Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ringing in the New Year!

In 2010, Genevieve and I look forward to making your smaller homes work for you and your families while looking fabulous at the same time! If you have any small home living topics you'd like to hear more about this coming New Year, please let us know! We'd love your suggestions!!

As you toast the New Year, you may keep in mind Genevieve's wonderful post about her friend, The Wine Guy, and his suggestions for some delicious champagnes.

Photo Courtesy of The Wine Enthusiast

  • Schramsberg Sparkling Wine - A California wine that ranges in price from $20 - $40. Wine Guy tells me that Schramsberg is the sparkling wine Richard Nixon took to Beijing on his historic visit to see Chairman Mao. Nixon gave Mao Schramsberg sparkling wine as a gift in exchange for the pandas which Mao gifted to the United States.
  • Domaine Chandon Sparkling Wine - For a more reasonably priced champagne, the Wine Guy suggests Domaine Chandon sparkling wine from California. He describes this as a tolerable sparkling wine that is greatly improved by the addition of flavored liquors such as, raspberry Chambord. He adds that its perfect for my Genny cocktail. (To find the recipe visit
My family will be enjoying a wonderful night together this New Year's Eve. My hope is that you enjoy the company of friends and family as you welcome the beginning of a New Year!

See you next year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

This year, instead of resolutions where success depends on self-deprivation and steely willpower - the usual suspects of dieting and sticking to a budget come to mind - why not consider New Year's promises that bring beauty and joy into your home and life.

Here are a few suggestions.

Bring fresh flowers or greenery into your home

Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

And think beyond store bought. Home grown garden greenery or seasonal flowers are just as lovely.

Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Put your rooms on a diet. Get rid of clutter and extra furniture.

Photo Courtesy of House Beautiful

Calm and beauty will naturally follow.

Photo Courtesy of House Beautiful

Create a haven for yourself. A comfortable chair in a sunny corner...

Photo Courtesy of Country Living
a good book...

Photo Courtesy of House Beautiful

a few pillows and a cozy throw are all you need.

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

Make small luxuries part of your everyday life. Thick white cotton towels are not just for guests.

Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Use your best china and table ware to make any occasion special.

Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Light a fire just because.

Photo Courtesy of Midwest Living

Open your home to family and friends.
Plan at least one dinner party.

Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Or a simple tea party.

Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Start a garden. On a patio ...

Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

... deck ...

Photo Courtesy of Midwest Living
or backyard.

Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Do you have any home projects or resolutions planned for the New Year? Amber and I would love to hear about them.



Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Everyone at The Jewel Box® Home would like to wish you a very lovely Christmas and Happy Holidays!

My focus this year, as every year, will be in those small moments, tiny treasures that linger in my memory for years to come. As the hustle and bustle of the season slows down and "The Day" is upon us, I make a point to stop and reflect on the many things about this time of year that I love and the abundance of things for which I am grateful. I challenge you this week, to stop and savor the small moments. Remembering that life is made up of those small moments and that those memories can be made in your own cozy Jewel Box® of a home.

This holiday season, may you experience sparkle...

Photo Courtesy of Midwest Living

...moments of repose...

Photo Courtesy of Midwest Living

...the gift of greetings from family and friends...

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

...the joy of giving...

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

...a feast to share...

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

...visions of sugarplums...

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

...and the warmth and joy of the season!

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

From my little Jewel Box® Home to yours...I wish you love, joy and happiness!


"A little house~a house of my own~
Out of the wind's and the rain's way."
~Padraic Colum

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas on a Budget

This year I decided not spend any money on holiday decorations, except for buying the Christmas tree. My beloved amaryllis, poinsettias and fresh arrangements of roses and lilies would not be part of our Christmas scenery. I did not even buy a wreath for the front door, but instead used white lights and red bows saved from last year. I almost made an exception for my annual tradition of buying a few new Christmas tree ornaments. As a girl, my mom took me every year to pick out two or three new tree decorations. I have continued the annual tradition on my own, always thinking of my mom as I choose my ornaments. But this year, I was not spending money which I knew would make my mom happy.

So here are the results of my frugal creativity.

Christmas Greenery

Instead of buying roses and white lilies - which I love - for the front entrance, I filled a vase with pine greenery from the lower branches of the tree and fresh variegated boxwood from my garden. The 'red berries' are artificial. I reuse them every year to add a little pop of color to greens.

A large flower and fruit filled crystal vase is one of my 'wow' Christmas centerpieces each year. To recreate this focal point without spending money, I again used greenery from the tree and hung my Santa ornament collection from the branches along with gold bells that also typically hang on the tree. As a final touch I tied a Rudolph ornament on a slim red ribbon around the neck of the vase. A completely different look from the elegant flower and fruit arrangement, but still very 'Christmasy' and one my young niece and nephew will enjoy when they visit on Christmas day.

My Santa collection hanging from Christmas greenery.

Close up of a Santa ornament.
The Christmas Tree

I didn't spend any money, but I still have two new ornaments for the tree.

This is a tiny Godiva chocolate box tied with a red ribbon. I used an ornament hook to hang it from the branch.

This special ornament is a small jewelry bag that belonged to my mother. I stuffed it with tissue and hung it from a red tie cord near the ornamental birds that my mother always loved.

My tree skirt is two yards of red velvet I used several years ago for a Halloween costume. I think it frames the tree nicely and is an elegant backdrop for presents. (And yes, I forgot to sweep around the tree before taking this photo. That green speck on the floor is a broken tree tip.)

I also wanted to make holiday decorating a little easier, so I didn't hang the dozens of crystal icicles in my ornament collection. Not as much sparkle, but still festive. And less to put away when the holidays are over!

More Holiday Budget Decorating

Rosemary topiaries decorated with 'red berries' for the holidays. I'll be using these rosemary clippings for my beef tenderloin on Christmas day. (You can find the recipe on my New Year's Celebration post from last year.)

Santa ornament collection with holiday rosemary topiaries.

Dining room chandelier decked out with artificial greenery and a favorite ornament.

A trio of nutcrackers and a red berry wreath purchased several years ago.

A simple white bowl and pomegranates add holiday color to the coffee table. The pomegranates will be served with dessert at Christmas dinner.


Fast becoming a traditional holiday scene at my house is luggage dumped in the entry way when my son comes home from college. To be fair, this pile also includes luggage my younger son used for a trip to visit a friend out of state. It has now been over a day since both boys came home. I'm waiting to see how long it takes them to pick up their bags.

Merry, Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Smaller Christmas Trees for Smaller Homes

A small house will hold as much happiness as a big one.

Hi! My name is Amber Archer and I am thrilled to become part of The Jewel Box® team. No stranger to small home living, I love my tiny 1,100 square foot home! In winter it is our cozy gingerbread cottage and when warmer weather comes, it is our sun-filled bungalow. I have always lived in smaller homes. Growing up in homes less than 1,500 square feet has taught me to utilize every square inch of storage and economize simply because there is so little room to keep things!

I have been a full time Mom for 11 years and have enjoyed every minute of it. I have two girls, 8 and 11 and have been married for 14 years to my husband, Jason. I also currently run a small graphic design/website design business called "Sprinkles On Top". One of the many joys of my design work is being the tool for creative women around the world to express themselves online. I fully believe that our homes are also a reflection of the unique individual inside each one of us.

Speaking of of the biggest quandaries in The Archer Christmas Cottage is where to put the tree each year! Let's face it, the tree is the symbol of all things Christmas! Every house guest is drawn to the tree each holiday season and if you declined to put one up, would surely ask, appalled "Where is your Christmas tree??" However, those of us residing in a small home know the perils of finding the perfect spot for that special Christmas tree. In our house, it requires much furniture moving, lighting adjustments, and dragging of rugs to accommodate our minuscule tree, but it is so worth it.

My dear friend, Cindy who blogs about her life in her own Jewel Box of a home at My Romantic Home
has the most darling tree in her dining room with (of all things!) beautiful blue and white chin and transferware hanging from it! Small and slim, this pencil tree takes up a minimal amount of space, but adds so much whimsy and charm. The perfect accompaniment to any dining room!

Photo Courtesy of Cindy at My Romantic Home

Dining room trees can also grace tables and buffets and be used as your Christmas centerpiece.

I am also in love with the kitchen tree. Nothing says Christmas to me like family and friends gathered in the kitchen to talk, laugh, eat and bake!

String some popcorn and cranberries, bake some good old fashioned gingerbread ornaments, even hang mittens and cooking utensils on your tiny counter top tree and you can spread the Christmas cheer to each room of the house!

I also love to see trees tucked into each nook and cranny of your home. Paired in groups of two or three, small trees can bring big punch to your Jewel Box!

Christmas trees need not be huge to make an impact or generate the true meaning of the holiday season. Trees, along with homes, don't have to be overwhelming. After all, have you ever seen anything more cozy than a little gingerbread cottage in the snow?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Surprise and the Roots of My Big House Envy

Rue, one of my favorite visitors and bloggers, reminded me that I had yet to start posting again. Her exact words "tapping foot.... it's mid-November Genevieve ;)"

Well, I'm over a month late on my promised return to Jewel Box®, but I'm finally back. And as a Christmas surprise I'm adding a new member to the Jewel Box® team who will be helping me with the blog and Jewel Box Living newsletter. She also created the new look on the blog which I love! Tune in Thursday to meet my new partner and read her first post. I am thrilled to have her join Jewel Box® and heaven knows I need the help!

Those of you who follow Jewel Box® know that I struggle with big-house envy. Even though I love my smaller home and will never 'go big', there is still part of me that longs for a larger house. Why? I spent part of my childhood in a big house and I loved it.

When I was four, my family moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil where we lived in a house with maid's quarters over the garages, gardeners and a play house bigger than my kitchen. Twenty-five people could easily sit at our dinner table and my mother regularly entertained with cocktail parties where a maitre-de was brought in to make things run smoothly. As a young child, I thought the whole world lived this way.

My brother, sister and me on the landing
of the marble stairs in our Sao Paulo home.
I used to love sliding down this bannister.

Me at riding lessons on my horse Boneca,
which means 'doll' in Portuguese.

My parents at a party. My father is on the left
and my mother is in the center.
Very 'Mad Men' isn't it.

To make a long story short, after Brazil, we moved to Des Moines, Iowa where I spent my teen and college years. But I never forgot the house in Sao Paulo and how much I loved living there. And part of me, even at this stage of my life, longs for a big house to recreate at least a small piece of that life.

Still, I realize how much my memories are skewed by the fact that I was a small child and everything seemed bigger then. Also, I did not know until much later the protective measures my parents were forced to take to shield us from the realities of a living in high-crime country. And although larger houses here do not come with 10 foot tall gates spiked with glass to keep out intruders, going bigger has it's own set of problems - more maintenance, higher property taxes, less family intimacy - and does not come cheap.

Don't forget to come back Thursday and meet the new Jewel Box® team member!