There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

homeward bound

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS | A bound book is on the horizon.

WHEN I BEGAN writing this blog over two years ago with the short August 19, 2009 post, I already had a book in mind, Seeing that I needed a structure to force me to compile and create my vision, I began writing, photographing and obsessing over The Decorated Tree. This blog as a regular discipline gave me the impetus to keep things moving and to hone my writing skills. Before I knew it, I had more than enough material for a book. What you will see in the book that I'm almost finished with are the best ideas and photographs from The Decorated Tree blog (and a few new ones), edited and coaxed into bookish formality.

I'VE REALIZED in writing about what I love, that the best things I write are entirely personal. Although the book is a little less so than the blog, my life is integrally bound to what I create for this blog and now for the book. Even though I enlisted a few professional photographer friends to take photos of some of the more complex trees, I have photographed most of the images for the blog and book with only the natural light bounced around by a reflector, a pocket digital camera and tripod, and a mission to get a proper publisher to notice.

EXCERPTING one of my blog entries redesigned and edited for my book, here's a sneak peak of how the book is coming together, along with the cover image and a section opener. The book is divided into the four seasons:
SECTION OPENER | The opening spread of the fall section of the book.
AUTUMN TREES become a saturated blaze of earthy color after a spring and summer of growth. The first beliefs and rituals involving decorating a tree resonate at the core of who we are as part of the natural world and our visceral attachment to it. Reverent celebrations of birth and a hope for rebirth of man’s spirit begin each year with the autumnal equinox, when the weather cools and the leaves drop from the trees. If one were to meld the disparate belief systems of the world into one, all are symbolic of new life and rebirth in a profound way, while paying direct homage to our roots in nature. A realization that every living thing is connected and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts becomes a way to honor the gifts of life. Generations of friends and family migrate and join together to share celebratory meals together. These decorated gatherings simply celebrate life and abundance. And there is much to be thankful for, even as we witness the constant death and rebirth in nature’s changing seasons—even as we do in our own lives.

HOLIDAY MIGRATION | One of my blog entries redesigned for the book.

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES are known in North America for their incredible autumn migration every year south and northward return home in the summer. This trip spans the life of three or four generations. Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains (most famously) are the ones believed to overwinter and roost in the forested mountaintops within central Mexico’s Transvolcanic Range. The ones east of the Rockies travel to small groves of trees along the southern California coast. They often return to the same trees every year creating an amazingly magical sight. This miracle of nature is expressed by the tree I’ve decorated with their facsimiles to celebrate the season.

JUST AS MANY species of birds migrate south for the winter, the Monarch does also. Unlike birds though, the lifespan of the butterfly during this migration is completed by children and grandchildren of the butterflies that start this incredible journey—done without their elders to show them the way. Unlike most insects, Monarchs cannot survive a long cold winter, so they migrate. Seasons change. But it might not be as simple as that.

DO THEY FOLLOW magnetic fields or use the sun to guide them? Are they following landforms (rivers, coastlines, mountain ranges) as their navigational tools? A lot of mystery lies behind this yearly event, having baffled and inspired researchers for decades. What are some of the other reasons for such a distinct migration? How long has this natural pattern been in place?

HOLIDAY MIGRATION | The second spread adapted from last year's Thanksgiving post.
AS SUCH, humans migrate and gather with friends and family during the holiday season every year. Generations travel and join together to share good times and celebratory meals. These gatherings are for celebrating life and abundance. And there is much to be thankful for, even as things change over the years for better or worse.

I’LL NEVER FORGET Thanksgiving day back in 1984, when I got the call confirming my first job out of college at Southern Living magazine. That day set me on my career path as a designer and forever linked it to a day of abundance. I give thanks for all the celebrations of life—family and friends alike. Even still, there is a part of me that feels the pull homeward.

BUT MAYBE you “Can’t Go Home Again.” That phrase comes from the finale of Thomas Wolfe’s novel of the same name. In the end its protagonist realizes, “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame
back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

THIS TREE is a not-so-subtle reminder of the hope that all will come together again. One day we will realize our paths in life are for more than just survival. Our better instincts will inform us—just as it does with each generation of the peculiar Monarch.

I HOPE YOU have enjoyed this teaser and will buy the book when it is published. As I write this blog, I still have about 30 more pages to design and edit in preparing the book for printing on, where you can order a copy of your own, as well as be able to download an edition for your iPad. Thanks-giving is in order … a sincere thanks to all the special people in my life who have given me the moral support to keep things going. I couldn't have done it without your encouragement. My goal is to have the book available online at the latest in mid December, but it might be scheduled for what would have been my parents 66th wedding anniversary on December 23rd. Keep checking back here for the latest news. It feels like a real accomplishment now that there will be an actual book of the best of The Decorated Tree! 

collecting, photography, styling and design by Darryl Moland,
book cover photo by Harold Daniels

Thursday, November 17, 2011

reasons for the season

COVER STORY | In the new publication, Holiday with Matthew Mead, blogger Stephanie Nielson (the NieNie Dialogues) and her children draw inspiration from holiday candy to create a spectacular handmade Christmas using an assortment of pretty papers and a tempting array of sweets. This story boasts some beautiful "ribbon candy" ornaments and amazing trees simply made from double-sided strips of scrapbook paper.

THIS IS GOING be telling of my age, but growing up, most people never thought a whole lot about Christmas until after we saw Tom Turkey usher in Santa in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. But there are so many amazing new "indie" publications I've become a fan of, that I wanted to spotlight one and tell you about a couple of other publications that are available for the iPad® as well as in print. Since I'm busy working on my book, I am not creating much for my blog right now. But you'll be sure to forgive me when you see what I have to show you with these publications.

HOLIDAY with MATTHEW MEAD is one such publication that is now available on the newsstand now. But Matthew suggests ordering the expanded edition of the magazine, which I also want to do (I've already bought the newsstand edition). Always on high alert for trees this time of year, I continue to be impressed by what Matthew brings to the market. His ideas are accessible, real and highlight bloggers and other creatives similar to myself—a refreshing new direction in the shelter magazine category. He may very well have found big success with this concept—Time Inc. has just started distributing the magazine after he bravely published only three issues independently. There are so many creative ideas in the blogosphere that never see the light of day and Matthew successfully brings that element of the creative community alive along with his own signature style. He's a reader of my blog and we've chatted online a number of times, so who knows what will happen next?
Matthew Mead
MATTHEW MEAD is a stylist, writer, author, photographer, lifestyle editor, and noted style expert. The former style editor of Country Home magazine and co-editor in chief of Flea Market Style magazine (2010), he is now the official food photographer for the Associated Press and is a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens and Victoria magazine. He has also written eight books and produced countless magazine spreads and ad campaigns for companies such as Pottery Barn, Dove Chocolate, Target and Stonewall Kitchen. 

Matthew is known for seasonal style . . . decorating beautiful spaces with vintage finds, using what is at hand along with nature's offerings; guiding others with easy entertaining ideas and inspiring them in creating beautiful food and living spaces. His own quarterly magazine Holiday with Matthew Mead can be ordered at his website/blog, Holiday with Matthew Mead. The talented bloggers and other people he highlights in his magazine are bringing fresh life to the magazine marketplace. I already want to make (well, eat) the Cardamom-Black Pepper Trees with Juniper Icing found in the current issue of his magazine—these cookies sound amazing. There are plenty more ideas (food and otherwise) inside the pages of his magazine. I bought my copy on the newsstand, but the expanded edition is only available here.

TREE TOPS | Passionate food blogger Kate Wheeler ( gives a delectable sampling of global flavors in her holiday cookie story in Holiday with Matthew Mead.
These Cardomom-Black Pepper Trees with Juniper Icing sound and look amazing! I can't wait make some for an upcoming Christmas party. They certainly take the idea of a Christmas cookie to a whole new fragrant level of earthy flavor.

TIMEWORN TIDINGS | In this story in the current issue of Holiday with Matthew Mead, vintage glass ornaments combine beautifully with paper accordion fans, simply folded from sheets of scrapbook paper, and paper flowers.

ANOTHER MAGAZINE available online, in printed form and available through the MagCloud iPad® application, was launched from Paul Lowe's wildly successful blog Sweet Paul, which ranked 22nd in the London Times Top 50 Best Design Blogs. I've been following him closely since he started his magazine in Spring of 2010 and have been constantly wowed. I have long been a fan of food stylists such as Donna Hay and his work is just as transcendent. 

SIMPLE PLEASURE | Paul Lowe's signature Sweet Paul style is not always found with food. Below it is evident in this casual and beautiful tree. Hung with with handmade scotty dog ornaments made from tartan plaid fabric, it appears in his winter issue story "Tartan Holiday."

The December issue of Martha Stewart Living
ALTHOUGH WELL ESTABLISHED and seemingly untouchable, it would be remiss not to mention one of the biggest reasons I first decided I wanted an iPad®. My coworkers rose to the occasion for on my 50th birthday back in May of this year and gave me an Apple gift certificate to buy one. Martha's iPad® editions of her publications (Everyday Food and Martha Stewart Living so far), if you have a standard subscription, the iPad downloads are now included with the subscription price. I still can't quite give up the tactile reality of a printed edition of the magazine, but what the interactive editions offer will surprise you. Of course Martha has the resources to do it all, which she does and does well—Martha Stewart Omnimedia is showing us the future of magazines by exploiting the best of what can be done with an iPad® edition of a print publication and other mobile apps. It's really quite exciting. Animated and interactive tablet versions of magazines are here to stay. I think they can only enhance what the long tradition of what print magazines have offered as the technology takes hold.

THE FUTURE ALSO holds a much more accessible marketplace for those who do it for the love of it to find their own audience. It certainly is part of my "retirement plan." So keep looking for news of my soon-to-be-available digital and digitally-printed edition of my book on the left-hand sidebar of my blog. I'll be adding more updates there soon—I am finally seeing it come to fruition. I've learned that following your passion, along with your voice, might just lead to finding a way to live, in doing what you love.

Holiday with Matthew Mead photos courtesy Matthew Mead