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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Christmas Living Room

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

When the hectic days getting ready for Christmas are over and Christmas Day is past, that's when I like to relax at home enjoying how pretty everything looks decorated for Christmas.



This year is all about greenery with very little ornamentation and very few Christmas lights.  Boxwood, undressed live trees, narcissi, and hyacinths are this year's stars. 



Three fresh boxwood wreaths do have some gold and green artificial sprays.  The crystal candle holders are cut crystal glasses with small candles inside another glass holder to keep the glasses from getting too hot.



Most of the fireplace is undecorated, but there is some decoration around the fireplace on the second floor. 



The second floor artificial trees have white lights that extend into the grapevine wreath that wraps around the horizontal beam. 



A large noble fir tree standing on the outside deck is visible through the living room windows and French doors. 



Inside a small live tree sits inside a vintage five-gallon crockpot. 



The inside and outside lines are blurred. Sitting in the living room French bergère chair is almost like being outdoors. 



The dining room boxwood is visible from all of the living room. 



More boxwood is on the dining room china cabinet as well as the blanket box used as a coffee table. In the background is the carved wooden horse wearing his braided rein that has gold threads. 



When we first built the house, we could not connect to the community water company and had to drill a well.  The well water has a strong mineral taste.  Therefore, we had water delivered to the house every week, and it came in these large five-gallon glass jars. 

As I was decorating the living room I had several things in my hands and needed places to set things down. As I turned around looking for places to set things down, the gold crown in my hand landed on the top of the water bottle just for a temporary spot.  



Then as I looked at it, I decided I really liked the crown on the water bottle. 



The other side of the living room opens onto the sunspace in the kitchen. 



Looking on around the living room to the left is the armoire that holds a small television. The magnolias on top are artificial. 



In the foreground on the coffee table are two more artificial white flowers. Hyacinths are potted in small pebbles and look very realistic.  The faux narcissi have yet to be "planted" in pebbles. 



The "unplanted" narcissi is another happenstance that I decided I liked.  When I laid them down just to get them out of my hands, I once again decided I liked the results. The gold crown and narcissi just sort of decorated themselves. 



The narcissi came from The Magnolia Market in Waco, TX.  Look at how real the floret looks with the four buds yet to open. The candle is Jo Gaines' signature candle from her shop. 



Maybe the artificial narcissi will be "planted" in the future, but for now they are just beautiful lying on the table. 



This is the view from the French bergère chair.  Yes, I want to enjoy the decorations for a little while longer. 



The candles at night add a little sparkle to the room.  Take a quick night tour. 









Thank you for stopping by for more Christmas decorations.  Believe it or not, there is still at least one more Christmas tour coming your way.  In a few days I will share how the master bath looks during the holidays this year.  Perhaps you are getting ideas for next year. 


Joyeux Noël


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Nativity Kitchen

Sunday, December 27, 2015

While my house has been taking on more and more neutral colors, mostly white, over the past five to six years, French bleu is still my first love. Finding other colors that go well with French bleu is not always easy.  So when I find something, if it is reasonably priced, and if it goes with my other decor, I tend to buy it knowing how hard it is to find.  



Recently I was just pushing my large empty shopping cart down the aisle of a local craft store when I caught a glimpse of this framed pastel nativity scene out of the corner of my eye.  I backed up that large cart, and knew this beautiful watercolor reproduction would go with the French bleu in my house. 



As I picked it up and thought about whether or not to buy it, I told myself, "The frame alone is worth the price.  If I get tired of the print, I can always reuse the frame for something else."  



But right there and then, I knew I liked the print.  Evidently, I am in the minority.  There were several on the shelves, and it was marked half-price. 



Perhaps others see Christmas as a time for red and green, but for me I have always decorated with colors that go with my normal decor.  Right there in the store, I had a flash for this year's kitchen decorations.  



A Nativity Kitchen


The metal three wisemen in non-traditional Christmas colors made their way to my house over thirty years ago, and this year sit on the top shelf of the plant stand near the sunspace in the kitchen. 



Christmas is a time for memories.  A time for remembering shopping with my dear friend, Sarah, at the seasonal Holiday Magic fund-raiser for a local women's group.  She spotted the metal silhouettes first, and we both bought some. A time when we were young and newly married to men who were friends and who worked together at a Bible translation organization.  Neither Sarah nor I had much money. We both worked as teachers to help support our families so our husbands could work with the Bible translation center for nominal salaries. They made more than Bob Cratchit, but we were on tight budgets. Whenever I bring out these wisemen each year, I remember Sarah and our friendship of so many years filled with both joy and tragedies. 



On the stone shelf that is behind the living room fireplace is a Christmas card nativity.  For those who read 7 Ways to Display Christmas Cards, here is another way to use Christmas cards. 




These cards have been collected over a period of years and are an inexpensive nativity scene. Though the cost is minimal, the cards are beautiful.  The three wisemen card was found in Williamsburg, Virginia and sent to close friends that year.  There were only two boxes in the store, the week before Christmas. 



The shepherd with his sheep gathered near him has a haunting look as his robe and head covering whirl away from his body in a strong wind.  The majestic blue angel offers calm to all who see her.



A reproduction from a painting captures the youth and serenity of Mary as she looks on the sleeping baby Jesus. Somehow I think Mary was not quite as serene in real life as she wondered about her future with a new baby born far from home.

The Long Tall Texan and I made the O Holy Night wooden painted sign in 2006. After the Long Tall Texan cut out the pine semicircle and routed the edges, I painted the sign using a stencil I made from computer-generated words and a rubber stamp of the three wisemen following a star. One of the reasons I made the sign was to have a Christmas sign in blue and white.

Yes, I buy blue Christmas decorations whenever I find them, especially when they are half-price like the pastel nativity that inspired my Christmas kitchen this year.

Christmas is not over for me until the first week of January.  So, even though it is past December 25, I am still posting about Christmas, a way of life all year.

Merry Christmas 
in whatever color you like. 


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Peaceful Christmas Table Setting

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 

Special days call for special table settings with surprises. 



The weather out the window is not the surprise.  This is one of several typical weather days for Christmas in north Texas.  More years than not, the weather will either be bright sunny blue skies or a little overcast like this.  It is unusual for north Texas to have a white Christmas, but it can happen. 

The big blue tarp in the yard is covering materials for the next section of the deck to be replaced.  The tarp will protect the wood from any snow should it appear. 



Christmas day is usually a very peaceful day for us.  Any surprises are usually good ones that bring a lot of smiles and laughter. Like the year my sister gave me an ironing board cover as a Christmas present.  I had just told my sister a couple of days before Christmas that I thought Christmas presents should be special things that are beautiful and not something one would buy for herself.  

Our mother was a practical woman who had happily received screen doors and lawn mowers as presents from our dad over the years.  Those do not fall into my category of gifts; they are household necessities in my mind. So, I told my sister to please steer our mother away from those kinds of gifts for me and please, do not let her buy me something like an ironing board for Christmas. 

On Christmas morning my sister was eyeing me very closely as I opened my present from her.  It was an ironing board cover.  Our eyes met, and I began laughing hysterically, throwing back my head and laughing on and on.  My sister joined me in laughing hysterically; both of us wiping away tears from laughing so hard.  Our mother was sitting next to me on the sofa and couldn't understand what we found so funny.  Now, I must admit, the ironing board cover is one of the prettiest I've ever seen, and it is still on my ironing board this Christmas. 



A golden PEACE Christmas card at each place reminds us of the peacefulness of the season.  Three golden wisemen encircle a narrow preserved boxwood bundle. 



All of my family, including my uncles, enjoy gardening.  The botanical letters just speak to me and seem perfect to go with the preserved boxwood.  





More botanicals stand on the white bookcase that I use as a potting table. The paperwhites in the vintage crockpot are in full bloom, just in time for Christmas day. 



Since the breakfast table is small, any centerpiece needs to be small.  The narrow design of this bundle of preserved boxwood fits the space very nicely, leaving room for the cards at each place and the golden wisemen. 



In the center of each salad plate is a cluster of berries and leaves that echoes the botanical theme of the cards, boxwood, and nearby papewhites. By repeating variations of a theme, the overall effect is more striking. 



The china pattern is Winter Holiday, Rose Wreath by Fitz and Floyd.  



A good surprise this Christmas is how Christmas dishes go with the upholstery on the breakfast table chairs.  When I had these chairs recovered I had not realized the fabric had little touches of rosy red. 



The Fitz and Floyd dishes also include coordinating salt and pepper shakers. 



Another option in the Winter Holiday pattern is Garland, and it is holding a special surprise glass ornament for each person at the table. 

A watering can for a gardner who grows paperwhites.  A star for the person who starred in a local Christmas play this year. A church for the person who is a minister.  A Big Ben for the traveler who visited England this summer. 



Each place setting has a holiday envelope for another special surprise that may be a gift card, a lottery ticket, or a ticket to a movie after lunch.  One of my family's holiday traditions is to go the movie on Christmas day. 

May your Christmas be filled with peace, be filled with good surprises, and be filled with love of your family and friends. 

Joyeux Noël

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Snowflake Peppermint Chocolate Bark

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What do you give someone who has everything? Or who has requested only consumable presents? Or who you need a present for his/her stocking? Or to give your family and yourself as a Christmas treat?

Snowflake Peppermint Chocolate Bark 






Snowflake Peppermint Chocolate Bark is much easier to make than it looks.  A beautiful Christmas candy made from two kinds of chocolate!  How can you go wrong with chocolate for friends who have everything, and who you know have a passion for chocolate? 



Each Christmas eight of us gather together to celebrate Christmas and our life-long friendships.  Five of us began teaching together thirty-six years ago, and the other three are also teacher friends with whom we began teaching with over twenty years ago. We all retired from the same high school, but not the same year. All during the year we meet periodically for lunch to celebrate each other's birthdays and to catch up on one another's lives. Then we meet in December for our Christmas celebration, including exchanging small gifts.  



The chocolate peppermint candy bark is a small gift, but was presented as a beautiful handmade snowflake with special wrapping and a snowflake cookie cutter. 



I have to admit I have a fondness for presenting small gifts in clear plastic bags tied with ribbons and/or gift tags. Presentation, presentation, presentation! 



After making the candy, I placed one piece inside a clear plastic bag and tied the bag with a color coordinated ribbon. While the snowflake candies are not extremely delicate, a metal cookie cutter inside the bag with the candy could scrape and mark the piece of candy or possibly break one of the branches of the star.  



Therefore, a snowflake cookie cutter that was used to make the chocolate peppermint bark was tied outside the clear bag to the back of the bag using red and white kitchen twine.



I made a few extra to give to other friends and to place inside some Christmas stockings. 



Served on a beautiful Christmas decorated plate, the candy would be great for seasonal parties or even for parties all during the winter. 



The super easy recipe is from Rachel at Baked By Rachel.  She used a silicone mold that makes six snowflakes, but I used a cookie cutter as described in the recipe.  The hardest part of my recipe was removing the snowflake candy from the metal cookie cutter.  Rachel describes how easy it was to remove her snowflakes from the silicon mold making me want to buy a silicon mold for making this recipe again in the future. 

Joyeux Noël 
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