Quick and easy ways to create Christmas cheer

Posted On December 17, 2006

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Holiday decorating would be a snap if only we all had some combination of the following >
> Infinite free time
> The skills of a floral designer
> A couple of crates of family heirloom ornaments
> The budget and staff to help

Most of us are lacking some or all of the above. But that’s still no excuse for a home whose only nod to the Christmas Season, decor-wise, is one of those inflatables on the lawn. Adding a few festive touches can be simple and easy. Holiday decorating should not be a big, overwhelming chore, and simple doesn’t mean you can’t have a rich, elegant look.

Provided you make use of these tips >

* Gather clear glass vases, pitchers and hurricanes of different sizes and fill them with assorted round ornaments. Arrange them on a dining table, a mantel or windowsill.

* Set pillar candles inside small wreaths, real or fake, and use them as centerpieces or on a mantel.

* Dress up a grouping of framed pictures on a wall by tying small sprigs of greenery with narrow red ribbon and attaching them to the frames.

* Decorate a window with ornaments hung on ribbons.

* Pile candy canes into a clear glass vase or a silver bowl and add some sprigs of greenery.

* Make a “candlescape” using five holiday-hued pillar candles, all the same color, but in different sizes. Arrange on a platter or cake plate with sprigs of holly or other greenery. Or arrange white taper candles in holders of different height for a dramatic look.

* Instead of buying or making a wreath, dress up your front door by filling a small but deep basket with different types of greenery, pinecones and berries. Attach a wide piece of ribbon to the basket and secure it to the top of the door.

* Lack a Christmas tablecloth? Make a runner out of three pieces of wide ribbon spaced 3 inches apart. Anchor by placing candles on top.

* If you want to go on record this Christmas Season giving people permission to light those candles, then go to people’s houses, you will notice they have all these candles and none of them are lit. Yet candlelight creates such a beautiful ambience.

* Follow the advice of your Home Safety Council, though, which points out that home fires caused by candles peak during the holiday season. Keep candles out of reach of children and pets, and away from draperies, and never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time.

* Finally, don’t forget to use your backyard as a decorating resource. Cut tall branches, both bare and evergreen, to arrange in a vase you can tie with a ribbon.

* Use a section of bare branch to make a “twig tree” decorated with miniature ornaments.

* Or gather pinecones or sprigs of holly to enhance your store-bought wreaths and garland.

Fifteen Christmas decorating ideas

Posted On December 15, 2006

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Decorating your home for the holidays does not need be stressful or expensive. Being one of the most popular times of the year to decorate, get your family involved and have fun making your home beautiful for the Christmas Season. Here are 15 Christmas decorating ideas >

1. Display your favorite Christmas collections. If you don’t have a collection, now is a great time to start! My dad and I collect nutcrackers and every year we have a wonderful time selecting just the right one. With a permanent marker, I write the year on the bottom of the nutcracker. Not only do we enjoy looking at the nutcrackers during the holidays, we also enjoying the fond memories of selecting them.

2. Make simple bows out of Christmas ribbons and attach them to your curtains with pins. This is a very charming look.

3. Decorate your house plants by hanging small Christmas ornaments on them.

4. Place a collection of Christmas books on your coffee table.

5. Fill a glass bowl with pine cones and Christmas balls and place on a shelf or table.

6. Wrap your staircase banister with indoor Christmas lights, garland, and bows.

7. To add scent throughout your home, tie 5 or 6 cinnamon sticks together in a bundle using Christmas ribbon. Make as many bundles as you wish and place around your home in baskets or bowls.

8. To decorate your table, tie Christmas ribbon to the stems of glasses and/or handles of cutlery

9. To dress up your chairs, tie Christmas bows around the chair so that the bow is on the back of the chair.

10. Using a small brush or qtip, paint the edges of pine cones with glittery gold craft paint. After the pine cones dry, place them in a decorative basket.

11. Add Christmas garland to door frames, window frames and mirrors. You can use tape to secure the garland to the surfaces.

12. Tie bows around door knobs using festive and colorful Christmas ribbon.

13. Attach garland and Christmas bows to your chandelier. You can also weave strings of red beads in the garland that will dangle down from your chandelier and reflect the light, which will add sparkle.

14. If you live in a milder climate, consider decorating with Amaryllis plants. These beautiful plants come in red and white, grow tall, and provide a very elegant look.

15. Don’t forget to decorate your fireplace mantel and hang your Christmas stockings. A few fireplace mantel decorating ideas are adding garland, different styles and sizes of Santas, teddy bears, and candles. You can also display your favorite nativity scene if you have a large enough mantel.

Be creative with your fireplace mantel because most mantels are the focal point during the holiday season. Another decorating idea for your mantel is to purchase a bunch of miniature rosemary trees shaped like Christmas trees, add mini ornaments to them and line them up across your mantel. These miniature rosemary trees are readily available during the holidays and come in festive containers.

Christmas decorating is a great time to create traditions and spend quality time with your family. Get out some snacks and drinks and create a little “decorating party” that you’re family will love and look forward to year after year.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Add a bit of Christmas cheer

Posted On December 14, 2006

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It’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, gold, twigs and a wealth of other things that come to hand. We do have some ideas!

CHRISTMAS is the time when our homes come alive and with just two weeks until Christmas Eve, why not embrace that festive feeling? The Romans kept lamps burning in their homes to ward off evil spirits and candles burning in their windows to call back the sun or to symbolise enlightenment for the New Year. In the Middle Ages, both in churches and homes, it was the custom to set up and light one large candle on Christmas Eve in remembrance of the Star of Bethlehem, which announced the coming of the Light of the world.

Today an abundance of electrical Christmas lights and countless decorations are available and people the world over go to great lengths to make this time of year, and their homes, feel special. Take a look at our 51 Sensational Seasonal Ideas – find what works for you – and be inspired!

1. Bring Christmas cheer to your dining table with a vibrant colour combination of red and white. Lift a plain white tablecloth by adding a floral centrepiece with a red theme, then place red charger plates beneath white crockery, use red napkin rings on white napkins, and top off with two or three arrangements of red candles and berries.

2. Stuff a striking, clear vase with cordless fairy lights. Switch on for instant glow.

3. Add a glittery touch to Christmas wreaths. Wind some of the latest LED lights around yours or buy one of the sparkly varieties available in shops.

4. Go for elegance with white lilies and cream church candles for a gorgeous centrepiece for your dining table. The popularity of candles never wanes as candlelight has an enchanting quality which single-handedly transforms a room.

5. Make a wave of candlelight all along the length of your dining table using candles in increasing sizes to form a crescendo of light. Don’t go too high, make sure your guests can still have a clear view of each other across the table.

6. Create a cosy feel with sweet-smelling cinnamon, orange, bergamot, and spice-scented tea lights arranged around the room.

7. Place three votive candles inbetween five topiary trees tied with simple silver, red, gold, or green ribbon.

8. Glittery silver tea light holders will create a sparkly look once filled and lit. Find these at Debenhams, along with charger plates and other silver accessories.

9. If you are entertaining, and if you have a front garden, one of the loveliest and cheapest effects is to create a pathway to your door with lanterns or even a simple line or two of tea lights.

10. The latest colour trend at Marks & Spencer is midnight blue, and has inspired their new Christmas collection of home decorations and accessories. Midnight blue Christmas trees, baubles and even a flamboyant feather wreath are among the selection. This deep blue creates drama and looks good combined with silver and white. The impression will be fresh and crisp as well as festive.

11. Layer midnight blue with black, amethyst and gold for a luxurious effect.

12. A touch of frost can be combined in various ways to create that Christmas feel. Frosted white glassware, sparkly silver table mats, coasters, or table runners give a modern, sophisticated look. Soften with the gentle glow of a large, white pillar candle. Complete your dinner table with white tableware.

13. Create a magical white scheme with a fairytale feel. Use silver or glass candlesticks, cut-glass goblets or frost-patterned glasses. Make sure the table sparkles as much as the conversation by dotting it with twinkling silver confetti, beads or crystals, better still use all three!

14. Shake up the frosty look by adding the most delicate lilac, rose, soft green or shimmering light blue accessories. If you fancy doing something really special, revamp your rooms with calming, frosty paint shades in one of these fresh shades.

15. Berry red or deep plum look great combined with gold. Add texture with silk, velvet, or satin table runners and matching napkins.

16. If you have a brown leather suite with cream cushions, pack these away for the season and replace with cushions and accessories of turquoise and/or silver. Debenhams have a good selection of both, in vases, ornaments and soft furnishings. You may like the look so much you decide to keep it!

17. Remember, you don’t need to use everything in your Christmas box, yuletide décor does not need to look cluttered. Your objective is to achieve harmony. Everything in your room should work together. Ideally, use the same theme throughout your home and garden.

18. Hang Swarovski crystals from strategic places to give that twinkling feeling. Drape a crystal drop curtain at the window or over the mantelpiece to bounce glittering light around the room.

19. Turn your favourite Christmas cards into a stylish feature by suspending them on different lengths of silver twine, and weighing down each string with a sparkling decoration to reflect sun or candlelight.

20. Be creative with baubles! Buy large oversized baubles and hang them outside for a bright welcoming touch.

21. Use a tall clear plain vase, or a bowl, to display your favourite baubles. Place in the centre of your table as a centrepiece, or on side or hallway tables.

22. Give your presents a unique touch this year. Cover them in layers of white tissue paper, tied with silver twine and a small Christmas decoration.

23. Alternatively, wrap gifts in colourful tissue paper layers, tie with brightly coloured ribbons, and finish with pretty crystal beads.

24. Go for the natural look and wrap gifts with plain brown paper and raffia, add a piece of sparkle with silver or gold string, and a glitzy matching gift tag.

25. Wow your guests with one or two key pieces for maximum impact on a low budget, rather than lots of little bits and pieces that will disappear into the background. Try two potted trees made with willow twigs and fairy lights in tall elegant pots, standing either side of a doorway to create drama.

26. If you have a fireplace your mantelpiece will become a focal point. Try to create colour, texture, and balance within a theme you have chosen. Don’t try to put everything on your mantel. Pick a theme and stick to it!

27. For a contemporary look use repetition and symmetry, odd numbers of objects work best. Use simple objects and repeat them several times.

28. For a natural look to your mantelpiece, gather some branches such as willow, or twigs. Stand branches up in narrow vases or lay them on the mantel, layering them so that the cut ends show as little as possible. Hang ornaments from them and complete with natural greenery such as pine and moss, pinecones, and grapevine balls and intertwine with ribbon.

29. Traditional mantelpieces look beautiful swagged or layered with natural greenery, traditional ribbons and bows in satin, velvet or taffeta, mini white lights or ivory votives and artificial, sugared fruit.

30. Place one or two mini evergreen trees in clay pots, spray-painted silver or gold, if you wish, near a doorway and add mini white lights. Alternatively, place two large topiary trees either side of your front door and adorn with fairy lights.

31. The Ancient Greeks regarded mistletoe as a charm against evil. Romance has since taken over its meaning. Hang above your entrance doorway or from strategic places around your home or use mistletoe in your arrangements so that it can be easily grabbed for that fleeting kiss.

32. Make a dinner table centrepiece by filling a simple glass bowl with water, add floating candles or tea lights. Alternatively, fill a shallow bowl with a little water, place a large candle in the centre, and sprinkle in a handful of delicate rose petals.

33. Place a tall candle on a silver, gold, or coloured platter. Surround with greenery or twigs and add embellishments in the form of sparkly decorations.

34. Hang droplet-style decorations to chandeliers.

35. Drape lights along your banister to light up the stairway.

36. Tie cutlery with festive ribbons for an elegant plain setting.

37. Create a special presentation box by grouping some gifts together. Wrap items with tissue paper and ribbons.

38. Check out some of the variations of fairy lights in the shops. Hang over and around your front entrance for a cheery feel.

39. Combine Christmas-themed china with your everyday crockery.

40. For a cosy Christmas bedroom, team plain bed linen with soft throws. Surround yourself with a selection of sumptuous, beautiful textures.

41. Get creative, make your own decorative arrangements, using pine cones, evergreen foliage, ribbon, and whatever else comes to mind.

42. Sew an elegant table runner. Visit a local fabric shop and choose a fabric that will go with your theme.

43. Follow a theme when decorating your Christmas tree, ivory and gold, pearlescent blue, pastels, all white, burgundy, deep red with gold, or white and silver, are a few possibilities. White lights will look best with these combinations.

44. For a burst of colour, decorate your tree with rich jewel tones of emerald green, sapphire blue, red, gold, purple and red, and combine with multi-coloured fairy lights.

45. Enjoy a festive real fire, gather scented kindling, such as pine cones, bunches of dried herbs and strips of dried orange peel.

46. Cut fine slices of orange, place on a baking tray in a low oven for 90 minutes. Remove and leave to dry out. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, nutmeg, star anise, and pine cones. Place in a bowl and enjoy the natural aromas.

47. Find a florist, there are some florists which stand out. Order a large, beautiful flower arrangement or centrepiece and transform your room in one fell swoop.

48. The hallway is the first room your guests will see so make it festive and homely using some of the tricks listed here. Also, display groups of beautifully wrapped presents, and hang up Christmas stockings.

49. Decorate glassware, invest in a set of markers to wrap around the stems of your Christmas party glasses. These glass charms offer a decorative way to remind your guests whose drink is whose.

50. Scent sheets of gift wrap with a couple of drops of essential oil to make fragrant drawer liners.

51. Go for gold, add touches of gold and gilded accessories for an opulent feel in your home. Use gold polished tableware when entertaining. Place your favourite photographs in elegant gold frames, and display eye-catching fresh flowers in a tall vase for a hint of glamour.

Selections Christmas 2006 for the festive dinner table

“Selections Christmas 2006” for the festive dinner table

A dark green tablecloth, red placemats and napkins, silver-plated candlesticks, clear crystal wine goblets for wine, red for water, and crockery with a Christmas theme.

The Christmas Season is almost upon us. Already bazaars are being held and shop windows being decorated. An exhibition dedicated to “Art de la Table” is being organized for this weekend by the mother-and-daughter decorating team of Eleni Aroni and Athina Aroni-Kanta of the design firm Kleomenous 9 SA, at the Athens Plaza Hotel in Syntagma Square, in downtown Athens.

“Selections Christmas 2006” includes crystal ware, china, silver, objets d’art, jewelry, antiques, furniture, carpets and other decorative pieces. Visitors to the exhibition, held in conjunction with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Association, are invited to make a contribution to the association’s fund. A lottery will also be held for the same purpose.

Semeli and GAEA will be providing wine and appetizers. Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Get that green house effect with wreaths > II

The faux route > Some artificial wreaths are still indescribably cheap looking, but in general the makers of faux wreaths have raised the standard in the past three years.

The faux offerings include a spruce wreath that has subtle differences in tones of green and a white pine wreath that includes the brown needles one associates with pines at this time of year.

A fresh, conditioned wreath may remain that way for two to three weeks indoors, its decline is hastened in hot, dry rooms and near fireplaces or heating registers and by a lack of sealant. If you want a fresh wreath for a party in early December, consider replacing it near Christmas with another you have purchased early and kept cool.

You can find wreath frames that will keep live greens watered, but generally those are not found in ready-made wreaths. Haynie says one of the most effective forms is a ring of Oasis foam that is moistened and then wrapped.

It is also worth noting that a fresh wreath sandwiched between a door and a glazed storm door will cook in its own greenhouse. Put it on the outer door or to the side.

On wreaths > A wreath loses its cheer once the needles curl and the berries start to fall. Keep it fresh with these steps:

  • Cut greenery now before it dries in the cold December winds. Or buy it early before it dries out on store shelves. Hose the greens well and keep them in plastic trash bags in a cold room until needed. The day before use, re-cut the stems and soak for several hours in warm water.
  • Soak a ready-made wreath and store it in a plastic bag, as with fresh greens, until time to decorate and hang. Soak and allow to drain before use.
  • Deciduous holly (sometimes called ilex) berries hold up well, especially if the stems are stored in water before use. American holly soon dries and drops its berries unless treated: Remove the leaves and spray the berries with a florist’s glaze. Allow to dry and repeat three times.
  • Dried or fresh, herbs add fragrance and natural beauty to wreaths. Buy young fresh herbs in small pots, shake off much but not all of the soil, place the root ball in a small sandwich bag secured with a rubber band, and work the plant into the wreath in a way that hides the bag. Lavender, rosemary, sage and tarragon are all good candidates for this. Check their root balls weekly and add more water to the bag if needed.

Get that green house effect with wreaths > I

Wreaths and, for do-it-yourselfers, the makings of wreaths are everywhere.

Fancy greens and embellishments arrived at garden centers and florists, and even at mass merchandisers. Christmas tree lots, where wreath greens are a thriving sideline, are setting up, and soon every supermarket in the land will offer greenery of some stripe.

For some, late November is too soon to hang the fragrant and abundant boughs so evocative of the Christmas Season. But even for those purists, now is the time to at least gather the greenery.

Concerning Christmas trees, the experts offer this advice: Buy one now, make a fresh cut when you get it home and place it in a large container of water in a cool area. Then bring it in a couple of weeks later. If you wait until mid-December to buy it, that same tree will have been in a cold, windy lot, out of water and getting drier by the day.

The same counsel goes for wreath greens. Cut greens can be re-cut and kept in pails of water for a couple of weeks. Although it is impractical to re-cut the stems of ready-made wreaths, soaking the wreaths in water and keeping them in a cool area until ready for use will extend their life as well.

The wreath world falls into two camps. One of them sees the crafting of wreaths as a creative release from the humdrum of daily life, a way to embrace the holiday spirit. The other group sees it as just one more burden of perfection in a harried existence.

The wreath rebels have a couple of choices (three if you include a boycott): Get an artificial wreath (from the tacky at $3.99 to the marvelous at $399) or buy a simple fresh wreath and add the finishing touches yourself.

To a basic wreath of white pine, boxwood or yew, Don Haynie, an herbalist and  florist  expert, suggests adding dried and fresh herbs and some nandina berries. Or adding Spanish moss, sheet moss or lichen called reindeer moss, with some rose hips “and even some pieces of curly willow.

To gild the wreath, he suggests taking some dried yellow yarrow, a summer perennial, and combining it with pine cones and oak leaves that have been pressed and lightly sprayed with gold paint.

However, you can personalize a wreath any way you want. Feel free to forage from your own yard or, with permission, a neighbor’s.

What’s more, no one is stopping you from adding artificial material to the mix. In fact it might be prudent, because live fruit and berries can be notoriously difficult to keep from falling, especially if the wreath is displayed indoors. But do pick good fakes, there is a distinct difference in the look between cheap “berries” and more expensive ones.

Fashionably Festive

Whether you’re dressing the house or yourself, these are some trends to watch.

Want to see what’s stylish in holiday decor this year? Check out the fashion trends. Copper and bronze metallics stand out on jewelry, shoes, handbags, parkas and party dresses this season but also add subtle shine to table linens, gift wrap, holiday ornaments, napkin rings and dinnerware.

Purple? A color to watch for as well. Teal? Eye-catching on everything from corduroy jeans to peacock feather trees. Black and white? A combo you can’t miss.

The crossover of fashion to home is nothing new, of course, but as seasonal merchandise began arriving in stores earlier this fall, the connection became clear. Colors, and color combinations, are spilling over from fashion to home furnishings faster than ever these days.

For holiday decor, the biggest movement in ornaments, figures and decorations has been the unusual colors, going away from the traditional. The metals, copper, platinums and golds, have been a big mover, and this year copper is moving faster than the gold.

People also are decorating by color theme, and the combinations are not the standard green and red. Teal and silver, for example. And purple with golds, with touches of pinks, for an elegant look.

Fueling this trend is the fact that many people today opt for more than one tree in their home. They will do an elegant tree in the front window and then something with a country, woodland theme in the family room, or a collection tree. It could be a tree filled with an expanding collection of Santas, for example, or even one with birds and butterflies.

So whether you are dressing your buffet table, your Christmas tree or yourself, here are some popular trends we have observed:

Black and white > It’s become a major trend in home design recently, and it’s always a staple in fashion. Now, black and white makes a very bold statement for the holidays.

Festive accessories for the home include black-and-white ornaments, black-and-white holiday stationery, black-and-white fleece throws, and – from Old Navy – black-and-white wine boxes.

Fashion collections are full of the classic color combo as well, and not just for cocktail dresses. A holiday look from Liz Claiborne features a winter white silk charmeuse blouse worn with a long black velvet skirt and layers of black beads, including one strand accented with black ribbon. Like many fashionable beads this season, these are layered in various lengths, the longest extending down to the waist.

Then comes this news: In some circles, black is the new green when it comes to artificial Christmas trees. Sure, pink, purple, white and silver trees have shown up in recent years but, now, black is considered by some to be tres chic.  

And the trend started off American soil. “Last year, when the trendiest Americans were hanging their trees upside down, style-setters in Great Britain dumped dreams of a white Christmas and embraced the dark side black trees with black trunks and black branches, like Scotch pines scorched in a wildfire,” an American newspaper reported.

Closer to home, and, perhaps, earth, the Home Depot Direct catalog features a room furnished in black and off-white with silver accents. In the corner, a white Christmas tree is decorated with black, white and silver ornaments. Trend noted.

Metallics > Shimmering metallic dresses and accessories show up in all the fashion magazines, but copper, bronze, platinum and other antiquated metallic finishes offer an alternative to shiny gold and silver for the home as well.

Especially popular are metallic tree ornaments in copper and bronze, as well as gold luster dinnerware; matte silver trays; gold mesh wine bags; antique bronze napkin rings; woven brown and gold Christmas stockings, and more.

When it comes to fashion, InStyle magazine recommends pairing rich golden accessories, possible in mesh, glittery or matte finishes, with a racy red dress or a silky tank and black pants. And gold or silver ballet flats are a step above ordinary black.

What you don’t want to do, of course, is outshine the Christmas tree by wearing metallics head-to-toe.

Purple > When did all this happen? Shades ranging from soft lavender to deep plum add an unexpected twist to the same-old holiday palette. Lavender, in particular, looks great with white and silver, even if it is a knitted scarf worn with a winter white sweater and pants. Deep shades call for gold. And, for the home, purple looks refreshing with traditional greenery.

The December issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine showcases a 19th-century farmhouse near Toronto decorated for the holidays in shades of lavender.

Among the highlights: a mantel covered in fresh holiday greenery accented with pine cones and purple ornaments, with purple bows accenting a trio of black and white pictures hanging above. In the kitchen, a wreath is adorned with purple ornaments and purple ribbon; even the kitchen island is painted purple.

Shades of purple also show up in Martha Stewart Everyday collection at Kmart, where purple blown ornaments are displayed in a glass vessel and a purple berry wreath offers an alternative to traditional balsam. Who says tradition can’t be tweaked?

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