Saturday Meanderings

Happy Saturday from the chilly mountains of Arizona. I am here with my friend, Christine for a few days, enjoying the crisp temperatures, snow on the ground and the quiet solitude. Storms are predicted for later on this weekend but hopefully we will be back on the road to the Valley before any front moves in. Thanks for joining me today for Saturday Meanderings where we chat about all good things this week.

Snow at the cabin

Passion Fruit

Have you ever eaten passion fruit? It is not something we typically see in our produce section in the grocery store, since it is cultivated in tropical climates. Our local store, Safeway, surprisingly have some in stock and I am excited to try it. Rather expensive and quite odd looking, these wrinkly globes aren’t very visually appealing.

Passion fruit

Cut them open to reveal and even stranger looking substance. The fruit is tart, slightly sweet and tangy.

Inside the passion fruit

Needless to say, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I am glad I tried it. Will I buy it again? Maybe if it’s on sale. Have you ever had passion fruit and if so, do you just eat it or use it in a recipe?

Cold Weather

I know many parts of the U.S. are getting hit with extremely cold temperatures. As you know my son, Benjamin is attending grad school in Chicago. Here is a shot of the weather one day this week. How a Phoenix born and raised person fairs in this type of weather, I do not know.

Chicago’s weather

Having the appropriate layers and clothing is the key, I guess. Here’s a photo of Benjamin’s girlfriend, Delaney ready for the extreme weather.

Delaney in a Chicago winter

Perhaps I should stop complaining when it gets under 60 degrees here! I’m just cold looking at her photo.

Forcing Branches into Blooms

Trimmed branches with new buds

This week I did a heavy trimming of my fruit trees (peaches and apricots) as small, new buds are now appearing. Instead of composting the cut branches, I grab an armful and decide to try and force them into bloom indoors.

Large jug to accommodate the branches

Using a large green glass jug, I fill it with branches and bring it inside to our breakfast room table. Placing it adjacent to the fireplace, I believe this will be a nice warm spot for the blossoms to explode.

Shiplap and Shells forcing blooms

I will keep you posted on their progress. Also, my friend, Kim from Shiplap and Shells has a blog post about forcing blooms and her pictures are great too. Have you ever done this?

Tangerine Sidecars

Tangerine Sidecars

My sweet neighbor and friend, Tevia brings over a large basket of fresh tangerines this week. In addition to just squeezing and drinking the tangerine juice, we make these delicious Tangerine Sidecars. The ingredients include tangerine juice, lemon juice, ginger simple syrup and bourbon. I always think of these as a healthy cocktail (getting your Vitamin C), if there even is such a thing. Recipe is here.

Getting Small Projects Done

One of my New Year’s goals is to check projects off the Big and Small Project Lists. This week, I touch up paint the back staircase steps. If you recall, re-doing the back staircase was a beastly project (see it here). The staircase has a navy stripe going up the center of white painted steps. Though the paint seems to be holding up, there are normal chips from wear and tear.

Paint touch up on stairs

What makes this project easy, is that I keep a Mason jar of paint labeled and handy to use. A quick shake of the jar and a small paint brush, and now all the chips are gone! Small project done!

Around the Internet

The Crowned Goat

Coco, from The Crowned Goat, has a lovely inspirational post about “You can’t finish what you don’t start”. If you are feeling a bit stuck in your life, this is a really good read. You can find it here.

Country Road 407

I am a big fan of vintage quilts. Each bed at our cabin has its unique one with its own story. Cindy, from Country Road 407 has a delightful post on ways to use and decorate with vintage quilts. Don’t you love these quilt tags? You can see it here.

Mary’s Must Haves

First Saturday Lime

Though it may not be gardening season for some of you, this is the ONLY product that works on eradicating the nasty worms that eat my geranium blooms. As seen on Shark Tank, First Saturday Lime is an organic alternative to pesticides. It REALLY works! I applied this to my geraniums 2 years ago and all the worms disappeared. The little buggers are back on a few of my plants so my husband quickly ordered more. I cannot say enough about this product. It also removes and prevents algae from ponds and birdbaths. Here is their product description: Easy, Eco-Friendly, and Effective monthly insect barrier that Repels , Neutralizes, and Deodorizes (homes, coops, kennels, ponds) and prevent ants, fleas, ticks, aphids, mosquitos, algae. You can find it here.

Millet and Brown Rice Ramen Noodles

This is my new go-to noodle. Lotus Foods Millet and Brown Rice Japanese- style noodles are gluten-free, and easy to cook. Millet and brown rice are some of the most nutritious and easily digestible grains. Ready to eat in 4 minutes. This week I made an Italian chicken dish and broke these noodles into it. So delicious and can be used in numerous ways. You can find these at Costco in a 12-pack or you can order them online here in a 10-pack. Perfect for soups and each pack has 8 grams of protein.

Set of 5 hand masks

My hands are EXTRA dry at the cabin. These hand masks infuse collagen, vitamins and natural plant extracts to help dry, cracked and aging hands. After I finish writing this post, I plan to use one of these masks to help improve the condition of my hands. Great price for 5 hand masks at $11.99.

I hope you have some fun things planned for the weekend. Stay safe and warm out there!

Christmas in July…Inspiration starts with a Fireplace Mantel Focal Point

Welcome to Life at Bella Terra! Thank you for being here today as I am excited to share Christmas in July inspiration with 16 other bloggers. If you are coming here for the first time, welcome. If you are a current subscriber, thank you so much for your support. We are blessed with having a historic property with lots of fireplaces. Long before central heating, most older homes only had access to a fireplace for warmth. Typically, the fireplace is the focal point of a room, therefore, it’s the first place I start when planning my holiday decorations.

Front Entry Staircase

If you don’t have a fireplace, no worries. Find a focal point in your room~a staircase, a set of windows, a beautiful bookcase or even a blank wall. The same techniques apply for your holiday attention. For example, our front hall doesn’t have a fireplace but the staircase is where I start the decorating and tie that into the theme of the front door and living room fireplace.

Choose a color

Christmas in July prompts me to think about what theme or color scheme I would like to use for the holidays. Since I like continuity, generally what I use on the front door will lead to similar colors on the bannister and mantels. That way, at least in the entry, there is some sense of consistency.

Outdoor Terrace Fireplace

For example, I will try and use the same ribbon and similar greens~pine, cedar or magnolia. Adding color with artificial or real berries is another way to keep a color theme similar yet different. I do love red and green for Christmas as those colors are not really used for other holidays throughout the year.

Living Room Fireplace

Showcase a Collection

If you have any holiday collectibles, like me, it’s a fun time of year to showcase them. We have a snow globe and nutcracker collection. Every year I would bring these out and load up a mantel, however, in the past few years, especially with the children gone, I am decorating with less.

Snow globe collection
Nutcracker collection

A beloved treasure from our trip to Russia is a collection of hand painted Matryoshka nesting dolls. During the year they are hidden inside the biggest one, but during the holidays I love taking out all of them and displaying the group as a whole.

Matryoshka nesting dolls

Feature Holiday Art

Many years ago, I purchased holiday prints, painted them with an acrylic gel (to look like a real painting) and framed them. It’s fun to change out artwork and add a holiday focal point to the mantel.

DIY Holiday Art

Enhance Your Room’s Color

Our dining room, due to a large Oriental rug, has its own set of colors (pink, burgundy and green). For years I struggled with holiday decor here because red and green just didn’t work. When I finally decide to use the colors in the room, I now love my holiday decor here. Not many people think of pink for the holidays, but once I start to incorporate this color it really resonates Christmas.

Pink and green bottlebrush trees
Pink ornaments on the mantel

Dusty pink, rose, and various shades of green bring this room to life. Don’t fear using a non-traditional color for the holidays. If it works for you, then do it! Quite honestly, I am surprised to find ornaments and bottle brush trees in shades of pink.

Bowl of pink ornaments
Ornaments hanging from chandelier

Make Your Own

It doesn’t take a big budget to make a mantel or focal point special. The mantel in our breakfast room is decorated with orange slices from our tree that I dried in the oven. Wooden house collection is from Target’s dollar section. Add a bit of faux garland and you have an attractive, affordable holiday mantel.

DIY Orange slice garland

The bead and tassel garland is an easy DIY and you can see it here.

DIY bead and tassel garland

Use what You Have

My friend, Barbara, from Mantel and Table, searched my house for items to make this lovely mantel in my art room. Using artificial peonies, pinecone ornaments, gold berries, sheer ribbon and candles, she creates this very feminine swag.

Mantel in art room
Faux flowers, sheer ribbon, candles and pinecone ornaments

Chloe, from Celebrate and Decorate finds a set of elk antlers and creates this gorgeous outdoor mantel. The rustic theme and elements are perfect with the rugged stacked stone fireplace.

Elk sheds nesting in the garland

Chas, from Chas’ Crazy Creations, takes coffee filters to make this frilly, lighted garland for our dark mahogany fireplace mantel in the library. See? It doesn’t take lots of cash to be creative.

Coffee filters and string lights

Look to Nature

Tree clippings, pinecones, moss, dried flowers and other gifts from your own backyard are perfect elements for a beautiful mantel. Or ask a neighbor for some clippings. Be creative!

Size and Scope

Perhaps the biggest challenge for me is our living room fireplace. The mantel is deep AND long. Getting the scale right has always been a challenge. When my blogging friends visited in 2020, they were kind enough to tackle decorating some of the mantels. It was then that I learned about size and scope from Chloe (Celebrate and Decorate). Look at the gorgeous decorating job she did in the living room.

Here is when I learned about using Command Strips to wire your garland. Lots of garland, berries and simple candles and bells, make this just fabulous.

Lush garland using Command Strips
Bells on rope add texture and interest

Make it Your Own

How you decorate reflects you, your home, your family and your vibe. I know we sometimes get caught up in what might be trendy. Sometimes just changing things up and moving traditions around can refresh your holiday decor.

If you happen to be in Phoenix on October 20, please join us for a Fall Styling Workshop. The goal of this is to gather like minded people together and learn how to transition your fall decor to the holidays, while achieving your own unique style. We will spend the day decorating mantels, stying a holiday table and sharing good food and conversation with new and old friends. To see more about this event, click here. We’d love for you to join us! Space is limited so send in your registration as soon as possible.

Christmas in July Blog Hop

Now it’s time to see more holiday inspiration from 16 other very talented bloggers. Many thanks to Rachel from The Ponds Farmhouse for organizing this event. If you came here from Robyn’s French Nest, I hope you enjoyed the 5 easy things to do now for to prepare for the holidays.

Join the Christmas In July Blog Hop for more holiday inspiration. To follow along, click the highlighted blog name.

The Ponds Farmhouse / Cottage on Bunker Hill / Chas Crazy Creations /

Design Morsels / The Tatter Pew / White Arrows Home

Midwest Life & Style / Bricks N Blooms / Simply 2 Moms /

Shiplap & Shells / Down Shiloh Road / Country Road 407

Celebrate & Decorate / WM Design House / Peacock Ridge Farm

/ Robyn’s French Nest / Life At Bella Terra

Don’t forget to check out Rachel at The Ponds Farmhouse at the top of this blog hop, if you haven’t been there yet. Thanks for joining me today!


Christmas in July

Holiday table setting

I am so delighted to be part of a very talented group of bloggers who are celebrating Christmas in July. What exactly is Christmas in July? I did some research and you can read more about it at the bottom of this post. Psychologically, in the sweltering Arizona heat, a mental escape to Christmas it is a quick way to beat the high temps.

Pinks, burgundy and silver for a different holiday scheme

But right now, some stores already have their autumn decorations up and retailers seem to dictate the seasons long before they arrive. Each Christmas, I do try to decorate something/someplace in a “different” way. For years I would put our decorations in the same areas. But stepping back and looking at your space with a critical eye, can spark refreshing ideas on how to use the decorations you already have. Whether it be a new color combination or a holiday theme, by mixing it up a bit, tends to keep me out of a decorating rut.

Experiment with Color

Being a bit of a traditionalist, I do love reds and greens for Christmas. However, last year, instead of focusing on Christmas colors, I based my decorations on the shades and tones of each individual room. Since we do decorate nearly the entire house, there is a great deal of pleasure in making each room unique and different.

Our dining room (see post here) has a beautiful Oriental rug with shades of cranberry, pink and greens. This rug isn’t going anywhere as it is very high quality and the perfect size for the room. But red and green in a room whose dominating colors are cranberry/pink/teal, just doesn’t work well.

Pink it is!

Pink ornaments from Michaels

Though pink isn’t a traditional Christmas color, I am able to find this large container with ornaments in the blush/pink tones. The ribbon is typically available on Amazon here. But it is currently out of stock. A pink polka dot ribbon in similar shades can be found here.

In addition to the ornaments, these glittery floral picks are also from Michaels. Please note that I waited to the early part of December to look for pink-toned items. The inventory is so low at that point, but by chance I did find one container of ornaments hidden along with these pink blush picks on a low shelf. If you are looking for a unique color, I recommend starting your search a lot earlier than December!

Addition of a fresh tree

Armed with ornaments and ribbon, we did splurge on a fresh evergreen tree in a corner of the room. This tree is the perfect size for the dining room, elevating the entire Christmas theme (and smell) of the room.

Surprisingly, I did find pink Christmas wrapping paper to give the gifts under the tree a similar theme.

For a tree skirt, I gently wrapped my pink/white Valentine quilt around the base of the tree. Again, try and utilize what you have on hand.

With the tree complete and in the pink, now I need to focus on the rest of the room.

The Mantel

Being a historic home, we have a fireplace in nearly every room. With a wide and deep mantel, they are perfect for holiday decorating. In the dining room, I apply a faux garland, white lights and tuck in dried pink peppercorns, pink hydrangea and a sparkly pink ball floral wire.

The bottle brush trees in shades of pink, teal, evergreen add height and dimension to the linear mantel. For fun and balance, I hang the pink balls on fishing line on clear Command hooks on the underside of the mantel.

You don’t need to buy new holiday items every year. Here’s a photo of Christmas 2019 where I use the same pink balls, but in a different application. Playful and festive, they are hanging from the crystal chandelier over the dining room table. Reimagine and repurpose!

More festive touches

With the tree decorated and the mantel adorned, the rest of the room gets a few pink touches.

Pink satin ribbon with boxwood wreaths are pinned to the tops of the upholstered Parson chairs. These wreaths are an after Christmas significantly discounted purchase from Ballard Design. I use them year after year in different ways and they look as good as they day they arrived. See boxwood wreaths here.

Our Christmas dinner is a bit on the formal side and many memories are shared here in this room. Instead of using our traditional red/green, it is fun to change it up a bit to go with the rest of the pink/blush/tree decor.

The sparkly bits of the centerpiece are glittered pine cones, silver trees, coppery votives and silver mint julep cups as vases.

Natural elements like fresh greens, deep ruby pomegranates, alstroemeria and pink roses bring color to the table. Dark cranberry ribbon secure the napkins and a sprig of greens tie it all together. Plain white dishes, pink glassware are layers toward a compliment of colors.

With a burgundy/pink toile tablecloth, the entire new color scheme pulls together.

I can honestly say this is one of my favorite holiday rooms. Getting the colors right with minimal cost is so rewarding. Just writing this blog post and seeing the photos over again, makes me so happy.

Since this is a time of celebration, change your decorations up a bit. If you always put the snow globes in the same place every year, think of where else you can still display them but in a new and exciting way. And if you are buying a unique item or color, don’t wait until December to do it. Most stores will be out of stock by then.

What is Christmas in July?

Per Real Simple Magazine, according to legend, Christmas in July was first celebrated at a summer camp in 1933, when Keystone Camp in Brevard, North Carolina decided to dedicate two days (July 24 and 25) to the holiday—complete with cotton fake snow, a decked-out tree, a gift exchange, and, of course, Santa.

The tradition carries on today, and blistering-hot Southern summers have yet to stop the camp’s tradition—now they simply go for a dip in the lake post-presents. 

Thanks for joining me today! And now let’s see what these talented gals are sharing below.

Christmas in July Blog Hop

Don’t you love looking at other holiday ideas? Me, too. My sweet friend, Rachel from the Pond’s Farmhouse is the host and clever coordinator. I you are visiting me from The Pond’s Farmhouse, welcome to my historical home.

Let’s get started and see what the other 13 bloggers have in store.

Click on the highlighted links below to follow along on the tour.

Stacy Ling – Bricks N Blooms –/– Chloe – Celebrate & Decorate –/– Anne & Ann Marie – Simply 2 Moms –/– Cindy – County Road 407 –/– Jenn – Down Shiloh Road –/– Kelly – The Tattered Pew –/– Rachel – The Ponds Farmhouse –/– Mary – Life At Bella Terra –/– Michele – Vintage Home Designs –/– Jen – MIdwest Life & Style –/– Kim – Shiplap & Shells –/– Kristen – White Arrows Home –/– Andrea – Design Morsels –/– Chas – Chas Crazy Creations