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Archive for the ‘Decorating’ Category

Winter Berries at Sunset

Winter Berries at Sunset

I’m taking a cue from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy and Katie at Cakes, Tea and Dreams and asking the question, “What’s saving my life right now?” I love this discipline of focusing on the positive things, as little as they may seem.

This verse comes to mind:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

This one, too:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Here are some of the things that I am thankful for, or, that are saving my life, this winter:

  • Lighting candles. I bought a couple of brass candlesticks in November and lit tapers every time I had friends over during the holidays and burned through several candles. I light them when I’m home alone, too. The glow from just two candles can fill an evening with comfort and warmth.
Candles are meant to be lit.

Candles are meant to be lit.

  • Hosting family and friends. In December, I hosted a Christmas party for my small group, a Lessons and Carols service, dinner and movie nights, Christmas Eve with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and six-year-old niece. In January, I hosted a pizza and game night, spent an afternoon watching movies with my niece, and hosted my small group. I love having people over and I love making memories in my little house.
Late night pie

Late night pie

Morning at home

Morning at home

  • Lavender Body Butter. Minnesota winters are dry, resulting in extremely dry skin. My hands  I bought a jar of this body butter at a roadside stand on the Old Mission Peninsula while on vacation in Traverse City, Michigan two summers ago and it was well worth it. I’m sensitive to harsh chemicals and fragrances, and lotions tend to make my skin drier. This body butter is fabulous. On my desk at work, I keep a bar of hard lotion that my mom made from many of the same ingredients.
  • Hot Chocolate. I love coffee and tea, both. But this winter I rediscovered my childhood love: hot chocolate. I gave Smitten Kitchen’s Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix to my coworkers last Christmas, and made some for myself as well. I have savored many marshmallow-topped mugs this winter.
Cuppa Hot Chocolate

Cuppa Hot Chocolate

  • 5ft inf. I don’t know how or when I discovered this website and Instagram feed, but I’m sure glad I did. The cheerful and creative arrangements of flowers and objects are like Vitamin D for my soul.
  • Sunsets. A couple weeks ago, I noticed that the sun set after I got off work. That is a hopeful sign indeed. The darkest days are past and spring isn’t far off. While winter is lovely, I savor the little signs of warmer and brighter days ahead.
The sun sets after 5 pm!

The sun sets after 5 pm!

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My favorite colors are green and blue, particularly any shade in between the two (aqua, teal, turquoise, etc.). This is quite evident throughout my house:

Artwork by Evie Coates, Willow Tree from Jodi, rock painted by Reagan

Artwork by Evie Coates, Willow Tree from Jodi, rock painted by Reagan, When Knighthood Was in Flower from Lanier’s Books

Plate from Anthropologie, Kitchen colors: Benjamin Moore Spring Mint and Antiguan Sky

Plate from Anthropologie, kitchen colors: Benjamin Moore Spring Mint and Antiguan Sky

Original lithograph by Micah Bloom

Original lithograph by Micah Bloom

Heart cup and saucer from Sarah, ring made by Jodi, antique store finds

Heart cup and saucer from Sarah, ring made by Jodi, antique store finds

Quilt square made by my Grandma in the 1930s

Quilt square made by my Grandma in the 1930s

Vase from my Aunt Marilyn, print from Strausburg, France

Vase from my Aunt Marilyn, print from Strasbourg, France

Box from Nataliia (she sent this before I met her)

Knitting charm made by Abigail, porcelain box from Nataliia

Original painting by Micah Bloom, on loan from Joel and Nataliia

Original painting by Micah Bloom, on loan from Joel and Nataliia (Yes, he inspired my choice of paint color in the basement…)

Owl made by Abigail, mug made by Katie Coston, duck carved by my former neighbor's husband, Ken

Owl knit by Abigail, mug made by Katie Coston, duck carved by my former neighbor’s husband, Ken

Print from my parents

Print from my parents

Blue vase from Strasbourg, Yellow pitcher from Heidi, print by Olga Kraskova, aqua vase from Monica, original painting by Anabelle

Blue vase from Strasbourg, yellow pitcher from Heidi, print by Olga Krasovska, aqua vase from Monica, original painting by Anabelle

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Last month I made my first (and perhaps last) foray into the world of online estate auctions.

My 94-year-old neighbor, Esther, finally went to be with the Lord last April. I say finally because every time we talked, she’d tell me that she wished she could just die. At first, I was shocked by the sheer morbidity of that confession; it seemed sacrilegious. (I’ve since come to understand that what she was feeling is common.)

When I received word that she had died, I was sad that I had lost the best first neighbor a girl could ask for. But I was also happy for Esther, for I’m sure she had a joyful reunion. I had always thought that she had a youthful spirit, and I’m sure she was glad to be free of the aging body that had given her so much trouble toward the end.

Esther and her husband were childless, and had only a nephew and a niece. So the house sat practically untouched all summer. I met her nephew George on a crisp October afternoon, along with two auctioneers from Wisconsin. They were planning on selling the house and the contents via an online auction. George gave me a tour of the house while recalling stories of childhood visits with his aunt and uncle.

They had great taste, and their house was an homage to mid-century style. So, when the auction went live, I bid on several pieces of furniture. (For those unfamiliar with this kind of auction, they sometimes group several items into one lot.) In the end, I won an end table, two chairs, a floor lamp, shelf, couch, entertainment unit, stereo, record player, and a lot of knickknacks and miscellaneous stuff. (I really only wanted the end table, two chairs and couch.)

The pick-up was a couple of weeks ago. With only a three-hour window in which to claim items, the house was buzzing with activity. I’m pretty sure that I was the only one there that day that actually knew Esther. My dad and I had both taken the afternoon off to move furniture. (Thanks, Dad! Also, thanks to the lady who helped out with moving the couch!)

After everything was moved into my garage, I started going through the stuff. Some things were destined for the garbage can, but there were some little treasures among the junk. I mean, who can resist a dog made out of golf balls with a tee for a tail? Or his and hers bowling trophies from 1963? Or a small wooden duck carved by Esther’s husband? Or a green ceramic elephant?

Here are a few photos of my new acquisitions:

A John Van Koert design for Drexel circa the 1950s.

A Drexel end table (or nightstand) designed by John Van Koert, circa the 1950s.

This green chair is a perfect addition to the library. It inspired an evening of cleaning and organizing. Now I actually want to spend time in here!

This green chair is a perfect addition to the library. It inspired an evening of cleaning and organizing. Now I actually want to spend time in here!

If you can believe it, all of these books were stacked on the floor in my library... I still want a larger bookshelf down the road, but this is sure better than books piled on the floor!

If you can believe it, all of these books were stacked on the floor in my library… I still want a larger bookshelf down the road, but this is sure better than books piled on the floor! (Those are the his and hers bowling trophies used as bookends.)

Of course, the real treasure next door was Esther, and these new additions will always remind me of her. 🙂

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O come let us adore him!

O come let us adore him!

I love going to concerts, and I especially love going to concerts at Christmastime. I kicked off my concert season last Thursday with Jason Gray’s Christmas Tour in Mankato. His new album has quickly become a favorite of mine. He approached the album by asking what the first Christmas might have looked like from the perspective of the characters themselves. He got to bring a band along with him on tour, including his 16-year-old son on the keyboard – very cool! It was a great way to start the Advent season. And wouldn’t you know, the same people who sat in front of me and recorded the Sara Groves concert last month were front and center on Thursday night. (You can see the concert here.)

Then, on Saturday, I hosted a Christmas service in my home. Two years ago, a couple friends and I created a program based on the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College in Cambridge. (Thanks to Lanier for the idea!) We had fun picking out carols, prayers and poems for each of the nine Scripture readings. In each of the past two years, we’ve made some minor changes. This year, we added a clarinet to our acoustic guitar and violin. (Last year we had a friend accompany us on electric guitar to jazz up some favorite carols.) We also included Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Song of the Stars and Andrew Peterson’s The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats. After the service, we enjoyed some tea, treats and conversation.

Here are some photos from the evening:

Monica and Sam sat by the tree.

Monica and Sam sat by the tree.

My sister-in-law and niece, who slept through half of the service.

My sister-in-law and niece, who slept (and snored) through half of the service.

Darlene enjoys some goodies.

Darlene enjoys some goodies.

Who doesn't love candid shots while eating? ;-)

Who doesn’t love candid shots while eating? 😉 (Also, this is one of the only shots of Joel and Jon.)

Here’s the band! Darlene (violin), myself (guitar) and Heidi (clarinet).

We had a fun evening of reflecting on the reason we celebrate Christmas each year!

Last night, I happened upon a live, online concert. I’ve never participated in a concert like that before, and am pretty sure I was the only one there that didn’t know the musician or the rest of the audience – which made it even more fun! I lit some candles, brewed some tea and enjoyed some reflective music while Winter Storm Caesar decorated the town for Christmas. (Yes, it looks like we may have a white Christmas afterall!)

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My niece came over to help me hang ornaments on the lower branches.

My niece came over to help me hang ornaments on the lower branches.

I love this little owl from Crate & Barrel!

I love this little owl from Crate & Barrel!

A nesting doll in honor of my sister-in-law who's from Ukraine.

A nesting doll in honor of my sister-in-law, who’s from Ukraine.

Felt snowflake from West Elm to add a pop of orange.

Felt snowflake from West Elm to add a pop of orange.

My first year with a white Christmas tree! I'm loving it, especially since it looks like we may not have snow cover for Christmas... (I'm still dreaming!)

This is my first year with a white Christmas tree! I’m loving it, especially since it looks like we may not have snow cover for Christmas… (I’m still dreaming!)

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