Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Envy

It's hard to be in Southern California or Arizona this week and believe Christmas is less than two weeks away. It was 84 degrees here today. Really? Is it December or July? I mentioned the roses are going strong this month when we would normally be cutting them back.
I have had frost, crystal ice and winter wonderland on my brain for several months, ever since I saw some Made in China plastic branches for $16 each. I think it was the challenge that "I could do that much cheaper and better." I know some folks like to invest in pieces to use every year, but I like to use Real and I change it every year, so I pass on the $16 branches.

I cranked out 35 candles tonight for gifts and the table; I will wait for the grand-girls to come home to do the rest, they will want to learn how to cover them, but you will see how at the end of this post~
My sister and her family live in Minnesota, which ironically, is where my grandfather emigrated from as a 5 year old boy. My sister had planned a party for 150 guests on Saturday night; I think 5 people came due to the blizzard; I wonder if they x-country skied to get there?
I suppose people who have never experienced winter on the East Coast or Midwest love the winter in Southern California. After all, I did remind myself last weekend, where else in the country can you go to an outdoors farmers market in December and get locally-grown berries and pomegranates?

My Mom is from Calgary and she hates winter and snow, though for her it conjures up ideas of managing a team of horses and trying to get food and supplies; it was not a leisurely wintry sleigh ride, it was work and an inconvenience.

Still, it's tough to go from cold winters to warm winters without nostalgia. I have a wonderful wardrobe of cold weather yummies stashed away. Donning a fun hat or a cashmere scarf or a chunky turtleneck and boots puts you in the mood for winter. How many walks did I take my beloved terrier Napoleon for, he in his red St. Moritz-style sweater, and me in black & white to match his fur pattern? How many times did I walk past all the store windows, oh the windows. Bergdorf, Ralph Lauren, Saks, Lord & Taylor, ABC.

For me it's been more about the temperature than the snow; there was just enough snow in NYC or Paris or even London. In NYC it turns to black slush so fast, and then you are able to perfectly execute a balletic maneuver to hop from curb to street over a gutter full of slush, in boots that will soon go to the shoe shop in Rockefeller Center Concourse for a touch up to de-salt. Each cosmopolitan area in the U.S. has "their best" for winter. When we used to go through Chicago to Madison, R & I went to the Ralph Lauren bar. Everyone gets their "holiday routine."
So, back to SoCal. I went through my convertible phase already, I now generally hide from the sun and pay for it's traces to be removed from my face; my car's windows are tinted to limo black. Do I like or care that it's hot out? Not really, though I know it makes a lot of folks happy.

I'm faking snow on my Christmas dining table with some "eco-snow" I found today (not plastic and made in the USA), embedded it with tree lights, and added just a few ornaments and items and moss for effect to judge the look. The "guys" will have napkin ties with birds or something, the girls will get wrist ties ++.
Though, of course, Christmas remains a holiday about the people I love, not the temperature or the clothes I can wear. There were many years in NYC with parties and such, and me blowing in and out of Laguna quickly, only able to show up for a few days let alone host the dinner. I wouldn't trade a walk by the NYC windows for a dinner for my family. I worry about my aging parents and I am thankful for each Christmas we have ensemble~
Oh dear, I hope none of this fake stuff catches flame. I read the fine print of all of it today; lights, ok, fake snow, ok until 120 degrees. Keep the candles well at bay and make sure no one slops a flaming glass of cognac across the table. I will keep a bucket of water handy somewhere and fingers crossed...
It took me time to clean the dining room then start to set the table up, add the extra leaf etc. I added sheet moss and pine cones on top of the snow, and I still have to add in branches and other little surprises.
So here is a mini-tutorial on the candles. These are easy and inexpensive and you can change them to suit your mood. I am using three sizes of candles, all in glass. The $1 small ones are made in Vietnam and come from Shinoda, our local craft store. Tulip-shapes I got at a friend's sale. The large candles in the back are scented candles. These are $10 from Robert, who sells at some of our LA farmers markets. They are soy and long-burning, and a high fragrance content (my favs are Casablanca Lily and Grapefruit Citrus); I love the glass jars because I can cover them with anything from burlap to leaves to salt & sugar & glitter~best best~
I used a combination of salts & sugars on most of my candles, the clear sea salt gives great texture and reflects the light~
Glitter (I use the German Glass Glitter, now on sale at Michael's for $2.99~) gets mixed in to the salt & sugar as you like, spread the salt/sugar mix out on newspaper and set up your Modge Podge or Elmers in one pot, extra glitter in another; I wonder how these would look with some gold or colored glitter~
brush the glass sides of the candles with the Modge Podge. I know this can be diluted, but I used it right out of the jar; you can barely see here, but I hold the candle with one hand at the top of the rim and the base~
when the glass is coated with the glue, roll the candle in the salt & sugar & glitter mix~ this coats evenly, apply pressure to get it to stick as needed; if there are uncoated areas, sprinkle a little sugar on that area to fill in~
I made various combos; the small candles in front are just sugar and without any glitter added; this looks more like "frosted" when lit. The salt and sugar together coats well and the salt looks more "icy." You can see more of the various "lit" candles above in this post.
Let the candles dry on newspaper for about an hour. I try not to handle the sides, though I am gifting these this year wrapped in fine tulle and they do just fine. For the tables, I place the large ones in Limoges berry bowls; or perhaps on top of a small paper doily. They will be fun to use through new year and the rest of "winter."


  1. Now this is a great post, Love learning to make these, you are so clever.
    My family will be here for the holiday and we will make these! love them!
    By the way they are from Lakeville MN and did they ever have a mess last week-end. My Grandson decided to drive to the cities from Fargo on Sat, a mess, he couldn't get off the freeway because the exits were all clogged with cars. Thanks again for the tip. Nancy

  2. The candles are fantastic and don't look too time consuming (good for me). I was born and raised in Phoenix so this winter weather is what I know and love. My mother is from England and my father Wisconsin, don't think either one of them ever wants a white Christmas again. I am longing to spend just one in New York someday.

  3. I live in Southern California and grew up in Northern California, I have never had a truly White Christmas. I would love to spend a Christmas in NYC someday! xxoo :)

  4. What a stunning idea! I'm going to try this easy and elegent candle.
    I have small slender candle holders that would be perfect for this.
    Thanks for the great tutorial!

  5. I make candles and love what you can contain them in. I love yours...there going to be a hit for you.

    Thank you for your family history, I can relate to you and your history in many ways. I have family in Minnesota as well as Canada.

    I wish we had more snow and colder wetter weather, I know what you mean about what we can do in Southern Calif with all our great weather...But a great storm would be nice now and then:)

    Thank you dear friend for your visit to my Joyeux Noel in white and gray !!

    I can't wait to see whats next for you and your blogging postings.

    Joyeux Noel

  6. Andrea so nice to learn more about your family!! I love the look of mixing the sizes of these gorgeous candles, thanks for the pointers!

    Art by Karena

  7. Oh you have spoken my hearts same true sentiments.

    While it's true that you don't have to shovel sunshine when Eric called to say "I have snow falling on my head." I was a wee bit envious.

  8. Great idea on the candles, Andrea! I love your technique! Thanks for sharing.