Christmas Ornament Heaven

The day after Thanksgiving, no matter how many card orders have piled up, I take time to enjoy a day of Christmas music and decorating with my girls. I've been listening to Christmas music since October, but it's so much more REAL and festive when I'm decorating a tree with the little people I love so much!

And you know what's really wonderful? My little girls share my love of ornaments and decorating! They are filled with anticipation and excitement as we pull the ornament box down from the attic and remove one layer at a time to adorn our tree. I love the festivity, but I'm also a rules girl (just ask my free-spirited sister!), so the rule here is: one layer at a time! No sneaking to the layer underneath in search of your favorite ornament when there are still plenty of ornaments on the current layer to be hung on the tree!

But you know what? When each ornament is wonderful, the temptation to "skip ahead" isn't so...tempting! When you buy ornaments at a place I call "Ornament Heaven," every ornament is wonderful...year after year...after year!

Ornament Heaven....also know as "Anthrolopogie." I adore the ornaments I've found there over the last six or so years. I've even photographed a few of them and turned them into Christmas cards:

Aren't they gorgeous? I just love the fabrics, the beading, the layers of texture...such exquisite details for such tiny things! I'd like one of those pink sweaters and angel dresses in my size, please!

At Anthrolologie, what you find this year may not "go" with what you bought last year in the traditional sense, but there's a cohesiveness to their ornaments that I love. It's a cohesiveness that's hard to define, but it's visually appealing to see them hanging on a tree together with all of their different fabrics, textures and details. Somehow, it all just "goes."

Here's what I'm liking this year: a cute little country mouse family: mama, papa and child.

And how clever is this catalog shot?!?! (Love that clock, by the way!)

And with my love of paper and Christmas hymns, I really like what they did with sheet music in these two ornaments:

Again, a very clever photo shoot...all this artistry for an ornament! Love it!

And just to give you a glimpse of how varied the options are, I think my mom, with her fiber artist background, would like this one:

And my sister, with her new baby boy, might like this soft, hand-stitched one:

You know, it's funny...I'm pretty traditional, clean and classic about most things, but when it comes to a Christmas tree, I've enjoyed making mine personal and interesting. You're not likely to find me veering away from the classic white lights, but with the ornaments, I try to have fun.

If you'd like to see Anthropologie's entire collection of 2009 Christmas ornaments, click here. I'd love to know which is your favorite, or to hear about your own Ornament Heaven. Go ahead...leave a comment!

And if you're in Houston, I invite you to take a peek at my tree during the LLH Designs Open House on Friday, December 4th!


Giving Thanks

I'm as thankful as can be...for life, love, faith, family, friends, creativity, authenticity, chocolate, tea, words, cards...and YOU! Thank you for visiting me here. Thank you for supporting me, encouraging me, praying for me...and INSPIRING me!

How about you? What rises up in your heart as you give thanks this year? I'd love to know! Maybe you'll remind me of even more reasons to give thanks!


LLH Designs Open House

This is a first! You'd think this would be an annual event with Christmas being my favorite time of year, but I've never had the time, inventory or energy to do such a thing before. I'm really excited to open up my home and offer you some of my favorite designs!  If you don't know where I live, send me an email and I'll send directions. (I didn't want to post my address online.)

My custom card clients are always my priority this time of year, but aside from the custom work, I've been selling stationery and cards at the Houston Country Club Christmas Boutique for the last four years (a members-only event that doesn't allow me to invite all of you). I've absolutely LOVED it - the nicest people, festive music, beautiful decor and THOUSANDS of people who stop to admire my cards (how nice is that???).

But this year, I felt God calling me to give it up, to write "LOSS" over that part of my business. WHAT?!?! My biggest sales event, and one for which I've been planning and preparing for weeks?!?! A very hard decision indeed as it is always an honor to be "accepted" into the HCC boutique...and I love all of the loyal clients who shop with me there. BUT...there are bigger things going on behind the scenes and in my heart. I have the opportunity to show God's love to a dear friend and her family of six during the time that I would ordinarily be ribbon-tying and printing until the wee hours. This precious family is coming in town to bring joy and encouragement to a very sick family member, and the way I can help in this situation is to open my heart and my home. What a privilege. Even if the plans for their visit are turned upside down or cancelled, I have been blessed by the process of making this decision.

However, behind each loss is often a gain, and I hope the gain will be all yours! Because I have already printed so many note cards and have many new designs I'd like to share, I'll be opening up my house on December 4th. My dining room will be jam-packed with note cards, gift tags and memo pads...all between $11 and $25...the kinds of things I don't sell on my website. It's all packaged and ready to give...to teachers, hostesses, friends...even yourself! Who doesn't need a set of Christmas thank you notes? I hope the tradition of writing thank you notes stands forever!

And one more thing worth sharing: 15% of the total sales from the Open House will be donated to The Forge for Families to buy Christmas gifts for Houston's inner city children. And I will personally match whatever that amount is so that we can buy double the gifts! If you can't make it December 4th, perhaps you'll consider making a donation or even adopting a family of your own through The Forge. Contact Abigail and tell her I sent you. She'll know what to do! The Forge is a top-notch, heart-felt, servant-oriented organization that serves inner city families year-round. I know founders Sheila and Prince Couisnard personally and can tell you they are the REAL deal!

I hope to see all of my Houston friends on December 4th. If you're a local blog reader but we've never met, come on over and have a cup of cider with me on the 4th! I'd love to meet you!

Blessings and love to you all!


Show Hope

When I started this whole blogging thing, I made a promise to myself: to write when inspired (not on a schedule) and to write freely, freshly and with as little use of the backspace key as possible (hard for an over-thinking, perfectionistic, English major type!). Well, I confess...I've tried to write this post four times and just can't seem to nail it. Lots of backspace action going on over here!

Show Hope. Two small words that make a HUGE difference. Who doesn't want to show a little hope to a hurting world? But how? Where to start?

One child at a time, according to Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman (yes, the famous but unspeakably humble, record-making, chart-breaking, award-winning musician), founders of Show Hope, a movement to care for orphans by addressing their root need: the lack of a family.

I didn't know what I was getting into the first time I was asked to design the invitation for a private Show Hope fundraising event. All I knew was that Steven Curtis Chapman was going to be playing a few songs in my client's home, so yes, ABSOLUTELY, happy to design the invitations and event materials.

Rarely when I design an invitation do I also become a guest, but how grateful I am to my client and friend for including me. First of all, Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman are as real as they come, and to meet someone so true and authentic is inspiring, famous or not. (Read their blogs to see what I mean.) But then to hear their personal adoption stories...wow! They went from "Who, me? No way. We're crazy, but not THAT crazy!"to adopting three little girls from China, one at a time (on top of the three children they already had). When they returned home with their first adopted daughter, they were greeted at the Nashville airport by friends, family, and of course media. But then there were the families they didn't know who showed up because they, too, wanted to adopt. When Mary Beth learned that it was "only money" that stood in the way of a child being brought into a loving home (the lump sum required for adoption is staggering), she opened up her checkbook right then and there. Steven joked that he was going to have to write a lot more songs and sell a bunch more records to continue writing checks at that pace! Surely, he thought, there was an organization that could help these families welcome orphans into their hearts and homes by bridging the financial gap.

But there wasn't such an organization, so Show Hope was born. I could spend all day trying to perfect what I what I want you to know about Show Hope and its founders, about the children who are waiting to be adopted and the families who are grateful for the grants and children they've received, but instead I'll direct you to www.showhope.org for photos, stories, videos and more. It's worth a visit.

Despite the darkness that surrounds The Chapmans as they grieve the loss of their youngest daughter, Mary Beth and Steven are reflections of Heaven's brightest light, and Show Hope is evidence of that. They returned to Houston a few days ago and were as passionate as ever...and every bit as real. Thank you, Mary Beth and Steven, for showing your hope.

Despite my heavy use of the backspace key and many poor attempts at a re-write, I've still fallen short of expressing what Show Hope is all about, but there's one thing I know for sure: when you get a glimpse of how much God loves you, it changes you! And THAT is inspiring!


Urban Market Finds

I'm so glad someone asked to see my Urban Market finds, because I was looking for an excuse to share! The joyful chaos of card season has me pretty tied up, so no glorious photo shoots for you, but here's my iphone best!

If you've been following my blog, you know I couldn't pass these up! I bought a dozen of them, so friends, you may see them somewhere in your future as gifts! Note to all who think I'm crazy for buying up so many little pots: these sold out within the first two hours. Lovin' my little pots!

Weathered, zinc-like, great shape...what's not to love about this cross? It would look glorious on a backyard fence surrounded by ivy or confederate jasmine, but I'm a big fan of using outdoor elements inside my home, so I hung this 40-inch treasure on a lonely half-wall that needed some serious punch.

Deal of the day: two large trompe de l'oeil candlesticks with metal crowns on top. These Aidan Gray beauties are sitting in high-end retail shop right now for $175 and up. My mismatched pair: $60! Thank you for the fabulous deals Urban Market. Now if I just knew where to put them!

I don't plan to post too many pictures of myself, but who else would roll away from Urban Market with a Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree in an antique mop bucket? I plan to hang gift tags from the branches with tiny wooden clothespins...a fun way to display my holiday inventory here in my studio!

At the end of the day, it wasn't about the "stuff" so much as the whole experience. I got to give Maura Cannon a big hug, saw some of my wonderful card clients, bumped into a few blog readers and enjoyed a delicious pimento cheese sandwich, ginger cookie and lavender earl grey tea with my mom and sister.

Now a question for you (since I don't know where to put my candlesticks just yet): do you have to know where something will go before you bring it home, or are you a "buy it because you love it" and "find a place for it later" person? Just curious!


Sconce Fetish

Have I told you about my sconce fetish? The truth is, I didn't know I had one until recently when I brought home a sconce and didn't know where to put it because of all the ones I already have. I'm probably breaking all the design rules about how many sconces one house can hold, but you know,  rule follower that I am in every other area of life, I'm okay with breaking design rules! Besides, I'm betting that the great castles of France in Italy were loaded with sconces with no regard for "rules." They just needed light and thought the holders of the light should be beautiful. But of course! Mais, oui! Bien sûr!

I won't bore you with a photo of every scone I own, but here is my first and favorite sconce purchase:
The patina doesn't get anymore authentic than this. I think they were $60 or $65 for the pair about five or six years ago at Heights Antiques on Yale, my treasure trove place (click here to read my full post on that shop).

I've also bought a few pairs from Wisteria. When you buy from a catalog, you'll never have the fondness that comes with buying something you "found" in a special place, but if the price, shape and color is just right, I say go for it! Here are a few I've purchased:

And here's one I'd purchase from Wisteria if I had a spot for it (I may have to find one):

My favorite sconces are, of course, French inspired and show some age, but I'm more picky about the price than the age, so a reproduction is just fine with me. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's "real" and what's been carefully reproduced. Here are some I loved from a high-end show home (I love the iron work). Can you tell if they are antique or new?
I don't need to come home from Sunday's Urban Market with another sconce, but if I see a beautiful one for just the right price, I just might have to give it a home! Wink!


Urban Market

The title of this post alone gets me all kinds of excited! URBAN MARKET. If you're in Houston, mark your calendar: this Sunday, November 9th, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in a big, open field. Yes...a big, open field right here in the cement city of Houston! Visit www.theurbanmarkethouston.com for details.

The timing is a bit precarious for a Christmas card designer (my busy season is in full swing!), but you can bet I'll be there on Sunday. How could I resist? As card clients walk through my house and inquire where I found this or that, the answers are pretty much the same every time...and Urban Market is always one of those answers.

A once-around of my house today (with my iphone camera in hand...so much for my love of photography!) revealed many of the treasures I've found there over the years. Here are a few from recent markets:
I fell in LOVE with this secretary from Janet Wiebe. Everyone was browsing the books and accessories she had on top of it, but I was taken by the rustic finish, perfect white-washed gray tones, and simple but elegant shape. And when she said it came from "Isle sur la Sorgue," I knew I had to have it. I've been to that lovely little antique-filled, river town in Provence and couldn't afford to bring anything home back then, but Janet gave me a great price on this piece. Look for her as soon as you get to Urban Market. She always has great sconces and chandeliers, too.

And here's one of the zinc-topped tables I love from French Vanilla. In fact, a client loved them so much that she told me to let her know if I ever wanted to part with them. So I did! I have one...and she has one! Notice the rosette detail...LOVE!

I'm sure my iphone camera didn't do this "find" justice, but here's the "wall art" in my entryway...collected over a year's worth of Urban Markets. I gathered up the $10 botanical prints in the Spring and found the iron garden piece in the Fall. I never imagined it would all come together this way, but so it has! I love the organic, unplanned, yet cohesive look of outdoor elements brought together indoors.
You might say I'm addicted to iron-work rosettes. It just feels so French to me! Here's a close-up of the garden piece:
And yet more "wall art." This shelf was the hutch to a buffet that had been sold separately somewhere along the way. I saw it and thought it would be an attractive way to display photos and other little knick knacks I've collected along the way. Let me say this: I'm not particularly skilled in arranging shelves (tips anyone?), but I do want you to see the unexpected treasures that can be found for a good price at Urban Market.
Remember the pot fetish? It's been going strong for a couple of years now! I love those English (gasp! not French!) pots that line the top of the shelf. Of course, I'm always aware of the spacing between them and wanting them to be "just so."

And lest you think Urban Market is all about big things, here's a "small" that sits prominently in my dining room: a pair of metal topiary containers (sans topiary!).

Urban Market could be described in any number of ways. Some say it's "Roundtop in Houston." Others say it's even better. I have a friend who swears her finds are better at "Urban" than Roundtop...and after doing a once-around through my house today, I'd have to agree!

Thank you Maura Cannon, Jane Schott and all of your early helpers and vendors for having the vision and creativity to start this little wonder back in 2004.

P.S. Did I mention the AMAZING pimento cheese sandwiches from Words & Food?!?! I don't even like pimento cheese, but thanks to my first taste at Urban Market, I now buy it every Saturday at the Eastside Farmer's Market!
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