Here are two new trends in holiday decorating I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks. One I love and think is an adorable idea. One I don’t understand and wish it would go away. Let’s start with the cute first. Don’t you think this wreath made out of colorful felt balls is just the best thing ever? Love, love, love! It’s simple and festive and different and reminds me so much of the green construction-paper wreaths my kids used to make in Sunday school with a few felt balls glued on and a sprinkle of red glitter. I’ll bet you’ve got a few of those saved, too! And then, on the right, we have … well … quite frankly, this looks to me as if a whole bunch of ribbon sort of upchucked on an innocent mailbox. I mean: Why? What’s wrong with one — ONE — bow? I’m all for exuberance and over-the-top, but this has gone over the top and out the door and onto the curb. And if your mailbox looks just like this, please forgive me. I don’t mean to be critical — well, OK, I guess I do — but I’m seriously disturbed by this trend of decorating mailboxes with so much mesh ribbon that it looks as if they’re being bubble-wrapped for their own protection. If someone can explain this to me, then I’m open to changing my mind. In the Christmas spirit and all. But until then — bah, humbug!!!
I drive by this store in Tuscumbia, Alabama, at least twice a day. It’s a discount/closeout/salvage type of retailer that has all sorts of bargains to browse through. Plus, since it’s gotten warmer, the owners have put this patio furniture outside in an fenced-in area right beside the highway. For weeks as I’ve driven past, I’ve glanced over and thought to myself, “Oh, that’s so nice that they’ve put signs on their furniture warning folks that it’s ‘hot wood’ so they don’t touch it or sit down and maybe hurt themselves.” Yeah, I know, I know — but how else to explain signs that say “Hot Wood”? I suddenly one day realized, of course, that the signs actually say “Not Wood” instead of “Hot Wood” and are advertising furniture made out of sturdy wood-like plastic. Sort of reminds me of the sign in Huntsville, Alabama, that I mistook for a neighborly invitation to “Drink Locally” when I was really being asked to “Bank Locally” — although I’m a big fan of both. But surely your first thought when you saw the furniture photo was “Hot,” too. Right? Please??? A little help here??? And in more drive-by double-takes, my Dear Husband was the one who first spotted this John Deere tractor parked in the car lot of a dealership in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. “You’ve got to go take a picture of it,” he said. “I’ve never seen a tractor for sale at a car dealership.” So I checked it out, and he was right: The sight of a farm tractor parked in the midst of mini-vans for sale is a bit jarring. I mean, did somebody trade the tractor for a car? Would people wandering through the lot looking at the latest sedan models suddenly decide they wanted a tractor instead? Or maybe are tractors now the new family vehicle and we’re at the beginning of a surprising new trend? I’ll keep you posted. In any case, I love living someplace where cars and tractors happily co-exist.
If you’re looking for an awesome gift for a favorite child, consider one of these rugs. I’d seen them in stores before but never really thought about them until Older Daughter and her husband brought one home from an Ikea trip — and 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable thinks it’s the best thing ever. He’ll run his toy cars and trains along the roads and is learning to point out such things as “cactus,” “whale,” “tent” and “soccer field.” And you have to love the rug’s global view. I mean, you’ve got a desert next to snow-covered volcanoes, with a high-rise city across the way flanked by a circus tent and an igloo being neighborly with an old-school hotel. And don’t forget the castle, the beach and the cozy little New England village — all accessible by your wheeled vehicle of choice, which in the Captain’s case usually is a John Deere tractor, Digger from Bob the Builder or either a Percy or Thomas train engine. The Captain’s parents got it for $14 and he’s already gotten like 500 times that in play value. Plus, you’ve got instant room decor! It’s win-win-win. My favorite route is to start at the igloo, take a run straight up to the greenhouse, peek in at the castle, tour around the village square and then park at the soccer field. But your mileage may vary.
Spring is peeking out here in Alabama — especially at my friend Cheryl’s apartment. She hosted our four-woman book club and, as always anytime we’re at her place, it’s a treat. We the other three book-club members cheerfully agree that Cheryl is the best hostess among us. No contest. She’s so creative and gracious and makes us feel special without that uncomfortable I-spent-three-days-getting-ready-for-y’all-so-you’d-better-appreciate-it sort of attitude. She makes it seem so easy! And joyful, like she’s so happy we came over. Her spring decor started at the front door, with planters of cheerful flowers and a welcoming doormat that set her springtime theme of birds’ nests with soft and pretty blue eggs. She continued her theme with her place settings, which I loved. The earth-toned dishes and linens featured birds’-nest details and the centerpiece was a pedestal of delicately colored eggs. Such a serene and grownup change from the usual pink and green Easter pastels that always are around this time of year. Cheryl bought most of her pieces at Pottery Barn — she knows that store like I know a Starbucks and keeps up with what’s new and cool. The birds’-nest napkins are sold out at http://www.potterybarn.com but some individual stores might still have them. And isn’t the hunt part of the fun?
Back when my two now-23-and-25-year-old daughters were in high school, our house was one of those where all the kids gathered for after-parties — after graduation, after prom, after band banquet, after whatever. I got pretty good at figuring out how to feed dozens of kids — little weiners and chocolate-chip cookies always were big hits — and enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I sort of miss those days. But Younger Daughter brought them back this weekend when she hosted a party for the girls in the high-school percussion ensemble she’s working with this semester. She planned the menu and did a great job of combining healthy with Valentine’s indulgence: Carrot and celery sticks with no-fat vegetable dip, tortilla and pita chips with salsa and spinach-cheese dip, raspberry squares, Valentine’s fortune cookies, iced and decorated sugar cookies and No-Pudge Fudge cupcakes, vegetable and turkey rollups, pimento cheese (necessary for all Southern parties, you know), olives, Red Velvet cake balls and a chocolate fountain with pretzels, marshmallows and fresh pineapple and strawberries. And she used what we had around the house for decor — red candles, various heart-shaped items and the cards and boxes of candy that were the party favors. And all I had to do was help with food prep and then I got to go watch the Olympics opening ceremonies on TV while YD took care of everything else — she and the girls even cleaned up afterwards. And one of the best parts? Leftover sugar cookies for breakfast the next morning!
And check out my weekly newspaper column about everybody’s favorite love holiday at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100212/ARTICLES/2125000
Happy first Monday of 2010! With folks sort of starting to get back in the normal routine, some people are clinging to their Christmas decorations by pointing out that Jan. 6, or Epiphany, is still part of the season — a valid argument, but one that exceedingly gets pushed out of the way by the retail holiday rush. Dear Husband and I were out and about on New Year’s Day and spied these competing holiday displays: Valentine’s Day versus Easter, in the same store. With Christmas and New Year’s on sale just a couple aisles over. What’s a shopper to do???
This is why I love Christmas in Mississippi. Look at this gorgeous old house, with its classically festive holiday decorations of red and green — enlivened by the riot of pansies planted in the front yard. It’s like, “Christmas is here, but spring is coming!” Although I have to say that the past few days here in the South have been sort of wintry — chilly with a chance of freezing. Younger Daughter has been in Maine visiting her uncle and aunt there in the Frozen North, but I believe it’s been only minimally colder here. Then again, what do I know? Anything below 85 degrees is sweater weather to me.
I love holiday weddings! It probably goes back to my own parents’ wedding on Dec. 18, 1955. I wasn’t there but I’ve always been entranced by my mom’s description of her bridesmaids carrying muffs with holly sprigs pinned to them — how romantic and lovely is that? So I was tickled when Younger Daughter asked me to go with her to a friend’s wedding that was the weekend before Christmas. Her friends had so many sweet touches to the ceremony — a processional of guitar music, simple and classic knee-length bridesmaids’ dresses, a swirly logo on the invitations and programs — that I should have known the reception would be equally classic. It was at Locust Hill, an outstanding historic house in Tuscumbia, Alabama — a town full of outstanding historic houses. I especially was enthralled with the entryway, where a holiday-decorated antique sidebar held scrapbook pages for guests to sign plus photos of the couple. And the groom’s cake was fun with its fishing theme. Now, I can hear some of you non-Southern folks scratching your heads and wondering what a “groom’s cake” is. While it’s true that this tradition of honoring the groom with his own cake is no longer confined to states that consider Jefferson Davis’ birthday an official holiday, it’s still not a common tradition outside of the South. And I’m not even sure why it’s such a Southern thing, sort of like cheese straws and using the word “tea” to mean “a tall glass of cold iced sweet goodness.” But I’m glad weddings are celebrated everywhere. Even where nobody knows what a groom’s cake is.
Anybody who’s worried about today’s young people shouldn’t — at least based on their decorating skills. Isn’t this apartment absolutely adorable? I’d move in in a minute! It belongs to Rachel, a 25-year-old who’s one of Younger Daughter’s friends in Birmingham, Alabama. Rachel is a recent college graduate and recently started working — and although interior decorating is not her field, I think it should be. I loved the way Rachel used inexpensive touches — she shops in consignment and discount stores — to express her style and create a calm and peaceful environment combined with a sense of whimsy. And she’s got such inspiring ideas. For instance, she paints small wooden window shutters, hangs them vertically on the wall and puts photos in the individual slats — brilliant! She also found a practice climbing wall with various size handholds and set it up above a doorway for stress-releasing fun. And I love the way she uses the simple basic elements of candles and coffee beans for earthy and fragrant tablescapes. And she has such a good eye — her comfy thrift-store sofa and weathered chest of drawers with intriguing mismatched drawer pulls look as if they came from a top designer boutique. Rachel’s efforts have convinced me that when it comes to interior decor, money and time constraints are no excuse. Lesson learned. Thank you, Rachel!