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Decorating With Memories

We prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas. My prayers are more reflective now, my gratitude expands. It’s the season of Advent, the weeks before Christmas.

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Photo by Hamlin Grange

Photo by Hamlin Grange

We also decorate our home with memories of those we love. Each activity, each object reminds us.

Like the year I proudly set the table — and my husband decided it was blah. Out came red and green candles and Christmas glasses instead. Now it’s tradition.

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By early December each year, the memories start nudging: it’s time to decorate. 

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Older daughter and son-in-law couldn’t make it from the US, but memories of the whole family together always return on the day we decorate the tree.

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Husband, younger daughter and son-in-law haul in the fresh Fraser fir, haul out the boxes of decorations, string up the lights and we all sip hot cider. The family room’s a happy mess.

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We laughingly remember previous Christmas trees: too small, too thin, or lopsided. But this year, we got it right.

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The ornaments also bring back memories.

My mother’s gratitude and wishes for the following year are written on a scroll in this cylinder. How we all miss her!

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My times working in S. Africa, where these Ndebele dolls were made.

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Some ornaments are just for fun. Like “the disco ball”, that always makes us grin, with memories of the disco days.

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Memories upon memories.

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Tiny Mr. J.C. finally gets tired of all the activity and lies down to sleep, paws up. *Can you see him on the sofa below?* It’s our first Christmas without his best friend Dawson, who would have been asleep at this point too. 

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Blog Photo - Julius and Dawson Sleeping

Do dogs miss their companions? We do. 

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All is calm now. Extra-special thanks are given.

And, as the fire glows in the hearth…

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Santa and the angels look on approvingly, I think. They, too, have kept us company through many a Christmas.

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Blog Photo - Christmas ornaments Peace Angel

From our home to yours, wishing you peace this Advent, good memories, and joyful times at Christmas.

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The Un-Domestic Diva Strikes Again!

Okay, alright, enough already.

I know that I am seriously challenged in some things.

Like cooking. Or baking. Or sewing. Or floral arranging. Or…. you get the drift.

Blog Photo - flowers with alium closer

Last year, I tried to make Christmas arrangements. The best I can say for them? They made people laugh.

Indoor Arrangement

But every saint has a past and every sinner has a future, and since this is the Advent season, I am full of hope for my own redemption.

So I’ve been trying to make Christmas arrangements again. A solitary, mindful activity that suits my Advent mood well.

First off: I had no budget. So all, or almost all, the ingredients had to come from my own garden, or from inside my house somewhere.

Blog Photo - Evergreen Tree with snow

The first result is a bit uneven.

Blog Photo - Planter Box 1

I used:

  • Red dogwood twigs
  • Evergreen spruce
  • Dried hydrangea flowers
  • Pine cones
  • A couple of grapevine balls
  • A few Christmas ornaments.

The second one, with much the same ingredients — plus an old fake bird and a single dried rose still on its long stem — showed more promise. Maybe it was just shaped better.

Blog Photo - Planter Box 2

That encouraged me to try a different, larger design. I used mainly spruce branches, dried hydrangea, dried astilbe and a reddish branch of something.

But this one was not quite right – I’m still not sure why.

Blog Photo - Large Winter Arrangement

Maybe the blue Everlasting flower from an indoor arrangement doesn’t fit? (Yes, I kept the dried-up flowers from arrangements sent us when my husband was ill.)

Finally, I felt bold enough to confront the long plant stand. You may remember that arrangement from last year – it was an inelegant mess.

Christmas Greenery
Christmas Greenery

Could I do better this year?

Totally intimidated at first, I cheated.

I bought some discounted southern magnolia branches  – 3 bunches at 5 bucks a bunch… a major steal.  At least, I think that’s magnolia – those leaves that are shiny-green-on-one-side, rust-coloured-on-the-other.

And here is the arrangement:

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Blog photo - Winter arrangement CU2

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My mother used to say: “Self praise is no recommendation.” So I shall make no editorial comment.

Instead, I shall sit back and await your accolades.

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Don’t let me down, now.

Fishing for compliments is exhausting.

Photos by Hamlin Grange
Photos by Hamlin Grange

**

Dedicated to my sister Pat and all domestic divas, including many in my blogging network (you know who you are).

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THE (IM)PERFECT TREE

You think my Christmas arrangement was bad?

You should see our Christmas tree this year.

Last year,  I chose the tree myself– and suffered a thousand criticisms because it was so small. No-one would admit what I knew: this tree was tiny but perfect.

Tiny Perfect Christmas Tree

This year, my husband and younger daughter were sure they’d do better. They drove to a tree farm, hopped onto the farmer’s tractor-pulled wagon…

On the Wagon… and cut a tree. They declared it “perfect”.

Cutting the Tree

Until they brought it home. Neither could explain how their perfect tree turned into a strange creature with few branches on one side, even  fewer on the other – and a bare backside, to boot.

Truth is, our family has a really bad record when it comes to picking Christmas trees: too tall or too short, too thin or too fat, too sparse.

Lopsided Tree

The first winter we spent at my husband’s family farmhouse years ago, getting the tree was a no-brainer. We’d simply walk down the hill of the 100-acre farm to where the spruce trees grew, and cut one.

It was particularly snowy that year. We slipped and slid down the long hill, Barclay the dog beside us.  But we cut the “perfect tree” and tied a rope around it. Then came the long journey uphill. We slipped and slid again and our knees nearly buckled in the deep snow.

We eyed Barclay, now grown and strong, wondering if we could tether the rope to him and have him do the work, but abandoned that idea swiftly. He was having a lot of fun eating the snow or digging himself out of it.

“What use are you?” we teased him. “We sure could use your help right now.”

By the time we reached the top of the hill, the branches on the tree’s bottom side were battered and broken. To hide the damage, we positioned the tree’s flat side against one wall of the large dining room, but what a sad thing it was.

Photo by H. Grange

“It’s a Charlie Brown tree,” I told everyone that year. “It’s got a charm all its own.”

“A tree only our family could love,” my husband muttered, shaking his head in disappointment.

This year, despite all the ornaments,  our daughter was shaking her head in disappointment, while her father  kept claiming that the tree “has character”.

But that tree gave me a chance to feel like a domestic diva. As you know, that’s a rare thing.

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Photo by H. Grange

I fetched the branches that my husband had cut from the bottom of the tree, and some peacock feathers, and tried to fool the eye into thinking the tree wasn’t as bad as it was.

Selfie Ornament

Or maybe the only eye that got fooled was mine. Oh, well….

From the home of imperfect Christmas arrangements and trees – I wish you peace, love and joy.

Cynthia.

ALL PHOTOS BY H. GRANGE

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The Un-Domestic Diva

How hard could it be to make your own Christmas arrangement?  Looks easy enough in the magazines, and on the internet, right?

Christmas Arrangement - viaGoogle Images
Photo – via Google Images

It’s almost Christmas and I’m surrounded by 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.

Angel and Ball
Angel and Ball

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.

Christmas Greenery
Christmas Greenery – First Muddled Attempt

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.

Blog Photo - Chirstmas Arrangement Outdoor

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.

Birdie Bird
Birdie Bird

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.

Garlic Bulb
Garlic Bulb

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.

Indoor Arrangement
Indoor Arrangement
PHOTOGRAPHS BY H. GRANGE

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’.