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Please Join Me with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

About Trudy Dujardin, FASID, Leed AP

Trudy Dujardin is known for her passion for eco-elegance, demonstrated in award-winning interiors that combine sophistication and luxury with sustainable design. Believing that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury, she strives to integrate respect for historical preservation, the surrounding natural landscape, and the highest level of interior design. She received both the 2007 and the 2008 Award of Excellence for Green Design from the Connecticut Chapter of ASID and the 2007 Outstanding Alumna Award from Southern Connecticut University. Trudy has been an instructor at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., teaching the university’s first semester-length class on Sustainable Design. She serves on Traditional Home Magazine’s Green Advisory Panel, has written a column, Gently Green, for Nantucket-based Portfolio Magazine, and is a member of the advisory board of athome Magazine. Her breathtaking interiors have appeared in the most prestigious industry publications, including Architectural Digest, Coastal Living, Connecticut Cottages & Gardens, N Magazine, Nantucket Home & Garden, Nantucket Today and Traditional Home. She has been active for many years with the Design Futures Council, the International Board of the Joslyn Castle Institute for Sustainable Communities in Omaha, Neb., and has been a presenter at environmental conferences around the nation, including EnvironDesign 7 in Washington, D.C., and EcoSpheres in Lincoln, Neb. Trudy was involved in the formation of the first Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design and Architecture for the Design Futures Council, an Atlanta-based think tank for design professionals. Trudy has worked in sustainable design since 1987. She is a LEED Accredited Professional, recognizing her thorough understanding of green building practices and principles. From their offices in Westport, Conn. and Nantucket, Mass., Dujardin Design Associates creates interiors nationwide.

Autism Speaks Walk

 

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, refers to a broad range of challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and and nonverbal communication. There are many subtypes of autism, and any person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges. Most are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences, and many are accompanied by medical issues such as intestinal issues, seizures, and sleep disturbances.

 

 

An estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum.

 

 

 

For many years, I have been a supporter of Autism Speaks, and my husband, Frank, and I have participated in many Autism Speaks Walk events. This year, the Autism Speaks Walk on Nantucket is on August 18th. Taking compassionate action is what makes a real difference in the world. It’s compassionate action that has allowed Autism Speaks to make great strides forward in research and support for children and families affected by the disorder.

 

 

Last month, Autism Speaks launched a $1.5 million funding opportunity for treatment studies, with an emphasis on physical and mental health conditions that accompany autism.

 

 

I’m a fervent believer in the work of Autism Speaks, which is why I wholeheartedly support what they do. I’ll be walking this year with Frank and my two little Bichons, Tuffy and G.G. The Walk leaves from Sandbar Jetties Beach at 9:45 a.m., with opening remarks at 9:30 a.m. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.

 

 

Start a team, join a team, or come on your own! For more information, contact Eden E. Carr at 617-726-1515.

Nantucket By Design 2018

 

One of the most highly regarded interior design gatherings on the East Coast is taking place on Nantucket from August 1-4. It’ s the Nantucket Historical Association’s major summer fundraiser, and this year promises to be on the best so far! Celebrating the island’s unique influences on American design, there are engaging lectures, lively panel discussions, and small and large gatherings.

You Don’t Want to Miss This!

THE WELCOME COCKTAIL PARTY

Wednesday, August 1, Private Residence

Available for all guests who join NBD at the Leadership Level.

 

DESIGN LUNCHEON

Thursday, August 2, 11:30 a.m., White Elephant Village Ballroom

Champagne reception, lunch, and Q&A, moderated by Sophie Donelson, editor-in-chief of House Beautiful magazine. Keynote presentation by David Kleinberg, of David Kleinberg Design Associates.

The Design Luncheon is sold out. For the Wait List, please call 508-228-1894, ext. 0

 

DESIGN PANEL

Friday, August 3, 4:00 p.m., White Heron Theatre

Moderated by Chesie Breen, editor of ID Boston magazine and Founder/Principal Niven Breen. Lively panel discussion on the latest design trends with Amanda Lindroth, David Netto, and Nick Voulgaris III.

The Design Panel is sold out. For the Wait List, please call 508-228-1894, ext. 0

 

ALL-STAR PRIVATE DINNERS

Friday, Aug. 3, 7:00 P.M., Private homes and NHA Historic Sites

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to dine with one of these design luminaries: Gary McBournie, Sophie Donelson, David Netto, Amanda Lindroth, Nick Voulgaris III, and David Kleinberg in an intimate setting at an NHA historic property or private home.

For more information: Stacey Stuart at sstuart@nha.org, or 508-228-1894, ext. 130

 

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM

Saturday, Aug. 4, 7:00 P.M., Whaling Museum

Honoring Janet and Rick Sherlund, a grand party immersed in Nantucket’s history. Enjoy food, drink, live music and a silent auction all to benefit the NHA! Attire: Summer Cocktail blue and white.

 

50 YEARS OF NANTUCKET LOOMS

Saturday, Aug. 4, 10:00 A.M., Nantucket Looms, 51 Main Street

A behind-the-scenes tour and chat with Nantucket Looms and Stacey Bewkes, editor and founder of Quintessence, a lifestyle blog all about living well with style and substance. Refreshments and breakfast bites will be provided, as well as a take-away gift.

 

REIMAGINING THE OLDEST HOUSE

Aug. 1-4, Oldest House, 16 Sunset Hill

For the third year, New York School of Interior Design students will re-imagine select rooms in the Oldest House. Free and open to the public.

For tickets to any of the Nantucket By Design events, go here. 

My Travel Notebook: Italy

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

In my last post about my travels to France, I shared the places I went, delighted with how they inspired me in my work in interior design. My trip didn’t stop at the border of France, however;  my husband, Frank, and I continued on into Italy. And the longer we were away, the more I thought about how it is that beauty can inspire us not only in the design of our homes, but also in the design for our lives.

 

 

As a fine artist who became an interior designer, something I loved in Italy (and in France) were the beautiful colors. In Verona, the buildings were a perfect foil for the brightly shining sun with their citrusy shades of tangerine, gold, pale yellow and sunburnt red. Life lesson: the world is a colorful place!

 

 

All the colors of Italy are subtly glorious. This old synagogue in what was once a Jewish ghetto shares the golden tones of the buildings in Verona, but it also inspires awe, as religious buildings are meant to. You must look closer to see the many intricate designs that proclaim it a Jewish house of worship.

 

 

Looking closer is one of the requirements of travel. At first glance, we see the bigger picture: the architecture, the ruins of this ancient amphitheater in Verona, the cobbled streets. It is only when we look closer that we see the faces of the people, their smiles, what they carry, who they are. (An earthquake in 1176 destroyed the amphitheater here; this is the only remaining fragment of the outer ring.)

 

 

Close attention to detail is also a requirement for an interior designer. Details bring a room to life, give it movement, personality and that elegant je ne sais quois. The ceiling in the breakfast room at our hotel in Villa Cordevigo near Lake Garda reminded me of both an important design rule, and one for living: lift your eyes. Look up.

 

 

The Murano glass chandeliers there were a source of light and delight. Shouldn’t every light fixture be both? I think so!

 

 

Italian is known as the language of love, and Verona is known as the City of Love. Romance is celebrated where Shakespeare set his story of star-crossed lovers. Romeo and Juliet, sadly, were based on a real life feuding family. Today, people in search of love, forgiveness, or who simply want to celebrate their own unique love story write letters and leave them here. The city of Verona receives over 5,000 letters a year to Juliet.

 

 

The statue of Juliet is said to be good luck to lovers. When the original bronze statue, cast in 1969, was removed for repairs, restoration staff found hundreds of letters from star-crossed lovers that had been squeezed into the statue through cracks in the exterior. In addition to notes, there were tiny padlock keys. Couples often buy padlocks, write their names in indelible ink, then either hide or throw away the key.

 

 

People come from all over the world to stand beneath Juliet’s balcony. Don’t you love the symmetry of the Romanesque windows underneath?

 

 

We saw many villas designed by the 16th century architect, Andrea Palladio. Palladio based his work on a study of classical Roman architecture, which gives much of the region its unique appearance.This is Villa Emo, designed by Palladio in 1559. It remained in the Emo family until it was sold in 2004. The landscape has a continuous history since Roman times, and it has been suggested that the straight lines of the villa reflect the straight lines of Roman roads.

 

 

In the land where the Renaissance began, with a culture and architecture heavily influenced by the Classical ideals of Greek and Roman civilizations, rich detail can be found everywhere you turn.

 

 

Villa Barbaro, also known as Villa di Maser, was built by Palladio for Daniele Barbaro, ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I of England, and his brother, Marcantonio, ambassador to King Charles IX of France.

 

 

The frescoes in Villa Barbaro are by the artist Paolo Veronese. He painted the wife of Marcantonio Barbaro, Giustiniana, along with her youngest son’s wet nurse, her parrot, and her spaniel dog.

 

 

Here is our tour guide, Janet Simmonds, with Frank, standing outside the Villa Foscari, also known as La Malcontenta. In the 16th century, rich patricians of Venice had villas built to expand their empires through agriculture. (The name La Malcontenta has several explanations, all hinging on a supposedly unhappy wife many years ago.)

 

 

We stayed in one 16th century villa, the Hotel Villa Franceschi, the former residence of jewelers to the Doge (the Italian chief of state). The villa stands at a bend in the River Brenta, and is the gateway to Venice.

 

 

The end of day is always a favorite time for me, when the sun begins its descent toward the horizon, and gently slants against the buildings. The quality of light is different in different locations. I’ve always found sunlight on Nantucket to be especially luminous. I love the sunlight in Italy, too.

 

 

This is our room at the Villa Franceschi. The guest rooms are opulent, with marble fireplaces and terra cotta floor tiles, and the ceilings have their original wooden beams. It’s important to revere our history, and restore our ancient buildings. I felt the same way when I restored a sea captain’s house on Nantucket years ago.

 

 

I have always found a mix of old and new, layered throughout a home, to give both grace and grounding to the interiors I create for my clients. I came home feeling more strongly than ever that in a home with a modern look and feel, there is still room for antiquities and fine antiques.

 

 

Many of my clients have inherited pieces or vintage collectibles that they want retained in their homes. By combining new with old, a recently decorated room has the look of one that has evolved over the years. The end result is a cohesive blend of style and comfort, as it is here at the Villa Franceschi.

 

 

You find symmetry, balance and order throughout Italy, including in formal gardens, as in the maze at the abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore.

 

 

Also called the Borges Labyrinth, it was created in honor of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, to recall one of his best known stories, The Garden of Forking Paths. Because Borges became blind at age 55, a handrail was installed so blind people can walk the maze without assistance.

 

 

Italian gardens are beautiful, with or without a maze. There are many paths to follow, as in life. Since we can’t do everything and be everywhere, we have to choose which ones to walk.

 

 

Let’s walk toward beauty.

 

 

I’ve always been drawn to the beauty of water, and the end of our trip found us floating through the canals of Venice, following the same route George Clooney took with his bride Amal following their Venetian wedding. That was only fitting for a trip planned to celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary!

 

 

Janet arranged a private boat tour for us, and it was a magical day.

 

 

Passing under the Bridge of Sighs was a solemn moment. It is said that Casanova was one of the prisoners who sighed while crossing from the Hall of Magistrates to the prison on the other side. The glimpse of blue sky beyond was the last view of clouds and sun the prisoners would see for some time. (But Casanova escaped in 1756, slipping out of his cell into the palace, where a guard let him out. A happy ending!)

 

 

The last time Frank and I were in Venice, we were here to oversee the printing of my interior design book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior. We met my London-based book designer, Stafford Cliff, in Padua where the printer was located, but were able to take in a bit of Venice before we returned home to the states. That was a working vacation, though, which is a contradiction in terms!

 

 

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I think that the world must be examined, too. Luckily, we don’t need to travel to Italy, or to France, to find inspiration. It’s all around us. We just have to look for the angels of beauty that are everywhere, and remember we are blessed. (This angel can be found in the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, in Venice).

 

 

Like Casanova, we had a happy ending too: we made it home in time for the Peony festival in our own front yard. So we had a glass of wine to celebrate.

 

 

Saluti!

My Travel Notebook: France

“Work, travel, save, repeat.”

I’ve been traveling through France and Italy recently, celebrating a belated tenth anniversary with my husband, Frank. We engaged the services of the talented Janet Simmonds from the Grand Tourist, (she writes a fascinating blog she calls the Educated Traveller –British spelling!) She put together an itinerary for us that moved us from Southern France, beginning in Beaulieu-sur-mer to Venice, Italy, with elegant meals, private tours, and spectacular sights.

 

I found design inspiration everywhere–in the food, languages, colors, architecture and interiors–and I want to share my inspiration with you. I thought we’d begin with France, since that’s where we went first.

 

 

The creamy tones of the La Reserve Hotel got our trip off on a calming note. The bright pink roses that punctuated the patio were the perfect compliment, and added life to the scenery.

 

 

Indoors, the coral exterior evolved into dazzles of orange with grey and taupe. It reminded me of a favorite project I did for an Hermes orange loving client in Manhattan. Here’s my take on orange and neutrals, below:

 

 

Orange is eye-catching in floral arrangements, too. Both across the room…

 

 

…and close up!

 

 

We loved our room, which was a delightful blend of old and new. I loved how the interiors of La Reserve combined contemporary furnishings with priceless antiques, which adds such depth, warmth and richness! Much more interesting, I think, than all modern, which doesn’t take a location’s history into account.

 

 

The thread of good design holds true throughout the ages. Good design from the 18th century can play off good design from the 21st century. Here’s an example from my own design work, below: an 18th century buffet against 21st century lacquered walls. This is in a Manhattan apartment.

 

 

Meanwhile, there were no complaints about the shades of blue that met us in the pool and sea outside our door.

 

 

The saltwater pool was heated, and free of chemicals.

 

 

Wandering through the charming medieval town of St. Paul de Vence meant finding history of more than 1,000 years at every turn. In the 20th century, artists began coming to St. Paul to paint its famous brown stone buildings in the silken light of southern France.

 

 

As we walked through St. Paul, I couldn’t stop thinking about the rustic stone, and how that might translate into a modern home. Using natural materials is simple but stunning in its impact. Natural stones are endlessly elegant and eco-friendly. They bring a richness of texture and color to a room.

 

 

Here’s another of our Dujardin designs in Manhattan, where we used rough stone to create a dramatic backdrop to the sleek-lined furniture. We used antique horse blankets to cover the pillows–unusual materials and unique applications make an interior innovative!

 

 

Back in St. Paul, I was struck by how a mosaic of small stones could be one way to add movement and depth to a space, and offer many natural hues to work with.

 

 

Next stop: the bar at La Colombe d’Or, where we had an aperitif before dinner. The rough stone walls with muted colors depicting leaping stags was a masculine touch.

 

 

Aged paint on stone walls paired well with these surprisingly glitzy silver pillows.

 

 

The beautiful dining room at La Colombe d’Or, where Frank and I enjoyed our much delayed anniversary dinner–at last!

 

 

The simple stone building was once a weekend haunt for artists.

 

 

It’s still filled with their artwork–incredible pieces by Matisse, Miro, Calder, Picasso and Chagall.

 

 

Imagine eating dinner in an art museum, with comfortable surroundings and delicious food.

 

 

Everywhere you turn, there is priceless art.

 

 

Anybody interested in a fireplace with a sunken gathering area? Winters in New England seem to require one of these. The placement of the seating would concentrate the heat nicely while enjoying a brandy after dinner.

 

 

No one was eating outdoors, but aren’t these weathered urns planted with greenery just gorgeous with the stone tile floor?

 

 

Colors aren’t limited to artwork, as you can see in the purple irises growing in the field.

 

 

This quiet beauty in pink and white is the former home of David Niven, the British actor. We took a walk from Beaulieu-sur-mer to St. Jean Cap Ferrat to see the house. One scene from Niven’s last movie–the Pink Panther–was filmed there in 1983, the year before his death.

 

 

Gold doorknobs on the white door are the perfect accent. Pink and gold and white is stunning.

 

 

An ornate gate that simultaneously invites you in and says, “not so fast! Are you invited?”

 

 

A marble sign with the name of your home is always elegant. Especially if you’re David Niven.

 

 

We’ll be back soon as we continue our journey to Italy! Come along with us next month. I have so much more to show you!

 

 

At Home in the Country

 

I’m so pleased to have another of Dujardin Design Associate’s projects published by our friends at New England Home CT Magazine.  They’re also the publishers of New England Home, and both magazines are full of design inspiration. In their Spring 2018 edition, they tell the story of our design work at a beautiful country home located in the gracious town of Washington Depot, Connecticut. This is the eighth project we’ve completed for this client, by now a longtime friend.

When this client found another dream home for the next phase of her life (previous homes were in New York City, Greenwich, and California!), we knew we were going to have a wonderful time working together again.  Washington Depot is one of three towns that were the actual inspiration for the town of Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls, so you can just imagine the feeling of warmth and small town camaraderie.

We’re so excited to show it to you. If you can pick up a copy of the magazine, please do. It’s on the stands until July 23, 2018. Here’s a sneak peek!

 

A trend in home buying and interior design right now is the need to remake our homes to fit the next stage of our lives. Whether you’re making space for a nursery, adding an in-law suite for an elder relative, or moving to a new location to embrace retirement, the chance to re-envision your home is an exciting time. Keeping what you treasure but adding new furniture, rugs and accessories to fit your new lifestyle is the best way to embrace the future!

 

 

One of the joys–and struggles–of moving is deciding what to keep and what to give away. New storage and display pieces can help you make those choices.

 

 

I’ve always believed that our surroundings influence our lives in countless quiet ways. This client loves the farms and rolling countryside she can see outside her windows,

 

 

Whatever stage of life you’re in, you can make your home a place that fully supports your daily activities and offers rest and respite at night. A good interior design plan helps you achieve beauty, comfort, and sanctuary without leaving home. Vacations aren’t the only option for rejuvenation when you truly love where you live.

 

Building Noah’s Ark

Reka and Zeya, CT’s Beardsley Zoo’s two rare Amur tiger cubs

There are many things in life that demand my attention, but some of them leap to the front of the line. Zoos had not been on my radar screen, but that changed with the news that Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo was hand-rearing two critically endangered Amur tiger cubs.

 

Zeya, shortly after birth

Having my little grandsons visiting with me when the tiger cubs were born was good timing, as we learned about endangered tigers and the Zoo’s work to save endangered animals together. I found out that without the help of accredited zoos, my grandchildren’s grandchildren may never see a live tiger, or any number of other species on earth today.

 

The Amur leopard is the rarest big cat on earth, with fewer than 60 individuals surviving in the wild.

The world around us is changing. According to the World Wildlife Fund, earth has lost half of its wildlife in the last 40 years. We are confronting the loss of wildlife on a massive scale, largely due to human interaction. One estimate says that there are currently 16,938 animal and plant species threatened with extinction. One in three on the list are amphibians, one in four are mammals, and one in eight are birds.

 

Northern white rhinos are functionally extinct, with only a handful of rapidly aging individuals left in captivity.

Lists of the most endangered animals in the world today include the Amur leopard, gorillas, sea turtles, orangutans, Sumatran elephants, the Saola, the Vaquita porpoise, the tiger (all subspecies), rhinos, and pangolins. There are many, many more.

 

 

The single largest cause of threats to animals? Habitat loss, due to deforestation, the expansion of farms across fragile areas, and logging. In addition, many of these animals are poached for their horns, tusks, or bones, have organs that are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or are persecuted and hunted. Other factors include climate change, resource depletion, and territory fragmentation, which keeps healthy, genetically different animals from successful breeding.

 

Tigers at CT’s Beardsley Zoo.

There are many organizations fighting to help animals in the wild, with varying levels of success. The “wild,” as it used to exist, is rapidly disappearing. While some well-intended activists call for animals to be released from captivity, their perspective does not address the fact that wild habitats today are facing environmental degradation and animals are being hunted to extinction. Many animals in the wild are theoretically protected, but that does not mean they are safe.

 

Deforestation is causing a decline in the Red panda population as their nesting trees and their primary diet, bamboo, are being destroyed. This is Meri, CT’s Beardsley Zoo’s four year old female, who may help sustain her species. 

Today’s accredited zoos and aquariums have had to become Noah’s Arks, sustaining populations through carefully monitored captive breeding programs, and providing a home, nutrition, medical care, and survival to some of the world’s most endangered species.

 

Most of the areas the Golden Lion tamarin call home have been poorly protected. A sustained Zoo breeding program beginning in the 1970s allowed Brazil’s GLT population to rebound somewhat due to reintroduction. Continued loss of forest habitat, however, keeps the GLT on the endangered list. 

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), of 2,800 USDA licensed animal exhibitors in the U.S., only 230 are accredited members of the AZA. Why does that matter? Because the AZA requires that its member zoos meet rigorous standards for animal welfare, conservation, education, and science. One of its primary rules for membership is respecting the dignity of animals in a zoo’s care, and acting with the animal’s best interests in mind. (Here’s a list of accredited organizations.)

 

An endangered wolf cub born at CT’s Beardsley Zoo

No baby animal is ever born at an accredited zoo without a specific breeding recommendation from experts at the AZA, who keep careful track of genetics. Zoos also contribute to animal conservation efforts worldwide. Extinction rates for many species, though, continue to rise. Accredited zoos are many species’ last hope to survive total elimination.

 

 Endangered South American maned wolf cubs born at CT’s Beardsley Zoo

On November 25th, the Zoo’s female Amur tiger, Changbai, gave birth to four Amur tiger cubs, although only two survived.  The two surviving cubs, both females, were removed from Changbai when she showed no interest in taking care of them.

 

Handfeeding an Amur tiger cub in CT’s Beardsley Zoo’s animal Health Care Center

Both cubs were taken to the Zoo’s animal Health Care Center, where staff handfed the babies and housed them in a 90 degree ambient temperature nursery, to maintain their body temperature.

 

Amur tiger cubs only a few days old 

At first, the cubs were given only a 25% chance of survival. A feline replacement formula, supplemented with vitamins, was prepared for them five times a day, around the clock. Today, the cubs are four months old, healthy and active. Their survival is an important step forward in maintaining the genetic diversity of Amur tigers worldwide.

 

Reka, at two months old

Over the last century, tiger numbers have fallen by about 95%, and tigers now survive in 40% less space than they occupied just a decade ago. The Connecticut tigers are Amurs, and sadly, there are only about 500 Amur tigers left in wild places–specifically, the Amur River Valley region where Russia, China and North Korea meet.

 

Wild Amur tiger in the Amur River Basin, Russia

Michael Hutchins, director of conservation and science for the AZA said, “Millions of dollars go to house artwork in museums, but there are more Rembrandts in the world than there are Siberian (Amur) tigers.”

 

Amur tiger cub at CT’s Beardsley Zoo. The cubs’ survival is important to sustaining the critically endangered tiger species.

The AZA says: “We believe in a better future for all living things. We envision a world where all people respect, value and conserve wildlife and wild places.”

Want to watch the tiger cubs on a live web cam? Click here.

To contribute to Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, or to help fundraise for a new tiger habitat, click here.

 

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! 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

Curried Corn Soup

 

Years ago, one of my most eagerly anticipated days at the holidays was a trip to the little town of Coventry, Connecticut, for a visit to Caprilands Herb Farm. My dear friend Catherine Reischer and I would drive to Adelma Grenier Simmon’s 18th century farmhouse, surrounded by fifty acres of fields and woods.

 

 

Adelma was the owner of the herb farm she named for the purebred goats she once raised there–capra is latin for goat. As time went by she converted the rocky land to an herb farm, and her home became a cafe and visitor’s center. Adelma is gone now, and the farm she loved is being converted to a non-profit center called Caprilands Institute, and is open only by appointment.

 

 

I still have several of the books she wrote, and the recipe for the delicious Curried Corn Soup she served at her luncheons. It’s not for the diet-conscious, but it’s perfect for a chilly November day.

 

 

CURRIED CORN SOUP

1/4 lb. butter

1 tbsp. curry powder

1 tsp. powdered freeze-dried shallots

2 1-lb. cans cream style corn

1 1-lb. can whole corn

2 cups cream, warmed

1/8 tsp ground rosemary

2 tbsp. chopped chives

Melt butter in pan, add curry, stir until smooth. Add shallots, then corn, stirring slowly; then cream and rosemary. Garnish with chives. (Evaporated milk or half-and-half may be substituted for cream.) Serves 8.

This is a delicious indulgence. Enjoy!