Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Green Christmas Tree

It's difficult to think about Christmas without the Tree. The lights, the ornaments, the tree skirt, the gifts neatly wrapped and stashed beneath all bring us joy. Whether you are organized enough to get your tree the weekend after Thanksgiving or too busy until the week before Christmas, it's a ritual with warm and happy memories.

In spite of those joyful emotions it is increasingly difficult, maybe Scrooge-like, not to consider what a greener kind of Christmas tree would be. Greener might mean a live tree transported with its roots intact or a pesticide-free tree. Greener might mean strung with solar powered LED lights or being reduced to mulch for park trails.

Perhaps you are even more inventive in your approach to the New Green Tree? Suppose you want to use the 3 Rs and do it with style. Here are some artistic inspirations above and below that reduce, re-use, and recycle!

Paul Deakin, a student at the University of Southampton in England, created this tree with 1,050 beer bottles.

The ladder tree via Apartment Therapy via MetaFilter via MeCha.

More details on the 2-D Christmas tree appear in the The Style Files, a daily blog by Danielle de Lange, based in the Netherlands.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vintage Christmas Box

'Twas once upon a Christmas time someone thoughtful, and with a keen eye for design, selected this holiday box. It had been filled with Eaton-Hurleut writing paper. The beautiful box was saved for many years and changed keepers several times. I'm not sure if I knew exactly what it contained when I first saw it. But, it didn't matter. It was the box itself as a decorated object that captured my fancy as a young admirer.

Several years ago, this treasured box was given to me in a casual cleaning of basement shelves. I don't think anyone else in the family had any interest in it or appreciated the pretty botanical print adhered to its top and sides. By then, it's contents had probably changed several times before storing a handful of small brass bells, jingling loosely.

I was delighted to hear the jingly box among the Christmas things unpacked this year. I still marvel at the beautifully rendered holly leaves and berries thoughtfully laid out and wrapped with delicate bows. It is a simple pleasure for me to behold the vintage box and a joyful reminder of the power of beautiful things in our lives, no matter how small.

With very best wishes for a joyous and beautiful holiday season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Forcing Paperwhites

After a busy week away from this address, it's good to be back and getting ready for the holiday season. The first week of December I started forcing several narcissus bulbs. In a re-purposed glass ice bucket, partly filled with black polished stones, three bulbs were nestled snugly to fit. The bucket was filled with water to the top of the stones and the very bottom of the bulbs. The bucket was stashed in the unheated storage room. A small amount of water was added every day to keep the water level just reaching the bottom of the bulbs.

Within four days of cool, dark isolation, roots started to appear. The stalks started to grow and by day six the ice bucket, now, holiday planter was brought upstairs into the natural light. Each day the bulbs have grown above and below the water line. It's a fascinating process, and one I have marveled over each year at this time.

With luck, the fragrant flowers will open by Christmas, adding their beautiful simplicity to this address. When they start growing taller and seem ready to tip, I'll add a small stake and tie them together with a ribbon. A gardening friend recommends adding vodka to the water to slow the growth in height and keep them standing straighter. Vodka apparently affects plants and mammals differently.

Try forcing paperwhites as a gift to yourself or a friend. Bulbs make good gifts too, if you're still looking for a perfect gift for the perfect friend who has everything!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Paper Ornaments

Creating quick and simple ornaments is a rewarding process in a hectic season. Imagine a paper ball you can transform from two-dimensional paper into a delightful object in the round. This beautiful and clever idea comes from Design Sponge on their DIY column. Using materials you have on hand, this fun green project can be completed in less than ten minutes, maybe five, if you catch on quickly!

You can use any kind of paper. I made my first one with recycled paper. I clipped pages with colorful images on both sides from catalogs to recycle. Next, I'm going to try one with origami paper. The D*S crafters, Lauren and Derek, used wrapping paper. Here are their instructions:

a stapler
something round to trace
glue (or crafter’s glue dots)

1. trace and cut out 9 circles from your paper (or papers) of choice.
2. fold each circle in half, then place them in a stack. staple them together at the top, center and bottom of the fold.
3. one by one, glue the outer edges of each piece together alternating top and bottom. the glue should be placed about a third of the way from either side. when you’re done gluing, your stack of paper will be in the shape of a sphere, ready for hanging on your xmas tree or decorating your holiday table.


Photo and instructions are courtesy of Design Sponge, a great daily blog by Grace Bonney on home and product design. The DIY column appears each Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Groovy Green

For the simplest of outdoor holiday decorations, try a stack of the exotic looking, yellow-green, fruits of the Maclura pomifera tree. These inedible orbs, vaguely resembling brain models, are commonly known as osage oranges. The trees were originally grown on the plains as hedge-like boundaries. They are also known as hedgeapple trees. The fruit of the tree is said to help repel insects and spiders. Far from the plains, yet near this address, many people with these female trees find the droppings a nuisance. If, on the other hand, you see the green oranges on the ground and find them a delightful curiosity, offer to help scoop them up. They will last several weeks in outdoor decorations. With their beautiful shape and color, they look great in a bowl, flower pot or urn for an easy and elegant arrangement. Easy and green!

You may recall the pumpkin colorfully poised on this urn earlier this season. The pumpkin lasted long past Halloween, and offered a lite snacking spot for the local squirrel(s). They snacked so voraciously, that over a period of a few days before Thanksgiving, they ate through the shell and made an opening about 5 inches in diameter, close to the top. I mentioned the pumpkin may be ready for the compost heap to the resident composter. I was grateful it had lasted so long and offered a splash of color to the increasingly monochromatic early winter landscape. A day later the handsome composter told me of finding the pumpkin on the urn with a surprised squirrel snacking inside it.

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a squirrel and couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

In this story, the squirrel ran away and the pumpkin was cut up and composted, very well. A happy green ending, after all!