By Cheri Sims
My dining room is an absolute wreck; Hubby called it “the storm before the calm”. I have emptied the Christmas closet and started hauling boxes down from the attic and am in full decorating mode. The outside is finished so all concentration is geared toward the inside. The focus is, of course, the dining room for the coffee girls Christmas party but I have also hung a couple bare greenery garlands in other doorways which will be decorated later.
Queen Elizabeth has chosen gold as her primary color for this year’s decorations at Windsor Castle so I will take that color choice under advisement as I am making preliminary preparations. I peruse the internet for all kinds of ideas to incorporate in my Christmas garlands; and, yes, I look at what the “Royals” do as well. One can get some great ideas from looking at decorations from all Countries and walks of life and use them to fit your own personal home. I have made many different theme garlands but the ones I have the most trouble with a country or primitive setting. One of Hubby’s favorites was a retro 1950’s garland complete with the “hated” silver tinsel, which , by the way, Hubby adopted my Mom’s technique of hanging the tinsel strand by strand.
I tend to prefer burgundy and gold or silver combinations; I have quite a lot of Christmas ornaments which will blend with either the gold or silver but I also have boxes of just about any color I would choose to design with. I have spent hours and days, after Christmas, buying sale decorations, in the better stores, and have saved a considerable amount of money accumulating my stash! I feel sorry for the kids when it is time to dispose of my belongings. Sadly my son is not as enamored with Christmas decorations as I am.
Last year I discovered that I really do miss having a fireplace with which to decorate for all holidays. Most of our houses had a fireplace in the living room or parlor and it was always the centerpiece of my decorating. I have fashioned a tall cherry TV cabinet as a fireplace but it isn’t the same. I believe that this next year, since we can get back to shopping, I will look for a fireplace surround and mantle at some of the antique stores in the area. I have a couple girlfriends who have found and restored beautiful historic gems and I think one would not look out of place in this house.
I mentioned in a column a couple weeks ago that I might opt for a fresh cut Illinois tree this year (even if it is only about six feet tall) instead of the imported ones I have been buying the last couple years. I love the ten-foot Fraser Fir trees but mine seem to be really dry by Christmas day. Last weekend I went out to Hager’s Tree Farm, picked up a tree tag and set out to walk the fields around their beautiful lake. I spent about an hour roaming around in the peacefulness of the country and found a couple suitable (short) trees, while having delightful conversations with other tree shoppers and a couple squirrels.
I enjoyed watching the children with all their youthful excitement running from tree to tree trying to decide which one was just right for them; even the shorter trees were taller than the kids, but in the end I decided that if I want to feel like a kid standing next to my tree it would have to be at least nine foot tall. (I am sure you know where I am going with this) Yes, I opted for the imported “tall” Frasier Fir, rationalizing that soon enough I will probably be bent over and when that happens I will buy a shorter tree!
There is no question how I will decorate the real tree, there will be no fancy theme tree, Hubby would not stand for the real tree to have ribbons, bows or flowers on it. All of those decorations are from our childhood and some from our parent’s old decorations and everything we have collected for fifty-three years. One year we strung cranberries and popcorn and that tree was a terrible mess so we decided we would eliminate that from our decorating. Hubby made the mistake of telling me that if I wanted a theme tree I would have to get a fake tree. That is why I have six fake trees, of various sizes packed in the closet. I did not use any of them last year but am seriously thinking of doing something with a couple of them this year. I love theme trees but not for our main tree.
It is time to think about Christmas baking and I have no idea what to serve for Christmas dinner this year. I have found a couple web sites which have some great ideas and I will have to study on these to see if there is anything to interest the kids. Sometimes I feel like they are tired of the tried and true recipes but every time I ask for ideas I get the same answer, “I don’t know”! These sites have really interesting ideas and well worth looking at, if for nothing else just to see what others are making.
The Spruce Eats: https://www.thespruceeats.com/cakes-for-christmas-and-boxing-day-435073.
Farah Unique Christmas Desserts: https://farahrecipes.com/unique-christmas-desserts/.
Messy cutting Board: https://www.messycuttingboard.com/unique-christmas-desserts/.
My family does not like the traditional holiday Waldorf salad, Ambrosia or cranberry salad but I did make a great dessert for Thanksgiving which will return for Christmas by popular demand. I made a strawberry and cream cheese salad which was quick and delicious. Soften a brick of cream cheese and mix it with a small jar of strawberry preserves. After well mixed add a 12 ounce bag of mini marshmallows and fold gently. Slice at least twenty strawberries and fold into the mixture. Place in individual dessert bowls or in a pretty serving dish and top with whole strawberries. One can use any flavor of preserves and it will be sweet enough so that sugar will not have to be added. Fast and delicious! Salads also do not have to be cold. My son loves this sweet potato salad but he won’t eat sweet potatoes by themselves. The “Delish” has a great recipe for this salad and it is very festive when placed on the table.
Enjoy your Christmas planning.
Sweet Potato Salad
* 3 large sweet potatoes,
peeled and cubed (about
* 1 small red onion,
thinly sliced into half
* 2 tbsp. extra-virgin
* Kosher salt
* Freshly ground black
* 1/2 c. dried cranberries
* 1/2 c. crumbled feta
* 1/4 c. freshly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes and red onion in oil then season with salt and pepper.
2. Distribute them evenly on sheet in a single layer. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, make dressing: In a small bowl or in a medium liquid measuring cup, whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey, and spices. Gradually pour in oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Toss sweet potatoes with dressing, cranberries, feta, and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.