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Welcome (Virtually) to Our Home for the Holidays!

Xmas_Window

By Lisa Brunette

One of the fun activities Anthony and I participated in pre-COVID-19 was the holiday parlor tour here in St. Louis' Lafayette Square neighborhood. It was a treat to tour historic homes - some dating as far back as before the Civil War - all done up for the holidays. We look forward to a day when such in-person events are possible again. In the meantime, we've given the 116-year-old Dragon Flower Farmhouse a holiday makeover and invite you to tour it from the comfort and safety of your own living room.

Fa-La-La-Llama

Speaking of comfort, the below llama pillow comes out only for the holidays... I'm not sure why a pink llama says Christmas, but it certainly does. As you might have learned from our last post on the living room makeover, we've got complementary colors pink and green in the main downstairs space. Complementary means they're opposites on the color wheel, and that makes them a vibrant pairing, as in the pink pillow on chartreuse here.

Llama pillow

The llama theme is echoed in the Christmas tree, as a key ornament. I've hung this one and a couple of other ornaments behind the tree to make the smallish tree seem a bit grander, as well as fill the blank walls left when I removed an antique leather whip and two vintage family photos that didn't look right as backdrop for ol' tannenbaum.

Xmas_OrnamentWall

The tree is strung with white lights and colors that harmonize with the room's palette: pink, green, white, gold, and natural tones from straw and wood. Rather than spending a lot of money just to color-coordinate a tree, I simply split our ornament collection into two categories, these muted tones and another crop all in primary colors, which fit the smaller tree in the dining room. But before I move onto that room, I want to linger here a bit in the living room, with of course the mantel as the focal point.

This Mantel Moment

Xmas_Mantel

I really love how the mantel looks for the holidays. The candelabra on the left is a vintage 1960s Brutalist design, which I found at a tiny thrift window shop that used to be part of a sweet little café owned and run by two women in Chehalis, Wash. The mercury glass candle holders are from World Market, and the brass deer is an antique mall find. I wish I could say I made the stockings myself, but they're from Etsy. (At least I hung them with care!). Yes, Chaco gets a stocking... what did you expect? Zander has one, too, but he's staying in Seattle for the holidays. 

The cube vase on the left is a collectible piece of memorabilia - a brick from the old St. Louis Arena, a major concert and sporting venue for 70 years before it was imploded in 1999. The other vase is handcrafted by an artist, but I picked it up at an antique mall on the cheap and unfortunately don't know anything about who made it.

Here's a variation on the mantel from 2019, with the Brutalist candelabra replaced with a star hurricane lamp, and the balance shifted.

Mantel 2019

Ornament Lament

Thinking about that Arena brick puts me in the mindset to share this holiday tragedy. You see, I went to a good number of heavy metal concerts at that place back in the day, but one of the acts I did not see was Kiss. I've related the whole story previously on the blog, but basically my parents were super strict sort of beyond reason, and they would not allow me to go to this particular Kiss concert in the late 80s, which would have been something to remember and tell your kids about, you know? What I did have, however, was this amazing Kiss ornament, gifted to me by my friend Alyssa Naumann back in the 90s, after she heard my Kiss concert sob story and wanted to give me something to make up for the loss. 

Kiss Ornament

Yeah, that's a Rock and Roll Over Kiss ornament right there, and you'll notice up above I used past tense: What I did have, however, was this amazing Kiss ornament... Past tense because a day or two after I took this photo, Chaco BROKE it. My wonderful Kiss ornament, which I have looked forward to getting out each Christmas for the past 25 years, on the floor, shattered to bits. Because of the CAT.

Words were said, my friends, and a grudge was held... for at least an hour, anyway. Chaco wormed his way back in pretty quickly, I have to admit.

Sigh. 

Red Tree

Have a Ball

The Kiss ornament was on the 'red' tree in the dining room, where a brighter palette prevails, all inspired by the ironic and iconic Miss Fortunato painting, done by Monica Mason, the wife of an old colleague of mine from the St. Louis Science Center. It was part of a series on circus side show acts; Miss Fortunato is "the luckiest woman in the world," because she's so beautiful, all manner of butterflies flock to her face, as if it's a flower (obscuring her face from the viewer). This painting originated in St. Louis, has traveled with me to Miami, Florida, and Seattle, Wash., and has now returned to just a few blocks from the home where it first hung. It fits well in between the moulding detail.

Here we are, all ready for a small dinner party before the holidays. The wool felt balls are from World Market (I can't help it; I'm a fan), and the turquoise table settings are Fiestaware. The vintage side cabinet is probably from the 1940s and was left behind by the previous owner of my house in Tacoma; I added heavy caster wheels and painted it black (it had been puke pink). The top comes off but was damaged in our last move, alas. The pewter candle holders in the two paneled areas are from my sister, Amy, who had them in her home for many years and then kept them in storage after the glass hurricanes broke and her décor changed. When she saw our dining room, she realized they'd be perfect, and she is right.

Dining Room Xmas

This dining room is actually next up for renovation, as that aforementioned brown paint is on full display here, too, covering all of the window and doorway trim, as well as a chair rail that runs the length of the room, which you can see above. We're thinking about a deep blue-green, as this room faces southeast, gets plenty of light, and could handle a darker hue. I'm considering painting the walls, trim, and the above white cutouts all the same color, for a more dramatic, rich effect. Maybe even the ceiling? What do you think? My brother keeps crying 'earth tones,' but that's not really my jam.

That concludes our virtual tour. Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate the holiday. And to all, may 2021 bring you peace, happiness, and the freedom and safety to go... maskless!

Note: This post contains an Etsy affiliate link, but all other recommendations are non-sponsored.

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Behind the Burning Canvas

FRAMED AND BURNING 1890x2880

I've entered my second novel, Framed and Burning, into the Kindle Scout competition, and I need your help to win. Amazon will award a publishing contract to the project with the most votes. You can vote for Framed and Burning here.

About the book: It's the sequel to Cat in the Flock and the second book in the Dreamslippers Series. I can't seem to keep the dreamslippers in Seattle, despite the appeal of Granny Grace's Victorian house on Queen Anne Hill. Actually, this is deliberate. I wanted to pay homage to mentors like Mary Daheim and others who find charm in that Seattle setting but strike a new chord, drawing on my own tendency toward mobility. So the sequel is set in Miami.

Some of you might know I lived in Miami for two years, earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at University of Miami. The tropics made a strong impression on me, and my homesicknesses for that place over the years has come back in the memory of intense scents, colors, and sounds. It was a thrill to revisit it in my imagination.

I'm also a longtime supporter of the visual arts, though I've never been a painter myself. I paid my own way through college partly by selling memberships at the St. Louis Art Museum, and I would spend many quiet hours gazing at works that I came to think of as my friends. I've been a museum rat in other ways, too, visiting art museums in every city I've gone through. And for eleven years, I was married to an artist, my youthful affection for him probably caught up as much in the works as it was the man behind them.

So when I sat down to write the sequel, there was the image of an artist burning to death in his studio. It wouldn't leave me.

As often happens when I write, I didn't know where I was going until I got there. Somewhere in the back half of the first draft of the novel, I wrote the words, "but it didn't have anything to do with the case," and I looked up from my laptop in shock. I realized 'it' had everything to do with the case. This was so startling that I actually stood up and began to pace, adrenaline running through me. 

But of course there was a lot more work to do. My BETA readers confirmed when I'd finished the draft that the power I'd tapped in the last half made it more compelling than the beginning. Sometimes I become a bit too enamored with my characters and don't want to see them hurt, and I hadn't been bold enough with them at the start.

Revising all of that was some of the hardest but most satisfying revision work I've ever done, and I'm thrilled with the results.

I can't wait to hear what you think of the book. If I do secure a publishing contract with Kindle Press, it will make a huge difference in my ability to sustain this writing thing for the long haul. I'm proud of what my husband and I have been able to do on our own, around our day jobs, but boy, would it be great to get a lift from the almighty Amazon. Thanks so much for your vote.

Read the full first chapter of Framed and Burning here.

Nominate the book for a publishing contract through Kindle Press