Tuesday, December 14th


by gmt


Posted on December 14, 2010 at 9:09 AM


Weight gain concerns many this time of year, but not designer Michael Hamilton, who routinely loses 20 pounds between October and January. His secret is a high-intensity work-out of non-stop holiday decorating, which includes the marathon task of decking out Dallas’ historic DeGolyer home to serve as the centerpiece of the annual “Holiday at the Arboretum” festival.
Every year, the 21,000 square foot DeGolyer home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is decorated throughout, bringing that year’s theme to life in lavish fashion. Hamilton and his “elves” volunteer their time and talents to decorate 10 rooms in all, including six trees (five at 10-plus feet and one 12 feet), dozens of wreaths and literally hundreds of seasonal figurines and artworks. “That’s 10 well-decorated and large rooms,” Hamilton stresses with his trademark exuberance. “The Arboretum is absolutely my largest job of the season.” And even though the decorating team of eight to nine volunteers has worked together on the project for years, Hamilton estimates it still requires seven or eight full days to put everything in place for the dazzling display. And the planning? “Oh that never stops,” he affirms. “I’m already thinking about next year.”
Hamilton’s first foray into holiday decorating at the Dallas Arboretum was nine years ago. “John and Kim Semyan had become friends and clients – I had been helping decorate their home for several years,” he said. “John was on one of the Arboretum’s committees, and they asked to borrow some of the family’s collectibles to decorate the house that year. John volunteered me as well! Luckily, we hit the ball out of the park – people were coming back repeatedly to take in everything there was to see, and I have been heading up the holiday decorations ever since.” 
Hamilton says that in the nine years, themes have focused on everything from nativities from around the world to whimsical gatherings of dolls and toys representing the holiday. The 2010 theme is ‘The Magic of Santa’. Hamilton helps to gather the collections for display, often borrowing from his regular clients. This year, he has donated a portion of his own Santa collection, which numbers over 300 pieces, for display. 
In fact, Christmas, floral design and hard work are three constant themes in Hamilton’s life, beginning during his school years in Victoria, Texas. He grew up in a family of seven, and was an avid 4H member, raising and showing champion cattle. The Santa collection also got started when Hamilton was in high school. After high school he obtained an ornamental horticulture degree with a minor in floral design. Following a year of landscape design work in Corpus Christi, he came to Dallas to work for long-time florist Jim Bigerstaff. “I worked for Jim for 18 years until he died, and he still influences me every day,” said Hamilton.
Subsequent jobs included a stint at a Dallas Christmas store, where Hamilton was able to help clients indulge their holiday habit 365 days a year. This past November, he realized a long-held dream with the opening of his own gift and design store, La Foofaraw, in Plano. (With regards to decorating, “foofaraw” describes flashy, over-the-top ornamentation.) In typical energetic Hamilton fashion, the store opening coincided with the Plano Christmas homes tour, which featured Hamilton’s own residence, as well as the public home tour for one of his largest clients, followed soon after by the annual DeGolyer estate decorating.
“I’ve dialed back – I only ‘do’ Christmas three months of the year now, although it’s still my favorite season” Hamilton said. “Through the store, we offer home decorating and floral design for all seasons and occasions, including weddings. Our motto is All Home, All Floral, Ornamentation for Life.”
After the DeGolyer decorating extravaganza, does Hamilton still find time to visit the Dallas Arboretum? “Absolutely, I go several times a year just for fun,” he enthused. “My wife Debbie loves the view from the DeGolyer veranda, looking over White Rock Lake with the Dallas skyline framed in the distance. My favorite spot is in A Women’s Garden. There is a sculpture that resembles a picture frame. On the coldest day of the year, you may almost have the garden to yourself, and you can look through the opening and see the glinting of ice crystals. It’s just magic.”
On the rare occasions when he isn’t working, Hamilton exercises his gardening skills at home, growing everything from cabbage and carrots to beets, radishes and potatoes, as long as the weather permits. But surprisingly for a man who adores the Christmas season, Christmas Day may be one of the few days of the year that WON’T find Hamilton dreaming of Christmas decorations. On that day, he and his wife observe their annual tradition of planting 500-plus tulip bulbs in their front yard. “My passion is fresh flowers, which is one of the reasons I am so drawn to the Dallas Arboretum,” he said. “It’s my mission every year to create such a fantastic display at the DeGolyer house that you can’t resist coming out to see it. If I can’t make you want to see the house, I’m not doing my job.”
Michael Hamilton’s breathtaking 2010 creation can be seen at the Dallas Arboretum through January 2. For more information, visit www.dallasarboretum.org .
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"The Pink Panther Strikes Again"
December 27 -January 8
Granville Arts Center
Box Office: (972) 205-2790
As we enter the holiday season, many of us look forward to the next several weeks with eager anticipation of all the family, friends, gifts, and food that are filling up our holiday schedules. We’ve talked in the past about how these positive and exciting things are often accompanied by lots of stress, and we’ve talked about ways to handle that.
Today we are talking more about feeling blue or even downright depressed as the holiday season approaches. For some, holiday stress creates feelings of being overwhelmed and sad, while for others there is an association with something negative. There might be an association with a tragic event that may have occurred around the holidays, the loss of a loved one in the recent past and the realization that the loved one is not part of this holiday season, or even the anticipation of negative family dynamics that may be prominent during the holidays more than any other time of year. In any event, for some people this can lead to lasting feelings of unhappiness and even anxiety throughout the holiday season.
Anticipating that the holidays will be associated with feelings of sadness or feeling overwhelmed can lead to feelings of dread as the holidays approach.   And this can result in irritability and negativity that can rub off on those around us (even our kids), even if we do not intend this. These feelings can intensify as we strive to manage the busy schedules and meet all the obligations that are associated with the holiday season.
Particularly for parents who may be experiencing these feelings, but really for anyone, it is important to recognize and effectively manage these feelings and associated behavior. As we’ve talked about before, kids take their emotional cues from parents, so an irritable and negative parent will almost surely impact the child even if it simply leads to a child learning to dread the holidays because they know mom or dad will grumpy and irritable. And that is certainly not the holiday tradition or memory that parents want to instill in their kids!
Successfully managing these feelings is important both from the standpoint of our personal mental health but also to model effective, healthy, and successful coping for our kids during a stressful time. Further still, we want our kids to have happy memories of the holiday season that they can carry forward to adulthood to then pass along to their kids.
A lot of the coping that helps us beat the holiday blues centers around keeping perspective. Whenever we are stressed, everything can seem harder and more overwhelming – and when we feel that way we tend to stay in a chronic state of unhappiness and even anxiety. Things to think about as you prepare for this upcoming holiday season include:
Lower your expectations – instead of striving for the Currier and Ives or Martha Stewart version of the holiday season, do what is most comfortable for you and your family. It’s OK to order pizza instead of creating a massive holiday meal – especially if the payoff is that everyone will be less stressed and happy during their time together.   For the perfectionists out there, this is not a time to indulge that tendency. There comes a time when “good enough” should be the goal, particularly if the extra effort toward the perfect holiday event will result in you being grumpy, irritable, or even exhausted.
Limit involvement – if attending holiday parties or gatherings causes feelings of stress and negativity, be very selective and choose only those that are the most important. Throughout the year we may treat invitations as obligations, and this can be compounded during the holiday season when it seems there are many more events. But we really don’t need to accept every invitation or visit everyone that asks us during the holidays – instead, decide as a family which invitations will be accepted and which will be politely declined. Again, for parents this can be an opportunity to show kids how to effectively and gracefully manage time and energy during this busy and potentially very stressful time. Creating a family calendar of events can be a fun way for families to make decisions together about what events will go on the calendar, and this can give kids a sense of predictability in terms of what to expect.
Direct your efforts toward others – as people become more stressed or depressed, there is a tendency to become increasingly self-focused – in other words, we tend to focus on all our woes and we get “stuck” thinking about our stress. One way to counter this is to engage in activities that are focused on the welfare of others such as those less fortunate than ourselves. Volunteering time with a faith-based group or participating in activities to serve underprivileged individuals can be a great way to feel a real sense of satisfaction and worth. It’s also a great way to model the spirit of the season for kids, and it really helps keep perspective during an otherwise busy and even chaotic time of year. 
Adjust traditions and start new traditions – especially when there has been a loss of a loved one or change in the family, feelings of loss can be magnified during the holidays. Give yourself permission to feel sad, and also give yourself permission to move on. Sometimes we may feel guilty that we are carrying on without the loved one – but we have to recognize that while grief is normal, grief should not last forever. Instead, look toward ways to incorporate positive memories of the loved one into existing traditions, and also do not be afraid to start new traditions. For example, part of a family’s holiday tradition may include visiting grandma’s house on Christmas Eve. If grandma passes away, then a new tradition may start by consistently visiting another family member’s house during that time.
Actively cope – in order to effectively cope, you have to know that you are feeling down or overly stressed by the holidays. If you recognize this in yourself, remind yourself of all the incentives to work to effectively cope with these feelings and to engage in activities that lessen the impact of these feelings. Don’t just “hope” that this year will be better, and don’t just expect that it will be awful either. Instead, think about ways that can make the holidays better (such as those suggestions listed above) and then put them into action! When we are stressed, we can quickly start to feel helpless, and this can lead to a very passive approach to dealing with our negative feelings. An active approach to managing these feelings gives us a greater sense of control, and when we feel in control, we are usually much better able to cope with stress. Again, our kids will take cues from this, and this can translate into them using healthier coping methods for when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. And what better gift can parents give their kids but the gift of coping and resilience!
Seek help – feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed, and depressed may be magnified during the holidays, but these feelings may be present in some form or another throughout the year. In other words, feeling really down during the holidays may actually reflect a broader underlying sadness or anxiety that is intense enough to need professional help. Talk with a trusted person – e.g., your physician, close friend or relative, pastor – and consider getting professional help to improve coping and decrease the negative feelings.
Phone number for more information: 877-THR-WELL
Address: 800 W. Randol Mill Rd., Arlington, TX 76012
January 4 - 23: Lexus Broadway Series
The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
The movie that left audiences rolling in the aisles when it came out in 1974 is now an equally hilarious musical comedy from the creative team of the 12-time Tony Award winning production, The Producers. The performances at the AT&T Performing Arts Center will mark the debut of Young Frankenstein in Dallas. Named the Best Broadway Musical of 2008 by the Outer Critics Circle Awards, Young Frankenstein has received rave reviews wherever it plays. Clive Barnes of the New York Post called Young Frankenstein “the Broadway musical at its dizziest, glitziest and funniest.” Conceived by comic genius Mel Brooks, the movie and musical are wickedly inspired interpretations of the Mary Shelley classic.
Ticket prices for all series presented by the AT&T Performing Arts Center, including the Lexus Broadway Series, have not increased over 2010 prices, and include many affordable options.
Tickets for the Brinker International Forum, TITAS, JAZZ ROOTS and the Lexus Broadway Series are currently on sale. Tickets can be purchased online at www.attpac.org, by phone at 214.880.0202, or in person at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Box Office in the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora Street (Monday through Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm; Sunday 11 am – 4 pm) or the remote Box Office at Park Place Lexus Plano at 1025 Preston Road.
5520 LBJ Freeway
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Dallas, TX 75240
Across from the Galleria on I-635 Frontage Road
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