December 4, 2016: Hola everyone! Winter has arrived in Milwaukee and there are snow flurries today. Despite several hard freezes remarkably my "spikes" in two of my patio planters have absolutely refused to die. The rosemary and thyme plants I nursed inside the house through last winter spent the summer in their pot outside next to the side stoop off the driveway, where they get plenty of sunshine all day long. I transplanted them into a cozy sheltered spot right next to the stoop in October and they are still green and growing, too! With the delay in getting the drywall patching done in the relatively minor "reconstruction" work I had done in my kitchen, I am way behind my time in getting the house decorated. But yesterday I got my wreath decked out with extra lights and dressed the front door of the house, and my battery-operated traditional candles were put up on the window sills all around the house Friday evening. It becomes a ritual to go around at dusk and turn the tops to the right to turn the candles "on" and at bedtime to go around and turn the tops to the left to turn the candles "off." Today I put some "glittery" throw pillow covers purchased new last month from H&M on three of my sofa pillows to glam things up a bit in the living room and add some sparkle. Later on, after I sufficiently fuel myself up with wine and snacks and probably to distract myself while I listen to the Packers game on the radio, I will huff and puff and pull my artificial tree up from storage in the basement. I will decorate it simply this year. Every year I say that, and every year I end up throwing just about everything except the kitchen sink on the tree. I am very proud of myself this year, though. I did not buy a single new ornament or Christmas doo-dad for the house (throw pillow covers don't count!!!) Happy Holidays to all, with hope and fervent prayers for 2017. I've a feeling we're all going to need a lot of help from Goddess in the coming year. Jan

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Mantle/Mantel Is Finished!

Hi everyone!  I hope you are enjoying this weekend.  Are you out bustling around shopping for all those door-buster bargains?  Or are you kicking back like me and enjoying quiet time at home as you go through the process of decorating for the holidays?

Decorating for the holidays wasn't something I ever did much, living by myself.  I would have a Christmas tree (for years I had a little 3-footer on a table top).  I would hang my Christmas cards, I would put lights around the windows.  That was about it!

Last year was the first attempt I ever made at decorating my mantle/mantel other than taping Christmas cards to it, coinciding with my first attempt to use French ribbon on my Christmas tree.  Here is what the mantle/mantel looked like in 2011:

Here is what 2012 looks like:

This is what the mantle/mantel looked like last night, after I'd cleared off everything that was on the wall above and on top of the fireplace and started putting things together:

As you can see, I added quite a bit more since taking this photograph last night.  Here are some more photos of the finished mantle/mantel and wallscape (is that a word?):

I don't know if I'm going to try putting ribbon on the mantle/mantel.  Looking at last year's attempt, which I thought was sooo cool at the time, it's rather icky looking, isn't it?  LOL!

Earlier today I saw an article online about making paper cut-out snowflakes -- using a TEMPLATE.  What?  That made me laugh out loud, let me tell you!  Didn't any of these people ever make cut-out snowflakes as a kid in primary school?  Well, I don't suppose kids are allowed to use scissors anymore, are they, because they might be considered a DANGEROUS WEAPON.  Ha!  But I can tell you, we sure didn't use TEMPLATES to make our snowflakes.  Teacher showed us how to fold the paper and to snip away this and that and voila!  We would have wonderful creations!  A few basic rules was what we learned, and after that, it was all up to our own imaginations to come up with incredibly-designed snowflakes.  Even after all these years (I'm 61, darlings, grade school was a long time ago) I remember those lessons with smiling fondness :)

As you can see, I filled in a lot of blank spaces and that large expanse of negative space between the wreath and the tallest elements on the mantle/mantel.  This is what I did:

(1)  I reshaped and decorated the wreath.  I realized after I turned off the lights on it last night that it was rather cock-eyed looking -- some parts looked very wide and some parts looked sort of squished together. And I thought it needed jazzing up.  So I fluffed out the faux-greenery trying to get it more balanced-looking and added some gold bead garland and some gold and silver ornaments.  I am very happy with how it turned out!

(2)  I added a pair of my cardinal greeting cards (I have a "collection" of four, LOL!) framed in two frames I purchased last week at TJ Maxx -- I haven't posted about those frames yet. They are perfect on either side of the Christmas wreath and closed up that negative space gap that still remained even after I added my 12" tall aluminum candlesticks holding 12" tall tapers!  Sorry, no close-ups of the greeting cards -- I wasn't thinking about blogging when I was in a frenzy of creative endeavor!  Instead, I kept remembering that one mantle/mantel photograph I posted yesterday -- the one with the large rectangular gold-framed mirror in the center, flanked on either side by two gold-framed pictures/paintings, and the mantle/mantel all aglow with lit-up green garland, candles and gold decorations.  I wanted to try and capture something of that look...

The cardinal cards are a couple years old.  I used an older and simpler spray-painted-gold frame to hold the third card in my collection and it is now on the wall behind the lamp on the side table next to the fireplace.  The fourth greeting card I framed last year and it can be seen both in the 2011 picture (hanging on the wall to the right of the fireplace) and in the 2012 picture now sitting on the bracket - whatever it's called (having a senior moment here, darlings, can't remember what the heck it's name is) -- see photo 2 above.  (More about this "cardinal greeting card collection" to come). 

(3)  I added several different shapes and sizes of candles and candlesticks and candle holders to introduce height and shortnesss, slenderness and plumpness, and futzed around arranging them this way and that until I was happy with the result.  Except for the mercury glass candleholders that I bought from Kirkland's a few weeks ago, everything else on the mantle/mantel I already owned -- some of the things are positively ancient.  I mixed silver-plate with brass and my tall aluminum candlesticks but the candles I added are all cream or ivory colored, and a cut glass votive, too.  I really like how it all works together.

(4)  I added my pair of gold-leaf "nut" topiaries that were a gift from one of my godchildren (niece Kimberly) years ago, when Bombay Company still had actual stores around here.  I've loved and cherished them for years, and they were perfect to add a touch of glitz and glam, and fill in some bare spots on the mantle/mantel.  I don't know if they are actually made with real nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.) but they sure look real. It may also be just gold spray paint, but if it is spray paint it's held up remarkably well after all these years (probably 28 or 29 years), so that's why I call it "gold leaf;" that just sounds sexier and more exclusive, too.

(5)  I added a silverplate bell and candy dish.  I believe they were from Avon many many moons ago.  I don't remember buying them, I think Mom probably gave them to me at one point -- she used to buy lots of Avon stuff.  The bell, the candy dish, a bud vase, and a few other pieces, have sat in a kitchen cabinet for years, slowly turning black with tarnish.  I wanted to use the bell because it reminds me of Christmas and I wanted to anchor the left side of the t.v. with it.   To clean the tarnish, I tried a method I'd read about online that doesn't use harsh chemicals or stuff you buy at the store, and is gentle on the fragile silverplate. Using a Corningware casserole dish large enough to hold the object, I lined it with aluminum foil shiny side up, and added baking soda, salt, and boiling water.  Voila!  It worked! After I rinsed the objects in cool water and dried them with soft cloths, nearly all of the tarnish was either vanished completely or mostly gone.  You can see in some of the photos, above, how wonderful this old silverplate bell and candy dish now look (the candy dish holds three ornaments).  A note: Don't use a metal dish or bowl to clean the objects, don't do it in a stainless steel sink -- there is some sort of chemical reaction that happens that removes the silverplate.  That's what all of the websites I read about this cleaning technique at said and I take them at their word.

(6)  To the extent possible, I introduced symmetry into my design, since I seem to be so attracted to it (see yesterday's post with the inspiration photos, and you'll see what I'm talking about).  So, as nearly as possible because the proporations are thrown slightly off by having the t.v. on top of the mantle/mantel, I centered the evergreen floral arrangement, and centered the faux-greenery wreath above that on the wall.  They're not perfectly centered, but the design still works because they're not too far off center.  The human eye is amazingly forgiving sometimes :)  You're probably wondering why I just don't center the t.v. on top of the mantle/mantel.  It's because of the cord -- it's not long enough to reach the electrical outlet on the left side of the fireplace about a foot off the floor unless I add an extension cord.  I have read that one is not supposed to use a "regular" extension cord on televisions and and I don't want to add another bulky cord to my mix.  It's impossible to hide them with my present configuration of where the outlet is!  There are no outlets on top of the mantle/mantel -- that is something I would like to add in the future, if and when my budget ever allows.  That's why the t.v. is on the left side of the mantle/mantel, as close to the center as I can get the cord to stretch. 

I also added the framed cardinal greeting cards now flanking the wreath, the tall aluminum candlesticks with 12" ivory tapers on either side of the centerpiece, and the gold-leaf "nut" topiaries also on either side of the centerpiece.  Mainly, though, I was trying for an eye-pleasing balance and to fill in the blank spaces and connect the wreath to the arrangement on the mantle/mantel.  You don't want too much stuff on one side, and not enough on the other side. Oh my, how I danced the Decorator's Waltz, going back and forth, placing something, then stepping back to look at it; then placing something else, and stepping back again to look at it, over and over again.  You know -- that dance -- moving this way and that, this thing and that thing, until it's perfect for me (well, good enough is just fine, too). 

I'm not sure I'm finished with this year's version of Christmas mantle/mantel; I may add a few tweaks here and there.  But I want to get busy on the tree...

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