Monday, December 15, 2014

Deck The Halls

Living room

This holiday season has been a hectic one and I wasn't sure I'd be doing any decorating. My new granddaughter was born on November 25 and my younger daughter just relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I am jumping for joy about both these events. But there has been little time to work on the house. As of last Thursday I hadn't done a thing to get ready for Christmas.

Family room

But on Friday I turned the corner, caught the holiday spirit, and everything started to come together. Part of this was reading some holiday essays I have saved over the years. We put up the garlands and got the tree. It will be a quiet holiday this year -- no parties at the house, there just hasn't been time to plan anything -- but that's exactly what I'm in the mood for. As the years go by, I realize the big parties and celebrations are receding and the smaller, magical moments are becoming more important. Have you noticed this also? I'm looking forward to sitting down and writing holiday cards, making cookies, decorating the tree, and having my family around the dinner table. I can't wait to take a photo of my granddaughter in front of the Christmas tree. In the meantime, here are some special holiday moments that have been making me very happy.

Discovering a new recipe for brownies -- you will love these!

Taking out the decorations for the tree. I have had these green and white storage boxes for ages and the sight of them always fills me with anticipation.

Finishing the tree! I love having it in the library.

Finding the perfect book to give my granddaughter for Christmas, though I won't be able to read it to her for a while. But getting her started on the Madeline books with this special 75th anniversary edition is very exciting!

Finding a present for myself

The Writer's Garden is about the way gardens have held a special place in many authors' lives. It is filled with beautiful photos and fascinating text about the gardens belonging to writers such as Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, Winston Churchill, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie and many others. This would make a great gift for your gardening and literary friends.

Taking a few peaceful hours in the day to write my holiday cards 

Going to the Christmas tea that my book club has every year

And being touched by how much trouble my friend Judie took to make it look so beautiful!

Many writers have written about the redemptive power of making a home for the holidays. I read an article years ago on this topic. The writer discovered that working on his house and creating a holiday for his family was a way to create a sanctuary in the midst of the chaos and confusion of the world. I was inspired by the idea of making a beautiful and safe place to shelter our loved ones. This year with a new grandchild in our family, I especially feel this. It will be fun as the years go by to see the excitement in her eyes as she experiences the holiday. Each year, when I think about that article from years ago, I appreciate the value of getting the house ready for the holidays. Often it's the little things that make the holiday so magical!

Fudge Brownies Sprinkled with Coffee Salt

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 and 1/4 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
Stumptown Coffee Flake Salt for sprinkling (You can order it here)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan with parchment and grease well. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool. Add vanilla, sugar, eggs and salt to chocolate mixture and mix until combined. Add flour and stir until completely combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes. Do not overbake! When done, a toothpick inserted into the middle should come out just barely clean. Sprinkle the top with coffee salt. Cool in pan and cut into squares.

This recipe comes from Anne Zimmerman, a friend who is a writer and an excellent cook!



  1. What a lovely post! Your home looks truly splendid and so beautifully festive! What a perfect way to celebrate your granddaughter's first Christmas. I agree, there really is something so therapeutic in creating a comfortable and inviting living space. I think my Mum would love The Writer's Garden - thanks for recommending it! And those brownies look delicious.....

    Miranda xxx

  2. Your home looks perfect, and I agree about the big parties receding, and it being all about the small, magical moments. Having a grandchild really makes this sink in somehow. I'm going to get that book for my granddaughter as well, got her my favorite book as a child (Pantaloon) for her first Christmas - this will be perfect to add to her growing book collection. We do Hanukkah at our house, and Christmas at my daughter's. Unfortunately, Hanukkah decorations don't have quite the elegance of Christmas, but I know Pearl will enjoy all the glitz, so it makes me smile anyway.

  3. Domenica, Thank you for a beautiful recounting of your preparation for Christmas. Early on in this piece, we mention some essays that put you into a refreshed holiday mood. Can you share the sources of these essays? Are they available? There are days when I could make good use of them. Thank you!

    1. Many of those pieces were in magazines that no longer exist. I love to read Dickens at this time of the year and find inspiration there. And Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" is very touching. I also think some of the best food writers such as Laurie Colwin, Elizabeth David and Nigella Lawson have inspirational things to say about cooking and getting ready for the holidays. As do many bloggers who write about design and their homes. Pamela Terry on her blog "From the House of Edward" always has beautiful posts around the holidays!

  4. Your house looks beautiful and a big congratulations on little Scarlett! She sounds like the perfect Christmas gift. I am slowly finishing up my decorating and at each step I find myself feeling the joy and spirit of Christmas. Enjoy the holidays Sunday!

  5. Sunday, I am trying to bring back the little "Madelaine" books too, my granddaughter is 4 and I gave her one last year. Merry Merry Christmas.

  6. Congratulations on your baby granddaughter! your library looks wonderful!

  7. Sunday, what wonderful Christmas gifts...a grandchild, and your daughter moving closer. Your home is lovey and looks very festive. A few nights ago feeling a bit overwhelmed, I pulled "The Gift of the Magi" down. It has been a favorite holiday read since I first discovered in in Grade school. It puts everything in perspective, at least for me. Thanks for opening you home and sharing with us. Congratulations on you newest grandbaby!

  8. Sunday thanks for another inspirational year. Your blog is a gift!

  9. Everything is so lovely, Sunday! Congratulations on the new baby - she is a very lucky girl to have you in her life. And best wishes to your daughter on her move, how exciting!

  10. Thank you for having us to your home, Sunday. It is lovely, lovely, lovely - and what wonderful reasons for get started with decorating a little later than usual.

    The Writer's Garden keep showing up in blogs. Hmmmm . . . I may need to revise my wish list.

  11. Your house is so lovely and Christmassy! I haven't decorated much this year but just having a few decorations up makes all the difference. I have a new little niece (born December 7) and the Madeline book would make a wonderful gift for her - thanks for sharing.

  12. Beautiful Blog! So glad I just discovered it before my holiday break--when I can explore it thoroughly! Donna