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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

5 Thanksgiving Blessings Found in White Pumpkins and Blue Berries

Sunday, November 23, 2014

We can see five Thanksgiving blessings found in a white pumpkin nestled 
in a blue-berried grapevine wreath. 

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. 
A time when our thoughts focus on family and friends 
and the blessings in our lives... 

When we slow down and think about our lives, we realize we can SEE 
the blessings in our lives in whatever is around us. 

F R E E D O M 

White pumpkins and blue berries... 

Represent the freedom to choose how to live our lives.  
We live in a country in which we can choose a white pumpkin 
instead of being required only to have an orange pumpkin. 
Traditional fall colors are golds, oranges, browns, and reds, 
but our freedom allows us to celebrate fall with white and blue 
without fear for choosing to be different from the majority. 

A B U N D A N C E 

White pumpkins and blue berries... 

Represent the abundance of material riches in our lives.  
We have an abundance of fruits and vegetables that demonstrates our 
farmers can grow more than the bare necessities of life. 
Yes, our country has an abundance of crops for which to give thanks, 
just as our forefathers gave thanks for their harvests. 

The white pumpkin could be eaten, but will not be. 
No, it is merely used to feed my soul with its beauty. 
We have such abundance in our lives that we can use vegetables as art. 
The pumpkin represents the personal abundance I enjoyed this year. 
I was blessed with enough riches to spend money on nonessentials. 

L U X U R Y  O F   T I M E 

White pumpkins and blue berries... 

Represent the luxury of time in my life.  
For most of my adult life I worked in demanding full-time jobs 
that required most of my waking hours, leaving me exhausted 
and with little time for leisure activities. 

Now I can spend time finding just the right white pumpkin
with a perfect quirky stem with multiple squiggles 
to place on a grapevine wreath. 
What fun positioning the blue berry vine 
just so atop the grapevine wreath. 
Then a few days later, more fun in adding  
brown and yellow feathers around the pumpkin. 
Life is so good to have the luxury of time. 

L O V E   O F   F R I E N D S   &   F A M I L Y 

White pumpkins and blue berries... 

Represent the love of friends and family for whom the 
fall arrangement was created. 
We will share Thanksgiving together. 
There will be five to seven of us. 
Not as many as when I was growing up, 
but without them, life would not be as full or meaningful. 
My dear sister and her husband will help prepare 
the meal and house for others joining us. 
One couple has shared Thanksgiving and Christmas 
with me for the past five years. 
Sometimes at my house, sometimes at their house. 
We've invited the good neighbor across the street 
who lives alone and watches after us. 
We've also invited a former colleague/boss whose 
whose husband will be working all day shuttling 
travelers to and fro from the airport to a hotel. 

W A R M   H O U S E 

White pumpkins and blue berries... 

Represent a warm house in which to live. 
A place, a home, where fall arrangements can be made. 

How grateful I am to have a warm house. 
As a child in Alabama, I sometimes lived in 
houses heated only by a wood-burning stove. 
Which meant one side of you roasted while the other side was chilled. 
You had to keep turning. 
At night, you could hardly move from the weight of the quilts,
all handmade by family members. 
Mornings, you shivered with chattering teeth 
until you got your clothes on. 
As an adult, I have also visited houses in the northeast 
in the winter that were so cold. 

Central heat and enough money to pay the electric bill 
are true blessings! 

 White pumpkins and blue berries... 

Represent five Thanksgiving blessings 
and many more. 

May your Thanksgiving be filled with 
freedom, abundance, luxury of time, love of friends and family, 
and in a safe, warm home. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...



Christmas Beautiful Idea #3 Red Pears

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Welcome to the third in a series of posts with some ideas and tips I think are 
Christmas beautiful ideas

Yes, it is still November, but blogs are like magazines that show 
Christmas ideas and photos well before the holidays arrive.  
Readers need to see Christmas ideas and photos with enough time 
to plan their decorations and then have time to locate the supplies needed. 
What good is a great idea if you see it the day before Christmas? 
Many holiday parties begin the first week of December. 

Christmas means different things to different people, 
but everyone sees beauty in Christmas in some way. 

Christmas beautiful ideas 

are not always expensive or complicated. 

For the past couple of years, I have been drawn more and more 
to simple, natural Nordic and French Christmas decor. 

Christmas beautiful idea #3 

red pears 

A single perfectly shaped red pear and a small sprig of holly 
capture the feeling and beauty of Christmas. 

Three red pears, some with blemishes, and two sprigs of holly 
snipped from a holly tree in the yard create an inexpensive, easy-to-do 
arrangement for a holiday table, buffet, or mantel. 

If you don't have a holly tree, maybe one of your neighbors will 
share small cuttings from theirs. 
If you were my neighbor, I would love to share snippets 
from my holly tree with you. 
*~... It is the season of giving ...~*

Placing the pears and holly on a narrow white ceramic serving tray 
with scalloped edges protects the furniture and keeps the fruit clean. 
Speaking of clean ~~~ wash the holly in sudsy water, then rinse well, 
to remove both dirt and critters that may be hitching a ride inside the house. 
After all, this display is not for looks only. 

There were three pears; now there are two. 
This is a beautiful way to serve pears meant for eating at a gathering. 

An entire cluster of standing pears surrounded by holly sprigs would make 
a festive way to serve the pears. 

A narrow serving dish gives plenty of room on a small table for other dishes. 

The simple bowl of fresh fruit is perfect sitting on a French style table 
as dessert for the end of a French meal. 

When I selected the new upholstery for the breakfast chairs, 
I did not realize how the little touches of rosy red would 
blend with Christmas colors and vignettes. 
The little things in life can bring so much unexpected joy! 

Just a simple inexpensive pear and holly display is beautiful 
even from the living room. 

An update on the progress of the paperwhite narcissus bulbs 
planted for 'forcing' on November 13, 
just one week ago... 

Only one week after planting, the bulbs are growing vigorously 
even though we have had gloomy, overcast days for most of that time. 

The most amazing growth is ONE bulb. 
Remember what I told you about 
"not all bulbs are created equal?" 
This one, top quality, 17 cm+ bulb has all 
of these shoots with the promise of many blooms. 

You may still be able to get ZIVA Paperwhites for forcing 
This is the company from which I bought my bulbs, and
the company is having an end-of-season sale right now.
No compensation, just recommending a great source. 

As the magical season of this year draws near, 
I hope you find some Christmas beauty in my 
Christmas Beautiful Idea series, 
and that the ideas will be useful for you so you can adapt them 
to express the beauty of Christmas from my home to yours.  
More to come all during November and December... 

If you missed the first two posts in this series, you 
can find them at 


for more pear vignettes and a recipe see 


Christmas Beautiful Ideas #2 Paperwhites

Friday, November 14, 2014

Welcome to the second in a series of posts with some ideas and tips I think are
Christmas beautiful ideas

Christmas means different things to different people, 
but everyone sees beauty in Christmas in some way.
Last year, I saw beauty in simplified Christmas Greenery 2013.

As the magical season of the year draws near, 
I hope you, too, find some Christmas beauty in this series, and that the ideas
will be useful for you so you can adapt them to express 
the beauty of Christmas in your home.

Christmas Beautiful Idea #2 
paperwhite narcissi 

Six weeks from today, November 13, is Christmas Day 
which means today is THE day to plant paperwhite narcissi 
in order for them most likely to be in bloom inside on Christmas. 
The fragrance and snow white blooms are symbols 
of Christmas for me. 

I love Ziva paperwhites and try to plant some for 
"forcing" inside every year. 
Some years I have bought the bulbs, 
but then ran out of time to get them planted. 
Not this year.  
I planted several containers today. 
And, I plan to plant several more containers this weekend. 

Ziva paperwhites can be planted from mid-October through February. 
Flowers emerge four to six weeks later. 

Not all bulbs are created equal. 
The bulb on the right is not a TOP quality bulb. 

Bulbs, like many plants, are rated by size and quality. 
Top quality narcissus bulbs are rated 17 centimeters plus (17 cm+), 
which is the rating for the other bulbs shown. 
Not only are the 17+ bulbs larger, they have more 
shoots emerging per bulb and will have more blooms per bulb. 
Catalogs/online websites from plant and bulb nurseries are the best 
sources for finding large, healthy quality bulbs. 

A single bulb planted in a small pot makes a thoughtful inexpensive Christmas gift. 
Friends love receiving a gift that is special and "homemade". 

A single top quality bulb in a special container can be part of a small centerpiece 
like this one shown on my breakfast table last Christmas,   
There are four blooms in this photo, but there is also another bud yet to open. 
I must have been a good girl last year for Santa 
to reward me with so many flowers from a single bulb. 

The bulbs can be planted in soil or my favorite way... in pebbles. 
French zinc seed pots found at the Round Top Antique Show 
are the right size for a bulb. 

A cut-down styrofoam coffee cup just fits inside the zinc pot and 
makes the pot watertight to keep it from leaking and to keep it from rusting. 

I love how the three little zinc pots look on the scalloped edge china dish. 
When I add water to the pots, the table is protected from drips and splashes. 
When adding water, the water level should be at the bottom of the bulb, no higher. 

Here they are!  
All dressed up with sheet moss and red-striped grosgrain ribbons, 
they look oh so fran├žais. 

Cereal/soup bowls are big enough for about three large bulbs. 
These bulbs are peeking above the sheet moss. 

This is the same cereal/soup bowl that has a red holly design on one side. 
A gray holly design is on the other side. 
Perfect for using with traditional Christmas colors and 
for using with the current popular grey and/or white color trends. 
Just turn the bowl around to fit the color scheme.  

Seven bulbs or more can fit in a large vegetable/salad bowl. 
Have you noticed I love scalloped edges? 

The bulbs will receive bright sunlight in my breakfast sunspace as they grow. 

All of these will be for sale in my annual French Country Christmas Event. 
Any that do not sell will make great gifts for friends and/or  
great centerpieces on my holiday tables. 

A one-page quick summary of how to "force" paperwhites 
can be printed for your files or can be pinned to 
your Christmas Pinterest board. 
See The Graphics Fairy for botanical images.

Did you miss the first post in the Christmas Beautiful Ideas series? 
If yes, you really should pop over to Christmas Beautiful Ideas #1 to see 
a gorgeous fabric reindeer gift tag.

Our first hard freeze of the year was this week.  
It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! 
Please join me at these inspiring sites...



Christmas Beautiful Ideas #1

Monday, November 10, 2014

Christmas means different things to different people, 
but everyone sees beauty in Christmas in some way. 

As the magical season of the year draws near, 
I will be sharing a series of posts with some ideas and tips I think are  
Christmas beautiful ideas.  

I hope you, too, find some Christmas beauty in them and that they will 
be useful for you to find ways to adapt them to express 
the beauty of Christmas in your home.  

Christmas Beautiful Idea #1
ivory fabric deer 
gift tags  

Beautiful Christmas presents make the excitement of receiving such 
a specially wrapped gift even more exciting. 

The fabric deer with their embroidered outlines and little gold bells 
will be treasures to keep and to use for many years to come 
long after the package is unwrapped this Christmas. 

When presents are this beautiful, they can be used 
as a table arrangement for weeks leading up to Christmas. 
Their beauty can be enjoyed by the whole family, 
not just the intended recipient. 

Of course, you may have to find ways to discourage 
A gift bag can stand empty until a couple of days before giving the gift. 

While boxes are more secure in keeping the gift 'under wraps,' 
determined peekers can still find ways to peek at a wrapped gift. 
When we were children, one of my brothers was always 
so excited about presents he could hardly wait until Christmas. 
Mother loved to wrap presents early and to put them under the tree 
which made it even harder for my brother to wait.  
One year, just after my brother learned to read, and 
knew which tags had his name on them, 
he found a way to peek at just his presents. 
He chewed a corner off each present so 
he could peek inside the box. 

Yes, we all knew who the guilty party was. 
Only his presents had chewed corners. 
Boy, was he in trouble, 
but we still laugh about that. 

Here are a few suggestions for how to create a special display with packages. 

You don't have to wrap all your presents now, just a handful that have 
special ribbons, papers, and adornments. 

Coordinate the color of the packages. 

Repeat the use of some items such as the deer tags and fresh greenery. 

Use items with different heights.  
Not only is the display more interesting, each item can be seen more fully. 
Stack some presents if they are all the same size. 

Use an odd number of objects, some of which are not gifts, but that 
repeat the gift packages' colors and other embellishments like the greenery. 

Finally, look for ways to use items in ways different from their normal use. 
These beautiful ivory fabric deer tags came as a ribbon. 
Yes, a ribbon. 
All the deer were connected together as a ribbon, 
but by cutting them off individually and using a hole punch, 
they can be used as gift tags. 

I hope you will watch for my entire series of posts during 
November and December 
that will be about what I think are Christmas beautiful ideas
Please join me at these inspiring sites...