The Spirit of Yuletide Décor

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends.  Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us.  We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families.  For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.

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Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun!  Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.

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We have collected cute stockings for a long time.  The children took some of their stockings to their own homes.  We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her.  Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve!  (To my great delight!)  I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.

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This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home.  I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones.  Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store.  They have them without the pictures on them.  They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.

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Incorporating things you love is easy.  This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together.  Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.

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The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new.  Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood.  Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.

Yuletide décor is in the details.  Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch!  Put oil lamps in each room.  Light plenty of candles.  Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)

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These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures.  Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.

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We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer.  I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch.  Always add pieces of yourself in the décor.  A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.

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Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk.  Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors.  Make handmade gifts this year.  Spend time enjoying the season.  And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.

The Farmhouse Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home, is it not?  Where sustenance and love culminates into family around the table, friends clinking glasses, the quiet of morning coffee, and the gentle stirring of a pot of something delicious.  This is the largest kitchen I have ever had and it is just wonderful.  Even more wonderful, I didn’t have to do anything to it!  I love the color and the punched tin back splash is something I would have chosen myself.  The twinkly lights and festive grape vine lights replace the harsh overhead lighting (when I’m not taking pictures).  I will never opt for overhead lighting if I can help it!  I also removed the curtains.

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We scored this sign last week and couldn’t believe our luck.

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In these old houses the washer hook up is in the kitchen.  That seems quite reasonable to me.  Doug will be putting up a clothes line for me today!

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My apron collection hangs primly around the pantry.  The sign was a gift from a student.  It is a lovely reminder that dreams do come true.

The children’s knick knacks that they created during their childhood surround the sink along with Maryjane’s miniature coffee cups for when she sleeps over.

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Plenty of counter space, beautiful gifts from friends, and years to come of precious memories and delicious food.  Sláinte!

Simple Country Christmas Decorating (and the surprise gift)

 

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This is our simple abode, our little honeymoon apartment while we wait for farm doors to open.  It is charming and cozy.  Using simple additions such as greenery, lights, and candles, plus things that mean something from Christmases past, one can create a lovely place to dwell in the candlelight of Yule.

A trip outdoors found fresh air, deer resting in the snow covered grasses, and fresh tips of trees that joined the celebration.

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Lights are strung across the ceiling, across the door and window, and the candles and greenery are set.

But the sweetest gift of the season thus far was from my daughter, Shyanne.  I woke up a few nights ago with a sudden devastated thought that all of the kids’ Santa pictures were gone.  Holding them in my hands the other day at her home was an amazing blessing.  While I was busy having a nervous breakdown, figuring out where we going to live, and trying to get out of the home we were in quickly, Shyanne was calmly filling her car with boxes and things and taking them to her apartment.  She gave me back the box of ornaments and I nearly wept for joy.  These little things do mean so much to us.

May this season of holidays bring you all peace.  May they be filled with laughter and family and joy.  And surprise gifts of happiness and love.

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Maryjane Rose wasn’t sure about this Santa! I love him though! Merry Christmas!

 

 

A Very Prairie Christmas

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The bees were out yesterday.  I could hear their sweet buzzing all around me as they took advantage of the beautifully tepid day.  Just a hint of coolness swept the air to remind me that it was December but the sun shone bright and warm and I decided to take a walk across the prairie.  The barn owl swept in front of me, round and solid, his steel colored wings glinting slight across the air in front of me, gracefully sweeping across the prairie.  The mountains rested majestically across the horizon, their shadowy masses holding the sky.  A group of horses gathered in the distance grazing softly.

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The ancient willow holds masses of singing blackbirds and large owls.  A century or more of memories do my favorite trees hold.  Signs of cattle that grazed here long ago, and of antelopes not so long.  The Buffalo grasses with their curvy heads and the colorful prairie grasses defied the supposed snowy landscape that is so often envisioned with Christmas.  This is what a Colorado Christmas often looks like.  I find myself wishing for a bit of snow.  Sunday we are to get a little and the feeling of Christmas will shine all the brighter.

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I gather kindling with my companion. (The neighbor’s dog, Serina, who is ridiculously cute.)

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Inside the house, all is bright.  Simple decorations best show the spirit of Christmas in this hundred plus year old homestead.  This year we got our first real Christmas tree and it feels simple and beautiful.

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Real greenery, candles, pine cones, feathers…cats…all decorate the scene.  The birds play outside in their feeder entertaining the felines.  Our new rescues add quite a lot of Christmas cheer to this place!

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A vintage sled sets boldly on the dining room table with fresh greens and candles.  This helps create a feeling of fun and winter magic.

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Outdoors the woodland creatures welcome visitors.

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Everyone has one sadness or another at Christmas time.  Remembering and missing loved ones, financial woes, relationship troubles, irritation with our consumerism society.  But the spirit of Christmas is there all the same.  Beautiful and glowing, we remember that God ever loves us and takes care of us and that our prayers are always answered.  Sometimes the puzzle comes together later and we can see why things occurred but they are always answered.  We will celebrate Hanukkah with Doug’s parents and remember the miracles that God made and we will remember the child born, the reason for the season.  Not in a legalistic, all must believe everything I believe way, but in a spirit of humility and humbleness.  Prayers for those deceased, prayers for the living.  Acts of kindness without folks expecting it.  Simple things like paying for someone else’s coffee or sending an unexpected letter.

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This year we haven’t much money.  All the lists I love to make throughout the year of things I would like to get people I cannot.  It makes me sad because even though I talk about simple this and simple that, I want to spoil my children and give Doug all the things he won’t buy for himself.  I want my friends to have beautiful gifts and I want…well, this year is a handmade Christmas.  Quilts, aprons, scarves, canned foods, and baskets of goodies, gifts tailored for the recipient and wrapped with love, but not store bought and I wonder how folks will take to these but I shall give them with the spirit of Christmas, with love and with a giving heart.  I will remember that our blessings are many.  For I had material and food to can and I have people to make things for.  My heart overflows with joy.

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A handmade, simple Christmas on the prairie is a blessing for sure.  Time to put on my favorite Christmas album by Andy Williams (my son’s namesake) and do a little sewing!  May you have a simple season filled with love and fond memories of past and present.

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And may your heart be filled with the childlike wonder of Christmas…

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1905 Homestead Before and After

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When we originally walked into this little house, I was trying not to get my hopes up because I knew it was a little further out than we (well, not we, he) wanted.  I saw the long pantry and the wood cook stove and squeaked in an attempt to shutter my squeal of joy.  The living room was dark.  Black curtains were hung or stapled on.  Old brown carpet with forty years of pet stains and wood paneled bedrooms finished the gloomy interior.  But I could see its potential.  Simple changes could make all the difference.

The house was built in 1905.
The house was built in 1905.

I wanted to give homage to the families that lived here, not let one bad tenant destroy the charm of this place.  Grandmothers that looked after the little ones, mothers who nursed their babies by the fire, those who may have peacefully died, those who homesteaded here and started a new life.  Such as we are.

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There are simple secrets to decorating that I have learned over the years.  Showroom front areas are uncomfortable and have no soul.  Incorporate your life, your hobbies, your family into each room.  Breathe life into rooms with things you have picked up from travels or your grandma’s house.  Mix-matched chairs and natural elements take out the sterility of an indoor place.  Colors that make your eyes light up when you see them should be used, even in the form of pink couches.

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We tore out the carpet first and took down the gawd awful curtains.

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Because this place feels like a vacation cabin to me, I wanted to fill it with items that further reminded me of a relaxing retreat.  My Aunt Donna’s off grid cabin in the woods and cabins that we have stayed at over the years inspired me.  I stacked board games on simple shelving along with books.  Outdoor chairs, that are quite comfortable, came inside (this front area was once a porch), and all of my plants that I overwinter in the house add life to this front area.  The armoire hides the television.  I always decorate with cats!

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We did put our gorgeous antique couches out at the curb that our old kitty (rest in peace) destroyed.  We went to IKEA and picked up this beauty.  It was important to me that if we lived out in the middle of somewhat nowhere that we had places for folks to sleep over.  Gone are the days of the pull out couch with the metal bar that pushes into your guest’s back, this couch pulls out from underneath creating a comfy queen sized bed.  The chaise opens up to reveal a stash of blankets for chilly evenings.

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Cubbies hold spirits while some of my favorite performers look on ready for a party.

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This was the original living room if the previous one was the porch but I opted to use it as a dining room.  It too had carpet and linoleum pulled up and a fresh coat of paint.

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My writing corner is also in this room.  The old secretary was at a garage sale near my grandparents’ house for a mere sixty dollars!  My favorite painting sets the scene of contemplation and writing.  The saints look on.  The various ceramics were made by my children throughout their childhood.  Sweet mementos.  Stationary, cards, envelopes, writings, magazine cutouts, pads of paper, pens, everything one needs to write and create.

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I opted to make this room (in truth, it is all one L shape) into an activity area.  I did not want to tuck Maryjane’s toys away.  When she comes to visit Grammie and Papa, I want to watch her play and have her be near us.  The material is a bit of a mess but it is out.  Should I hide all the sewing and art stuff in the closet,  it will stay there hidden.  If it is out I find inspiration and might think of a great use for a piece of material.  The table in the center is a great square table that was made by the Amish.  It serves as a sewing table, additional dinner party seating, or as a card table.  We have friends coming over in a few weeks for an evening of Rummy!

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I printed photographs on our printer.  They aren’t the best quality but they look nice and I can easily choose other photos to switch them out with.

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If it’s out, you’ll use it.

Before

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A long shelved pantry off the kitchen to store canned goods.

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The (very) off white (very dirty) walls and windows in the laundry room just needed a scrubbing, a lively mustard yellow and lace curtains to look like a proper homestead mudroom.  The bathroom was given a bright blue paint job and whimsical bird paintings and accessories to rid it of its heebie jeebie factor.

This bathroom was dark brown and took two full hours to clean!

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This room was too dark to take a before picture of.  The white washed walls became a backdrop for the many things I was going to need to put in here.  This room houses our Apothecary…all medicines, bags, jars, boxes, computer and printer, and it is our guest room.

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We replaced the broken door with a screen door to let heat into the room and keep cats out.  It also adds a bit of old charm to the house.

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We are beginning to get settled in our house and starting to feel a regular routine coming back.  Every time we walk outside we are in awe.  No matter which way we look we have an amazing view.  We feel blessed to be the inhabitants of a hundred and nine year old house.  To be the next homesteaders here.

Creating Outdoor Living Spaces (reading nooks and welcomes)

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We often think of decorating the inside of a house.  How to make it warm and inviting.  How to create living spaces.  The outside of the house is every bit as important as it will open up more living space.  It allows us to welcome our friends to our door, invites us to relax in various reading corners, and to dine alfresco.  Welcome to our front door.

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The front porch faces east and welcomes sunrises and giant stars.  I placed a large coffee table and four chairs simply on the deck to create a nice place to drink coffee and welcome the sunrise.  These are the views from the front porch.  One must have a comfortable place to relax and take in the glorious nature around us.

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porch view

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Doug created a small fenced in area in the front for our Greyhound to run around in when we don’t have time to walk him.  (Despite having ten acres to run in, he finds his first entry out and runs for the hills.)  Between that and our landlord not wanting folks to park on the grass by the front door, the front door has inadvertently become the back door.  I don’t really care for the back door being the front door (welcome, step through my utility room…) but I did my best to make the porch enticing.

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One could simply place a table and two chairs on a porch and call it decorated but what really makes a place seem enchanting and inviting are the little touches you can add.  Our Welcome sign is specially made (for a mere $18) and the wild wooden animals always bring a smile.  I sprayed them with a protectant since they will be out in the elements.  Seasonal touches, a vase of sunflowers, pumpkins, pretty rocks, pinecones, or candles add charm to outdoor eating spaces.

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I was always the child tucked away in corners reading or writing, or in a tree daydreaming, or outside at the park drinking from a thermos and feeding the ducks.  I love whimsical corners and inspiring hideaways.  In the city and in town I had to be creative.  This is actually quite easy to do.  Set up your lawn chairs so they face a large tree instead of the neighbor’s house.  Or erect a swing in a corner of the garden.  Find a lovely place on the patio or behind the shed that you can put a surprising and impromptu area for rest and a great book.

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The lawn chairs face a large willow tree where an owl lives, the southern mountains, and the prairie where the moon rises majestically.

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The large table is set by a colorful Cottonwood tree and faces Pikes Peak for optimum view.

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When setting up reading and dining areas, consider placing groups in various areas.  If the south sun is very hot a covered porch might be more suitable. or if stargazing is the goal, placing reclining chairs away from the glare of street lights creates more dark.  When my garden is done I shall have a small table and chairs in there as well to enjoy the butterflies and visiting birds.

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Of course having a view looking in is quite nice too.  The twinkly lights from inside the house look festive and welcoming…as indoor and outdoor spaces should.