Wednesday, December 25, 2013

After Christmas Shopping- Merrfield Garden Center

This may be a little crazy, but I often finding myself thinking about next year's Christmas on Christmas Day. This mostly comes in the form of trying to decide what decorations I'm going to buy at 50-70% off at the sales on Dec. 26th. Please tell me you already know that all Holiday decor always goes on sale for massive clearance prices the day after Christmas. It's one of the Great Shopping Truths handed down from mother to daughter like grandma's fine china.

So I often spend the afternoon of Christmas Day dreaming about what version of Christmas my home will take next year.

The place I always want to hit first to fulfill this fantasy is Merrifield Garden Center in Fair Oaks. 

This is a huge plant nursery and if you want really high quality plants or trees, they are a great place to shop, assuming you have a good budget as well. I'm not saying they are over priced, just that their prices are over my non-existent budget. Most of the time, I come to look and dream.

Fortunately, I think there is a lot of value in dreaming and having lovely things to look at. Merrifield also hosts an annual festival of trees in their main shop. It is a cornucopia of gorgeous, designer trees just dripping with beautiful things and great ideas. I always take my kids, because it's just that magical. Plus, they have free popcorn in the greenhouse. If you're gonna bring your little people, make sure they are old enough to "look but not touch," as a lot of the ornaments are glass and there are things to grab everywhere. 

Let's go inside, shall we?

This will be a tour of things that inspired me, as I had to pare down the 85 pictures I took somehow. 

There were many things I loved about this display, mercury glass garlands, shimmering ornaments, frosted gold musical notes, glittering white bottle brush trees, but my favorite things was the sheet music attached to the ceiling! Some had been tea stained and others had been left white. I just thought it looked super cool.

As much as I can appreciate the white with gold look, it never really calls to me for my own home. But this tree sure did. I have a complete weakness for peacock blue. Especially if it involves glass, feathers, or anything iridescent. And if you add moss? Are you kidding me? Total bliss. Sorry about the image quality here. My iPad struggles a bit indoors at night.

Best ideas to take home here: Moss covered chandelier.

You'd have to be careful not to create a fire hazard, but I bet a box full of dry moss, an ugly old brass chandelier painted in a linen color, and a glue gun could go a long way towards making boring builder grade into designer chic. Just be careful not to get the moss too close to the bulbs in any direction.

And I thought this was the cutest idea for an old wooden spool. Wrap with lace or a vintage crochet sampler, add some trim to the bottom, a bird on the top, and you have the cutest nest ornament ever! I am totally making one of these.

There are great ideas for staging your stuff everywhere too. This is a completely different look, way more formal, but I love how the two different frames compliment each other. I would not have thought to put an oval and rectangle frame together as a pairing, but I love it! And look how pretty, yet subtle the teal enamel frame looks against all the other neutrals. And I like the mix of gold and silver metallics with the shiny, clear glass and matte mushroom tones. 

All kinds of ideas to take home for free, if you just look for it.

How could you not love the candy room? My kids spent quite a bit of time here.

Even the candy covered lamp shade looked good enough to eat. 

Apparently I have a bit of Victorian in my soul, banging around with all the rustic modern stuff. This tree, with it's combination of peaches, golds, and raspberry reds
 just made me weak.

'Sigh'. So. Lovely.

Different looks yet again, but they had the best ideas of ways to display large ornaments, which I always want, but never know what I'd do with.

 I love the way this looks with the ornaments strung from ribbons, hanging off a ceiling rack 
in front of a mirror for double the impact! You could even just hang a few ornaments from the wall above the mirror with push pins or command hooks and still take advantage of
 the mirror view.

Ornaments were just piled in bowls and in multi-level display racks. I loved all the sparkling. Imagine how pretty that would be in a smaller version in the center of a kitchen island.
Hmmm..I have a few of those in my house I might use next year.

For those with a more nautical penchant, they always have a beach themed tree:

I really like the shell encrusted chandelier and the cone trees made of mother of pearl shells up on the shelves in the top middle of the photo. The sea glass tufts as the crown of the tree are sheer brilliance. The idea of using netting as garland is really cool too.

This room was a dream for my friend Amy, who drug my sorry tail up here to "find Christmas" when I was all stressed out earlier this season. Thank heavens for sweet friends who call when they don't even know you're sad. Thanks Amy! You're the best.

So very pretty.

The next room over was filled with amazing DIY ideas.

I totally want to try these rolled magazine page ornaments. 
Although I think I'd rather make stars or flowers, than doves.

You could leave a basket of hand rolled balls of twine out all year. And there are plenty of sticks inside and outside my house, just waiting for a miter saw to slice them up into bits for ornaments. What did we do before glue guns?

For some reason, I was completely taken with this wire mesh Christmas tree. I kept wanting to weld vintage bottle caps to it like ornaments. Go figure.

There is just something about a basket full of velvet ribbon on wooden spools. 
And you all should be very proud of me. See that one last spool of ruler ribbon? I really, really wanted it, but didn't know what I would do with it. 
So I walked away from it. 

I loved this idea for vintage silver wear. They drilled holes in it, added wire and ribbon and beads, and made it into ornaments. It would be really pretty hanging in front of a window or from a garland.

Merrifield doesn't just offer eye candy and great ideas. They have anything and everything you need to turn your home into the winter wonderland of your dreams.

There's a whole room full of ribbon in any style or color or fabric you could think of.

And knowledgeable, capable employees to make your bows for you. This is Karen and Katheryn. They can make anything out of ribbon. Plus they know where everything is and they deserve a shout out just for being so nice to my kids. Thanks for making the evening magical, ladies.

There is a wall covered with faux wreaths and another one of garlands. The real stuff is in the greenhouse just behind the tree displays. You really can get anything you want here.

But the real reason to come shop at Merrifield year round is the plants.

They have anything you could ever want in their greenhouses. 
You could get blissfully lost there, just wandering the aisles of greenness.

Maybe I should amend my Christmas list to include this orchid? What do you guys think? 
A little too late? My birthday is in February. I could always wish for it then.

Once you have made all the tough decisions about what stays on the shelf and what goes home with you, head to the registers where your able bodied cashiers like Bree and Andrew here will wrap everything up for you. 

One thing I have noticed about the employees here, they actually want to help you. I have been coming here for about 7 years now, and I have never once met an employee that didn't know their stuff. Which I think is a fairly impressive track record, considering I am an avid detailed question asker.

Sadly, this little guy had to stay, so if you are wanting to provide a nice home to a sweet little owl, do I know the bird for you.

I won't be able to make it this year, as I will be hanging with more family than I know what to do with, so have fun shopping without me, kay? Even if you just go to day dream.

You can find out locations, directions, hours, etc on Merrifield's web site, here.

BTW, they have no idea that I wrote this post and I was in no way compensated for creating it, other than my free bag of popcorn, which is a perk available in the green house year round for anyone.

Until next year, Happy Shopping and Happy New Year!

CM Shaw

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Candle Light Tour of My Home for Christmas.

 CM Shaw's Candle Light Home Tour 2013

There are many traditions that my Holiday revolves around. 
But making homemade caramels from my great grandmother's recipes is one of my favorite.

I have spent more than a few happy hours stirring, chopping, and wrapping the last several days. And I cannot promise that more than my fair share of caramels weren't consumed during all the chopping and wrapping. What else are you going to do with those sad little ends of the row? They are just way too delicious to be left sitting there, alone.

And I want to thank the wonderful person who gave me this marble cutting board for my bridal shower19 years ago. I know I wrote a thank you note, but it in no way encompassed the gratitude I feel for having this beautiful and insanely useful tool in my kitchen all these years. And the years that have passed have removed your identity from my mind. I am sure you were a closer friend to my mother than you were to me, because this was way to smart and useful of a gift for my friends to ever have thought of. We were all to busy being young and stupid to come up with this good a gift. But I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have used it multiple times daily since my wedding all those years ago. And that, my friend, is the sign of the very best kind of gift. 

 Another tradition I have is stressing about decorating my house. I almost always do about the same thing, so why this is always such an issue for me, I know not. I have a Western theme, think bleached cow skulls, cowboy Santas, snow dusted pine garlands, cows mascaraing as reindeer, and chili peppers. This is completely and totally a product of being a homesick newly wed from Arizona having Christmas after Christmas on the East Coast. Every year I start out the season by considering changing everything. And then I pull out what I have and fall in love with it all again. There is just something completely magical about recreating the feeling of where your heart lives, without regard your current actual location.

Cows pretending to be reindeer are my very favorite part of this style. And this is the only one I have. One of his antlers got broken along the way somewhere. I've tried many things to repair it, but the antler is rubbery and has to stick to resin, so all my efforts have been for naught. 

There are many reasons I only have one reindeer cow. The first is that I am insanely picky. Do you guys have any idea how much crazy tacky southwestern stuff there is out there? Love the style, but HATE brown. Go figure. The second reason is that there is a major dearth of commercially available cows pretending to be reindeer. Apparently I (and Karianne of Thistlewood farms' best friend Laura- check this cool house tour out here) am the only woman in America that wants to collect said cows. And third, until I read the above mentioned post, it never occurred to me to just make my own cow to reindeer conversion. Duh.

So I think these guys are getting a make over before next year.

I know it's house tour season, and since  I am totally late to the decorating party, I thought I'd shake things up a bit. Why don't you all come to my house to see how it changes from day to night, because the look does change quite a bit. Grab your candles and lighters and let's go!

The first stop is my front porch. Which usually looks something like this for the Holidays:

This year, in fact 2 days ago, my front porch looked like this:

This giant pile of cedar is not attacking us, as those who have visited my house this week may have thought. I actually snagged it from the curb side stack my neighbors left out for the mulch truck when they cut down a cedar tree that broke in half in last week's ice storm. DK thought I was completely crazy for schlepping it all the way down the block. But there is a method to this madness, I promise. 

This is what the pile turned into:

It's amazing what 20 minutes of no one talking to you, a pair of good hedge trimmers, 
your neighbors' garden waste and some fake snow can do.

And this shot of my sparkly twig wreath on the dining room window turned out 
too awesome not to include. So indulge me.

I had big plans to do all the flat surfaces in my house, but then I realized that through a cruel twist of fate, I was short the 2 days I needed to make that a reality. So "simplified" my plans and hauled the rest of that gorgeous greenery to the curb. Boo.

But first King Rupert asked if he could have some.

 This is King Rupert, the Fat and Happy. One of my favorite birthday gifts ever. His bed of moss was getting a bit tatty after 18 mos of not being changed. But look at him smile now.

He's sitting on another of my Favorite Things, my hammered copper table.

So classy to have a turkey stuck to the wall a month after Thanksgiving. But my 6 yr old made it a school and I just love it. I might have to keep it. Please notice the cleared-off-ness of my kitchen table. Enjoy the view. It NEVER looks like this. In fact, part of the joy in shooting this picture was to record the "nothing on the table" moment. Can you feel the bliss?

Now pretend that it's 4:30 in the afternoon, and the sun is starting to fade. Let's go back to the front entry.

Here is another benefactor of the Cedar. The container is a giant vintage French enamelware stock pot I got from my dear friend Carol Edgel. Most of the time it lives on my front porch in the guise of a side table, but I couldn't resist putting that much greenery in my entryway.

The wreath I made by stringing plastic "shatterproof" ornaments along a coat hanger and then twisting the ends together again. Eddie Ross has a great tutorial here

To continue our tour, if you turn to the right, here's my living room.

I am completely in love with my tree this year. 
It's a fresh cut Frasier fir we cut from Mayne's Tree Farm in Buckystown MD.

And the weird looking red thing draped over the chair is a super cute Santa height measure chart that my MIL made when my oldest was 2. The 2 year old is now 14 and there are 2 others beside her, so the height chart is a very requested decoration. There is much competition to see who was tallest at any given age. But I have never found the right place for it, so this year it's living on the chair. I kinda like the pop of red.

OK, shall we dim the lights?

As the light fades, we'll look back into the entry. And don't worry. We'll get back to the tree.

I love decorating with simple, natural elements. So what could be better than a teak root bench with a single pillar candle and a basket full of fragrant evergreens trimmed from the tree?

Turn to your right, and you see the ladder, glowing in Christmas glory.

And let's go from here into the kitchen...

No, you say? Not the kitchen, the tree? 

OK, here's the tree at twilight:

It's just magical, this tree. I could stare at it for hours. 
And the giant Moravian star at the top just makes me weak. 

Here's a few detail shots.

I have a hugely eclectic selection of ornaments. You can't see it in these photos, but a good chunk of them are carved wooden animals and dinosaurs and Southwestern Santas and chili pepper wreaths, etc. And the red lights you see are chili peppers. You can see a few of them peeking through the branches in the upper detail shot. And then there's my jingle bells garlands. They are actually real bells that jingle! You can see them in the bottom right corner in this photo. Not exactly what you'd expect from a home in the DC 'burbs.

OK, another room completely transformed in the night is the family room, 
where the cows live.

I must admit, there was a bit of dancing when I saw this photo. So festive, yes?

And yes, I have curled up with a good book and just enjoyed beeking many time this season. ("beeking" def: "luxuriating in front of a roaring fire")  

It was a heavenly setting for the annual viewing of "Scrooge",The Albert Finey version of "A Christmas Carol" which is a "must watch" for my family each year. Another is a "A Christmas Story", which has to be watched on Thanksgiving Day and then left on as background noise for the entirety of Christmas Day as it plays for 24 hrs on TBS. I don't even know where to start explaining either of those.

The cow skull is another one of my Favorite Things. The Cat in the Hat hat is a jab at DK, who is a decided Grinch at Christmas. It's his Hat of Jolliness. It lives on the cow skull looking festive until DK needs to go out and be in a good mood during the Holidays Then he has to wear it to ensure merriment for all. Shockingly, this tactic actually works.

 Here's a better shot of the chili pepper lights. After a scare last year on my big tree where I thought a string had died, I bought a back up set and used them on this little tree this year.

The cowboy boot stalkings were a gift from my mother when I called home homesick, again, one year. As I only have three, and there are five of us, I leave them up until Christmas Eve. 

Our "real" stalkings are 5 different colors of jewel-tone velvet with white fluffy trim that I made when I was on maternity leave with my first baby. I have no idea how I knew I would have 3 children then, but I made 5 stalkings and I actually did have 3 children. Call it mother's intuition I guess.  We hang them up on the mantle and Santa fills them and leaves them on a chair or part of the couch with gifts for the children to discover in the morning.

In case you've never seen a real string of chili peppers, this is the the real thing. They have been living in a very carefully packed box in my basement for about 10 years. My dad bought them for me from a roadside vendor when I was home for a visit about 12-15 years ago, while I was having a fit of wanting to take all things Arizona back to Virginia in my pockets. I am so glad I remembered I had it. It's the perfect touch of authenticity for the mantle. 

The last stop of our tour is the foot of the small tree. This is where my newest piece of Christmas decor resides. The Nutcracker was made in school by my first grader, and the handle actually works. 
 Could you die?

The rest is all stuff I had around the house. The iron strap ball came from the clearance rack at Target. Bless the people who passed it up, because I had wanted one desperately and couldn't say no to the last one in the store on sale for $10. The ceramic pig was a gift my dad got me from a charming potter he found at a swap meet. Dad totally gets my love of whimsy and black and white. And the wooden box is a piece I bought at Chartreuse and Company the first time I went there.

So that pretty much wraps up our tour. Thanks so much for coming and listening to my stories and traditions. Since all my work's done, at least for now, do you want to sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and tell me your Christmas stories? I always love a good story or four.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. 
 May you get everything you want and have a Jolly Holiday.

'Till next time,
CM Shaw