Deck the Halls

Throw a posh holiday party

The holidays at our house are a mixed, ribbon-wrapped bag of everything from classic to nostalgic, to rustic and colorific. I like spreading the Christmas cheer throughout the house.

Patterson_4882When it comes to holiday decorating and entertaining there’s nothing quite like the familiar scent of fresh fir wafting through the halls, the twinkling of holiday lights, and velvety holiday bisque simmering on the stovetop.

Home for the holidays also means sharing treasured family traditions and recipes. Nostalgia is always stylish, and it adds that indescribable layer of warmth that speaks to the heart of the holidays.

Keep it real and fresh this holiday season! The tree is the focus of our Christmas decorating celebration, and there are plenty of festive options.

From a show-stopping, white-flocked Noble Fir, to a humble potted live tree, and arrangements of clipped fresh greenery, fill your home with the sights, scents, and tastes of the season.

Pop-Up Wine Bar 
Clear off shelves to create a self-serve wine bar.

Hung by the Chimney
Handmade faux gold leather and white fur cuff stockings add a note of glam to my holiday decorating!

First Impressions
Simple potted live trees greet holiday guests. Plant them in the garden later, or give them away as gifts. Limbs are left bare with a few snowy pinecones and ornaments at the base. Garden boots filled with clippings are nearby, ready to roll.

Patterson_4988Tip
For a grander presentation, place one of these small trees in a cool container and pop it on a table inside.

Statement Tree
I start stalking my favorite Christmas tree lot right after Thanksgiving! The hunt is on for the perfect tree. This 12-foot Noble Fir is hung with family memories of Christmases past and doubles as a vacation travel journal. Unwrapping each ornament is like greeting an old friend. The tree-topper is a glass chandelier on a hydraulic lift.

The Very Merry Mule

Keep your guests’ spirits high with my holiday take on the Moscow Mule in festive copper mugs from West Elm.

  • 1½ shots vodka
  • 1 shot cranberry juice
  • 1 shot ginger ale
  • ½ shot rosemary simple syrup
  • ½ shot freshly squeezed citrus juice
  • ¼ teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Muddle well and strain over ice into copper mugs. Top off with more ginger ale if desired. Add garnishes – I used a sprig of fragrant rosemary from the garden and organic fresh cranberries dipped in juice and glazed with vanilla bean sugar.

Rosemary Simple Syrup
Equal parts water and sugar, and one rosemary stem. Simmer on the stovetop for a few minutes, strain, and chill.

The Kids’ Table
Kids love color! Create a joyful table by rolling out a vibrant paper runner and adding stick-on letters. Add more color with a string of lights, then pop an easy DIY animal-topped gumdrop box at each place setting! Spray paint plastic animals and the top of a craft store box lid. Hot glue the animals to the box tops and place gumdrops inside.

Vintage-Inspired White Christmas Tree 
This dreamy white-flocked real Christmas tree with a throwback vibe is from Wight’s Home & Garden. The beautiful bright pink vintage ornaments belonged to my mom, so this holiday tree totally takes me on a sentimental journey.

Patterson_4976Crab Bisque

This yummy crab bisque is a holiday tradition at our house, and itís always a crowd pleaser! Think big chunks of fresh crab, fennel, mushrooms, tomato, and Pernod with a nice kick from the Tabasco sauce. I serve this right off the stove in mugs as an appetizer at holiday parties, and Christmas dinner.

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb cored, outer part removed, diced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • ¾ teaspoon Pernod
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 drops of Tabasco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon truffle salt
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • 3 tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste
  • 2 cans of tomato soup (10¾ ounces, undiluted)
  • 1¾ cans cream of celery soup
  • 3½ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1 pound fresh crabmeat, picked through
  1. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy pan. Sauté fennel, shallots, and mushrooms in the oil on medium heat until translucent (about 8 minutes).
  2. Add the brandy, Pernod, truffle salt, Worcestershire, lemon zest, Tabasco, ground pepper, salts, and tomato paste into the pan. Sauté for 5 minutes more.
  3. Add the tomato and celery soups, and cook over medium heat, stirring until the soup base is heated through.
  4. Add milk and half & half and whisk until smooth and heated through. Do not boil. Fold in the crab and allow it to heat through for a few minutes.
  5. Adjust seasonings and consistency to your liking by adding a bit more milk.
  6. Just before serving, add another splash of brandy. Top with a dollop of creme fraiche, and sprinkle with fresh chopped chives. Serve immediately. (Makes 10 cups.)

Holiday Dessert Stand 

Assemble an array of sweet treats, both homemade and purchased. I recycled a beautiful European cake box for the display. The dessert stand is decorated with a mix of white amaryllis stems and garden greenery in a blown glass jug. Simple strands of tiny lights add a touch of magic!

Patterson_4958Cranberry Orange Walnut Biscotti

My grandmother Nettie’s biscotti have been a part of our family holiday tradition for as long as I can remember. Iíve given it a tasty twist with dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, orange zest, and brandy.

  • 1 cup whole raw walnuts, toasted
  • ½ cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg yolk for brushing
  • 2½ cups superfine sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ tablespoon blood orange zest
  • A few grinds of nutmeg
  • A dash of salt
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  1. Set the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts for a few minutes, cool, and give them a rough chop. Beat together the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, brandy, vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds. Sift together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in the blood orange zest. Add to egg mixture and mix. Stir in rough chopped, toasted walnuts, and cranberries.
  2. Divide dough in thirds and knead for several minutes. The dough will be sticky, and you will need to add a little flour. Form each piece into a log and flatten a bit.
  3. Place logs on a greased or parchment-lined baking pan. Brush tops with egg yolk and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and slice at an angle. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Return cookies to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.
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