Sunday, December 04, 2011

Decorating for the Holidays

Christmas Ornament Pillow, from Pier 1 Imports


  • Need to launder your slippers or fuzzy socks? With winter's colder nights, I've been wearing either my pink slippers or my black plush slipper socks for several days now. Both pairs are in dire need of visiting the laundry.

  • Do you use an Advent calendar with your children? Either the paper or wooden kind? Any supplies you need to get for your Advent calendar to be ready? Coins, stickers, chocolates?

  • Know where your snow shovel is? Can you get it out when you need it, in case it snows in your area this month? Do you need to buy rock salt? Do you have an ice scraper in your car for your windshield and windows?

  • How is your family newsletter coming along, if you write one? Is your holiday card writing and mailing going along according to your schedule?

  • Made a plan for your family's charity contributions and/or charity activities this season?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Decorating for the Holidays

Jingle Elf Ball Ornaments, from Crate and Barrel

Today I am removing the last vestiges of my fall and Thanksgiving decor: anything purple, green, brown or orange. Next I will swap in my holiday candles, red tablecloths, red beaded coasters, gold and green glittery tablerunners, Christmas kitchen towels, and a red vase or two.

In my family room and my living room, I'm trading brown plush throws and pillows for red throws, white throws, and crimson pillows.

I've hung five stockings by the fire (one for each of my kids and one for my roommate). I don't think I'm interested in hanging stockings for my two dogs, I think that would be a little silly. I'll definitely sneak them some extra dog treats over the holidays though!

Over the past week I burned up the last of my orange, vanilla and pumpkin-scented candles. I also got rid of a couple candle stubs out of my hurricanes. Today I'll spend about fifteen minutes cleaning out candleholders and cleaning wax off my downstairs brick mantel. Then I'll set out my red holiday candles. I can't wait to see my home tonight glowing with festive candlelight and firelight.

Santa Ornament, from Macy's

I don't put a lot of kitschy Christmas stuff out around to clutter up the house (It's already cluttered enough with books and magazines!). I wouldn't have a plush Santa or an elf sitting on the mantel, I refuse to get hooked on collectible Christmas villages, and I won't have a wooden or plastic reindeer standing by the front door. I do use some garlands for the mantels (real, not artificial) when I find ones I like.

I use holiday colors when I set my table, decorate my couches, set out coasters for drinks to rest on, arrange candles, and choose houseplants and fresh flowers. Our bathrooms now have Target's Method Home "Fresh Currant" hand washes, instead of this fall's lemon verbena.

Tonight I'll go shopping for a wreath made of fresh evergreens and put it on my front door. I'll also start putting up Christmas lights in each window of the house - even the kitchen windows that you can't see from the street. They're there just for our own enjoyment.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Winter Emergency Preparedness

Vintage Kittens and Fireplace Postcard, on eBay

Seattle normally has mild winters, but every now and then we get hit by some sort of really bad storm. Whether it is ice, rain, floods, snow or wind, something happens that shuts down power for a day or more; floods streets so you can't get around well; or causes traffic disruptions.

Duraflame Color Logs, at

I do sort of enjoy the enforced isolation, cozying up to the fireplace and marathons of book reading and movie watching that happen on a snow day!

But I'll never forget the year a windstorm knocked out power to our home for 7 days, and the Christmas we were snowed into our cul-de-sac for eight days.

Because of these things that have happened in the past, I'm careful to stock up in case I can't get out to the store for a few days. I don't go crazy and build a bomb shelter, or overstock so my house is cluttered. I just make sure I have enough pet food and people food to last several days. I try to strike a good balance between having PLENTY of supplies on hand, but not having my home or garage filled with emergency supplies that become clutter. I don't want my provisions to prevent me from enjoying my home.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Emergency Preparedness

  • Are you keeping your car pretty full of gas throughout the week, in case of emergency? During Seattle's 7 day power outage years ago, gas stations were unable to fill tanks and we were stranded at home for days. I'll never let my car stay below at least half a tank in wintertime again.

  • Do you keep some cash on hand? In a power failure, ATMs won't work to dispense cash, and debit cards are useless if the store isn't powered. I remember shopping at a Rite-Aid by flashlight and paying for supplies with cash.

  • When your local news says a bad winter storm is on the way, do you immediately charge up your cell phones and laptops, and run loads of laundry in case you can't for several days?

  • Do you have a landline you can use to call people in an emergency? Remember that even if your cell phone is charged, it won't necessarily work. In a city-wide power outage, the cell towers that move the phone calls around are probably out of power too, so your cell phone will be useless.

  • How would you heat food if the power was out? How would you open cans?

  • How would you light and heat your home if the power and/or gas were out?

  • If you have a wood fireplace, do you have real wood, not just pretty Duraflames? They put out lots of nice light, but not enough heat to keep people warm overnight.

  • Where would you go if your home was too cold to live in?

  • Do you have plenty of extra warm bedding? One or two comforters per person isn't enough in a power outage in a cold snowy area.

  • You probably have enough batteries for your flashlight for a day long emergency. But do you have any idea how fast you go through flashlight batteries when your power is out for a week and you need a flashlight to find your clothes in your closet, your pets under beds, to take a shower by, to find your food in the pantry? And you can't buy more batteries because the stores are closed or sold out of batteries because 1 million people in your city suddenly bought and hoarded them, or because you don't have any cash to buy batteries and the store's cash register is electronic?

  • Do you know how to light the pilot light on your gas appliances if they normally have an electric switch? Do you know how to light your gas stove using matches, not just the switch?


What would you do if your power was out for an extended time? We used to think we'd just go to a hotel, but we never anticipated an entire city of over a million people being out of power at the same time. The hotels were all sold out. Plus we didn't really have enough gas to drive to a hotel without stressing out about running out of fuel on the way there.

Do you know how to get home to your house more than three or four different ways (if applicable)? Do you know more than one route to your favorite two grocery stores? Do you know which local websites you can check for street closures or emergency info (assuming you have power?) Do you have flashlights, candles, matches, and firewood?

Which is the best radio station in your area to keep you informed about current traffic and weather conditions, especially when a disaster strikes?

Have you talked recently with local friends and family members about your plans if someone's household loses power or has another winter emergency? Do you know who you'd stay with if you couldn't stay comfortably in your home? Do you know who you might need to lend a helping hand to if your home was ok but a family member's wasn't?

Emergency Candle, on Amazon

Like me, you probably have a LOT of candles in your house. But when you're keeping a candle lit in the bathroom, kitchen, hallway and living room all at the same time, for over 12 hours a day, you burn through candles a lot faster than you could ever anticipate. (I liked having a few "lights on" in rooms we used frequently, so we didn't have to wander back and forth with dangerous drippy tapers). It was great to get rid of all the weird odds and ends of candles I'd hoarded over the years, but I ended up wishing I'd had some nice new plain white unscented candles in various sizes.

And while you can sort of read by the light of one candle, it gets tiring after a while. I was really surprised, and it made me think a lot about people and their early bedtimes in olden days! You'd really need three or four candles to read comfortably or play board games with your houseguests. Experiment with it sometime and see - be sure to close your curtains to shut out any streetlights that might cheat the experiment by sending light into your house. We were so surprised we were unable to play Monopoly just by the light of a roaring fire - it was too hard to see the pieces!

I found out a few helpful things: such as using colorful glow sticks in the bathtub to help small children bathe in the dark without being afraid. (Fortunately our hot water heater is gas). I learned you can easily cook scrambled eggs and pancakes over an open fire outdoors, but they cool off very quickly in the cold air so they should be eaten immediately.

Spend some time tonight looking through your supplies. Talk with your family about what you would do in case of flooding, fire, earthquake, snow, a tree hitting the house, and loss of power. You can do it gently and make it a fun adventurous topic so your kids don't get scared or depressed at all the "What if's."

Friday, December 02, 2011

Making Winter Festive

Philosophy "Snow Angel" Shower Gel and Shampoo, on Sephora


  • Wrap a gift or write one holiday card

  • Fill up with gas for the weekend if needed; stop by an ATM for cash

  • Drop off Netflix or Redbox from the week; pick up a movie if you want to watch one this weekend

  • Eat some fruit, if you haven't already today

  • Quickly declutter one room, if any of your rooms need it.

  • Sort mail table and pay any bills that came in lately.

  • Recycle latest magazines/catalogs you are done with. I have a lot of catalogs this time of year!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Making Winter Festive

My cart full of goodies from Whole Foods: A tabletop Christmas tree; a box of Satsuma oranges; frozen appetizers in case of an impromptu party; and a dozen red roses I'll put in a red vase in my living room

Today I'm provisioning for the festive winter ahead. I'm stocking up on hot cocoa; buying tasty things for the holiday gift baskets I'll give to local friends and family; selecting greenery for my home (wreath, garlands and table centerpiece); adding things to my Christmas holiday baking cupboard; and buying fresh flowers to decorate my home. I'm also picking up a couple of red or green candles as I use so many during the holidays.

Whimsy Decor Collection, from Z Gallerie

When I get home, I'll be busy unpacking everything and putting it away. Later, I'll get out my Christmas lights and start the cold task of putting them up on the bushes and trees in my front yard. It's a pleasant chore, and I can look forward to hot cocoa (perhaps with a bit of rum thrown in) in front of the fireplace when I'm done.

LOVELY BEVERAGES: Holiday Spiced Plum Green Tea

I love the concept for this year's holiday tea offering from Republic of Tea. I'm personally allergic to cinnamon, so I won't get to try this. But I'm confident enough in this tea company that I'll be happy to gift this to several friends and family members as part of their holiday gift baskets.

Holiday Spiced Plum, at Republic of Tea

LOVELY BLOGS: Color Outside the Lines

This blogger shares his decorating inspiration finds, as well as letting us peek into his own beautifully decorated home. Currently he's focusing on Christmas decorations, posting about pinecones, decorating with greens inside, and showing us his past Christmas trees. This blog will make you eager to work on your own holiday decorating asap!

LOVELY STATIONERY: Rock, Scissor, Paper's Holiday Cards

This is my favorite stationery store on the net. I love their vintage retro styled cards. They're colorful, cheerful, and best of all, the people I send them to probably won't have seen them around in the stores. I like surprising people with new pretty things like greeting cards. Check out the ladder back chair with gifts, the animal-themed Merry Menagerie, the oh-so-trendy right now owl card, and the peppermint martinis card.

Holiday Cards from Rock, Scissor, Paper


Edible Shot Glasses (Luxirare)

How "Crazy as a Loom" Studio Decorates for the Holidays (Crazy as a Loom)

Streusel-Topped French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream (Bakingdom)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

First Day of December

Moonstruck Chocolate Advent Calendar, on Amazon

The festive season begins today! Ahead are long, dark, cold nights, hopefully sprinkled with a generous helping of parties, celebrations, events, guests, family and tasty shared meals.

I'm beginning to think about decorating, parties and holiday fun. I'm looking forward to nights spent reading books in front of my fireplace, visiting friends, crafting, throwing a party or two, and spending my first Christmas in my own home since I was a teenager.

What are you looking forward to especially this month?


  • Pay bills, rent/mortgage

  • Look over your list of upcoming birthdays this month. Write cards and mail now - it will get busier this month and you may forget later on. Order flowers, and send gifts if you're planning to.

  • Make room on your calendar for at LEAST one night every week in December where you can stay home in your pajamas, de-stress, and spend time with family. You'll spend your time at home, not running around busily to events or errands. Guard this time fiercely for yourself. It's an important gift to give yourself and your family.

  • If you use an Advent calendar or Advent house, time to get it out and stock it with small treats!

  • Time to put up your outdoor Christmas lights?

  • Have you planned your holiday party yet, if you're throwing one? Your potential guests probably already have every weekend evening booked for the next month. Better send out a save-the-date or invitation immediately if you are hosting a holiday party this year.

  • Do you need to make any doctor, dentist, vet, haircut or salon appointments for the next busy 4 weeks? Any appointments you can put off until next month, to keep December saner?

  • Check inventory of firewood, starter logs, matches, and candles (if needed and if you have a wood fireplace)

  • Bundle up and go for a quick, brisk walk if you didn't get any exercise earlier this week. You can always treat yourself to a hot bath or extra long shower when you get back to warm back up.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Preparations

Equinox Bowl, at Z Gallerie

Do whatever you think you want to do to prepare for the holidays you celebrate. Start planning your cooking for Hanukkah; or go Christmas shopping; write holiday cards; decorate the house; put up lights; bake goodies; decorate a gingerbread house with your kids or nieces/nephews.

All this should be fun to you, not an obligation - or else you shouldn't be doing this. Holidays should be something you enjoy, not dread or feel stressed about. Not everybody is into the holidays - that's ok. For those of you who are - if you start feeling overwhelmed, cut out some of the things you normally do. Forget about expectations or doing things the same way every year so the kids have a tradition. Only do what you can handle and what will bring you pleasure.

Solstice Pillow, at Crate and Barrel

Need to pick out your Christmas tree? Find a wreath for your front door? Hang some mistletoe?

Today I'm putting on Christmas music, wrapping a couple of gifts, and getting out my Christmas decorations. I will put out my outdoor lights this weekend when I have more time (I put out a LOT of lights!) For today, I will have just enough time to put colored light strands in all of my front windows, upstairs and down.

Jilly Candleholder, at Crate and Barrel

Tonight I plan to email some friends and family members, making sure I have their current addresses and information for my address book. That way I'll have everything ready as I mail out my paper Christmas cards.

LOVELY BLOGS: Between Naps on the Porch

This is probably one of my top five favorite blogs I've shared with Lovely Living this year. Updated with such frequency, quality, and wonderful posts, I can hardly wrap my brain around how she finds the time to do this so consistently. There are posts on tablescapes, an entire section on movie houses, and a section devoted to parties. You'll love the picture-heavy posts here.

LOVELY GIFTS: Miniature Trees

I just love this idea for a gift: miniature tangerine trees. They can live indoors even in cold climates, as long as they have a light-filled window. I would be careful only to gift it to people with green thumbs though, not someone like myself who unfortunately seems to kill houseplants. The tree can be relocated outside during spring and summer.

Miniature Tangerine Tree, at Sur la Table


Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart (The Crumbly Cookie)

Individual Pear Crisps with Oatmeal Streusel (Baking Bites)

Spiced Strawberry Creme Brulee (Raspberri Cupcakes)