Monday, December 3, 2018

Around the Kitchen Table: Decorating for the Holidays + #Giveaway

SHEILA: We've made it through Halloween and Thanksgiving, and now it's time to track down all the holiday decorations and put them up. Assuming that you can find wherever you squirreled them away last year, and they haven't gotten crushed under all the other boxes in the attic. Or you've already decided to take a lovely vacation on a beach somewhere and forget about dressing up your home.

Why do we decorate in December? Because it's the darkest time of the year, which explains why so many decorative schemes feature lights. The tradition goes back to prehistoric times--check out the stone circles in Europe, which are aligned with the winter solstice. Various religions later adopted the existing tradition.

There seems to be an incredible range of choices for decorating. What's your favorite? Do you have ornaments inherited from generations of family? Did you succumb to the one-color scheme whose popularity comes and goes or are your ornaments a hodgepodge of colors, shapes and sizes? How many strings of lights do you use? Do you have to use everything you have, in honor of all the ancestors who collected and carefully saved them? Do you have a cat that thinks your ornaments are a special toy and insists on batting them to the floor and chasing them around the house?

I do have a few favorites, including sequined balls that my grandmother bought at a high-end florist in Manhattan, that date from the 1950s. But I'm also fond of the plastic Joe Montana that my sister sent me one year. Think there's a Tom Brady version?


LESLIE: I admire people who can manage a decorating theme -- nothing but snowmen, or tasteful combinations of gold and dark red, or maybe silver and a crystalline blue. I am not such a person. But instead of "hodge-podge," I'll call my Christmas decorating style "classic, with a touch of whimsy." Meaning "anything I like," from a snowman candle to the Putz houses my parents bought in the '50s to red tapers in my collection of glass candle holders. And I'll tie a ribbon on almost anything that doesn't move, like my late mother-in-law's pig weather vane.

But since this is the first Christmas since my own mother's death, I'm planning a second, small tree in the library window decorated with angels, most from her own collection, with a gold ribbon woven in. It better turn out well, because I'm pretty sure she'd have something to say if it didn't!


DARYL: I have had the same ornaments for the past few years. For a long time, whenever I run across a Christmas store and my husband and son were with me, they'd look at each other and said, "Uh-oh." Meaning mom had to go in. I've collected nutcrackers, stuffed snowmen, a few Santas, and some whimsical David Frye artwork. I love putting it all out because there are memories attached to each collectible. But it's time for me to purchase a smaller tree. I can't talk myself into the fake kind yet, so I have to "carry" whatever tree I buy into the house by myself. A little smaller is better. How I love the scent of pine!

LUCY: Since we are in Key West in a condo for Christmas these days, we don't do a live Christmas tree--they have to travel too far and get dried out too fast. We put lights on our Norfolk pine and out on the deck, and we love taking the trolley tour through town to see the decorating contest. Key West residents take this very seriously. I do miss New England at Christmas time but I love lights on palm trees too--so pretty!

LINDA: My mom loved to crochet. And knit, embroider and she even got into rug hooking at a later age. I have inherited none of the patience or talent needed for such things. But what I do have is a collection of awesome stars that she crocheted and they have pride of place on my tree. The other item that makes her memory to dear is the tree skirt she hooked so many years ago. I also have her bells and birds, circa 1950's, all of which I treasure.

PEG: I don't have a theme for my Christmas tree decorating unless it's called "memories." My husband and I collected ornaments (or things that could be turned into ornaments) on our travels so we have a boat from Portugal, a weather vane from Cape Cod, a steel drum from St. Thomas, and many more. I also still have the "first Christmas" ornaments for each of my girls and the two silver ornaments we bought from Tiffany the first two years we were married. And, of course, the pine cones covered with glitter that the girls made in school.

As for the rest of the house, I love wreaths! I have them hanging in the three sections of the kitchen bay window, on the French doors to my office, the door to the coat closet...really anywhere I can manage to hang one! Some are plain and some have big bows. They're the first decorations I put up during the season.

DENISE: We do two versions of holiday decorating. The years we host the family Christmas party we put up all the decorations we own--a traditional tree, a feather tree, candles in all the windows, greens on the mantle, figurines, wreaths, pictures. You name it we put it up. The two off years we do what we call Christmas lite--one tree, the mantle, and the outside stuff.


KRISTA: I'm afraid I'm of the school that believes there's no such thing as too much Christmas or too many lights! My father hated to cut down pines, so after several miserable attempts at live trees with roots, I grew up with artificial trees. I will admit that I love the ones with the lights built into them. To compensate for the missing pine scent, I gather live pine scraps and use them in decorations around the house.

Leslie, I love your angel tree! While I often put up two trees, this year we just have one big one with ornaments from my childhood through now. I have to admit that a few years ago I decided I had gone into Christmas overload, and I have quit buying new Christmas decorations unless it's replacing something that's a goner.

A few years back, our electric company decided to raise rates. I'm sure they must have told someone but it wasn't the customers. The new and higher bills arrived at the beginning of January. All the neighbors were calling around to find out why the bills were so high. And I mean $1000 for a month! No kidding. Ultimately they had to reduce our rates and give us a break for a few months. But I was determined not to be caught in that mess again. Ever. I gave away all my outdoor decorations and bought battery-operated decorations. My favorites are the six three-foot tall-trees with lights that go across my back terrace. They're just so cheerful in the early darkness of winter nights.

CLEO: The most unique thing my husband and I do is collect little Christmas village buildings. The mini village thing is something we both threw ourselves into as kids, you know, model train stuff and the like. As a married couple, Marc and I buy one building every year, and we try to make each one memorable for our writing life. Here are a few fun examples...

The little "Cooking School" (below on the right) reminded us of our amateur sleuth's daughter and her years in a New York culinary school (French Pressed). The little "Jazz Cafe" building (below on the left) came out the same year we wrote about a relaxed jazz supper club opening on the second floor of our fictional coffeehouse (Dead to the Last Drop).

Click the photo to enlarge.

Click the photo to enlarge.
One year, we even found this tiny coffee truck, which reminded us of the coffee truck we featured in our Coffeehouse Mysteries A Brew to a Kill and Once Upon a Grind.

Every year, we also have a little Christmas tree, and a creche that I saved from my childhood home, along with three little angels that I cherish, given to me by my dad before he died. The value of decorations is always relative, isn't it? The meaning and the memories are what make them treasures to us. Happy Holidays, everyone!


Here's what's inside...

* Daryl Wood Gerber's new Christmas-themed 

* Leslie Budewitz's latest Food Lovers' Village Mystery,

Krista Davis' second Pen & Ink Mystery, 
THE COLORING CROOK. Read the mystery. Color the cover! 

* Cleo Coyle's new Haunted Bookshop Mystery,

* An Advance Reader's Edition of Sheila Connolly's 
seventh County Cork Mystery, THE LOST TRAVELLER
which will be released in January.

* Linda Wiken aka Erika Chase's Christmas-themed
Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery, READ AND BURIED



Join our Kitchen Table chat: 
Leave a comment below.

How do you decorate 
for the holidays? 

Be sure to leave an email address so we can contact you
if you win the drawing.  Good luck and happy holidays!


  1. We do everything - the tree, outside decoration we have lit nutcrackers. Inside I do the garland on the staircase with big bows. We have lots of cookies for snacking. Last year I found a set of small white feather trees that I set up and put white lights around.

  2. I have been using an artificial tree for about 10 years now. I do miss the pine tree, it just seems so much more Christmassy! There are two things that are a must when I do Christmas decorating: the very top light on the tree must be yellow and all of the Santa Mouse ornaments must be on the tree. Each year, this year being 20 years, Santa Mouse leaves a new mouse ornament hidden in the tree. It is wrapped in tissue paper, tied with yellow string. This was started when I read my then baby girl the Santa Mouse books.
    Thank you so very much for the generous book giveaway. What a wonderful Christmas present that would be!

    1. Oh, Santa Mouse! So cute. We have one, from an ornament exchange a million years ago, and it may be Mr. Right's favorite ornament!

  3. I don't have a theme, unless the theme is "past kids decorations and buy what I like!" The kids help decorate the tree and it is loaded with things they have made and I love it!
    clarskrfun at gmail dot com

  4. As I live in a small home, I mostly do outdoor lights & decorations. But each year I do put up two Christmas trees inside. One is a small tabletop one that my Dad & I used for years as decoration. The other is a lighted wall hanging that my mom bought for me years ago.

  5. Since my kids are so young right now we don't decorate as much as we will in the future. Right now we only decorate the tree with all of our unbreakable ornaments since my son likes to rearrange them. He thinks all of the round ornaments are baseball's. I decorate inside with just christmas themes kitchen items and our stockings. Outside of course is another story. Lights everywhere!

    1. Christmas is so magical when you have young children!

  6. I’m at my daughter’s this year helping out with a new baby. I’m missing putting up all my usual decorations. I told my husband that he had to get out the Christmas plaid tablecloth at least. Have fun with your decorating while I snuggle baby girl.

  7. We don’t bother decorating for the two of us.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

  8. I don't decorate much I live in a very small lie income apt. Can't have Christmas at my place I celebrate out with family. I used to decorate a lot before I list my house.

    1. Even a few decorations brighten things up, don't they. I'm glad you're able to celebrate out with family.

  9. Forgot to put my email address is see above for comment. Thanks.

  10. We fill our living room with all our decorations but just put a wreath outside because it's gotten too dangerous for hubby to get up on ladders to string lights. We have an artificial tree that is beautiful. Nothing matches. It's just things we've been given and things we like. Lots of memories of family and friends in each decoration. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

  11. I don’t decorate since I go to my brothers for Christmas. I do have lighted deer outside.

  12. We put the tree up this past weekend and my village. Decorated with a few candles and table runners and Christmas things around the house, but really don't bring out a lot, I tend to really overdo it, so met my husband in the middle this year and scaled back a little.

    1. I have a village, too--not enormous--but I no longer have a spot for it. I'm urging my daughter to take it to her house and continue the tradition.

  13. My husband and I put up a tree and decorate it. We have been collecting ornaments from places that we go on vacation, but recently we decided to get smaller trees, so that means less ornaments. Thank you for the wonderful giveaway, and Merry Christmas! aut1063(at)gmail(dot)com

  14. Our decorations are not themed. And usually are an amalgamation of Christmas decorations collected over the years or inherited. On a few years where we were too busy and tired to search and unpack these things, we made do with pine cones (lightly sprayed with gold paint-son had spray paint for an art project), clove studded mandarins, red ribbon and gold ribbon. We decorated the tree with the items. It worked great and then we didn't have to worry about packing and unpacking everything. We had a couple of holly trees in the garden so brought in some of the greenery for placing with candles to decorate the mantel and side tables.
    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

  15. We have the menorah lit every night of Chanukah and when the little ones come over I have the table set with blue and silver dreidels, gelt and decorated cookies in the shape of dreidels and stars. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Menorahs are so beautiful, aren't they? And I love that silver and blue combination -- reminiscent of the starlight against the deep blue sky, or bright sunlight reflecting on winter snow. Happy Hannukah!

  16. We keep it simple with greenery decorations which brighten up the inside main living area. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  17. I used to decorate anything that didn't move as well as put up my Village. Now, I put up my tree, my Village, and my snowman collection. Every year I scale back just a little.

  18. I have a lot of Hallmark ornaments purchased through the years especially when I worked for them and had my discount. I have some of the old Shiny Brute ones from my parents. Those don't make it to the tree because of our thieving kitty. P.S. Hallmark did have a Tom Brady ornament in the past.

    1. Janet, thieving kitties can be annoying. LOL ~ Daryl

  19. I put lights outside on our first and second floor balconies and a wreath on the door. Inside I've done less and less each year. We haven't had a full size tree in years, but this year I think we'll get the one out of storage that we bought for my husband's parents a few years ago. As for ornaments I used to buy one or two each year but quit doing that too. We've got old ones from way back, ones purchased for our son as a child, ones given to us, travel souvenirs, even plastic black cats from wine bottles!