"Every house where love abides
And friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home sweet home
For there the heart can rest."
~ Henry Van Dyke

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just can't help myself.....

Found this today and had to share it! Make yourself a cup of your favorite warm tipple...hot cocoa or coffee or tea...as this is fun to play with for a while. Be sure to go back and play with all three hedgehogs...

 Happy Wednesday ... 4th day of Christmas!

Monday, December 26, 2011

It is still Christmas!

Here in Holland, it is what we call 2e Kerstdag or 2nd Christmas Day. I think it should be 2nd Christmas Day everywhere. Why is the biggest holiday of the year just one day? I like the tradition of the Victorians to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. Why not start your own tradition? Why should we only think Christmas is one day? To me it should be Christmas in our hearts everyday. The world would be a better place if it was.

This video is so precious. I am not a pop music fan at all and have never heard of this group but I found this video last year and just love it. I watch it once in a while to bring to back to the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Not only the nativity but also the girl walking along and discovering all the pieces herself. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Magical Christmas Day!

What is it that creates the magic of Christmas Day? That answer would be different for each of us I think. It is also many elements to each of us. One part of Christmas magic is nutcrackers.

Each year, I put out my collection and the magic starts once again...

I have a collection of colorful ones and of natural ones...

Last night, I watched a production of The Nutcracker Ballet by the San Francisco Ballet on German satellite television. My mother asked me don't I ever get sick of watching it. Christmas is not Christmas if I have not seen The Nutcracker.

Wishing each of you a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Twas the week before Christmas - Day 7

Decorating simply with pinecones...

On a windowsill with pine branches, berries, lights and ornaments...

In a large glass cookie jar with lights, dried cranberries, cinnamon sticks and star anise...

On top of the hutch with greenery, holly and lights...

In a dough bowl with red ornaments and a little stitched pillow...

"I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument."

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Have a peace-filled Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twas the week before Christmas - Day 6

Our sweet Christmas kitty Dagi is 14 years old today!

When we got Dagi 14 years ago, the vet had the assistants come into the surgery to look at him. He said he used to see Javanese or Mandarins (half long hair Siamese) often when he had a practice in The Hague but we were the first he had ever had here. He had to help us with a problem from the start as Dagi was allergic to cat food. We have fed him on Hill's science diet only from that day on and he is doing well ever since. The vet warned up that Dagi is a breed that does not get old so we would have him for a short time.

Joy of joys! Dagi has become our little old man. He is turning white from his old age and moves slower with stiff joints than he used to. He is my companion who is constantly on my lap even when it is not convenient. He talks my ears off until I ask him to shut up and then he looks at me, meows okay and keeps on chatting. He is my quilt tester who is now also my afghan tester since I learned to crochet. In this photo, he is trying out Jos' new afghan which I am crocheting now. He is my cuddle toy while I sleep. AND he is a dear cat who I am grateful for each and every day!

Happy birthday!

Twas the week before Christmas - Day 5

"Christmas is forever, not for just one day, for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf. The good you do for others is good you do yourself..." 
~Norman Wesley Brooks

What says the magic of Christmas better than glass, silver and candlelight? 

Place a cloche filled with pearl look and silver ornaments onto a glass cake stand for instant elegance. 

Silver reindeer and wire tree on a tray of various mercury glass ornaments and tea light holders adorn the dining room table. By using a large tray for the arrangement, it can be easily moved when dining. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Twas the week before Christmas - Day 4

"Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house." 
 ~Henry Ward Beecher

I love to decorate with books. This is my reading corner in my living room. December is a time when I put aside all my other books and start reading or rereading some holiday or winter themed books. So far a book by Elizabeth Goudge entitled I Saw Three Ships has been a highlight for me. You can read my review on my Bookshelves and Stove Tops blog. I am now rereading The Christmas Tree by Julia Salamon and this is a story that always warms you with the true meaning behind a Christmas tree.

Do you have a favorite Christmas book? I love reading Charles Dickens or Henry Van Dyke as much as a modern novel like Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley or The Golden Ring by John Snyder.

"When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before."
 ~Clifton Fadiman

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Twas the week before Christmas - Day 3

It is December and once again Christmas Village has suddenly appeared. This magical little village only comes out for people to see once a year. On Christmas eve, it comes to life...

It is just a few days until Christmas. There is great excitement in the air along with a great deal of snow. The schoolmaster cancelled school for today. With this much snow, the children would have there mind on other things rather than their numbers and letters.

Peter, Thomas and Luke are happily playing outside in the snow supervised by Mrs. Potts. In the meantime, families rush in and out of the General Store for last minute items needed for the Christmas dinner while carefully avoiding the snowball fight between Thomas and Luke.

But look! Even the raccoons are being naughty! They have gotten into the trash containers while Mrs. Dewhurst is baking the tradition Christmas cake for her husband the vicar's annual Christmas tea. This year she is trying a new recipe. 

Sister Charity is overseeing the arrival of the Yule log and tree for the church. Everything must be just right. Already she has draped a garland with red bows around the church doors. 

Sarah and her lamb are taking a stroll in the snow. Sarah loves the snow so much that she named her lamb Snowflake. 

Christmas trees are being delivered to homes in Christmas village. Families will be very busy turning the trees into magical beauties tonight in time for the celebrations. 

But for now, the villagers arrive by the village green in front of the toy shop to sing carols. Wait...how is that on top of the toy shop? Did Santa pause to hear the singing? 

God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this Day.
To save poor souls from Satan's power,
Which long time had gone astray.
Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

A note to those of you new to my blogs...This little village was made especially for me by my mother and sister. It was made as close as possible to the village my mother made when we were children. I loved our village and later she made me one of my own. Each year, I think I love it even more and have been writing a story about Christmas Village each year which you can find from past years on my blog by searching under that name. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Twas the week before Christmas - Day 2

Central to most Christmas decorating is the tree. Last year, I told you about deciding that I was not going to set up my big Victorian style tree any longer. You can read about it here. My mother had bought me a black pencil pine tree for my bobbinlace ornaments a year ago. I make a couple each year. They were not showing up well on a green tree but come out nicely on the black tree.

This tree is set up in no time. I took some white or cream, mercury glass and silver ornaments from my old tree to add to my own handmade lace ornaments. The lace stands out well and I enjoy remembering making the lace.

This pencil pine was the perfect tree for the antique tree stand I found at a flea market in Germany when on vacation a year ago.

I do miss my big tree but am glad that I have a tree that is set up in about an hour instead of two days. As I write to you, I am looking at the glowing lights in my tree this evening which make my lace really stand out and am happy with the changes this year.

I find the words of Norman Vincent Peale ring true...

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twas the week before Christmas - Day 1

I have been neglecting my blogs. It has been a very busy time for me with a visit from my mother for two weeks followed by my annual Christmas party for my quilt group and a day of teaching a friend how to crochet a cowl. Then I just needed some rest. But now I am going to do a daily blog post leading up to Christmas. This the first post as Christmas is only one week away. How did that happen? 2011 has flown by for me...anyone else?

This is a make do project as I use what I already have in my Christmas decorations to make my mirror festive. This can also be done to a picture in your home as well as a mirror.

I used faux green, berries, ribbon and cord, pinecones, a brass horn and Merry Christmas paper ribbon.

Attach the faux green to the top of the mirror. Be sure it is very secure as it will mean the arrangement stays securely on the mirror top later as it is decorated. I wound a piece of the green to the hook behind the mirror.

Start with your center piece. Add a bow and attach to the green. You can use many items you have among your Christmas decorations.

Wrap wire around the pinecones and then wrap around the berries. Stick into the green wrapping a green branch around the berries. Try and keep your piece balanced to be sure your mirror stays straight. Now wind cord among the branches while allowing it to drape on the sides. You could also use a wide ribbon for this. Last, place a greeting like my paper ribbon resting it into the faux green.

This takes only moments to put together and creates an instant festive look.

See you again tomorrow for the 2nd day.....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Make do and mend Mondays

I think it will be fun to use some of the Make do and Mend Mondays for holiday themed projects until the end of the year. I am feeling inspired to go through my holiday items and pass on the things I no longer want or use while making the most of what I do want. I also feel a need to go with a more simple and natural theme for my decorating. It started with my autumn decorations this year which I pared down and made some friends happy with items I am not using. To me, part of making do is looking at my home and rooting out what is just cluttering things and what I really love.

I decided it would be fun to create a winter table outside on the terrace. This terrace is seen from our sitting area of the living room and I want to enjoy the outdoors from my windows. First, I cut a piece of black plastic to cover the area of the table I wanted to decorate. This makes for easy clean up later on when I want to take the display apart.

I took cuttings from the holly we have all over our garden at Cranberry Cottage and gathered some pinecones we use for fire starters in our woodstove. Pruning holly normally takes place in January for us. You are able to cut the branches back by one third to encourage more fullness in the holly tree so it is good for the tree as well as giving me decorative greens for the season. I simply did part of my pruning early. Any green you have available will do.

Gather items you have and begin with the tallest item. For me, this was a black lantern. I placed it on two bricks allowing me to open and shut the lantern without moving any holly. Now add your items around the table in a pleasing way thinking of a triangle as you work. Lower items should be placed towards the front and/or edges. If you need height for an item, place it on an inverted clay flower pot as I did with my iron pinecone which you can see in the photo below.

Begin with your longest pieces of holly, going all around the table to create the body of the display. Now tuck in small pieces of the holly where needed to give it fullness.

I gathered moss which is all too plentiful in our garden at the cottage. This is tucked in here and there to give a new texture. Spread out the pinecones around the table. Crabapples are in abundance now from the tree at the back of our garden and these are added to bring in color. I tucked in my gourds here and there.

All the bits and pieces are items I already had which make a pleasing display when put together on a winter table. Be sure to add candles. I added a candle in a lower spot safely but placing it in a bowl shaped pot. There is no danger of fire this way and yet I have more balanced candle light.

When Christmas is closer, I will tuck in an ornament here and there to give my winter table a true holiday theme.

With our long and cold evenings, this winter table cheers even the darkest of evening. Look around for things you have and see what greens you can use from your garden. Or perhaps ask a friend or neighbor if you can clip a little of their greens if you have none. Pretty seasonal decorating does not have to cost the earth. It only needs some time and imagination. I hope I have inspired you to give it a try.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happiness is.....

...a warm and cozy knitted patchwork afghan!

My grandma knitted me this patchwork afghan. My mommy thinks it is hers and I humor her by allowing her to think so but it is really mine as you can see. It is cold here in Holland and I love spending my evenings on the couch wrapped up in my afghan taking a catnap.

Keep warm wherever you are!

Kitty paws and kisses,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Make do and mend Mondays

After another weekend of hard graft, we have the pergola project completed. Here is the result...

To get to this, we had to first remove the straight but very wonky brick path. I surprised Jos having removed it myself while he was off to buy the gravel chips for the path. Lifting the bricks with a spade was easy but carrying them away to stack them was not. I was so happy to be able to do that so at least it was one less thing for Jos to do.

He started by planting up the area at the end of the previously straight path. We placed some Japanese anemones and a few creeping plants such as Golden Cinquefoil in this area.

Then Jos laid out concrete bands to line the path. He also reinforced the terrace egde onto the path by laying bricks lenghtwise into the ground. After the ground was leveled and stamped down, we laid a anti-weed membrane down first. I cut it to fit and we placed some bricks down to keep it in place as we started to fill the path with the gravel chips. We choose basalt chips which turn black when they are damp. They color perfectly with the slate siding of our house.

I had pulled up some bricks to change the shape of the garden. It needed some attention to bring it back to a neat sharp line.

It looks like it was always in this shape now. Thank you Jos for all that hard work to make an idea I had a reality!

All the hard work has been worth it as it just looks so right in the garden now. While I still have a few more ideas, it is all starting to come together. Come next spring, I hope to see all the planting start to really bring a nice romantic atmosphere to our cottage style garden.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Make do and mend Mondays

This project is not really making do or mending unless you consider we are making do with a minimum budget for renovating our garden both front and back. So another garden project which has been started over this past weekend has saved us big time money once again already...

Making our garden a special place is really important to Jos and I. He turns the things I imagine into reality even though he says he is not handy. I am really proud of his latest project...a pergola. We had made some changes to the back garden but it was still not working for us. We felt the garden lacked depth and mystery. We had stopped at a shop in the north of Holland to see about buying a couple more wrought iron rose arbors to give us some depth. We left without the money spent on the rose arbors and armed with inspiration instead after walking around in the garden of this shop. We created this instead...

The wooden pergola goes straight back to the second terrace then curves off at the last section. Once the pergola is full of climbing plants, it will lead your eye back but pull you in to walk there since you will not be able to see everything at once creating the sense of mystery. Right now, you have to use your imagination that it is covered in clematis, wisteria, climbing roses and Virginia creeper. They are all there as we took these plants from other areas and placed them against the pergola to start working some magic next spring (fingers crossed).

The bricked path is coming up next. We will change the path to curve off with the pergola and it will be a gravel pathway to add more interest. We also have section of planting that has to be dug up and replanted elsewhere now. The new line also allows us the tunneled walkway without getting in the way of the Robinia Umbraclifera or 'mop-head' Acacia tree. In planting up the section beside the tree rather than having a straight path, it will create a more secluded feel to the back terrace. I am excited to get on with a little more of the planting and the path but that will have to wait as Jos has a busy period again at work and may have to go away for a week.

This pergola was a real bargain to put together. We recycled one piece of old wood and bought the rest which came to about 88 euros. It would have cost us in the hundreds to have a gardener do the same job.

And that rose arbor? It is moving to a new area of the garden to create a more intimate sitting area. But that is a project I will share with you another day. In the meantime, the birds are enjoying the high perches from the arbor and pergolas in the garden. It is a busy place today while they come to feed which gives me a pleasant view onto my garden.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Welcome November to my home!

October flew by like a leaf falling from a tree. November is here and we are enjoying the last leaves before they are all gone while also looking forward to the winter season. It brings up feelings of cocooning in house with a warm quilt and cup of hot cocoa. Quilts are important in my home along with afghans. I love having them in most of the rooms to decorate with as well as use. You will find me most evenings wrapped up with a quilt on the couch.

Our bedroom has a couple of quilts including this one hanging on a rack. I placed it with some red accents to the front for autumn and then added a dough trough filled with leaves, toadstools and acorns. It is nice to get out old items once again. I made the bobbinlace toadstool picture years ago but still enjoy seeing it again each autumn.

What do you use in your home for comfort?

"Where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts."
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Make do and mend Mondays

This week's Make do and Mend project is Jos' work. He had bought a gate for my garden in our previous house. You can read about that garden and what inspired it here and here.

The garden gate came with us to our new house. It has taken a year but Jos has finally put the gate in. We talked to a gardener about having him put it in but the price would be astronomical to do so. I convinced Jos that he can do more than he thinks and this among them. *grins*

He bought some pressed wood boards and had them sawed to size. He then measured and dug the size we need for the concrete posts to be made. The concrete was mixed and placed directly into the hole using the pressed wood to create the square post and the long bolts inserted into place. A couple of days allowed for the concrete to set and we had our base. The posts of the gate were screwed in place.

Gate love is a wonderful thing. *wink*

Jos wants to try and create an arch of beech now to the gated area. We have a beech hedge already and had added the extra beech on the right of the gate which you can see in the photo. It is much smaller than the established hedge but time will make up for that. We will need to find to tall beech trees with a strong central stem. These will be planted just beside each gate post and eventually connected as an arch over the gate. November is the month to plant beech so we are going to start searching for two of them at garden nurseries.

Before I go on this last Monday of October (where did this month go to so quickly?), I want to wish you all a very Happy Halloween by sharing my Halloween tree...