Friday, December 27, 2013

I Decorated for Christmas

Alternate title: The Laptop Hates my Pictures.  Subtitle: I Don't Really Believe in This "Blue Hour" Business, Anyway.

It didn't take as long as it looks to deck the place out for Christmas.  In fact, it probably took longer to take the pictures.  Taking the pictures was a beast.  And no one wants to look at them; Christmas is over*.  But I don't care.  (As I've recently noted, I write what I want to read.  This makes sense to me.)  I took the wretched things, and I am putting them up.  Maybe it will help me remember next year what the heck is in the decoration boxes.

We'll start in the hallway just inside the front door...because.  I think I already showed you that I switched out my usual plate display (green and florals.  Perfect for spring.  But I left it through fall) for something Christmas-y:

And then I put some nice garland on the banister:

If you were staring straight at the plate rack and for some reason you started walking backward, you'd find yourself in the living room (and shortly thereafter you would injure yourself on the couch).  Let's head there, but walking in a forward direction.  On the wall that separates the living room from the stair hall there's a huge bookshelf:

The previous owners installed it (it is not original to the house) and then I beefed up the trim a little.  And painted it.  I decorated it by strewing about some of the extra branches I got (for free) with my Christmas tree.  Doesn't get a lot easier than that:

If you pivot to the left, you can see the psychiatrist's couch and the mantel.  Also the TV, which I decorated the same way as the bookshelf:

Of course it interferes with the function of the remote control.  Why do you ask?  And, yes, I made all those stockings:

From left to right, they belong to my DH; my brother (he didn't join us for Christmas, so I shipped him his, because I am that good a big sister); Bailey (obviously); my sister (she insisted on a magenta-and-blue scheme, which I think is pretty heinous, actually); and me.  I also put a delightful Christmas vignette on the coffee table, on an antique silver tray of my mother's, with a giant scented Christmas candle and some windfall holly.  If you saw that, you would be able to see the other two walls of the living room, which would (I assume) help with that disoriented feeling I frequently get looking at house tours.  I took well over 100 pictures of my Christmas decor (don't worry, I'm not posting that many.  Half of them were total garbage).  Of course I didn't photograph the coffee table.

However, the big bookshelf picture shows a room with white chair rail and yellow wallpaper.  That room is the dining room.  We'll head there next.  It also has a mantel without a fireplace:

Kind people continue to send us Christmas cards although we don't send any ourselves.  (I have tried to discourage this, but it doesn't work.)  I throw out the ones with pictures of babies other than Jesus, and hang the nice ones:

I tried to get people not to put anything else on the mantel while the nativity scene was up there, because any other object would ruin the scale of the figurines and distract the eye from the scene.  Then I broke my own rule and set the oplatki there so I wouldn't lose them before Wigilia.  The wise men appear to be venerating them.  I decorated the adjacent china cabinet with more pine branches, and plates of cookies and fudge:

They look tastier up-close:

I'm still looking for some large decorative object for the wall above the china cabinet.  Maybe a bust of someone tasteless.  But for right now, it's a nice spot to decorate.  I remembered to light the Advent wreath most of the weeks in Advent:

And, as you see, I even got a table cloth out:

We didn't decorate the tree until Christmas Eve.  That seemed like a good balance.  But it did get done:

Bailey helped.  OK, let's see.  If you stand facing Bailey here, the living room would be to your left.  The kitchen would be to your right.  Into the kitchen, then:

Yes, I decorated the kitchen.  I am not claiming that is necessary, or even prudent.  Nevertheless.  I looked at the stove hood I made, and I saw a VACUUM where there could be wreaths.  Then I spent quite a bit of time on Pinterest, looking for how people set up horizontal trios of wreaths.  I found almost nothing.  I had already checked Houzz, and found almost nothing there.  (Possibly there are pictures of this that aren't associated with any of the search terms I tried.  I tried many.)  Undaunted, I proceeded to the craft store, where I had seen miniature wreaths.  They were sold out.  There was also a line 25 people long.  I think it goes without saying that I bought pine garland and ribbon to make my own wreaths and jolly well stood in that line.  I was sorely tempted to take the garland out of the package and have the entire project done by the time I got to the register, but decorum prevailed.  As soon as I got home, however, I attacked the stove hood with a vengeance.  I believe we can all agree that I emerged victorious:

I can explain how I got the whole setup to look like that if anyone wants to know.  It's more or less as it appears.  I also made some snowflake garland for the kitchen window:

I cut snowflakes according to a traditional Polish craft, which has the snowflakes pentagonal (actually, decagonal, if you want to get really technical about it).  I am aware that nature makes her snowflakes hexagonally.  I do not care.  I make superior paper snowflakes:

Sadly, my garland-draping skills are not likewise superior.  They were supposed to hang down from that ribbon.  Not one of my more successful efforts.  A girlfriend wisely suggested that I hang them from the ribbon with ornament hooks, and I am definitely going to get around to that.  I also decorated the other side of the room:

After I made the three mini wreaths for the stove hood, I had a bit of garland left over, so I made a wreath for the tea and coffee cupboard.  I also put a wee nativity I bought in college on a crystal cake stand with some pine branches for the prep table:

I think it's sweet.  I tried to go with a "use what you have" philosophy.  I'm not claiming that I didn't buy anything (the materials for the stove hood wreaths cost about $10, for example, and I bought a strand of plain white lights, four plain fake-pine wreaths, fabric for stockings, a tree, a package of peacock feathers, and some batteries).  But I spent very little on decorations, and the vast majority of what I used was either snipped from nature, dug out of my Christmas decoration boxes, or things in the china cabinet that I should be using more anyway.  So, for the last wall of the kitchen:

The branches eventually flopped over and started depositing needles into food that was being inserted in or removed from the microwave.  I considered this a festive garnish.  We all need more fiber in our diets.  And, as I think the photo of my snowflake garland indicates, the kitchen looks out onto the enclosed porch:

I happen to have cheap red and green fleece blankets already, so I just popped those over the bench on the porch.  And I picked up a galvanized bin at a thrift store and filled it with the wood for our fire pit and scooted that underneath the bench.  I also put (what I thought was) a cute little vignette on the porch table:

The white cloth is one of many vintage family linens that's the wrong size for my dining table.  The red runner (a darker red than this picture shows) is a pashmina.  I put some collected pine cones and scraps of tinsel in a crystal vase, popped red and white candles in a silver-plate candelabra I got at a thrift store, and filled crystal wine glasses with Hershey's kisses.  The glasses were raided when my sister arrived and made peanut butter blossoms or whatever they're called.  I ate the last one today, by the way.  At the far right edge of that picture, you can see the open door to the powder room.  The powder room that I'm always going on about:

I still want an enormous taxidermied moose head for that blank wall.  But for Christmas, I settled for a tinsel wreath.  I took, I think, 15 pictures of it.  This is actually the best:

Tinsel is unexpectedly difficult to photograph.  Let me just assure you that it is MUCH more sparkly than that in real life.  Also, I am aware that there is a certain (large) amount of lunacy inherent in decorating a bathroom.  That's why I decided to keep it to a single (albeit rather pronounced) decorative item.  This is probably the right time to tell you that I also decorated the bathroom upstairs:

I used snowflake garland up here, too.  I had already installed the unsuccessful kitchen snowflake garland, so this time I went with much more cooperative ribbon.  But I'm not satisfied with this one, either.  Upon reflection, I have concluded that while my snowflake garland is magnificent, there's simply not enough contrast with the pale blue bathroom walls for the viewer to appreciate fully the snowflakes' loveliness upon a mere casual observation:

You may be assured that I will remedy this error next year.  Anyway, returning to the enclosed porch.  You probably noticed the icicle lights:

This was, in my view, one of my more successful decoration installations.  The icicle lights (two strands) had actually been sitting unused in my Christmas bins for years (because I have had them since my freshman year of college.  These are some impressive lights), because I couldn't figure out where in our house to deploy them.  This use had several benefits: no ladder required; lights not exposed to elements; access to indoor electrical outlet; perfect length for the enclosed porch; festive appearance along windows; and (best of all), equally enjoyable from outside:

So I get credit for having Christmas lights up without setting foot outside!  I was very pleased.  Of course, I did not stop there.  I popped through the gate to hang a jingly Christmas object on the other side:

And I put blue twinkly lights in the laundry room window.  Which you can't see:

From this perspective, either:

Nor this one, really:

Upon reflection, I think the problem is precisely that they are twinkly lights.  They don't stay on very long before winking out again.  And in low light (these pictures were taken during the "blue hour"), the shutter has to stay open a while to get enough light for a picture (as I demonstrated over and over again with pictures striped with Christmas lights.  Apparently my hands shake a lot).  I should have turned the blue lights on the steady setting while I took the pictures.  This sounds really obvious, doesn't it?  I was totally mystified at the time.  Anyway, if you walk away from the house and down the driveway, you can see the gate I built.  I put wreaths on it:

Don't tell anyone, but I am considering getting larger ones for next year.  That would be excessive, wouldn't it?  Larger ones wouldn't even fit in my bins.  Ah, well.  Anyway, if you head back up the driveway and around to the front of the house...

I hung a wreath on each window, with a candle behind it.  (The wreaths are on the outside; the candles are inside the house, so I can plug them into an outlet.  I stole the setup idea from Susan, who is brilliant, obviously.)  They insist upon twisting themselves around in the wind:

And I got the wreath on the front door:

Ignore the pile of cornstalks from Hallowe'en.  They're not important.  I eventually got my peacock feathers, too:

I fear the fabulousness of my wreath design may be too subtle to be appreciated except at extremely close range.  As in, a lot closer than the road driving by.  Something else to work on for next year.  What can be appreciated by passing cars are the lights:

I know this because - imperiling life and limb in the selfless pursuit of Christmas decoration excellence - I climbed up on my neighbor's extension ladder and nailed a strand of lights along the porch roof.  (I note that this is not actually particularly perilous, especially compared to the antics that must have been required to install some of my more ambitious neighbors' light displays, but I am afraid of heights, and anything involving an extension ladder is a serious undertaking in my book.)  As I was getting the last few nails in, the strand flopped off the first several nails.  By this time I was tired and it was dark.  I was displeased.  I
hopped the ladder sideways Clark W. Griswold-style meticulously placed and re-placed the ladder a dozen times until I found a spot of ground where it did not rock at all and climbed wearily up to re-hang the recalcitrant strand (by now lit, since I had hooked the lights up to the extension cord when I got to the far end), and as I fiddled with the last few nails, a kind lady in the far lane leaned out of her car window to shout, "THAT LOOKS VERY PRETTY!"  I managed not to pitch myself off the ladder to certain death as I shouted back, "THANK YOU!"  This obviously is a person who had recently climbed a ladder to hang Very Important Christmas Lights of her own, and understands the sacrifice involved.  And I fervently hope that since I now have the nails in, this takes a fraction as much time next year.  (And don't even get me started on those "fits everything" light clips.  Yes, I got some.  And the ones that claim to fit gutters and a dozen other things don't come close to fitting my gutters.  Nails, on the other hand, actually fit everything, by virtue of the sharp part at the end.)

I know no one is reading this; indeed, it would be miraculous if anyone made it past the first picture.  But the internet now bears witness to my great decorating feats of 2013.  May this year be only the start of my conquest.

Ooh - and I'm sharing at Thrifty Decor Chick and Between Naps on the Porch!  Lots of other great projects (and recipes) there, too, so check out the links if you're looking for inspiration! 

In fact, this is not remotely true.  Christmas only started two days ago, and will go on for another ten.  And my decorations will remain up at least that long.  In blogland, however, Christmas appears to have started in early November.  I am working on a theory on this basis that blogging is sacrilegious.  Your thoughts welcome.  


  1. I love all of the decorations. My favorites - the stove hood trio of wreaths, the porch icicle lights, the snowflake garland, and the gate wreaths. Also, your banister and built in bookshelf make me swoon. I would love to live in a house sometime that has both of those items. How was your Wigilia? I just learned the meaning of that term on another blog the other day. Thanks for sharing your decorations, you gave me a lot of ideas for next year. Merry Christmas!

  2. Wow...great job decorating...I did some but since we have two cats it's tough to do too much. One of the cats will chew and eat things he shouldn't....bratty cat. It's funny but the bottom half of our Christmas tree is not it is somewhat cat safe.

    I thought of Advent as my way of preparing for Christmas...I decorated, I bought gifts, etc just like I would for anyone else's bday. Jesus gets special gifts and decorations though and a lot more planning. I can't speak for other bloggers...but if they really are not into the religious aspects...then Christmas started in Nov and ends after the gifts are opened. In reality...the stores had Christmas stuff out before Halloween. Eeek...

  3. Got to correct you, I read it! :-). I admire your creativity, you did a very lovely job of decorating!

  4. Whew. I'm exhausted just reading this! My decorating this year was limited to DH dragging the tree out from under the stairs (still fully decorated from last year) and hanging stockings. Yours is much, much more impressive. Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

  5. Your home looks so festive and pretty. I liked the wreaths and red ribbon on the front of the house.

  6. Wow, you went all out. Your house looks so pretty.