Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!

‘Tis the giving season…every holiday season I always remind my friends and followers about the importance of TRADITIONS…those that link the past with the present and passes them on to the next generation…Candles in the window, roasting turkey, ginger cookies, curried pecans, sparkling candles, festive ribbons and citrus fruits in the stockings…and crafting a Merry Christmas!

Christmas is such a joyous time for many reasons…from festive decorations to home cooked traditions to decorating a live tree, sipping eggnog or mulled wine and wrapping presents by the fireside. Strive to and actually set aside time to actually relax and enjoy the JOY! During the busiest of seasons it is very important to take an hour or so to be still and celebrate the joys of solitude and quiet relaxation…a good tradition to start.

Here are some of my traditions and a few new things you might enjoy!

Decking the Halls, Hearth and Home, Y’all…set the scene for a celebration full of good cheer with festive, fragrant foliage and seasonal fruits. Simple to make a wreath as shown. I use semi-dried grape vines and shape them while still somewhat pliable into circles. The rest is pretty easy…choose evergreen and holly pieces gathered from your “woods walk” and wire them onto the wreath along with some lady apples, lemons and berries. Voila! Gifting a hand-crafted wreath, topped with a festive ribbon, makes it easy for a friend to feel that Christmas has finally arrived. Make one or more for yourself and dress the front door in splendor…incorporate pine branches and magnolia leaves spiked with kumquats and limes for a colorful display. Open the front door to a lavish garland intertwined with ribbon and clusters of fruit dressing the banister…if you have one, if not, use a doorway.

FullSizeRender(8)Set the scene for a winter display…some antique silver pieces, greenery and a few personal touches. Echo the front door wreath with a bit of fragrant pine or spruce arranged on a sideboard or mantel…imagination and a few fresh materials are all it takes to create a festive look.

A bit of flickering candlelight adds to the occasion and the holiday decor… along with tiny sparkling lights, crystal glassware and  silver-framed family photos…your home becomes an inviting haven.

All is Calm...Wishing for Santa to leave this stone fireplace surround that I love so much, the overly large mirror and everything else shown in this photo combine to make that perfect little spot…finding beauty in silence for those blissful moments of relaxation. ALSO, get plenty of sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to enjoy the festivities. There’s no time like the present and no present like time!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry…Gifts of food go back hundreds of years, and what could give more pleasure than the joy of home-baked treats or already prepared food delights…a Christmas feast with turkey and trimmings, homemade cookies, fudge crammed with chocolate bits and nuts, streusel or fruit cakes, jars of relish and fruity preserves, Christmas steamed puddings, candied citrus peel, a jar of flavored sugar, a copper pot filled with a winter stew…everything all made by hand with the finest and freshest ingredients. Thoughtful glorious gifts that friends will treasure and long remember.

For that merry drink…a flute of Prosecco with a generous splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur  or Chambord. AND, Champagne will always bring a touch of festive elegance at any holiday gathering.Also, a Kir Royale would be a nice treat: some sparkling white wine and Champagne with a splash of Cassis!

Season’s Eatings: Something new to make and taste…

Holiday Fried Rice: So simple…Saute’ briefly…3-5 minutes…on moderate heat the following in some coconut or peanut oil: chopped fresh pineapple, grated carrots, water chestnuts, walnuts fresh ginger, green peas OR broccoli. Add some cooked brown rice and warm for a few more minutes…top with a poached egg for a nice winter meal.

snow doorEvergreen Scene…it is winter, when the garden is dormant, that conifers and evergreens hold the garden structure together with a wonderful variety of form and foliage, berries and cones…take another look! Their shapes show up best in winter when a dusting of frost or snow adds glittering definition. And, there are so many to choose from…start planning for planting in early spring, or now if you still have good weather and temps.

At this time of year I would urge you to go back to past years and take another look at my December posts…there is so much more to read and enjoy.

All the very best Christmas wishes to my friends…Love and hugs from Holly and me…we will be thinking of you and hoping the very best for the coming year!

“Tis the Season…signs of the season!

lemon treeThere are seasons for all things…whether living with one, two or four seasons…there is reason to enjoy and remember the reason for the seasons… 

For all to admire and acquire…Here, my French sister, Jeanine, shows her cherished lemon tree that resides around the pool, growing in a micro-climate created by a closed area, good sun, temp and humidity. NOW is typically the season for deliciously fragrant citrus blooms in warm climates such as Florida or California. Living in slightly North Texas, she fools the tree into blooming by keeping it warm on too coldish winter nights. Just cold enough to spur bloom…it rewards her with mid-winter blossoms and a bounty of lemons in late spring. I have two lemon trees that have survived over 10 years living here in Virginia most of the year outside…I do put them in the garage when temps fall below freezing and often bring them out on sunny winter days. This keeps pests from attacking the blooms! This year my lemons bloomed twice, in late winter and then late summer, forming lemons rather quickly, and now I have a new crop of huge ripening lemons just in time for the Christmas season! Of course, the best way to grow lemons in cold climates is a greenhouse or sun room…but having neither, I adapt to the changing seasons my way.

I have lived in all areas of the country… in Southern California, I enjoyed the relaxed one season and near perfect weather and little if no real humidity year round, clothes and gardens were easy, as was driving my little convertible from client to design center to home again in old downtown Pasadena. Living in Texas, I found that we had mainly two seasons…very hot and not so hot!! Gardening was great almost year round… until August, when most folks gave up and retreated to the pool or air conditioning. I found the “dry heat” quite bearable, although the pool did feel sublime when the afternoon temp roared to over 100 degrees…one adapts! And now, back to Virginia, I live with four seasons and love them all. I find the transition from one to the next a joy to anticipate and plan activities…for both indoors and out.

Late fall changes into winter in a few days…citrus fruit becomes a part of the seasonal decoration providing a spicy fragrance in the home. Making the pomanders [as shown here] is a very relaxing way to spend an evening. So easy, using whole cloves pushed into the citrus skin, cover the fruit or make just a few bands of cloves…your choice. Put a few in a bowl or wrap the finished fruit with ribbon and hang throughout your home. photo(94)Especially nice when you can enjoy the first fire of the season while working on projects.

Something to make…

*Natural fire starters…gather dry pine cones, melt some old wax candle pieces, stir in a few drops of essential oil…lemon, orange or lavender, place paper cups in muffin tin and pour a 1/2 inch wax in bottom of cup, set pine cones into slightly hot wax, allow to set overnight…wrap in burlap tied with ribbon, place in nice basket for a welcome gift.

A Home with a heart…some houses have such warmth and sense of character that they almost feel alive. The kind of houses where everyone uses the back door opening straight into the heart of the home kitchen! The whole room is brightened by pleasing patterns and colors, delightful melange of fragrance, comfortable and well-used furniture pieces… Warm & Cozy…Touches of texture, soft lighting, a well-worn quilt over the back of a wing chair by the crackling fireplace…along with warming soups, satisfying stews, homemade breads, hot herb tea…all perfect fireside fare to melt the frost. Surround yourself with things you love and all will come together…so alive in the moment that one could almost expect a smiling grandmother to enter the room carrying a freshly baked apple pie!


As daylight hours dwindle…unwind from a day well spent beside the fire with a plate of artisanal cheeses served with seasonal fruit and nuts. This offers a tasty pairing for cocktail time OR an after dinner Provencal-style dessert…

Savory beef and wild mushroom stew is especially satisfying on a cold December evening…Be sure to choose only beef that is pasture raised.

Pull on that big oversized sweater, wrap your winter scarf around your neck to chase away the chill…Let the stew simmer on the stove or in the oven for 2-3 hours while you enjoy a long winter walk before dark…


 Til then, hugs from Holly and Patricia