Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanks Giving: A Series as You Prepare for Thanksgiving

Setting the Scene:  Beauty for Your Home

We can’t ignore the message of Autumn.   Tree colors blaze magnificently across the country-side.   Changing weather patterns bring cooler temps and rain.   Daylight hours shrink.   Chilly temps book-end our mornings and evenings.    And just like that, Autumn nudges the home-maker to action.

No longer jumping in the pool or sitting under the shaded pergola to cool off, there’s a bit of urgency about our evenings now.   Our chores now focus on putting the garden and yard to bed for the winter.  Home and cars need winterizing treatments.   Leaves need raking, flower beds need mulching, spring bulbs need planting.   

"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Not giving up easily, we host one last outdoor event under the hastening evening of the autumn sky.  Our friends join us around the cozy fire-ring in the backyard, we toast marshmallows and toes, embers glow and sparks float into the blue-purple night.    Faces glow, smiles are shared, and fingers tingle from the chill that nips the air.    Even, there—did you see it?—your breath!

And so we retreat indoors knowing that icy-cold winter winds are not far off.

Sweaters, turtlenecks, and long pants emerge from summer hibernation; slippers toddle out from the back of the closet; thick brown socks warm your toes.    Comfortably attired, we think about making our homes inviting and pleasant for our family and for friends who visit.    But this particular home-maker and her husband are on a debt-retirement kick, and she knows that every penny counts.   There are feasts and festivities and gift-giving coming up later this month and next.   

Yet her heart yearns to make her home beautiful and welcoming.   She’s seen the beautiful photos in the home-decorating magazines and websites.   How can she transform her sweet little home into a welcoming abode with charming accessories and simple comforts that make holiday guests feel special?   How can she do this without breaking the budget?

The Christian home-maker will first look to God’s Word for direction, and these encouraging verses from the Old Testament provide the framework for the home-maker’s motivation and a lively pep-talk to get the work off to a God-pleasing start:  

“She…works with eager hands…bringing her food from afar…. 
She sets about her work vigorously ….  
She sees that her trading is profitable…. 
When it snows she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  
She makes coverings for her bed.”
Proverbs 31, selected verses
from the NIV translation

The scrutinizing eyes of the home-keeper notice everything.   She gives every room a scrutinizing review.   

What’s working? 
What’s not?  
What little thing will make this room say “Hello!  Glad you’re here!  Sit down!  Stay awhile!”  

She makes a plan and sets to work to transform her home with a few accessories here and there.  Here are a few tried-n-true suggestions from the Old Wife Who Knows A Few Things.

Add Visual Warmth

As the cooler temps arrive, add visual warmth with these easy-to-do tips:

(1)    Place candles on the counter and table-top in the kitchen and dining room, and on the side tables and coffee tables in the living room.
(2)    LIGHT the candles each evening—don’t just wait for guests.   The flickering glow will add delight for the eye and warmth to the room for your family, too! 
(3)    If you have a fireplace, lay in a supply of wood.   Polish the poker, ash bucket and shovel.
(4)    Tuck seed pods, mini pumpkins, bittersweet vines, berry twigs or grape vines along shelves.  

Re-arrange Your Old Stuff

If you collect small things, take a look and see if anything fits the season:

(1)   Salt & pepper shakers in deep autumn colors or themes
(2)   Bells (copper cowbells look interesting with a sprig of bittersweet!)
(3)   Plates with birds or turkeys or geese….or go for the Harvest Colors theme
(4)   Yellow, orange or green vases sporting a sprig of bittersweet or tiny cattails

Incorporate “Nature”

If you have access to garden materials (ask neighbors or friends who have large yards, too) for any of the following:

(1)    Seed pods (milkweed pods, for example) or seed heads like purple coneflower or rose-hips add a beautiful dimension to dried flower arrangements.
(2)    Cat-tails can be heavily sprayed with hair-spray, then added to a deep vase with other fall stalks from the garden.
(3)    Grapevines and flower vines that would go into the compost, can be artfully arranged, made into swags to hang in the porch or over a doorway.   A bit of wire to twist things together, a long piece of ribbon from the sewing room, and maybe a silk flower to finish it off.
(4)    Collect acorns or hickory nuts and fill a clear vase (then add the cat-tails!).
(5)    Autumn leaves collected during a walk make a beautiful addition to shelves or tabletops.  Make them last longer by smashing their stems and hydrating with Glycerin (Rose Water) from the pharmacy.   These leaves will last for years if you’re careful when you store them.   
(6)    Add squashes and gourds and baby pumpkins to the centerpiece.  
(7)    A few sprigs of bittersweet vine and berries liven up the bookshelves or mantelpiece.
(8)    Pile pinecones and leaves in a wooden bowl for a simple centerpiece.
(9)    Pomegranates and oranges make a beautiful, colorful statement lined up on the kitchen counter.
(10)Prune evergreens from your yard, and add a bough or two along the windowsills.   Add a battery-operated candle for a warm-welcome to all who drive or walk past your home.

Speaking of getting out in nature:   Take hikes in the woods while the canopy above is golden-orange—you’ll feel like a queen!   Bring along your camera.   Then lie down beneath a golden-orange maple or a burning bush with flaming red leaves and take a slew of pictures.    Download the pictures to your computer and use as your desktop OR print out, frame and display the autumn glory around your home.   Overlay with scripture passages which remind you of God’s magnificence.  

Make a “Corner-Copia”

Watch for sales of pumpkins, squashes, gourds and other fall crops that can be used in your centerpiece for Thanksgiving.   These things generally can sit on your counter for months without going bad.   Look around your kitchen for a spot where you can make an autumn-to-winter cornucopia arrangement.    An unused corner of the counter works perfectly.  Wipe each fruit with clean rag, add a spot of oil to give it a shiny overcoat and polish over the whole surface.    Look at those highlights!   So pretty!!

Add tomatoes, apples, carrots, and any other fruits and vegetables from your grocery shopping!   Let the children arrange and re-arrange.

"Sweet is the hour that brings us home, where all will spring to meet us;
where hands are striving, as we come to be the first to greet us.
~ Eliza Cook

Cuddly Accessories

Encourage folks to sit-a-spell instead of each going off to his or her own space:

(1)    Hang afghans and other snuggly warm blankets to the backs of the couch, chairs, and rockers in your living and family rooms.
(2)    Some accessories may migrate from room-to-room, too.   A creamy, white afghan or a blue blanket from the bedroom may join you in the living room during January when you have your snowman stuff out.   
(3)    Add a stack of magazines or favorite books to the nearby coffee table.   
(4)    Clear off a side table and dump out a puzzle for the family to enjoy re-piecing.   Look for seasonal puzzles at second-hand shops, and add another dimension to your decorating genius-quotient!

When shopping for couch blankets and pillows for your home, look for colors that will work for more than one season.  

(1)    Gold will be pretty in both autumn and winter.
(2)    Red will work through the holidays and be nice clear until February’s love-fest.   
(3)    Greens will carry over from holiday-cheer, can be put away for awhile and brought back out in spring and on into summer.   
(4)    Blues and whites complement many winter scenes in January to early February with snowmen and villages.

"The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have,
instead of what you don't have."
~ Woody Allen

Your Assignment . . .

With a small note-pad & pencil in hand, wander through your home, give each room a good looking-at, make a list of any little things you can do which involve NO cost and those which would be LOW cost.  

Give your linen closet and storage boxes a once-over, too.  You’ll be surprised what you may find lurking in a tucked-away spot.   

Check in the dark corners of the kitchen cabinets and the buffet.   What are those quirky knick-knacks from Gramma doing in a box in the attic?  

LOOK at things and ask yourself:  How can I re-purpose this item for holiday decorating—without spending a dime?

Sing to the Lord of Harvest, sing songs of love and praise.
With joyful hearts and voices your alleluias raise.
By Him the rolling seasons in fruitful order move;
Sing to the Lord of harvest a joyous song of love.

Christian Worship, hymn 614
Text:  John S.B. Monsell, 1811-1875
Tune:  Johann Steurlein, 1546-1613

Stay tuned for my next post:   While you’re looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family & friends, remember those who are far from home—check out some ideas to keep in touch and say thank you!

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