Jan 13, 2012

The Decor Retires, but the Spirit Remains

Well, the trees come down this weekend, the pinecones get packed away, and soon our tiny house will feel just a bit larger with all the "extras" now put to rest for another year.

If only I could find a way to rest as comfortably as the decor does. If my heart would just rest easier in knowing that over the next months, all will be well, and I don't have to know every minute of every day what will happen next. 

But as I take down the trimmings, many of them are dried and crispy...I realize, I am ready to move on to the next season as well. And yet, there is a little something about these  pine sprigs, berries, and twigs that leave me to believe that having them around helped the Christmas spirit come alive for us in our little abode. Nothing fancy, mind you. Fairly humble. Nothing too sparkly, showy, or even top-notch greenery. Last-pickens if you will. Not the top shelf greenery...too expensive for my little budget. 

Even the pinecones were gathered next to a very noisy street, next to an intersection, gas fumes and all, and tossed into my paper sack. But I still admired them as I walked home and stuck my head into the paper sack and took a good whiff and smelled the sap and pine. I live in the city...lots of ambulances, sirens, buses, pedestrians, old people walking, and horns honking. But for some reason, sniffing my fresh pinecones seemed to make it all silent during my chilly walk home.

So, before 2012 gets underway, and since we now have our first real snow...I thought I would share a few photos of our little season in our small homestead, here in the city. I am looking outside now and snow is gently falling and so quiet. 

I slowly came about with a theme of simply "dinner with meaning" for my Christmas dinner party. It wasn't planned, but as I put things out, I realized that I only cared to put things out that really meant things to me. I had bought some new items, but ended up not using them. I did buy the glasses, but I bought them while on a trip with some gal pals. I needed some little chairs to squeeze everyone in, but I got them from a friend. Everything else I used for dinner, I either already owned, or made.

Our space for dinner was very small. 9 x 6 to be exact. I measured it for those of you who might feel you can't do much with a tiny space. And it was tight, we had nine people total for dinner. 

Enjoy the photos below of our quiet homestead. That is what I am calling it now. Right in the middle of the city, that is what we have in a way: a homestead. That will be another post as to why we are slowly becoming "homesteaders."

But for now, enjoy the Spirit that remains since the decor has retired.

Honoring my father with this vignette filled with his pipe, WWII dog tag and Knights of Columbus pin

Christmas morning....early sunrise light coming in.

FIRST light of day coming in....very soothing.

Salt and Pepper shakers borrowed from a beloved friend...a table isn't complete unless you borrow something.

I constructed this tree from a fabricated "stick" and tied natural eucalyptus  branches on it.

Rusty barrel rings and simple eucalyptus leaves with pinecones hang  in windows.

We don't have a dining room. This window seat is the best place we have. An old board from the garage and $15 chairs.

The cabinet I painted black this past summer...Barber husband loved it after all!

Giving each a guest a box of homemade goodies. 

Simple wrapping with twine feels French.

The little chip is a reminder of how well-loved this piece is...it is meant to be used.

Pinecone I found at noisy, busy intersection that now sits quietly, flocked, in my crazed cup.

My beloved tureen. I collect only very old iron stone tureens.

Simple, rusty barrel ring  (found at Three French Hens market) with tarnished salt shakers. 

My handsome father during WWII in Rome, Italy. His photo is behind the cloche. He was modest and wouldn't want to be out front, being shown off. I think he looks like Clark Gable. 

Perfect mirror found at Three French Hens market, topped with leftover sprigs and pinecone.

My silver ladle and gift of silverware, near our table...

My father would had loved this dinner...smoked ham, black-eyed peas, french bread,  cream of mushroom soup...the bottom silver tray was a gift he gave my mother.

Left over sprigs and tiny candles on my "one arm" silver tray is my center piece.

Time to turn on the tree lights. Guest will arrive soon.

My German table runner, with American glasses, English butter knives, and Swedish books in center. An international affair.  This German runner means a lot to me. I bought while living in Europe and I had very little money then.
I think whether it is Christmas or not, it is the spirit of hospitality that really matters. There are so many books, TV shows, and articles on how to entertain...but I don't really see that many on the spirit of hospitality. I sort of feel like a person who solely entertains, is wanting to impress her guests and needs to feel important for her creative efforts. And a person who has the hospitality spirit, hopes her guests feel invited and hopes to make them feel important. It is my hope that I am striving to always be hospitable, no matter the size of my home, budget, or simplicity of the meal. I don't think I could really entertain with those limitations anyway. 

Of course it is fun to decorate, be creative...look who is writing this blog! But to me, there is a difference between entertaining and hospitality. I can usually feel the difference when I am in someone's home as a guest. In my opinion, bringing others into your home is about them, and what will make them feel invited, not impressed. 

Take the rolled napkin above. It's Christmas, I wanted something a little special for my guests, of course. But my Barber husband's family are the guests and they are lovely people, but like most, what good is a "stick" on a napkin, right? (I noticed no one called it by its proper term...lol).

They politely put them aside as we ate our meal, until Barber husband announced during dessert that inside their books (place mats) there was a little something for each of them...lotto scratch off tickets! And eyes lit up when I showed how handy those "decorative sticks" came in to scratch off the numbers. You see, it is kind of a custom in his family to have some sort of scratch off ticket at Christmas. Not really my deal, but why break their tradition? I got to have my "stick" on the napkin, and they got a handy scratch off instrument for their tradition. And they laughed when I held mine up and said, "And you thought it was just something pretty that got in your way...I am a true believer in beauty with function."

And I happened to win $10 with my ticket as well.

Hopefully hospitality also means you can keep the ticket, because I kept mine....and cashed it...

From my house to your house,



Anne Lorys said...

I'm convinced that you can be a homesteader anywhere. That home is created from inside out, rather than the opposite. A state of mind, I guess, although I surely feel better when my exterior surroundings reflect a bit of beauty.

I love the gorgeous, heartfelt homages to your handsome war hero father!

Yep, Christmas at your house is a place I would most certainly fee; right at home.

Love you, friend!

www.MaisonStGermain.com said...

Oh you are adorable! Love the story and those barrel rings on the windows looks amazing. As always your post has made my day a bit brighter. Have a great weekend:)
~Debra xxx
Capers of the vintage vixens

Richard Cottrell said...

I know it was a wonderful party. Sure looks beautiful. I loved our visit the other day! Richard and Sissy Dog from My old Historic House.

Jen said...

Beautiful post. Gorgeous details and photos. Such lucky guests. Loved the display in honor of your father - such a sweet way to remember him and have him near during your holiday.

Debra@CommonGround said...

I love hearing about Hospitality; you know that is one of God's gifts of service. 1 Peter 4:9-10. You do it well, Elizabeth. Anne and I are hoping to make a visit up to STL this year! Enjoy the snow, it's here, too.

Burlap Luxe said...

Amazing Elizabeth, thats who you are.

The beauty you create and space you make due with steals my heart, all that you inspire is authentic and real :)

I love beiing in your real company.

Hey girl!! can you send me your home address? I want to send you a personal note card. Email me...

Burlap Luxe said...

O, I forgot to tell you, I really could move right into your home of beauty, simple and paeceful it calms the spirit.


Anonymous said...

I always feel so grounded after reading your posts...I love your insight on things that I'm also always thinking of.
I love for my guests to feel the love and warmth of my home, that they are part of it all...not that I have to spend my time entertaining them. I think I may stop using that word altogether.

Your table exudes warmth...I can tell the care you put into making it special. You have such a talent for creating beautiful places.

Happy New Year!
Sarah xo
**Are the walls of your window bench area a different color than the main walls?

Grace said...

Aww what a beautiful post. Gorgeous tablescape. Grace

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Anne!

What a neat way to put it: that a home is created from the inside out, rather than the opposite. Wish I had said that...but glad to have heard it all the same because how right you are.

I've seen some of the most beautiful houses - but they weren't homes by any means. And yet, I've visited some very simple, tiny apartments that welcomed anyone and I remember never wanting to leave.

My father was a hero to me. I do miss him. He loved Christmas and how I wish I could cook for him. That is something I truly love about my barber husband...he is like my father in that they both get great joy from good food and are greatly appreciative of good home cooked meal.

Miss you and wishing a great 2012


Elizabeth Maxson said...

I just love reading Vintage Vixens...even the title makes me smile...you two are something else. Thank you for stopping by. So glad my Friday 13th was visited by such lovely ladies....ahem...I mean...vixens...hahaa

Big hug

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Richard, seeing you was the highlight of my week. You will be happy to know that I have been using the cutting boards I bought from you almost daily and my new lady friend is all dressed up as well. The vintage forks have been photographed several times already, and the box as well....I got to visit with you and Sissy AND come home with a car load of goodies from your store....a great day!

Big hug to you and lots of kisses to Sissy...she is a doll, isn't she?


Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Jen,

Thank you for stopping by and mentioning my father. Yes, if lucky, we get to have a great dad. Not all of us, but some of us. His name was Alfred. He was 47 when I was born...and even though older, he made time for me. He was in the Army 30 years and retired the year I was born. I so wish my barber husband could have met him...I think they would have been very, very good friends. They have so much in common, in such small ways, but it makes me smile when I discover some little thing and I realize how much dad would have liked being with my husband in that moment.

My barber husband has an old soul that would have gotten along really well with dad. Thanks for letting me gab about it.

Big hug to you and hope you have a great weekend,
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Debra!

Oh, how I hope I get to see you and Anne when you visit. Please let me know...would love to hug you both. I always loved the scripture passage (know idea where in the bible) where Martha and Mary are with Jesus and some other folk and Martha is running around serving, cooking, entertaining, and then she asks Jesus to tell Mary to get off her butt and help out some. (I am paraphrasing, of course.) And Jesus gently says something like "Martha, Martha, cool your jets, Mary is fine where she is..." or something like that...

I always found it funny that the first documented domestic diva was named "Martha" and of course, we all know about Martha Stewart. Coincidence? But I believe the lesson is...entertaining isn't so important as it is to just be one with the guest - especially if you happen to have Jesus over for dinner. :-)

Thanks for visiting and reminding me of the passage. I would never try to teach any bible lessons...I would rather learn from your fantastic blog.

E :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...


If you were to ever come over, my home would instantly light up and be much more beautiful with just your presence....really. I hope some day to meet you.

I will email you. Thanks so much for all your encouragement over the years.

Big, big hug
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Sarah,

I like the way you think. I think sometimes people are afraid to have people over because of that very word, "entertain." I have a cyber friend, a very well-known author and someone I am happy to call my friend, Sandy Coughlin known as The Reluctant Entertainer, who has written many books about entertaining. But she has the right idea and spirit on entertaining that I just love. She has a chapter in Where Women Cook Celebrate! book that I wrote several chapters for. Her idea of having people over is exactly how so many of us feel...reluctant, until you read about how she goes about it and takes the fear out of it and reminds us all that we just want to be with friends...check her out. I am honored to call her my friend.

Thanks for sharing,
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Grace,

I went to your site, and what fun you have! And how I live NYC...and miss it. Thanks so much for stopping by so I could get to know you. I will stop by often.

Big hug to you,
Elizabeth :-)

Legacy of a Single Girl said...

I felt as though I was one of your honored guests as I took in all of your photos. You have captured the true meaning and simplicity (yet elegance) of the season. And I couldn't help but compare your humble, quiet home with it's soft-spoken beauty to a manger, and it's occupants, and how every simple quaint thing means so much more when our eyes see its true beauty. Our homes are (or in my thoughts should be) the scrapbooks of our lives, and yours is filled to the brim with love and peace and gorgeousness!

Love, Margo

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Margo,

Oh, how I love how you put it: a home is like a scrapbook of our lives...I love that! I have the smartest and most creative readers. I love that image. I just love going into a home that has remnants of the owner's life. I am not all that impressed with the homes that I call (to myself of course) "off the shelf." By that, I mean, the homes that are very pretty, and really designed so nicely, but I can tell exactly which store, or which company that each item came from and usually serves no purpose other than to take up room, fill a wall, or a corner. And while tasteful and cute, it has absolutely no meaning other than the owner got a good price on it, or hired someone with no imagination to decorate her home. I so much rather see homes that have "this or that" in it that have meaning to the owner, or was made by the owner, or given as a gift, or "found" by the owner on a trip, or has a fun memory tied to it...and those homes almost ALWAYS has such a warm and happy feel to them...the kind where you can feel relaxed, no matter how expensive the home is.

Big, expensive homes can have a very warm and homey feel too. I have been in them and they are wonderful. The owners took great care in picking out the perfect things that have meaning...family heirlooms or had things custom made from items they held onto for years. It doesn't have to be a little house or apartment to be cozy, even large homes can too be very cozy...it is all about the spirit of the occupants, I think....

Thanks for sharing your insight...so fun to read such wonderful comments.

Big hug to my Margo,

Anonymous said...

How absolutely lovely! I vote for hospitality every time...thank you so much for sharing this story and your beautiful photographs.
Beth P

Kathie Truitt said...

I have loved your blog for so long. Today I am adding you to my blog roll! When I visit my sister in St. Louis she always takes me to Three French Hens.

trash talk said...

You can take the girl outta Texas, but you can't take the Texas outta the girl. This post illustrates Southern Hospitality as an art form that really can't be taught. It's acquired over years of watching our mothers, aunts...and yes even our daddies...work a room, making sure every glass is filled, every guest comfortable and that all have a feeling of "belonging". It can't be phony, but must truly come from the heart. It's graciousness personified, fueled by an overwhelming desire to give more than receive...something this post exemplifies and the heart that wrote it.
P.S. We share a similar bond. We were both blessed to be daughters of men of the Greatest Generation.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Kathie!

So nice to have you visit and thank you so much for enjoying my blog so much to add me to your roll. Very appreciated. Yes, Three French Hens is always nice visit here in St. Louis, however, the Three French Hens I am referring to in this post is the Three French Hens MARKET in Morris IL, they do a few times a year. Sorry, I didn't make it clear. The Christmas market is wonderful with lots of goodies. About a 4-5 hour drive from St. Louis and definitely a gal pal day. So much fun.

So glad you stopped by and look forward to more visits. :-)))

Big hug to you

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi My Beautiful Texan Deb,

I always love hearing from you. I love that we both have fathers from the greatest generation. As I said in an earlier comment, I miss my dad a lot. Like yours, I am sure, he was a really great man.

Thank you for the lovely comments. I am partial to the South, of course :-) but I am willing to bet that somehow most of our friends from all over the country, somehow got a dose of southern hospitality in their genes as we are so fortunate to have such gracious friends. You are one of the most gracious and I have no doubt that some your friends are from far and wide as well, show the same hospitality that we southerns stake claim to :-)))

Either way, thanks for the kind words, and I always enjoy your way with words. Whenever I go on your blog and see your photos, I can see how your friends love you so with all the smiles and laugher. That is probably the best gift right there - laughter.

Big hug to my Texan Beauty

Monica said...

I always enjoy reading what you write because it sorta always has a moral or a meaning....be it hidden under a place mat!

House things said...

Oh Elizabeth...I don't think it's in you to do anything "simple". I mean that in the kindest way. Your decor and words are simply stunning. Just the way it should be.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Vintage Hare,

I went to your site and forgot how much I love lima beans too! Thank you for stopping by, I always love meeting new people! And I am even more flattered that my stuff is actually read, not just looked at....lol.

I hope to see you again and will stop by your site for a recipe or two.

Big hug to you,

Elizabeth Maxson said...


How are you? I am so happy to have you stop by. I wish you the best of 2012 and I love seeing you grow and just evolve.

Simple doesn't always mean "easy" just not complicated, if that makes any sense. Sort of like making homemade bread...a simple thing to do, but not an easy task....or complicated. But how we all love the "simple" warmth of homemade bread.

I think that is why our great-grandparents yearn for the "simpler" days. They weren't complicated, they took more effort, but the efforts were simpler. And I think there is a warmth and harmony in those efforts.

Thanks for putting it the way you did and making me think about it.

Miss you!

The Queen Vee said...

Elizabeth Mason you are one extremely talented young woman. I've spent some time this morning perusing your blog and I am simply mesmerized. Thank you for sharing. Did you really eat on those book place mats?

The Queen Vee said...

Sorry Elizabeth, I spelled your last name wrong, forgive me.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Thank you for visiting Queen Vee! Love your photo profile...very cute :-)

And yup, really used the books during dinner! The old board/table top was warped in certain areas, and unbeknownst to my guests, I stuck some "filler" under some of the books to even out the "table" so that their plates wouldn't wobble! The "table top" is very old, made of two wide boards and one little warped board (like the hostess!). So the books come in so handy in so many cases....!

Thanks for asking :-)

Big hug

Elizabeth Maxson said...

No worries about the spelling...just happy that you took time to write me!

Besides, anyone who knows me for more than five minutes knows I am THE worst speller of all time - really!!

Words that I constantly have to grammar check all the time and don't know why:

Angle (when I really mean angel)

And yes, every single word I typed above, had that annoying red line under it, which meant I had to go back and click spell check. And even two were so bad that my computer said, "No guesses found." Hahaha. Why I never can get those words, is so very annoying to me. I type extremely fast, and I can type other complicated words without any issue whatsoever, however, "ladle?" Can't figure that one.

Okay, better get going ...off to skvsjinfieak :-)

Mary said...

Since long before your exquisite wedding, I've just loved everything your set your hand to Elizabeth. I always check the decor mags. and am excited when I see your name as a contributor - sometimes I just flip through first and can immediately see if you have styled/photographed an article - YOU have that something special and it jumps off the page.

Thank you for encouragement and sharing ideas - nothing out of the price range for those of us who have smaller budgets, and tiny homes - nothing too new or too trendy, just good plain old vintage which we can gussie up with paint, burlap and Nature's bounty.

Love it all and you - you'd better stop in if you come this way, it will be cozy and I think you will agree hospitable. No airs and graces, just a lovely time.

Hugs - Mary

Elizabeth Maxson said...


So nice to hear from you! You are the traveln' gal that goes more places than anyone I know. Thank you for such lovely comments and for stopping by. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day, it means so much to me.

And yes...would love to stop by if ever in the neighborhood! Try and stop me :-)

Hope to see you again when you aren't in the air, flying!
Big hug,
Elizabeth :-)

Erin@TheSavvySeeker said...

Hi Elizabeth - what color/paint did you use to paint the dining room chairs?

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Erin,

Well, believe it or not...I FOUND them that way! Yes...I actually found something I didn't have do something to....I know...rare, right? But, I did find a color by Ben Moore, called Ocean Floor that is very, very close to the color. The chairs are also distressed somewhat. Hope this helps some!

Big hug

LynnieP said...

Ms. Elizabeth! I just went to check out your blog. Wow! Congrats on "Quilts from the House of Tula Pink"! Loved your pics. My favorite is the one of the gorgeous quilts hanging from the rustic barn! Glad to hear that your barber husband is still admiring your work as if you were Annie Leibovitz! Give him a hug from me. Loved your business card tagline - "Creating with the Creator". Let's meet at Pappy's and get Slap Happy with some BBQ some time! Love you! Lynne

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