Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013!

Hearty Christmas Greetings! 
We'll see you soon, 
and in a brand New Year. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Last Minute Gifts, Blog Edition (With Cream on the Side)

I should make this a new holiday tradition. I also need a New Year's Resolution:
Stop fooling around on PicMonkey so much. 

I know. I'm one to talk about going out and braving the last-minute retail craziness for a gift. The one who's discussed her ambivalence with the entire Christmas holiday commercialization crap-fest.

But that's not the kind of last-minute I mean. Though I'll admit to sometimes having a stress-induced urge to go snag more cartons of whipping cream off the shelf of the grocery store (the thing it is, in my mind, a DISASTER of epic proportions to run short of during the holidays), I'm not doing that other kind of last-minute gift shopping, or giving.

All of my blog readers, all 3.5 of you, are awesome people, and I even have an idea where some of you live, and I mean that in a totally non-creepy way. But there's no way I can ship you cartons of whipping cream. If you were in the neighborhood I'd shove the stack of magazines off the end of the sofa for you, bring you a cup of coffee (with that aforementioned cream) and we could talk and eat inappropriate amounts of holiday food right off my dusty coffee table. Because I'm classy like that.

Since I can't do that either, I thought I'd give my blog readers a list of new blogs to read. It's calorie-free (unlike the cream) and I can afford several for all of you!

In keeping with the calorie-free joke, these are all lightweight, fun reading, for those days when you just want a little brain candy.

Slaughterhouse 90210 is a quirky free-association of images from television series and quotes pulled from literature. Like this pairing here:

From Slaughterhouse 90210
"Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only-- if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn't it? And isn't the whole point of things-- beautiful things-- that they connect you to some larger beauty?"   --- Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch.

If you're an avid watcher of a variety of television series and a bookworm too, this is your Tumblr blog for low-brow/high-brow mashups. It's almost always good for a laugh, sometimes a poignant thought, and the frequent realization that there is just as much universal truth in a well-wrought television series as in the pages of a book.

Chickens in Literature is right up in my hen house. I love chickens (ceramic ones mostly, but chickens no less), and I love books.  The concept is most fowl: connect art and photography images of chickens with quotes about them from literature. What's not to love here?

From Chickens in Literature
"When I was six I had a chicken that walked backwards and was in the Pathe News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax." --Flannery O'Connor

The seventies were pretty super, but I was only aged toddler through tween, so I can't say it was very groovy or swinging for me.

From Super Seventies
And according to this picture, I also missed the opportunity to wear my mother's potholders as a brassiere. Or halter top. Something----oh, that's right--- a breastplate. Super Seventies is full of the musicians, actors, advertising, interiors and food that made the decade. I stop by this blog often for a smile.

I hope these are just your size, and that there aren't any just like them under the tree, because duplicate gifts are a bummer. And when you get a chance to read this, will you let me know what things you've been reading lately? I'd love to have new blogs to read in the new year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Naming Angels, Big and Small

I like angels. One of my favorites is this little guy, who was made by my oldest son Grant when he was all of four years old. He's at the top of our tree every year, and he makes me smile.

Another is the one whose words were rendered into the poetry of the King James Bible (but you can go ahead and hear Linus' voice when you read it, because I do that too):

"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be unto all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.'"

Fear not. The angel must have been terrifying, because the Gospel of Luke also says they were "sore afraid." The Hebrew word, seraphim, literally means "the burning ones."

I've always liked that idea much better than our modern conception of angels. They are not our familiars, the spirits of people we love who have died. They've never been human. They are not feminine, pretty, insipid butterflies in white dresses.

My other favorite angel is Proginoskes, the many-winged, many-eyed cherubim from Madeleine L'Engle's book "A Wind in the Door." Progo, as he is called by the Murry children, is a Namer. L'Engle wrote much in this story about the power of naming, a form of love. Naming elevates both the diversity and the individuality of everything that is; and is a powerful weapon against nothingness and ignorance and the evils that hide in both.

I've probably mentioned a time or two that I'm a former Lutheran who turned in her casserole dish. I don't remember the last time I was at a church service, and the last meaningful discussion I had about faith was with a Buddhist nun. I enjoy reading about Catholic saints. I'm a denominational orphan of the highest order.

So while this is a holiday season for Christians, I don't exclude anyone from the gifts offered by this trio of angelic host. I wish everyone a moment or much, much more of innocent joy. I hope all have at least one moment now, or sometime in their lives, of spiritual awe. I hope you are all named and loved.

Merry Christmas, all.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lamp Love Monday!

It's been awhile since I featured a lamp on the blog. I'd decided only to feature lamp posts (unintentional pun) when something really noteworthy came along, and then immediately went into a really dry spell, or perhaps with lamps you should say "dark spell," where nothing was really wow or fantastic. Nothing really lit my lamp, you could say. I also hadn't had a lot of time for vintage shopping this summer with the painting project, so I just let it go. 

But now! Take a look at this pole lamp!

This was the last photo I shot on my cell phone on my hurried way out the door of a local consignment shop two weekends ago. I pondered it with the last half second I had, and though I really, really love it? There's no place in my house for it. Believe me, I tried to justify it. I really did. And the best part? Thirty-five dollars. No really. I don't think that's bad at all for a vintage pole lamp. I hope it finds a home where there is someone who appreciates its charm!

Friday, December 13, 2013

How We Do Christmas On the Doorstep

It's difficult for me to write Christmas decor blog posts, and not because I dislike Christmas. I like Christmas quite a lot. But I like it in small, controlled doses, and you might have noticed that Christmas doesn't generally come in that size any more.

Those small controlled doses don't translate well into Holiday Super-Blogger-Ama of craft projects, decor ideas, and food, and so I always feel a bit......well, inadequate to producing seasonal magic.

But that's comparing myself to how others choose to celebrate, and that way lies dissatisfaction. And overall grumpiness. Also, I have no Scrooge-y wish to rain on somebody else's holiday parade. If anyone enjoys hauling 35 storage containers of garland out of the garage attic every November, more jingle to them. I mean that. Really. Just don't ask me to understand it.

So what do we do around here? I thought about this a lot as the boys and I were doing our annual festive foofing last weekend. I realized we have five basic guiding principles for holiday decor.

1. We concentrate on a few spots instead of the whole house

Last year's post-holiday vintage score. It's already shedding, but I love it!

From the standpoint of personal taste, having every available surface covered in holiday knick-knackery makes me feel anxious, and like I need to dust. From a practical standpoint, because I'm a working single mom I don't have a ton of time to decorate, and I don't have a ton of time to put it all away in January. We put up a tree in the front window of our living room. We decorate the living room credenza, the fireplace mantel, and maybe one other horizontal surface (this year, it was the dining room buffet). Aside from a few small touches elsewhere, like holiday kitchen linens, this is it. It's doable in an afternoon, or broken up into smaller segments if the schedule demands. And in a house my size, it's plenty.

2. We build our collections one or two pieces at a time

I'd rather have quality than quantity, and so I tend not to go to discount stores and buy gobs of cheap tinselly stuff, even if it's a "bargain." Every time I have I've tended to regret it. So I buy one or two things--usually vintage--that I love each year. Limiting it tends to make me wait until I know I really love it before I buy, like the green and gold garland, above, that I purchased this year, and the embroidered runner underneath (it's called Hardanger work) that I found years ago. Going slowly also means I know when to stop. I have a collection of vintage bottlebrush trees that I love. But when they filled the fireplace mantel, I knew I had enough of them.

3. We use what we have

We aren't the type of people who shift entire rooms of furniture and clear entire horizontal surfaces of all the everyday decor items. Our holiday decoration collections are small because I multitask our everyday stuff. I love the color green and lucky me, it's a Christmas color. Adding some holiday silk greenery to the Royal Copley vases that always live on the mantel is quick and simple. The gilt sunburst clock already looks holiday-worthy (The red ball ornament is just me feeling silly). There's plenty of vintage stuff in the house--milk glass, green pressed glass, chippy old china-- which will work as Christmas decor, isn't plastic, and is flexible enough to use in different ways during the season and throughout the rest of the year too.

4. We don't do themes

While I do try to keep a few things consistent across holiday decor items, like lots of green and gold, we don't like themed trees. They seem department-store sterile to us, and we'd rather have our tree crammed with all the ornaments collected over the years, from the lumpy purple glitter pine cone Noah made in preschool to the fragile blown glass memento from the Henry Ford Museum. All of them-- elegant, homely, homemade or purchased with someone's personality in mind-- are meaningful and sentimental. That means a lot more to me than carrying through a color scheme of the year. The ones in the photo above I made from antique postcards and trims from the children's great-grandmother's sewing box. While holiday crafting doesn't happen every year, we love that those homemade ornaments add a very personal family signature to our tree.

5. We start when we want to, and pack it up when we want to

My favorite holiday, the one I throw my soul and effort into, is Thanksgiving. I can really get behind a holiday that is about gratitude and over-consumption of carbohydrates and butter. I like the colors of the harvest time of year. I want to linger in that late autumn stage as long as possible. It's not complicated by the angst and pressure of gift giving, or by elaborate decorating schemes. People are happy with a few pumpkins and drawings of hand turkeys.

The only way retail has managed to make any inroads to commercializing Thanksgiving is by trying to shoulder it out of the way with the holiday they already have a firm stranglehold upon: Christmas. It's the one thing I get sour about.

I generally don't get my Christmas things out until the weekend after Thanksgiving. It seems a little late compared to the annual retail jump-the-gun, but it gives me a little space between the two, a little breather before I jump into the next thing. I need that.

I always wrap things up by Twelfth Night, or the Feast of Epiphany, which is Jan. 6. In some cultures it's bad luck to have the tree up past that day. For me it's not so much about superstition, but about it being enough. Four to five weeks of Christmas is enough for me. Enough to feel satisfied, but not so much it overwhelms, or loses it's specialness.

Do you have any holiday decorating philosophy? What makes you happiest?


I've been pretty spotty on posts for the last few months, but I'll be around more in the next few weeks. I have a small project to share and I'm looking forward to getting back into my blog writing more regularly. Thanks for waiting around for me and checking back!