Monday, December 15, 2008


I’m all about adding touches of holiday sparkle all over my little house, but my budget forces me to be creative. Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to deck the halls without depleting my checking account. So, without further ado . . .

Balls. Or rather, ornaments. They’re not just for the tree anymore! Sherry and John over at This Young House have some great posts about creative ways to work ornaments into your décor. I especially love their use of silver ornaments with moss.

My favorite Christmassy thing in my own house is still the ornaments in my kitchen window.

I tried to bring some ornamentation to the dining room by hanging a little cluster of them from the chandelier, but I’m kind of back and forth on whether I like them this way.

It’s a little reminiscent of a cluster of grapes. Or a uvula. What do you think? If I get bored (or if I get insomnia, which is more likely these days), I’m going to try re-hanging them individually from different spots in the chandelier, like I saw on the Domino website.

I also use ornaments in baskets, bowls, vases, and in large, lidded cylindrical vases on my mantel. (Side note: in my experience, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s are the best places to find glass vases and hurricanes, even cheaper than you’ll find them at Target or other discount stores.)

And the mantel brings us to our second cheap (free, actually) method of holiday décor: nature! Can’t get much freer than crap you pick up in your own yard! Stay tuned . . .

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Like Oprah's Favorite Things, except no one cares!

Sigh. My skin has reverted to its thirteen-year-old pimpliness, I have some monster pinched-nerve issue going on with my back and neck right now, and I have a sneaking suspicion that both of these things are at least partly due to holiday stress. I think it's pretty lame of me to let something as happy as Christmas make me all stressed out, so I'm going to take a moment to reflect upon some of the simple, non neck-pinching things I love about this time of year.

Seasonal Fruit.

Sure, summer's bounty is long gone, but there are some great things in season in winter, too. Like pomegranates (kind of a pain to actually eat, but so healthy and tasty), and my personal favorite, clementines!

Clementines are the ultimate winter treat for me, especially when I've been over-indulging on all the turkey dinners and baked goods we're inundated with this time of year. They require no silverware, they are sweet and (usually) seedless, and they add color and cheer (and their citrusy fragrance!) to your kitchen.

Trader Joe's Goodies.

No longer do I have to beg and bribe friends from out of state to send me Trader Joe's care packages, or drag my poor hapless hosts in other cities (sorry, guys) to grocery stores when I visit them. Nashville finally got its very own Trader Joe's last month, and I have already patronized it much more than I should.

Trader Joe's has its own version of Oreo sandwich cookies, the adorably-named Joe-Joe's. At Christmas, they stock limited quantities of Candy Cane Joe-Joe's. People, the creme filling is sprinkled with pieces of candy cane! So good.

I prefer to enjoy my Candy Cane Joe-Joe's with milk (the dunking is very important), but to accompany other cookies, I enjoy a nice cup of TJ's Wintry Blend Coffee, which has a spicy holiday kick to it. I need to get over there and snatch up another canister of this before it's all gone!

Starbucks Holiday Drinks.

I know, I know, times are dire and five-dollar drinks are frivolous. I agree. In fact, I've only had one peppermint mocha this year. I'll probably indulge in a couple more, plus a gingerbread latte. These goofy sweet drinks are a nice pick me up in the midst of all the holiday craziness.

For a cheaper treat at home, I indulge in the somewhat trashier. . .

Coffeemate Seasonal Creamers.
Look, flavored non-dairy creamer is seventeen kinds of wrong, and most of the time, I stay clear away from it. But something about these holiday flavors makes it all okay in my mind. I don't ask you to understand, but I do suggest that you try the gingerbread flavor.

As for the eggnog, that just seems too gross, even for me.

(Surprise: a non-edible item!) A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I love all kinds of Christmas music, and just like my wallet makes allowances for goofy coffee drinks and my conscience overlooks the nastiness of oil-based coffee creamer, my snob-o-meter lowers a few notches around the holidays. This is why Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" will always be on my holiday playlist.

But even the most severe music critic has to admit that the music on A Charlie Brown Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio, stands the test of time and taste. It's beautiful music that awakens the nostalgic, warm and fuzzy dork within me. Give it a listen while you're wrapping gifts, or play it in your car to lessen the stress from holiday shopping traffic. Pin It

Monday, December 8, 2008

Haul! Out! The Holleeeee!

Did everyone else have to squawk out "We Need a Little Christmas" in an awkward holiday musical program? No? Okay. The point is, I got all of my Christmas crap put up! My halls are decked, my stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and all that jazz.

I love the smell and look of a real tree, but space constraints and a lovely skin allergy (think welts and hives) to evergreen sap means that we go the fake route. Our tree is tall and skinny, and I kind of love it. It’s pre-lit with white lights (though I confess to preferring big, cheery colored bulbs), and we add some big bubble lights of our own.

My favorite thing on our tree is the vintage Bradford star, passed down to us from Seth's parents, who inherited it from a friend's parents. It has a little tin-can type thing inside it (with colored cellophane inserts) that fits over the bulb. The heat from the bulb makes the can spin, throwing crazy colored squiggles and W's on our walls. LOVE.

I’ve never been much into themed trees, choosing instead to accumulate ornaments over the years and not worry whether they match or not. Hey, if nothing matches, then everything does, right? Or something.

Anyway, this philosophy has resulted in some wonderful ornaments, and some not-so-wonderful ones. One of my favorite ornaments ever is this totally hideous thing made of plastic-wrapped satin floss that Seth’s kooky aunt and uncle gave us the year we got married.

  • Wacky 1982 hair? Check.
  • Cheesy sipping of brandy snifters in front of the fire? Check.
  • A properly supportive bra for the lady? No check. Tsk, tsk.

Sorry, I got lost in the beauty of the ornament there for a second.

Big packages of glass ornaments are the cheapest way to liven up any room, tree or no tree. Inspired by a Martha Stewart Living cover from two Christmases ago (apparently this was an alternate cover, so sorry for the image. It was hard to find even a blurry image!), I like to hang ornaments in my kitchen window.

Martha suggested fastening eye hooks into your window casing, but my old, rickety windows have enough issues without screwing extra stuff into them. Therefore, I use a tension rod. This is a little more awkward-looking, but I like to think no one notices it because they're distracted by the ornaments. The ornaments are hung on pieces of ribbon collected from gifts, and strands of beads snipped from a roll of bead garland that we used on our Christmas tree a few years ago.

The best thing about the tension rod is that I take the whole thing down--rod, ribbons, ornaments and all--fully assembled, and just hang it in the attic until next year. All I have to do is give it a good dusting when it's time to re-hang it.

More cheap and cheerful uses for ornaments to come soon! Pin It

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving in My Teensy House

I offered up my miniature house for Thanksgiving dinner festivities last Thursday night. It seemed like a good idea in my head. As Thanksgiving drew near, and both my sisters confirmed that their tall-tall boyfriends would be in attendance, in addition to my not-so-short father, my house felt like it was shrinking by the minute. My little pedestal table normally seats four, six with a leaf inserted.

We had to pull out the old dining room table from the basement, since it has two leaves and is crazy long. We borrowed some chairs from our friends Frank and Brandon, and their slipcovers just happened to merge perfectly with our decor! We also moved the buffet to avoid the situation of having guests with their backs pressed directly against dishes of sweet potatoes and cornbread dressing.

It turned out really well! I loved getting to use my china and crystal and gigantic tablecloth. It was still a tight squeeze to get to the buffet, but I was the only one who had to move, instead of one whole side of the table getting up and shuffling around every time someone wanted seconds.

I tried to add a little more fall color with some mums, a lucky find at Kroger on the manager’s special markdown table. All they needed was a little water and they perked right up. In fact, they still look pretty good. I stuck the cheap plastic pots down into my enamel flower pails to dress them up.

We lit a fire in the fireplace (well, a starter log, but whatever), shipped the dogs off to their “grandmother’s” house for the night, and had a wonderful time with everyone.

Next up: Christmas decorating. We face some special challenges this year, in addition to our usual budget and space constraints. Graham is in destroyer-mode all the time now, it seems, and we can’t figure out what to do with our Christmas tree to keep him from pulling it to the ground and shattering our ornaments.

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