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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

looking forward

THE YEAR 2012 has been a year of transition, which always uncovers something new. Also, what is seemingly old can be renewed with a fresh perspective. A lot of exciting things (along with the bad, of course) have happened this year, both personally and with the world at large. That's what the New Year's celebration is always about—looking back at where you have been, while looking forward to where you are going. It's necessary to gain perspective from what we have lived through to move forward with any new endeavors we dare to dream.

THIS "TREE" is composed from my snow globe collection is arranged on a galvanized three-tiered stand, trimmed in white crepe paper and dusted with faux snow. It embodies time and memory. I related my feelings about the resonance of the miniature worlds of snow globes in a previous post in January 2011 titled "Frozen Memories," which you can read here. Ancient druids believed that woodland spirits hid themselves in holly branches to wait out the harshness of winter, so I've included them as a forward-looking talisman for a sunny and warm new year.

ON A BROAD SCALE, a great way to recap the year's events is to look at what people have searched for. Google's Zeitgeist 2012 video does just that. Watch it (embedded below). More on Google's "most searched" can be found at this link
This inspiring video compiles the things people are looking for under broad inspirational themes in relation to the events of 2012. The word "zeitgeist" actually means "spirit of the age/time." I'm also using these themes as a way to relate the significance of the snow globes that decorate this "tree."

LOOKING FOR FIRSTS | This tree snow globe represents acknowledgement—surrounded by curious fauna. A personal first for me this year in a career of working as a designer in publishing, is actually being the subject matter of something that was published. Matthew Mead generously granted an eight-page feature about my blog and book in his Holiday/Christmas magazine available here. And Ben Ashby published a two-page excerpt of my book in FOLK, his magazine celebrating the made-in-America movement, which is available here. honored my book by selecting it as a staff pick! My book published through is available here. All this can only mean I'm gaining momentum with my pursuits (I have a scheduled surprise coming in the spring of 2013 that I'll reveal later). Now that I have some attention beyond the blogosphere, I hope to find a way to make my passions a way of life, rather than it being a sideline. Of course I give a lot of credit to my friends, blog followers and buyers of my book who have supported me along the way with their encouragement and inspiration.

LOOKING FOR RELIEF | Aren't we all? This polar bear snow globe represents a planet in distress. When the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, it's time to change course in the way we live. The biggest relief for me this year was when Barack Obama won his second term as president and was forced to address this issue because of Hurricane Sandy—the October Surprise in this year's election. The palpable effect of climate change is evident in bigger and badder ways than ever before. We are finally being forced to recognize that our way of living needs to change, not the climate. We're realizing that a more biocentric way of life includes keeping the diversity in the natural world intact. Sustaining Mother Nature will, in turn, sustain us, as it always has. It's a beautiful cycle not to be tampered with.
LOOKING FOR A CHOICE | The owl snow globe is a warning message. The right choices are always informed by the proper balance between the intuitive and the cognitive. We live in a world where information is at our fingertips like never before. We should be smarter for it, rather than misinformed. Our attention spans need to somehow lengthen again, now that we realize the end of the Mayan calendar wasn't the end, but rather, a new beginning. The Mayans considered the white owl a powerful messenger from the spirit world. This animal spirit warns us that a world out of balance is life out of balance. The white owl is a guardian that allows us to see clearly beyond fear and illusion. Taking time to slow down and ask the important questions will surely be one result of this.

LOOKING FOR CHANGE | The white rabbit snow globe is an invitation to step out of ordinary time. Seeing a white rabbit has long been an indicator of the possibility of spiritual enlightenment and/or an encounter with the Divine. As Alice in Wonderland experienced, a white rabbit can call us away from our ordinary life to go on an extraordinary journey. This will lead us to a transformational experience. It is an invitation to enter into the realm of the hidden, intuitive, unconscious world that coexists with what appears to be reality. A white rabbit in our path is a metaphorical invitation to remain awake and alert to new directions, sometimes releasing what we once thought was important.
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING SPECIAL |  This silver tree snow globe is a symbol of finding the special qualities in everything you encounter, no matter how barren it may seem. My favorite way to gain this perspective is to allow myself some time to be completely immersed in Nature. In our lives in cities away from large expanses of sparsely populated land, the stars in the sky are mostly obliterated from sight by the ambient light of civilization. This past November, Devin and I had a week's worth of time to explore the beaches and land around Tulum, Mexico. One night we took the time to lie on the beach and look up at the stars. We were both amazed at the magnificent sight above us in this sparsly populated area. Looking into the depth of this unobscured night sky had a humbling effect. We both got a clear message of the love the universe has in store for us.

LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION |  This Christmas Tree snow globe represents inspiration. Childhood Christmas trees from my childhood informed the creation of this blog. And I am constantly looking for new ways to create magic with The Decorated Tree. I invite you to continue on my journey with me in celebrating the seasons and I hope the new year is filled with joyous discovery in everything for which we search. Here's to a happy, prosperous and forward-looking 2013! 

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland

Sunday, December 9, 2012

pine cone abundance

THE PINE CONE crop this year has been extremely abundant. According to folklore an abundance of pine cones predicts a harsher than normal winter. In understanding the natural cycles in pine cone production, this abundance is called a mast year. This means large numbers of cones (along with nuts and berries) provide a greater than usual amount of seeds for wildlife. This is, in a large part, why pine cones have been a recurring theme in my creations for my blog.

PATTERNS OF NATURE | The amazing texture of a pinecone is gloriously replicated in this oversized mercury glass kugel placed among the gifts at the base of the tree (from a past season's Martha Stewart line at Macy's).
THE HIGH LEVELS of fat and protein in a fall masting help contribute to fat stores necessary for migration, hibernation and survival of young animals once they are out foraging on their own. There is much abundance to be seen all around in the simplest gifts of nature, even if times seem dismal in our increasingly anthropocentric lives.

BECAUSE OF the masting seed cone production, Mother Nature helps ensure that there will be plenty of seeds left over for young conifers to spring up in the woods to continue its magnificent cycle. Consider this rich symbolism when you're ritualistically decorating a tree in your own home.

NATURE STUDY | The seeds of conifer trees called pine cones are represented well in all their stunning variety with my growing collection of mercury glass ornaments.
LIGHT FANTASTIC | These tiny warm white LED lights add just the right amount of magical sparkle and hide well within the branches of the tree without it looking like a jumble of wires. The best ones I've seen can be found at Restoration Hardware and are appropriately called Starry Light Strings.
ONCE AGAIN, I present my ever-growing "mast crop" of glass pinecone ornaments. It was 2005 when I last decorated a real Fraser Fir with these, complete with candles, which was finally posted online the year I started this blog in a post entitled "Tree of Light." This holiday season, you will find a 2-page book excerpt with the photos from this post and one created especially for the book published in FOLK magazine (click here or on the cover link in the left column for information on ordering). You may also order my book at a $10 discount by clicking here using the code GIVE10 at the checkout.

SIMPLE ELEGANCE | Instead of blowing up the top of your tree with an explosion of glittery floral picks, huge bows and otherwise, the understated and simple elegance of an old-fashioned finial topper is the way to go. This retro-inspired topper is from a past line of ornaments for Target by Thomas O'brien.
THESE GLASS CONES have become magical symbols of fertility to create abundance in my life and in the lives of those whom I love. In 2005 when I lost both of my parents within months of each other, I didn't know that I could even muster the energy to decorate a tree, but the absolutely perfect fir tree found me that year and I had to honor its life, even in the absence of the people who brought me life, I set out that year to create a tree that exemplified what one of the first holiday trees might have looked like. Have a look back at the post again here to see this tree.

WITH MUCH TALK about a impending gloomy "end of the world" this year with the seeming "end" of Mayan calendar, I choose to believe that it is just the "end of the world as we know it."  A compassionate Evo Morales, President of Bolivia said it best in addressing the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly this past September. I end my post with these hopeful thoughts of an abundant new beginning of a more biocentric life for the world—as translated in English from President Morales address to the group:

"And I would like to say that according to the Mayan Calendar the 21st of December marks the end of the time and the beginning of non-time. It is the end of the Macha and the beginning of the Pacha. It is the end of selfishness and the beginning of brotherhood. It is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism . . . the 21st of December this year.

The scientists know very well that this marks the end of an anthropocentric­ life and the beginning of a biocentric life. It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love. The end of lies and the beginning of truth. It is the end of sadness and the beginning of joy. It is the end of division and the beginning of unity. This is a theme to be developed, that is why... we invite you, those who bet on mankind, we invite those who want to share their instances for the good of mankind . . ."
collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland


Friday, November 23, 2012

giving thanks

HARVEST FESTIVALS like Thanksgiving are a chance to celebrate the abundance of Mother Earth, if not the universe. A large bird, such as a turkey can feed a number of people along with all the trimmings of this celebratory and traditional meal, which is most likely why the turkey became so popular for Thanksgiving. Some experts think the first American Thanksgiving dinner was served by the Pilgrims in 1621. Others credit the settlers of Virginia's Jamestown with celebrating the first Thanksgiving as their version of England's ancient Harvest Home Festival (also called Ingathering). Whether or not turkey was served as part of the first Thanksgiving meal, nobody knows for sure.

GREETING YOUR GUESTS at the dinner table with an ornament at their place setting will serve as an heirloom reminder of the meal for years to come. Even if it's not a turkey ornament, one that has a special significance for the season, in general or your guest, in particular is a welcoming gift. A small burlap bag is an attractive nest to coddle the ornament and once inside it, doubles as a perfect way for your guests to carry their new treasure home safely.

A SUMPTUOUS meal is a tried-and-true way of thanking the important people in your life for being a part of your journey. Gather friends and family alike for this important celebration. If you can't go home to be with your birth family, there are always a few friends that also can't go home and they will welcome the chance to celebrate the holiday. That's what friends are for. Give thanks to them.

PROPER SETTING | A place setting with a surprise ornament such as this turkey is sure to be the start of a memorable meal. This beautiful antiqued mercury glass vintage-inspired collectible is made by KD Vintage. Starburst plate by Isaac Mizrahi for Target (past season).

ORNAMENT BOUNTY | Any unique ornament could fit the bill. It doesn't have to be a turkey. Just make sure it says something about your guest or evokes the autumnal celebration. It's important that you choose with the particular person in mind as a uniquely personal way to thank them. Feather dessert plate by Patch NYC at Target.
FAMILY PATINA | Nothing says tradition and heritage better than using something that is meaningful to you as a part of the meal. Letting your guests know about these symbolic gestures makes them resonant. I can't think of a better way to represent your personal family history than to use your parents old silver-plate like I have here. I've always loved the pattern my parents chose when they were married on December 23, 1941. Although not fine, this timeworn silverplate is one of my few cherished inheritances from them. I don't like to completely shine it to perfection, as I think the patina of a slight tarnish is quite beautiful. The pattern is Grenoble Silverplate by Onieda (1938).
PROPER FEAST | If you don't fuss over many meals during the year, Thanksgiving is the time to do it. Devin and I invited only a couple of friends over this year (Devin did most of the cooking and I set the table and ran back and forth to the grocery for items we needed). We cooked from scratch two turkey breasts, green beans, scalloped sweet potatoes, stuffing and bought fresh cranberry/orange relish from Trader Joes and rolls from Publix. For dessert we had apple pie with a cheddar cheese crust and a traditional pumpkin pie, both with freshly (slightly-sweetened) whipped cream. After our meal, we brought in the Christmas season by watching the 1954 movie, White Christmas, a musical starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, always marveling at Vera's insanely tiny waist and incredible dancing ability. This was much more fun than falling for the crazier-than-ever antics surrounding Black Friday. There's still plenty of time to shop before Christmas. More thoughtful and unique gifts usually always come from small local businesses.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland
food by Devin Borden

Monday, November 5, 2012

Matthew Mead's Holiday

THE BEST THING about the holidays is good company. It's that most wonderful time of the year when we make it a point to decorate our homes, bake cakes and cookies and celebrate merrily. Matthew Mead and I found good company in each other and he has gifted me this year with an 8-page feature in both issues of this season's Matthew Mead's Holiday magazine and expanded bookazine.

In the spirit of the season, Matthew is offering two bookazines for The Decorated Tree to give away! All you have to do is like The Decorated Tree Facebook page. If you've already liked my Facebook page, let me know you've also visited Matthew's site by leaving a comment in the comments section of this post. I will have a drawing to announce the two lucky winners on November 22nd (Thanksgiving day).

SINCE THIS BLOG called The Decorated Tree was begun on August 17, 2009, it has fast become less of a hobby and more of a creative pursuit. This is my 88th blog post, but it announces my first magazine article. I've designed hundreds of magazine articles over the course of my career, but never have been the subject of one! It's truly incredible to be in such good company in the pages of Matthew Mead's Holiday!

THIS IS JUST A TEASER of much more to be found in the sumptuous pages of this year's edition of Matthew Mead's Holiday. And The Decorated Tree is elated to be a part of it!

THE DECORATED TREE | The opening spread of The Decorated Tree's article featuring trees from several of my blog posts including the two you see here from Winter Wish (above, also) and a closeup of the cover tree photo from my book The Decorated Tree.
COOL, CALM, & COLLECTED | Hostess Sally McElroy offers a full holiday menu with a sweet ending of Double Chocolate Cookies and Perfect Chocolate Ganache—two ways.

GIFTS FROM NATURE | Matthew Mead and his wife Jenny open their home in the pages of the magazine—a beautifully pared-back elegance ushers in the holiday season.
HOLIDAY COOKIES | These cookies get royal treatment in the pages of Matthew Mead's Holiday. The recipe for Cardomom-Black Pepper Trees with Juniper Icing is worth the price alone of the expanded 256-page edition! If you have no other cookie this season, this is the one! But there are at least 20-more cookie recipes to choose from! 
CHRISTMAS PRESENT | Executive Editor Linda McDonald opens her doors of her holiday home to share her approach to celebrating simply. Delicious cakes, cake bites, trifles and such are their celebratory foods for the season.
WINTER WREATHS | Wrapped in tradition, Matthew's enduring wreath story presents eight ideas for making your own to last through the season.

The Decorated Tree collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland,
magazine spread photos and styling by Matthew Mead.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

of cats and men at Halloween

I don't know how it escaped my notice until this year, that October 29th was National Cat Day. When decorating and photographing this spooky tree to celebrate Halloween this year, I debated on whether to use my cat painting (by local Atlanta artist, Ronnie Land) as a backdrop over this buffet table. Now I am glad I did—even though the setup is more complex than usual. Because many of R. Land's artworks are packed with hand-drawn imagery like this poster done for Atlanta's infamous Little Five Points Halloween Festival and Parade, it all seems to fit together quite nicely. I've never been a minimalist at heart. I like the discovery and surprise found only when many delightful things are vying for one's attention.

These magical and well-crafted mushroom ornaments by Wendy Addison, designed for Midwest CBK hang from a glittered Halloween tree from Target. I purchased the mushrooms from Bayberry Cove. The large "Christmas spider" ornament is an antique Czechoslovakian beaded ornament from my collection.
"Founded in 2005 by animal welfare advocate Colleen Paige, National Cat Day brings attention to the number of cats that need to be rescued each year. It is also a day for cat guardians to celebrate their own amazing cats." I truly like that "cat guardian" moniker, but I feel it is the other way around. I have always thought of cats as my guardians, or muses, or familiars, or warm and fuzzy companions. My father always loved cats and I have been lucky to have had many special cat companions throughout my life. I've only had one dog as a pet. All the rest have been cats. I love their peculiar nature and independent ways—I truly am a cat person, through and through. Don't get me wrong, I love all animals, but I can't escape the feeling that cats are superior creatures in many ways. The feline world and I have a magical understanding.

Frida, the tuxedo cat (left) and Abella, the Bengal cat (right) are my sweet guardians.
An assortment of cheeses, crackers and fruit are a visual and literal feast.
Cats, magic and Halloween all seem to go together. Add the creepy presence of spiders and earthy balls of moss and you've got a tableau that visually creeps and crawls in just the right way. Mushrooms add a touch of nature's magic that sets the mood for the season, along with an abundant cheese and fruit buffet, of course. And if you're lucky enough to have earned the trust of a cat or two, you're all set for Halloween's spooky route to the beginning of the end-of-year holiday season. Happy All Hallows Eve! 

This mushroom ornament is also by Wendy Addison, designed for Midwest CBK. A glass-glittered wire spider from Pottery barn adds a creepy, crawly touch.
The standard pot the tree was purchased in is dressed up with dried moss and an unusual tire pot by River Market Pottery in Kansas City, Missouri, adapted from sewn leather working techniques, but made from up-cycled rubber tires that had previously been bound for the landfill. The perky bronzed metal mouse sniffing for the cheese is from Pottery Barn.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

wedding mementos

IF A WEDDING can be a frame of reference for life events, it is only appropriate that a wedding later in life frames memories of the past and present. Marriage is a symbolic point at which a couple's lives officially merge as witnessed by close friends and family.

The trees were carefully crafted beforehand and displayed at the wedding with the expert help of Devin Borden (center, bottom).
WHEN DISCUSSING designing a tree and other elements for the couple's wedding, we discussed a way to personalize the trees. Including the photos of persons so important to each family's heritage along with past and current life event photos of living relatives was a perfect way in which to accomplish this, at least symbolically. Later, we decided that having two trees of equal stature representing both sides of this merging family was a great way to honor both families, both separately and together as a unit. The bride and groom both garden, so it wasn't a stretch to use simple natural elements as decor on the trees and tie to other decor for the wedding. It was also a theme in keeping with the autumn season at hand.

THE SINGULAR tree shown in this post combines photos from both of the trees done for the wedding. Because marriage merges two families together, this tree is symbolic of the union between the bride and groom and their respective families. 

Each frame was simply made from pine cone pieces surrounding a laser photocopied picture mounted to thin cardboard—creating frames that harken back to history, having a "tramp art" look to them. Thin brown satin ribbon formed the hanging loops.

All the handmade photo frames for both trees. The idea for the frames was modified from instructions found on the Martha Stewart website here.

At the base of the modern clay container for the tree (a wire Easter tree from this past season's Pottery Barn line) photographed for this blog, a small pot of moss, a wooden box, some leaves, pinecones and a silver bird add just the right touch of earthy whimsy.

©2012 DARRYL MOLAND | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED photography and styling by Darryl Moland; pine cone photo frames hand-crafted by Darryl Moland and Devin Borden

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

made in America

AMERICAN MUSIC is probably one of this country's most enduring exports. I'm not checking facts here, but I know for sure that New Orleans jazz, rock and roll, gospel, bluegrass and many other types of music originated in this country. The American South, in particular can lay claim to the birth of many of these forms which continues adding to the list with rap and hip hop music, much of which originated right here in Atlanta, Georgia. You have to wonder what brought forth the circumstances to create such a rich musical heritage. Is it the freedom to express ourselves? A unique "melting pot" of people in one place? A big new interest in folk music seems to be taking hold with bands from all over the world importing it back to the U.S. (like the Swedish folk singer duo, who are sisters, named First Aid Kit who I'm going to see in concert soon).

GOOGLE DOODLE | Today's banner logo art for Google's home page uses some nostalgic yankee doodle dandy typography forming the word "Google." The lyric "this Land was made for you and me" is from Woody Guthrie's folk song titled "This Land is Your Land," which has become one of America's favorite (and inclusive) patriotic songs since it was first recorded in 1944.
I HAVE TO think it is the independent spirit that first formed this country back in 1776 with the origin of the 13 colonies that gave birth to such an exuberant musical heritage. I pay homage to that spirit with this tree hung with 13 striped lanterns.

FIREWORKS and picnics are also represented with this tree. The hot July 4th holiday is a great time for grilling outdoors, making homemade ice cream and watching fireworks explode across the sky. That's exactly what I'm about to do with a group of friends, but I'll leave you with my mother's homemade ice cream recipe which I recently started making again. Today, Devin and I are serving it with fresh blueberries, fresh "strawberry" cherries and lemon cookies after grilling some of Devin's turkey burgers. Happy 4th!

2 12 oz. cans of evaporated milk (such as Pet Evaporated Milk)
2 cans sweetened condensed milk (such as Eagle Brand)
1 cup sugar
6 eggs beaten (since they're used raw, it's best to buy the pasteurized kind for safety)
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (or more if you like, but make sure it's the best you can buy—DO NOT buy imitation vanilla flavoring)
1 quart whole milk
(or enough to fill the freezer's canister to the fill line)

4 quart hand-cranked or electric ice cream freezer
1 large or 2 small bags of ice
1 box of ice cream rock salt

In a large mixing bowl combine evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, sugar eggs and vanilla with a wire whisk one at a time. Pour into the ice cream freezer's inner canister (4 quart-size). Pour in enough whole milk to fill to the level of the freezer canister's fill line and stir with a long spoon to combine with the sweet mixture.

Place top on securely and freeze submerged in the freezer's bucket according to manufacturer's instructions packed with layers of ice and ice cream rock salt. Cover with a towel. Hand crank or freeze until your arm gives out or the motor stops.

The ice cream (very milky instead of too creamy) will be a soft consistency. Let canister cure in the ice mixture covered with a towel for at least 30 minutes). Scoop and serve with whatever toppings you might want. It melts fast in the July heat, but you'll want to eat it fast because it is so good! 

PATRIOT GAME | Count the lanterns on this tree in the photos above and you'll see that there are thirteen, representing the independent spirit of America's original 13 colonies. The lanterns were originally bought from Bayberry Cove and were designed for the Bruce Elsass Collection for Bethany Lowe Designs, Inc. The lanterns are just large enough to hold a flickering LED votive inside (no live flames with these) to carry the tree's festive look into the night.The red, white and blue mylar sparklers attached to the ends of some of the branches of this wire tree represent the holiday's fireworks—purchased last year at Target (I snapped off the wooden sticks they were attached to). Below the tree is a plaid tin picnic basket found this year at Cost Plus World Market along with a starry napkin purchased at Pottery Barn. The wire tree was originally purchased from the now defunct Martha by Mail catalog as an Easter tree, but I thought its spiky look would be evocative of the sparks produced by fireworks.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland