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seasonal decorating

The Survivor's Nest - Five Tips to Make Your Home Party Ready

True hospitality comes from the heart, and is not the product of ostentatious and expensive material surroundings. Eleanor Roosevelt

Opening your nest to friends and relatives during the holiday season should not be a stressful ordeal. You can make your home party ready and still have a great time by following my five tips:

1. Don't over clean your house: I used to spend hours cleaning before company came. Of course, 20 minutes after they arrived, the place was a happy mess. Focus on removing clutter, especially personal items such as mail and bills. If you must dust, dust only where it is obviously needed and leave the rest until the after party clean up. If you want to spend your cleaning time wisely, focus on the powder room.

2. Pull together friendly seating arrangements: Have you ever taken a seat in a room where all of the furniture is pushed up against the walls? Was it easy to have a conversation with someone sitting across from you? Of course not! Good furniture arrangement encourages socializing by bringing the seating together in conversation areas. Anchor the seating around an area rug to up the warmth and comfort. Make sure each chair has access to the coffee table or its own side table, so a guest can put down his or her drink. Small stools or ottomans can be moved easily into the conversation area, so everyone has a seat and a say in the discussion.

3. Seasonalize the nest: With the cold winter months upon us, there is no better feeling than the warmth and glow of a comfortable home. Gather your guests around the fireplace, which is ready with fireplace tools and ample firewood. Bring the outside in with bowls of pinecones and vases of holly branches. Drape throws on the sofa and chairs.

4.  Soften your lighting:  Dimmers are a low cost, easy way to bring drama and coziness to a space. Put all of your lights on dimmers and add candles for a little bit of romance. Everyone looks better in low light. Keep the candles scent free. Heavy perfumes irritate some people and interfere with the taste of food.

5. Make it festive: Ornaments aren't just for trees! Buy inexpensive bulb ornaments in colors that complement your color scheme and put them in bowls. Why should your living room be the only room in the house with a beautifully lit holiday tree? I have a small, artificial tree in the entry hall and one in the family room. As much as I love the large, real tree in our living room, those two small trees bring a festive holiday mood into all areas of the house. In addition to playing holiday music, run your favorite holiday movies on your TVs with the sound down. Everyone loves seeing these classic holiday films. 

Bonus tip: Once you've made your home party ready, sit back, relax and enjoy your loved ones. As cancer survivors, we have a lot to be grateful for and the love we share with our family and friends is at the top of the list. Happy Holidays!  

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The Survivor's Nest - My Number One Tip This Holiday Season

We all know how life goes during the diagnostic and treatment phase of cancer. It's 24/7 cancer and everything else that used to constitute life takes a back seat. For me, once that phase wound down, I returned to my life and new interests, such as creating the WWGN community, writing my blog and speaking to survivor groups. I've kept my head down and forged ahead, but I recently noticed that some of the things I put in the back seat during my early cancer days are still back there. Foremost among them: cleaning my house.

I'm not a Felix Unger fanatic about housekeeping, but do like things clean and organized. Since cancer, however, I spend much less time at it. Surprisingly, I've also developed a higher tolerance level; dust just doesn't bother me as much as it used to before cancer.

If you have been following The Survivor's Nest series you know what I still find important. I am a big proponent of creating a nurturing home - a soft place to land. I've shared tips on seasonalizing for autumn, creating sacred space, making your bedroom your refuge and bringing cheer into your home. I've tried to keep the tips low key, both in time and cost, while encouraging small changes that bring big rewards.

It's a real balancing act, maintaining a home, while at the same time trying to enjoy it. I often call this the "bed and breakfast" dilemma. I'd love to live in a beautifully decorated, immaculate, organized, comfortable house, with a cup of tea and a book always at the ready. I just can't figure out how to create all that prettiness without all the effort. Basically, there's just no way to be a guest at your own bed and breakfast.

 I recently ran across my copy of The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, and reread his passage "On Houses:"

And tell me...what have you in these houses? 

...Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master?

Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scrouge makes puppets of your larger desires.

...Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.  

But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.

Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.

While keeping a comfortable home is important to me, I can't become a slave to it, as if I was running a bed and breakfast. I have to balance my "lust for comfort," with my "larger desires." To do that, I'll have to keep putting more focus on my restlessness than I do on the dust.    

There was a time when I took a "Martha-Stewart-perfect-level-of-orchestration" approach to the holidays. But, as this very busy season approaches, my only tip this week is to be careful not to overdo it.  Balance maintaining your soft place to land with the "passion of your soul."  In doing so, our homes really do become masts and we can sail forward into our dreams.

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The Survivor's Nest - It's Autumn & Time to Seasonalize the Nest

The weather is finally turning cooler, and the air is crisp and clear. It's finally autumn! Although the calendar introduced the season two weeks ago, it was in name only. Summer refused to exit on cue and took its time winding down to its inevitable end. Now autumn is finally here and it's time to seasonalize the nest!

Seasonalize is a word you won't find in the dictionary, but decorators use it a lot. It means to bring your indoor environment in synch with the outdoor environment to reflect the season outdoors within your home. Seasonalizing goes to the core of nesting by fostering snuggling in the fall/winter and lightening up in the spring/summer. I love October and celebrate it every year by seasonalizing my home. By doing so I am acting as a creature of nature and am present within it.

How do you start? It's really easy! Here are a few tips to get you on your way:

1.  When:  I seasonalize twice a year, in the fall and the spring. In the fall, I'm happy to begin the process of hunkering down in the warmth of my home during the cold winter months. In the spring, I'm looking to bring nature in and be part of the outdoors. Like other animals, we are impacted upon by the seasons. When we acknowledge our primal need to be one with the seasons, we are much more comfortable in our indoor environment.

2.  Put Summer in Storage:  Clear out anything that reminds you of summer. Put away beach towels, bathing suits, flip flops, shells, summer-themed placemats, lacy pillows or sheer curtains, summer-weight area rugs, cotton and silk sheets and anything else that is too light and summery to warm you up as the weather gets colder.  

3.  Layer on the Warmth:  Get out the flannel sheets, heavier blankets, and a luxurious throw for the bed. In the living room, put throws on the sofa and change up the accent pillows from lighter summer-themed ones, to fall-inspired hues. Go for jewel tones. Anything that mimics the colors of fallen leaves will work beautifully. If possible, put up heavier drapes at the windows to visually and literally keep cold air out. Replace summery area rugs or cover bare floors with heavy, plush wool rugs. Your toes will thank you. 

4.  Make the Fireplace a Focal Point:  If you're lucky enough to have one, a fireplace can be the star of your fall/winter nest. Make it stand out by bringing the fireplace tools out of storage, rearrange the mantel to feature fall/winter themes (candles, gourds, jewel colored vases, etc.), and make sure there's a stack of firewood ready for use.

4.  Create Seasonal Vignettes:  Just because we want to keep the cold weather outside, doesn't mean we want to be cut off from nature. Put apples and pinecones in a bowl. Gather pumpkins, squash and other gourds from the farmers' market and display them like treasures. Take a hike, collecting interesting leaves, acorns, and rocks along the way, and bring them home to display. 

5.  Set a Seasonal Table:  The richness of fall and harvest time comes alive at the family table. Bring out placemats woven of natural fibers, such as rattan or water hyacinth. Rustic dishes, napkins and heavier trays and serving pieces complete the look. Put a bowl of pears, pomegranates and pinecones in the center of the table. Fall/winter decorating is all about warm, nubby and interesting textures. The table is the perfect place to bring those textures alive. 

The seasons of nature create an ebb and a flow that cycles with perfect balance. When we plug back into that flow and honor the seasons, we resonate and reconnect with life itself.  As cancer survivors, we should take every opportunity to nurture ourselves and return our body, soul and mind to balance. There is no better place to do that than in our own homes. Nesting and taking the time to seasonalize your home honors our place in the world. Let me know if you come up with ideas of your own to bring your nest in synch with the colder seasons.

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