Wednesday, 28 December 2011

7 Ways to use One Vase

It all started back in 2009 when my sister-in-law, Grace, asked me to decorate for her wedding. After talking, discussing ideas, pouring through magazines and experimenting a little - we came up with a unique aisle treatment for the church. Hence, the vase. Since then I have found various ways to make use of the same vase for many different occasions. So here goes:

1. Grace and Andre's wedding. We bought a tall curvy glass vase, filled it with rocks and pink sand to give a lot of weight and placed several large (and very tall) white branches in and finished off the look with white lights. I remember Grace's grandma being quite unsure of the whole white branches thing, but with the lights on she was convinced.
Here are two shots down the aisle: 

 2. Lucas' First Birthday. This was a while ago (Jan 2010) and I have a vague recollection of this arrangement being a very last-minute affair. It is a simple deal using crepe paper things that are usually used to wrap candies for parties. We threw in a bunch, in a gradient fashion and, voila, a super simple table center-piece.
 Here's the party room, all decked out. 

3. Aline's Baby Shower. We threw a baby shower for Aline in April 2010. She wanted a teddy bear theme and I created this whimsical teddy bear and flower arrangement.
 I used a smaller dish which was cradled in the top of the vase to hold the flower arrangement. The little teddy bear is resting on a bed of cotton balls and I taped some curly ribbons underneath the dish to hang over the bear. A little brown and pink ribbon completed the ensemble.
 The cake table with two of the five arrangements I made for the party. 

4. Elena's First Birthday. The vases got a little bit of a break - only being used again in August of 2011 to celebrate my little girl's birthday. We had a purple/blue/teal butterfly theme and I planned and experimented quite a bit on this center-piece before settling on the one below. Again I used the crepe candy wrappers as a base, glued the number 1 foam circles onto a bamboo skewer, wrapped the butterflies around the skewer and added a few sprigs of fake flowers to create the butterfly garden look.
 Settled on the table with a simple purple napkin underneath. 
The party room. 

5. A dinner party to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday, Dec 2011. My mother-in-law loves turquoise, so I started with that color and silver in my mind as I thought about the decorations. Her birthday is in December and even though we are in the southern hemisphere, the decor has a bit of the wintery, christmasy feel with the pine cones. I started with some fake tea lights in the bottom, covered with a glass and a few simple wintery sprigs in white and blue/turquoise (left over from a cousin's January wedding). The vase was then filled up with silver and natural pine cones and more of the sprigs. The arrangement was completed with three short cups filled with roses, a bunch of small white flowers and hydrangeas. 

 Here is a better shot of the tea light at the bottom. 

6. Dinner party. I made two different arrangements for the dinner party after seeing these white branches at the local market where I bought all the flowers. I used white rocks to anchor the vase (it is quite fragile and light) and added the pine cones and wintery sprigs to tie in with the other arrangement.
 Here is the dinner table - set for 18 with the two different arrangements. We didn't have enough place settings for 18 with one pattern so we set it up with two different kinds and switched the top plates to give a cohesive look. The white rocks also make another appearance as place cards - names written on the rock with permanent marker and placed in another flower-like candy holder. 

7. Christmas Dinner 2011. I had left the white branch arrangement from the earlier December dinner party and decided to give it a little twist for our family Christmas get-together. The white branches remain, this time wrapped in a funky black and white napkin and red ribbon. The white rocks remain with pine cones and bright red ornaments on top.
 The dinner table all set and ready for TURKEY! I used a red sari as a table runner and had to run out last minute to get the black and white napkins, which I think totally make the table setting. Maybe next time I would use the white set of dishes. 
So there you have it. Seven ways to use one vase. And I'm sure I will get more use out of it yet! Tell me which one is your favorite.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Crisis

I'm having a hard time with Christmas this year.

Maybe it's because this is the first time in three years that we are celebrating in our own home; maybe it's because we are in the middle of summer here; maybe it's because we now have kids who need to be taught about what Christmas really is; maybe it's because of all the consumerism and economics of the season; maybe it's because I'm trying to lose weight and save money. I'm not really sure, all I know is it's been weighing heavily on my heart these past few weeks. I don't even want to play Christmas music, decorate or bake "Christmas" cookies. It just doesn't feel like Christmas.

Here in Brazil, we don't really celebrate Thanksgiving or Halloween and so the Christmas season seems to be extra important. As early as October I noticed Christmas decorations going up in the shops. The malls here go all out with massive displays of green and red wreathes, strings of lights, giant trees, reindeer, snow(!?) and of course, Santa. There is a huge hype, this rush, this frenzied madness of parties and shopping all culminating in "Christmas Day" and while it is all very pretty and engaging and charming, it really misses the point entirely. This I think is what saddens me the most. I know that Christmas has all kinds of baggage; no doubt you will find someone who will explain away all the Christmas traditions by linking them to some pagan or secular custom from the world's often not-so-pretty history.

Despite the way "Christmas" originated and the many ways it has been changed and re-interpreted over the centuries, I think we have to admit that for the most part Christmas is no longer a "Christian" holiday (if it ever really was). So now what? It's not so much the "pagan" rituals or customs that were included in the celebration of Christmas that bothers me, it's the fact that now we seem to have put so much more emphasis on the decorations and the gifts and other "traditions" that we have lost sight of the simple, incredible fact that we are trying to remember and celebrate the most important life this world has ever known. The life that gives meaning to our lives.

As I've been mulling this over the past few weeks (this post was probably started at the beginning of December) a few thoughts have been forming...

1. Christmas is not a day, it is a season. It doesn't matter if we celebrate on the 24th, the 28th or even in January. What matters is what (or rather who) we are celebrating. As Christians we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ, but it doesn't stop there - throughout the year we have other seasons where we celebrate other seasons of His life - his ministry, death and resurrection. We celebrate not only that he lived, but that he died and lives again. Christmas is only the beginning...

2. A friend of mine posted this on his facebook status a while ago, "Christ did not incarnate to fight against culture, but to transform it. Why should His disciples do any differently?" (Flavio Silva). I'm not sure if he was referring to Christmas, but when I read it, I immediately thought of its application to our celebration of Christmas. We don't need to give up Christmas, but I think we need to be different in the way we celebrate, so that people can tell it's not just about the holidays, food, gifts and decorations. We need to transform the culture of Christmas.

3. As I thought more about how to celebrate Christmas I thought of this scripture, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15). If we celebrate differently, we will have opportunities to share the hope we have.

So don't call me Scrooge (now that's a whole other ball of wax...) but we are definitely celebrating Christmas differently this year - no Santa, no huge pile of gifts, no Christmas tree, no "Christmas" songs about reindeer, snow, mistletoe and elves - just sincere acknowledgment, gratitude and thankfulness for the one simple life we celebrate at Christmas - Christ.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Children's Dozen

I'm sure you've all heard the expression, "A Baker's Dozen" - meaning 13 (or rarely 14) instead of the usual 12 we would count in a dozen.

Now I've come to discover that with kids, a dozen is more likely to be only 11 - thus, the "children's dozen".

Let me explain. We have lots of wonderful toys; cars, dolls, stuffed animals, balls, blocks and books. And then there are the toys that come in a set of 12; a set of 12 books, 12 flash cards, 12 stacking cups.

Here's where we run into trouble. These sets of 12 rarely stay that way. Here are three sets that have become a children's dozen:

Dr. Seuss Concept Cards
The fate of the 12th card was sealed when Elena learned she could fold it in half. It didn't last long after that. What color is missing?

The Stackable Cups
We love this set that Lucas got from Aunt Charissa. While we lost a cup, at least it was the top one so we can still make an awesome tower. I wonder if there is any way to replace the one missing cup?

The Set of Books

A lovely set of books (and our much-loved monitor nestled in between) with a set of colors and a set of shapes. It pains my perfectionist heart to have five on one side and six on the other. Since we got this as a used set, we have no idea where the lost circle book is. :(

Of course, the kids have no problem with a lost toy here and there, it's really just my problem.
Well, at least we've still got all 26 books from our Baby Einstein Alphabooks set! Let's see how long it lasts (Elena got it for her first birthday)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

What I love about our not-so-new apartment

I love that the kids room is right across the hall from ours,

I love that David and I have our own bathroom,

I love that there is a window between the kitchen and dining/living room,

I love that we have a varanda,

I love the quiet street and the bakery across the road,

I love the view and the gorgeous morning sun that streams in through the window,

I love that Lucas' preschool is right next door,

Lots to be thankful for!
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