02 Dec 2010

The Beauty of Things Remembered, Part 2: Decorating with Holiday Memories

Holiday Decorating, Interior Beauty, Recipes 14 Comments

Beauty is often captured in our memories and never is this more true than during the holidays, be it Christmas, Chanukah or any other celebration.  So walk with me and consider:  what will you do to bring alive your memories or create new ones this holiday season?

Even our grand-dog couldn't wait to get in on the action on Christmas morning

When I was a child, Christmas was about Santa and the pile of brightly wrapped gifts under the tree.  I can still vividly remember searching the house looking for where Mom hid the gifts, posing on Christmas Eve in our pajamas holding our stockings, and waiting for Mom and Dad to wake up (usually at 6am) so my brother and sisters and I could swoop downstairs to tear into our presents.  After the piles of wrapping paper were collected, Mom would make scrambled eggs, bacon and coffee, with hot chocolate and marshmallows for us kids.  And when I got married and had my own kids, I continued that tradition.  One of my favorite coffees is Reindeer Blend by Caribou Coffee for our Christmas morning.

Caribou's much anticipated Reindeer Blend is a luscious, deep cup with high notes of fruit and nuts and deep notes of dark chocolate and butterscotch. What makes Reindeer Blend unique is its blend of rich Indonesian coffees, including a rare Sumatra aged by deliberately exposing it to the elements. The result is a thick, spicy, rugged, and decadently smoky cup. This coffee was created to go well with food and desserts.

I use my best china cups – I swear it makes the coffee taste even better!

Good coffee is a passion of mine

Food is an important part of the holidays in our home.  My family loves the bread pudding I make for Christmas.  I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years and according to my family, it’s now perfection.  I use organic milk and eggs – it makes a difference!

This Christmas, I tweaked my recipe to have a crispy top crust for added texture.

My bread pudding with crispy crust, bourbon sauce & fresh whipped cream

Anne’s Bread Pudding

4 Cups Whole Milk

5 large Eggs

1 Cup Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla

3 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Salt

• 1/2 pkg Baking Raisins

One day old large loaf French or Italian bread

1-1/2 TB Butter, melted

(plus for sprinkling: 1/2 tsp cinnamon mixed with 2 TB sugar)

Whisk Milk, Eggs, Sugar, Vanilla, Cinnamon and Salt in a large bowl.  Cut bread into 1-1/2” cubes.  Reserve 2 cups cubes.  Add raisins and bread cubes to mixture, stir to combine.  It will look juicy, but resist the urge to add more bread cubes.   Pour into a large buttered casserole dish that has a cover.  Add reserved bread cubes on top and partially submerge.  Brush exposed tops with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mix.  Cover and place casserole dish in pan filled with 1-2” hot water.  Bake about 1 hour at 325 degrees.  Pudding is done when knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean.  Serve warm with bourbon sauce or fresh whipped cream.

Bourbon Sauce

1/4 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
3 TB Whipping Cream
2 TB Bourbon Whiskey
Pinch Salt

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in remaining ingredients.  Simmer until thickened, whisking often, about 3 minutes.  Cool slightly and serve.  Yields about 1/2 Cup.

Back to opening gifts – who doesn’t crack a smile remembering the squeals of delight from children opening their gifts?   Now that our children are grown, we no longer get up at the crack of dawn, and we have a very civilized opening of gifts.  But we still have bacon and eggs and coffee afterward – and sometimes even hot chocolate with marshmallows!

As time went on, Christmas was less about the gifts and more about the decorating, especially the tree.  Fresh live trees are my favorite, despite the struggle to get it to stand perfectly straight in the stand and the inevitable needle shedding.  The scent of a fresh Fraser tree is an elixir to me, calling to mind memories of playing in the woods as a child.  Funny how a scent can instantly not just bring to mind a memory but an actual reliving of an experience.  After years of pressure, I finally consented to getting a faux Christmas tree, which makes it even more important to use candles and potpourri to scent the house.  What scents make you swoon with happiness?

O Tannenbaum!

The tree above is one of the few times I decorated with white lights.  I know white lights are considered more chic, but I just love a tree decorated with colored lights – perhaps because it brings back so many happy memories?  I also have fond memories of something that is coming back onto the market – the aluminum tree with the color wheel!

Do you remember when these were all the rage?

Over the years, I’ve decorated our Christmas tree with angels, ribbons, pine cones, ornaments the kids made, small framed photos of the kids as they grew up, hand made wooden ornaments from Germany, stars, crystal chandelier drops, ornaments from our travels like the Paris bakery shop, the German cuckoo clock and the Hawaiian shell – and of course the brightly colored fragile glass balls.  Not all at the same time, of course.   But lately I’m drawn back to the European mouth blown glass ornaments like these at JingleNog

Santa out on his deliveries

Santa the cabbie!

I love this one:

perfect for Florida!

Ornaments aren’t only for Christmas either:

The Presents of Light

A Toast for a Happy New Year!

My Twitter friends on #IntDesignerChat love to use ornaments throughout the house, not just on the tree.  Some ideas to place ornaments:  in a bowl on the coffee table, hanging from a tabletop tree or the dining room chandelier, holding a place card at dinner, even tied to the guest room headboard!

Other ideas to decorate your home for the holidays include:

Setting up a train set and/or a Dickens village.  We have a storage cabinet full of ceramic houses that reflect our family’s passions:  the sewing shoppe, ice skating rink, music store, Victorian houses, the neighborhood church, and of course the candy shoppe!

These villages are like doll houses for grownups!

To “holiday-ize” your decor, you can insert your existing pillows into holiday themed pillow covers

from Pottery Barn

or toss a soft throw in your holiday colors to add color and warmth

Tartan cashmere is not just for the holidays

Other ways to decorate:  hang wreaths indoors, tie ribbons with bells on doors, place a bowl of scented pine cones in a bedroom

scented wax pinecone fire starters

and of course scatter candles, potpourri or reed diffusers throughout your home to scent the air.

candle glow creates a beautiful ambiance

For a whimsical touch, place Santa’s Coal Soap in the guest bath – it smells like candy canes!

Santa's Coal Soap would make a cute gift too

Christmas wouldn’t feel like Christmas without music.  When I’m shopping, it makes me feel more festive – and more likely to buy!  It’s finally gotten cold in Florida so now I feel like decorating and singing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” even though it doesn’t really look like Christmas here.  Except after sundown, when homes decorated with twinkling lights transform the neighborhoods.

bling for the exterior!

Even palm trees get in the act!

Christmas lights in Florida

When you’re decorating, aim to please all 5 senses:  visual (eye candy), taste (foods & beverages), touch (velvets & cashmere), smell (scents), and hearing (music, bells).  I hope this has given you a few ideas to jump-start your holiday decorating.

But as Johnny Mathis sings, the most important part of the holidays is what’s in our hearts.  Decorating for the holidays (and truly all year) is about creating an environment for coming together with our loved ones and sharing love, peace and good will.

This is symbolized most powerfully to me by the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, so it’s important to me to remember the “reason for the season” and display our Nativity set.

The reason for the season!

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

“……That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

No matter our religious affiliation, people of all faiths who share in the joyous belief in the saving force of God’s love, celebrate together!  May this holiday season bring you oodles of Love and Joy!

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14 Responses to “The Beauty of Things Remembered, Part 2: Decorating with Holiday Memories”

  1. Anne says:

    Can you tell me where I can get the colored wax pinecones. I love them

  2. best coffee makers reviews 2011 says:

    Keep up the good article, added to my ie rss.

  3. StacyStyle says:

    Love the list, Anne! Have a very Merry Christmas!

  4. Dario Aranjo says:

    Just dropped by to say hello and wish happy holidays 🙂

  5. Rissi Cherie says:

    Anne, This morning I made your bread pudding & had my girlfriend over for a light lunch. The pudding – made as directed with organic milk and eggs – was the treat to celebrate her birthday. We were both delighted with the pudding. The flavor is perfect! I whipped organic heavy cream to top the pudding. MMMmmm, GOOD!

  6. Rissi Cherie says:

    Anne, I just printed your bread pudding recipe and will make it a special treat to enjoy soon.
    About silvery trees; still don’t like them, although I can appreciate the “campy” quality. I prefer a small, potted evergreen that I can replant outdoors. I get the nice scent, not so much needle drop, and no guilt because I haven’t killed a tree. The small tree doesn’t take my favorite kind of decoration, the overly large glass balls. When I first saw the giant glass balls on trees in Bloomingdales, I fell in love with them. Truth be told, I haven’t had a tree in several years.

    • Anne says:

      A small potted evergreen is definitely better for the environment but have to agree, it wouldn’t hold all my decorations either. I love those giant ornaments too! So no tree this year?

  7. [email protected] says:

    I really enjoyed your Christmas post, those Santa ornaments are my favorite ! The reindeer coffee sounds delish, I”ll have to pick some up for our holiday brunch this weeken.

    • Anne says:

      Tammi, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Those blown glass Santa ornaments just say, “Christmas” to me too. As for the Reindeer coffee, it is delish! Enjoy your holiday brunch – who’s invited?

  8. Rissi Cherie says:

    Beautifully done, Anne. I can’t wait to try your bread pudding recipe. It looks delicious!
    About those silver trees with the rotating color wheel. I remember when my grandma (who was my inspiration for becoming an interior decorator) set up such a tree. I was appalled & with my nine-year-old voice of disdain, I let her know it!

    • Anne says:

      Thank you, Rissi, you’ll have to tell me what you think! I remember at first being enthralled with the silver trees and color wheel. At some point, I also felt the disdain — and I wonder if that’s why it was packed away. Now, I think it would be kinda “campy” to have one – but I’d still want a green tree.

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