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Elegant Holiday Inspiration

elegant holiday decor
I have the extreme good fortune to have some really remarkably talented friends
who inspire me on a regular basis...
one of them, Miss Sylvia, is a stylist and decorator extraordinaire.
She owns Madam Palooza Emporium
a vintage prop rental house and styling company in Southern California.

The weddings and event settings that she creates are so intricate and detailed, 
so personalized and delightful, that they appear in magazines every month!
(she's currently featured in the newly-revived Flea Market Style Magazine
which is run by two MORE of my incredible friends!!!)

Sylvia called me up last week and asked me to help her 
to create some simple but inspiring holiday decor in her studio/showroom,
as it was to be the setting for an event industry holiday party.
Of course I said yes! We've worked together before, and it's always fun!

After a few hours of scavenging free tree branches from local Christmas tree lots
and eucalyptus foliage from abandoned parking lots
we embarked on a blitz to bring a fresh, welcoming holiday vibe to the room...
and after a 12-hour marathon workday, we achieved our goal!

Her studio/showroom is filled with vignettes of vintage props,
arranged to show prospective clients the many inspiring ways they can be paired, mixed, and used
to bring a very special touch to any event...
We just added a few simple 'holiday' details, like fresh greens and a few ornaments,
 to the setups that already existed:

holiday decorholiday decor 
holiday decorholiday decor
holiday decor
holiday decorelegant holiday decor

It doesn't take a LOT of STUFF to get a holiday mood...
Add some fragrant and beautiful greens to your existing decor
and you'll end up with a subtly elegant setting for the season.

I hope you enjoy these photos and inspiring ideas,
and if you're in the market for renting vintage items for an event or photo shoot
in Southern California - especially in Temecula Wine Country -
make sure you contact Sylvia at Madam Palooza Emporium!
(she's on FB and IG, too!)


Easy Christmas Wreath Makeover!

christmas decor
Welcoming people to our homes is important every day - especially during the Holiday season.
A wreath for the door or front porch 
is something that we almost all include in our decor... 

Like you, I gaze longingly at the beautiful wreaths and garlands 
displayed at elegant home decor shops and garden centers
And THEN I look at the price tags...
not happenin', folks!!

Fortunately, those inspiring creations can lead the way to making what we already have BETTER!
I'm always up for taking something old and making it look new
(okay, well, not always - sometimes I take new things and make them look old!)
...and the wreath that my Mom has been using for about 20 years now was due for an update.

Here's how easy it was:
before                                          during                                      after 

Because we've moved to a new home, the color scheme has changed - 
both inside and out.
Fortunately, I had some elegant faux florals on hand 
that I had bought at the Disney Cast Member outlet store two years ago, 
and they worked PERFECTLY for our Holiday decor this year!

I bough a few new floral picks at Walmart, and ribbon at Big Lots that coordinated,
and quite simply shoved them all into the greens.
(That's my technical process, gang - 'shoving')

There were three groups of pinecones already on the wreath, 
so I placed the dark bronze sparkly poinsettias in between them for balance,
then added the gold poinsettias next to the pinecones.
The new picks with glittered burlap leaves and pinecones went in at 3 evenly-spaced spots
(though once I hung it up, I added 3 more!)
then I put the ribbon on.

Just before hanging it up, I added white mini lights on the back - 
I just flipped the wreath over and attached them to the wire frame, 
pushing the lights into the greenery.

christmas wreath decorating
You can see how the colors in the wreath coordinate with the exterior color scheme...
our house is Craftsman style, very much like the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland ;) 

Once it was hanging on the wall of our porch,
I added a pick of long copper threads to help disguise the light cord.
It's not perfect, but it works!

The entry porch is funky.... it's not across the front of the house,
it runs BACK to the door from the front - a 'portico' if you will - 
and it's dark and hard to decorate. 
We chose to put a long bench on one side (chairs won't fit )
and then decorate the wall above the bench each season.
With the wreath, a new 'old' sign I just painted, and a few wrapped boxes,
it's looking like a joyful welcome for our guests this season:
christmas wreath old sign porch decor
 With a glimpse through the door of the tree in the entry, it's a warm 'hello'...
 The packages are just empty boxes -
and they remind me a LOT of my vintage style gift wrapping in this post.
The flowers made from vintage papers and costume jewelry
are a big part of this year's theme, too... more to come on that!

The sign is just a piece of plywood I had that I handpainted at the last minute,
then added a bit of glitter to for good measure:
Ready to refresh YOUR Christmas wreath?
Head to the Dollar Tree, Big Lots, Walmart
and your local thrift stores to find CHEAP greens and florals!

(non-compensated links)


My BEST Christmas Tree Lighting Tip!

When it comes to lighting the Christmas tree at home, I'm a purist...
I like white lights: Mini, C7, C9, bubble, whatever kind I use, they are white.
Maybe you like multicolor - or ONE color! Whatever your preference is, 
I have a tip for you when it comes to lighting the tree
(and how many of you are tackling THAT job this weekend?!)
that is guaranteed to up the sparkle factor!

All you need for this is one EXTRA strand of mini lights to match the color of lights on your tree.
You're going to take that one strand - if it's long, double it over like I did in the photos here - 
and run it up the front of the trunk of the tree.
If your tree can be viewed from multiple sides, run THREE strands up three sides of the trunk instead.
Start at the bottom, and work the strand of lights between the inner branches as far up as you can... you don't have to go all the way to the top, 
since the lights on the branches sit closer together there.

PS: make SURE that the plug is on the end closest to the floor!

Attach the top of the strand to the trunk with a zip tie or wire, to hold it in place.
Because it runs right up the trunk, 
you can add this strand of lights before or after you light the rest of the tree.

And once you plug it in...
...the extra lights glow deep INSIDE the tree branches, 
getting rid of dark shadows and 'holes'!
Once you hang your ornaments on it, the extra light will make them sparkle and shine
even more than they usually do!

I've used this simple trick for over 20 years on trees that I have decorated 
in retail stores & windows, in wineries, and in executive residences... 
and everyone comments on how bright they are!

I'll be spending my Thanksgiving weekend decorating our trees and the house,
though when I look at this photo of the big new tree in the living room, 
I'm not sure it even needs anything but the lights.....



Which Wine???

Years ago, I had the pleasure of working in the wine industry in the Pacific Northwest, 
where I learned more than I ever thought possible about the fruit of the vine....
Still, when I am stymied on a food and wine pairing,
I call on one of my friends to help me out with advice I can trust:
Scott Carlson is an experienced, knowledgeable wine & beer specialist for BevMo Stores
and he's been sharing some great information about wine pairings for years.

  I've rounded up some of Scott's best points on the subject
of pairing wines with Thanksgiving Dinner,
and added in a few of my own comments and recommendations
to help you select several wines for your upcoming holiday meal... enjoy!
Most people pair white wines with turkey and ham, and Gewurztraminers (pronounced Geh-VURT-strah-meener) and many Rieslings (REEESE-ling, not RYZE-ling) are a great match for these Holiday foods...these varietals are light, off dry, and their sharp, acidic fruitiness stands up well to almost any dish you serve. Chateau Ste. Michelle, the winery where I worked, has the most popular Riesling in America - and their Gevurtz is quite nice, as well! Chardonnays are a favorite, as well, due to their buttery, toasty flavors and dry finish - no sweetness here.
If its bubbles you like, sparkling wine (made using the 'methode champenoise', or French method) and Champagne (from the Champagne region of France) will bring a sense of true celebration to your table - just remember: Brut is dry...Extra Dry is sweeter...I know, it sounds funny...but trust me! Pour the Brut with dinner, and save the Extra Dry for your pumpkin pie. Or go one better, and imbibe dessert with the delicate flavors of almond sparkling from Wilson Creek Winery! (made in my area - Temecula, CA).

Of course, you could do something different and look for a nice sparkling red to add excitement to your table! One I've tried and love is the berry-color Stella Black from San Antonio Winery (it's in Los Angeles, not Texas). It's a bit sweet for the main meal, but with fruit pies it becomes the perfect dessert wine.
When it comes to pairing red wines with light meats, Pinot Noir and Zinfandels are jammy and berry-flavored so they pick up on the cranberry flavors, but lets not forget Syrah and Petite Syrah which have been gaining so much ground in the last few years.... these have velvety berry and stone fruit flavors, for those who prefer a richer wine experience.

There's another red that you may not know about....
Beaujolais Nouveau – that much-ballyhooed cherry-red colored French vintage that’s best served chilled -- is clearly not for wine snobs. This fresh and fruity red is the result of a quick fermentation process that ends up with a tasty, clean wine that is enjoyed by palates the world over, mostly within weeks of it's fermentation and release. There's no aging of this wine, so it lacks the depth of other red varietals - but the lush fruit flavor is delightful!
The Gamay grapes that go into Beaujolais Nouveau are handpicked in the Beaujolais province of France. The wine actually originated about a century ago as a cheap and cheerful drink produced by locals to celebrate the end of the harvest season. Its a light, fresh and somewhat fruity red that is meant to be shared with friends and family. Though not a serious wine, it is fun and it does mark the start of the Holiday season.....the last couple of years it has been quite outstanding. I always look forward to each year's artful bottle labels, which have become a part of the fun of this annual release. Georges Duboeuf is my fave!

One last note:
I'm pretty particular about the temperature of wine, and there's a bit of misunderstanding about reds: they aren't supposed to be served 'at room temperature', which is generally somewhere around 68-70 degrees for human comfort. Nope. They're best served at 'cellar temperature', like the environment they are stored and aged in at wineries, which is closer to 55-60 degrees. Pop a bottle of red into the fridge for an hour before serving it, and it will be chilled enough to bring out the fruit flavors, which will balance the acids & tannins.
I hope this 'wine education' enhances your enjoyment of this beautiful beverage, 
and that your Holiday meals will be celebrated with joy, gratitude, and love.

oh, and if you're looking for an 'adult' version of an advent calendar, here ya' go:

this is brilliant!

Want your OWN 'wine wizard'? Head to your local wine shop and ask them questions!
Scott says they'll have great info on your local vineyards & wines.

(and if you want Scott, he's at the Mira Loma, California BevMo store ;) ) 

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