While you are trimming trees and wreathing evergreens, also take the time to reflect upon your life, your goals, and your blessings. Appreciate what you possess and make a silent vow to improve tangible and intangible areas of your life, and your character. These small acts can richly enhance your joy of living.
Decking the halls for the winter is in itself an act of generosity and love. It is by consistent, small, considerate actions that you can elevate the season’s pleasures beyond the realm of obligation. The following suggestions are designed to inspire you. They offer unique and creative ways in which you may inexpensively dress your home for Christmas, thus extending to family and friends visible evidence of your caring.
Enhancing a Little
Make a small tree seem much larger by setting it atop a trunk or a table, to give it height. Drape a floor-length tablecloth over the table before situating the tree, then use the remaining area of the tabletop to set gifts upon. Surround the floor around the tree-laden table with various sizes and shapes of attractive baskets, prop open an antique trunk, or display a doll’s stroller (one year we placed our antique wicker bassinet near the tree as part of our holiday decorating).
Use these vessels to display a stuffed bear or doll collection; to collect an overflow of presents; and/or to hold a bounty of dried flowers or pinecones. A child’s chair, or attractive doll furniture, placed nearby, with a doll or stuffed bear nestled in it (and dressed for the holidays) is another whimsical touch that allows a little to seem like more.
I’ve been collecting cookie cutters for over a dozen years; I find these to be fun, frugal, and useful items. Throughout the year I purchase them new, often at sale prices, or vintage at yard sales, thrift shops, and flea markets. Needless to say, I have an overabundance of them. So, during the holidays, I often choose my favorite cookie cutters and, using ribbon, hang them from the tree as ornaments. I have also been known to dangle a small collection of my prettiest cutters from tiny cup hooks placed on the inside of my wood window trim.
I enhance my lovingly collected treasures with the blessings of nature from my garden, the produce department at the grocery store, or clippings garnered from neighboring trees and shrubs (always with permission). Occasionally I secure my most festive teacups onto garlands that surround windows and doorways, by threading a sturdy, attractive ribbon through the cup handles, and tying them firmly onto a well-supported portion of the garland.
I have yet to lose one to breakage, but several have been commandeered by friends who fell in love with a particular design. If you are reluctant to risk your good cups in this manner, consider acquiring attractive teacups of lesser quality or value (such as those with hairline cracks or small chips) exclusively for this purpose. You may also embellish holiday trees in a like manner, and holiday wreaths look enchanting with child-size china teacups attached to them.
A collection of old mason canning jars, especially tinted ones, filled with sand (about a quarter to a third full depending upon the size of your candle and jar) in which you have placed a votive candle can embellish the holiday mood. Place this collection on your windowsill, on the fireplace mantel, or in the center of your table. Leave the lid off (perhaps propped against the side of the jar) and enjoy the glow of candlelight. Or you can combine tinted and/or clear mason jars (perhaps in graduating sizes) and loosely fill them up with a curled strand of tiny white Christmas lights (electric or battery operated). Embellish the rims of select jars with raffia, or tulle bows, and enjoy the lovely results.
Tip of the Pinecone
Before using pinecones to decorate you may wish to place them on a cookie sheet, in a warm oven (about 250°) for about an hour. The heat will cause the cones to “blossom” and thus open more fully. (And the scent is enhanced as well--at least while they are warm.)
Ornaments are not only for your tree. Use them to spice up gift packages, to hang on doorknobs, as window-shade pulls, as place cards at a party, or pile an old collection in a clear glass vase, or on a cake plate, to display as a centerpiece.
Adorn your holiday home with attractive vintage books. Think of books as art objects and display them as you would your favorite collectibles. Wrap a group of three with attractive ribbon, as you would a gift. If they are of no further use as books (perhaps damaged or outdated), spray the covers with gold, silver, or white spray paint and wrap with ribbon. Use these as a pedestal-type base on which to display flowers, baskets, ceramic figurines of angels, and the like.
Last year I found some very attractive heart-shaped notepads. Each paper was embellished with roses and ivy. So infatuated was I with their motif that I decided to find a way to hang them on my holiday tree as ornaments. I easily reinforced them by sandwiching two pieces of notepaper over a thin layer of cardboard. While I was watching a favorite movie classic, I cut two dozen heart shapes out of card stock (I recycled the backs of old greeting cards for this purpose, using a piece of the notepaper as my template). Next, I glued one notepaper onto each side of the heart with a glue stick. Using a small paper-punch, I made a hole at the top of each heart in which to loop a piece of ribbon for hanging. The results were, for under four dollars and an hour and a half of my time, a unique set of pretty ornaments for the tree.
If you live in a warm climate as we do, you may find that the leaves from most citrus and eucalyptus trees are lovely and fragrant at this time of year. These types of leaves hold up quite well--looking lovely even after several weeks. Trace a mantel, outline a doorway, and thread or curve these gifts of nature into circles of celebration.
Fruits of the Season
Bowls of fresh fruits and nuts--lemons, limes, oranges, pomegranates, apples, pecans, walnuts--are lovely holiday statements. Place fruits in your most attractive bowls in strategic areas of your home--perhaps inserting a sprig of rosemary or pine as an embellishment. If your house doesn’t get overly warm in winter, the fruit should last for at least two weeks (be sure to choose only the freshest, unblemished fruits for this job--and check periodically and remove any moisture in the bottom of the bowls).
After the holidays have passed you may wish to use the fruit and nuts in baking and cooking. Commercially freeze-dried or dehydrated fruits are available as well. These are much lighter in weight than fresh fruit (and are not edible), and may be reused for several years; however, they are much more expensive. You may also slice and dry apples, oranges, and other citrus fruits. These dried fruits are lovely as tree ornaments or to enhance a homemade potpourri.
For a rustic, old-time effect, drape an old quilt--not a valuable one--around the base of your tree instead of using a tree skirt. Or use tablecloths, bedcovers, and curtains that have irreparable damage or stains on them. Just pleat the cloth to hide the damaged areas as you wind it around the base of your tree. To make a more whimsical statement, I have used a very ruffled, layered, vintage petticoat as a (literal) tree skirt. Ours had an elastic waistband, and was easily slipped under the bottom of the tree before we decorated it.
Prisms of Light
Ever since I saw the movie Pollyanna years and years ago, in which the title character opens the heart of a bitter old woman by showing her the magic of rainbows inside chandelier glass, I have been a collector of crystal chandelier prisms. I often take them from dilapidated light fixtures found at yard sales and flea markets. Cleaned and sparkling, these make lovely additions to your holiday tree, imparting the look of sparkling icicles. When the light catches the crystals they cast tiny rainbows throughout the room.
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