I took a vote on Twitter, and asked what subject everyone would like me to talk about today . . . I gave them choices to vote on: the YANKEE shoot with my behind-the-scenes photos, OR, all the new things coming to studio? OR, would you like to see “pumpkins I’ve known and loved?” OR, for a change of pace, maybe a bunch of great photos of the English Countryside? OR, perhaps a jillon photos of my stove? MUSICA♥
YANKEE Magazine won. Votes went over the top with a pretty-please from Rachel in England, which held a whole bunch of sway with me since YANKEE, for obvious reasons, does not sell in England. The holiday issue with my house in it came in to our Studio on Friday (we got them first, I don’t think they are in the stores yet, but I think that by today or tomorrow, all of you that ordered your copies from us will have gotten them ~ Kellee and Sheri have been in a shipping frenzy). The magazine did a wonderful job, I love what they wrote, so I thought, even though it’s much too early for Christmas, you might enjoy a behind-the-scenes sneak-peek for the parts of this photo shoot you don’t get to see in the magazine.
Lots of people ask me what it’s like to have your house photographed for a magazine. It’s very exciting, somewhat scary, and a lot of fun! Everyone works hard, first me, because I’m the one running around oiling my kitchen table, winding the clocks, arranging flowers, plumping pillows, ironing linens, shining mirrors and windows, polishing silver and making things for the house. We started early, while our pumpkins were still on the porch, just like getting ready for a party or for guests to come stay. Then Joe, cause he’s in charge of greens, the tree, the lights, and everything heavy or over 6′ off the ground, brings the decorations down from the attic and we try to prepare, because we’re not sure what they want, but we want it to be festive when they get here. Then the magazine writer, photographer, and stylist and photo editor come and we meet, show them around and make them comfortable and then it’s their job to take about two thousand photos. Moving things a hair that way, a hair this way. Every hair counts.
I wanted my decorations to be simple and easy, homey and old-fashioned and at least part of it needed to be homemade; I like my guests to feel a little bit like children, with that same sense of magic we remember; I wanted the house to smell good and say, Come on In. Like maybe Mrs. Claus came to the island to go shopping and is staying with us, high in the eaves over the kitchen in our Peter Rabbit Room, baking every day. Like that. Just like that.
Home arts, the art of the Home, how do I love thee, let me count the ways.
This is my first and favorite ornament. I don’t even keep it in the attic because I want it to be close by. The birds, which I’ve collected for years, even found a new (old) one on this trip I’m on right now, are in a box in the sideboard, and the tree is in my studio. The minute Halloween is over, this tree goes up. Jack is everywhere.
I oiled the table and all my wooden spoons and let it sink in and make the wood a beautiful mellow color.
I shook out, fluffed up, and refolded my quilts. I like tradition at Christmas, the over and over of things gives the years gravitas, and I love lots of color. I enjoy the photos of the turquoise and feathery-pink Christmases in so many home magazines these days, they’re very cute and fresh, but I can’t seem to give up my red.
My Beatrix Potter people set the color tone here, along with fruit and snowy trees.
This little handmade house (found at an island flea market) always goes on the shelf of my stove . . . I found the tiny lights in a drawer and thought, oh how perfect! I have no idea what the magazine people might want to photograph but this looks good to me!
But just in case, I set up little vignettes around the house, like vintage dishtowels in the pantry, so they could pick and choose.
Out come my stacks of vintage Christmas books . . .
Red and white colors for the sofa . . . I’m thinking I want the living room to be red and white, lots of twinkle lights and candles and very romantic.
and very heartfelt . . .
with little bits of red here, there, and everywhere . . .
Birds and things from nature, and of course, lots of love.
I started my paper whites, hoping to force them into bloom by Christmastime.
Themes began to come to mind. I was thinking, “winter wonderland” for the dining room. I scoured my attic, the barn, and every room in the house looking for white, sparkly, vintagey, wintery things. I found this white bird with the gold trim on his wings and old packages of snowflake gift tags I hadn’t used and tied them onto some gold beads to make a garland over the mirror of our sideboard, Lucite stars too . . . stars, birds, snowflakes, winter wonderland in nature.
Out comes my angel chimes, my star bobeche, my beloved scissor-cut (Scherenschnitte) white trees Elizabeth bought for me at her church craft fair many years ago, (found some for you!), white birds, silver pheasants, vintage baby cups and . . .
dancer and prancer, too, plus two hooty owls, one turtle dove and a partridge sans the pear tree (he’s silver and you can just see the top of his back in the lower right of this photo) . . .
every little sparkly, woodsy nature thing I could find to make scenes with.
Joe went around the garden cutting holly, boxwoods, ivy and pine boughs ~ he wired everything into wreaths and roping and decorated the house, inside and out.
We needed one huge wreath to put at the peak of our house . . .
We have a friend who’s a house-painter and he always brings his ladder!
My goal was that the house be drenched in Norman Rockwell New England Christmas tradition, that says Mrs. Claus lives here. It always helps to have a goal.
Getting the kitchen porch ready ~
There she is, all ready to be lit up! The House of Creativity in all her glory. ♥
Out I go to get a bit of holly.
I made sugared fruit and thought I’d try doing holly the same way. It worked! You can do it too, brush everything with a thin coat of egg white, dip the fruit or holly in granulated sugar and then superfine sugar (which you can make in your food processor or blender if you can’t find it at the store) and allow everything to dry overnight.
Joe borrowed this wonderful long-needled pine from our friend Martha’s yard and we used it as a striking backdrop for the mantle, along with white trees, vintage silver baby mugs filled with white roses and chrysanthemums, and my white iron lambs.
Here’s one of Joe’s wonderful concoctions. He’s making the house smell so good!
He did the roping over the kitchen windows and I then went garland-mad, which is very easy to do, I just think they are the cutest things and go just about everywhere.
Michael’s Crafts is a great place for last minute inspiration, but flea markets and craft shows are the best. Be on the lookout for unexpected things year-round. That’s where I found the garland of fruit above, the only string they had and no idea where to get more. I got it! I think dried flowers and pods could be strung together to make a very pretty colorful garland too ~ I’m going to look for the dried things the next chance I get.
While I’m making this, I’m thinking how great our house will look when the shoot is over and it’s all ours for Christmas.
YANKEE had asked me to make a few crafty, gifty, cooking things they could photograph . . . so I started with star croutons, to give in a jar . . .
I made them and put them in one of our red-lidded jars — and then used them at our Christmas party when the shoot was over.
I also made the MOST delicious Cranberry Coffee Cake (one of the recipes for the “Breakfast Book” I left half-done when we took off to go to England last year ~ Must go home and finish that!)
And of course our favorite Holiday Jam, half my special cranberry sauce recipe and half Orange Marmalade.
Things were starting to come together; I’m thinking the kitchen theme is “cozy gingerbready.”
Especially with Janie’s Gingerbread banner from last year hanging over my stove. And see the little “gingerbread” house on the left? I found those for you too. They come as a card! You pop them out and hook them together, and there’s even a chimney and a separate snowman!
Here’s this year’s version of the Christmas banner Janie made for us, Christmas trees on candy striped string!
Now, time to decorate the tree! Am I wearing you out? Remember we had plenty of time to do this so it was fun! Musica played the whole time. Dean and Frank singing Merry Little Christmas, baking, a fire in the fireplace, and . . . .
adorable Jack who helped with everything! How hard could it be!?
A little of this, a little of that . . . so the art director has something to work with . . .
Hang stockings with care, make a fire, cut the cake . . .
and light the candles . . .
The mantle, with fresh holly and pine, lambs, silver, flowers and trees . . .
In the dining room, Joe put greens above the sideboard, I filled in the spaces with fruit and pinecones, tied my sheer heart ribbon around the lampshade and tucked in a sprig of boxwood (little cute thing to do, when the light’s on, the lampshade is gorgeous, you can see it in the video below). I threaded string from the snowflakes through holes in the lace on the dresser scarf for more winter wonderland. Just a couple more things to do before its ready, action, camera! Joe made the cardboard “E” for our gold JOY letters. Too cute, he is very creative. When it was done, I lit it all up to see and hear it in action . . .
We’re ready for company and here they are!
That’s Bette Troy, the Stylist on the left, then, in the middle, Nat Rea, the photographer, and on the right is Heather Marcus, the photo editor. Not shown here but also in our group was the brilliant person who put words to the pictures, Julia Quinn-Szcesuil.
Jack was a ham, you can tell from his body language how he looks directly into the camera, draping himself in front of it at every opportunity — here is more kitty body language info:
They went right to work, arranging and rearranging . . .
Here they are in action in the kitchen . . .
And upstairs in the Peter Rabbit Room . . . (you can see more Christmas in the Peter Rabbit Room if you click on that link).
Then to the sewing room . . .
And outside . . . they left no stone unturned. Worked at our house for two days. And now their hard work has been honed and fine-tuned into one feature article in a magazine. I can’t thank them enough for doing just a beautiful job and being so nice while doing it. On that first page of the article, the picture of me? Look close, I’m holding Jack in my arms. ♥ Jack is only 2 years old and he’s in his first magazine. A child star! He will be hard to live with now!
After they left, me and my friends had a bonfire to celebrate . . .
The next day I woke up and felt so inspired by our days of creativity . . .
I drew and painted this page for the November 2014 calendar.
Must go now girlfriends, will add more later, but the dentist is waiting for me! Real life interrupts! xoxo
P.S. In case you came here looking for Fall ideas and recipes, you may have missed Eat Drink and Be Scary, so here it is! ♥