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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

New Year's Sparkle

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This year's New Year's sparkle is mainly Christmas sparkle on the second floor. 
While this year's Christmas decor on the first floor focused 
on natural greenery with minimal other decorations, 
the second floor's Christmas decorations are a bit showier, 
with a lot more sparkling lights. 

In reality, these two artificial trees decorated with aviary themes 
remain up and decorated year round. 
Sparkling fairy lights ablaze any night of the year... 
The trees sit on a wooden landing outside of the 
railings of the hallway and the loft over the dining area. 
The trees are not in the path of the hall nor 
in the space of the loft. 

The decorations on the two trees include birds, nests, eggs, 
feathers, and bird houses collected over several years.  
Many are gifts from friends and families. 

Some of the bird's nests are homemade. 
One year I made bird nests using 
a honeysuckle vine from the back yard.  
The vine still was blooming and had some unopened buds. 
What a wonderful surprise when the buds bloomed on the tree! 
A little natural sparkle that year... 

There is also a grapevine that winds around an overhead open beam 
decorated with fabric roses and fairy lights. 

This photo gives a little better view of how the trees, 
a birdcage, and a swan sit outside the railings. 
The large birdcage is from my sister's florist/gift shop 
she owned in San Diego, California before moving to Texas. 
The grapevine swan is from Decorator's Warehouse 
and was bought during an after Christmas sale many years ago. 

Usually the wooden horse sits next to a railing at the top of the stairs, 
but there is a live Christmas tree there now, and the horse 
moved to this chair along another railing. 

The horse was made to look like a weather vane, but is for indoor use only. 
It was found at a local gift store in New Hampshire 
about twenty-five years ago. 

This view shows the live Christmas tree decorated with only twinkling lights 
that is at the top of the stairs. 

These first seven photos were taken from the loft that 
overlooks the living room and is above the dining area below. 
Here you can see both artificial trees and the live tree. 
The space between them is the entry into the loft. 

The blinding light is a skylight. 
Ribbons from the sloped ceiling suspend glass balls, 
silver bells, and silver colored reindeer 
that also stay up year round. 

Over the years some of the suspended ornaments have been 
replaced with different ones, but the reindeer have always been the same. 

This view is from the hallway with a better look 
at the rose decorated grapevine. 
The loft is to the right and the stairs down are to the left. 

Our house is in the country surrounded by trees. 
Two sides of the property are bordered by streets, 
and two sides are bordered by neighbors. 

Every year people all around celebrate with fireworks 
since we live in the country and have no restrictions against fireworks. 
There is always lots of merrymaking beginning at twilight 
and lasting way past midnight. 
Yes, lots of  
every New Year's Eve.

One New Year's Eve I was sitting at my desk on the second floor  
and could hear the usual whizzing, popping, and loud bangs 
of firecrackers, bottle rockets, and other fireworks exploding. 
The desk looks out into the woods toward one of our neighbor's land 
that has had as many as three trailer houses on the two acres. 

Occasionally I looked up into the night sky hoping  
for colorful explosions that accompany some fireworks. 
When I saw bright reds and yellows above the treetops, 
I thought I was seeing colorful fireworks. 
Then it dawned on me that this was not fireworks. 
No. Something was on fire. 

Immediately I dialed 911 to report the blaze, 
and the operator said firetrucks were already enroute. 
One of our neighbor's trailers burned to the ground. 
Not from fireworks, but from a heater. 
No one was home in the trailer when it burned. 

That was the year of an extra dose of 
on New Year's Eve. 
Fire truck sirens screaming with lights rotating and flashing, 
curiosity seekers' car lights lighting up the sky, 
and red and yellow flames shooting above the treetops. 
We were outside watering down our property with garden hoses 
to make sure the fire did not spread through the woods to us. 

Way too much sparkle that year... 

Soon the second floor live tree will be taken down, but 
most of this New Year's sparkle will remain sparkling 
all during 2015. 
Fairy lights can sparkle any night of the year. 

Any sparkle on New Year's Eve at your house this year? 

French Medieval Angel Pillow

Sunday, December 28, 2014

French Script, Angel, Flower, Blue 

Could there be a more perfect pillow for a French-inspired house? 

Add Medieval look to the description and the throw pillow had 
to come to live at my house four Christmases ago. 

The blue angel is perfect with the blue checked slipper chair 
that is my favorite place to sit. 

Purchased more than thirty-five years ago while living in Austin, Texas, 
and two houses ago, the chair and matching ottoman 
have been re-upholstered four times, the latest time this past year.  
After months of searching for fabric for the living room and 
adjoining breakfast room, I love the blue and white buffalo check 
I found for the living room.  
This is the first Christmas for the new upholstery,  
and I am very happy to see how pretty the angel pillow 
looks with the blue and white check. 
Previously, I used the pillow in my bedroom. 

The chair sits in the space between the living room 
and the breakfast sunspace. 
See it sitting behind the white ladderback chair? 
Normally the ladderback chair sits elsewhere, 
giving me an unobstructed view of the kitchen without it. 

 The chair fits my body. 
My short legs often dangle like Lily Tomlin's character, Edith Ann, 
when I sit in newer chairs that are made higher 
to accommodate taller Americans. 
My feet sit perfectly flat on the floor while sitting here. 

This little spot has all that I need. 
The big basket on the left holds my collection of 
British Country Living magazines. 
The brass gooseneck floor lamp was bought around the same time 
as the chair to use with the chair as I graded papers. 
The ottoman makes the chair into a chaise lounge which 
gave me room to spread out the students' papers and 
to hold a tray with a drink and snacks. 
Now, the ottoman sits near another chair in the living room, 
and the little low wooden stool on the right holds my drink 
while I read British Country Living for inspiration. 

The print over the chair was formerly in a guest bedroom. 
After reading an article in an old Victoria magazine about 
the American impressionist Frank Benson, 
I looked for his prints to hang in my house and 
my office while a school administrator. 
He, like Monet, used family members as models 
for his paintings. 
Impressionism... a little touch of France. 

Many years ago, I gave the carved wooden goose to my husband 
to use in his home office, but moved it the crossbeam behind this chair 
to add a little touch of Christmas 
with an artificial blue-berried wreath around its neck. 

The medieval angel will sit here for several weeks this winter 
before being replaced by the usual pillow on the chair. 
Who knows... if you drop by for visit in the spring, 
she may still be sitting in this same spot. 


all the fabric selections for the living room and 
breakfast sunspace.

The Frank Benson print hanging in the master bedroom did hang 
in my office at school while I was an administrator. 

See Christmas Bedroom 2013 for another blue angel pillow. 


Winter Sunspace Plant Shelves

Saturday, December 27, 2014

While Christmas Day may be officially over, 
Christmas lingers for weeks at my house, 
especially this year with all the 
natural mostly unadorned greenery 
that will transition from 
Christmas to Winter 
quite easily.  

With just a bird, a nest, a little bit of green ribbon, 
ivy plants, a fresh boxwood wreath and a fabric snowdrop, 
the breakfast sunspace plant shelves 
can stay the same for weeks into Winter. 

The wreath has a Christmas look, 
but without glitz or bright spots of red 
that signal Christmas decorations,  
it also looks like Winter. 
Snowdrops are among the first bulbs 
to emerge and to bloom even amidst snows of Winter. 

Bright sunlight from the sunspace windows floods this corner of the kitchen. 
A live ivy wreath on the top shelf of the white garden shelves 
flourishes during Winter as it basks in the bright light. 

During the days leading up to Christmas, 
a vase filled with cut greenery added to 
Christmas decorations. 

Fresh cedar and magnolia branches sat on the floor 
between the two garden plant shelves, 
filling the room with Christmas aromas. 

Frasier fir clippings in a rustic basket on the extra seating, 
a white French ladderback chair, added to the holiday look. 

Nestled in the basket is a bird's nest found in the yard. 

One small holly branch is a subtle reminder of Christmas. 

Yet, nothing about a bird's nest makes it an 
exclusively Christmas decoration. 
Winter is the time to find abandoned nests 
that are not sheltering hatching eggs. 

TIP:  Mist a found bird's nest with alcohol-infused water 
to kill small mites that may reside in the nest. 
Remember to wash all fresh greenery from your yard 
with soapy water, then rinse, before using indoors. 

No trees/shrubs in which to look for a bird's nest? 
No problem.  

Use a handcrafted replica like the one on the boxwood wreath. 

Small 4-inch ivy pots add natural greenery on either side of the nest. 

The small real ivy wreath on the second shelf reminds us of Christmas, 
but the field glasses, purple twine/scissors, and Nest sign 
remind of us gardening plans/activities for Winter. 

A gray concrete dove with moss and a small ivy plant 
sits inside a galvanized crown on the bottom shelf of the plant stand. 

Greenery and birds' nests provide just the boost needed 
to see us through the cold Winter months. 

See Create Botanical Birds' Nests for easy directions on 
how to make your own bird's nest. 

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French Inspired Christmas Eve

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

As Christmas Eve approaches, 
children of all ages look forward with 
breathless excitement to a visit from 
Saint Nicholas 

An old world Saint Nicholas 
looking very French and 


through snow covered countryside 
in a sleigh pulled by a pair of reindeer dressed in bell harnesses 
inspired a 
French Christmas Eve 
table setting at my house. 

A fresh tree decorated with only fairy lights 
and a trio of angels at the top sits in the corner of the breakfast sunspace 
and can be seen by passersby at night. 

More fresh greenery... 
The ivy wreath sits on the top shelf of the garden shelves 
and paperwhite narcissi are part of the table's centerpiece. 

The breakfast area table is ready for Christmas Eve. 

A white beribboned swag adds more French to the setting. 
Made last year, I plan to use it for several years. 

Rolled pages from a French alphabet children's book 
are small gifts for diners. 

The alphabet book came from a Paris bookseller whose 
shop is in the Passage des Panoramas. 

Each place has a different alphabet page decorated with drawings 
to illustrate a story about the letter of the alphabet. 
V for Violettes 

Green script stars, a zinc seed pot with candles, and a Sarlat, France 
green stoppered bottle all add French touches to the narrow centerpiece. 

The French zinc seed pot is one of the pots I found at the 
Fall Round Top Antique Fair. 
It was easy to make the candle holder by 
covering florist foam with moss. 

The vintage Sarlat, France stopper bottle came from a 
French village brocante the last time I was in France. 

The green script stars were found at a small local boutique 
while Christmas shopping. 

A sprig of fresh evergreen from the Christmas tree 
adds a holiday touch to the black Eiffel Tower ornament on each napkin. 

The music decorated Eiffel Towers came from an Etsy shop last year. 

L'heure bleu (the blue hour) descends as twilight falls on Christmas Eve. 

Children all over the world are so excited they cannot sleep. 

Soon Saint Nicholas will be here on this 
French Inspired Christmas Eve 

Thank you for reading botanic bleu.

May your Christmas be 
filled with the pure joy of a child. 

Joyeux Noël 
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