Sunday, November 1, 2015

Coastal Christmas

Wildlife in South Beach, HHI
For the past couple years we have been lucky enough to get an offer in the mail to stay for a discount at a resort on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. The resort is an enormous community with beaches, lagoons, golf courses, a town with its own lighthouse, biking trails, a farm, stables, and a nature preserve. Both this year and last year we got a discount on a week's stay in the summer and each trip included a return weekend stay in the fall for about $100. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to make wonderful beach memories for our children. They talk about "our" beach house (even though we've stayed in three different ones!) and worry about who's taking care of "our" horses. Our teenager told me we "practically live here," discussing Hilton Head. So, I know they feel a sense of ownership and love they will carry with them into adulthood. The beach we frequent, South Beach, is especially satisfactory, since it abounds with wildlife. This trip we caught all kinds of crabs and swam with dolphins and water birds. We fed tame fawns and walked right up to a heron. It's a really magical place!

I have similar memories of Ocean Isle, NC, where my family spent a few weekends and weeks for a few summers in a row, although we stayed in a much more humble environment! I would absolutely love to own a beach house so we could go more often and pass it down to our kids. I dream of spending family holidays someplace like that. Instead, we settle for our good memories and pick up souvenirs.

The Calibogue Sound

Most years I buy a Christmas ornament whenever we travel somewhere so we can talk about that trip and remember which year it was each time we decorate the tree. I was about to buy a shell and Spanish moss ornament in Hilton Head last year when I thought I ought to make one myself. Of course, here it is, three more trips later and I only just now did it!

Spanish Moss
We gathered shells on the beach and Spanish moss from trees in the nature preserve. Just FYI, if you pick Spanish moss up from the ground it may be infested with "red bugs" or chiggers and you could end up with a nasty, itchy and painful rash. It's best to gather the moss from the trees. Just to be safe I zap ours in the microwave for about 10 seconds as well to make sure any bugs are dead and prevent hitchhikers into our home. This will be another source of fond memories for my children, I think, as they really get into finding the perfect shaped shells and the prettiest colors of moss. We enjoy looking at the things they find and designing an ornament or object.

A mussel shell angel

Madonna and child
This time we had a lot of mussel shells left over from a meal. I combined them with sea shells from the beach, Spanish moss, raffia, wooden beads, and pipe cleaners to create angel and Madonna ornaments. To photograph them I hung them in magnolia trees; what could be more Southern in style than that?

The ornaments look nice as everyday decor, too.

I experimented by hanging the ornaments on various cabinet knobs around our house and discovered they make great decorations for everyday as well as Christmas. The natural colors of the shells and materials coordinate well with our furniture and finishes. My kids love the ornaments so much I decided to make extras. I am selling both individual ornaments and sets in both Atelier Mandaline eBay and Atelier Mandaline Etsy, so I hope you will check on those if you want a coastal decor theme for your beach house or just for your home. If you have a beach house to decorate for Christmas I'm really jealous! The angel ornaments would make great Hanukkah or Passover decorations as well because they really go well with the blue and white and silver of the traditional serving pieces. My sister married into a mixed Jewish and Christian family and I'm jealous because she gets to do the holidays for both religions. The Spode Hanukkah china is to die for!

Sets of ornaments for sale in my stores

I am glad to have some pieces to remind us of our Hilton Head adventures. I sure hope they keep offering their sale, because I think we will all be devastated if we have to stop going, and we definitely can't afford to buy a place there! I did get to check a bucket list item off this time: swimming with dolphins, check! There I am in the photo below. The dolphins came even closer than you can see in the photo. The water was cold but it was totally worth it! Now I am thankful for my early childhood training swimming in icy Lake Michigan. The kids were too wimpy to get in the water with the dolphins, but I was all over it! I did catch a cold, but again... worth it! I am thinking of printing some of the beautiful photos we've taken on our trips to sell, so be watching for those in Atelier Mandaline.

Me, swimming with dolphins!

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