Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I feel, as I'm pulling out all my Christmas decorations, that I JUST put them away from last year's celebrations.

Is it possible that a year has gone by already?

 It is occurring to me also that I must ask myself... WHY? ... Why do I do this every year? 

Why do millions of people around the world bring out their Christmas memorabilia every year to decorate surfaces that for 11 months of the year typically see nary a tchotchke? 

I get the tradition and I get the desire to switch things up....for heaven's sake, I'm a decorator, that's what I do.  And let's face it... for a sizeable portion of the planet, this time of year can be a dreary place.  But the frenetic atmosphere, the timelines we impose on ourselves, the dollars spent on the newest Christmas trend. It truly has me flummoxed....has had me flummoxed for a number of years actually. Yet every year I bring out several plastic Christmas containers where each precious ornament has been carefully wrapped in tissue, I then strategically place each item on it's designated shelf, garland, branch or tabletop... for a month, and then carefully reverse the order, wrap each item back in tissue, place delicately back in it's original box and then securely packed into the special Christmas plastic container to hibernate for another 11 months...Curious.

I decided this year as I was unpacking my decorations, some of which I've had for 30 years, to investigate the meaning of these said decorations.


My Christmas wreath is usually the first traditional decorative item I hang up each year.  I try to give it a life span of several months, so November 25th until March is the length of time it hangs at our front door. For that matter, I have several hung throughout our home, albeit, for only a month.  Quite simply, the wreath symbolizes beginning no end. Druids wore holly sprigs, believing that holly was sacred and magical  due to the fact that it stays green all year. It must also be noted that holly is accompanied by red berries....the traditional complementary colours of Christmas. It is thought that hanging wreaths on doors originated in Roman times...signalling a 'victory'. When Christianity became the dominant religion in Roman times, the holly wreath morphed into the Christmas wreath, a major symbol and decoration still to this day.

The Christmas tree is also an ancient symbol. It is believed that trees and other greenery were used during pagan ritulas to celebrate the birth of the sun in the sky during Winter Solstice celebrations. Christians adopted December 25th, very close to winter solstice, as the symbolic birthday of Jesus Christ.  Martin Luther, a German Protestant Reformer  is thought to have brought the first Christmas tree, a fir, indoors and decorated it with candles. We are seeing the symbolism of fire and spirit in the evergreen, a tree that points to the heavens. Eventually the Christmas tree was decorated with round glass balls, symbolizing the planets and of course the crowning glory of the Christmas tree ....The Star of Bethlehem.

I've always had a hard time with this next one as I'm not a huge fan of Santa Claus. However I'm a huge admirer of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was born a Greek in Asia Minor in the 3rd century AD. He was a devout Christian, most notably known as a secret gift giver, often placing coins in shoes of people who left them out for him. He is revered by many Christian denominations and is honoured as a patron saint of many people and countries throughout the world. He died on December 6th, 343AD.  We in North America have somewhat bastardized the original good works of Saint Nicholas and have a commercialized version known as Santa Claus, adapted from the dutch name Sinterklaas. I prefer to honour the original gift -giver.... Nicholas - 'The Wonderworker'.


Of course there is the ever popular Christmas stocking....which for me when I was little, was my father's heavy wool sock. Legend has it that Saint Nicholas put coins in three sisters' stockings when he learned that heir father had died impoverished, therefore leaving them with no dowery. I have to admit, that my favourite part of Christmas morning are the stockings that somehow, almost magically get filled up each Christmas whom...I'm not sure!

Although these traditions are indigenous to Christmas, they are by no means exclusive to Christians. The ancient symbols of Christmas.... continuity, fire, light, sacredness, heaven, giving, love... are perennial and can be shared by all faiths at this time of year.

Happy Christmas decorating! 

There is a reason why we do it!

If you are interested in more information about Christmas check here

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


You can stop holding your collective breath....the reveal is finally here. If you are new to this blog, a quick recap is in order. We bought a condo in Toronto for my two daughters and husband to share. Those details are here.  This process started in July and was finally completed 2 weeks ago, due to the fact that I live in Ottawa and the logistics of going back and forth were often hampered. 

I set out to decorate the condo on a budget, using high (H), medium (M), low (L), previously owned (PO) and DIY furnishings and accessories. Of course my decorative choices and their attached symbols are all relative to this particular project only. The priority, was that the condo had to be comfortable and easily maintained...nothing fussy. 
As with all my projects, for myself or clients, the colour scheme is chosen after careful consideration of either meaningful, existing colours or newly purchased items....for example, artwork, area rugs, favourite colour schemes etc. In this case, the starting off point was this sofa from ELTE (H).


The brown leather chair from LA-Z-Boy (H), the antique washstand (PO), lamp on washstand (PO), the area rug (PO),  floor lamp from IKEA (L) and round table from West Elm (M) almost complete the major purchases for the living room.

The large sample is the colour used throughout the main area...BM turret CC-604 / to the left, feature walls in the dining room...BM mortar CC-574 /  black BM chalkboard paint on one wall in kitchen / remainder of walls in kitchen...BM ivory white CC-130 / bathrooms...BM bradstreet beige HC-48 (post here) and all trim and doors...BM white dove OC-17


In the dining room a Canadiana pine harvest table (PO) takes centre stage with 4 white Klismos dining chairs from West Elm (M). A white bench from IKEA (L), now in one of the bedrooms, is used as extra  seating when needed. 


I knew I was going to use this antique wash stand (PO), but I wasn't sure where.


In Decorating the condo...Part 2, I spoke about other purchases and DIY projects. This blue suede chair from West Elm (M) was an essential colour pick-me-up and fit perfectly on a tiny wall.

So are you ready for the reveal?


I searched for a coffee table for this space for a long time, but continued to come back to this marble topped, open legged beauty from West Elm (H). The higher end purchases are items I knew we could use elsewhere. Pillows are from MODECOR and the artwork are pictures taken from a 2012 Tom Thompson calendar that we framed in IKEA, Ribba frames (L, DIY)


Completed dining room. The extra leaves have been added to the table. The IKEA expedit bookcase (L) was the perfect solution for an array of mostly art books,  antique china belonging to my grandmother, wine bottles, napkins etc. I love how the darker wall allows the bookcase and contents to pop!

See this post Decorating the Condo...Part 3...for additional information on the unique, one-of-a-kind dining room pendants (M).




I found the perfect spot for the antique washstand.



This sunroom is directly adjacent to the living room and can be walled of with glass sliding doors. The area carpet (PO), gate-leg table, and 'ghost chair' IKEA (L), Lamp West Elm (M), original artwork in IKEA Ribba frame (L)  MODECOR (DIY)...  see here for how to. What isn't shown on the opposite wall is a white Murphy Bed, which turns this room from a sunny office to a bedroom when needed.


One of the walls in the kitchen was painted in chalkboard paint. the mostly white kitchen needed a focal point, it's a super handy way to leave messages and shopping lists...and there was no need for a piece of artwork...bonus!

That's it gang. Loved every second of the hunt,  repurposing some of our existing furniture, rugs and antiques and shopping in Toronto was a blast. The girls and my husband are extremely comfy in their new am I when I come to visit.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I need YOUR help.  This is one of my musing posts that has nada to do with design or decor. Here's the deal...I see the number 11 randomly....but CONSTANTLY...daily.

source source

I noticed this 3 years ago when we moved and were suddenly surrounded by digital clocks on the microwave, stove, bedroom, car, DVD, radio. I also notice 11 on addresses, number of characters left in a tweet, number of missed calls...the list goes on. Many days I will glance at a clock and notice it is hour later 8:11....and an hour later 9:11. This happens frequently. Just to be clear, I'm not looking to see 11 or a combo of 11s,  I just happen to look and there they are...not kidding. Oh, and BTW, that house we moved from 3 years ago was number 1169 ....just say'in.

A year or so ago, I was on the stationary bike watching Ellen Degeneres explain that she had named her newly launched record label 'eleveneleven' because she often sees the numbers 11:11.
 Ellen Explains Her New eleveneleven Record Label - The Ellen DeGeneres Show 
WHOA Nellie...I mean Ellie.....Whaaat did you just say? ...My legs were moving those bike peddles vigorously now....heart rate was up and I was composing in my head my email to Ellen...."You need to get a guest on your show that can tell us what this means Ellen"  I got off the bike, ready to type that email to Ellen, forgetting to turn it off, turned around and guess what?...yep 11 seconds on the timer left until my programmed 30 min was up.  Weird or what?

Don't even get me started on 11:11.  I posted this on FB on May 10th, 2011. (if I had given any thought, I would have posted on May11th.....right?)

Some of you know that I have a very strong relationship with the number 11. I constantly see 11s on digital clocks, house numbers fact my BD this year is 11/11/11. Now for the toooooo WEIRD story. I set my ipad as an alarm clock for 6:30 am. yesterday (Mon morning). It worked woohoo. I have only used the ipad app 4 times as an alarm clock and ALWAYS in the am. Last night my ipad started to sound the alarm. Whaaaaatttt????. I opend it up and it said 11:11pm and was set....but not by me or anyone else as a second alarm. the 6:30 alarm was still there. HOW???????....if it was a default alarm, why has it never gone off before??? WHY 11:11????

I have to tell you this freaked me out, not to mention some of the people who read that FB post.
When I was pregnant and in the third trimester with my eldest daughter,  I would wake up EVERY morning  at exactly 4:11am  for no apparent reason. She was born at 4:15am according to hospital records. Speaking of my daughter, she and her fiance have chosen guessed it... 11th, 2012 as their wedding day, with no prompting from me, I might add.

On Tuesday, November 1st  OR 11/1/11,  I saw many tweets on twitter referring to the specialness of the day because of the 11s, and others were commenting on the upcoming 11/11/11.  People were going to celebrate...Really?   Some exclaimed excitement .... What?  Is there something I'm missing? If there is I NEED to know, which is why I'm writing this post.

November 11th is also known in Canada as Remembrance Day, aka Armistice Day or Poppy Day where Commonwealth countries observed the official end of WW1 in 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month and continue to honour our past and living soldiers with a moment of silence at 11am. This day was a national holiday when I was growing up....Yippee!  It is usually a very sombre day indeed...especially when the cold November winds, rain and sometimes snow add to the bleak atmosphere.

Here's something interesting. Canada has dedicated  Highway 416 running south from Ottawa to Prescott  'Veterans Memorial Highway'  in memory of our fallen soldiers. As I was driving down this Highway recently ....don't know why, but I glanced at the highway sign and just had to add up the numbers... 4+1+6 =11...crazy huh?

I'm going to add one more tidbit to my tale. My birthday is November 11th....11/11/11 this year. I've never been terribly keen about having a November birthday, let alone a birthday on a day that  commemorates our dearly departed soldiers. But I heard that if your birthdate, month and year are the same means champagne...which is fine with me. I'll have a glass ... or two...or maybe 11. And perhaps one of you readers can shed some light on this number 11 business.


Honestly....if you are someone, or know someone, or have any information about the number 11....please let me know. I'm not exactly haunted by this, but it is definitely more than a coinky dink.

Maureen at Modecor Muses: November 2011

Maureen at Modecor Muses