddess of writing and humor. We can’t all be domestic Goddesses! 🙂
A grand effort, well done.
If it makes you feel any better, I dated a girl once who had a mother who was a knitter and she was determined to teach me to knit. I failed miserably too.
I think your arrangement looks fine. It makes me think of Christmas.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Cynthia for sharing your decorating struggles. I am NOT a decorating diva and struggle like you. Though I have to say your persistence definitely paid off in a very nice arrangement. I have decorated the house this year like no other mostly because I think we all need the lift of colourful lights and pretty sparkly sprigs of glitter sprinkled twigs. I’ve decided I don’t care if it looks “bad” because honestly it feels good to be doing things with my hands and once the lights are out and the twinkle lights plugged in and you’ve had a glass or two of wine, who cares? Its the effort that matters.
I love those last two lines – thanks for the smile! Glad to hear someone else struggles through this. I think I will get some more twinkly lights, and then remember the glass or two of wine.
I won’t laugh, but I may allow a wee smile of kinship. The art of arranging plant-type things, escapes me, unlike my husband, who is very good at it.
Never mind. You write pretty well 🙂
I live in a place where all the women are born to decorate. Their houses are glorious inside and out. I did not get that gift at birth and it has always been a struggle.
Maybe you and I are the ones who grow the stuff, and they decorate with it! That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it!
I don’t get the purpose of decoration. Be brave, Cynthia, and refuse to decorate! But if you must, I think you’ve done pretty well.
Thank you! I can’t be brave indoors, though, because I have a cellar full of Christmas stuff. I keep editing, but it just seems to multiple in the months between Christmas seasons.
Happy Holidays, Cynthia, I love this! I agree we all need twinkly lights and wine this season!! and some garlic in our arrangements. It really is lovely and if I get in touch with my inner southern old lady I would spray paint it gold and have cascades of gold garlic around the house. I need your help in a domestic matter, I am baffled by what to do with the Roselles in the freezer!
I think it turned out well:) It’s the “fun” in doing it that counts!
I think you are too modest Cynthia , your arrangement is lovely and very original. I like the garlic, it is decorative and keeps vampires away, a win/ win situation.
Please remind me: How much did I pay you to say this nice thing? hahaha. Thank you for being so kind. Though I do agree about the garlic.
I actually think it looks very attractive, but even if it didn’t, you have many other talents!
I see myself in this post! I quake at the thought of those wine & painting sessions that have become so popular. Namely because my painting takes me back to my thumby coloring in kindergarten and beyond. But I actually love your finished product! It turned out nicely:).
Haha. Lotsa wine and little painting? I still draw stick figures.
More like lotsa’ wine and lots of big blob painting😂! Let’s try it together sometime, shall we?
I think you’re being hard on yourself. To me they look grand. McOther says he’s tone deaf because he failed recorder at school, but really, it’s simply because his other two brothers and his father have perfect pitch and can pick up an instrument they have never seen before and play it like a pro. McOther thinks anyone who is musical is like them and that if you’re not like them, you are not a talented musician ergo, he isn’t even though, I suspect, he could be. He has no idea that there are concert pianists, opera singers and soloists across the world who go touring, are famous and have millions of fans who can’t play a tune two handed on the piano without looking at the music first. Indeed, there are full time musicians making a perfectly good living from their music who would murder to be able to do that … and can’t …
So what I’m saying is that, just because the others in your family are prodigiously talented, it doesn’t mean you aren’t, just that you’re normal and they’re exceptions! 🙂
I like the idea that I’m normal and THEY are the oddballs! Thanks for taking the time to write all this and set me straight.
I love the garlic, and I think it looks great! I lack decorating skills too. Fortunately, Marcus is good at it. He made all these lovely wreaths and garlands for the house, and I asked him to put together my wedding bouquet too, because all my attempts looked awful. Even shoving a handful of fake flowers together was beyond me.
You are a lucky woman! Marcus is to wreaths and bouquets what my husband is to cooking and baking. I would starve without him.
Oh, definitely! He also recently taught himself to knit, and is currently knitting me a sweater. I can cook and bake, but I’m hopeless at all things crafty.
Good man. And you cook and bake! You will never starve and will be both warm.
Well Cynthia, we all have our strong points. And it can be both challenging and entertaining to discover what our strong points are – and aren’t. And I do agree – you’re a great writer and gardener too!!
Two of of (maybe) ten ain’t bad, right Sheila? Haha! I just don’t understand why I lack the talent in the domestic arts that my relatives and friends have. I try and try.
This is NOT your fault. You just used stuff from the yard that already grew there and what you happened to have around the house, right? You need to back up a step and plant the perfect greenery in the spring for a Christmas arrangement you want in December, and then purchase the perfect inserts for color, composition and creative touches. That’s surely what Martha Stewart and all her wannabes do!! 😉
Thanks for the grin!
I did laugh, but not at you. I did three hanging containers for outside this week. I used pine and winterberries from my yard and drove to a garden I maintain and snipped a few other branches that were sticking out but were perfect for what I needed. The smallest hanger I could put on a hook, see all sides, and it came out pretty well. The two larger ones I had to set on a counter and work on them, and they really got me laughing when I hung them up. They’re plain green and red, but boy are they unbalanced. Oh well, we tried. 🙂
We did! Proud of you, sister!
Cynthia, you are waaayyyy too hard on yourself! These look lovely! Really! You may have convinced me to be careful if I come visit and you bake a cake, but you won’t convince me that you can’t do a floral arrangement. Thanks for the great writing – had me laughing.
Happy new year, dear Jeanne! I wanted to make my friends laugh and I love making fun of my own shortcomings. They are so many, they make ME laugh!