Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Dinner Table

This was our first year to host Christmas dinner at our house.  We had both of our families over for a total of 11 people.  I wanted to make the table festive and elegant with a lot of natural elements.  Here's what I came up with:

I knew I wanted greenery on the table, but I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to do it until I went browsing at the craft store.  I found nice quality artificial garland 70% off the weekend before Christmas.  I cut it into pieces, averaging about 12 inches long each, so that I could place the greenery more precisely how I wanted.

To add elegance and a nice ambiance, I used a variety of candles.  In the center, I floated three red candles in a bowl with fresh cranberries (bringing in the natural elements).

On either side of the bowl, I had a pedestal candle holder with a red pillar candle.

Then on each end, I used a bowl half filled with Epsom salt (to mimic a snowy look) and topped with fresh cranberries.  I used a small pedestal candle holder in each bowl with a white votive candle.

When entertaining for big groups, I'm usually big on easy cleanup, but because I wanted this to be a really elegant table, I decided to use my wedding china.  It meant more dishes to hand wash, but it looked beautiful!  (And how often do I get to use my china anyway?  It's worth the extra cleanup once in a while).

I wanted natural elements at each place setting, so I tied the napkins with natural jute twine and tucked a cinnamon stick and a sprig of fresh rosemary in each one.  I also used real wood "stump" place card holders.

Finally, to tie in the cinnamon sticks to the centerpiece, I filled four small votive candle holders with Epsom salt and cinnamon sticks and placed them alongside the greenery.

I love how it all turned out.  Merry Christmas!

Ladies' Small Group Christmas Party

I am in an absolutely wonderful ladies' small group Bible study.  I love these women so much, so for Christmas, I wanted to give back to them by hosting a Christmas party for them.  I had so much fun setting up for this party.  I wanted the table settings to be really fun, so I took some ideas from Pinterest and modified them to make them my own.  I love how it all turned out!

I used plain white dinner and salad plates to form the snowmen.  The hats are made with a plain blue beverage napkin and a table knife for the rim.  The scarves are made with two rectangular napkins.  I folded one to wrap around the "neck," and another to tuck into the neck.  Each snowman has fork and spoon arms, Hershey's Drops for eyes and buttons, and a mini carrot nose.

I found these cute little mitten ornaments at a local craft show, so I put one mitten on each snowman.  I just tucked the hanger part under and hooked the mitten onto the fork.  The ladies took their mitten home as a party favor.  Since we ended up with more place settings than people, they had fun looking around to pick which mitten they wanted.

I typically like to do name cards for company, but this was the type of gathering where I didn't want to assign seats.  So instead of name cards, I wrote a little message on the cards.  I wanted the women to feel loved and appreciated because they mean so much to me.

For dinner, we had homemade spaghetti and meatballs, garlic green beans, bread made in my bread machine, and a Christmas tree shaped chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting.  It was a great evening!

My Memory Tree

Whenever I'm browsing Pinterest or looking through a home decor magazine before Christmas, I admire all of the pretty Christmas trees, perfectly decorated with just the right balance of colors and shapes.  As nice as those trees look in a magazine, though, it just wouldn't be Christmas to me if I decorated my tree that way.  My Christmas tree (and all the trees I had while growing up) is a memory tree.  I've been collecting Christmas ornaments since I was a child.  I've actually had to cut back on my collecting in recent years because I've run out of room on the tree.  I now limit myself to one Hallmark ornament per year (and an occasional other "special" souvenir type of ornament).  Continuing a tradition my parents have had since they were engaged in 1976, my husband and I choose one Hallmark ornament each year to represent something from that year.  So when I decorate my Christmas tree each November, I'm not just thrilled by the way it makes our family room look pretty and festive.  It's also a heart-warming experience as almost every ornament brings back some special memory.  Here are just a handful of examples of the memories on my tree.

A pair of mittens that I got from AWANA (a kids' church program) in 5th or 6th grade.  I cashed in the reward bucks I had earned and picked out this pair of mittens that still hangs on my tree.

A bell from the tables at our wedding reception:

Every year, my mom gives me the Mother-Daughter and the Daughter Hallmark ornaments.  Here is one of them.

In 2010, I went ice skating for the first (and only) time in my life.  I was TERRIBLE!!  I held onto my friend Emily the whole time and couldn't move at all if I let go.  Emily later gave me this ice skate ornament.  It always makes me chuckle (and appreciate my sweet friend who kept me from falling.)

This "Joy" mug is such a tiny, little, nothin'-fancy ornament, but my grandparents gave it to me the last Christmas before my grandpa passed away.  So even though it's a tiny, generic type of ornament, it means something to me.

The year we got married:

The year we found a toad in the crock of the sump pump:

An ornament that my grandma (who passed away in 1994) gave me as a child.  I had a matching painting on my bedroom wall.

An ornament I got the last time I went to a Christmas tree farm with my parents:

The ornament that probably gives me the biggest chuckle every year is my black Christmas tree.  A little girl that I babysat (she's now in high school) colored this ornament for me when she was just a little squirt.

Even though I don't follow the Pinterest or HGTV instructions for how to decorate a Christmas tree, I, for one, think that our memory tree is beautiful!  Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Happy Thanksgiving

We are loving our new family room!  (Yes, I know I haven't posted pictures of it yet.  We're still working on some details.  As I write this post, my husband is putting together a cabinet that will go in the room.  Things are coming along, but it's not quite "done" yet.)

One of our primary reasons for adding onto our family room was that we love to have people over.  We really wanted a bigger, more comfortable space for friends and family to gather.  The way our house was originally designed, there was a small family room on one end of the house and a small living room on the other end.  Neither space was large enough to host a big group of people all at once.  Our previous family room was 20.5 ft. x 12 ft.  After the addition, we've slightly more than doubled the space at 20.5 ft. x 26 ft.  Already, we can't believe it wasn't always this big.  How did we live in such a small room before?

Since we love to host and since we now have a nice big room, we invited both of our families over for Thanksgiving dinner.  We are blessed to live near both families.  Not everyone was able to make it, but we enjoyed the holiday at our house with both sets of parents, my aunt, and my husband's sister.

Due to the family room project, our dining room is kind of a storage area right now.  So we decided to serve dinner in the family room.  We recently bought a 5-ft. round folding table, which comfortably fits the eight people we had over.  Some of my pictures of the table turned out disappointingly poor (That will teach me to load them on my computer and not just rely on how they look in the camera viewing screen), so they don't quite capture how pretty everything looked.  But at least you'll get the idea.

I found the burlap-looking tablecloth on clearance, and I have already used it several times.

I love decorating with natural elements and textures (hence, the burlap).  I bought the acorn and berry napkin rings on clearance quite a while ago.  Since they were in the clearance bins, I couldn't find a whole set of either type, but I love how it looked to alternate them.

I've had the tealight candle centerpiece for a long time, but I hadn't taken it out of the box until now.  It worked really well on the round table, and the glass candleholders are amber tinted, which coordinated well with the burlap tablecloth.  To make the centerpiece more Thanksgiving/fall-ish, I put mini pumpkin candles around the centerpiece.

Sticking with natural elements, I used place card holders that are made from real wood and look like little tree stumps.  I used cards that said "I am thankful for" and then added each person's name.

I really loved the table, but of course, what good is a beautiful table without a great meal?  I am all about keeping things simple when it comes to entertaining, so everyone contributed dishes to this year's Thanksgiving feast.  My mom and dad brought the turkey and stuffing.  I made rolls, pumpkin muffins, "Pink Jello," applesauce, crustless pumpkin pie, and baked sweet potatoes--most of which could be made in advance.  And my in-laws and aunt contributed to the sides and desserts, as well.  We ended up with a bountiful, delicious feast!

I'm especially proud of my pumpkin-shaped Butter Rich Rolls:

I got the idea online (  I used my own roll recipe with dough made in my bread machine.  Instead of pecans, I used fat pretzels that I cut to the right length.  They turned out so cute!

In addition to having a great meal, I really wanted to do something special to focus on the reason for Thanksgiving Day and to establish our own new tradition for Thanksgiving at our house.  I got the idea from Pinterest to have everyone write what they are thankful for in a book and then add a group photo of all the guests who joined us.  I found this really cute book online, and I'm excited to make this our family tradition for many years to come.  It will be fun 20 or 30 years from now to see what we were thankful for in 2013.

We had such a great Thanksgiving!  I hope that you and your family had a wonderful celebration, too!

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." - Psalm 107:1

Monday, November 4, 2013

We've Been Busy!

Recently, someone asked me if I was still blogging.  Given that my last blog post was in May, and it's now November, you might think that I've given up and abandoned the blogging world altogether.  But that's not true.

We've been really busy!  Around the time of my last post, we embarked on a multi-month project that is still not quite finished.  We decided to expand our family room.  I mean dig a big hole, build new walls, knock out an old wall, the whole shebang.  We slightly more than doubled the size of our family room and also expanded the basement underneath the addition.  All other projects got put on hold while this has been going on.

This has been a BIG project!!  And although a lot of bloggers give updates and pictures all along the way, I'm more of a wait-for-the-big-reveal kind of girl.  So, I promise that a big reveal of the new family room is coming, but I just can't bring myself to put it on the blog until it's really ready.  So stay tuned.  It will be worth the wait.  We LOVE the new room.  It's getting close to being "done," but we aren't quite ready.

For now, I'll just whet your appetite a little by showing you my fall mantle.  Here's a hint:  The Amazing Grace art coordinates perfectly with the rest of the room.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Master Bedroom and Bathroom Makeover

My now-husband and I dated for about 13.5 months before we got engaged.  In all that time, I never once saw the second floor of his house.  He told me his bedroom was ugly and that it would need work before we got married, but it wasn't until after I had an engagement ring on my finger that I saw it for myself.  "Ugly" was quite an understatement.  When I finally got to tour the upstairs, I think I just kept repeating, "Wow."  Everything in the master bedroom and bathroom was original from 1978--mashed down blue/tan/multicolored carpet, powder blue toilet and shower, blue tile floor, and a very-1970s vanity lamp hanging from a chain.  Moreover, the master suite was laid out like a hotel room:  The toilet and shower were enclosed in a separate room, but the sink was in the bedroom.  I have often wondered what they were smoking when they designed this room.  It wasn't just ugly, it was very impractical.  But don't just take my word for it.  Here are the "before" pictures to prove it:


My then-fiance had been waiting for a decade to redecorate the bedroom.  He kept thinking that someday he'd have a wife, and then it would be time to change it.  Well, "someday" finally came.  About three weeks before our wedding (yes, just three weeks!) the master bedroom and bathroom were completely gutted and major renovations began.  My husband did some of the prep work, but we hired a contractor to do the rest of the project, which included moving a wall, rearranging plumbing, converting the shower to a tub, enclosing the bathroom into a separate room, and much more.  Literally the week of our wedding, I was at Sherwin Williams picking out paint colors.  Crazy?  Yeah, a little.  But we were anxious to get it done.  Like any project, there were some delays.  The night we came home from our honeymoon, we had to move tools to the side of the room, sweep the floor, put down plastic dropcloths, and put our mattress on top (only to move it out again in the morning when the workers came back).  Let's just say, it was a little bit of a stressful first week at home.  But in the end, the renovation was totally worth it!  We absolutely love our bedroom and bathroom now!

It was awesome to have a "blank canvas" to work with--to completely design the master suite from top to bottom--the decor and the layout--exactly the way we wanted it.  It was so much fun to pick out all of the individual elements--tile, granite, cabinets, light fixtures, furniture, colors, fabrics, wall art--and see it all come together.  I am so pleased with the final result!  It is elegant and romantic, while still warm and comfortable.  Two bedroom walls are painted a deep red; the rest of the walls are "blonde" (a golden beige).  The fabrics on the bed and window treatments are gold, deep red, and brown.  In the bathroom, the walls are blonde, and I brought in the red and gold with the shower curtain, window valances, and towels.  We went with cherry woods and oil-rubbed bronze for all the metal fixtures.  And we installed a whirlpool tub, which I use frequently--it's so relaxing!

We've come a long way from the hotel-style 1970s powder blue room that used to be there.  It doesn't even feel like the same house anymore.  This bedroom is truly "ours," and we love it!  Here are the "after" pictures: