Crossing the Rubicon for Your Downton Fix

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If you’re a fan of the ITV series Downton Abbey, you’re probably going through withdrawals and wondering what you’re going to watch on Sunday nights now that Lord Grantham and his clan have taken a hiatus.

Season Two ended with a bang up two-hour episode but left several story lines flapping in the wind. If you haven’t watched Season Two yet, you might want to jump down to the row of asterisks because this portion of my post contains spoilers.

At the end of the season finale, we finally get a glimpse of what we’ve all been waiting for. Matthew on bended knee. I loved this scene. Romantic? Yes! But keeping in character, neither Mary or Matthew morphed into slobbery love-struck idiots. I only had one issue with this scene. Why didn’t Matthew give Mary his coat? Good God, man, it’s snowing out and your woman is wearing a thin silk gown! We know she loves you, but she needs some serious BTUs because the warm fuzzies and that basking-in-the-glow-of-your-presence kind of stuff only warms the cockles of her heart. I’m wondering if Season Three will begin with Mary stricken with pneumonia and Matthew at her bedside. And Edith lurking in the shadows of the room waiting for opportunity to give her the nod. 

photo: pbs.org

The finale also spotlighted the plight of Mr. Bates, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Did Mr. Bates really kill his wife Vera? I don’t think Bates would have married Anna if he had. My money’s on Sir Richard Carlisle. He and Vera are cut from the same cloth.

Will Patrick, the burn victim who claims he’s the heir to Downton, return in Season Three? What about the maid Ethel and baby Charlie? Does Jane, the maid who engaged in lip-lock with Lord Grantham, really have a son? Or is she in cahoots with vile Sir Richard? Now that Mary has spurned Sir Richard will he rain scandal upon the Crawleys?

Will Thomas, the scheming socio-pathic footman, be up to his old tricks again now that he’s been elevated to Lord Grantham’s valet? (I was really hoping Isis would take a chunk out of Thomas in the finale.) Can Lady Cora’s maid O’Brien continue down the path of atonement? Lady Sybil in her father’s words “Has crossed the Rubicon” by marrying Branson in Dublin. Will Branson’s political leanings create more problems for the family? 

I laughed out loud at Dowager Countess Violet’s zingers last Sunday. “Do you promise?” Classic Violet. Now armed with a nut cracker, I can’t wait to see her in Season Three. 

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Filming for Season Three began on February 12, 2012 but will not air in the U.S. until early 2013. Yikes! Here are some other ways to satisfy your addiction to Downton Abbey.

A book written by Jessica Fellowes, niece of Downton screenwriter Julian Fellowes. The World of Downton Abbey  

Need some background music while you scrub the hearth or dress for dinner? Downton Abbey soundtrack  

Want to indulge in a little role playing of the Dowager Countess? Dear Violet comes with an assortment of emotions familiar to all Downton fans. Downton Abbey Paper Dolls  

The Countess Dowager’s zingers.  The Best Maggie Moments    

Ever wonder what the Crawley family ate while engaging in furtive glances and sparkling dinner conversation? Dining at Downton               

Simply parched for more Downton? Mr Carson will serve pre-dinner cocktails in the parlor. Downton Cocktails 

A peek behind the scenes at Downton Abbey. Filming at Highclere Castle

Need a GPS to navigate your way through the grand house? An Upstairs Tour of Downton Abbey and A Downstairs Tour of Downton Abbey

Are you the only Downton fan in your household? Is your cat a fan as well? Enjoy this hilarious feline spoof on Downton Abbey. Downton Tabby

What are your thoughts now that Season Two has ended? Do you have any predictions about Season Three? Let’s discuss and I’ll ring for tea.

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Countdown to Downton

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Yes, I know. I’ve already posted about Downton Abbey. But I can’t stop thinking about this fabulous series, especially after last Sunday’s two-hour episode.

There’s only one more episode before the end of the second season. The third season will broadcast in September 2012, most likely to audiences in the U.K. Those of us living in the upstart colony will have to wait longer. 

Fair warning…if you haven’t watched epsiode or six of Season Two, you might want to skip to the end of this post because my ramblings contain spoilers. 

The previews for episode seven show Matthew serving someone a knuckle sandwich. I’m guessing the recipient of his rage is the vile Richard Carlisle, Mary’s power hungry fiance. In another preview, we see Richard whine about having to serve himself during the Christmas luncheon. Toad.

Okay. Holy. Bovine. Episode six was chockful of brow raising moments which resulted in major rumination.

Nasty Richard attempts to tighten the screws on Mary. Poor Lavinia succumbs to Spanish influenza, and now Matthew is swamped with guilt knowing she saw him kiss his true beloved. But will Matthew’s love for Mary conquer all, including Richard, who thinks he holds all the cards?

I held Lord Grantham in high esteem. And then he kisses Jane the new maid. Though I was disappointed with his actions, I know a character who’s too good to be true isn’t believable. Maybe Robert feels the changing world more keenly than the others. Used to being needed, he’s out of sorts. His wife is too busy to have lunch with him, which sets him adrift further. The cunning Jane plays into his emotions, and Robert thinks he’s found an emotional connection with her. 

I have issues with Jane. I think she’s fabricated her past and that her son is likely fathered by someone of Lord Grantham’s stature. Although she’s left Downton, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her. (Imagine…Cora’s money used to assuage Grantham’s guilt and support Jane’s son. Ack!)

And I wonder if we’ve seen the last of Patrick, who claims he’s the rightful heir to Downton. Maybe he had amnesia but that doesn’t fully explain the Canadian accent.

Although it seemed like Cora was on the jet way ready to board the final flight to the big abbey in the sky, I knew she’d live because Shirley Maclaine will join the cast in Season Three as her mother and probably give Violet fits.

I like Bates, but the moment his wife Vera showed up in an earlier episode, I suspected she’d end up dead, and he’d be on the hook for it. Poor Bates! Poor stalwart Anna! I suspect Richard Carlisle had a hand in Vera Bates’ death. Or could the lady’s maid O’Brien have done it?

I don’t why Ethel, the banished maid with baby Charlie, has a story line. So far, the trials of Ethel have slightly impacted one other character, the housekeeper Mrs. Hughes. But screenwriter Julian Fellowes must have his reasons for keeping her around since he’s introduced two new characters, wee Charlie’s grandparents.

We’ve seen yet another side of Thomas, the narcissistic/sociopathic footman, when he rages over being outsmarted by a black marketeer. While O’Brien has turned over a new leaf (suffering guilt over her past dastardly deeds), I have doubts of Thomas redeeming himself.  

Sybil and Branson. Oy! I don’t trust the idealistic Branson. Young and headstrong, Sybil might be in love with the idea of being in love. Bloody Sunday took place in 1920…in Dublin. I’m worried.

I love Violet. The grand dame. She gets all the zingers. Behind her disapproving stare and sharp repartee, is a woman who’s seen it all. 

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Can’t get enough Downton? Tameri Etherton and Kate MacNicol, two of my blogging pals and fellow Downton fans have blogged about the series too. 

BBC News on the U.S. Cult of Downton Abbey

Vote for your favorite Downton characters on the PBS site.

The Downton Abbey Appreciation Society on Facebook.  

Follow Downton Abbey on Twitter #downtonpbs #downton

On Thursday night, February 16th, PBS will air Secrets of a Manor House, a documentary on what life was like below stairs. You can also watch it on-line.

I hope you enjoy Season Two’s finale on Sunday…perhaps with a pot of tea and an assortment of finger sandwiches. A fry up? Maybe some Turkish Delight? (Okay, forget I said that.)

What are your predictions for Season Three? Will Richard and Thomas get what they deserve? Who will inherit Downton Abbey? Matthew? Patrick? Have Lord Grantham’s affections for Jane led him down a path to possible blackmail? Will Edith ever fall in love? 

The Valentine Ham

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When I was in grade school, we’d celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree on the school grounds and singing Edelweiss off-key. On May Day, we’d weave rolls of colored crepe paper around the tetherball poles on the playground. President’s Day meant cutting out silhouettes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln with black construction paper.

For Valentine’s Day, the teacher would send us home with a list of our classmate’s names pinned to our shirts with a straight pin. 

I’d sit at the dining room table and separate my cards by sentiment before writing names on the envelopes.

The girls in my class got the mushy ones. The boys received cards with generic Happy Valentine’s Day greetings because I didn’t want them to think I liked them. After all, my heart belonged to Peter Tork of the Monkees.

One kid in my class, didn’t trouble himself with writing names on the cards. His were simply marked boy or girl

The room mothers would bring cupcakes and pass out heart-shaped lollipops and Sweetheart conversation hearts. This was the Valentine’s Day I knew as a child.   

Of all V-day gestures I’ve received, two stand out in my mind. One year, I got a can of Underwood Deviled Ham sandwich spread from my then boyfriend who was on the east coast. He’d tried to send a Honey Baked Ham, but Fed Ex refused to accept it. Not the most romantic gesture, but certainly memorable. What woman wouldn’t want a ham for Valentine’s Day?

A year later, he attempted to cook a Valentine’s dinner in my tiny studio kitchen. I stayed away until dinner served on my towel-covered ottoman. Dessert was this goopy chocolate thing swimming in a raspberry sauce swirled with suspicious white stuff, which I feared was Milk of Magnesia or worse, Liquid Paper. I was relieved to learn it was tapioca pudding.

I married this guy. And yes, I still have that can of deviled ham. 

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share this adorable video of Young Love and a thoughtful post on a Man’s View of Romance and Valentine’s Day.

What was your most memorable (good or bad) Valentine’s Day?

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I’d like to invite all of you (writers or non-writers) to enter Romance U’s Tainted Love Contest. It’s a fun but twisted way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Click on the link for details. Tainted Love Contest

Happy Valentine’s Day!

To Queue or Not to Queue

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My friends know I’m a fashion addict. Handbags, clothes and shoes…I love it all. When Target announced their collaboration with designer Jason Wu, I got excited and exchanged several emails with like-minded friends about the collection.

A Jason Wu blouse will set you back $1400.00 at Neiman’s or Nordstrom. Imagine the look on my husband’s face if I told him I’d spent that much for a blouse. The items exclusive to Target were priced at $59.99 and below. Affordable for most folks. And like his designer collection, the pieces showcased the fabulous detailing and the retro-feminine aesthetic that’s made him a star.

I’d already picked out which I items I wanted. But frankly, it wasn’t worth it to me to crawl out of bed at 0400 hours so I could wait in line outside the store. I knew it would be a grab-fest once I made it inside. 

SF Gate

My father spent many evenings helping me with my high school chemistry. To describe the strength of the hydrogen-oxygen bond, he used the analogy of women at a shoe sale. Attraction, intense and immediate. 

Limited quantity at bargain prices equals a formula for frenzy. Factor in the pre-launch hype and the profiteers clearing the racks to sell their purchases on eBay at a ridiculous price. (Right now, there are over 11,000 Jason Wu/Target items available on eBay.) There was a good chance I’d come home empty-handed.

It wasn’t just the crowds I wished to avoid, but any negative behavior. The memory of witnessing two women exchanging blows over a sequined skirt at a boutique in Las Vegas came to mind. I recalled customers fighting over the last jar of steamed chestnuts during the holidays.

Are steamed chestnuts worth getting steamed over?

I ended up shopping on-line in the wee hours on Saturday evening. I’m happy with my purchases, but were they worth waiting in line outside the store at five a.m.? 

Nope.

I camped out overnight once for something I needed. An English class I had to take to fulfill a requirement in college. I asked myself what would be worth waiting in line for? So far I’ve come up with food, water and shelter. Medical care. I’m still thinking about it.

Did you partake in the Jason Wu frenzy at Target? Have you ever waited in line outside a store for a must-have item? Camped overnight outside for concert or sports tickets? What would you be willing to wait in line for?

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I’d also like to invite everyone to participate in Romance University’s Tainted Love Contest.

Here’s an example of what we’re looking for:

It wasn’t the smoldering like a five-day tire fire, wanna-get-lucky look Wanda gave Earl beneath her press-on lashes, or her soft, sweet lips, reminiscent of a mashed praline on Bourbon Street in mid-July, but her breasts, which resembled two fried eggs that had him yearning for a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast. 

Submit your absolute worst (really!) cliche-filled, heavy-handed, overly sentimental, and cringe-worthy prose in a single sentence containing no more than seventy words.

Post your entry in the comments section of the RU website on Tuesday, February 14th.

Click the link for more details. Tainted Love Contest

I hope you’ll join in the fun. Yes, there will be prizes!

Sunday Nights at Downton Abbey

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Will Lady Mary and Matthew realize they are meant for one another? Or will Matthew marry the mysterious Lavinia? And what about O’Brien, Lady Cora’s scheming maid, and her co-conspirator, Thomas the footman? Will they get the comeuppance they deserve? What is Moseley hiding? Will Sybil forsake her family for Branson?

If you know what I’m talking about, then you must be a fan of the ITV mini-series Downton Abbey that takes place in 1912 during the reign of King George V. 

The search for an heir. Scheming servants. A dead body. Dark secrets and unrequited love. Social order and keeping up appearances. These elements are expertly woven into a mesmerizing story, which profiles the family of the Earl of Grantham and his servants, all residents of the Downton Abbey estate.

I’m a huge fan of period dramas. Wives and Daughters, North and South, The Buccaneers, The Way We Lived Now, The Lost Prince, The Forsyte Saga, The Cazalets…I could go on and on.

From: pbs.org

Afraid I’d be suckered in and lose focus on my writing, I purposely ignored the initial Downton hype and the FB and Twitter posts during the first season. But after I finished my mind-numbing synopsis, I rewarded myself by watching the entire first season in one sitting. 

I haven’t been hooked on a period drama since I watched Colin Firth in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice on PBS several years ago. As the credits rolled on the episode leading up to Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, I bolted downstairs to the garage and hopped in my car. I couldn’t wait another week to find out what happened in the next episode.

Upon arrival at the video store, I scanned the “P” shelf. The woman standing next to me shot me an apologetic look and asked, “Are you looking for this?” She held up the only copy of the next episode.

Rats.

We chatted for a few minutes about the episode that had just aired and exchanged recommendations on period dramas. The next day, I learned that my best friend had also raced to the video store in hopes of retrieving the same episode. She came up empty too. To satisfy her need to know what happened next, she found a copy of P&P in husband’s library and stayed up all night reading.

I think Jane Austen would find our antics highly amusing.

Unfortunately with Downton Abbey, I can’t read ahead and find out what’s going to happen next because the series is based on a screenplay. The good news is that Julian Fellowes, the series creator, is penning a third season for ITV. 

Downton Abbey has received tons of media attention. It won a Golden Globe for Best Mini-Series. It’s inspired Downton Abbey viewing parties where rabid fans serve pots of tea and finger sandwiches. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/fashion/downton-abbey-inspires-themed-viewing-parties.html

There’s also a reading list to satisfy your Downton fix.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/business/media/mad-for-downton-publishers-have-a-reading-list.html

If you’re wondering what all the hype is about, you can watch the first season on the PBS site or on Netflix. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/

Are you a Downton Abbey fan? What are some of your favorite period dramas?

Bambi’s Daddy and Other Worthwhile Pursuits

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If you read my last post, you know that I somehow managed to put away all the holiday decorations right after Christmas. Despite this, I wondered if I’d been too quick to pull the plug because I kept thinking about different ways to decorate a tree and whether I’d use a traditional tree or barren branches stuck in an urn. I fantasized about making giant paper mache ornaments that I could place on the floor next to my imaginary tree. Chandelier crystals? A tree skirt of moss?

I looked at trees on-line. Orange and red ones, white and pink trees. And when I went to Safeway to stock up on healthy veggies and fiberous foods, I found Bambi’s daddy in the floral department sporting a $7.99 price tag. I felt sorry for him lurking between the other sale priced holiday items so I brought him home.

 He doesn’t have a name. Any suggestions?  

Besides thinking of Christmas in January, I jumped on the resolution bandwagon. There’s more veg than protein and carb in the fridge. The treadmill has been in constant use. Just ask my thighs. My only daily indulgence is a single, highly caloric Swiss chocolate. A reward for sticking to my week-long routine, a routine I hope I’ll stick with at least until February. 

The manuscript for book two is coming along. Nicely. I’m grinning a lot. A good sign. At times, I wave my arms and howl with laughter at the situation I’ve created for my characters. Maybe that’s why the next door neighbors give me funny looks whenever I venture outside.

It took a long time to finish the revision for my first book. But I realized it was important to take my time. I cut over 38K words and then tacked on another 1,500 during the process. A lot of my favorite scenes ended up in the junkyard file because they were redundant or didn’t move the story along. The rewrites, a result of cuts and moving scenes around, tested my perseverance. Caffeine and peanut M&Ms kept me sane. 

Though the premise and characters remain unchanged, the story is leaner, smoother. As I revised, I got to know my characters better. I learned a lot about my writing, more than I ever could have acquired in a workshop, which for me was as important as finishing a book.

While there’s always room for improvement, I’m happy with it. For now. I remind myself that chasing perfection is like trying to eat a cloud. 

I’m a tweaker. I can’t stop tweaking. Someone I follow on Twitter stated that changes in a story might make it different but not necessarily better. Good advice.

I write fast but have a tendency to edit what I’ve written…paragraph by paragraph. This slows the process considerably. Here’s an analogy…it’s like dropping food on the floor and not picking it up until after the meal is over. I can’t do that. I have to clean it up before I can continue eating. 

I’m envious of writers who can pound out a fast draft and go back and fix everything later. In the past, I spent a lot of time searching for that perfect word. Now, I’ll highlight the word I want to change and move on. I even wrote the last scene for my book. I keep telling myself to get the words down and tweak later.  

Writing the second book isn’t easier. In some ways, it’s more difficult because I’ve grown (I hope! Carrie, stop laughing.) as a writer and set the bar higher for myself. I’ve learned to avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced in the first book. I hope to finish the second book within the next four months.

I’m forever grateful to my CPs and Beta Girls for their frank input. Heartfelt thanks to Carrie, Becke, Linda and Lynn, and to author Loucinda McGary, who critiqued my first three chapters and taught me a few tricks. I’m a more confident writer because of them. 

Happy New Year!

Have you learned to shed your bad writing habits? Established new writing goals for 2012?

 
 
 

The Holiday Aftermath

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I can finally see the back of the fridge. My husband, though sick with cold, has done a great job of plowing through the leftovers. I tossed out the ham bone. The idea of split pea and ham soup sounded good on Christmas, but I’m a realist. Same goes for the turkey. The prime rib has morphed into beef stroganoff. Those apples I forgot to slice up and put on the platter with the brie, now sit in a flaky pie crust enrobed with sugar and cinnamon.

I’m not tired of cooking. I’m holiday-fooded-out.

Last year, it took me FOREVER to clean up after Christmas. Determined not to let it happen again, I started cleaning after the last guest headed out the door. Before the night was over, I’d finished the dishes, scrubbed the guest bath and then washed the kitchen floor.

The next day, the clean-up continued. Given the clank, clank, clank of the wine and beer bottles going into the recycling bin, I had to wonder if our neighbors thought we were a bunch of drunks. 

I checked the discarded wrapping paper for any stray Uno cards. Rescued strands of pretty ribbon and asked myself why I even bother since I know I won’t find these scraps next year. Collected at least fifteen gift bags.

All five tablecloths have been spot treated with a vinegar and water solution (cranberry sauce and pomegranate juice stains) and are ready to go to the cleaners. The Christmas decorations are stacked up by the basement door. Considering we had thirty-plus people over, I felt I’d made some major progress. 

After appetizers and dinner, we had a hybrid “Dirty Santa” gift exchange using Uno cards. One deck was taped to each gift and the recipients drew a card from the other deck.

Afraid my eighty-two-year old aunt would end up with my husband’s contribution, I begged him to re-think his gift of posterior enhancement.

He said he didn’t care. 

Who would have thought it was one of the most sought after items? (What does this say about my family?)

My sister gave me two wind-up toys to add to my collection. With Carrie’s gift of Iowa sweatshirts, I am almost an official Ioweenie. Becke, my other CP, inundated me with things Audrey Hepburn. Now, if I only had Audrey’s svelte figure and the fab, black Givenchy dress she wore in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

My roommate from college bequeathed me with a beautiful watering can and MooPoo tea (uh, it’s made out cow patties and it’s very good for roses).

The hubster didn’t get my anything. That’s okay because I jumped on-line the day after Christmas and scooped up some great deals. He has no idea how generous he can be.

Am I tired? YES! I’m so tired that I worked on my manuscript so I could relax. We shared a high-calorie meal and a lot of laughs. I hope everyone had a good time. 

I often ask myself if it’s worth all the trouble and angst just for one day.

Recalling the smiles, I’d say yes.

How was your holiday? Have you taken down the tree? Put all the gifts away? Hit any post-holiday sales?

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and a Cup of Joe

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I received more Christmas cards via snail mail than expected. While any mail other than bills is always welcome, it’s the emails I get from soldiers that leave me grinning like an idiot.

A few of my friends and I buy cups of coffee through Green Beans Coffee’s “Cup of Joe” program. Here are some messages of thanks that I received this week. I thought I’d share them with you. I hope they make you smile too.

…From Camp Lemonier in Djibouti…You just made my day…reading your message reminds of my holiday get together. Thank you for the cup of joe and thank you for the message. My smile is from ear to ear. Have a Happy Holiday.

From Camp Arifjan Zone 1 in Kuwait… Reading your email, I could smell the food. Now I’m hungry, and can’t have anything you just described. Thanks for the torture Jen. Just kidding :-). I appreciate the coffee. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. Have a little extra gravy for me. Tell the Gravymaster to keep up the great work. (Smile) Happy Holidays and a Blessed New Year!! 

…From Sharana in Afghanistan.  Jen! You are killing me with that great meal description! Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

…Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar…Thank you for the coffee! I would love to be spending the holiday’s with my family as well. Spike the eggnog for me!

…Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar…Thank you so very much Jen for the beautiful mental picture you have painted for me of the holiday season. May your Chrismas be filled with joy and happiness.

http://www.greenbeanscoffee.com/coj/index.php

Okay, now for a little holiday inspiration…One of my favorite blogs is Couture Allure. Great vintage fashion. Last year, they blogged about Christmas in Paris. It was one of my favorite posts of the year. Check out the flocked trees in red! Here’s the link:  

http://coutureallure.blogspot.com/2010/12/paris-christmas-decorations.html

I’m diving back into the holiday preparations for Christmas. Tables to move. Tables to set. A fridge full of food that’s waiting to be prepped.

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday.

Jen

I’m a Tabletop Whore

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Stemware. Flatware. Dishes. Chargers. Table linens. I love it all.

I’m a tabletop whore.

My affliction began as a child. I’d thumb through my mom’s magazines and ooh and ah at table settings. Although relegated to the children’s table, I’d always look forward to seeing the centerpiece on the adult table whenever my family was invited to other people’s homes for dinner.

My five-year stint at a well-known purveyor of kitchen accoutrements fed my addiction. I have a basement full of tabletop stuff. The holidays are the perfect occasion to dress a table.

Here’s a simple centerpiece from Thanksgiving dinner two years ago. Flowers from Trader Joe’s in gourd-shaped soup bowls. The narrow folding table didn’t allow for an elaborate centerpiece.

My intrepid CP Carrie Spencer told me about a holiday tablescape contest. I didn’t think I had time to enter because I was writing and revising like a mad woman, but I already had in mind what I wanted to do. 

I call it my “London Transport Holiday” tablescape.

There were more than 175 entries. I didn’t make the final cut, but I sure had a good time putting it together. I’m an Anglophile. I love the Routemaster buses.

My friend Jenifer sent me a Routemaster scroll for my birthday. That inspired me to think about a bus roll as a table runner. I jumped on eBay to check them out. There were several available, but I didn’t want to cut up an original to put on the table.

That’s when I found a bus scroll roller shade on Etsy. Adam and Laura are the proprietors of Apartment-B. They were able to make a bus roll roller shade to my specifications. As you can see, it’s really cool!

Apartment-B also has other designs available. I love their graphic Romeo and Juliet shade, which contains the complete script of Shakespeare’s play.  

http://www.apartment-b.com

This is one of last year’s tablescapes for a table I set up in the living room because we had a lot of guests. Woolly sheep (on sale at Crate and Barrel!) wearing thyme sprig wreaths leftover from my kitchen.

A vintage toy theme for the main table in the dining room.

I believe you can create a tablescape out of things you have around the house. Mismatched glassware filled with blooms, fruit and vegetables (every time I see the stalks of brussel sprouts at Trader Joe’s, I tell myself I should be able to make an interesting centerpiece with them), foilage from the yard, an old soda crate with bottles filled with flowers, succulents in small clay pots, a collection of cocktail shakers or even salt and pepper shakers, a tea set with blooms in teacups…the possibilities are endless.

If you’re interested, you can check out the winners of the holiday tablescape at: http://www.centsationalgirl.com/2011/12/homegoods-contest-winners/ 

Are you like me? A tabletop whore, unable to resist the lure of dishes and stemware? What’s going to be on your holiday table other than turkey and mashed potatoes?

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas – Kodak Moments

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I bought myself an early Christmas present. A photo scanner. I did a test run tonight with some old family pictures.

Remember the holiday photo op during the pre-digital days? The Sylvania flash cubes and the Polaroid flashbars that would leave you seeing dots after the pic was taken? 

My dad and uncle were in charge of commemorating the occasion. Dad could never get the lighting right as he followed us around with his Super 8 movie camera. My uncle, who’d gone to Japan for vacation and snapped away with his Kodak only to return home and realize there was no film in his camera, would routinely lop off the head of the tallest person in the picture.

We could barely stand still to have our pictures taken. But looking back, I’m so glad our parents threatened and cajoled us into cooperating because these photos capture a moment in time that we’ll never have again. 

They depict the innocence of childhood. The joy of discovery. They evoke the anticipation and the magic of the holidays.

They create lifelong memories.  

This is one of my favorite pics of my sister, age three on Christmas Eve, opening a play make-up kit. The look on her face symbolizes the wonder and amazement I hope all kids experience at Christmas.

Pam Christmas

Fast forward a few decades. My sister’s kids at my house last Christmas Eve singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with Santa.

So when your kids complain about the annual holiday photo session, tell them you’re preserving memories for them.

I know they’ll thank you later.

Let’s have some fun. How about posting a holiday childhood pic of yourself on your blog or FB page? I’d love to see it.

This is my last post of the twelve days of straight blogging. Many thanks to my WANA 711 buddies, Twitter and Facebook peeps, my friends and everyone else for stopping in.