Wednesday, December 8

holiday series 2010: the 5 senses of christmas

one thing i love about the holidays is how they engage the senses. i try to incorporate all 5 senses into my christmas decor. i think it makes our house more homey, which is what we're all about here at the casteel casa! here's what we do - hope it gives you ideas for making your home more sensual, too!

1. the sights
"do you see what i see?"

[den tree lights in the dark]

[living room tree lights]

shaun & i both love coming home to the tree lights twinkling - the best ambiance ever! we also love falling asleep to a christmas movie with no other light than that coming from the tv & the tree.

of course, all of our other christmas decorations contribute to the festive sights around the casa.

2. the sounds
"sleigh bells ring, are you listening?"

[sleigh bells on the door]

[the door we enter from the garage]

every evening, we swing open the door from the garage to the den, & the sound of jingle bells greets us! at the old casa in raleigh, we hung them on the front door handle, but we don't enter through either front door at the current casa, & our handles won't keep the bells on. 

[ipod christmas playlist]

[our favorite albums]

we listen to christmas music all the time throughout december! i try to have it on by the time shaun comes home. he vastly prefers hearing music instead of television when he enters the casa.

[den fireplace]

the sound of a crackling fire warms the insides, even when you're not in the same room. i can hear it in the kitchen, too!

3. the smells

i make this frequently throughout the fall & winter, & the smell of the spices permeate the air & make it instantly feel like the holidays!

[den fireplace]

the fire does double duty - sound & smell! [actually, i could list it for sight, too, so it's an easy multi-tasking tool for making it feel like the holidays!]

[mistletoe yankee candle]

for the first seven christmases we spent together, shaun & i only had an artificial tree, but shaun missed the fresh pine scent of a real tree. i wanted to incorporate all of his favorite things of christmas into the casa, so i went on the hunt for a candle. most pine-scented candles smell gross! but i finally discovered yankee candle's "mistletoe" scent, & we both love it! we have a real tree in the living room, but the den tree is still artificial, so we keep the candle in there. i try to light it every night before shaun gets home!

4. the tastes

along with wassail, our other favorite seasonal drink is my side of the family's homemade hot cocoa. we love cozying up in the den under afghans, with a christmas movie, a fire, & the twinkling tree lights, all while enjoying a mug of cocoa - the perfect evening!

[peppermint sticks]

i don't generally like peppermint or candy canes, but i make a few selective exceptions during the holidays: peppermint mochas from starbucks, my chocolate-peppermint pinwheels, & old-fashioned soft peppermint sticks.

[all kinds of candies]

we always keep goodies around during the holidays. and i love to use bowls of m&ms as decoration!

5. the touches

[extra blankets]

i start throwing extra blankets everywhere during the winter & holidays - they feel so nice & warm! i don't even know how to sit on the couch without a blanket over me! my mom made the red afghan, & i made the turquoise one.

[kissing bears]

a friend of mine gave me these years ago, & i think they're so cheesy they're cute! i also like how soft & velvety they are. they usually sit on our bed every christmas.

[mistletoe, courtesy of martha stewart]

i don't have any mistletoe up yet this year, but the most important & most enjoyable touches of the season are hugs & kisses! so do whatever you can to encourage more of them!

decorating is not just about making your house pretty. everything you do to your house should be in an effort to make it a HOME. 

Tuesday, December 7

holiday series 2010: DIY tree skirt

[my burlap & velvet ribbon tree skirt]

in my post on our christmas decor, you may have noticed the burlap tree skirt under my tree in the den. i made it myself! back when shaun & i were poor college students, i had to make most of our decorations or repurpose things already in our home. it was a habit born of necessity, but it became my intentional philosophy & practice.

i knew i wanted something rustic, yet still "fancy" for our tree skirt. i have had a love affair with burlap ever since planning our wedding in 2003, & i had some leftover. i went to a local craft store & bought a roll of burgundy velvet ribbon with embroidered edges when it was 50% off. i also bought a small roll of velvet ribbon for the inside edges.

[the supplies minus the glue]

all i did was measure the size circle i wanted, draw it on the burlap with sharpie, & cut it out. i cut the slit & then the inside opening. along the slit & inside circle, i glued the skinny ribbon on with fabric glue. along the outside edge, i glued the fancy velvet ribbon, tucking the edge under since it has wire in it.

[underneath edge detail]

it was that simple!

[close up - pardon the cat fur!]

[a bella-boo playing peek-a-boo!]

i made this back in 2004, & it's still in as great of shape as when new. i hope this inspires you to use what you have on hand & your own creativity to make your house a festive home!



Monday, December 6

menu plan monday

it's nice having an oven again! but i find myself sticking to old habits - stovetop cooking. it's a simple menu this week.

monday - leftover butternut squash soup
tuesday - turkey burgers, veggie sticks
wednesday - sweet potato & black bean quesadillas
thursday - out to eat
friday - kielbasa mashed potatoes
saturday - y.u.m. [plus snacking on hors d'oeuvres & sweets at the coffeehouse christmas party]
sunday - @ church after the christmas musical

Sunday, December 5

the spirit of the season

i had been having a hard time getting into christmas this year. i loved our family decorating tradition, but after my family left, it seemed so did my christmas spirit. but i found the spirit of the season today.

today, we went with our youth group after church to pick out a child to sponsor. it was their idea at the service project brainstorm. they wanted to commit to giving to someone else every single month. they are the coolest group of teens ever! i love their spirit for Christ & for others. i needed them to remind me what the season of christmas is all about.

i was raised in a christian home that celebrated christmas as a purely secular holiday because we don't believe Jesus was actually born in december. but as i've gotten older, i've realized it doesn't matter when He was actually born; it matters that we take time to remember that He WAS BORN! to remember the greatest gift ever sent to this earth. to remember the life He lived, the life He gave, & the Life He offers to each of us.

we went to the family christian store in town, & they picked out tariku from ethiopia:

isn't he adorable?! how blessed we are - may we spread those blessings to others! and as we share His story, His love, & His blessings, may we be filled with the true spirit of the season!

Saturday, December 4

holiday series 2010: my favorite holiday tradition

when i was growing up, my mom was adamant that christmas stuff wait till after thanksgiving! we always decorated the tree on december 1st. but then i went off to school. i wasn't always home on december 1st. so, we started decorating the tree the saturday after thanksgiving while i was home on break. it has become my favorite massey holiday tradition!

for the first seven years, shaun & i were married, we lived two hours from my side of the family & 14 hours away from his side, so we spent thanksgiving with the massey clan. shaun came to love our decorating tradition, too. last year, since we had moved to indiana, two hours away from the casteel clan & 14 hours away from the masseys, we spent thanksgiving in illinois & enjoyed time with the patrick side [his mom's family] & my first ever casteel cookie decorating tradition! but this year, with my sister moved far away from all of us in texas, we decided to have a massey reunion for thanksgiving in indiana. i was really excited about hosting my first thanksgiving, but i was even more excited about getting to have our tree-decorating saturday!

what makes it my favorite christmas tradition?

1. decorating the tree

[mom & me doing the lights]

i love putting the artificial tree together & wrapping all the lights methodically so that you get even & optimal twinkle! this year, vanessa wasn't wearing her contacts & had forgotten her glasses in texas, so she was particularly helpful at gauging the twinkle factor without even squinting!

2. unpacking the ornaments

[mom & ness unwrapping ornaments 
& dad watching the movie]

all of our ornaments have been collected over the years, mostly bought or made by mom. i also now have a few from preschool students - probably my most cherished ones. each ornament has a story or connection to my life. mom always labeled the backs or bottoms of our ornaments with our initials & the year. i love unwrapping & remembering them together. since we usually do this at mom's house with her & vanessa's ornaments, it's been seven years since mom & ness have seen my ornaments!

[my treasured ornament collection]

3. watching xmas movies

we always watch "it happened on 5th avenue" while decorating the tree. if you haven't seen it, it is the cutest christmas movie & a standard at the casteel casa! then, we usually sit back & enjoy our masterpiece while watching "white christmas" - my very favorite movie of all times!

4. eating junk food

[the spread]

my gramma [mom's mom] started a tradition years ago when we moved to wilmington, when i was in middle school, to indulge in nothing but junk food as we celebrated mom's birthday [two days before christmas]. over the years, we have moved the junk food dinner to the saturday after thanksgiving for our first festivity of the season. this year, mom & dad were driving back on saturday, so we decorated the tree on friday & opted to continue enjoying thanksgiving leftovers instead of making all new food.  however, being me, i had to have something junk-foodish. i set up the appetizer table from thanksgiving with just a few sweets & treats that we noshed on all evening.

we enjoyed more bites of fall, my "relish cheeseball" [so called because it reminds me of a relish tray], my regular sharp cheddar cheeseball, a relish tray, roasted chickpeas, & almonds.

plus, homemade fudge, homemade toffee, white chocolate pretzels, & my spicy ginger cookies.

5. massey hot cocoa

[shaun making the cocoa]

[massey hot cocoa in a regular mug]

everyone who has had my mom's hot cocoa has begged for the recipe

6. family time!

[me & ness with zorra]

Thursday, December 2

holiday series 2010: deck the halls!

we're getting merry over at the casteel casa! we haven't finished all the decorating, like the banister & small trees for each room, but here's what we have done so far.

this year, i was inspired by our theme WINTER WONDERLAND:
the color white, snow, snowflakes, doilies sheet music, birds, & woodsy things like greenery, pine cones, & burlap.

[tree in the den]

this is always the first thing to go up! we decorated it this year with my family the day after thanksgiving. growing up, we always had an artificial tree decorated with colored lights & ornaments collected over the years. my mom made or bought at least one ornament for every year of our lives, & she still gives both shaun & i an ornament every year. when we got married, mom gave me all my ornaments, & we have been adding to them ever since. i don't like collecting & storing alot of christmas decorations, but i love my ornaments & will always find space for them!  ps: i made the tree skirt, which i will post about later...

[my den mantle]

i finally moved the window! but i still haven't found or developed the last picture for that empty frame... so just pretend there is another fabulous photo in it! actually, i would like to change those pictures out for wintery photos, but another year. the pine garland is fresh from a local nursery, plus some pine cones, & white candles. i love the pop of color from our stockings, & the two different star hooks.

[close up of the bird]

i've been adamantly avoiding the bird craze, but i finally buckled the other day at hobby lobby! i bought 4 different birds! this is bird #1 & probably my favorite. it has undergone a slight transformation:

just a coat of primer & a coat of white gloss spray paint & viola!

i was inspired by this tray from lemonade makin' mama:

[simple tray with cranberry beads & candles]

i just loved it! but i'm not really doing alot of red this year, so i did my own version. now, you know i don't like to buy & store alot of christmas stuff, so before i got a white tray, i needed to know it would be reused elsewhere in the casa. i decided the guest bedroom, which is done in a blue & white beachy theme, could use a sweet tray to hold helpful items for guests. the bottom of my tray is actually painted with a tacky "fresh brewed coffee" design, but i'll just paint over that after christmas! 

[coffeetable centerpiece]

for now, i filled it with coarse kosher salt & some glitter to look like snow, plus a white candle wrapped in burlap scrapbook paper & sheet music scrapbook paper [maybe i need to tie a piece of twine around it], another small white candle, a pine cone, some fresh greenery, & another sweet bird!

[bird #2]

i thought about spray painting this bird white, too, but shaun liked it as is, & i think i do, too. so i just put a few real cranberries in the nest!

[the living room tree]

shaun grew up with real trees, so when we got this casa, he was really excited about having both a den & a living room so we could put up two trees! this one is real, & while i hate decorating real trees [i'm slightly allergic, & break out into a rash], it certainly is beautiful when done! last year, i bought two containers of simple ball ornaments from target - one in red & one in turquoise - to match the living room decor. last year, i didn't need a tree skirt because the tree branches swept so low, but this year i found this beautiful silver quilted one from hobby lobby. 

[silver quilted tree skirt]

[old-fashioned tree topper]

last year, i visited the leob house in lafayette, an old-fashioned bread & breakfast. they have dozens of trees, & every one of them had a topper shaped like this. i've never particularly liked star toppers a whole lot, so i just didn't have toppers on my trees [still don't on the den tree]. but i found this topper - where else, but hobby lobby - in mercury glass!!! i love mercury glass for the living room decor. it feels so retro to me.

[the living room mantle]

you'll get to see more details about the living room in next week's feature friday, but i couldn't do a post on christmas decor without the living room mantle! and if you're wondering, the "C" is not for christmas, but for casteel! 

[antique oversized ornament from grandma pat]

[candle votives]

i found these in 2 different states! the pine bough one is from target in north carolina. the mercury glass ones are from indiana, but i can't remember where...

[vignette close-up]

i love to decorate with books! 
"a room without books is like a body without a soul"
 ~ cicero
so, i gathered all my red books off the shelves & completed the vignette with white pottery, also from my bookshelves, cinnamon sticks, a white bird [#3!], & fresh greenery.

since i'm doing a feature friday on the living room next week, i'm not going to show the entire built-in bookcase, but here are a few holiday details:

[greenery & mercury glass bird]

[brushed silver leaf with candle & greenery]

i got that leaf candle plate from a friend years ago, & it makes its way around the house in various looks.

["snowballs" with ornament & greenery]

the snowballs are just leftover styrofoam balls from shaun's halloween costume! and the bowl is from my everyday white collection.

i'm sure i'll have more decor vignettes to post later on, but i hope this glimpse of the casteel casa at christmas helps get you into the holiday spirit & inspires you for your own home!