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Please Join Me with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

A Connecticut Christmas

 

There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow… I couldn’t bring you all to my neighborhood holiday fete, so I decided to bring the party to you.  Welcome to my house, and let’s share a Connecticut Christmas together!

 

 

Come in, and let me take your coats. It’s warm inside–my husband, Frank, made a fire, and my father, Bob, is standing by at the bar. We have champagne to start the evening. This is a celebration!

 

 

Make yourselves at home. I love Christmas pillows, don’t you? I had these custom made for a home on Nantucket, and I look forward to getting them out every year. Reminding myself to be M-E-R-R-Y is a very special part of my holiday traditions!

 

 

One of my favorite things about decorating for the holidays is adding splashes of Christmas crimson and red throughout the house. Ten months of the year, I opt for soothing neutrals: the white of sandy beaches, the soft beige of driftwood, the soothing blues of the ocean. But once November arrives, I bring out the red ribbon and of course, the red and green stockings.

 

 

I love the warmth of a red tablecloth, too.

 

 

I hope you’re hungry! We’re serving shrimp with cocktail sauce,

 

 

brie en brioche, assorted mini quiche, pigs in a blanket (everyone’s favorite!), pumpernickel with crudites and dip,

 

 

mini lobster rolls, and mini crab rolls with lemon dill aioli. Yum. (The toothpicks are homemade!)

 

 

Dessert is special Christmas cupcakes,

 

 

and white Bichon puppy cupcakes–they look just like our two little Bichons, G.G. and Tuffy.

 

 

And of course, Christmas cookies!

 

 

Don’t forget the chocolates…a nod to Nantucket with chocolate whale truffles from Sweet Inspirations on the island. Better take one now–they go fast!

 

 

I love the old-fashioned Christmas touches

 

 

With children’s toys to evoke the true joy of giving

 

 

And a little Russian flavor for my dad…

 

 

There’s plenty of time for relaxing by the fire

 

 

before it’s time to say goodbye.

 

 

The next morning, we’ll all wake to a snowy winter wonderland!

 

 

and I’ll enjoy a morning cuddle with my two tired little helpers, G.G. and Tuffy.

 

Have a happy, healthy holiday season! 

Gently green conversations with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

Welcoming Your Guests with Style: Part Two

 

How do you share the spirit of the holidays? The holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until after New Year’s–officially on Twelfth Night, which is January 5th–has grown to include Christmas, Chanukah, and other winter celebrations as well. It’s a challenge to balance merriment with the solace of quiet evenings at home, but your approach to decorating your home can help you and your guests celebrate in style!

 

 

From fragrant evergreens that symbolize eternal life to wreaths that remind us of the circular nature of the seasons, it’s time to surround ourselves with holly berries, mistletoe and sparkling lights. It’s hard not to feel uplifted when everywhere you turn are beautiful floral centerpieces, pinecones and ribbons!

 

 

To help with fresh ideas for decking the halls in truly elegant fashion, my friend Adam Manjuck returns for Part Two of Welcoming Your Guests with Style. Adam is the owner of Flowers and Flowers, a floral boutique located in the very quaint town of Darien, Connecticut. His years of experience in making the most beautiful floral creations are why I turned to him for advice on the most decorated time of the year! (If you’d like to read more of my holiday tips with Adam, see Welcoming Your Guests With Style Part One.)

 

 

Whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, or whatever the winter season means to you, traditional doesn’t have to mean old-fashioned. There are many ways to create striking tableaus. Your garlands, wreaths, and swags should always match the feeling of your home. For that reason, Adam likes to use vintage pieces from your home as a base for flowers and foliage. “They fit your decor beautifully,” he says. “And they’re part of the sentiment we feel at the holidays.”

 

 

 

There are so many flowers to choose from, says Adam, who gets deliveries fresh from Holland three times a week. He may use olive branches, Japanese maple branches, or astilbe to give an arrangement an unusual focal point.  But some of his favorites at the holidays are red Peonies and red Amaryllis–very Christmassy but a little unexpected.

 

 

“Potted plants make a beautiful statement, too,” he says. “The more, the better. When you mass them it’s like sitting under a tree canopy. Adding lots of candles makes it magical.”

 

 

About those candles: “You need a warm glow,” Adam says. “I love using mercury glass or bronze tones for votives or candle holders. Don’t be afraid to get eclectic–mix and match!”

 

 

Adam always considers the style of the home when making recommendations. “For a beachy Christmas, I love boxwood or magnolia leaves. I keep it very clean with one kind of foliage for the garlands. For a historic or Colonial Christmas, it’s more natural: pheasant feathers, magnolia leaves, lots of fruit.”

 

 

Asked if he has a favorite Christmas evergreen, Adam immediately points to the German boxwood. “It stays fresher than pine, and doesn’t dry out as quickly.” Of course, he makes his garlands extra thick so if they dry out a little over a month-long season, they don’t lose their lush appearance. Golden Cedar branches can add natural light and brilliance.

 

Here are Adam’s Seven Ways to Transform Your Holidays: one to try each day for a week!

1. Always change your ribbon.

 

 

Your ornaments are an investment, says Adam, and they may have a lot of memories attached. He recommends using the same ornaments year after year for the wonderful feeling of tradition we love, but freshening the look with new ribbon. His shop stocks many different styles and colors, giving him ample choices to match any decor.

 

 

2. Let go of what you loved last year.

 

 

That includes the dried arrangement you tried to save in tissue paper. Adam says he understands. “Some things are so beautiful it’s hard to let go of them,” he agrees. But in the next breath he insists there is a time for everything, and a time to get rid of what was beautiful–last year.

 

 

3. Never leave an outdoor container empty.

 

 

 

The photo above is my door-side containers after Adam worked his magic.  Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, your outdoor containers can be filled with welcoming color and textures. He loves Red Twig Dogwood, or birches with peeling bark. He recommends keeping it natural and organic through the winter.  But “two empty urns are just depressing,” Adam says.

 

 

4. The holidays should have a scent.

 

 

The beauty of your home’s decor should be matched by a tantalizing hint of fragrance in the air: white pine and paperwhites, for instance, or cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. If some people in your gathering have allergies or asthma, be kind and burn only unscented soy candles made with organic wicks. Natural scents are always better than anything from a bottle or a can.

 

 

5. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little bit.

 

 

Go ahead and try something new that truly expresses your personality! Be bold–have you ever thought of using black, red, and gold? Or mint green?  You’re not married to it. It goes away in 30 days.

 

 

 6. White lights add the sparkle.

 

 

“I love white lights,” Adam says. “If the kids really want colored lights, then do two trees: a family version and and then the beautiful all white lights in the living room.” Twinkling white lights add the magic.

 

 

7. Keep it natural.

 

 

As much as possible–unless you’re allergic–never resort to fake evergreens. “You don’t get the smell and you don’t get the look,” Adam warns. The tradition of hanging evergreens has always been to emphasize life in the long, cold months of winter. “If you’re allergic, use magnolia leaves all over the house instead of evergreens.”

 

 

Whether your Christmas is over-the-top, crammed with every one of your treasures, or marked by a stately display set apart to be admired, or something in between, don’t forget the single best way to approach your holidays: counting all your blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Love with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

All My Children

 

Every year at this time, I share the story of a special charity that I support. Someone once said that “Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts,” and I believe that’s true. It’s important to me to make the holiday season about how we can help one another in a dark and cold time of year.

 

 

This year, I’d like to tell you about my children. I am blessed with a family of stepchildren and grandchildren, all of whom I love dearly, but there is another family I hold in my heart. I have supported ChildFund International for years, and am now on my fourth sponsored child: a boy, Nikhil, in India. He has the same birthday as my stepson, Nick, September 10–that feels right to me. A connection from his family in India to my family here.

 

 

Here’s how it works: you select a child to sponsor on the ChildFund website, and they connect you with pictures of your child, and news of their progress. You learn about the geography of their country, the community structure and their social beliefs. You can write letters to your child, and they will write to you. Beyond material assistance, a bond is formed with a little person in need.

 

 

When my last sponsored child turned 19, finished school, and began working with his uncle, I was asked to take on a special case. This family was so poor that they couldn’t afford the father’s diabetes medication. He was unable to work, so the family had no income at all. The first photos of Nikhil broke my heart.

 

 

He was so thin, and shy, and fearful. All big eyes, looking frightened. Just a few years later, the letters, report cards, drawings, and photos show so much improvement! He stands tall and happy–even smiling! Nikhil and I correspond and I send photos of my family. His social worker sends me photos of the supplies he purchases for himself and his family with our birthday and holiday gifts. He’s so thoughtful–always a sari for Mom and work pants for Dad, and chocolates to share with his friends.

 

 

It’s been years now, and Nikhil is growing up, too. I’m always sad when I have to let them move on, but there’s always a new life to work with.

 

 

I usually sponsor a child from age 5 or so to 18 or 19. Chandra was my first, and Nikhil won’t be my last. They are all emblazoned in my memory.

 

 

“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”–W.T. Ellis

 

Watch a short video about ChildFund here.