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Gently green conversations with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

My Ode to New England

After touring Florida and the Carolinas a lot in the last few years, and trying to decide where to live ~ and our tax advisor letting the tax tail wag the dog, so to speak (as many of you know I was born in South Carolina and have family there) ~ we finally realized how much we love New England! It’s home.

Snow and ice welcome us home!

We love the change of seasons, and snow is a celebration of nature for us. So no one is complaining here! We’ve made our choice. We love all the changes and the beauty. One day when it was sunny with brilliantly clear, blue skies, and 63 degrees, I picked a snowdrop flower and brought it inside for my 93 year old dad. What a smile!

First snowdrops of the season!

For us, there is nothing like curling up next to the fireplace with a great book and watching the snow outside with our three little pooches. All cozy and protected.

Here I am with Frank, G.G., Tuffy, and Ellie

Our “green” home in East Norwalk was renovated by us with all non-toxic building materials and finishes ~ it took two years. The property hasn’t had a chemical or pesticide on it for over 22 years. That’s hard to replicate.

My Connecticut Home in Winter

Talk about stimulation! We’re only a one hour drive to Manhattan with all the culture, plays, some of the finest medical care in the country (we also like Cleveland Clinic), and incredible museums, not to mention the cuisine. Frank loves Arthur Avenue!

A New York City bakery!

This all feeds my soul, but we can retreat to Connecticut for peace and quiet and cleaner air.

My Connecticut Home in Summer

A winter vacation to a warm climate is always a treat, but we usually end up staying close to home with so much design work to do before getting our clients ready for their summer homes on Nantucket.

A window seat I created for a client to frame her view

Spring will be our next magical treat. The daffodils and croci are already pushing their way through the earth. God’s work. Renewal. I know it’s not for everyone, but New England is home for us. We’re grateful for all the beauty and excitement of nature–all 12 months of it.

A single crocus

Soon we’ll be back on Nantucket for the summer. Cooler temperatures and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We are only a block away from Madaket Harbor where Frank keeps his boat for fishing, clamming, and just plain being lazy.

Island evening

Plus, we have the Nantucket Whaling Museum (rated one of the top ten museums in the country), and all of the history of the island. I work on a committee for the Nantucket Historical Association and help with their fundraisers and often do design displays for them.

 

It’s a full life for a transplant from South Carolina. Did I ever tell you how one Fourth of July, I had to be medi-vacced off the island in a helicopter to Mass General for a gastric hemorrhage? Now that was a trip! All was fine in the end but I was there for two weeks. That’s part of the reason I don’t want to live on Nantucket full time, although we have so many wonderful friends there. Plus, I would miss Connecticut and New York City. Right now it seems as though we have the best of both worlds ~ for us, anyway.

Nantucket Harbor

Stay cool or warm, whichever you need right now. God bless you all!

My porch in Madaket on Nantucket

A Decade of Christmas Trees

 

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The Holiday 2016 issue of Review Nantucket includes a retrospective of a decade of Christmas decorations I’ve created for clients, showhouses, and the Nantucket Whaling Museum’s Festival of Trees. It was wonderful to look back on a body of work that was a joy to create, but truly ephemeral. I’m so glad to have captured the beauty of these holiday tableaus with photography. They inspire me again when I see them–I hope they bring you fresh inspiration, too!

 

review-christmas

 

There’s something so touching about Christmas trees. It’s not just the beauty of the lights and the ornaments. It’s the tradition of creating a magical display that stands for something bigger than ourselves: a renewal of light and love, and the memories of all the Christmases we’ve celebrated through the years.

 

christmas-music-room

 

For many years, my Senior Designer Price Connors and I have created a new theme for a Christmas tree at the Festival of Trees. Once we decide on an idea, we adorn a tree in a completely original style–we never repeat a design! One year, our inspiration was Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of Starry Night, so everything sparkled with stars.

 

christmas-starry-night

We recreated his night sky by draping a table in deep blue fabric, using wide gauzy star ribbon as table runners, with tiny silver stars sprinkled on the tabletop. We added glittering star boxes tied with bows, and even a dish filled with blue and silver star candies.

 

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I believe in expressing the spirit of Christmas differently each year. As important as tradition is, it’s also wonderful to let our celebrations evolve. It’s easy to fall back on decorating the same way every year, placing the same Santa’s on the mantel. But it’s also fun to create a fresh new look.

 

christmas-snow-maiden

 

One of my favorite tableaus for the Whaling Museum was the Legend of the Snow Maiden, a Russian fairy tale brought to life with the maiden silhouetted in a white cathedral between two glittering trees hung with icicles. That one was especially meaningful to me and to my father, because we are of Russian heritage.

 

christmas-russian-cathedral

 

Winter seems to awaken my imagination. As snow begins to fall, my thoughts to turn to twinkling lights, the sparkle of crystal in candlelight, roses and ribbons, and cherished china. One traditional decoration I love is the gingerbread house, which has appeared in my decorations as historic houses on Nantucket, and my own home. The most elaborate creation was made to my specifications by Colette’s Cakes in New York–a reproduction of the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow!

 

christmas-russian-tree

 

The tree that accompanied it was entitled A Russian Christmas Fantasy. The tree was a splendor in red and gold, with red glass balls, golden ribbons and over 50 handmade Russian ornaments. There were Russian Cossacks, snowflakes, Faberge eggs and matryoshka dolls (the traditional nesting dolls), all delicately hand painted in festive fashion.

 

christmas-cookie-stockings

 

The real blessings and bounty of the season, though, are found in family and friends. I love simple stockings hanging by the fireplace. For our family gatherings, we encourage each other to give generously to charities, saving the gaily wrapped packages for the children, Vidal and Baby Richard. I find Christmas everywhere I look in December, but mostly, I find it in our hearts.

 

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G. G., Tuffy, and Ellie snuggle near the fire

 

 

Merry, Bright, and Delicious

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It’s easy to fall back on decorating in the same way every year for the holidays, using the same treasures, heirlooms, and baubles. That’s part of what makes a tradition, and there’s nothing wrong with always putting your vintage Santas on the mantle, or filling a glass bowl with ornaments and greenery. Those looks are classic, and timeless.

christmas dining room

It’s also fun, though, to come up with a fresh new look for your home. I’ve decorated so many holiday venues–my own home, my clients’ homes, and showhouses galore! Here are a few of my favorite vignettes! I hope they’ll inspire you to create beautiful new tableaus this year.

russian folk tale

The display above was presented at the Whaling Museum on Nantucket. It’s one one I did several years ago for the Nantucket Historical Association’s Festival of Trees, inspired by a Russian Folk Tale called The Snow Maiden.  You can see her silhouetted in the white cathedral.  It celebrates my Russian heritage, which makes it all the more special to me and my family. Take some time to look into your own ethnic background and family heritage to see what legends and beliefs you can discover. Then introduce it to your holiday decor!

victorian christmas

A Victorian Christmas was the theme for this holiday house at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut, a National Historic Landmark dating to 1868.

victorian christmas 4

A custom-made sugar gazebo graces the mantle with sugar Christmas trees, and elaborate swags of fruit-embellished evergreens were in keeping with the traditions of the era.

victorian christmas two

You almost expect to see Charles Dickens arrive on a visit from London, with his wife Catherine, and their ten children!

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The Dickens family was, sadly, no where to be found, though it does look as if they just left the table!

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Luckily for us, we didn’t need the Dickens family to have a wonderful dinner at this year’s Christmas Stroll on Nantucket. We have our very own Saint Nick–no, not that Saint Nick–I mean my stepson, Nick Fasanella, a fabulous chef and owner of two San Francisco restaurants who comes and cooks for us. It doesn’t hurt to start the dinner preparations with a visit to the Scallop Shack for fresh Nantucket Bay Scallops right out of the water.

scallops

Once Nick picked out the freshest, most delicious looking scallops he could find, he headed home to prepare this fabulous menu:

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Nantucket Scallops and Corn Chowder in a Mashed Potato Basket

(pronounced “scollops”)

(Serves 4)

Step One: Mashed Potatoes

6 Medium sized Yukon Gold Potatoes

1/2 cup whole milk

3 Tablespoons Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add potatoes that have been cut into quarters. Simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Puree with milk and butter until smooth.

nicky

Step Two: Corn Chowder

2 slices bacon, diced

1 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup celery

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 cups half and half

4 ears corn

Slower render bacon, and when brown, add onion, celery and butter. Sweat until translucent (3-5 minutes). Stir in flour and toast for two minutes. Stir in half and half, bring to a simmer, then add corn. Simmer for 15 minutes. Check for seasoning.

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 Step Three: Scallops

Bake 8 slices of thin bacon in a 350 degree oven until nice and crispy; set aside.

(Keep oven set on 200 degrees after the bacon is cooked. Put four large dinner plates to warm in the oven.)

1.5 -2 lbs of Nantucket bay scallops

2 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Work in two batches. Heat a large saute pan and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/2 of the DRY scallops (pat both sides in paper towels) and then add 1 tablespoon butter. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then shake, flip, or roll the little fellas onto the other side for 1 minute.If the pan is properly hot they should be golden brown on both sides. Slide onto a plate and keep warm in the oven. REPEAT.

To Plate: Place a nice scoop of potatoes in the center of the plate, working inside out to make a circle. Add the chowder, 1/4 of the scallops, 2 crumbled slices of bacon, and parsley.

YUM.

nick dinner

To see more of Chef Nick’s great food, check out www.tackosf.com.

 

A Tree for Autism Speaks

 

Festival 2013

If you’ve read what I’ve written before about the wonderful work done by Autism Speaks, you know it’s an organization that’s close to my heart. Autism is a general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development.  One in 88 children per year are diagnosed with disorders on the Autism spectrum today, a forty fold increase in the last ten years. I’ve supported this organization through Light It Up Blue, have walked on Nantucket to raise money and awareness, and this year, have created a holiday tree to honor the families who struggle with this disorder, and to help bring attention to their search for a cure.

The tree is my contribution this year at The Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum Festival of Trees; I’ve participated in this event for years, and each holiday look forward to creating a new and original testament to the holiday.

The Autism Speaks tree is made from two interlocking puzzle pieces, the highly recognizable Autism Speaks logo, painted their signature blue. The tree inside the puzzle boasts 500 silver balls, a sparkling reminder of the children and families who deserve our support.

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autism speaks elvesMy “elves” this year were my husband, Frank Fasanella, my dad, Bob, and my good friend Russ Valentine, visiting from Florence, Italy. We spent hours putting the tree together and getting every detail just right. I am so grateful for their help!

I hope if you’re on the island you stop by the museum and see all the beautiful trees. It’s such a special time of year on Nantucket!

 

A Special Thought for Christmas

Taking care of others at the holidays is something we all try to do. I’ve recently been inspired by a person I admire greatly. He and his wife recently re-evaluated their donations to charitable organizations, and decided to add to those contributions something more direct and personal. I was able to witness their new plan in action when we went out to dinner in Atlanta this fall. After leaving a generous tip on the bill, he called over the waitress, a single mom of two children, and gave her another twenty, just for her.

Their new way of giving includes overtipping cab drivers, porters, the room service people, on TOP of the service charge on the tab. Everyone who performs a personal service for them, everyone who crosses their path in a day.

I followed in this dear man’s footsteps this year, and have continued throughout the holiday season. If you have the means, and sometimes even when it’s a challenge, bumping up the amount you tip can make someone’s day. The smiles and appreciation are truly contagious.

Try it! The ten or twenty dollars doesn’t seem like much. But it makes a difference.