Friday, December 23, 2011

Sparkly and Shiny Bits for Crows and Magpies

As much I love using natural greenery, this time of year my inner crow and magpie tendencies take over for a while, and I indulge in holiday sparkle. Over the years I've acquired enough stuff, mostly hand-me-downs and souvenirs from my travels, plus odd bits and cheap thrills from junk shops and after Christmas sales, to fill the house and add considerable cheer. These "creations" would make me shudder at other times, but in the winter I enjoy the way they light up dark corners and add energy to otherwise dull spots, like a hallway. Some things are especially meaningful as a way to be connected with my absent family. At the moment there are a couple of Aunt Joanne's mismatched candlesticks on the coffee table and my grandmother's rhinestone snowflake pins on a cushion on the bed, to accompany the crow and magpie-favored sparkly and shiny bits scattered here and there...

Roger goes along with all this in his usual good-natured way, and sometime even says that he likes my crazy ideas. This time of year some of what works for me is admittedly over the top, but after the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over, I'm equally happy, even relieved, to put it all away.

Here are some pictures for those of you who also appreciate a little seasonal excess. As I looked at them I wished I'd done a better job with the arrangements, but I was in a hurry to transition from Autumn to Winter, and things got jammed in vases, instead of being artfully arranged. Oh well... In person the individual shortcomings aren't as apparent, and it's possible to enjoy the cumulative effect.

Great Room Mantle
Dining Room

Master Bath 1
Master Bath 2

A Dark Corner

Family Room
Great Room Coffee Table
Family Room
Great Room

Downstairs Hallway

Kitchen  Island with Baci in the Window
Powder Room
My grandmother's snowflakes

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Two One-Eyed Cats - A Christmas Story

Four years ago Roger and I decided that our Christmas present to each other would be to adopt a kitten from All Creatures Great and Small, a controversial local shelter that was in the process of closing. When we went there we found Baci, a very tiny feral ginger kitten, who came home and joined the family, to our continuing delight.

I also met Milky and Caramel, two one-eyed brothers who, as I was told, had injured each other during a fight. They both were so charming and affectionate that I didn’t see how the story could possibly be true, but there they were with their rakish pirate charm, and little chance of being adopted together, which was required because of their strong bond of devotion.

With so many healthy single animals there urgently needing homes, the chance of someone taking on two special needs cats was very small. Something had to be done to help them, so I told the staff that I would give a $100 adoption bonus to the person who would take them both. Someone on the staff of All Creatures told the Times-News about the bonus, and I was asked to come back to the shelter for an interview and picture with the boys. About a week after the story ran, no one had claimed the reward so I called All Creatures and was told that the kittens had been adopted, but they couldn’t be located for the routine follow-up the Human Society was conducting. Fearing Milky and Caramel were dead, or worse, I blamed myself for calling attention to them, and for the next few months, whenever I thought about them I was deeply sad.

One day I went to the Post Office and found a letter with a return address that said only, “Milky and Carmel”. They were alive! I was so stunned and relieved I burst into tears in the middle of the parking lot. When I pulled myself together and opened the envelope, I found a note from the boys saying how happy they were, and several pictures to prove it. A few more times since then I’ve had cards and pictures of “Kumal and Sangha”, as they now are called, but the kind and still anonymous person who took them in has never asked for the bonus money.

Today I received a Christmas card that said, “My how we’ve grown! Four years old, still together and enjoying life. Haven’t forgotten your kindness…” Inside the card was a fuzzy picture of them looking very well-fed and content, the latest chapter in their remarkable story which I’m happy to share with you. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Green Bouquets

One of the rewards for all our hard work in the garden is the ability to create green bouquets in winter by clipping the evergreen shrubs here and there. Most of the year these conifers and broad leaf evergreens like pyrancatha, loropetalum, nandina, privet and various members of the holly family sit quietly in the background, but now their true value comes to light.

These unassuming plants are really stars in waiting who offer beautiful colors ranging from purples, reds and golds to numerous shades of green. They come in a variety of forms from narrow and upright to bushy or trailing, and many also have berries in shades of red, yellow, white and orange.  Clippings from our evergreens provided all I needed to create long-lasting, simple arrangements for the mantle in the family room, and they were free...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Take A Picture

One of my tried and true design tools is a photograph of the project I've just completed, whether it's a room, a Christmas tree or a flower arrangement. Try as I do to achieve balance, when I've worked to create something I don't see it objectively right away because I'm too close to it. Taking a picture gives me a chance to see my work with a fresh viewpoint and recognize what works, and what doesn't.

Take this Christmas tree, for example. I thought I'd done a reasonably good job of spacing the ornaments, but when I saw the picture I noticed there were clusters and gaps, and the tree needed a little tweaking.

Now I grant you that I may be a bit fussier about these things than most, but I always want to improve and I appreciate tools, like a picture, that help me make my work better. Try it for yourself and see what I mean.

By Sandy LeRoy

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Decor - Needlepoint Cushions

The Christmas Rose
Over the weekend I began the transition from Autumn to Winter decor by switching out the Elizabeth Bradley needlepoint cushions. These are the ones I use to help create a warm holiday atmosphere here, even when it's cold and dreary outside.

My Elizabeth Bradley collection was years in the making. I often worked on a cushion while watching tv at night, and when I traveled, needlepoint helped pass the time on long flights.
Until now I'd never photographed the cushions, but I'm glad to start creating a record of them that I can visit any time, as each seasonal group is stored away nine months of the year.

Geometric with Ivy Border

Leaves and Berries
A Wreath of Oak Leaves

Christmas Wreath