Monthly Archives: November 2010

Christmas Ornaments: Memories of the Past, Possibilities for the Future

This time of year is always very powerful for me emotionally. To me,decorating the Christmas tree is much, much more than a nod to tradition. It is actually more like a rite of passage, one that connects me to my past and prompts me to wonder about my future.

           I have literally hundreds of ornaments. More than just a bauble to hang on a branch, every ornament I have holds a memory and a meaning. Like miniature time capsules waiting to be opened, unwrapping and touching each ornament brings the past into the present and makes it real once more. Some of the memories are happy, some are sad, and some are bittersweet. My ornaments remind me of who I was and who I am. Where I’ve been and where I want to go next.  

As I write this newsletter, the foil angel I received in preschool (that has topped my tree for over fifty years now) is watching me from her perch.  If she could speak, she could tell you  the story of my life. She has seen me tiptoe into the living room on little tiny bare feet at 4:00 on Christmas morning to sneak a peek at what Santa left and has heard my squeals of delight as I opened my presents and dumped the contents of my stocking out onto the floor. She has waited patiently for me to get out of bed and join my family downstairs for Christmas breakfast when I was a teenager and felt me hoist her to the top of the first tree I ever had when I moved out on my own. My angel sat at the top of my tree when I was married, and carried on her duties after I divorced, and more than once she has seen me sit alone and cry over the loss of my mother, whose absence is even more poignant at this time of year.

My little foil Christmas angel holds the stories and secrets of my life; she stands as a watchful guide over all my other ornaments and the memories they represent. She is the first one to be put on the tree each year and the last to be taken down. Out of all my ornaments, I look forward to seeing her the most. I anxiously take her out of the special wooden box that she shares with the plaster-of-paris wise man I made in Sunday school and carefully remove the tissue paper I wrapped her in the year before. My heart always skips a beat and I smile when I see her old, faded, and familiar face, and she comforts me as she instantly connects me to all the Christmases that have come before.

Some years I think it would be nice to have a “designer” tree; one that has been carefully decorated in color-coordinated grandeur, but when I look at my tree, I see the milestones of my life. A miniature Statue of Liberty I bought in New York right after 9/11 hangs next to my commemorative Hotel Del Coronado ornament. A tiny cruise ship from a trip to Alaska shares a branch with a carved wooden angel I found in a small shop in Portugal. Small picture frames, some decorated with dog bones and some with little fish, hold photos of beloved pets from the past, not to mention the 15 weiner dog ornaments friends have given me over the years in honor of my dogs. A “World’s Greatest Teacher” ornament I received from a second grade student almost two decades ago keeps company with a fairy an old boyfriend (who I heard died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease a few years ago) gave me because her half smile and long red hair reminded him of me. And the list goes on.

Yes, you can keep your designer trees and all their sterile beauty. I will sit instead with a fire glowing in the fireplace and a warm cup of tea and watch my little foil angel and her motley crew of misfit ornaments light up my room, reminding me of what has been, and imagining what has yet to be. Perhaps next year a little bride and groom will adorn a branch along with a little book that has the words “Best Seller” printed on it. Hmmm…now that’s something to look forward to!

Happy Holidays, and no matter what your Faith is, Be Blessed.

© Cathleen McCandless 2010, all rights reserved


Feng Shui Tips for the Holidays

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and soon we will begin to turn our  attention to decorating our homes for the Holidays. Below are some tips to help you make the most of your holiday decor from a Feng Shui perspective. 

Carefully choose what you display.
Christmas decorations are brightly colored.  Whatever our eyes see, our brain processes.  Items that are red, shiny, and colorful will attract our eye and can make a space feel cluttered. Clutter in turn makes us feel overwhelmed and disorganized.  To help with this situation remember you do NOT have to display each and every holiday decoration you own. Choose your favorite ones and either box up, purge, or save the others for next year.  Remember to only live with what you love and display items that bring happy memories or associations.
Consider a “Theme” for the season.
If you have a LOT of holiday ornaments and decorations that you love,
(I know I do) consider choosing a “theme” for the season.  In other words, rotate your ornaments and decorations from year to year.  You could choose a color scheme (red and green, silver and gold, etc.) or a category like angels, nature or Santa Claus, and for that theme you would only display items that fall into that category.  This way your decorations will not seem chaotic nor will they compete with each other for attention.  This year my theme is angels and the color gold.  I am really enjoying the simplicity of seeing this theme on my tree and in my decor.  Give it a try and have fun with it!
Don’t let your every day decor detract from your holiday decor
Give it a rest by putting it in the boxes that you have emptied for your holiday decorations.  Place photographs, knick knacks, and other every day decor in those boxes while you have your holiday items displayed. The house will seem more orderly and you won’t have other objects competing for attention.  Plus, it is always nice to take a break from our every day decor and welcome it when we take it out again.  You may even decide after a month’s absence that you don’t even need or want it after all!
Purge your old ornaments and decorations.
As you get out your decorations, have an extra box or bag readily available for ornaments or decor that you no longer want, love, use or need.  Give them to an office, school, or a charity, and give yourself extra room for storage.  The end of the year is a great time to purge to allow for the energy of the New Year to come!
Have a Feng Shui Consultation!
Many of us will be entertaining guests over the next few weeks.  It is a wonderful time to have a Feng Shui Consultation to help you create a space that feels as good as it looks.

Copyright protected c. 2010 Cathleen McCandless

Dining Room Feng Shui

Dining Rooms are places where we gather to share a meal. The operative word here is “share”. When we dine with others we are sharing a common experience that binds us together. Below are several factors to consider when making your dining room as positive and relaxing as possible. Remember that the more relaxed people feel, the more they enjoy the time at hand.

Warm tones are soothing and comforting. Reds and oranges stimulate the appetite. A little red can go a long way, so if you opt to paint the dining room red, consider painting one wall red as an accent wall, or add luxurious red or burgundy drapes for an especially elegant touch.
Blue is a color that suppresses the appetite and makes food less appealing. It is thought that this is because there is no blue food (even blue berries are actually purple). While this may be great for dieting, it is not a color you want surrounding guests when you want them to enjoy their meal. Choose blue for other areas of the home, but leave it out of the kitchen and dining room.

Dining Room Table
Without question the dining table is the star of the show in the dining room. The very best shape for a dining room table is round. Round tables enable everyone to see each other, thus promoting a sharing of ideas and conversation. There is no “head” of the table, so everyone’s seat placement is equal, promoting a feeling of unity and closeness. If you want your friends and family to share and relax during a meal, you can’t beat a round table for creating the right ambiance. You might want to choose a table with leaves that can be inserted if your dining party becomes very large. Even the oval table with its soft edges will feel better than the formality of a rectangle shaped table.

Lighting in a dining room should be able to be adjusted for the event and type of meal you are sharing. Low light for romantic, intimate dinners, brighter light for family occasions and parties. The easiest way to provide a variation of light in the dining room is to install dimmer switches. They are easy to install and will give you the ability to provide the proper light for the type of gathering you are having.

Furnishings and Artwork
The size of the furnishings in the dining room should be in proportion to the size of the space. More often than not I see huge tables, chairs and china cabinets that overpower the room, making it feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable.
Make sure the chairs are comfortable and fit under the table with plenty of legroom. If your chairs are uncomfortable, your guests will not relax and enjoy their meal.
Artwork should be calm and beautiful and not command the attention in the room. The attention needs to be on the food and the conversation, not on the artwork. A mirror on one wall can make the room feel larger, just as long as it doesn’t reflect another mirror.

People are soothed by nature. If possible, include flower arrangements as a centerpiece (low enough so people have no trouble seeing each other). Or place a vase of flowers on a sideboard or table. Flowers add beauty and a feeling of a special occasion to the dining experience.

Using Feng Shui to enhance your dining room not only will help the room look better, it will make it feel better too. The only down side is that your guests may get so comfortable it is hard to get them to leave once the party is over because they are enjoying themselves so much. Enjoyment was the goal to start with, so if this happens…you can consider your mission accomplished!

Copyright protected c. 2010 Cathleen McCandless