It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The Romantic Homes November issue inspires your creativity with recipes, DIYs and décor that captures the magic of the holiday season. Take cues for opulent, classical Christmas décor from Carolyne Roehm, learn how to bake and display gingerbread creations with Marian Parsons, explore Rachel Ashwell's soft and sweet color palettes and tour Janice Marrow's flower-filled festive abode. A sweet bonus? She shares her recipe for German Gingerbread Cake!
Also: Joann Coletti's Project Refresh continues with a carriage house transformed into a practical and beautiful studio space. Step inside Liz Fourez's neutral and natural holiday farmhouse where meaningful décor creates Christmas magic to charm the whole family and escape to Bianca Planner's winter wonderland home filled with Old World charm and meaningful memories.
There are many forms of art that dazzle the senses and immortalize nature. Classic oil paintings, however, suggest an elusive timelessness. “Painting has not changed much in hundreds of years,” says artist Carolina Elizabeth. “At times, the mixing of oil and pigments can feel like playing with some medieval form of alchemy… a bit science, a bit magic.”
Born and raised in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Carolina knew she was an artist from a young age. Now she has lived in Oklahoma for the past 30 years with her husband and two daughters.
After receiving her BFA from the University of Oklahoma, Carolina decided to focus primarily on oil painting—and pink roses in particular. “I’ve always been drawn to the classical style of painting,” Carolina says. “I decided at 35 that this would be my new adventure.”
The pink rose conveys softness in her artwork and has a special place in her heart. “I inherited my mother’s love of roses,” says Carolina. “I lack her ability to grow things, but not the stubbornness to try.”
Despite her affinity for the pink rose, Carolina’s favorite of her paintings does not feature a rose at all. It’s a quiet painting called Still Life with White Shell, Silver Cup and Turkey Feather. This piece is quite different from her other paintings, but it still displays Carolina’s classic touch. For more on Carolina Elizabeth and to view artwork available for purchase, visit carolinaelizabeth.com.
Amid the green sloping scenery of Roland, Arkansas, sits P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm. Seeing the Greek revival farmhouse three stories high, visitors will feel instantly transported to the 1840s.
“The farm sits on 600 acres with sweeping vistas of the Arkansas River,” says Smith. Upon arrival, guests enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride up to the main house and witness the breathtaking beauty of the Arkansas River along the way.
Although the farm serves as a home for Smith, a conservationist, television host and garden expert, it also hosts weddings, lunch tours and holiday events. During the lunch tours, guests can rub elbows sitting at a long wooden table and enjoy the Christmas meals like one big happy family.
“Holiday lunch tours are especially popular leading up to Christmas,” says Smith. “Guests will see the home and grounds all decked out for the holidays. We bring in fresh greenery from the farm to use in garlands and other décor throughout the house,”
Lanterns with red ribbons light the exterior, while Christmas bulbs intertwined with garlands give the farm a warm, holiday glow. At Christmas, Smith says, “we transform the iconic Pumpkin House at Moss Mountain Farm into a Gingerbread House.”
The Christmas season is a special time that should be spent with family and friends, creating memories that will be cherished as they are added to the nostalgic feeling that makes the holidays seem so magical. It’s easy, however, to get caught up in the duties and demands that come with making the magic happen. Decorate! Bake! Shop!
If you don’t get ahead on your to-do list, you may find yourself exhausted, pressed for time, and praying for the holidays to be over. That is why there are more than a few reasons to cross at least one thing off your to-do list and start shopping early so you can focus on the things that really matter.
Pick thoughtful gifts.
Stressed decisions are not often the best decisions. Being in a rush can cloud judgement and lead to choices that may not make sense in the long-run like missing sales or finding that must-have item is sold out. Give yourself the necessary amount of time to consider each person, their wants and needs and move forward with confidence knowing you won’t be trapped between two less-than-desirable options when all other choices have run out.
More time for planning other things.
Shopping isn’t the only potentially stressful activity during the holidays. There are parties to attend, food to cook and cards to send. Budgeting not just your money, but your time as well, will help you keep on track amid the cookie decorating, family photo sessions and tinsel hanging.
Mother Nature is unpredictable.
Depending on where you live, you may have no other choice but to get your shopping done early. Snow fall or heavy rain can make it difficult to get out for your errands. Even if you live in a mild climate, conditions in other cities can often delay shipping, putting you in a pinch when you don’t know if that hand-made coffee cup you purchased on Etsy will arrive on time for your gift exchange.
Spread out your budget.
Instead of getting everything done in an exhausting marathon session, spread holiday shopping out over the next few weeks to ease the burden on your budget as well as your own nerves. Setting a budget ahead of time can also ease the shock that inevitably follows a shopping spree. Since you’ve decided how much you can reasonably spend, that extra time can be used to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your money.
Find better prices.
Take advantage of seasonal sales, like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday to snag the best prices. Huge sales like these can be intimidating because they attract swarms of people. These crowds, however, are similar those who can be found shopping in the last few days before Christmas, except the added desperation of a serious time-crunch and reduced options. At the end of the day, you’ll feel better knowing you’re almost done and with a month ahead of you to complete the task.
Get a Head Start on Wrapping
The night before Christmas can turn into a nightmare when you’re surrounded by so many things to wrap. The pressure increases if you’re invested in creatively personalizing these packages. Once you’ve unpacked your shopping bags or brought your parcels in from the front porch, it’s time to get started. Build anticipation by laying your finished packages under the tree or make them magically appear the morning of the 25th, and don’t worry about running out of tape.
Less stress means Happier Holidays.
One of the drawbacks of leaving everything until the end is that you are left with very little time to enjoy the season. Procrastination makes the cloud of responsibilities only grow more menacing as time progresses. With holiday shopping under control, you’ll have the peace of mind to enjoy the season.
3 Ways to Make Gift Giving Easier
Get a list
Take out the guesswork and get your friends and family what they really want. Request a list of desired items from those nearest and dearest to you and choose something that fits your budget from that list. It may seem less than merry to remove the element of complete surprise from your family’s gift exchange, but knowing your present is unlikely to be returned is a fair trade. Some choose a theme such as “something you want, something you need, something you’ll wear and something you’ll read” as a fun template for gift giving.
Shop from home
Avoid the crowds and stay in your fuzzy slippers by shopping online. With options for free shipping, adding gift wrap your order, delivering directly to the recipient or store pick-up for protection against package thieves, it’s a cinch to click and be done. Most shops, both large and small, will post a holiday specific shipping schedule so their customers can navigate the postal service’s busiest weeks.
Make it an Outing
Invite a friends who are great company and have good taste and you’ll enjoy every minute of your gift gathering excursion. Plan to stop by a favorite café along the way for a snack and hot beverage of choice.
When does the Christmas season officially begin? Is it after Halloween, when we’ve cleared away the faux cobwebs and tossed our jack-o-lanterns? Or once the Thanksgiving turkey has officially become leftovers? “Christmas creep,” or the way holiday merchandise trickles into our lives earlier and earlier ever year is at the center of this hot topic. There are two sides to every issue, and plenty of gray area in between.
Make the Magic Last
Some of us cannot wait for Christmas to arrive and will try to make the season last for as long as possible. The enchantment of the holiday is wrapped up in childhood nostalgia, feelings of good will toward all and delicious treats like eggnog and gingerbread that we reserve exclusively for this very season.
It can feel Scrooge-like to postpone experiencing the most wonderful time of the year when holiday songs are already on the radio and Christmas shopping can be completed before the mad rush starts or, in some cases, the Thanksgiving turkey is even purchased.
Everything in Turn
However, we also see the benefit of enjoying each holiday as it arrives and giving these special days dedicated space in our lives and home décor. Some of us believe it’s most appropriate to reserve the of buying and decorating of trees, the baking Buche de Noelle and the decking of halls until after Thanksgiving.
After all, wouldn’t it be awkward to pass the mashed potatoes and gravy around a table set, not with a representation of harvest’s bounty, but reindeer and Santa’s sleigh? When fresh options only last so long and nothing is less festive than a brown and brittle tree, there is plenty of time to appreciate pumpkins as well as pine trees.
Either way, it is completely a matter of personal or family tradition to decide when the Christmas season will start and what it will look like when it does. We all enjoy taking our time to plan for the holidays, decorating to suit the spirit of the occasion when the mood strikes and gathering together in celebration at every opportunity.
For many of us, coffee is the reason we get out of bed in the morning. The sound of the pot percolating in the kitchen and the gentle aroma of the coffee grains helps us forgive our alarm clock for waking us up. Our day cannot officially begin until we have had our first cup of coffee.
Although there are many jokes surrounding coffee and its addictive aspects, are there health benefits as well? What is it about this drink that makes us come alive and face the day? Is it just the caffeine or are there other properties that make this drink unique to all others?
As it turns out, coffee has an extensive and colorful history. Here are ten fun facts about your morning cup of Joe you probably didn’t know about.
Coffee drinkers are less likely to contract deadly diseases. Studies have shown that patients with higher levels of caffeine in their blood were less likely to contract Alzheimer’s disease. They also found that coffee had positive results on Type 2 diabetes patients and even protected women from skin cancer. Who knew?
Coffee decreases muscle pain. It is often advised you eat a high protein breakfast after doing your morning cardio. However, adding a cup of coffee to your post-workout routine can decrease your muscle pain by 48 %.
Dark roasts have less caffeine than light roasted coffee. The strong flavor of dark roasted coffee tends to make us think that it is stronger. That is not the case. Although dark roasts taste better, light roasts have more caffeine in them since the actual roasting process burns off more caffeine.
Coffee comes from a fruit. Coffee beans are not actually beans. They are pits from a cherry-like berry that grows on a bush. The “bean” is the seed or pit, which can be found at the center of the fruit and is roasted to make the coffee we so enjoy. Next time someone tells you to eat more fruits, simply say you already had one for the day.
Goats originally discovered coffee. In Ethiopia, circa 800 A.D. a shepherd first sampled the fruit that would lead to coffee when he noticed his goats looked as if they were dancing after eating from the same bush. After trying the berry for himself, the shepherd had a similar reaction (yes, he danced). Shortly thereafter, monks got a hold of the berries and noticed it kept them alert throughout the night. They eventually mixed the berries with animal fat and made small power bites out them.
Coffee was not introduced in America until the mid 1600s. Coffee was first introduced in New Amsterdam (modern day New York) in the mid 1600s. However, it did not grow in popularity until after the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Decaf is not “caffeine free.” In one regular cup of coffee there are about 95 – 200 milligrams of caffeine. If you drink an 8-ounce cup of decaf, there are about 2 – 12 milligrams of caffeine in it. Although it is significantly less, caffeine is still present in a decaf beverage.
Coffee reduces risk of suicide and depression. Specifically in regards to women, studies showed that those who drank more coffee showed less signs of depression and tendencies towards suicide. In one study, it was discovered that women who consumed about four cups of coffee a day were 20% less likely to show suffer from depression.
Adding cream to your coffee will prevent it from cooling faster. As it turns out, cream cools about 20% slower than black coffee and by adding it to your coffee you can keep it warm for a little bit longer than by simply drinking it black.
Coffee increases your fiber intake. One cup of coffee contributes about 1.5 grams of fiber to your general nutrition. It isn’t much, but it’s something.