Friday, December 28, 2012

A White Christmas

Between gifts from family and friends and of course, Santa Claus, we had quite the bundle to be thankful for this Christmas. 

My favorite Christmas present from Mike was his thoughtfulness. He stayed up late Christmas Eve and unbeknownst to me (as I was fast asleep), he tidied the house and baked all sorts of things while waiting up for Santa. 

He even took the time to write all the dishes down on the kitchen chalkboard. 

How cute is that? 

The dishes with the (v) are vegan dishes as we are striving to be more and more vegan each day. 

He baked Sweet Potato muffins (vegan). 
They were amazing! He found the recipe here.  

Take 1: 
This is the face I get when I ask Mike to pose for a picture. 

Take 2: 
This is him contemplating my request to smile like he means it. 

Here he is with his pumpkin pie made with the last of our garden pumpkins. 
He used this pie crust recipe but substituted spelt flour for the white flour. 


Anyone have a fabulous vegan pumpkin pie recipe to share? 

I spied a little still life as I wandered through his bustling kitchen and asked, "Is this wine?" 
He had poured the wine to eliminate the sediment from the older bottle, and to let it breathe a little. 

Was he surprised that I took a picture of his breathing wine? Probably not. 

This Golden Lentil Stew is a new favorite. I think the special ingredient is the chopped dates, along with the combination of the sweeter spices and more pungent herbs. 
This dish is so good over roasted herb potatoes. 
Here is the recipe, although we opted to not add the pasta. 

Outside, the snow fell and covered each and every branch and limb that the eye could see. 

The stillness of that first snow fall is always quite magical. 

I hope that the holiday season is warming hearth and soul. 


Happy New Year. 


Friday, December 21, 2012

Gift Wrapping

Now don't you think that jingle bells just make a present all the more fun? 
A gift that jingles is a gift that smiles. 

I also love a gift adorned with fresh cedar clippings. 
The aroma of the wintry woods is always memorable.  

More cedar clippings and jingle bells...

And one of my favorite ways to honor antique lace is to use it to wrap a special gift. 
You can find such beautiful remnants of it here and there. If the lace is longer than needed, I usually wrap it around twice so that I don't have to cut it. 


My Grandmother believed that the package in which a gift is wrapped is just as important as the gift that's in it.

I will never forget the time when I was a little girl and wrapped my Grandmother's Christmas present with aluminum foil. I had grabbed a Christmas pin (a kitten in a red stocking) from my drawer (that's childhood Christmas shopping for you) and then proceeded to the kitchen to find my wrapping paper.

I tore a piece of foil off the roll, put the Christmas pin in the middle and then just scrunched it up real tight, squeezing it for good measure.

When I gave my gift to my Grandmother that night, she looked at me with such affection in her eyes and said, "Darling, did you wrap this?"

I nodded proudly as she proceeded to very delicately unwrap my wad of foil. She loved the pin but I think she loved the wrapping more.

She wore the pin each and every Christmas thereafter and every time I saw it, it reminded me of how happy it made her.

Aluminum foil and all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I am overwhelmed with sadness.  
My heart is heavy with unbearable grief for the precious lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary. 

The teachers. 
The staff. 
The children. 

The beautiful children. 

The families who will grieve for them for the rest of their lives. 

It's just too much for the heart to bear.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'Tis the Season

The house is filled with flowers, cedar clippings, and a Christmas tree not yet decorated. 

I draped cedar clippings around the chandelier. I love the contrast between the organic and the crystal. 

I just love this time of year. 

White poinsettias are always a favorite of mine. I could fill the entire house with them but I only put them up high and out of reach of little arms.

These are clippings from a broken plant that toppled over. The cuttings last wonderfully long. 

I always start out with more elaborate plans for the mantle, but in the end left it sparse as usual. I just love the simplicity of evergreens all on their own. 

I made the little wreaths using some floral wire. I saw this in a magazine years ago and I'm just  getting around to doing it this Christmas. 

I didn't get a chance to force paper whites or amaryllis this year.  Perhaps for the New Year? They go on sale soon after Christmas, so perhaps I'll indulge then. 

The little cedar wreaths make the familiar so much more festive. 

The tree is standing with lots of lights (and hopefully freshly watered...why do I always think of checking the water late at night?), but not yet decorated. 

We'll see if we get to that before Christmas! 

We are finding enough time to eat lots of festive foods however. Mike made a pumpkin pie from the garden pumpkins and then there's those Christmas cookies... I just bought some fresh organic apple cider with some mulling spices, and hope that a warm cup of that is going to replace all desire for Christmas sweets. 

I'll let you know how that goes. 

Happy holiday season to you and yours. 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Behind the Scenes: Christmas Shoot

All photos from this post were taken by Max Kim-Bee for Country Living magazine. 

Now that Christmas is just around the corner, I've been thinking about decorations, greenery and other odds and ends to make the house warm and festive for the holiday. It's reminded me that I have been meaning to write a Behind the Scenes post on the Christmas photo shoot that Country Living featured our house in last year

As someone who has been devouring the pages of home magazines for years, I was fascinated how the stylist (Lili Diallo) and photographer (Max Kim-Bee) pulled everything together. Even though the photo shoot was over a year ago, I thought I'd take the opportunity share some of the behind the scene tidbits on the images taken of our home. It's a good excuse to look back at the festive images they created during their visit. 

The family portrait was the last shot of the whole photo shoot. It was taken late in the day as the photographer wanted to evoke the light provided by a winter sky, as much as was possible in July when the shoot actually took place. It was one of the many shots that was pulled together quickly, they had us ready in less than fifteen minutes. 

The weather was unseasonably cool that week, so considering that it was mid-July pulling on wool sweaters wasn't actually too hard to do. The photographer Max Kim Bee, his assistant Kevin, Sheri Geller and Lili from Country Living, and my mom were all jumping up and down making all sorts of hilarious sounds behind the camera trying to get the babies' attention. It worked! Oh my, Graham and Margaret look so little in this photo!

The brass lantern is one I bought years ago at Home Goods. Kevin took fishing line and hung it from a camera boom to simulate it being mounted on the wall. The firewood was collected by Mike and it was funny because when he brought the wood over to the porch, I asked Lili if she thought that they were the right color! She responded without pause, and requested to exchange a few of the pieces for warmer-colored ones. Mike was familiar with requests like that from me for the photos I take for the blog, so it made me laugh to know that I wasn't the only person who ruminated over things like that.   

The garland was shipped in from New York and had previously been used on the mantel in the living room. 

Lili requested that I pick out a large bushy Christmas tree. That seemed easy enough, but when you're standing amongst the rows upon rows of trees at the Christmas tree farm, it's really hard to tell just how big/small/wide/narrow each one really is until you get it inside. So we picked out three. The above was the fullest of the three. 

Did you know that when you cut down a Christmas tree in mid-July the new shoots will droop? You can see that if you look closely, although I think they may have photoshopped the droopiest ones out. 

The holly-esque greenery on the mantle is actually native Oregon grape that Lili picked from our yard. It worked beautifully as holly in July but typically turns orange and yellow come fall. 

Lili had sent a bunch of wrapping paper and gorgeous French satin ribbon to wrap the gifts, but we ended up using paper that I had on hand from previous Christmases. I wrapped the presents that are in the photo, while holding a baby in my Ergo. Lili also had me help decorate the Christmas tree as it was really important to her that the styling reflect my tastes as much as possible. That was a surprise to me, but a welcome one. 

The star on the Christmas tree was one I picked up years ago for $10. I've never seen anything like it since, but it's just a plastic star that lights up with white lights. The other Christmas ornaments, besides the red cardinals, were all shipped in for the shoot. They were mostly from Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel I believe. 

I really like the Christmas tree in the corner and thought about placing it there last Christmas but the proximity to the fireplace concerned me as I knew the tree would dry out quickly.

When Lili initially contacted me about featuring the house, she said that she liked the white poinsettias I had used in some of my photographs of the living room that are on the blog. But poinsettias were not available in July so she ordered gorgeous white amaryllis that were shipped in from the flower market in New York. 

Whenever I see this picture, I think of the day I bought the burlap runner at Pottery Barn several years ago - on sale for $19.99. It was one of those purchases that I hemmed and hawed about...would I really use it? 

The Oregon grape is seen again here on the table. I really love how they used just green and white, with just a touch of red from the transfer ware. 

My $24.99 Target slipcovers cleaned up well - my mom and I washed and ironed them just before the shoot. Lili had me hang the wreath, which I did while holding Margaret! They sent the round wreath pictured above as well as a square wreath, but the square one ended up not being used. 

The red transfer ware was my Grandmother's and the wine glasses were a wedding present. The brass candlesticks were from purchases I made over the years from Goodwill and a from few antique stores. 

I really love how Lili, Sheri and Max styled the dining room. It's so crisp. 

Did you notice that the counter tops were darkened for the final image? I think it's a nice look, a little more modern than their actual lighter color suggests. All of the items on the shelves were ours, just rearranged professionally by Lili. 

This room was by far the most fascinating to watch Lili style as she was using the same objects that I have been dilly-dallying with for years. To see how she arranged the same pieces, sometimes differently and sometimes the same, was so interesting. 

Also, I have taken so many pictures of these open shelves over the years that I was so intrigued that they included part of the chalk board in the image. I usually crop that out, not sure why, but I thought it looked really nice including it. 

I had ordered a new oval braided jute rug for the shoot but a rectangular one arrived, which I hadn't realized until I unpacked it a few days prior to their arrival. So Mike took the old rug out on the porch and gave it a good cleaning.

When Kevin and my mom went out to get everyone lunch that first afternoon, Lili asked them to bring back a few pears. So the pears are from that lunch excursion. 

The bedroom was the first room they photographed. I had made the bed that morning holding Margaret so when I found out they were going to start in the bedroom, I immediately thought I should run upstairs and remake the bed. But Lili said that imperfection was actually better. Let me tell you that it I had to restrain myself on that one. 

I did not realize that they were going to take pictures of the dresser. I managed to dust it beforehand but that was about it. Lili removed Joan of Arc due to her religious connotations and put the portrait in its place. I never would have thought of putting the portrait there, and love how it looks. 

After seeing the dresser in the magazine, I thought I had too many brass picture frames so I've since mixed it with more silver and other cooler tones to balance it out. I'll have to do a post on that soon. 

After receiving a few emails from readers about the danger of the owl print above the crib despite being anchored in two places, I actually took it down and put a much smaller version of that same print in its place. When Lili arrived, she requested the larger version so I quickly did some re-framing (I had to steal the frame back from the bathroom wall). All of the toys and books and the little Moses basket are items that were from the nursery. 

Again, I was surprised by this as I imagined that special toys were going to be shipped in to look just right. But Lili was a firm believer in having the space be as authentic as possible. 

The little blue vintage pillow in the crib is one I bought years ago, perhaps in my young twenties, and stored away for a future nursery. I always think of that when I see this shot. 

The damask throw was something I picked up at Home Goods some time ago. I loved how Lili tied in all the blues...from the throw, the pillow, and the books. 

The day before Lili arrived, I asked my mom to pick up a fern while she was at the grocery store. I had not intended for it to be used in the shot. What's funny is that the plant was way too small for the planter it's photographed in, so I had to place it on an upside-down bowl in the planter to make the fern look bigger. 

The ducks are Graham and Margaret's bath buddies, and were tucked away on the bathroom sink counter when Max thought it would be fun to throw them in the shot. The linen-colored towel is actually an old tablecloth of mine. 

As we were walking back to the house after taking some family portraits out by the barn, I overhead Lili say to the photographer Max...Yes, let's do a close up of the inside of the drawer. 

For some reason, I did not make the connection that she meant one my drawers! It only donned on me when I saw Max setting up his camera equipment with the drawers opened that it hit me. I kind of panicked and said, should I just tidy up a bit? 

So in a few brief minutes I attempted to tidy up the above drawer (and its neighboring one). If you look closely, I'm afraid that you may see DUST on the Martha Stewart cutlery!  

So those are a few behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the shoot. I actually didn't really know how much of the house they planned on shooting until a week beforehand. I believe we were trying to clean and running out of time so I asked Lili which rooms we should focus our attention on, and that's when she said the whole house! 

Also, because we were new parents of twins we really didn't have any extra time to do much to the house before the shoot besides just clean and do little tasks like finally fill the nail holes in quarter- round base, etc.

I did not change anything or style anything before Lili arrived as I assumed that she would change everything anyway. But she was a firm believer in having the owner's personal style come through. So even though I encouraged her to change things as she saw fit (I explained that I hadn't really fiddled with the house decor since I was in my second trimester of pregnancy), she didn't waiver. Looking back, I probably would have put a little more time into making things just right before everyone arrived. 

It has been a busy couple of months around here. Between trips to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving and our earlier fall getaway, we've been gone for a month combined during October and November this year. Add in the recent visit from Country Living for the guest house between those trips, and here we are in December! But we're awfully excited for the holiday season that is upon us. We're off to select a Christmas tree this afternoon. Look forward to sharing a few scenes from this most festive of season over the next few weeks.

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