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Archive for December, 2012

The Snow Tree

Hello Friends,

I am so glad that you’ve come to visit.  The teapot’s on and it won’t be but a minute brewing.  While we’re waiting for a cuppa, tell me, how did you enjoy your Christmas?

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Do you happen to have a favourite holiday decoration? For me, the Christmas tree is perhaps my most favourite thing of the holidays.  I can go without wreaths and garlands, sweets, presents, even turkey – but not without a tree!  I just love to sit and gaze (or maybe I should say, “glaze”)  at it, sometimes for hours, and soak up the beautiful light that it gives!  With a glass of bubbly by the fireside, it’s a slice of heaven on earth…  I hope that when I am too old and feeble to set up my own tree with a star on top that some kind Samaritan will do it for me, so I can still be surrounded by a little beauty during the Yuletide. It’s  just one of those things that makes my heart sing and keeps me going!

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I love our snowy tree, a romantic, glistening wintry wonderland.   Shiny ornaments and sheer, luxe twirling ribbons. Glass birds and feathered birds.  Crystal garlands and reflective prisms.  Glittery branches, sparkly twigs and ivies.  Velvety fantasy flowers and twinkling fairy lights. Teeny mirrors and miniature framed photos of my dad and my husband’s parents who are no longer with us…There’s alot of bling on our tree, out of necessity, you’ll soon see! Lol

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On a crisp, clear evening, my husband and I purchased our tree from a holiday window display in a downtown shop at the last-minute before closing on 23rd December 25 years ago.  It wasn’t on sale and it was an expensive tree, and still would be in today’s currency.  It was a major purchase for us back then.  We thought about it as an investment in our future together…Lol  I remember squealing with excitement on the drive home with our new treasure tucked into the trunk.  I could hardly stand to wait until we brought it inside and set it up in our tiny apartment.  We had only been married a few years, and our Christmas was full of anticipation that year as we were hosting family and friends for our first-ever holiday buffet.  The tree was the star! Someone even asked, “How do you keep the snow from melting off the tree!”  None of us had never seen anything like it before!  Lots of photos of young and old alike were taken in front of the tree that year, and there have been lots in the years since.  We  have continued the tradition of gathering friends and relatives at our home during the season; and although I’ve gotten somewhat lazy in recent years, I still manage to host an open house or a tea, just not necessarily on New Year’s Day.  And, people to this day, even though the tree is starting to show its age, still remark about  ‘The Snow Tree’ in our living room!

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In its heyday, this tree was a natural beauty, even more beautiful without a stick of bling,  just the fairy lights peeping out from underneath the snow-laden boughs.  A dreamy, welcoming sight on a winter’s eve…The tree’s flocking is nearly all worn off now. Every year there is a bigger pile of snow at its feet and mine! Some of its limbs are bent and broken, tied up with wire to keep them from flopping to the floor.  Nowadays, it drips in a frosting of shimmery trims, piled on thick and deep and sweet, a camouflage to keep from seeing through to its bare arms and spindly core.  And, every year we add more bling as the holes in the tree grow bigger and bigger…

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I have been hanging on to this old tree for many years, more than I care to admit, hesitant to let it go because it has been a large part of our Christmas tradition for such a long time. It is only a ‘thing’ after all, but things are what stir memories inside us and help us to remember places we’ve been, our experiences together, the people we love…  I look at our tree every day and see cherubs created by my friend Jean in her basement workshop, passionately painting into the wee hours of the morning; wooden hearts custom painted by my friend’s sister Joan, frosted roses plucked from my mother-in-law, Ethel’s, tree; and authentic Venetian masks brought from a European holiday with my childhood friend Gail (the ones she brought me from her Christmas in New Orleans one year are there, too); and bells and balls that are treasures gifted to me by co-workers and family through the years.  A Christmas tree can evoke a multitude of feelings and memories of  times past.  Is yours like that, too?

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On the practical side, I haven’t been able to find a single specimen to replace our tree that even comes close to its quality, or at least that suits me.  They just don’t make things like they used to, even flocked trees!  Sadly, when our tree comes down this year,  it will be final, a time to say ‘goodbye’ to ‘The Snow Tree’.  Sigh.  I will be forced to get a new tree next season.  I will view our parting as an opportunity for change and a chance to create a new and even more beautiful tradition.  Maybe I’ll try a real one.  I love all the images of natural Christmas trees on Pinterest, don’t you… I don’t know what form our tree will take next Yuletide, or where all the pinky ornaments will find a new home…Decidedly, I will look forward to a new tree.  One thing is for certain,  like so many of your own trees, there will be an angel and a star at the top to represent the host of angels and Bethlehem star over the nativity, yet it will be a tree that is one-of-a-kind rich with our own memories.

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Oh, my! Where has the time gone?  It’s dark outside already.  Time to turn on the tree lights inside.  I hope you are enjoying seeing all the details of the tree in the slideshow at the bottom of this post.  Thanks for keeping me company tonight!  I always love spending time with you, dear ones.

Wishing you all a beautiful New Year filled with beautiful new traditions and wonderful memories!

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.  In the eyes of children, they are all 30-feet tall.”  Lary Wilde

Linda

Snow White!

Dear Friends,

I was just visiting my good friend Carolyn at Aiken Home and Garden on Prince Edward Island.  She was showing some of her lovely snow pictures from past winters (they have no snow for the time being) and sharing them at How Sweet The Sound‘s Pink Saturday where the theme this weekend is ‘Snow and Snowmen’.  So, I thought I’d join the party also!  Because we, too, have no snow at the moment, although it is on the way, here are some photos from winters past.

The first few photos are of Santas created by my talented friend Jean.  They are ceramic, poured from ‘slip’ into a mold, baked in a kiln and then cleaned and handpainted. Each year a different one sits on my kitchen windowsill.  I treasure each one of her magnificent creations! If you would like to know more about how Jean gives these jolly gents life, you can read about it in a previous post, The Santa Lady of Farm Road

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The Santa below is from a collection that my husband has gifted me over the years from Roman Inc’s ‘The Giftgiver’ series . It was purchased a long time ago and I don’t think the series is made any more.

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This is our garden shed under a blanket of freshly fallen snow.  To me, the garden is just as beautiful in winter when all its ‘bones’ are laid bare – you can experience the garden on a more intimate level and study its structure.  You can see more pics, if you like, in the post, “Escape to Narnia in a Winter’s Garden”.

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I am still very excited, and can hardly believe, that the exterior of our teeny bungalow in snowy winter dress is being featured this  very Christmas season in a stunning holiday idea book from Norway. It is called “Sanselig Jul” (translation:  Christmas For All The Senses) by the lovely and creative Franciska Munck Johansen.  Franciska’s book is filled with gorgeous Nordic images and bursting with seasonal inspiration.  You can read more at “The Gift of Christmas”.

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This is the only snowman at our home for now.  He resides on my cakestand on a shelf in a corner of our kitchen and brings warm wishes for the season.  🙂  Many thanks to you all for stopping by! I will look for your footprint in the snow… In the meantime, stay cozy.

Warmly yours,

Linda

I am joining, too, Treasure Hunt Thursday!

It’s Tibb’s Eve!

IMG_1446 IMG_1448Welcome Lovelies!  It’s Tibb’s Eve!

And, I am like a Whirling Dervish putting the finishing touches on my decorating (indoors AND out), still shopping, wrapping, delivering and baking!  Yes, I have ambitious plans, indeed.  Fingers, toes and eyes crossed that I will be able to check it all off my list before the light of dawn.  Am I dreaming?! I have never before been this late doing Christmas!  A dream vacay  to New York City during the first of the month, and having been down with flu for this entire week, has really put me behind in all things Christmas at our home this year.

As far as I know, Tibb’s Eve, the 23rd of December, originated on the south coast of Newfoundland some fifty plus moons ago.  In some island communities, it is also known as Tipp’s Eve, or Tipsy Eve.   So, now, I think you might know where this is going…Once upon a time, it was thought to be acceptable to have the first few festive ‘tipples’ (translation:  alcoholic drinks) before Christmas on Tibb’s Eve, a time reserved for visiting neighbours and friends, dropping off gifts and having a few swallies (translation:  ales) while making the rounds from house to house throughout the outport (translation:  village).

In keeping with tradition, I invite you to join me in a nook in my kitchen for a festive cuppa, perhaps a steaming spiced toddy to warm you.  Perfect for a damp, cold night like this.  It has been raining all day and much of our snow has disappeared, so it could very well be a green Christmas after all.  I, however, will stick to my holiday tea as I will need my total wits about me to complete all that is on my To-Do list tonight…

And, since this will be my last post before Christmas, I want to wish you all, dear friends, a joyous time filled to the brim with cozy memories and to thank you for visiting me.  (Oh, darn, I forgot to remove the price sticker from the bottom of that candle before I wrapped it) Sigh. It’s going to be a lonnng night….Lol

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

Hugs, Linda

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A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;It makes no noise at all,But softly gives itself away.~Eva Logue

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Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white’.
Bing Cosby

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May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;The spirit of Christmas which is peace;The heart of Christmas which is love.~Ada V. Hendricks

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There are no strangers on Christmas Eve.  ~Mildred Cram and Adele Comandini

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Christmas… is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart. Freya Stark

IMG_1401 IMG_1403 IMG_1409 IMG_1410IMG_1355 IMG_1642 IMG_1346 IMG_1646Tonight I am joining Open House, Treasure Hunt ThursdayFeathered Nest Friday, Home Sweet Home, Vintage Inspiration, Inspiration Friday

Window Shopping in the Big Apple!

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks                                                                       dressed in holiday style,                                                                                     In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas…

Dear Friends,

My dream trip to New York City at Christmastime finally came true just a few weeks ago.  It was on my bucket list for years, as long as I can remember.   To visit during the holiday season and see the lighting of the colossal tree at Rockefeller Centre that symbolizes for many, including me, the arrival of the holiday season was something magical.  I will never forget it.

What a joy to experience the life of that city in the short weeks leading up to Christmas.  The 85th annual performance of the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Broadway shows. Salvation Army bell ringing, singing and dancing on nearly every street corner.  A harbour cruise past the Statue of Liberty. Museums. Celebrity spotting. Friendly NYPD. A ride through Central Park.  The American Girl Store experience.     F. A. O. Schwartz. Santa and ‘Eloise’ at The Plaza.  Macy’s Holiday Lane.  The outdoor holiday Christmas markets, apple cider and skaters at Bryant Park.  Dazzling Times Square.  The Chocolatiers! Vendors selling roasted chestnuts.  Lighting candles at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Empire State Building. Fabulous restaurants.  Choirs.  Window shopping…The sizzling sights, sounds and experiences are thrilling and infinite.

Most of all, I enjoyed the spectacular store window displays.  It was I had been yearning to see, and at no other time of year would do it for me.  Our visit had to be leading up to Christmas.  The department store window displays are a famous New York Christmas tradition, and you don’t have to spend a cent to enjoy it! Barneys. Bergdorf Goodman.  Bloomingdales.  Lord and Taylor. Saks Fifth Avenue…I took hundreds and hundreds of photos.

The windows at Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store located on 5th Avenue/ 58th Street south of Central Park in Midtown Manhattan, are probably among the most sophisticated and beautiful of all the high-style window displays in New York City. Dripping with glamour and brilliance.  I strolled by several times  to drink it all in, taking photos during the day and again at night.  The nightime shots are the most special.  This season’s windows are called “BG Follies 2012” inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies, Vaudeville and Hollywood musicals of the 1930’s.  These surely must be among the most dazzling, captivating store windows on the planet!

I have always loved store window gazing at Christmastime. Won’t you come window shopping at Bergdorfs with me this year? We can spend hours just outside the store immersed in the fantasy and creative wonder of it all! And, when finally we are able to tear ourselves away and go inside the store, remember to look up…

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I am happy to be re-sharing this post at “Oh, The Places I’ve Been!”

It’s Christmas, naturally!

A freshly made "pineapple fan" above our door is an annual tradition inspired by Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  The crown will last for several weeks.

A freshly made “pineapple fan” above our door is an annual tradition inspired by Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The crown will last for several weeks. Photo: December 2013

Dear Friends,

As you are busying about with all your holiday preparations, I thought I would share a little inspiration with you…My husband and I recently returned from a long-awaited vacation to historic Williamsburg, Virginia, a restored 18th-century colonial capital of 300 plus acres.

It had been 25 years since we were last there, and the thing I remembered most about the place was the abundance of natural and imaginative decorations on doors and door crowns, windows and windowsills, lanterns, mantels and tabletops, just about everywhere throughout the town, all masterfully designed from fresh elements.

I was not disappointed on this trip.  Winter foliage finery at its very best still graces the historic town’s exhibition buildings, restaurants, shops, offices and private homes and have inspired people for centuries, especially at Christmastime.

Evergreens, a symbol of eternal life, were remarkably commonly used by the resourceful citizens of 18th century Williamsburg to decorate their homes at the bleakest time of year.

Today, the area draws admirers from around the world.  It takes days and days and days and the talents of an entire design crew, in addition to a legion of private homeowners, to make the magic happen at Colonial Williamsburg.

P1040985Truckloads of evergreens of every variety imaginable, cases upon cases of fruits and vegetables, nuts, berries, wheat, grapevines, twigs, seed pods, pinecones and dried flowers are used on everything from sprays and wreaths to garlands and centerpieces. Musical instruments, carved wooden ornaments, iron elements, balls of cotton, wool, flannel and felt are often incorporated in the designs – even leather shoes and soup tureens are used in their outstanding creations!  

P1050006Decorations go up in time to celebrate Thanksgiving and remain throughout the holidays until Old Christmas Day on January 6th.  A team of dedicated employees are responsible for freshening up any that might need it.  Where fruits are inserted on florist picks, it makes them easy to remove and replace with new.

Actors dressed in period costume and carollers stroll the pretty streets. The sound of fifes and drums, interesting outdoor markets, hot cider aplenty, the lighting of hundreds of candles in windows at dusk, fireworks and flaming cressets (fire baskets that are hand forged by community artisans are hung on tall posts, filled with kindling and lit) along streets and walkways all lend to the fascination of the annual “Grand Illumination” of the town held annually the first weekend in December.  It is just oh-so-pretty at night, like a beautiful dream…We LOVED it!

Every year since our first visit to Williamsburg 25 years ago, my husband and I have been making a door crown in the traditional Williamsburg style to hang over the front door of our own home. It is fashioned primarily from a fresh pineapple (the symbol of welcome), apples and cedar. A few pinecones or nuts are sometimes incorporated depending on what I happen to have on hand. Citrus fruits can be used, too, but I am partial to the gloss of the Red Delicious apples once Big Elf (a.k.a. husband) polishes them with a soft cloth until they’re gleaming. I make the ‘Pineapple Fan’; Big Elf hangs it. That’s the deal. But he always insists on polishing the apples first! It has become a Christmas tradition for us.  Our long-awaited return visit to Williamsburg was the icing on the cake, rekindling the spirit in which our tradition first began.

The photo below was taken in December 2011.  We’ve had a lot of snow in the past week, I’ve been down with the flu and we haven’t managed to hang the door crown yet, but this weekend it will go up at long last.  Hey, how did that dent in the door get there!

I’m excited to be sharing this archived post today on Oh The Places I’ve Been!

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I am dedicating this post to my dear friend Carolyn Aiken whose home is Prince Edward Island and who I know would love Williamsburg, too. With every snap of the camera, I thought of her. I gathered a small sampler of photos of the multitude of Williamsburg wreaths and swags to share with you.  I hope you enjoy them and that you’ll be inspired to personalize your own welcome wreath for the holidays.  Do you have a favourite?

Thank you for dropping by to visit at such a busy time.  I hope you are able to wrap up your To-Do list soon.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

Linda

NOTE:  If, after you’ve finished browsing the photos of Williamsburg below, you’d like to see some 2013 photos of our front door decorating, click here “Beautiful Christmas Green.  These photos were taken on The Duke of Gloucester Street., the town’s main road.
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The Gift of Christmas! Sanselig Jul…

Sanselig Jul:  A Christmas For All The Senses

by Franciska Munck-Johansen

Dearest Friends,

Something very special sits on my desk this evening. A glorious feast – for the eyes! An exquisite holiday idea book has arrived all the way from Norway.  A true ‘Work of Heart’ by talented Norwegian Franciska Munck-Johansen – author/stylist/photographer!  Bubbling with excitement, like a child on Christmas morning, I can barely contain myself as I turn each smooth, glossy perfect page.

My cup of amber tea has long gone cold.  My husband took it away to pour me another.  🙂 I barely noticed…I am happily preoccupied. Mesmerized. My eyes pour over each and every lustrous sheet of gorgeous photos.  I am wearing a big grin on my face.  Searching for something which is very thrilling to me.   Photos of  the exterior of our own home dressed for the holidays  in simple, natural cedar garlands and balsam fir wreaths.  Pages 44-45.  I can hardly believe my eyes!

Isn’t this an outstanding cover photo (below) that Franciska has chosen for her new book? (My friend Jean made the Santa – isn’t he handsome in his Nordic style ski wear?)

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Franciska’s book is written in Norwegian, but a picture does speaks a thousand words and the language of photos is certainly universal.  Beautiful and inspiring!  The photo on the left is of our garden gate (although it is not red anymore) and here is what the caption under it reads:

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
It’s almost so you can hear Christmas carols and expect to see Rudolph and
the rest of the gang behind this garden gate. Canadian Linda Ryan, author of  the blog “Beautiful Ideas”, loves Christmas and has photographed these lovely images in her garden. She uses evergreens to decorate around the garden in flower boxes, on doors, around the outside lights… The front door of her home is a wonderful portal decorated with fresh cedar and long ribbons. 
https://beautifulideas.wordpress.com
 

It does not surprise me that my dear friend Carolyn from the enchanting ‘Island of Anne’ is in the book, too. Carolyn is amassing a library of publications featuring her stunning home and gardens.  Here she writes about being featured in Franciska’s “Sanselig Jul”:  Aiken Home and Garden

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A third North American featured in the book is Sandy Foster, author of the blog ‘My Shabby Streamside Studio’.  Sandy lives in New York (my husband and I are not long home from eight glorious days in NYC, something that has been on my bucket list for a very long time – more about that soon)….You’ll love Sandy’s dreamy, marshmallowy photos.  Sandy has been a guest on the Nate Berkus Show and is included in his newest book.  You can visit Sandy at her blog here:  My Shabby Streamside Studio.  Here are some pictures of Sandy’s feature in Sanselig Jul.

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Franciska’s book is a magical Christmas treasury.    The stuff  of dreams.  I am thrilled to have it in my special collection of beautiful holiday books.  Even more so to be included in it!  Surreal.  Franciska  is a beauty  – inside and out.  Her first-class work is featured in many interiors magazines in Europe and beyond. Swoonworthy, indeed.  Her passion for all that she does shines through in her every one of  her photos.  Her warmth and charm of personality emanates from the pages of “Sanselig Jul”.  Here is beautiful photo of Franciska.

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You can purchase Francsika’s book (here) .

My first ‘meeting’ with Franciska was in summer 2011.  She shared my blog post (Waiting for Springtime) on her own blog .  It touched her heart and made me glad that she felt my story  was worth sharing, that it might inspire others to do something nice for someone in need.   We all can use a supportive ‘hug’ sometimes, can’t we…

Last year, Franciska sent me as a gift a copy of her first book, “Sanselig Sommer”, which translated into English means “Summer for All the Senses”.  It, too, is jam-packed with wonderful photos and ideas that can be easily adapted for the home, garden and inspired living. It’s such quality that I am honoured to be included in anything that Franciska does!

Can I tell you a secret? I have always dreamed of writing my own Christmas book one day.  Shhh….But I never dreamed for a single moment, that I would be included in a book by such a recognized European artist as Franciska!   How life sometimes presents the unexpected!  Blogland has been a portal to so many opportunities this past year that would not have been possible otherwise.

Each year, in the month leading up to Christmas, I gather up all my holiday books in a basket and look through one or two every day for inspiration. It’s exciting to think that Sanselig Jul, in which our own home is featured, will become part of that collection and tradition!  My deepest gratitude, Franciska, for your warm embrace.   It is an incredible honour for me…What a wonderful Gift of Christmas!  Happy Holidays to you and yours, dear friend.

Thank you everyone for visiting today.  I hope you will come back soon for some holiday photos of my first adventure in New York City…

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead,

Linda

I am delighted to be joining Show and Tell Friday, Open House, Home Sweet Home, Vintage Inspiration, Teatime Tuesday, Wow Us Wednesday, Feathered Nest Friday, Holiday Home Tour, Jennifer at Traditions and Cottage Magpie.

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