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Holiday Decorating Holidays


Beacon Communications

Down Home Holidays Paula Deen:

Paula Deen

for the

Inside: The Gingerbread Queen | Vintage Varieties | Themed Trees | Sweater Crafts

Holiday Decorating • Holidays 2011 •

Table of Contents













Basket Case A basic wooden basket takes center stage when loaded with holiday staples Crafting Christmas Impress your guests and get the kids involved with two hot new books this season Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas How well do you know your holiday decorations by decade? A Shelf for the Season Gather your family by the fireside and read these classic holiday tales Holiday Lighting Illuminated Professional tips on how to make the season bright, indoors and out




Setting the (Mini) Scene New iterations of the classic miniature Christmas village add a personal touch Holiday Sweater Redux Don’t let ugly holiday sweaters go to waste - upcycle them for sweater crafts Down Home for the Holidays The queen of Southern cuisine discusses her signature design style for the holidays The Gingerbread Queen Johanna Rosson threw down with Bobby Flay to earn her crown as gingerbread queen My Christmas Tree, My Way A personalized, themed tree is an easy way to think outside the decorations box this year


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Holiday Decorating

Holiday Decorating • Holidays 2011 •


Basket Case

A basic wooden basket takes center stage when loaded with holiday staples By PATRICIA V. RIVERA | CTW Features

unique and inexpensive holiday centerpiece can be as easy as putting all your eggs in a basket, so to speak. Baskets are useful as both organizational and decorative accessories. In December, when embellished with holiday staples such as fresh fruits, gift tags, ribbon, evergreens, firewood or presents, they also can double as centerpieces for living rooms and dining rooms. “The beauty of baskets is that once you decorate them, they give you a lovely holiday feel,” says Flora Brown, a professional gift basket decorator from Anaheim, Calif. “In some cases, you don’t even need a tree, because you can build a large basket as tall as you want.” Shirley George Frazier, author of “The Gift Basket Design Book” (Globe Pequot, 2008), says that decorative baskets are often used as gifts and have stood the test of time. Their appeal is their simplicity. To create a decorative basket, Frazier suggests starting with a basket of any color and size with a sturdy wood frame. The basket should be smooth on all sides as well as on the bottom and the handle. When placed on the floor, a well-made basket sits flat and doesn’t wobble, she adds. A few coats of spray paint can give it some holiday color.

Brown says that the most important tip is to fill the basket so that whatever sits inside is raised high and positioned well. Once a foundation is established, the opportunities are endless. Here are some basic ideas for baskets as holiday décor. Gift Bearer Use a large, elongated basket to display and collect the wrapped family gifts. Use real or artificial greenery inside and wrap battery-operated lights throughout the design. Depending on the size, the basket can be placed by the fireplace or on top of a coffee table against a wall. Entrance Greeter Fill a large, curved basket with greenery, silver balls of various sizes and floral sprigs. Attach the greenery tightly to the basket so that additional ornaments and bells can be wired to it. Place in the foyer or near the front door for guests to admire. Food Carrier Select a basket with a flared-over handle and decorate the edges with painted cones or artificial greenery. Line the bottom with paper. Fill with either fresh food that can be served immediately, such as fruit and cheese, or with dried items that can linger longer at the table. Holiday favorites for food baskets include fruit cake, nuts, cookies, jams, chocolate and wine. © CTW Features

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By BETTINA CHANG | CTW Features Holiday Crafting & Baking With Kids By Jessica Strand Chronicle Books (2011) $19.95 This beautifully illustrated book gives a 360-degree view of how to get kids involved during the holidays. The easy-to-follow instructions are accompanied by stencils and templates to make them even more user-friendly. From autumn-inspired centerpieces, to Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa, and New Year’s celebrations, Jessica Strand offers simple but gorgeous projects to make each holiday special. The book includes a healthy dose of baked goods that double as decorations and gifts, for those who love to multitask. All projects are suitable for children age 7 or older, and some are appropriate for the little ones, as well.

Thunder Bay Press

Impress your guests and get the kids involved with two hot new books this season

Chronicle Books

Holiday Decorating • Holidays 2011 •


Dollar Origami By Won Park Thunder Bay Press (2011) $19.95 Gifting cash for the holidays may seem a bit impersonal, so why not put a twist on it by folding that bill into something extraordinary? Won Park gives detailed step-by-step instructions and diagrams to make 10 intricate creations out of the typical greenback. This includes the shockingly realistic crab and scorpion, playful penguin and camera, and the impressive double crane. Either snag this book off the shelf in November to start practicing the origami folds, or gift the book itself with a crisp new bill for practice. These dollar creations also can make for fun place settings at a kids’ table. © CTW Features

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Holiday Decorating • Holidays 2011 •


Silver-colored aluminum trees and bright, splashy colors were typical of a 50s Christmas. By LINDSEY ROMAIN | CTW Features


ostalgia is in vogue and nothing embodies nostalgia like the holiday season. But what exactly constitutes a vintage Christmas? And, with all of this familiar influence, how well does anyone really know the eras from whence they came? A quick flip through Susan Waggoner’s book “Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas: Crafts, Decorating Tips and Recipes, 1920s-1960s” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011) is a reminder that the idea of vintage can get lost in its respective decade. Perhaps the two most distinguishable decades in American Christmas style were the 1920s and the 1950s. The 20s were about family, warmth and tradition, the 50s about adapting to the suburban lifestyle and utilizing new technology. “To me, the big dividing line between those two decades was World War II,” Waggoner says. “It became way more flashy after

the war.” Indeed, 1920s décor placed a heavy influence on the idea of gathering together near an open fire, as demonstrated by Christmas cards from the time. “It’s amazing to me how many cards had the fireplace as the focus and the tree to the side,” Waggoner says. “Every home had a fireplace and a mantel, and that was really more important than the tree. The fire was the source of warmth, the social center.” Trees still had a presence, but without electricity, they relied more on sheer volume than glittering spectacle. “And I don’t think people actually used candles as a source of light,” says Waggoner, noting the flammability would have turned most people away from that as an option. Instead, garland and cardboard ornaments filled the branches, and homemade villages took the place of presents under the tree. For any curious decorator looking to create a 20s holiday theme, Waggoner suggests

starting with the colonial elements like framed silhouettes and postcards. As for the use of color, the 20s focused primarily on red, says Waggoner. Green was more of an accent than anything, while other colors were kept subdued. By contrast, the 50s were all about bright, statement-making color explosions. “For the first time, the public was offered ornaments in pink and aqua,” says Travis Smith, author of “Kitschmasland!: Christmas Décor from the 1950s to the 1970s” (Schiffer Publishing, 2008). Silver-colored aluminum Christmas trees were also sprucing up the room, and light was becoming a prominent household staple. “In the 20s, anyone with electricity would have had to plug their tree into the ceiling light fixture, but in the 50s everyone had electricity and it became more about outdoing your neighbor,” Waggoner says. Blown-glass ornaments gained popularity in the 50s, as well as ornaments that looked “atomic.” “You also saw the emergence of plastic, which was a relatively new material,” Smith says. Suddenly, plastic light-up Santas and reindeer dotted lawns and living rooms, and imitation candles lined windowsills.

The bold palette of 50s design makes it a more popular look today, and online venues like eBay have become prime markets for those recreating vintage holiday looks. Waggoner, however, likes the challenge of the more traditional 20s theme, which can be recreated without tracking down pricey items in antique stores or online. “Use some Stickles Glitter Glue and trace the lines of old postcards,” she suggests for a 20s Christmas craft. “Get the kids involved; homemade cellophane wreaths are an easy project to work on with them.” Regardless of the era, a vintage Christmas is all about the spirit at the center of the holiday. “Vintage is popular again because it evokes a nostalgia for simpler, more innocent times – when the world ran at a slower pace, and when holiday celebrations revolved around family and not having the latest gadget,” Smith says. “For me, Christmas is just a time to look back and think, ‘Gosh, my life was so much easier,’” Waggoner says. “But there’s also something about old art that’s lush, wonderful and detailed.” © CTW Features

Travis Smith

Travis Smith

Retro style is back in full force, but how well do you know your holiday decorations by decade?

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Have Yourself a Very Christmas

Holiday pixies made of felt were typical of 50s Christmas décor. This set was made in Japan, while other varieties originated in Germany.

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Tree Light Reflectors

From "Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas" by Susan Waggoner

Although tree lights were introduced at the end of the 19th century, they remained a luxury for many through the 30s. A string of 12 to 16 lights cost more than $30 by today’s reckoning, and were far more expensive to operate than today’s energy-efficient bulbs. It’s no wonder that those who had lights wanted to make the most of them, perching them on beaded clips and adding colorful reflectors to make each and every light stand out. Early reflectors, made of tin, were soon replaced with lighter, shinier aluminum and clear, hard plastic halos, rimmed and dusted with glitter to maximize the glow. Materials: • 1 or 2 clean, dry 2-liter soda bottles, with the label sleeve removed • Glitter in preferred colors • Any hard circle, about 1.5 inches in diameter, that can be traced around, such as a lid, silver dollar or cookie cutter • Craft knife, utility scissors, brush and clear-drying glue, such as Mod Podge Directions: ➤ Trace your circle onto a piece of paper and mark the center. Set aside. ➤ Cut away and discard the top and bottom of the soda bottle. Cut open the remaining

cylinder so you have a smooth sheet of plastic. ➤ Place the plastic sheet, curved side down, on a cutting mat or thick magazine. Place

your hard-edged 1.5-inch circle on it and hold it firmly in place while tracing around it with the craft knife. You aren’t trying to cut out the circle, merely score the outline. Trace a circle for each reflector. Line each circle up over the circle you traced on paper and mark the center. ➤ Cut the circles out with utility scissors

and use the craft knife or small scissors to cut a 1/2-inch cross in the center of each disk. ➤ Paint each disk with

glue and sprinkle with glitter. If you want a halo effect, dip the edges of the disk directly into the glitter. ➤ Let these dry

for 24 hours. Mount on mini lights by sliding over the bulb with the curved side facing you. Push gently over the base of the light so the reflector is resting on the base, not the bulb itself.

Adapted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang

No matter how beautiful and festive your home looks this holiday season, the most important thing is having a place where your friends and family can gather and enjoy each other’s company. With that in mind, dig out your favorite holiday books and movies and put them on display. Make this area a place to sit down, read tales to the little ones and tell stories of holidays past. © CTW Features

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A Shelffor the Season

Illuminated Professional holiday decorators give their tips on how to make the season bright, indoors and out

Experts recommend laying colored lights by hand on bushes and stringing larger bulbs through the canopy of a large tree in the front yard.

Front Yard Trees Lit trees in a front yard draw the most attention to a house, says Brandon Stephens, vice president of marketing at Christmas Décor in Lubbock, Texas. Lights on a door or across the roof lining act as a backdrop. If you light a tree, that’s the thing that stops traffic, Stephens says. Using a lot of lights sets a property apart. Since a large tree requires plenty of light, use mini-LED strands. LED lights save energy and thus electricity costs, so they work well for massive outdoor undertakings. To make the tree look full, string the lights through the branches rather than around the outside, says Ric Robertson at lighting service Holiday Lighting Guy in Beverly Hills, Calif. “We don’t want to have to go around the tree and tangle it and make it look like the tree is choked,” he says. Divide the tree into sections and then work from the top to the bottom, Robertson says. “That’ll create a nice, full tree,” he says. For a different look, Stephens recommends wrapping mini-LED lights up the trunk and then using larger C9 or C7 bulbs in the canopy. Christmas Décor

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Holiday Lighting

By SERENA DAI | CTW Features


very year, holiday lighting manufacturers introduce more varieties of bulbs, strands, colors and accessories. Luckily for the seasonal lighting industry (and those who love cruising the neighborhood, looking at lit-up houses), nobody seems to be willing to forego Christmas lights altogether, no matter their financial woes. Professional decorators say that there’s a trend towards nostalgic, naturallooking decorations rather than the energy-guzzling displays of the past. That means that LEDs are getting more popular and the Las Vegas marquee-style house is going extinct. The variety of products available leaves people at a loss when choosing the right lights for the job, so a few lighting professionals have given their tips on lighting each area of the house.

Outdoor Shrubbery The key to making lit shrubbery look nice is making it seem organic, Robertson says. He advises against using light nets, which tend to look too perfect. “As far as bushes go, we lay lights in by hand,” he says. Use mini-LED lights rather than larger bulbs to make shrubbery look full. Clear lights remain the most popular choice in outdoor holiday decorating for roof and window lines, but shrubbery is the place to use color, Stephens says. Setting up a pattern of clear and colored lights works well, with every few sections changing to green or red. “It’s a popular place for people to work color back into their display,” he says.

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Combine mini incandescent lights with greenery and make the most of architectural elements indoors.

INDOOR Spaces Take a look at where the electrical outlets are, says Bob Pranga, owner of holiday design company Dr. Christmas in Los Angeles. Wandering cords will diminish the look and present a potential hazard. Then determine the focal point of the room, he says. Any lighting should complement it. For example, a foyer with a fantastic chandelier should keep the chandelier as the focus, Pranga says. Lighting should be set up symmetrically around it. “Do something even and outline the existing architecture,” he says. “That makes it feel warm.” Indoor lighting acts more as an accessory to other holiday decorations than as the primary attraction, Pranga says. He suggests combining some sort of greenery with the lights, such as garlands or wreaths, to hide the cords. “Just stringing up lights in your house, unless you really want that frat house look, doesn’t give it much charm,” he says. “You end up scotch taping them to the walls.” While LED lights save power for complex outdoor displays, they tend to look too harsh for indoors, Pranga says. “They make your room look like a black light palace." Use incandescent lights instead for a warm and cozy ambiance.

Christmas Tree Similar to decorating an outdoor tree, wrap lights through branches rather than around the Christmas tree to add a nice depth, says Carolyn Horten, owner of design group Christmas Holiday Specialists in southern California. Use the same tactic of dividing the tree into three triangle sections and working from the top down. The method not only makes the tree look full, it helps with damage control, she says. “It’s really easy to control blowouts that way,” Horten says. To prevent fuse blow-outs all together, don’t use more than three or four strands, and run an extension cord along the trunk, she says. Use a remotepowered or step-on-step-off power strip at the bottom to simplify turning the tree lights on and off. Horten recommends using strands with 100 lights per foot. “It just adds a really nice ambiance,” she says. But don’t be afraid to accent the tree with a unique light size or color, using mini-lights further into the tree. Traditional trees with lots of sentimental ornaments that range in color will pop with a mix of clear and colored lights. “You can definitely mix up the lights,” Horten says. “It sounds weird. But it looks nice.” © CTW Features


New iterations of the classic miniature Christmas village add a customized look to holiday décor

Department 56

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Setting the Mini Scene

Who wouldn't want to recreate Who-ville in their home this Christmas? Custom village pieces make choosing collectibles part of the fun. By COURTENAY EDELHART | CTW Features


here’s nothing like a miniature Christmas village to give a home a warm, festive look during the holidays – but don’t let that village be limited to snow-covered cottages and Dickens-style Christmas carolers. The holiday scene might be filled with tiny little Harley-Davidsons. Or the villagers could represent a mini United Nations of ethnicities. Maybe the villagers are Disney, Peanuts or Dr. Seuss characters. There are even villages bearing the colors and logos of National Football League teams. Today’s villages are evolving as fast as the world around them, and accommodate all creeds, colors and fan bases. Department 56, which has manufactured traditional Christmas villages for genera-

tions, is on the leading edge of the trend. “Our strategy has been to gain younger consumers through licensed villages,” says spokeswoman Pam Schechtman. “We look for properties that have stood the test of time and are multigenerational.” Department 56 began in 2000 with a building from Universal Pictures’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and a Harry Potter animated scene. The company’s Classic Brands division, Schechtman says, “continues to do well for Department 56 and gives us the opportunity to create products for some of the world’s most beloved brands.” The idea is to draw new collectors to the hobby through affiliations. Fans of those affiliates may buy pieces for themselves, or people who enjoy collecting traditional villages will purchase pieces to woo children and grandchildren.

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The partnerships don’t alienate purists, says Carla Olson, owner of the online Peanuts retailer Instead, they draw in people who might otherwise not consider a Christmas village. “My customers love it,” Olson says. “I’ve never heard anything negative about the Peanuts village, and I’ve been carrying it since it came out years ago.” If a whole themed village seems like overkill, tone it down by buying just one small vignette and displaying it alone, or if the scale is right, then intersperse individual pieces in a traditional village, says Larry Heard, owner of Robert Moore Christmas Town in Mobile, Ala. “People will put a Bass Pro shop in the middle of the North Pole somewhere,” he says. “That doesn’t work in every case, but there are pieces that go really well together.” There’s also demand for ethnically and racially diverse villagers who reflect America’s melting pot. Department 56 adds diverse new characters to its Snow Village and Christmas in the City lines every year, Schechtman says. Wayne Bronner, chief executive officer of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Mich., says he’s carried black and Hispanic angels and village figures for years. People like to see villages that their families could live in, he says. Erecting an entire village can be expensive. Just one house in certain lines can cost up to $60. But most people assemble their villages one piece at a time, over many years. “You just buy a building and add to it,” Bronner says. “In time, you’ll

have the whole streetscape with all the accessories.” The risk of buying them piece by piece is that a line will be discontinued before the set is completed, but even discontinued pieces can be found in second-hand stores, online auction houses and collectible shops. And if enough people raise a stink, manufacturers will revive a line. “Department 56 retired All Hallow’s Eve but had to bring it back for a limited time because so many people called and told them they didn’t get it all,” Heard says. The hobby can be a little addicting, he warns. For people who are devotees of, say, the Claymation TV classic “Rudolph the RedNosed Reindeer,” it just won’t do to not have Rudolph’s misfit headquarters – and what’s a Peanuts village without Snoopy? Bronner says the more unusual villages are great conversation starters. “I think the traditional villages will always be the most popular, but the others really intrigue people,” he says. “Whenever we have them on display, people stop and talk about them.” © CTW Features

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Disney Christmas villages have also been popular throughout the years, since their appeal is multigenerational.

Department 56




oliday sweaters have become something of a kitschy novelty in recent years, with ugly Christmas sweater parties frequenting holiday calendars. Luckily, ugly sweater parties aren’t the only way to get extended use from these Christmas gift staples. “We all have a pile of sweaters in our closets that are outdated or have stains or snags that make them irreparable,” says Heather Thoming, who runs WhipperBerry, a blog where she posts crafts and other creative project ideas. “Why not repurpose them to make an accessory for your wardrobe or other fun craft projects?” The easy answer is to grab a needle and thread (or sewing machine) and turn these sweaters into quilts or pillowcases, but a little extra time and creativity can go a long way. Yarn from old sweaters is an easy workable material. It can be deconstructed and saved for future use or turned into felt and transformed into a brand new holiday decoration. The Longest Yarn The first step is to properly deconstruct a sweater. If the goal is to simply preserve

Sweater flowers, right, are an easy way to repurpose sweater material. The instructions (photos on left, text on opposite page) are simple and possibilities are endless.

Redux the yarn for later, start with the seams. “The key is to rip seams and not the yarn that was actually used in the knitted fabric,” says Jared Flood, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based knitwear designer, author and creator of Brooklyn Tweed, a blog that features his patterns and designs. “It's best to use a seam ripper and good light. Any rips in the yarn will mean your yarn will have that many breaks in it when you unravel each piece.” Avoid collar areas covered in seams to prevent complication and frustration. “I just cut a piece on the row below the neck opening and leave those few inches as waste,” Flood says. He then suggests winding the deconstructed yarn around the back of a chair or a yarn swift to get the kinks out. Soak it in warm water, then dry it with weights on the end to keep it straight. It Felt Right Try “felting” the yarn. This is a simple process, and sometimes one that occurs by accident when sweaters are machine-washed in hot water. “Felting basically means that the sweater shrinks in hot water and the fibers become more tightly con-

Heather Thoming


Heather Thoming

Holiday Decorating • Holidays 2011 • 1



Don’t let ugly holiday sweaters hide in your closet all year – upcycle them for beautiful sweater crafts

Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle Save preserved yarn for later, or cut felted yarn into holiday shapes that can be used for Christmas tree ornaments, as Burch instructs on her blog with a polar bear ornament. She suggests drawing or printing a stencil and using a fine-point washable marker to trace it.

Add embellishments as desired, like beads for eyes or thread-embroidered smiles and features. Thoming suggests making sweater flowers, which can be used as embellishments on sweater decoration projects or even as personal accessories (see below for instructions). © CTW Features

How to Make Sweater Flowers “Sweater flowers are a fantastic way to dress up a fun hairdo or a Christmas package,” says Heather Thoming of WhipperBerry blog. Step 1: Deconstructing. Cut the sleeves of the sweater into 4- to 5- inch rounds Step 2: Sewing a basting stitch along the bottom of the sweater round, being sure to catch both layers.

Step 3: Pull the thread while continuing the basting stitch, gather, and tie a knot to secure. Step 4: This should create a flowerlike shape that can be further decorated with buttons or other fabrics. Optional: Try adding these flowers to a sweater frame, which can be created by sewing segments of trimmed sweater around a picture frame.

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nected,” says Hester Burch, creator of Fun In the Making, a craft-inspiration blog. “This felted wool is then great to use in craft projects because the edges do not fray.”

Down Home for the Holidays The queen of Southern cuisine discusses her signature design style and Christmastime at her house



he’s got it all – a TV show, restaurants, cookbooks and product lines. Whatever Paula Deen dishes out, she does it with that down-home style unique to only her. We caught up with Deen to chat about her plans

for the holidays and how she brings her signature style to seasonal décor. Although her brand has expanded to encompass many products, food is still at the center of Deen’s universe. This is apparent from the way she talks about Christmas dinner at her house. Thirty

of her closest family members and friends share an enormous home-cooked meal, which features beef, ham, turkey and side dishes galore. Dessert includes ambrosia with cream sauce, coconut cake, red velvet cake and Japanese fruit cake. “As a kid, I knew when that Japanese fruit cake

Paula Deen

Holiday Decorating • Holidays 2011 • 1

Paula Deen:

Like her design style, Paul Deen strives to make the holidays at her home warm, cozy and meaningful. Here, Deen and her sons Bobby and Jamie present a classic Thanksgiving meal.

Adapted with permission from, Photo by Chia Chong

These imaginative updates of Victorian kissing balls make perfect Christmas ornaments for your home. The handmade kissing balls are easy to make and a fun, quick project that you can do with your children. A Brief History of Kissing Balls Prototypes of kissing balls were made in England during the Middle Ages of evergreen branches entwined into a rough globe shape. A small clay figure of the baby Jesus was nestled in the center of the sprigs of greenery. The “holy boughs,” as they were called, were hung from the ceiling to render blessings and good luck to all who passed under them. During the reign of Queen Victoria, variations of our modern traditions became popular, such as the Christmas tree and the concept of the kissing ball. Potatoes or apples were used as decorations, with sprigs of evergreen, holly, herbs and flowers wrapped around and tied with a pretty ribbon. The herbs, flowers and plants had symbolic meanings to Victorians, and one could personalize the kissing ball according to the message of love, affection, loyalty, peace and more. Paula Deen and her test kitchen have modernized kissing balls with nuts and candies of the season, to bring color and cheer to your holiday home.

in and get comfortable,’” she says. “It wraps its arms around you when you walk into a room. It’s homey, yet elegant, and each piece has style, value and is affordable.” Some furniture pieces are inspired by Deen’s own furniture, and some are named after family members. But Deen’s favorite piece is the Bag Lady’s Cabinet from the line’s first series. “I love utilitarian things. Other than just being pretty, I like for them to have a purpose,” she says. “This particular piece has a glass top and drawers underneath, and can be useful in any room.” Comfort, family and purpose are three themes that describe her furniture – and her holiday entertaining style. The “purpose” part is particularly important during Christmas. While Deen says she loves the holiday, she doesn’t like the hectic feeling of choosing the right gifts for everyone. To her, the meaning of Christmas is giving back to those less fortunate. Last year, Deen’s family and friends began giving gifts to needy families rather than each other. They even personally delivered the gifts on Christmas Eve. “It reminded us all what Christmas is really about,” she says. “I can’t wait to do it again.”

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Whimsical Kissing Balls

showed up on the counter, Santa Claus wasn’t far behind,” Deen says. “My grandmother and mother always made one on Christmas Eve.” Coconut cake is her favorite. “I put fresh holly and red berries on it, and it just screams Christmas.” Her Southern style extends to the decorations in her home, which are as charming as the food. A 15-foot fake tree stands in her living room while three real trees decorate her bedroom, kitchen foyer and game room. “It’s so much fun pulling out my ornaments each year,” Deen says. “My favorites are the ones of my kids from when they were little.” Deen is a big fan of natural decorations that can tickle more than one of the senses. “We pull most of the things we use out of the yard, and I love using real food to decorate the mantel,” she says. Her must-have decoration is a homemade apple tree. “You can buy little wooden trees with nails sticking out to place the apples on, then you put greenery in between all the apples and a pineapple on top. It’s gorgeous and real and smells absolutely amazing.” Deen brought her design sensibilities to her own line of furniture from Universal Furniture: the Paula Deen Home Collection. She recently added 42 pieces to the original 50-piece collection. “My furniture screams, ‘Y’all come on

© CTW Features

Materials: • 6-inch floral foam balls

• Decorative ribbons

• U-shaped floral pins

• Candies or nuts in shells

• Hot glue gun and glue sticks

• Spray paint in colors that coordinate with candies and nuts

Directions: 1. Spray paint the foam ball the color of your desired candy or nut decoration, and let it dry. 2. Put a bead of hot glue on both ends of the U-shaped pin and insert the pin into the foam ball, allowing the top to extend about 1/4-inch above the surface of the foam ball.

4. Thread a ribbon through the top of the “U”-shaped pin to hang the kissing ball. Tie a smaller length of ribbon into a bow on the first ribbon for an extra flair, if desired.

Paula Deen

3. Apply hot glue to the candies or nuts and arrange all over the foam ball. Let it stand until the glue is completely dry, about 2 hours.

Paula Deen’s Family Style Table is meant to draw people together in a chic and relaxed dining atmosphere.



By CHERYL V. JACKSON | CTW Features ohanna Rosson’s decorating skills are sweet. Rosson designs and builds gingerbread houses – and she’s been head architect for some of the best. In 2005, she appeared on Food Network’s “Paula’s Home Cooking.” After that, she was commissioned to make a special replica of a Springfield, Ill., train depot to be displayed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. All this exposure attracted the attention of Bobby Flay, who (unwisely) decided to challenge her to a gingerbread battle on Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Needless to say, the gingerbread queen held on to her crown. In a typical year, construction season for Rosson begins around midsummer, when many of the magazines she works with are completing their holiday issues. “Whenever I make the first gingerbread house of the season, it just brings me back to life,” Rosson says. “I actually listen to Christmas music to get myself into it. Last year, when I was working on a house, my air conditioning went out – and it was more than 100 degrees outside!” Her busiest season has seen her

build about 50 houses. “There was an eight-year period where I didn’t sleep at all during the fall,” says Rosson, who works in marketing at Fort Hood, Texas, where her family is stationed. Rosson’s culinary foundation was laid early on, as she was growing up in Illinois. “I’ve always baked. I baked with my grandmother and my mother. It was a part of at least every week – almost daily,” she says. She married at 19 and her husband, Steve, immediately entered the military. With that, she began moving about with the Army officer. He is currently serving in Afghanistan. Wherever Rosson was stationed, she would take baking classes, whether it was Arizona, California or more exotic locales. Rosson spent some time in Germany in the early 1990s, where she became enamored with the gingerbread houses displayed in bakery windows. “I was fascinated with them. I wanted to know how to make them,” she says. She cracked open a book on gingerbread houses, tried a few recipes and started to build a reputation. “I started kicking up my creations. I

Johanna Rosson

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the Gingerbread

Johanna Rosson cooked with Paula Deen and threw down with Bobby Flay to earn her crown as the gingerbread queen

All of Rosson’s kids (besides Joshua, there’s also Scott, 11, and William, 8) are naturals at gingerbread building. Each creates an individual house each holiday season. “I think for the longest time, they thought every mom did it. That was normal to them. They didn’t think it was that big of a deal until I was on Bobby Flay,” she remembers. That 2007 “Throwdown” episode saw judges declare her gingerbread recreation of Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield, Ill., home superior to Flay’s Empire State Building replica. In recent years, Rosson scaled back the number of houses she produces annually to about 20, mostly for fundraisers. She says she’s careful that it doesn’t engulf her holiday celebrations and family time. Nowadays, “I put off all gingerbread making to around the first week in December,” she says. “For so many people, it kind of takes over your whole holiday. I don’t want to be stressed out over the holiday.” Even the Gingerbread Queen herself admits, “You can’t let gingerbread get in the way.”

Get Kids

Constructing Kids should definitely be brought into the gingerbread building, experts say. Here are some tips from the pros when it comes to this fun, educational (and messy) family activity.


Be prepared for a two-day project if building from scratch, says Johanna Rosson, who’s appeared on several Food Network television shows. Bake the gingerbread and start construction one day; decorate the next. Even when using a kit, allow for plenty of time for the house to dry before decorating, Rosson says.

© CTW Features

Among her many replicas, Rosson crafted a gingerbread version of Paula Deen's house, photographed here in Deen's kitchen.


“It’s also a good lesson in patience for a kid.”

Use the opportunity to teach other lessons as well, says Suzanne Kanaly, 2008 winner of the National Gingerbread House Competition hosted by The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, N.C. Her boys started on houses when they were about four years old. “What better way to teach your kids math at an early age?” Kanaly says. “Why not get them involved right from the beginning? It teaches them how to count and how to do fractions: a half cup of this, a quarter cup of that.” She also suggests having children keep an eye out for candy and other items with which to decorate. “It could be pasta shapes or cereal. You can teach them shapes at the same time,” Kanaly says.


Try to have fun with it, and don’t stifle the kids’ creativity. “You don’t want to put pressure on kids when they’re learning. It’s all about good memories,” Rosson says. “Don’t take over. What they create is beautiful to them. You should also think so. You should not pressure them to do things a certain way.”

Johanna Rosson

Kanaly suggests soliciting input from little ones early on. “I’d ask them, ‘What are some ideas? Draw me a picture.’ ”


Don’t fret the mess, Kanaly says. “Messy can be fun. You think about how busy families are nowadays,” she says. “You get flour on your face, or drop an egg on the floor; it’s nothing compared to the time you spend with your children having fun.” — Cheryl V. Jackson © CTW Features

21 • Holiday Decorating • Holidays 2011

started donating the houses for military fundraisers,” she says. “I knew that people would be buying raffle tickets for them. I wanted them to be worth donating money to.” Rosson cultivated a specialty in replicas of famous and historical structures. Her first was a 2005 recreation of the Richmond Hill, Ga., mansion of Henry Ford that was displayed at a retirement village. As a contributing writer for Cooking with Paula Deen magazine, she has also rendered the Southern celebrity chef ’s home in gingerbread. Her favorite creation? That was the train depot for display at the Lincoln library. Rosson put about 400 hours into it: a labor of love. “I’m an Illinois girl. I love me some Abraham Lincoln. It was a huge honor for me,” she says. “We’re a patriotic family, anyway.” Family members frequently lend a hand to Rosson’s projects. Her father designed a special foundation board to facilitate the building of the Lincoln depot structure. Her mother has looked after her children while she completed high-profile jobs. Her oldest son, 13-year-old Joshua, crushed up candy to make coal for the depot replica.

Holiday Decorating • Holidays 2011 • 2

My Christmas Tree,

My Way

A personalized, themed tree is an easy way to think outside the decorations box this year



ulling together a themed Christmas tree puts a personal touch on holiday decorating, and it doesn’t have to be a stressful task. “You can theme a tree basically with one item,” says Bob Pranga, celebrity stylist and owner of Dr. Christmas in Los Angeles. “If you do a beautiful red tree, the minute you put a picture of Judy Garland, or something symbolic of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ all of a sudden it becomes a Wizard of Oz tree,” Pranga says. In the same manner, a soccer ball in the middle of a tree immediately gives it a sports theme, he says. Pranga suggests choosing decorations as if casting a movie; start with a star ornament. “Theming your tree comes down to your focal point, your main thing, your star,” he says. “Then your co-star and your next favorite ornament; then feature players; and extras are basic round balls.” One benefit of themed Christmas trees is that most people already have the items that can serve as ornaments, especially if that theme is a hobby. Other themed items can be purchased inexpensively. Mix those with traditional ornaments, says Sarah Schlegel, decorating coordinator at Bronner’s Christmas Wonder-

From top left, counterclockwise: Beach, farmer’s market and wedding cake trees at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland; and Wizard of Oz tree from Dr. Christmas. land in Frankenmuth, Mich. The store has designed trees with guitar, reptile, wedding cake and bunny themes. She suggests choosing non-traditional tree toppers, stands and bases that match themes (a top hat works for a snowman tree); incorporating novelty lights in addition to regular tree lights to match your theme (tractor lights compliment a farm theme); and clustering them so they don’t get lost in the trees.

For example, she says, a baseball/softballthemed tree might feature a baseball glove with baseball novelty lights in the palm, while a beach theme could incorporate a pearl-bead garland or fish netting. “We once used a golf bag as the base/tree stand for a golf-themed tree,” Schlegel says. Want to go for, say, a Harry Potter-themed tree? “The number one thing is to find a major element that symbolizes Harry Potter,

whether it’s a Hogwarts sign or book or hat or even a picture, if framed and made your focal point. Or maybe the Sorting Hat,” Pranga says. “Then you can buy some elements. Maybe a Harry Potter ornament. Often, you can raid the Halloween ornament department.” Supporting players, in this case, would be colored ornaments – maybe Gryffindor house colors of scarlet and gold, or Slytherin colors of green and silver, he says. Basic glass ornaments would fill the empty spaces. A bonus with this theme is that the following year, a couple of ornament substitutions transform it to a Twilight-themed tree, Pranga says. Schlegel suggests ways of decorating in other schemes: Love-Peace-Pizza Tree: Use large, themed items (pizza boxes, peace signs) as focal points and mix novelty lights with regular lights, such as pizza slice lights grouped in pizza boxes. Wine and Cheese Tree: Use a cork garland with berries, grape lights and wine and cheese ornaments. Place the base in an Old World-style cart. Football Tree: Use larger items, such as footballs, megaphones and goal posts crafted from PVC pipes as focal points. Farmers Market Tree: Decorate with produce ornaments; top with a straw hat and place the base in a bushel basket filled with produce ornaments and lights. North Country TreE: Place birch branches within the tree along with hunting and other northern-themed ornaments. © CTW Features

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