Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Traditions

It's beginning to seem a lot like Christmas...

LOL, that song has been playing in my head for a couple of weeks.  The fact is, I'm not totally ready yet... this coming weekend is the big event, however. We'll be hauling in boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff. But I do have a few Christmas traditions that take place right after Thanksgiving. Like putting up the Christmas treasures I've accumulated this past year. The pink Christmas tree above is a recent purchase... for the girls. They decorated it the other day with the sparkly butterflies and fairies (and the CO detector is new, too, and UGLY! But what can you do!).

And I can't wait to have cookies and hot cocoa with the girls with this cute set I found at a sale last summer.

And my big find a couple weeks ago at the thrift store... these vintage-looking Santas. They're not really vintage, just resin made to look like carved wood, but nice, nevertheless. I scooped these four fellas up, plus a ceramic Santa, too. It looked like someone was getting rid of a Santa collection. Kind of sad, in a way, but I'll make them a nice home.

And then there's my Christmas coffee mugs. The morning after Thanksgiving, I pull them out. They're a mish-mash of styles and all mostly from the thrift store or gifts from office mates. There's something really comforting about pulling out those cup and sipping my coffee or tea. And that, of course, is what traditions are all about.

How about you? Do you have some favorite Christmas traditions? Or pretty finds?

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Inspirations from Gooseberry Patch

Gooseberry Patch is one of those stories that inspires me on a lot of levels. Of course, the books are filled with lots of great recipes and craft ideas, but the history of the company is just as inspiring. It was started by two young moms over 25 years ago. One was an airline hostess and the other a teacher and both were looking for ways to earn money and stay home with their young families. They decided to start a mail order company selling the cute, crafty-style items they both loved.

Along the way, they started creating and selling small cookbooks. I have a couple in my library. It also started a community of readers who shared their ideas. More cookbooks lead to craft books and the mail order business fell by the wayside. Gooseberry Patch is now a major publisher and last year was bought out by a larger company. Inspiring story, yes?

Well, my inspiration starts with a Gooseberry Patch Christmas book I found a the thrift store for a couple of bucks. I love old recipe and craft books and when they're wrapped around Christmas, I love them even more.

As you can see it's Book #3. The current Christmas book is #17, so this one is about 14 years old. In publishing time, that's old, but the book is still filled with lots of cute ideas and yummy recipes that still work.

Now, like those two young mothers, I'm trying to make an income so I can stay at home, too. While I write for a variety of clients for upfront fees, I'm also trying to create my own income with other writing ventures. One of the places I've started to write is at Squidoo. It's a platform that allows you to share your writing and do a little Internet marketing on the side (or a lot of marketing depending on how good you are at it). In my case, I sell products through Amazon. The hardest part is coming up with ideas that readers might be interested in and that lend themselves to selling products.

Inspiration struck for me with this book. Why not a lens on Gooseberry Patch? So I set about writing a lens about 10 Reasons to Love Gooseberry Patch. And I wanted to re-create a couple ideas from the books.

One of them was for Nestled Bowels with Fruit. It's a very simple centerpiece idea for anytime of the time of the year, not just Christmas. And it's turned out to be a way to use some of my thrifty finds.

The problem was, my yellow bowls are waaaay too small for fruit. But I improvised.

Nuts work as well as apples and oranges. Besides, it was the first time I got to use these since I found them at the thrift store -- these two bowls plus a pie plate for $5 at the thirst store. And I picked up the red doily for a dollar at an antique mall. First time to use that, too. I added a few pieces of greenery and dried rose hips from the yard and a homespun ornament (another yard sale find) and voile... inspiration was born. And a crafty start to my Christmas decorating!

Thanks for stopping by,

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Keeping Warm

Last year we spend a bundle on keeping this house warm. The house leaks like a sieve and has aluminum-framed windows. Last year, for a lot of reason, it was just easier to turn up the heat. This year is different, however (as in, I'm a freelance writer now and not a corporate employee with a bi-weekly paycheck and a 401K plan.) This year we have to be thrifty and frugal. Yikes!

That's means keep the programmable thermostat set lower, wear sweaters inside (a heavy flannel shirt in my case) and live like the pioneers. Or in this case, relay on the fireplace and wood stove for more heat.

Meet my wood stove. A 1930ish Sears cook stove that was left here by the previous owners.

In fact, this wood stove was the only heat for this part of the downstairs for many, many years. The previous owners truly were of pioneer stock. While they had electric baseboard heating and the big fireplace for the original part of the house, they didn't add any type of heating for this part of the house, other than a couple of woods stoves -- this one down stairs and another small one in the bedroom upstairs.

We thought it was cute and romantic... until that first winter. Pioneer stock we are not made of and so by the second winter we had central heating. Unfortunately, adding heating after the fact is problematic and this side of the house is always cold unless you turn up the heat, which is expensive and not going to happen this year!

Luckily, this old wood stove does a pretty good job. As I write this, it's a nice toasty 71-degrees. But having to rely on the stove for more heat does cause a few problem. The biggest of which is I can't work in my upstairs office -- waaaay to cold -- and we removed the wood stove upstairs so I had room for an office. Ugg! So, guess where I've moved my new office?

And this requires I do a lot of this...

Of course, it could be worse, because I could still be making that 112 mile round trip to my corporate cube each day, being totally stressed and unhappy. It's a small price to pay... and as I think about it, sitting by the wood stove is the middle of the day is kind of romantic.

Linking to a couple of parties today:
Mockingbird Hill Cottage "Reality Shot Thursday"
My Romantic Home "Show and Tell Friday"

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rustic and Refined

My neighbor Judith stopped by the other day to drop off these pretty little candlesticks. Nice and very much like Judith.

She comes across little treasures all the time and with them has created the most charming cottage for herself. She just has a way of pulling things together. I'd say her style is a little shabby chic with French elegance. Totally unlike my style, which is mostly rustic mixed with cowboy. After all, I'm the gal with a cowgirl on her wall and horse blankets on the hearth.

That happens when you live with three guys. Not that I don't like my pretties, but the overall style I've gone for here is a ranchy cabin style -- leather, woods, painted or stained and a lot of simple vintage decor. But I do love these candlesticks and how they contrast with the rest of my stuff. So onto the mantle they go, right next to log candlesticks the hubby made for me.

Well, maybe mostly rustic with a hint of refined!

Thanks for stopping by,