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Thursday, December 30, 2010

One Year Later...

It occurred to me last night I just passed my one year blog anniversary! I've been taking some time off to be with family and friends, do a little sale shopping, take in a few movies and in general just re-charge by not doing anything "work" related! It truly is hard for me to believe it's been one year since I sat down to type my first post. And now 123 posts, 32 Tuesday Tips later...I'm still having fun with this thing called a design blog!

 A necklace made from an antique leather 1906 postcard on a carpet sample.
    It perfectly combines my love of books, design, antiques & blogging.
 It was an Etsy purchase from here and every time I wear it, I smile!
I am amazed how many wonderful and talented people I have encountered in "blogworld" over the past year.  It's been rewarding forging relationships both on the computer and in person. This has been the biggest surprise of blogging. I must confess the first email I ever received from a blogger that wasn't a specific question, I did not respond. I thought it was weird. It just didn't occur to me you made "friends" blogging. Fortunately, I got over it!

I want to thank each and every one of you who ever took a moment to leave a comment or send me an email...I never tire of reading what you all have to say whether you agree with me or not. I rather like the varying opinions, it keeps it fresh and interesting! One thing I am positive of each and everyday is there is no one right way to design any space. We all have a perspective.

Current wallpaper obsession.

So what will next year look like? I'm not exactly sure but I will likely start out talking about one of my favorite subjects...organization! One thing that won't change is talking about living beautiful everyday! There were over 20 posts dedicated to LBE and it's my favorite category. I do think a blog face-lift is in order! Should the brown background stay? Do I add sponsors? Do you want Tuesday Tips to continue? Any suggestions or opinions...about anything!?

My laundry supplies.

In the coming weeks,  I promise to answer many reader questions from "what color/brand is the paint in your dining room?" to why didn't I give the sources in my holiday dining room post..."because you usually do" to "what dryer sheets do you use?" Readers and bloggers are an inquisitive bunch and I will do my best to deliver some answers to emails and comments!

In the meantime, here are the links to your top 10 favorite posts since May 2010 based on number of page views.

#10 Garage Makeover
#  9 Birthday Blues
#  8 Basement Storage Room Makeover
#  7 Branch Out With Your Holiday Decorating
#  6 Gold & White & Candlelight
#  5 Tuesday Tip
#  4 Outdoor Room: Budget Version
#  3 Tuesday Tip
#  2 Drapery Rods: What's In Style?

This post is #1 based on page views, google hits and comments!
#  1 Restoration Hardware, Ohh Nooo!!!

 The Gerard Butler and Dunhill Chair posts from earlier in the year were favorites based on comments and google hits.

Best Wishes For A Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wishing You...

Wonderful presents under the tree...

Savory meals shared with family & friends...

Plenty of your favorite cookies...

Enjoyment of holiday decorations...

And most of all...

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!!!

All photos by A&A

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gold and White and Candlelight

This is one of my favorite combinations that I rely on for the holiday season. This scheme was already enjoyed with friends. I will use it again for our family Christmas dinner and a variation for New Year's Eve. I don't think it's necessary to completely reinvent the table for each occasion.  I just wash and press the tablecloth and replace the fresh greens as needed or add flowers and maybe a small gift to give it an update. Figuring out an interesting centerpiece for a round table can be a challenge. This year I decided to treat it as I would an oval or rectangle and do something more linear.

Three miniature fresh Cypress trees and loose greens swirled into wreaths around the glass candelabras added seasonal freshness. Hand rolled beeswax candles gave a beautiful glow.

Christmas crackers or "poppers" are a tradition with Christmas dinner for us, so I am always on the hunt for sets that have beautiful paper.

I love to make things personal and intimate for a sit down dinner and individual S&P shakers, or a least a set per couple as well a tiny votive at each place setting does the trick. They also add to the sparkle.

The buffet received the holiday treatment too with a large crystal faceted globe, two white feather trees and my two new finds are topped with pears!

A gold bird  nestled in a small fresh tree that is draped with  gold pear garland and placed in an antique black urn signals Christmas, and holds my version of a Partridge In A Pear Tree.

Now if I could just decide on the menu for Christmas dinner...

Addendum: I've linked to Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for her holiday table preview series. Wonderful inspiration from many creative bloggers! 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Faking It for The Holidays: A New Tradition

When my husband I were dating way back in 1985, I remember the first Christmas he spent with my family...vividly. It was full of "firsts" for him. His first visit to a house with an actual "museum" room. Some of you may know it as the formal living room. Specifically, the highly decorated, elaborately styled silk curtains, velvet tufted furniture, vacuum marks on the broadloom, don't go in unless you are invited, kind of room.  It was adjacent to the formal dining room of similar decor as well as the location of the first time he had ever been spit on while dining (accidentally by my younger sister) as I watched in embarrassment while he wiped his shirt sleeve with his napkin where the offensive spittle landed. It was also the first time he saw our Christmas tree. An enormous, nearly kelly green, plastic wonder of who knows what department store.

My future husband turned to me, almost in disgust, and said "your family has a fake tree?" Of course I felt obligated to defend it with a lame "it's artificial" and "don't you think it's decorated beautifully?" And then it came, the the form of a shrug.

Growing up, my husband had always had a "real" tree every Christmas and it never occurred to him that his future bride thought it was okay to fake it. We got married in 1987 and enjoyed the beauty of live trees for 20 years. Becoming "real" tree snobs of sorts. Each year we usually put up 2 trees and 3 when we are hosting a holiday party. Always Fraser Fir's, often cut down by my husband, many years with kids in tow.

Two years ago when  my husband was traveling just days before Christmas, faking it once again seemed so attractive. Reasonable. Logical. Necessary. I knew finding, lugging, lighting and decorating the big tree alone was just going to be a near impossible task.  I ordered a new Christmas tree online. It was a 7 foot Fraser Fir pre-lit with 1,000 sparkling white lights.  It even came with a remote control! I was so excited when it arrived, even more excited when I was able to put it together by myself. And relieved when it turned out to actually look realistic. I purchased tons of fresh greens as I normally do and the house smelled wonderful. But, would my husband notice that I had faked it...faked Christmas?

Initially his jet-lag kept my secret.  It wasn't until he went up to the tree and put a branch between his fingers to check it for freshness and was scraped by plastic that he said "it's fake?" And once again I found myself  trying to defend it with, "but, isn't it so much better than the one my parents had back in the eighties and don't you think it's beautifully decorated?" My husband replied "Yes, just don't get carried away with faking it too much."  I put it up again this year, along with plenty of fresh greens and a small live tree in the dining room. Faking it is slowly becoming a new holiday tradition! Is it yours too?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Merry, Merry Inspiration...

Two weeks ago I did a short post on my visit to Lucketts and then promptly forgot to show the rest of the photos!  For those of you who dislike retail shopping, this may be just the thing for you. I have exchanged "old stuff" with a close friend for years and it is one of the highlights of the gift giving season for me.

These came home with me.
  A little junking, thrifting and holiday inspiration, just in time for the weekend!

All photos courtesy of A&A

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nature's Perfect Ornaments!

I love pinecones! I have never had a Christmas or gone through winter without them. I think they truly are the most perfect of all holiday decorations.  Place them in an interesting bowl as a centerpiece on a dining or coffee table, pile them in a planter with birch branches for a natural look, or add greens and shiny baubles for a festive and even elegant twist. No matter what your style is, they always work with any budget and look beautiful!

Mixed with cedar, shiny red finials and garland...

on the living room mantle.

Tiny specimans with an acorn ornament...

in the powder room.

On the hearth in a old copper planter....

showing off a great leg on a favorite container! 

 And of course I think these are perfect too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gifts From A World Traveler

I love this time of year when I am on my way home and driving through the neighborhood in the late afternoon and I see boxes and packages sitting on front porches waiting to be brought in from the cold. And when the doorbell rings and it's a visit from UPS or Federal Express aka Santa's elves, well isn't that just the best? As luck would have it, there were deliveries for me on Friday too!

Detail of master bedroom rug

One of the perks of having a husband that travels all over the world is the treasures and gifts he brings home from far away lands.  The past 2+ years he has spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan and has brought home some of the most beautiful rugs I have ever seen. These rugs are all made by hand, and the larger ones can take up to a year to complete! I have several that I love, including the first one that he brought home about a year and half ago. The light side is truly a pale beauty of slate, cream and aubergine. It looks like an antique rug and currently resides in our master bedroom.

A&A master bedroom rug
Here is what arrived on Friday:

It will be a struggle to part with any of these!

I could easily become a rug hoarder, switching out one beauty for the next, but instead as word got out (from visits to our house) I've become an unintended rug seller to friends and clients and I truly love that these works of art can be shared!

Aqua & orange-sold!
 When my husband arrived home in November after weeks of traveling, he told me some rugs would arrive in a few weeks, but I also heard a few other things rattling around in his luggage. Santa Baby said those are gifts for under the tree!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Branch Out With Your Holiday Decorating!

Pinecones, branches and fresh greens are always a part of any holiday decorating scheme at the A&A house. I don't think I'd know where to start without these basics. I use them regardless of whether I am going with a rustic or more polished holiday look. It's what I add to these elements that change the design direction for me.

This year, two photos provided some inspiration for a space that is a hallway that separates two rooms in our house. The first was from the November/December issue of Veranda and this gorgeous aqua Chinoisere wallpaper in a bedroom done by Miles Redd.

The other came this past week from a foyer table from the December issue of Country Living. I loved the hand printed green toile wallpaper! It was a beautiful backdrop to the gold painted walnuts and chandelier prisms the homeowners used to decorate their tree branches. It must have taken a lot of patience to get those walnuts drilled or hot glued to hang up...maybe a project for my glittered nuts to try next year!

We've had several very windy days and fallen tree branches are all over the yard and deck...gotta love nature for doing the work for you!  I used 2 Beech Tree branches, tied them together at the base and put them in a French style galvanized planter. I've used urns and a champagne bucket before for branches and they are great alternatives if you want to give this a try.

I  hooked several mini Christmas balls using the colors in both wallpapers as a guide, teeny-tiny glass drops along with 3 pale green birds with teal and brown feathered tails. The best part of this project is that it requires no special skills or tools and it only took about 30 minutes to assemble!

A few other branch trees to inspire you!