Deck the Halls…Keeping it Simple

“Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly, falalalala, la la la la.  ‘Tis the Season to be Jolly…”

deck the halls

Our front hall…silver water pitcher with Holly cut from our bushes

As a young child, my most favorite part of Christmas was riding along in the back of a box sleigh with our horse puffing giant clouds of steam out of its mouth.  My Dad in his ‘parka’ would stand at the front of the sleigh nudging our faithful horse through the deep snow (and it seemed deeper back then) on the way to the woods behind our house.

box sleigh

My Dad had a box sleigh similar to this one

After a few hours of shaking snow off branches and fingers and toes growing numb from the cold, we would settle on the family Christmas tree.  The scent of a freshly cut fir tree is second to none.  On the way back to the house my sister and I would stare at the tree in awe…it looked so big taking up most of the room in the back of the sleigh.  The tree did not disappoint.  The scent of a ‘real tree’ would linger through our house over the next few weeks.

We didn’t have a lot in the way of decorations.  A lot of them were homemade and my older sisters made a delightful Manger out of paper Mache.  Today it would be priceless.  I was thrilled to have a manager because it was the most important part of Christmas to me.  Dad would lop off the excess branches at the bottom of the tree and like a scavenger I would select the best ones to prop behind the Manger and voila…the Nativity scene would be complete and the Christmas season would begin.  I used the remaining branches to decorate a little corner shelf that was above my Dad’s rocking chair.  I had the decorating bug even then and of course at Christmas it was a perfect opportunity to try all things creative and I was given free reign.  Nothing much has changed.

“Away in a Manger, no crib for his bed; The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head…”

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A miniature Manager

seaglass and driftwood tree

My own creation

This year I was inspired by a Facebook site called Beach-gemming Sea Glass to Inspire.  They posted a picture of a Christmas tree made from sea glass and driftwood.  I added my own twist of course and used a real starfish for the star and burlap for the background to enhance the rustic/organic theme.  A photo frame that had been tucked away in the back of a closet was the perfect backdrop with its length of 24” allowing me to have a tall skinny tree.  It is prominently displayed in my front entrance with an antique table below draped in a burlap runner.  Pine cones and rustic candle holders completed the country Christmas theme.

Over the years we buy local trees and if weather and time permits we head out to a tree farm to cut our own.  It is always a surprise to see how huge the tree is once it gets inside – the woods have a way of dwarfing even the most majestic trees.  The first year in our seaside home, we gave in to the temptation of putting up a 14 ft tree.  With 20 ft ceilings, it was majestic indeed!

cutting the tree

Cutting the 14 ft tree = frosty hands and feet!

This year I have decided to keep it simple.  After forty years of collecting, decorations now come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  I have to consciously NOT go over the top.  I made a plan and I am sticking to it.  For reasons I will explain in another blog, I will keep things ‘seasonal’ as opposed to ‘Christmasy’.  Oh yes, there will be the Manager and of course the Tree, but instead of transforming our house into something where you will need a compass to find your way out, it will hopefully have a simpler streamlined look.

“Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

How lovely are thy branches…”

santa gingerbread

Santas tucked deep in the tree and Gingerbread man cookies

So here goes.  All the decorating experts advise to start outside and work your way in.  While the weather was still balmy, the lights, floods and urns at the front door were duly decorated and ready to go.  I have never blogged earlier years decorating themes but that is okay.  This year will be the first.  Our grandson is at the perfect age.  Christmas will hold a new meaning for him this year and with his extended vocabulary I am certain HOHO will be replaced by many more words of wonder.   In keeping with his youth, Nannie’s tree will have HOHO’s on it …and plenty of them.  It’s only right.  I will need to dig really deep to find those Santa ornaments but find them I will.

“On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a partridge in a pear tree.”   Well it wasn’t really a partridge, but a red cardinal will do just fine!

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Beautiful red cardinal nestled in a snow globe

Each year I treat myself to one new thing (okay, maybe two new things).  This year I was obsessed with red cardinals.  My Mother loved birds and red cardinals were one of her favorites.  When she passed away, I kept a little ceramic red cardinal ornament.  It makes me smile every time I see it.  On a shopping trip with a dear friend, I mentioned I was looking for a red cardinal for my tree.  There were birds of every feather to be had…but no red cardinals.  Feeling disappointed we continued on.  My friend said not to worry, she was certain all we had to do was turn a corner and we would find one.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  Tucked away behind a plethora of other Christmas decorations was a red cardinal sitting tall and proud in a snow globe.  Well then!!  I picked it up; my friend and I stared at it in disbelief.  I own it now and this year it is my new prized possession.  It is the first thing you see in my entrance. On our way to the Christmas parade, my husband and I took a shortcut through a Mall downtown.  We passed a gift shop and I had the strongest urge to go in and window shop…just for a few minutes I promised.  It took only a few minutes because there …in all its splendor was the most glorious red cardinal tree top.  I gently removed it from the tree and passed to my husband.  We both laughed and he said it was destined to be mine.  So cheers to red cardinals this year!  My Mom would be happy.

Christmas tree 2013

A spectacular red cardinal sits proudly atop our Christmas tree.

twig tree

A twig tree with feathery friends lights up a corner in the dining room

Nature themes were always a favorite so it’s no surprise to see a bare-branched tree in my house.  Over the years I had ‘nature trees’ of sorts so this year it will be more seasonal and will stay around for several months.  My son willingly swung an axe and the tree was made to measure.  A mixed collection of birds and owls adorn the branches.  A beaded mini light chain will illuminate the branches mimicking a snowy winter night with owls hooting to their friends.  A small display at ‘little people’s height’ surrounds the base bringing the ten foot branch down to their size.

It wouldn’t be Christmas by the sea if I didn’t have a Nautical Christmas display somewhere.  It all started with a bottle.  A friend presented me with this gorgeous bottle with a clipper ship embossed on the front.  I placed it on my mantle…and the nautical look took over from there.  An antique ship’s wheel (it has been seen in different places in our house throughout the years) found a new resting place atop the mantle.  Antique glass floats from my husband’s father and of course a token piece of driftwood from our shore completes the look.  A few branches gently pruned from my holly bushes and mini lights behind the ship’s sails transform the mantel into Christmas and after the season, twigs and lights once removed, the mantle can remain ‘as is’ until Spring.

nautical mantel

A Nautical theme mantelscape with sprigs of Holly = instant Christmas

closeup of bottle

A closeup of the bottle that inspired the mantelscape

This year battery operated candles are corralled in one place for a more dramatic effect.  They are on timers so it is a display that’s easy (and safe) and took very little time to arrange.  Oversized Jack pine cones and fresh pomegranates fill the floor length mirror used to cast extra light on the arrangement.  When the candles are lit they give off a soft vanilla scent.  Not bad for fake candles.

candle display

battery operated vanilla scented candles and fresh pomegranates…yum

Christmas centerpiece kitchen

A round tray holds an assortment of antique crocks and amber glassware.

A kitchen nook centerpiece is the result of an inspiration from a Holiday Cottage issue.  It is not exactly like the one shown (it never is) but it was my source of inspiration.  Plus it allows me to display antique crock pieces I received over the years as gifts.  It is also practical and with a few ‘seasonal’ additions, (the jack pine cone and poinsettia), it too can stay there long after Christmas is over.

My dining room table is usually the last thing to be decorated.  I begin in November to think about what I will do for the centerpiece and place settings.  I started a list. Again, I never have to go far to find what I want because of ‘stuff’ I have collected over the years.  Inspiration usually starts with one thing.  My favorite color setting other than the traditional Christmas colors is amber.  It all started with these inexpensive reproduction amber glass goblets I found at Homesense in October.  They were perfect and exactly what I had been looking for.  Paired with a taller crystal wine glass they will be perfect for providing a little more sparkle to the table.  It was my one ‘new’ thing for the table this year.

amber and crystal

My fav find – amber goblet reproductions

ice bucket arrangement

An ice bucket (circa 1970’s) is the perfect vessel to hold a seasonal arrangement for the tablescape.

Almost forty years ago we received a silver ice bucket as a wedding gift.  I was ‘on the hunt’ for a vessel for a tablescape.  It was a delight to find it tucked at the back of the china cabinet.  Black with tarnish, it didn’t really look festive, but with a little buffing and polishing it was perfect.  Filled with a mini Poinsettia, and crystal beads, the bucket can be kept filled with water to keep the arrangement fresh for days. I love rustic as well so the table topper is made of jute (or burlap).  It was used as a tree skirt in years past – so it found a new life and purpose this year.  Mixing old and new, traditional and antique, the table has an eclectic feel and look.  Bon Appetit!

Each Christmas Eve after our little family has attended mass for the children, we arrive back home hungry and happy.  We have our traditional Christmas meal and exchange presents.  It is a magical night.

“Silent Night, Holy Night…All is calm, All is bright”

table 2103

Poinsettia, crystal reindeer; silver stars and Christmas tree side plates all together a Christmas table make.

Merry Christmas to all and to all…a good night!

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