Today, January 8th, I finally took down ALL of the holiday lights, two days after I had promised myself it would be done. I know everything usually takes longer than anticipated, even so, I’m toast, and it’s okay.

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Cocktail Meeting for Twenty

There’s nothing like offering to open your home in the first week of December to get the holiday decoration ball rolling. I hung the garland the day before our intimate meeting, but have yet to light the outdoor pots. I try and do a little every day. Slow and steady. And careful on the ladder!

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trust the process

great black turtleneck is always a good look

Last week I put up five trees, moved in all my geraniums at the country house while moving out all the furniture to Boston MA, and hosted a small working lunch for nine women. Sure, I had anxiety, we’re coming up on holiday season where expectations run high.

overwintering the geraniums, moved all the furniture to Boston in two big pods
papasan is from youngest daughter’s bedroom, kinda need somewhere to sit

Oldest daughter, the one living in Boston and on the receiving end of all of the furniture, says the goal this year is for me not to end up sick and in the fetal position on Christmas eve or any other day leading up to January 1st, as has been my move. I’ve been pacing myself, doing things early. 

One of my dear friends tells me the Christmas season is a man’s holiday, women invariably do a lot of the hustle. I’m telling myself to trust the process, it will go, it always does. 

two in the dining room, one in the living room, forgot to take that photo and its the best one 🙂
one in the family room
one in the upstairs sitting room, it looks great from the street at night

The thing is I love doing this kind of stuff, decorating, cooking, making things nice for those around me, all the while creating good memories and bringing people together. 

So, one thing at a time: trees are up, no skirts and no ornaments. These five trees here are brilliant, we used to do the fresh thing where husband and the kids would go out and get the biggest fresh thing they could find and then I would spend DAYS and NIGHTS wrestling with the lights, solo, of course. No more, last year on advice from my sister, she who designs events for hundreds of thousands in San Francisco, ordered in from Balsam Hill: I bought three of their revolutionary flip trees, and the two slender ones in the dining room go up in minutes, all lit! It’s genius. 

greens are dressed, plated, ready
with the warm French cheese in pastry
it was delicious, maybe a little heavy on the dressing, I panicked at the last minute, and I probably could have kept the plate rim a little cleaner
it was a working lunch meeting, I set the table and herbal iced tea waiting for everyone
I used three small juice glasses filled with parsley and rosemary from the country house down the middle of the table for the centerpieces
the English chocolate crisps with dried cranberries were delicious
I sent small packages of two home with each guest, no one really likes to eat desert at a lunch
the thing that I was most proud of was that my kitchen counter was clean and not like a hurricane happening

And the lunch? Everything from one of my favorites, Ina. I simply sat down with her Make It Ahead book and planned out the whole thing, beginning to end. We had Herbal Iced Tea, Salted Caramel Nuts, French Green Bean Salad with Warm Goat Cheese, and Chocolate English Crisps. I truly felt like a Barefoot Contessa

here’s the pile of cut greens waiting to be put in nine urns for outside decorations, gotta trust the process

The carrot bread recipe comes from one of my other inspirations, Martha of course. She’s an entirely different story, last night I was reading her blog, The Official Martha Blog, about her most recent dinner party in her brown room, she brought in chef’s, (plural!), and they had individual tangines. Her gardening escapades involve an entire staff, and they dig up and propagate and store Dahlia tubers and things, wow, #gardendreams. We can all aspire to entertain with ease; I think the key is to slow down and trust the process. Bite off what we can chew, do things slow and with intention, and for me, do things early. At fifty-four I’m finally learning that flying by the seat of my pants is not a good look, wink wink.

trying desperately to do the work early and not always fly by the seat of my pants

keep it simple

now here is a look I can get behind: single stem, single color. This photo was taken by son Maxwell in a fancy restaurant. The vibe felt approachable, doable

Yesterday afternoon I sat on the couch and read the November issue of a high-end interior design magazine and got promptly overwhelmed. I should have been doing any number of other things besides sitting on the couch yet I was feeling overwhelmed in general and it was Monday so I thought I would take a little rest. Not a good idea.

I think some of the ‘overwhelmed’ feeling was coming from the impending end of October and then the impending beginning of November. Yes, that most wonderful time of the year. 

So, I took a very long walk with my two unmanageable dogs and had a good talk with myself. We’ve done this before, (now like 33 times at least), and we will do it again. Keep it simple I tell myself. 

I know that this simple here might be different simple for others, and that’s okay. For me it’s about doing things myself and being hands on. Hands on the food, hands on the flowers, hands in the garden. It’s never quite like the magazine yet I give it a good go. 

my weekend activities with husband and dog

This past weekend while out in the country I wrestled with the annuals, I’m actually overwintering all of our geraniums, and I think I’m getting better at it, and it’s actually very satisfying. Those overwintered geraniums come back even better the next season out. 

this is what my kitchen really looks like…
grocery store roses, all kind of one color
this is what I do, all white

I’ve yet to branch out with multiple color schemes, it’s always red geraniums or a whole little vessel of lavender or big bunch of white roses, or a whole lot of one thing all in one color or texture, I can’t seem to manage a mix. 

cut the lavender from the garden and stuck it in water glasses
we had fun at that table and then I packed up that lavender and we moved houses
you can’t really see it yet it’s the same weeks old lavender down the center of the table in the second rental house

While in France during the month of June I cut fresh lavender from the garden, placed it in five water glasses here and there down the table, and then took all of that lavender with me when we moved to a new spot. Husband thought I was crazy, all of that lavender wrapped in paper towels while moving from one rental house to another. It wasn’t fancy yet it really looked quite amazing, and it was honestly very simple. 

here I cut white garden roses and stuck them in wine empty wine bottles, of which we had plenty 🙂
I could only find these tiny lights, no glass holder, simply wax on the linen
husband checking me out, oops, didn’t iron the linen, don’t really care

If you too might be feeling a sense of unease, of all that’s expected, I say take a big armful of whatever is in season and fresh around you and lay it all down. Lay it on the table, fill an odd number of water glasses, simply make it simple. High-end interior design magazines, oh you’re good, yet you make me feel like I might not ever get there, (The 101 best gifts list with items starting in the upper thousands really didn’t feel right). It’s just me here, and the humans I hold close. November and December, we’re looking at you, and yes, time to move off that couch. Let’s try and keep it simple. 

gotta love a wall of red hanging geraniums