Ho, Ho, Ho!

This wins the best-ever-Christmas-decoration-on-a-vehicle prize of all time -- although it took me a few seconds to figure it out! The genius punster who created this is one of my husband's co-workers at their newspaper in northeast Mississippi.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

This is why I love my job as marketing director at an art museum — during December, my workplace looks like this. Every year we host an annual exhibit of huge live trees that people in our community volunteer to decorate, and I have to say that this year is one of the best ever. A woman whose husband is a firefighter decorated the tree on the right to honor local fire departments. The tree on the left was decorated by a medical auxiliary to raise awareness of childhood cancer. We’ve got a tree celebrating books, one featuring “visions of sugarplums” and one called “Fleece Navidad” that’s full of every kind of stuffed and carved and sewn and decorated lamb you can imagine. I love hearing people walk through the exhibit and “ooh” and “ahh” in delight. Makes me think that I really should put our tree up … sometime soon.

It Feels Like Christmas, Just Like Christmas

This Exhibit A why I’ll never ever ever be an interior decorator and/or marvelous hostess: These photos illustrate the way the holidays are supposed to be done, as opposed to my method of tying a few bows on light fixtures, opening a box of fancy Ritz crackers and hoping for the best. Thankfully, there are people like Mary Katherine Butler, an interior decorator and lover of all things colorful who owns a shop called Kates and Co. in downtown Corinth, Mississippi. She carries the slack for the rest of us … well, slackers. This was the Christmas open house at her shop a few days ago, and it definitely put everybody in a festive spirit. How could it not? I smile just walking into her shop. In the hands of folks who know what they’re doing — like Mary Katherine and several of my good friends — a bunch of stuff on a table turns into something gorgeous and magical. But if I arranged a bunch of stuff on a table, it simply would look like a bunch of stuff on a table. But at least that’s better than a bunch of cat hair, which is what’s usually on our tables. Sigh.

Home Decor

This could be our dream house — literally, because it’s  the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Tupelo, Mississippi. The giveaway is a national fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. You tour the house, buy a $100 ticket and hope for the best. In Tupelo the local partner is the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, which oversees the very cool downtown Fairpark development where the St. Jude house is. I love this house! And I know a big part of my instant love affair is the furniture and the decor, which naturally does not stay, but since we’re on a dream roll here, I figure why not imagine moving in as is? The decor was rich and elegant but worked perfectly with the family-friendly layout of the house. Dear Husband and I especially were impressed with the built-in desk in a kitchen hallway and the built-in bench and storage cubbies adjacent to the entry way from the garage. And this was the first shower I’d ever seen with a hinged door that could swing either in or out — brilliant! Why didn’t we think of that? Hope whoever wins this house loves it, too. The drawing was this afternoon and so far our phones have not rung — but we can still dream.

Books and Spring

Happy spring! Saturday, March 20 marked the arrival of this much-anticipated season. Most years by now in my northwest-Alabama northeast-Mississippi southern-middle-Tennessee corner of the South, we’ve already had several gorgeous spring days. But 2010? Not so much. That’s why everybody who saw it loved this spring-like tablescape at a recent book-signing with author and columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson. It was a typical gray and cool and wet day, but the folks at ColdWater Books in Tuscumbia, Alabama, outdid themselves with these sweet and delightful touches of spring. I love the gentle pop of colors in the blue-and-white print tablecloth, the pink punch and the yellow flowers. And aren’t you impressed with that huge pottery bowl holding ice and water bottles? When I first saw it, I was thinking $300 or more handmade one-of-a-kind creation. But no. It’s a $30 planter from Lowe’s. Sweet! Just make sure the one you buy doesn’t have a hole for water drainage, and you’re good. And here’s another good idea: Buy Johnson’s new book, Enchanted Evening Barbie & the Second Coming: A Memoir. It’s Johnson at her best — funny, smart, insightful and a tad wistful. The book-signing was the first time I’d met her, and if you ever get the chance to meet her, too, take it. She was so gracious and friendly — a real delight.  And if you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy of Johnson’s previous book, Poor Man’s Provence. It’s about the second home she and her late husband, Don Grierson, created for themselves in Cajun Louisiana. But be warned: It will make you want to drive down there to see it for yourself. Spring-break road trip, anybody?

Consignment Stores

When you’ve got spring fever but the weather isn’t cooperating — we’re back to winter here in northwest Alabama — then the solution is to go shopping for a little warm-weather cheer. But if your budget isn’t cooperating, either, be smart and do your perk-me-up shopping at your favorite consignment store. You may get lucky and find such spring-like treasures as these light and airy wooden windows lightened up with bright and happy blooms. Or what about some light and breezy white wicker furniture with soft green and yellow accents? (Note the papasan ottoman transformed into a coffee table with the addition of a clear glass top. Clever!) I especially love the collection of pastel-colored vintage coffee mugs shown off in a pale-green wooden tote. See? For just a few dollars, you can add some spring details to your home decor and have money left over for a spring-break trip to the beach. You know that these photos are from my favorite consignment store — Upscale Resale in Sheffield, Alabama, owned by my friend Susan with display assistance by my Younger Daughter. It’s like walking through a magazine spread. C’mon over and see for yourself!