One thing to add about Christmas…

I know I talk a lot about Christmas and how much I love it…and I do. But the past couple years, despite grasping at enthusiasm and expressions to the contrary, I’ve been a bit underwhelmed. I suppose we all have. One thing I have noted though, and I take comfort in this, is the fact that as Christmas passes into the New Year a kind of peace settles into me, a belated spiritual cognizance, a harkening back to the way I felt in childhood. It is not a scream-in-your-face feeling, not one that would make me dance around the house and sing, but one that makes me feel rooted and warm and hopeful. I’ll take it. This is Christmas to me and if it’s not falling on the actual day itself, well, who am I to question how that ol’ Christmas magic works?

The point is that it does, despite one’s best attempts to lure it in. Like a faithful old dog, the Christmas Spirit comes because you need it, not because you’ve called.  

10 Favorite Holiday Movies I’d Watch Any Time of the Year – Revisited

I know I posted this list last year (or was it the beginning of this year? I do believe I might have come in a little late with it), but I am re-posting and adding another. So that makes it eleven. Yes, eleven in a list of ten. What the hey, there aren’t really any strict rules in listing your favorite things, are there? I’ve already begun watching some of them, which might mean I’m a sap, but I’m really finding myself in need of cheer. As I said before, I would highly recommend all of them. If you have additions, let me know. These are not listed in any particular order except as they came into my head, so #1 is not lording it over the other ten.

Curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and start watching!

  1. The Grinch – the new one, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the Green Man himself. Or the Green Who? I’ve always been confused about the Grinch’s origins. Anyway, this is a wonderful version that has far outstripped my love of the original.
  2. The Holiday (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Rufus Sewell) – If you watch this on a dvd and are feeling a little down, be sure to play the scene in the tent made from sheets over and over again to snap you out of it.
  3. A Christmas Carol (Dr. Who Christmas special, with Matt Smith as The Doctor) – unique take and strangely uplifting.
  4. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe (another Dr. Who Christmas special with Matt Smith–are we detecting a pattern, here?) – splendid story and the last scene brings on the humany wumany happy tears.
  5. A Charlie Brown Christmas – even after all these years, I still cry a bit when Linus describes what Christmas means and again later, as the children sing at the very end of the cartoon. I think it’s all of 24 minutes long, so that crams quite a lot of emotional boo-hooing into a short period (happy tears, though).
  6. The Man Who Invented Christmas (Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce) – If you’re a fan of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, you’ll enjoy the film depicting the events leading up to his creation of this wonderful tale.
  7. The Santa Clause – the first one only. Not so much a fan of the second and third, although the scene in the gymnasium in the second movie always gets me.
  8. A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott (need I say more?)
  9. A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart (again, need I say more?)
  10. Angela’s Christmas – touching, cute, heartwarming.
  11. And, well, any of the Harry Potter movies. Not Christmas movies, per se, but I do love the scenes of holiday magic. Honestly, I enjoy the entirety of each movie, but we’re sticking with Christmas for now.

If you have other favorites you’d like to add to this list, please feel free to post a comment! If I haven’t already seen them, I’ll happily keep them in mind for this year.

10 Favorite Holiday Movies I’d Watch Any Time of the Year

This may seem a little late in the season, but as the title says–I’d watch them any time of the year. Does anyone care? Probably not. But I would highly recommend all of them. Here goes, and not necessarily in this particular order (and please remember, this is only my personal opinion, so no need to get testy if you don’t agree…):

  1. The Holiday (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Rufus Sewell) – If you watch this on a dvd and are feeling a little down, be sure to play the scene in the tent made from sheets over and over again to snap you out of it.
  2. A Christmas Carol (Dr. Who Christmas special, with Matt Smith as The Doctor) – unique take and strangely uplifting.
  3. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe (another Dr. Who Christmas special with Matt Smith–are we detecting a pattern, here?) – splendid story and the last scene brings on the humany wumany happy tears.
  4. A Charlie Brown Christmas – even after all these years, I still cry a bit when Linus describes what Christmas means and again later, as the children sing at the very end of the cartoon. I think it’s all of 24 minutes long, so that crams quite a lot of emotional boo-hooing into a short period (happy tears, though).
  5. The Man Who Invented Christmas (Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce) – If you’re a fan of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, you’ll enjoy the film depicting the events leading up to his creation of this wonderful tale.
  6. The Santa Clause – the first one only. Not so much a fan of the second and third, although the scene in the gymnasium in the second movie always gets me.
  7. A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott (need I say more?)
  8. A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart (again, need I say more?)
  9. Angela’s Christmas – touching, cute, heartwarming.
  10. And, well, any of the Harry Potter movies. Not Christmas movies, per se, but I do love the scenes of holiday magic. Honestly, I enjoy the entirety of each movie, but we’re sticking with Christmas for now.

If you have other favorites you’d like to add to this list, please feel free to post a comment! If I haven’t already seen them, I’ll happily keep them in mind for this year.

Christmas Lighting – Don’t I Wish?

Check out the treehouse. My favorite of the bunch. Wish I lived there…

Here are some wonderful ways to light up your home for the holidays. Once again, I have borrowed a blog from another source and re-posted it here–just in time for holiday decorating. I must say, my favorite is the tree house! Enjoy and be inspired.

Wreath-Making 101, Part 1 – Gathering Your Material

It may seem a bit early for this type of blog, but honestly, Christmas will be upon us sooner than we can blink. In addition, you will need to start gathering some of the materials for your wreath now with the onset of Autumn.

I don’t purport to be an expert at wreath-making, but I have been making them (and selling them) for more than fifteen years. In the beginning, I drove about forty-five minutes to an auction where I bid on greens which, if won, I would then load onto the tarp-covered back seat of my car, drive them home and unload them outside my studio (as they are best kept in the cold).  To make the wreaths, I cut each bough to size, laid them out on the metal ring, clamped them all into place, after which I decorated each one with further greens, dried flowers, pine cones, etc.

Now, however, I start with plain wreaths purchased at various local nurseries, saving time and back-breaking work. I would suggest you do the same, although you certainly don’t have to—still, that is where I am beginning my instructions: with the “blank” pre-made wreath.

List of Things to Gather before Starting (material, tools)

  1. Wreath, of course;
  2. Hand pruner (or, in lieu thereof, an old steak knife you don’t plan to use at your dinner table or for any other reasonable task again);
  3. Green florist wire and (or) hot-glue gun and glue sticks;
  4. Dried flowers (I often use Queen Anne’s Lace, cut while fresh and hung upside down to dry), seed heads, dried grasses, and various weeds gathered after Autumn sets in;
  5. Pine cones;
  6. Greens, such as arborvitae, holly, cedar, boxwood, long-needle pine;
  7. White and gold acrylic craft paint and a cheap paint brush;
  8. Ribbon and other decoration;
  9. Newspaper, if you plan to work indoors.

Always make sure the wreath you buy is fresh, ensuring that it will last through the season and beyond. Quite often, the wreath I make on Thanksgiving weekend still hangs on my door in March. To check for freshness, pinch the needles between thumb and forefinger. They should feel slightly moist if not sticky and leave a residue of scent on your skin. Also, the color should be bright.  If the needles feel dry, fall off at the touch, have started to pale or, worse, are brown, move on until you find the right wreath for you. Before you begin shopping for your wreath, make sure you have already prepared your embellishments.

Queen Anne’s Lace has a creamy hue when dried

Queen Anne’s Lace:  This wildflower grows just about everywhere here in the Northeast, blooming in late June/early July and can still be found blooming into the Fall.  Cut the flowers several weeks after blooming, with about a seven-inch stem attached. Wrap a rubber band around the stems and hang the bunches upside down in a dry place until wreath-making time.  The white blossoms turn a lovely color.

Black-eyed Susan seed heads with their painted crown of white have a dramatic appeal.

Seed heads/weeds: The gathering of these items takes place in Autumn, when everything has naturally died back. I have an abundance of Rudbeckia (common name: Black- or Brown-Eyed Susan) growing in my yard. The goldfinches and other birds love the seeds, so I leave about two-thirds of the seed heads in place for them. I also shake the cut heads out before bringing inside, to permit lose seeds to fall back to the earth where the plants have been growing. Leave about seven inches of stem attached to the heads.

Once inside, I place them all in a tall container (usually a glass) in preparation of painting them.  The same goes for various other seeded specimens I find. If they stay together well and are attractive, I’ll cut some for my wreaths and set them aside for painting as well.  I do not paint the seeded grasses. The delicate fronds would be weighted down.

You don’t need to saturate the seed head with paint. Just dab it on so that it looks like snow.
While walking outside in search of plant matter, I caught sight of these lovely, burst seed pods. A touch of gold paint gave them this handsome look.

If you are giving the wreath to someone, make sure you shake loose seeds from every plant you gather.  You wouldn’t want something you find perfectly acceptable on your property deciding to set up residence with your neighbor.

If you have access to arborvitae, you can clip from the underside at the bottom of the tree/bush to avoid defacing the shape of the plant. Cut back to the second joint. You will trim each clipping for your wreath. If you don’t have access, you can usually purchase at your local nursery.
I purchased these greens at a craft fair – boxwood, winterberry, holly, long-needle pine.
You may be lucky enough to find pine cones in your yard, a gracious neighbor’s yard, or a park. If not, you can purchase pine cones at a nursery or your local craft store. If from a craft store, be forewarned, they are often highly scented with fragrance.

Next: It All Comes Together. Check back on Thursday for Wreath-Making 101, Part 2!

Wreath Making 101, Part 1 and Wreath Making 101, Part 2 are the copyrighted product of Robin Maderich and will be part of an upcoming book on Christmas crafts.

Wish I was here…

What a beautiful and inspiring home this is, with it’s lovely and not overdone holiday décor. I hope you enjoy this blog and the fabulous photos as much as I did.