By Leigha Burnham, Managing Editor
Many of you may know that once upon a time, I had a little antique-booth business. I had to give it up for awhile due to being in graduate school, but I still love to think about decorating...especially at the holidays.
When our boys were little, I was always sure to have a tree in every room. Each tree was decked out in ornaments and ribbon and lights. There was always a display of our nutcracker collection, our stockings were hung, and nativities (yes, plural, I own about four sets) were all scattered throughout our house. I even had themes every year! I will never forget the work I did and the money I spent the year I decided to go with The Nutcracker theme...it was over-the-top! Now that our guys are teens and my time is consumed with my career and a full family calendar, I am finding that I like things a little simpler.
As I contemplated decorating our home this season, I wanted to keep things clean and natural. Simple and beautiful. I'm wondering if many of you are wishing to do the same? I do not proclaim to be a professional decorator. On the contrary, I tend to take shortcuts to speed things along. But this may be the very reason why I feel so compelled to share our holiday home with you this year. In the hustle and bustle, you may find that you do not have a lot of time, money, or creativity to get your home decorated the way you would like...and there sure is a lot of pressure out there (Pinterest, anyone?) to have your home looking like those in the magazines.
So...today I wanted to share three things that I do to make my home feel a little more "merry and bright" to start the season. If I didn't do a single other thing, these three things would make my Christmas home just right.
I always start with my mantle. We have a gas fireplace in our living room, my husband would certainly prefer it were a wood-burning one, and this fireplace is simple and rather small. I placed a tall mirror above it to reflect the light and to make the fireplace seem taller. I usually keep a simple wreath hanger and faux boxwood wreath hanging here throughout the year, but at Christmas I switch out the hanger for a more elaborate one. This hanger was purchased second-hand and then I painted it in Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint. It has been very durable. I change the boxwood wreath out for a grapevine wreath and then I just add a few picks of greenery. In keeping things extra simple this year, I chose to add only pine stems and pine cone picks. Then, I added one simple, fabric bow in a cream colored burlap. I love ribbon that has wire edges because you can shape the bow and it will stay exactly as you put it the entire season.
After adding the wreath above the fireplace, I like to add one or two strands of greenery across the mantle. I found this interesting garland in my Christmas stash and it was perfect! This garland is basically pine, pinecones, and then strings of a velvet-like fabric that gives it a wispy look. I just put it across the mantle and then threaded one strand of white lights through it. You might be tempted to purchase long-lasting LED lights, but I don't like the cold "blue" light of those, so I still use the inexpensive incandescent bulbs.
Finally, the stockings. I have had these very heavy iron stocking hooks for several years and I just love them! I think I purchased them at a Hobby Lobby or maybe T.J. Maxx. I know that I didn't pay that much for them and the reason I love them so much is that the weight of them holds my garland on the mantle without any additional hooks, nails, or adhesive. Like I said, I love a good shortcut. The stockings I've used the last three years or so are very inexpensive burlap stockings I purchased at a local florist shop. I only hang three stockings, one for each of our boys. One thing I do to make the stockings look better, is that I stuff them with brown paper...which, of course, I forgot to do prior to taking these pictures. It will give the stockings a little more fullness and they should hang better.
I know that this sounds like the mantel took lots of planning and time, but actually, it took me longer to dig the items I used out of my storage bins than it did to put it up! I was able to pull this mantle together in about 30-40 minutes. You just can beat that! And the impact is huge. I got the simple, clean, and natural look I was going for...and the lights at night make our home feel so warm and cozy.
The mantel is the first thing I do to achieve our holiday home. The second is that I mix up a wonderful batch of Hubbard's Mulled Cider. I usually have this wonderful concotion simmering on the stove while decorating the mantel. The smells wafting through the house are to die for! And it doesn't take long for my spirits to lift and for my heart to swell with memories of Christmases past. Let us know if you'd like the recipe. This is the cup I enjoyed after decorating our mantle. What makes it a little more special is that I serve it in my Johnson Brothers Friendly Village Christmas china.
And last, but certainly not least, the third thing I do to create my holiday home is to put on some Christmas music! There is nothing quite like a soft carol playing while you decorate, or clean, or enjoy a cup of cider to get you into a cheery disposition. I have a lot of Christmas CDs from years gone by and even though there are countless playlists on my phone and available online, I still go back to the CDs every year.
My absolute favorite is a Currier & Ives Holiday Collection CD titled "Home for the Holidays" and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. With classics like "Here We Come A Wassailing" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," you can't help but feel more like a Bob Cratchit than a Scrooge. I'm not sure that you can still order this same CD, but I found a few similar ones online (click HERE to see what I found).
I hope you are inspired to make the simple things shine in your home this holiday season. And in case you were wondering how much money I spent creating this look, it was almost none. I already owned most of what you see. I bought new cream-colored ribbon for $5.00 a roll at Michael's and I bought 10 new pine cone floral picks to add to the wreath (and some other areas in our home) that were $7.99 each with a 50% off coupon at a local floral/decor store. So, it was less than $50.00.
Happy Holidays! I look forward to sharing more of our holiday home and family traditions with you in the coming weeks.
By Sam Burnham
There's a theory about everything these days. Crop circles, cattle mutilations, aliens, overlapping plot lines in Disney animated films, even one that suggests that Ferris Bueller's Day off was nothing but a dream in one boy's mind and nothing more.
I don't usually subscribe to silly theories and such but there is one that I have in my own mind. There are two songs that are obviously connected in my mind. Oh, there are a few little edits involved to try to throw us off the trail - a few additions or omissions to make the conspiracy and maybe even some mystery to prolong the controversy while attempting to deny any connection at all. It makes for a typical Southern storytelling experience.
In 1968, just months after the death of our first storyteller, Otis Redding celebrated sitting on a dock on San Francisco Bay doing a whole bunch of nothing, something Southern men have a gift for doing. Give us a porch, a dock, a riverbank, or a place around the fire and we will put on a clinic in the art of accomplishing nary a single thing. Nil. Diddly-squat.
So that is what the subject of our first story is doing when we meet him. Nothing. He has his reasons. He explains some of the reasons but not in a lot of detail. We don't know what all led him to this lonely state. But we can always listen to the rest of the story
Because five years later, Gladys Knight and her Pips released the sequel. While a Southern man is capable of doing nothing better than anyone else, there is one thing that can catch his attention, and make him get up and accomplish more than anyone could ever imagine possible. That one thing is a good Southern woman.
So what happened, if you can see the whole story, is that our hero left Georgia, young and stars in his eyes, he hit L.A. with big dreams that crashed hard, drifted north to Frisco and reverted to his roots, just a Georgia boy taking in the sights and relaxing in an attempt to lick his wounds and regroup before deciding his next move.
That is where our heroine makes her entrance. I see the visual in my mind. Looking down the dock. Her graceful silhouette approaching the stack of crates supporting the reclined silhouette of our hero.
We aren't privy to the conversation. We're not sure exactly what she says or does, not specifically. It was likely something on the range between "sweetie, let's go home and have some beans and cornbread" and "get your sorry butt up off those crates and let's go home". Probably a bit of both as Southern men can be stubborn. But as the sun makes its way to a dark concealment somewhere beyond the Pacific horizon, our hero stands up on his own feet and starts strolling back towards town. Our heroine takes over the vocals for the second half of the story and our couple find themselves on that Midnight Train to Georgia.
Sure, there will be naysayers, but I won't be deterred. Our hero doesn't mention L.A.? How many of your failures do you sing about? She'd rather live in his world? They're going to live in his hometown. It's so obvious as to not even be humorous. The songs are inextricably connected and I cannot be deterred.
Now, I'm off to do a whole bunch of nothing, but I'm sure not going to be doing it in San Fran.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire