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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
You almost expect to see Charles Dickens arrive on a visit from London, with his wife Catherine, and their ten children!
The Dickens family was, sadly, no where to be found, though it does look as if they just left the table!
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.
Once Nick picked out the freshest, most delicious looking scallops he could find, he headed home to prepare this fabulous menu:
Nantucket Scallops and Corn Chowder in a Mashed Potato Basket
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.
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.
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.
To see more of Chef Nick’s great food, check out www.tackosf.com.