Archive for December, 2008

Creative Gift Giving

(and receiving)

By Aggi Stevenson

We were so impressed with a gift we received this year.

Yes, it is fine to steal all the creative gift giving ideas you possibly can. Like this one from Lisa Angel. Lisa is the scanning co-ordinator at our D&J Galaxy store in Mount Airy, NC.

This one is especially nice because it obviously took time. It is beautifully put together and I wanted to show it off!


The basket is full of things handmade and presented in colorful tissue paper with a white paper underlay. It all sits in an oval Christmas basket with handles.

This is how she did it.


Lisa started with a woven handled basket in pretty Christmas colors. She lined the bottom with white tissue paper. The next layer is a colorful sheet of tissue paper with cut-out edges. She added a quart of homemade canned peppers and veggies and pints of mixed greens and chow chow from the garden. She used fruit laden labels for more color. The black eyed peas are in a bag adorned with holly. This is especially symbolic for this time of year. There is a tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Years Day in our area. 

 I wish you could smell the bag of potpourri Lisa added to the basket. It smells absolutely yummy.

She cut out a label with a zigzag design that says:

Christmas Potpourri

This potpourri was made from the land,

It was collected and gathered by hand.

It’s got apples and oranges and part of my tree!

Put a little in boiling water on the stove

for a smell so Christmasy!!

Lisa then topped it all off with Bogdon’s stick candy. 

Hats off to you Lisa and Thank You very much!

Jim and I will certainly enjoy this wonderful gift.img_0138




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Interior Decorating

By Aggi Stevenson

Many of us have a door or fireplace flanked by identical windows on each side.img_0067

It may look something like this

img_0069Or maybe this.

Well now is the time to get identical trees to place in front of these windows for next year because right now they are at least 50% off!

Start planning now for the way you will decorate next year and save a bundle. At the end of the season one year we went to Lowes to get twin trees to place in the windows beside the fireplace in the family room.  We were very limited on space so we had to choose the trees carefully. We chose to buy trees that were intended to go on either side of the door on the outside of the house. They are slimmer, smaller and are already pre-lit, decorated and come with their own container. 


 We tucked one in the corner at the end of the sofa.


The other one was placed in the corner across the room on the opposite side of the fireplace.

 Another good thing about this type of tree, that is designed to go outside, is that all the ornaments are tied on. The tree can be moved without the ornaments falling off. We put them in the attic until time to carry them down again without ever dismantling the tree or removing the ornaments.


We added a small tree skirt and a metal sleigh loaded with glass gift wrapped boxes that help reflect the light.

To hide the metal pole coming out of the base, I tucked white tueling into the urn and around the bottom of the pole.

img_0135 This is an unexpected way to add a couple of trees that are in scale and add a lot of drama to a small area. Go get yours now and take advantage of the deep discounts available this time of year. The regular Christmas trees sell very quickly. The outside trees are easier to get because few people realize they can use them inside. These trees are so well decorated and beautiful that not one person has ever asked it they are supposed to go outside.

Who says you can only use outside trees…outside?


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By Aggi Stevenson


Today is Christmas 2008. How is your Christmas going? Are you looking forward to it just being over? Are you so frazzled and exhausted that you long ago forgot what Christmas is really about?


Every Christmas I trudge up two flights of stairs to retrieve endless Christmas decorations from the attic. I like to have my home completely decorated before Thanksgiving. I love having Thanksgiving dinner in the formal dining room with the huge Christmas tree in the foyer nearby seperated only by a couple of columns.  I wash all the Christmas dishes, glasses and serving pieces. I set the table with chargers under the plates and put a candle lit centerpiece on the table. The flickering candle light is reflective in the glasses.


The top of the cabinets and china cabinet are always adorned with greenery and lights. The stairs and banisters are wrapped with pre-lit garland, stockings are hung and Christmas towels are in the kitchen and baths. Electric candles are placed in every window of our three story house. The antique punch bowl, cups and glass ladle is perched on the kitchen island which is transformed into a drink table. Christmas scatter rugs lay in front of the range and sink.  The mantles are covered with lights and decorated garland. Six different Christmas trees are visible from various angles and wreaths hang on all the entrance doors. The electric deer family, trees and sleigh always sit on the lawn and icicle lights hang around the porch, deck and railings. There is a Christmas tree on the porch and the porch table is covered with a Christmas cloth and candles to burn at night.


Are you tired yet? If you are tired just reading about it, you should try doing it. I am not complaining because I love to decorate but this year something happened. I got sick. I did have the tree in the foyer up before Thanksgiving but that is about it. As the weeks wore on I got more and more frustrated because I didn’t feel sick enough to go to bed but I had no energy and the coughing was driving me crazy. I kept thinking I would get the decorating done a little later than normal but it would get done.  All the homes in my neighborhood became transformed with lights and ornamentation. My home remained dark at night.


Finally I brought down the two trees that flanked the fireplace in the family room. My husband brought the children’s tree down from the attic and set it on the second story bridge separating the foyer and family room. My six year old grand daughter was eager to decorate it. I always let the grand children decorate it and then I go back and re-arrange it after they are gone. They never catch on. However, the tree remained just the way she left it. I never did even hook up the lights. The third story tree and the tree that goes in my bedroom never made it out of the attic. The stairs and banisters were never decorated and the stockings were never hung. The Christmas towels are still packed and the punch bowl is put away. No wreaths were hung, candles were not put in the windows, the deer family, trees and sleigh are still in the barn and no icicle lights were hung around the porch, deck and railings. The Christmas tree for the porch was never thought of and the outside table was not decorated.


My daughter and daughter in law did my shopping as each day I thought I would feel better but never did. I wondered what the neighbors were thinking and what the grand children would think driving up to a dark house on Christmas Eve. I cooked on Christmas Eve and set the table along with the candle lit centerpiece. I turned on the tree in the foyer and the two in the family room. That was it. I had a choice. I could spend the day cooking or cleaning my house. Not both. I did some surface cleaning and decided to turn a blind eye to the rest of it. The vacuuming and dusting wasn’t done. My office looked like a bomb went off in it. I closed the door to it and pretended it wasn’t part of the house.  I got dressed for dinner and waited for my children and grandchildren to arrive and when they did, it was wonderful. We had a great time. The food was good and the grand children brought life to Christmas. We laughed and opened gifts with hugs and kisses. We took pictures and video of our precious time together. 


All too soon it was over. Our grown children wanted to get home and get in bed so they could have that magical Christmas morning at their homes with their children. No one asked about the missing lights, lawn ornaments, wreaths, or tree on the porch. No one seemed to notice the missing two trees inside the house or that the stockings were not hung down the staircase. The missing garland from the banisters and stairs were never mentioned. Nor was the naked mantle, window candles or antique punch bowl asked about. Not one person asked why the vacuuming and dusting had not been done and if they noticed the bathroom wasn’t shiny clean they never let on. My family was in and out of my office but didn’t seem to notice the clutter everywhere. 


God showed me that even though we enjoy certain things, they are nothing compared to family. Sometimes we just knock ourselves out with preparation for family gatherings when all they want is time together. So I wasn’t so busy this Christmas. Yes, I was frustrated because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. God says, without me you can do nothing. I say, without God I am nothing.  I am looking on the bright side. I don’t have much to pack back up, take to the barn or return to the attic.  I was sort of behind before Christmas but now I am way ahead of the game.


I am standing because He is holding me up……….Aggi

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by Aggi Stevenson

Interior Decorating

Little Brown Jugs

We have been talking about the correct size centerpiece for the table when we are entertaining. If we have to lean to see the person across from us, the centerpiece is too large.  The centerpiece becomes a nuisance and no matter how beautiful it is our guests will hate it. They will feel as though we have built a wall down the middle of the table.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a centerpiece that is actually a conversation piece? Wouldn’t it be better to hear “I would have never thought of that?”  A centerpiece can literally be anything. Anyone can put a vase of flowers on the table…yawn.

In a previous article I mentioned making a centerpiece from a collection of  little brown jugs. You can use any collection you may have. It takes at least three to be considered a collection.

 We had 28 people for dinner. The formal dining room table had a centerpiece made from a collection of little brown jugs. I put them in a wire basket and placed them in the middle of the table. I  inserted just a few flowers in the neck of the jugs filled with water.


 The water made the jugs more reflective. I placed tea candles around the base of the jugs.  A beautiful amber glow was visible from every angle. The light of the candles illuminated the jugs enough to see the stems through the glass, adding more interest.

The centerpiece made from a collection of little brown jugs was unexpected in a formal dining room. Just what I needed to tone down the formality. The comments were great. The best thing about it is that it was free. It is easy to make a centerpiece from just about anything. 

Note: I couldn’t get my original picture to upload. I had to go to my attic and try to re-create the October centerpiece. I had purple Dyanthus mini carnations in the jugs. (they won’t be back until spring) For this picture I had to use fake flowers and they look like fake flowers. Never a good idea. You will have to use your imagination on this one. 

Now go have fun.  Make your own centerpiece!

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by Aggi Stevenson

Yesterday we discussed how to make your ten minute flower arrangement (featured the day before) become even more dramatic by setting it in front of a strategically placed mirror.

Today I will show you how to make cheap and beautiful art for your home from the same ten minute flower arrangement.


I covered my kitchen island with an old table cloth and set my ten minute flower arrangement on it. I like to mix the old with the new. I then placed a Gregg Shorthand text book by John R. Greeg with 1893 as the first copyright date and laid current reading glasses on the book. I added an antique leather sheath with a broken pair of scissors and a letter opener on the cloth. I climbed onto my kitchen step stool and shot the picture from a higher angle than eye level with my digital camera. I put my camera card in my computer, printed the picture out and framed it. Walla…instant art!


This is the companion print with a very worn Bible lying near by. Again the old with the new. If you are going to make a series of prints, the theme needs to be consistent.



This print is the third of a series of four. I could have hung all four prints together in the same, similar, or mis-matched frames. I chose to use a rustic wall hanging that is designed to hold candles in the rings. Who says you have to use an item only for what it was intended? I put the other two prints in contemporary frames and simply leaned them against the traditional rustic wall hanging. In this picture I left the shorthand book but added a cup of coffee in a white milk glass cup from the 50’s.


This print is the ten minute flower arrangement with the same tattered Bible. The Bible has the same pair of current reading glasses that was on the shorthand book in the first print. You are only limited by your own imagination. Why not have art that means something special to you?

Now go have fun. Create your own artwork!

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White Walls: Yes or No?

by Aggi Stevenson

One Minute Decorating Tip

What do you really love? Then do that!

White walls can give a room a cold, sterile atmosphere. Most of the time there is a stark contrast between the walls and artwork, furniture, floors and drapes. Most people think white is the easiest color to deal with because they don’t consider white a color. In reality it is very difficult. Those with no decorating ability at all will opt for white paint because they can’t decide on a color or are afraid to try color.

Those people that are stuck with white walls because they are renting are always trying to find ways to cover the walls in color without using paint, like fabric or lattice etc.

Don’t be afraid to try color. It is just paint…it is not permanent. You can always change it if  you don’t like it. However, I strongly suggest you live with the color at least a week before changing it. Paint color looks differently different times of the day. You may just take a liking to it. Color to me is like draping a room in a warm blanket. Color tolerates a little clutter better than white. It blends in with the colors in your furniture, artwork and floors.

That being said, white done right can be beautiful. Using different tones of white in your room will make the room appear to have color in it. When I think of a white room, I think of a modern sleek room with black and white furnishings, glass and chrome or brushed nickel accents, with a monotone rug to ground everything. Shiny surfaces like glass or acrylic tables, lamps, chandeliers and floors are needed to bounce light around the room. Clutter will defeat the purpose and artwork should be kept to a minimum. One large piece of artwork on a white wall is better than several small pieces, unless the small pieces are grouped together to visually appear as one large piece. Some people choose to use artwork for splashes of color in a white space while others prefer black and white only. Instead of a cold stark room, with a little planning, it can be serene and inviting.

Personally, the only white walls in my home are the fifth wall in every room, the ceiling. I used to be so anti-white I even painted my ceilings any color but white. I am back to white ceilings and wordwork now. When I stop loving it, I will change it.

Many people are afraid to try things because they worry what others will think. Get that out of your mind. They don’t live in your space, you do!

Now go have fun. Decorate with the colors you love!

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Easy Christmas Tree Decorating

by Aggi Stevenson


Trimming the Christmas tree shouldn’t be a dreaded job.

We have several social events at our home during the Christmas season. Each time, I get the same question, “Who did your tree?” I suppose it would be a stretch for my friends to believe I did it myself? But when I tell them how easy it is, their jaw drops. I can see the I-think-I-can-do-that look in their eyes as they pinch their chin between their thumb and forefinger and say, “hummmm.” This year I created a similar tree … it’s easy!

Always invest in a pre-lit tree. Assemble the tree in the area the tree will be on display. It’s difficult to move a tree once it’s assembled.img_0007_edited

Buy enough pre-lit decorated garland to wrap around your tree. I have a nine foot tree and it takes five nine foot sections of garland. The garland is already adorned with lights, bows, ribbon and ornaments. Once you wrap the tree with pre-lit decorated garland your tree doesn’t need much more.


Before placing the garland on the tree, check to make sure all lights are working. If you wrap the tree first, and then find a section with non-working lights you  have to start over.


Start wrapping the tree with the female end of the wiring at the top of the tree. I don’t care much for tree toppers but if you like them, you will have a place to plug it in at the top of the tree without running a seperate extension cord up the back or middle of the tree.


We have an open foyer and considered getting a 12 foot tree. The only reason we didn’t  is because the 9 foot tree was on sale. Now we’re  glad we didn’t get the taller tree. This is an 8 foot ladder and I have to climb to the top of it to reach the top of the tree. Also, we didn’t take into consideration the span of the bottom of the tree. A 12 foot tree takes up more room than we have and we have a good size foyer. Consider the space the bottom of the tree takes, and if you are willing to climb more than eight feet to decorate your tree.

There is no use to fluff  your tree until you get the garland wrapped around the tree. If you do it before hand, you will have to do it again. Now that the garland is in place go around the tree and fluff out each section of branches in a star burst design to make the tree look as full as possible. You will have to fluff the garland as well. This is the most time consuming part of decorating the tree. The ribbon is wired and becomes quite beautiful when fluffed. The garland has it own greenery and blends into the tree giving the illusion that you spent hours making bows and attaching ornaments and wrapping the tree in co-ordinating ribbon. The tree can be considered finished at this point. However, I like a little more bling.


These are clear acrylic ornaments of churches and angels I purchased at Dollar Tree. There were other figures but I chose to limit it to two types. They come already wired with a white light. You just remove a light out of it’s socket and plug the ornament light in. I thought that was too much trouble so I removed all the wires and lights. They just slip out the bottom. Then when I hang the ornaments on the tree I just insert a light that is nearby through the opening in the bottom. I no longer have to worry about hiding the white wire.


The ornament appears to be expensive. I choose to think they look like crystal. No one can tell they are acrylic unless they touch them. The look is the same as glass, but they are unbreakable. Resist the temptation to over do it on ornaments. The tree will take on a junky look.


I keep assorted sizes of pine cones and tuck them in gaps that need to be filled. Peacock feathers are another cool thing to insert here and there.


Put your tree skirt in place to hide the metal stand.  It’s done!  However, there is a special surprise to decorating your tree this way.


The pre-lit tree lights, and the garland lights, work independently of each other. When the company is gone, unhook the tree lights and leave the lights of the garland on. It’s like having a Christmas tree night light. The warm glow is very pretty at night and romantic as well. Imagine That!


Don’t spend all your time decorating your tree. Spend that time with your friends! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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