O Christmas Tree

The very last decoration in our home to go up every year for the holidays is the Christmas tree.  We have a 10 footer that I bought 20 years ago and it is still as beautiful today as it was the day I bought it.  What I like about this tree and don’t like at the same time is that I can put as many lights as I want to on it.  It is not prelit, so this means a lot more effort in putting this up every year, but I doubt I’d be happy with a prelit one.  Typically I have between 2800 and 3400 lights on our tree.  Yep, I like to light it up.  The reason for this is that our family tree is the only decoration that is lit every day during December.  The rest of the decorations are not lit unless someone is over.  This being the case, I really like to make the most of this one decoration.


Assembling the tree takes me about 8 hours, four tree cords, three power strips, two extension cords, and a partridge in a pear tree!

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I use a combination of white and colored lights and have the tree wired so that both the colored and white lights are wrapped around each and every branch.  The white lights are plugged into two of the tree cords and one of the power strips and the colored lights into the other two tree cords and the other power strip.  This way, I am able to light only the white, only the colored, or both — depending on my mood.  Also, being that it can be costly to run all 2800 lights every night, I like to have the option of only running half the lights and still having the entire tree lit.

I figured out that it costs $0.15 per hour to run the entire tree and only $0.075 to run half.  This is quite a difference for the whole month.  I realize that it would cost only $0.004 to run all 2800 lights if I used LED’s, but the conversion cost from the lights I currently have to LED’s would be more than it costs to run my tree for several seasons.  Not an investment we’re ready to make at this point.

Decorating the tree takes about three days.  The first day Hubby and the kids help.  They are good for about 30 minutes and then they lose interest and I continue working while they sit and watch.  Not hard to understand when you consider that we have over 400 different ornaments that are put on the tree.

Day two I work alone, while they are all out of the house.  My first task at this point is to move many of the ornaments that Hubby and the kids placed on the tree.  The reason for this is that there are some ornaments that are designated for the best spots.  These include ornaments from my great-grandmother, both my grandmothers, my parents, the kids, and Hubby.  Day three is for putting on all the moving and light-up ornaments, putting on the tinsel, and the popcorn strings.

The tree is the first thing people see when they come into our home and by far the most popular.  Every ornament has a story and I am more than willing to share it.  I actually have a written history or all our ornaments going back to 1981 when I received my very first ornament from my parents for my hope chest.

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Our family tree holds more memories than all the decorations in the entire house combined.  Every ornament holds a special place in my heart, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Christmas Great Room

The largest room in our home that I decorate would be the great room.  In order to do this room, being that the size is overwhelming to tackle at one shot, I break it down into sections.  Broken down by section with before and after, here it is:

Television Corner






The nativity set on top of the television was made by my Great Grandmother.

The nativity set on top of the television was made by my Great Grandmother.

Mantle & Stereo Corner




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French Doors





 Doll Cabinet & Wall




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Office Entrance




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The newest area that I was able to decorate this year were the ceiling fans.


We have lived in our home for 22 years and I have never had a ladder tall enough to enable me to clean our ceiling fans in the great room, let alone decorate them.  Last fall while Hubby and I were driving around on garbage night, we happened across a perfectly good 10 foot ladder.  I made him stop and declared, “I want that.”  He loaded it in the back of his car and we now have a ladder for cleaning the ceiling fans.  Of course, the minute I saw the ladder, I already had visions of decorating possibilities.

The great room is where we spend most of our time as a family and it is wonderful to have the room so warm and welcoming during the holidays, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Christmas Dining Room

Having a built-in china cabinet in our dining room makes a wonderful place to display a good portion of my Annalee collection.  The only trouble with this, is finding a place to store everything that is usually stored in it.  Crystal is wrapped, china is boxed, and box upon box is moved to the basement for storage.  A lot of work, but a labor of love in order to see my collection that only gets displayed this one time of year.


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Once the china cabinet is done, the rest of the room goes fairly quickly.


Window treatments are changed and a cabinet that my father built for me to place in front of the window is put in place where five small trees are displayed with a village beneath it.


On either side of the window are larger decorations that can easily fill the corner space.

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The only other wall in this room is home to two very special sets of ornaments that I place in tiny gift bags I made numbered from 1 to 24.  These ornaments were gifts from Hubby and Grace.  Hubby’s set of 12 ornaments that he gave me were Wedding Tradition ornaments and Grace’s set to me was 12 Christmas Tradition ornaments.

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I received these sets about seven or so years ago.  When I opened the set from Hubby my mother commented, “Those are for new brides.”  Without missing a beat, Hubby retorted, “She’s still my bride.”  A moment I hold dear to my heart.

The dining room table chairs are covered with chair backs that I made and are re-upholstered with gold material.


I think one of the most unusual decorations in this room are the ornaments that I hang from the ceiling and chandelier.


Our dining room does not get used as often as I would like, but at least during the holidays when it gets the most use, it is festive and warm, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Woodland Wonderland – Decorating Kick-Off


Every year when I begin decorating for Christmas I like to start off with a room that can be completed quickly and easily.  I call this my “gearing up” phase.  The room that gets done first therefore is the half-bath. Through the years this room has evolved a lot.  From what was only a few decorations hung on the wall, this room has now become my Woodland Wonderland.

A few notes about my decorating:

  1. Every room has a theme and/or color scheme.
  2. Every room has at least one decoration that has been handed down to me.
  3. Every room has a tree, a Santa, an angel, and an Annalee (most of the time there are more than one of many of these).
  4. Every room has a main focal point.

These guidelines help me to maintain continuity in each room.

The first step to decorating any room is to remove everything from the walls and floors.  This gives me a blank canvas to work with.  Sometimes I end up putting some of the everyday decorations back on the walls, but most of the time these things are packed away until January when the undecorating process begins.

This is what the bathroom looked like before any decorations:

This room took me a little over six hours to complete, including cleaning the bathroom after I was done.

Welcome to my Woodland Wonderland:


Note the pine-branch wing angel next to the trees.


One of seven trees in this room.


I wish I could photograph the room with the lights on better.


See the Annalee moose in the center of this wreath.


I consider this wreath the main focal point of this room. Full of red, brown, and copper bulbs, dark red roses, copper ribbon, and feathers, it sets the theme.


This pine topper was given to me by my mother-in-law from her decorations. I added the bow and a feather to tie it into the room, but otherwise it is just as she displayed it in her home.


The vanity is outlined with glitter acorns, pine garland, rustic accents, and a rustic lantern at either end.

I wrap the cabinet doors with ribbon and put a bow in the center of each.

I wish the photographs would turn out better.  Seeing as they might not be very detail oriented with the lights off, here are some shots with the flash.

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Having this room done is always a great way to kick-off my decorating.  The decorations give the room a warm, cozy feeling and it’s great to take a little break in here when I get overwhelmed when decorating the rooms that can take a week or more to complete.

When winter weather makes it impossible to get outside and close to nature, it’s nice to have my own little woodland to escape to, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Holiday Decorating…The Rules!

“I have never seen anything like this!”

“This must take you months to finish.”

“We’re going to refer to your home as ‘Bronner’s East’ from now on.”

“It looks like Christmas threw-up in here!”

These are just a few of the comments I’ve received over the years when people have come by our home during the holiday season and they take in the enormous amount of decorating I do.  For me, because it is something that I have been working on and building up to for so many years, it just seems normal.  But I understand that the typical person does not spend 6 weeks decorating their home for Christmas, sometimes spending 8 to 10 hours a day for weeks on end to get everything just right.  It never ceases to surprise me how taken aback people are when they step through our front door and find themselves surrounded by tradition, decorations, and even a little whimsical fantasy.

Getting to where our home is now was not an easy journey.  When Hubby and I got married I had some decorations, but the accumulation through the years is what now consumes so much of my time during October and November every year.  At first, Hubby was tolerant of my passion for Christmas, although he himself never understood it or even liked Christmas.  As the years passed and my collection of decorations grew, however, the holidays became a time for argument, resentment, and even hostility between us because we were at such opposite ends of the spectrum.  Finally, after several years of knocking heads, I sat down with Hubby and asked him how we could get past this.  There was no talking to him.  He was set in his ways of not understanding or wanting to understand me, and I was forced to either give up my passion for celebrating the holidays the way I really wanted to or continue to have three plus months of unhappiness overshadowing what I thought should be The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

The trouble with this situation was that I wasn’t really listening to Hubby.  Although he wouldn’t come right out and tell me what he didn’t like or what he was upset about, there were many subtle clues that I just refused to listen to or see.  Realizing that something had to change because fighting with him every year was getting old, and quick, I finally took a long hard look at what I was doing and how it was affecting him.  Thus evolved “The Rules.”

Whenever Hubby would bitch or scream about something that he didn’t like, or make some snide comment in passing (and believe me, there were many), I’d make a note.  I am a great note taker.  I write everything down.  This too has evolved over the years, but now-a-days I write so many notes, that I need notes to remind me to read other notes that remind me to read other notes, etc, etc, etc.  Anyway, as I listened to what he was saying, rather than just getting defensive and hurt, I realized that he was right in much of what he was saying.  In fact, I learned a lot because of his comments.  You could say that I am where I am today in my decorating because of him.

When Hubby took his arm and flung all the Christmas knickknacks that I’d put on the end table next to his chair high into the air and they came crashing to the ground, breaking several beyond repair, it was his subtle way of telling me that he didn’t want “his” space cluttered. Perhaps he could have found a nicer way of expressing this to me, but for years I wouldn’t listen anyway, so his resentment was completely understandable.

When Hubby came storming out of the bathroom and yanked all the cords from our family tree out of the wall, literally ruining many of the wires and making it so only half our tree actually lit the rest of the season, because the circuit breaker had jumped AGAIN while he was blow drying his hair, he was reminding me that there are other people in our home that have needs that require electricity and I shouldn’t overload the circuits. At the very least, I shouldn’t turn on the lights while he was getting ready.

And when Hubby stood in the center of our great room surveying my decorations and everything that I’d spent weeks trying to make “just perfect” and said, “It looks like you just dumped a bunch of Christmas decorations out of their boxes and threw them every which way.”  I was devastated, but after I calmed down I took a look and realized he was right.  There was no rhyme or reason, just decorations, lots of decorations, put everywhere and anywhere I could fit them.  I realized then, I needed a plan.

There were many other comments, all spat out with his usual patience and understanding (NOT!), that I began to take to heart and really look at, and finally settled on a list of “Rules” that I thought would help us somehow come to mutual understanding.  He wasn’t going to change, and so he shouldn’t have to.  My passion for decorating could still be fulfilled without being a thorn in his side.  I knew I could do it.  I had a new mission:  To make Christmas a time when the whole family could be at peace together, even among all the baubles and bells.

My mission sparked the need for a Decorating Bible.  Something that would spell out what to do, how to do it, where to plug it in, and how to accomplish it in a way that would be conducive for everyone.  It has taken many years and continues to grow and evolve every year, but today I have a three-inch binder and three or four additional notebooks with explicit instructions on how to decorate every room, where to run the wires, which circuit they are on, how much power they require, if there are any glitches (meaning if the lights need to stay off until Hubby finishes drying his hair), and what changes/additions to make in the future.


My Decorating Bible


The very first section in my binder (after the introduction explaining what this binder is), the one that is read prior to me starting any decorating every year, is called “THE RULES.”  In this section are all the rules that I have ascertained through the years from Hubby and just plain common sense (something that seemed to elude me during those first few terrible years of marriage and decorating).  After so many years of decorating now, some of these rules seem so obvious, yet I do not want to forget or digress, so I keep them there as a reminder.


The Rules — Right up front where they wont be forgotten.

Hubby and I have now been married for 22 years and we have both matured, grown, and mellowed.  Now, although I do my best not to upset Hubby with my decorating, he is far less violent when it comes to reminding me if I cross the line.  Also, he has actually told me for several years running now that he really thinks the house looks beautiful.  In fact, for the past couple years he has suggested inviting various friends over to see the house, something he would never have done ten years ago.

I cannot tell you how much nicer it is now come October when I start dragging out the boxes and ladders, preparing for the great Christmas decorating transformation and Hubby actually tells me that it’s okay if I have a bit of a mess with the decorations when he gets home.  It used to be that if I were decorating, I had to be sure to have the mess all cleaned up before he got home or I’d get grief for it.  He now realizes that the mess is only temporary and a necessity during the transformation.

Marriage is so difficult.  I am glad though that I finally “listened” to what Hubby was saying and now we have come to a mutual understanding of Christmas and my passion for decorating.  He may not share my love for every aspect of the holidays, but he tolerates and even supports it now, and for this I am — Ever So Simply Grateful!


A 30 Year Tradition — A Lifetime Of Memories

This year marks the 30th year that I have been building my Christmas decoration collection.  In December 1984 after my 16th birthday, my grandparents picked me up the morning after Christmas to head out to the after-Christmas sales.  My grandparents had been building their Christmas decoration collection since the mid-1940’s when they were married, and every year took advantage of the deep discounts the day after Christmas.  Thanksgiving was always my most favorite holiday because this was the day when my grandmother would first turn on her Christmas lights, inside and out.  It was a wonder to behold.  For weeks prior to Thanksgiving my grandparents worked night and day to make everything perfect. Their home was transformed into a winter wonderland, unlike anything anyone who came to visit had ever seen.  As a child, this was magical; as an adult, it has become my passion.

My mother, who grew up in this wondrous world of Christmas, never caught the decorating bug as her parents had. She put up a few decorations and a tree, but beyond that, the magic remained with my grandparent’s.  When I was in my early teens, my grandparent’s obsession spread to me and I began pulling out any decorations I could find that my mother had gotten from her mother and decorate our basement where I spent much of my time.  It was my own little Christmas that I could enjoy every day.

When I turned 16 and had a job (a source of income) I finally decided I wanted to begin building my very own collection of decorations that I could some day use in my own home.  I shared this with my grandmother, and she was elated.  We made plans to head out together the day after Christmas.

It was a bitter, cold December 26th, with snow falling fiercely.  At 4:30 in the morning my grandparents picked me up and we drove to their favorite Christmas store to wait for it to open at 9:00 a.m.  My grandmother had hot coco and cookies for us while we waited and being that it was so cold and snowy, we took turns waiting in line outside as more and more cars full of people made their way on the treacherous roads to be among the first in the store when it opened.

As we waited, we made our plan of attack.  My grandmother had several things that she just had to have and knew right where they were in the store, so she was going to head to that area first.  There were several things I wanted, one of which was a large nativity.  The original price on this piece was $300.  With the 50% discount it would be only $150.  I’d been saving for this for weeks.  My grandmother gave the job of securing that to my grandfather.  She told him to go immediately to the nativity, and tell the owner he wanted it packed for purchase.

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The other items I wanted were near where my grandmother was going to be going, so she told me to stick close to her and she’d make sure I got there quickly and got exactly what I wanted.

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It was all so exciting.  The anticipation, the thrill, and especially sharing this experience and time with my grandparents.

At 8:30, there were so many people huddled by the door regardless of the snow whipping around, that we all got out of the car and stood in the cold.  Funny how it didn’t seem to feel cold at all.  The three of us huddled together in a circle and we jumped up and down to keep ourselves warm.

The minute the clock struck 9:00 the owner of the store opened the door and greeted my grandparents.  They spent many a day in the store prior to Christmas, buying “must have” things, making of list of things that would have to wait till after Christmas, and many times just stopping by to chit-chat with the staff.  Over the years they had established a friendship with the owners and even had them over to their home to show off their Christmas display.  This particular morning however, the chit-chat was kept to a minimum, as we had a mission.

My grandfather held the door for us as we rushed into the warm store and that was the last I saw of him until much later.  My grandmother took my hand and guided me to a tree where two of the items I wanted were hung.  I’m not really sure when my grandmother began her collection of Annalee’s, but 1984 is the year I started mine.  I bought two pieces that year and have added to my collection nearly every year since.  The two pieces I bought that first year were both boy dolls, one on a sled and the second much smaller piece of a boy holding a snowball.

My grandmother was in the same corner as I, picking up the things she wanted.  Once we had everything that we’d come for safely in our hands, it was time to shop.  Although there were “must have” items that we’d come for, having already secured those, we then had time to just walk around and pick up little things here and there that we hadn’t known we really wanted.

It was nearly an hour before we met up with my grandfather, who had safely boxed up my nativity and bought one very special item for their Annalee collection.  Hanging in the store all through the holidays was a huge 10-piece set of Annalee’s — a Santa in his sleigh with eight reindeer. I actually did not get to see it until the following year when they suspended it from their kitchen ceiling, but it was and is a definite show stopper.

We lost my grandmother in 1999.  With her died the portion of my grandfather’s heart for decorating.  He tried for a year or two without her, but without his lifelong partner to share in the joy of decorating and age making it more difficult and dangerous to get on the ladder to hang much of their collection, he realized it was time to pass the torch.  My grandparents had decided many years prior to my grandmother’s death that they wanted to pass their collection down to me.  Even before that fateful day in 1999, my grandmother had been gifting me with special pieces from her collection each year.  I was so happy that she could part with them.  She told me this way she would be able to see me enjoy them.

In December of 2002, 16 years after purchasing my first Annalee, my grandfather called me over to his house and told me it was time to pass on my grandmother and his most prized Annalee — the Santa, sled and 8 reindeer.  Many tears were shed that day.  Some for the loss we were both still trying to come to terms with and some for the joy I felt in being given such a special gift, a gift that I cherish to this day.

For 12 years now this Annalee has been proudly displayed in our great room.  I’d love to be able to suspend it from the ceiling as my grandparent’s had, but alas, Hubby wasn’t as stoked by the idea.  In fact, dare I say he’s forbidden me from suspending this from the ceiling fans.  Oh well, I doubt the fans would have been able to hold the weight of the 30 pound sled.  Still, on top of the stereo cabinet, it is quite a show stopper.

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So begins the holiday season, so begins another season of finding special pieces to add to my collection, so continues the tradition of decorating unlike most have ever seen.  Although I’ve been absent for several weeks, it has been with good reason — I’ve been decorating.  It takes more than a month to get my home ready for the holidays and with a deadline date set for Thanksgiving, my time has been spoken for.  Much of the main decorating is done, but now all the new additions and changes need tweaking.

My posts for the next month will no doubt consist of sharing traditions, recipes, and decorating ideas that I have been working on for 30 years and have been part of our family my entire life.  The holidays for me are a time to embrace what many have come to find over commercialized and tedious.  The holidays are what you make them.  If people allow the hustle and bustle of outside factors ruin the spirit of the season, they have no one to blame but themselves.  See the forest and the trees, it’s the combination of it all that makes this time of year so wonderful, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

It’s A Great Pumpkin, Don’t You Think?




So what do you think of my canning jar pumpkin?  Grace told me it looks like a salt & pepper shaker, but I didn’t think so.

I found this project at Country Living Halloween.  They did it on a real pumpkin, but I figured if I was going to spend all that time carving this, I wanted it to keep forever so I used a fake one.  It was definitely harder scraping the top layer of the fake pumpkin than a real one, but well worth the effort.  Now I have a new decoration that will last forever.

Incorporating my passion for canning into my decorations for any holiday is double the fun, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Halloween Continues To Spread

This is the second post showcasing this years Halloween decorations around my home.  Although the kitchen is not decorated all that much, there is just enough to know that fall has arrived.

The kitchen is tough to decorate because taking up any space on the counters would be counter-productive.  I do manage to put a few homemade ceramics here and there, but most of the decorations have to be displayed on the top of the fridge, ovens, and breakfast bar — which has never been eaten at in the 20 years we’ve lived here.

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The ceramic pumpkin that sits center on the breakfast bar was made by my Great Grandmother and handed down to me by my mother.  It is one of the few decorations I have in my collections made by her and one that I hold very close to my heart.  Seeing it every morning when I come into the kitchen to make coffee stirs wonderful memories of her and the time I spent with her.  I wish I had appreciated her more while she was with us, but am thankful I have my memories and a few trinkets to keep her spirit alive.

Ceramic pumpkin made by my great-grandmother.

Ceramic pumpkin made by my great-grandmother.

The nook’s decorations are limited to the table.  Being that this table is eaten at three times a day, a centerpiece and tablecloth are about all I can manage.

The nook.

The nook.

Even though it might not be the easiest room to decorate without putting things where they would get in my way, I love to have the kitchen decorated because that is where I spend the majority of my time every day.  Even the slightest bit of festivity warms the soul, something that makes doing something as mundane as washing dishes just a bit more enjoyable, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

It’s Time For Halloween

Decorating for Halloween is one of my favorite holidays to decorate for, however, because decorating my home for Christmas typically takes more than a month because I want it done by December 1st, more often than not, I tend to skip it.

Yes, it does take that long to decorate my home for Christmas. Hopefully this year I’ll be able to share with you some pictures so you can get a glimpse into our version of Bronner’s East (Bronner’s is a huge Christmas store here in Michigan for those of you that are unfamiliar with it).

This year, because I have not quite decided how much decorating I will have time for during the Christmas season, I decided to take out all of my Halloween decorations that have been dormant for several years.  My intension was that if I didn’t use it this year, I’d get rid of it.  With the house decorated and everything I wanted to use in its place, I had four things to drop off at the thrift shop.  Not as many as I thought I’d have, but the pressure was on.  Plus, after I was done using what I had, I decided to add to the decorations with some homemade touches.

Quite a few of my decorations are handmade.  I have a kiln and for several years made various Halloween ceramics.  I sold some, but for the most part, used them for gifts and personal use.  There are also some pieces in my Halloween collection that have been handed down through generations.  These are pieces that I hold close to my heart.

For those that don’t like Halloween or agree with what some consider to be a pagan holiday, bear with me.  I decorate for and enjoy Halloween for the fun and joyful spirit that it instills in children and adults alike.  There are no hidden religious connotations behind anything in my home, at least not in our minds.  If you are offended by the holiday or posts related to it, then I suggest you skip this post and probably the next couple on my blog as they will be consumed with showcasing my Halloween decorations.  I hope though that you will enjoy a look into our home and perhaps find some inspiration for decorating your own.

The Bathroom

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The bathroom is always the first room to get decorated it seems.  Probably because it is the easiest.  Very few wires to hide and not many lights in this room, only the leaves around the top of the mirror and the cone tree in the corner on the vanity.

It always surprises me how just a few decorations can transform a room.  I love bringing fall into the house to match the color changing world out of it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.