Monday, December 8, 2014

Simple, Understated Holiday Decor

The months leading up to this holiday season have been extremely rocky eventful in this house! Add to that the fact that we will not be hosting Christmas this year for the first time in ages, and the result is that my motivation to pull out all the stops in decorating is definitely lacking. For someone who absolutely loves turning my home into a holiday wonderland, I am experiencing a few conflicting emotions, but go me Scrooge.

Just because I've chosen not to drag all 147 boxes of Christmas decor up from the basement, though, doesn't mean that I'm not doing any "house fluffing" for the season. (OK, 147 might be a slight exaggeration, but that's the number of boxes my mind conjures up when I imagine the whole production.) Rather than decking the halls with boughs of holly, glittering ornaments, and sparkling trees, I'm going simple and understated, focusing on decor that can predominantly remain throughout the winter months.

Greenery, a few ornaments, apples, and snowflakes create festive, yet easy, vignettes, and scented candles bring in those amazing holiday aromas.

A tabletop tree, while unable to replace the glory of our traditional full-sized, magical tree, stands in as a suitable symbol for these empty nesters and their greyhound ;)

One of my favorite accessories, this hand, holds a jewelled snowflake in a bed of snow for the winter months.

This book of Christmas photos in Chicago was a gift from my very favorite Chicagoan (my daughter!) a few years back. A small glass decanter filled with glittered greenery and beads in a mercury glass dish add a little sparkle.

In the entry, I kept the bones of the previous display but replaced acorns and a green wreath with a Restoration Hardware snowflake, gold balls, and more branches of greens and berries in thrifted vessels. The greyhound looks like he needs a holiday bow or hat...but in keeping with my minimal decor, he'll remain unclad this year ;)

I'm loving our architectural, masculine mantel in its minimal furnishings right now. Instead of the usual stockings, wreaths, lights, and glitz, it's sporting a very simple collection of open frames, branches, a large black pedestal, and a nutcracker. I should be able to tweak this look all the way into Spring.

Here, a thrifted bowl holds apples in front of a greenhouse containing more greenery and a large ornament that adds just enough shine.

This casual and spare Christmas decorating has been really economical and stress-free...I guess being a Scrooge has its rewards............ :)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bountiful Tablescape

I feel like I'm late to the party. All of my blogging friends seem to be in high-gear Christmas mode, while I'm blissfully back here reveling in my Thanksgiving decor. But it's ok...Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (and not just because my hubby does all of the cooking, although that is a definite bonus!) I just love a holiday that isn't so commercialized. At Thanksgiving, it's all about family, friends, food, warmth, and gratitude.

(Ok, I can't lie...come Black Friday, I'm all about the shopping followed by some awesome turkey and dressing leftovers.)

For my tablescape this year, I've incorporated a cornucopia, pumpkins, various turkeys, and rich autumnal hues. I began with a velvet and sequined square that was thrifted a few years back. I added a cornucopia that has seen at least 10 or more Thanksgivings with us. I made it many years ago and still think it feels timely. I did poke a few dried hydrangeas into it, as my garden produced an abundance of them this season.

Last year's big "score", my ceramic turkey, is perched atop a Mercury glass dish and a cake stand. You should have seen my face when I spotted that turkey at a consignment shop...I practically squealed with delight and snatched it up in a flash!

And this year, I came across this glass turkey candy dish at a local antique shop. There was no way I could have left that shop without it!

Speaking of turkeys, aren't the votive holders fun? I have a feeling that a turkey collection is in the works...

If you've read my last post, you know how much I love quotes and how I used them on the place cards. I've also added one more quote in a frame to "bring the message of gratitude home", so to speak. To me, this one is perfect for the occasion.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thanksgiving Blessings Place Cards

I seriously love quotes.

There is just so much wisdom and insight in them. And, often, they are easy to remember, so we can carry that wisdom with us in our daily lives.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, we are all busy planning holiday meals and gatherings. A couple of years ago, I thought about how I could recreate an old tradition. Because some members of my family are not religious, I decided to replace the pre-dinner prayer with something new, and to put my love of quotes to good use.

I perused the internet for quotes on gratitude, love, family, Thanksgiving, etc. and tried to pair a quote with each member of my family. (For example, my son is an intellectual college student so I found an appropriate one from Einstein. And my mom is a typical, loving grandma, so often I gravitate to someone like Mother Theresa for hers. You get the idea.)

Since my calendar is more than full (refer to my last post, haha) I buy ready-made place cards, but you artsy-craftsy people could certainly create your own masterpieces. I type the quotes on the computer using a pretty font, cut and paste to the inside of the cards, and voila...instant pre-dinner inspirational sharing!

Usually we go around the table and read them aloud, but they would also be nice as a silent message to each family member or guest at the table.

And since I love quotes so much that I couldn't narrow down to just the seven for my family, I'll be adding a couple of framed quotes to my tablescape this year as well. I am going to spread that gratitude message to the Reinwalds if it's the last thing I do ;)

I hope you're all enjoying prepping your homes with warmth and cheer as we head into the winter months and the holidays. It's the perfect time to meld our creative spirits with the love we have for our families and friends.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Should I Keep Blogging? A (Somewhat) Rhetorical Question

I've been an absent blogger recently...........has anyone noticed ;)

"Life" has hit me pretty hard these past few weeks and forced me to take a step back and do some re-evaluating. To be honest, it was more a full-on assault than a gentle nudge. A close friend is sick and also facing a family crisis, other friends have been thrust into a life-altering situation with their young adult son, and my own family continues to struggle with issues that we've been working on for a few years now.

For the ten months that I have been blogging, I've also been pretty heavily involved in several other pursuits...serving on the board for my college sorority, preparing for a craft show, helping my daughter plan her upcoming wedding, and giving a large time and service commitment to a family support group.

If it sounds like I'm tooting my own horn by listing all of my busyness, please ride this out with me. I assure you that's not the direction I'm going with this. You see, that family support group that I mentioned told me that "if I got busy, I'd get better". So, I mistook the advice and I started volunteering, creating, planning, organizing, designing, serving, and participating. And, Boy Howdy, I thought I was really becoming some sort of "healed" Superwoman! Friends told me how proud they were of me. My daughter noticed some healthy changes in my attitudes, and I was riding the wave of "doing it all".

What I didn't notice was that by spreading myself so thin and juggling too many balls, not only could I not give enough attention to any one activity, but I lost sight of why I started "getting busy" in the first place.

And now, your minds are probably replaying many things you've each heard, read, and considered about trying to do too much vs. finding your authentic self and your way to true fulfillment. I mean, how many times can we revisit this subject, ladies? Over and over and over, we try to crack that elusive code of finding happiness and balance!!!

Whether you believe in God, kharma, the universe, spiritual maturity, or another force providing you with the lessons you need to learn in life, those lessons do come to us...and they don't always arrive peacefully. Sometimes we have to be smacked in the face to recognize what changes we need to make (as in my case.)

When I really searched my soul, I realized that even though my motives were pure and that I am, indeed, worthy of doing things "just for me", my original and truest intent was to heal myself from the effects of my childhood, thus offering a better version of myself to family, friends, and others.

So.........I've been evaluating my endeavors and activities. What, if anything, should be eliminated? How should my time be divided? Just how skewed have my priorities become? What is the best way to honor my commitments to my family while still maintaining my authenticity and autonomy?

I've come to a few conclusions, I think. Firstly, I know for sure that I need to invest more of myself into the family support group that has greatly improved the quality of my life and continues to teach me how to be a better wife, mother, and person. I also realized that I may have been a bit over-zealous in my part of the wedding planning. I've decided that it's time to step back and genuinely respect the bride's vision of a simple, non-traditional event.

Next on the priority list would be those areas where I have to finish what I started (i.e. my term on the sorority board.) For now, I'll honor my commitment, and later, I'll reconsider my dedication to those pursuits.

Finally, the things I do to "stroke" my personal identity, my creativity, and my confidence. These include crafting, blogging, and home design projects, so it would be hard for me to completely give them up as selfish or unnecessary. What I have concluded is that I will continue to blog and work on home and craft projects, but the time and energy I intend to invest will decrease...for awhile, at least. Instead of trying to emulate all of the amazing home decor bloggers and Etsy shop owners that I idolize, and racing to keep an unattainable schedule and striving to become an income-earning blogger, I've decided to return to the real reason I began all of this in the first place.

Sure, it would be awesome to work with sponsors, earn money, have a room featured in a magazine, or quit my day job. Truth be told, though, the real reason I started this blog was to regain a part of myself that I allowed to get lost along the way and also to share some of my life experiences and growth with anyone who might benefit or relate.

So, I hope you'll continue on this journey with me, even though I will be posting less frequently and occasionally writing posts such as this one. I truly value the friendships I have formed with all of you.

Bless you :)


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

I hope you're all savoring these last few weeks of Indian Summer (is that even a politically-correct term anymore?) I have caught myself on several occasions, lately, thinking "What a glorious day!"...and, "I just love this time of year!"...and, "I've got to file this amazingness in my memory bank before winter gets here!"

As Mother Nature paints the world with her colors of fall, I can't help but greedily go out and collect flowers and branches from the yard to heap into vases, baskets and trays in our home. This vignette is an example.

I clipped some branches from our curly willow tree, which I love to use all year long in arrangements for visual interest and movement. When placed with a vase full of Autumn Joy Sedum in front of an open frame on the dresser in our sunroom, it creates a simple, but beautiful, fall display.

And what would Fall be without all of those amazing pumpkin-flavored treats? I seem to have a slight "problem" with the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (by problem, I mean borderline addiction.) But thanks to Kathy at Smile for No Reason, we can all make our own at home! Check out her recipe here.

After browsing Pinterest (my favorite guilty pleasure) I decided to bake this pumpkin chocolate chip bread this past weekend.

I tweaked mine with some flax meal to try to add a little nutritional boost. You can find the original recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction here.

Can you even believe it's the second week of October already? And now, I have a confession to make...I'm a Halloween Scrooge. It's true. Now that we are empty nesters, the days of costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and scary movie nights have come to a screaming halt (no pun intended, haha.) To be honest, Halloween never really was a favorite of mine. While I do miss making memories with my two favorite "goblins", I can do without the zombie apocalypse and the late-night toilet paper wielders and pumpkin smashers.

I never really overdid the Halloween decor, even when the kids were still around. And now that it's just my hubby, the dog, and I, it's not too festive around here. But I still like this piece that I had bought years ago, so it suffices as our entire display of holiday decor. Obviously, I prefer niceness to horror for a theme.

And finally, to prove to you that not all bloggers are related to Martha Stewart, I want to share a couple of photos of a gorgeous, full mum plant that I put in the ground last year with a plan that it would add some gorgeous fall color to the landscaping by our patio. I have included a blurry shot of Mario near it for proportion purposes (Mario doesn't like to stand still.) If you put your "readers" on and squint really hard, you can see it below his collar :)

OK, that pretty much sums up my skills at gardening ;)

Enjoy the season, everyone!

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Colorful Crockpot Bean and Ham Soup

Doesn't Fall just whet your appetite for soup? When the leaves begin to change color and the air cools down, there's nothing better than a crockpot full of hearty soup and a crusty loaf of bread to make the perfect lunch or dinner.

Because my hubby and I are not always the healthiest eaters, soup offers an easy way to pack lots of nutritious ingredients into a one-pot dish. My version of bean and ham soup is loaded with fiber, protein, calcium and vitamins with its combination of legumes and vegetables. Best of all, after doing a little chopping, dicing and sautéing, the crockpot does the rest of the favorite kind of cooking!

Here is my recipe for Colorful Crockpot Bean and Ham Soup:

1 can light red kidney beans
2 cans Great Northern beans
1 can cannellini beans
2 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
4 scallions
3 celery stalks
2 carrots
2 Roma tomatoes
3 sprigs fresh thyme
12 oz lean ham, diced
oil or butter

Chop scallions, celery, carrots, and thyme. Heat oil or butter in a pan. Add vegetables and thyme and cook until partially softened, about 5 minutes. Drain beans. Put all beans, vegetables, including diced tomatoes, and ham into crockpot. Add broth and water, then stir all ingredients together. Cook on medium heat for a few hours or on low heat all day.

Serve with warm bread or crackers.

Soups taste better and better as the flavors meld together. Mr. Merman and I especially enjoy our soups on the second or third day...that is, if there is any left by then!

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Monday, September 22, 2014

A Warm Welcome

What a gorgeous Autumn season we are experiencing right now! The colors are vibrant, the scents are warm and the sky is as blue as can be. I have decided that I am going to do a (mostly) wordless post of my front porch and entryway. Who really needs to read about how I made the wreath, why I didn't use mums or white pumpkins in my display, or how the traditional Fall colors pop against the green of our front I right? I'll just let these photos speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy this glimpse of the warm welcome I have created on our porch.

Here's hoping you're savoring this beautiful season and spending some time with Mother Nature!

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