Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Leftovers!

I hope if you are in a place where Thanksgiving is celebrated that you are enjoying some delicious leftovers.

My leftovers are the photos leading up to and through the holiday!

Thanksgiving itself was a double whammy! On Thursday it was Rick, Lizzie and me. Lizzie clearly has a love affair with Rick. She's all over him like a wet blanket with her big old happy-cat purr!

Friday we headed to Kevin and Molly's where we enjoyed Thanksgiving with the kids and Molly's family.

They were great hosts. Molly made clever place cards from corks -- I love cork projects! And we all contributed to a non-turkey dinner, which was great after turkey the day before! And of course, game playing was on the menu, too!

Of course there was time for a family portrait.

Or two.

I've been decorating for Christmas -- some of that started before the holidays with a trip to the greens market.

Oh, it was beautiful!

And then my friend Jan and I stopped at our favorite store, Gardenviews, in Northville, MI.

I keep saying that I won't get new Christmas. But I always do.

It was like a magical fairyland -- exceptionally good this year!


And now I'm working on bringing some of that magic home. Of course, a visit to Southern Exposure this week (and next week, too!) will help!

So stay tuned! The gloves are off -- Let the merriment begin.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks Every Day

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving. It's a wonderful word, isn't it? One of my favorites. And one I think of year round, not just in late November. But perhaps more often I think of it as "gratitude."

I recently found my gratitude journals -- or at least a couple of them. I started writing the daily "Five things for which you are grateful" in a journal decades ago and while I no longer write them down, every night before I go to sleep, I think of at least five things to acknowledge.

Some are big ones, like being grateful that when my across-the-street neighbor and I simultaneously backed our cars out of the driveway at the same time, no damage was done to person or car. Some are small, like getting a great parking spot on a crummy day.

And many repeat, over and over. Being grateful for a special time with Rick, a phone call from one of the kids, Lizzie's purr.

It's been fun reviewing the journals because they remind me of some very special times -- and some significant ones.

For example, in 2001 I made this notation: "I am grateful that amid terror and death, strangers speak and hug each other, people pull together to help others, strangers remember those they never knew with flowers and teddy bears and photographs; that my family and friends are safe and that we are more aware than ever of how life can be cut short. (September 12, 2001)

Funny. That is as fitting this month as it was those many years ago.

Not all my gratitude notes have such a world view. For example, on Thanksgiving weekend in 1998 I wrote: I am grateful for delightful times with Rick and the kids, for not so delightful times with the whiners, and for being able to love them despite the whining. (I wish I could remember what they were whining about!) That week, among other things I wrote that I was grateful for Jane Austen and "Pride and Prejudice," weather so warm I barely need a jacket and for being able to relax.

And a few days later: "I'm grateful the lump on my breast seems to have disappeared or "gone under" and I don't need surgery for the holidays.

There were times when I was grateful for a "deep sleep" and that my friend Patricia was hanging in there healthwise. (December 1997). Patricia has since passed but I remain grateful that she was my friend.

I look back and see things that meant a lot to me. "I'm grateful that Kevin told me I could come to the Pinewood Derby." (January 1997, about a year after I was part of their lives.)

And then there were the routine things -- the smell of baking cookies, an afternoon off, that the tulips are popping up and for stars, the microwave and frozen margarita mix.

Looking back at these journals of simple gratitude tell me, in a way, what was happening in my life then, almost like a diary without the details. The funky mammogram, 9/11, becoming part of a family, warm autumns and early springs.

But most of all, I see the simple beauty and meaning of real life. The things that appear over and over are Rick and the boys, the cats, health and comfort. Chocolate chip cookies, back rubs, stew on a cold winter night, a whole day to do art.

To be grateful that a stressful day is over seems more healthy and nurturing than to keep reliving that stressful day. To recognize with thanks that you and no one else was hurt in a fender bender (even if the car was totaled) is so much more freeing than being angry at the accident, the other driver or yourself.

In fact, in a news story reported on NPR on Monday, November 23, scientific research has indicated that gratitude is good for your heart health -- and additional studies proved writing it down helped even more! (Maybe I should start doing that again!) It's a short story and an interesting one -- check out the link!

The New York Times also reported on this research. Choose to be grateful -- it will make you happier, the article encourages, linking to the various research studies. Both are stories well worth following!

I have a reputation for being a pretty half-full kind of person. And I can't tell you how much this annoys people! It's not that I never get down. I do. But even then I try to remember how easily it could be so much worse. And I'd rather try to find the one little bit of good in a whole heap of bad to hang onto. It's not that one can ignore the bad. I can't. But I can try to find a tiny bit of gratitude somewhere in the mix.

The incidents in Paris this month have drawn me in with their sadness and I see the fear that is sweeping not only Europe but our own country. I see political arguments and statements that make no sense to me, that seems outrageously xenophobic. I see a future where the rules of the game have been changed and we scramble for a way to bring safety to the world. And can we? No one knows.

But I also see the crowds of people that Peter showed in his Paris posts, returning to the Bataclan and leaving flowers at makeshift Parisian memorials, dining in cafes and standing firm. I see the governor of Washington in his New York Times OpEd piece defend the need to place refugees. I see friends continuing to make their travel plans to Europe. And each and every one of these things fills me with gratitude.

The list on this day is a bit more complex than being grateful for finding my earring plug and being able to sleep in.

And perhaps that is what it's all about. Growing in gratitude, facing the difficult head on and looking for the shiny bit to hold onto, even when it seems very hard.

We all need that shiny bit.

So, if you are lucky enough to get the wishbone in your turkey dinner, pull hard and make a wish. But make it a wish that counts.

And be grateful that we are able to wish and dream and hope. And, grateful to find true happiness, no matter what that might mean for you.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Look Ahead December 2: Deck the Halls

Maybe you've already started decorating your home for the holidays. I wait till the day after Thanksgiving and then the gloves come off and Christmas comes out!

That doesn't mean it hasn't been hanging out in the guest room for a few days! With every litter box trip to the basement, up has come a tree or a swag or a box of favorite treasures. And now we throw open the doors and let it escape!

Decking the Halls

Everyone has their own style, their own favorite ornaments and decorations, their "look." Those who have followed my holiday posts in the past know that I tend to go for a lot of trees! There is this part of me that wants to be more minimalist so that everything shows to its best advantage. And this other part that says "I love this stuff and what other time of year can it go out?"

My holiday stuff has been accumulated over years of family and friendships and a little bit of shopping. Pretty much everything I have means something to me. There are the swags I bought when visiting blog friend Diana several years ago, the oldest ornament on the tree, my favorite snow guy -- you get it.

Grandma's ornament -- the oldest on the tree.
NOW is the time to go through the things you want to use this holiday. If you have a lot of things and not a lot of room, you might try rotating. I always feel sad when something didn't make it out for the season, but I try to be strong!

If you are a Santa person and a Snowpeople person, consider bringing out the Snowfolk after the holiday and enjoy them through the winter. It changes things up a bit after the holidays but you still get to enjoy your favorites.

There are so many wonderful decorating sites, this probably won't bring you brand new ideas but I'm offering a few that are worth remembering.

Use collections. If you collect a lot of Santa figures, for example, consider grouping some of them on a mantle or in a vignette. My vintage postcard collection comes out in a number of ways -- on wall display and tucked into branches on one of my trees. My "Whimsical Whittler" ornaments are always grouped together.

Go to the closet. Look at baskets you might use for other purposes and repurpose them for holiday decorations. Extra ornaments can be grouped in a basket or bowl (cut glass or silver is especially pretty!) for a low table arrangement. A punch bowl or silver tray or serving dish also works well for these groupings.

Look up! Use your space. If you have cabinets with some ceiling clearance, whip out a child's chair (or doll chair), add a teddy bear or holiday figure. Maybe a garland would work better for you. Use all the space.

Southern Exposure used a child's chair, square styrofoam wreath form with floral picks, small faux tree in an urn atop a wardrobe to add interest at a higher level.
Don't forget the picture frames. Even if you don't change out your art for the holiday season (which is fun if you have the right thing), you can still add a bit of garland or tinsel to the frames.

I bought this jingle-bell garland with my blog friend Diana during a visit several years ago. It remains one of my decorating treasures, reminding me of a wonderful day.
Wreaths are fun! You don't have to leave them outside -- bring them in. You can easily dress up a dollar store grapevine or faux pine wreath with favorite ornaments. Grab your glue gun and go to town. Faux blooms or greenery are pretty, too.

Southern Exposure: A lighted wreath frames a clock over the mantle while twinkling stars and candle sconces add a glow.
Light it up! The battery operated LED lights are almost a gift from heaven! Lights can go inside cabinets to help make your crystal sparkle, inside a punch bowl filled with sparkling ornaments, around a creche or tucked into your shelves to light a holiday vignette.

Give the Chandelier Some Love! Whether your are using garland or ornaments, any chandelier can get a makeover with a little bit of sparkle! This is another spot where you can use ornaments that don't quite work on your tree.

Simple is lovely! A white ironstone pitcher with red blooms? Elegant and easy. (Carnations are especially inexpensive). Take the poinsettia out of the foil wrapper and put it in one of your garden urns or a fabulous pot -- or even a country basket. Add a few sparkles to a crystal bowl.


Don't Forget the Dollar Store. If you are looking for extra bits to add to wreaths, arrangements or for a bit of emphasis, check out the Dollar Tree. You might find good picks to include in indoor and outdoor arrangements for a bit of sparkle; golden beads to drape on your tree, the stairway banister or from a balcony loft (perhaps along with greens); grapevine wreaths which can be spruced up by wiring greens or boxwood, along with some shiny tree ornaments; or sparkly stars or snowflakes that you can hang on your chandelier (along with ornaments that might not fit on your tree). A dollar store evergreen can look mighty cute in a copper container!

Group by Color. It seems like red and green are prevalent during this season but you may be into blues, purples, gold or silver. Try grouping some of your arrangements by color. Stack holiday-colored quilts and blankets, for example. Or, be like my friends Bob and Roger. They have lots of trees, too. The presents under the gold tree are wrapped in gold papers, the blue tree in shades of blue and so on. It boggles my mind, all that wrapping but it looks beautiful!

Can you do it yourself? Maybe! And it may save you money. Last year my friend Jan and I saw beautiful pots of greens ranging from $40-$60 at the greens market. We returned home filled with ideas. For $5 at a garden store we bought evergreen branches and for very little more, some floral picks at Michael's. I put an old birdhouse to work and Jan brought some red willow branches. In less than an hour we had a $40+ arrangement for under $10. If you already have dirt in the pot from your outdoor planting, you can put the branches directly in the dirt. Otherwise, simple styrofoam will hold it all very well.

If you look at the photo above, in the background you will notice the base of my outdoor tree, which is sitting in a pot. To cover the rocks anchoring the tree, I used a faux evergreen wreath. It looked tons better than years before. Depending on placement (wind is a factor), spanish moss might work well too.

Here's one more quick idea. If wreaths are your thing, you can make a very pretty "Angel Wings" wreath in about ten minutes. Take a styrofoam wreath form and wrap it with one or two white feather boas (or whatever color you choose). Secure with T-pins or floral wire. It can be embellished with ornaments, hung on the wall or used on a table as pictured. Total cost under $10.

Some of these tips (and photos) were inspired by a holiday visit to Southern Exposure; others were ideas I grew up with or encountered along the way through any number of sources -- friends, magazines, my own imagination.

I have a collection of holiday decorating ideas from Southern Exposure, many requiring little expense. The list is far too long to include in entirety and some wouldn't make sense without having seen the examples but I would gladly email you my top 25 favorites. If you want a copy, let me know in the comments and if you are a "no reply" blogger, leave your email address as well.

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