Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Are you like me and stress over what to get your kids for Christmas?  The older they get, the bigger the challenge.  Did I spend the same amount on each one?  Will one think the other got more?  Will they be equally happy with their gifts? 

Then I started thinking "Why not get them all the same gift?"  Of course, I couldn't find anything that they would all like so that killed that idea.  Hmmm, "What about cash?"  They can have fun shopping all the after Christmas sales.  I liked the idea, but opening a card with money takes less than a minute, and it is not very exciting compared to opening all those beautifully wrapped packages under the tree.

I wanted to come up with a fun and creative way to present the cash.  I decided they would have to work for it.  Well not really work, but hunt for it - our first Christmas scavenger hunt.  Since we are taking the girls on a week escape to some warm weather during their Christmas break, we had been telling them that we were not giving them presents on Christmas day so they were not expecting anything. 

After we had our brunch, I handed each of the girls four satin cords with jingle bells to tie on their wrists and ankles.  (With the girls wearing these, I could listen to know their approximate location in the house as I was going to take photos while my husband managed the video camera.   We told them we had set up a scavenger hunt, and handed each girl their first clue.
1)  My husband and I had decided to give a small amount in the 2nd thru 6th clue and a larger surprise at the end in their last hiding spot. 
2) We created five different clues for each person.
 3) We rolled the money and wrapped it in different colored ribbon (one color for each girl) and inserted the clues.  We did the different colors in case one person discovered one of the other's clues, they would know it wasn't theirs and they would leave it in place.
 4)  The 6th, 7th, and 8th clues were the same for each person.
The sixth clue was to look for a package under the tree "from Santa Claus".  Two of the girls received reindeer antlers (headband) along with a round plastic blinking red nose and our oldest daughter received a Santa hat along with a wide black belt.  They thought it was hilarious, and didn't know what to expect next.
 The 7th clue was "To put on their shoes or boots and hunt for the #255".  (We live on a dead end street and the family at the end of the street's last name was HUNT and their address is 255).  While all the other clues were for items to be found on the first floor inside the house, we told them this part of the hunt included the outdoors, afterall, I wanted them to have fun wearing these outfits where they could be seen in public.
 Since our house number is 401, they thought it could possibly be a house number or maybe it was a number on a meter outside.  Off we went, the girls in their outfits and my husband and I with our camera and video. 
 After searching our back yard, the girls strolled down our street in their pajamas, to discover their last clue which they found in the mailbox at the end of the street.   
 Their 8th clue directed them to a hiding place back at our house where they were each surprised to find a larger sum in their last hiding spot.
As you can see by the smiles on the girls' faces that we had a great time.  We discovered that we had much more fun playing this game than we had opening gifts under the tree.  It was exciting and we all had so many laughs. 

If you are in the same dilema of not knowing what to get, I highly recommend giving this scavenger hunt a try.  You do not have to spend hours shopping and being stressed about making sure you spend equal amounts on each person.  The best part of all was that it was a great enjoyable family activity, and we will have fond memories to look back on.

Now, the problem is I have to come up with an idea for next year as I love to surprise the girls.  Have you had a similar experience?  What does your family do?  Does anyone have an idea they would like to share with us for next year?  It is always the most fun to do something unexpected.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


While I started Christmas decorating early this year, I didn't really finish until today.   Since I get bored doing the same decorating every year, I like to experiment with different ideas.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I have about 17 plastic crates with Christmas decorations and used just one of those boxes this year.  For the past 14 years, I have been collecting antique European baskets (mostly French).  This year I decorated the tree with some of my small baskets along with German brass candle holders, and glass snowflakes I made with our three daughters about ten years ago with a kit from Martha Stewart.  These glass snowflakes are beautiful the way they catch the light and you can create so many designs.  

How do you decorate your home for Christmas?  Do you have one tree, two trees, or many trees? I once met someone who had 14 trees in her house - one in every room including the bathrooms. 

 A very long time ago, (I can't believe it's been about 25 years), I travelled with my Mom and Dad on a trip to Europe.  We had stopped in a craft shop in Switzerland, and my mom purchased this adorable doll by Meike Riedel.  My mom passed away four years ago, and I treasure this charming doll with its cloth painted face, her hair in braids and a dress made of a fabric that looks like a "Liberty of London".  The old wooden tricycle on the right was my mother in laws when she was a child and the bears I have collected  at antique markets along with the small wooden sled.

 One of the many snowflakes our girls made from our Martha Stewart kit.  Since she no longer sells these kits, I have gone to our local bead store and picked up all the supplies to make more. 
Look at the amazing details of this finely crafted French doll basket.  I love the beautiful patina, and the fact it has survived all these years in such fine condition. 

Who doesn't enjoy candles and a wood burning fire?  It feels so good to sit by the fire on these cold, short days in Michigan.

 The lowest shelf of this antique Welsh dresser holds a collection of various old books.  My husband is always asking me why I purchase these books when I can't read them as some of them are in different languages.  Well, its all about the binding and covers, isn't it?  The architectural piece in the center is actually from the Lee Plaza Hotel in Detroit.  Our daughters like to go into these amazing old dilapidated buildings in Detroit to take photographs and they came across this incredible piece. 

We celebrated my husband's birthday the other night and you can see our golden retriever loves to prance around with the wrapping paper in her mouth.  She always knows how to get our attention. 

I can't believe Christmas is just four days away...

Thursday, December 16, 2010


When you enter our home from the side door entrance into our mud room, you look down the hallway to this focal point. We were very fortunate that the previous owner of our 1937 Connecticut style stone and white painted brick farmhouse had done such a beautiful job when they added on to the original house.    The mirrored French doors are one of my favorite features and really add to this viewpoint.  Now imagine it with just the framing.  It would have looked OK, but not near as important as it does with these mirrored French doors.
Our dining room is filled with antiques, actually too many for my taste now.   These beautiful English yew wood Windsor chairs ca. 1820 are my husband's favorite.  Through a relentless search of just about every antique shop in England, we had put together a set of eight perfectly matched chairs.  Apparently, someone else was fond of them as well..... When we returned to the states after living in England for 3 1/2 years, someone had opened our container and stole all eight of them.  Fortunately, we were insured and were able to purchase a set almost identical to them from Michael Harding Hill, a Cotswolds antiques dealer who has specialized in Windsor chairs since 1971.
One of my many weaknesses is wooden bowls.  This one is exceptional with a beautiful patina and an unusual raised lip.  I placed it on an antique bread board so it appears like a footed bowl.   I had to take this photo quickly as I just picked up our daughter, Gina, today for Christmas break.  She loves pomegranates and I knew this arrangement would not last long.  OK, I have also acquired a liking to pomegranate with Swirlberry tart yogurt as well.
 Last week, a few friends of mine went out antique shopping.  I picked up these amazing silver plated candlesticks.   Notice the art nouveau details and the brass showing through on the edges which really adds to the beauty of these stunning candlesticks.
 I had purchased these potted trees a few weeks ago.  I had placed the pots in heavy zip lock freezer bags, wrapped them in burlap and tied them with beautiful taupe ribbon from one of my favorite shops, Kate's Paperie.  After watering these trees a few times in my kitchen to be sure they did not leak, I thought I would be safe to leave them on my dresser and water them.  Well, I learned my lesson..... yesterday when I walked in the dining room I was SICK when I noticed a 9 inch water spot under and around one of the pots.

 Here is another recent purchase of mine - this hotel silver teapot.   It is made by Meriden/Roger Brothers ca. 1905.  It has a reeded repoussee design around the lower body, a hotel crest, and a double button finial.    Isn't it fabulous?
 This French hand forged chandelier from Ironware is a favorite of mine.  The shape of the leaves is similar to the original hardware on the windows and doors in our house.
We are planning to move to Houston some time within the next year so this will probably be our last Christmas dinner in our dining room.  I am always taking photos of this house so I can eventually put together a hard cover book on  what has been my "dream house".  I have a great appreciation for professional photographers after taking so many photos and then looking at them on the computer and seeing the lights are too bright, the plate is crooked, the cup needs to be moved to the right, etc., etc.  I spent two different days taking these photos (about 100 shots, these were my favorites).  One of my New Year's resolutions will be to learn the tricks of this trade.

Friday, December 10, 2010


When visiting Vermont this fall, I came across these lighted willow branches (electric)  in a design shop.  Since I like to decorate with neutral colors, these branches were the perfect way to brighten up my outdoor pots for the holidays.

Now that I decided to use them, I had to locate three more sets as I have four front outdoor pots.  So after my online search, I found the lights on http://www.amazon.com/ with one company offering six sets of lights for only $96 plus shipping.  Having spent a little less than that for just one set from the design shop, I was thrilled to find such a bargain.  Of course, the bargain was too good to be true!  When they arrived, I discovered that they were not exactly the same. In the first photo, each little individual light is wrapped and can be bent back from the main branch.  The less expensive lights (used in pot above) were taped down.  While I was tempted to return them, I just couldn't justify the difference in the cost. 

My favorite of all outdoor holiday decorations, is that glow of a simple candle in the window.   While we have to live with plugs and electrical cords, I despise them.  My solution - hurricane lanterns using a base of a few old leather bound books.  While living in England, I purchased eight antique celery vases.  These work perfectly for the holiday or any time of year. 

Now that's it, I'm done with decorating the outdoors.   Except for...... adjusting that electrical cord I see in the third photo.   Yeah! 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Out of all my many December magazines I have saved, these images taken from the December 2003 issue of Southern Accents is hands down my favorite.  Pamela Pierce, a Houston designer, has done a beautiful job with this Italian style house built in 1995.  Pamela is known for her rustic, sophisticated and elegant designs with European flavor.

The tree is decorated with clear glass balls and topped with a 17th century Italian decoration.  One of my weaknesses is for wonderful European baskets, and here they are filled with clear glass balls and peanuts.

Pamela used olive branches as tie backs in the dining room and covered the table with a linen check.   This chandelier is fabulous and I really like the simple rosemary wreaths around each candle.

Ironstone and hotel silver are beautifully displayed in this armoire.

This stairwell looks so inviting with the simple hurricane lamps, cream colored stockings, garland and the fir tree potted at the top of the stairs.   

I love this fireplace mantel with just greens and cream pillars. 

How wonderful is this breakfast room?  An over sized gingerbread house is displayed on the table while square boxwood wreaths hang from brown ribbons.  

Not only do I adore these holiday decorations, I really appreciate the simple, rustic elegant look of this Italian style home.  

Friday, December 3, 2010


Country Living

Country Living

Designer, Lisa Luby Ryan

Here are just a few photos of rooms that really appealed to me, especially the white bedroom.  The natural greens are so beautiful in these rooms decorated in neutral colors.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


When our three daughters were little, I would get them these wonderful chocolate calendars.  Every morning they were so excited to get up, and see what shape of chocolate was behind the little door displaying the number for that day.  Was it a stocking? a star? a tree???   These were the days - the best of all....... when they believed that Santa came down the chimney with presents just for them.

The girls were getting older and maybe a little old for the chocolate advent calendar.  I spotted these wonderful wooden advent calendars at Restoration Hardware, and of course, carted three home with me that day.  The girls loved them, and every year I would display them in their bedrooms.   The first thing they would do when they got up in the morning was open the little door to see what their surprise was for that day. 

Now, all three of our daughters are in college. Like most Moms, I wanted to carry on doing the same things I did for the girls when they lived at home. Well, none of us liked the idea of sending the wooden calendars in the mail, and I was also discovering that not many items fit in those really small doors.  I started wrapping all the items in tissue, enclosing the gifts in cellophane bags and tying them with a ribbon.  Having to do that seventy five times became very tedious.  Last year, I was shopping in Old Navy and spotted these adorable little stockings in holiday colors (The little reindeer stocking I bought at a local boutique)  Not only were they colorful and in a variety of sizes 2T - 5T, they were only $1.75 a pair - just perfect for my advent calendar.  Now, I put all of their gifts in these little stockings, and close them with miniature clothespins from Michael's.  I purchased inexpensive holiday designed boxes at Home Goods.  I place everything inside the box, along with garden string and hooks if they want to hang them, and mail them at the end of November.  (If I had a boy, I would use small burlap bags with a number displayed on each bag.)    With all of this said, treasure those days with little ones - when they are so excited to get up in the morning, and open the little door on a chocolate calendar to discover their surprise for that day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

HOLIDAY DECORATING - Getting Started................

One of my favorite things is a woodburning fire especially on  cold and cloudy winter days. Yesterday,  I lit my fire and a few candles, and ..........

I gathered all my old December issues of Martha Stewart, Veranda, Southern Accents, as well as a few of my favorite holiday decorating books to find inspiration for decorating for Christmas.  With a cup of hot chocolate ( Emma Bridgewater Toast & Marmalade cup & saucer), I sat near the fire and flagged my favorites.  

These are all the greens I purchased Saturday morning on a trip to our local farmer's market.   Look at the beautiful silver blue eucalyptus pods and  leaves.  Now I have to gather some greens, branches, and berries from the woods.  Having lots of galvonized buckets and containers makes it handy to store the greens until I am ready to bring them inside.   I couldn't wait to get started.......

I decided to begin with this fabric (Ralph Lauren) covered table in our family room.  The sculpture was a hand me down from my Mom.  This dictated the rest of the elements - I knew glass wouldn't work with this, nor would something shiny.  It needed items that had a matt finish so I found an old olive jar (can't see except for the handle as it is behind the sculpture), a small urn with reindeer moss and a candle, another urn just like this one which I turned upside down to use as a base for a taller candle, and lastly I used two old leather bound books to provide a base for the sculpture and an old Taaken mold of a curtain finial.   Since the sculpture would not show up well with the wood cabinet behind it, I decided to fill an old pot with a mix of  eucalyptus, eucalyptus pods, cedar incense and another tall green which I can't recall the name.   Working with natural elements and neutral colors is truly my favorite.