Setting the Scene for Christmas

P7330581Although many of us are trying to simplify our lives, Christmas is a time that can be quite the opposite and it can become more than a little stressful. All around us television and media encourages us to decorate to within an inch of our lives. Everywhere you see photos of  houses that are beyond perfect, with every room a festive showpiece making the expectation for our own so much more. Often I find myself wondering how I can  trim down the trimmings and still have a stylish home?

We like to keep things as organic and natural as possible, and with plenty of greenery and a little imagination I think we have transformed our home this year into a mini winter wonderland without any of the dreaded Christmas chaos.

P7330498The Scandinavians seem to do this rather well with a simple holiday style that still packs a big punch. The Nordic touch is stunning; it is rustic, unfussy and yet extremely cosy all at the same time. Despite our lousy weather right now, I’ve been determined to cut plenty of greenery from the garden, even if everything is soaking wet. First we’ve had the cold, then the gale-force winds arrived and now the rain is here; but the clock is ticking and there is no time to waste! Natural touches look amazing; cuttings of magnolia and laurel, juniper which scents each room so beautifully, and the ever-present pine cones.



Simple evergreen homemade wreaths give a wonderful welcome and a fond farewell, and just this morning the sun greeted us; how obliging it was, lasting for several hours before the heavy showers returned.


Twinkling white lights add a little warmth and sparkle.


Several cans of silver spray paint and lots of helping hands from the children transformed our pine cones into simple homemade Christmas trees that are now finally finished and adorn the kitchen table. We added a couple of tiny rosemary plants to add some living colour – they’ll be fine indoors for a couple of weeks before they make their way into the garden.P7330669P7330625

Making the kitchen table work is a bit like playing with fashion, as we don’t have a separate dining room we have to find a look that glides effortlessly and elegantly from day into night. This one place is the centre for homework, culinary preparation, breakfast, lunch and dinner and some serious discussions


and then it has to transform into a romantic setting for cosy festive evening meals with friends.P7330651P7330639

The tree is the one place where I break all of my rules! First there is the tradition of choosing it, an art in itself that takes forever and involves serious words and heated debates as the pros and cons of each one are carefully weighed up, much to the amusement of the employees at the garden-centre.


However, once it is home and in situ then this is where bling is totally acceptable with ornaments we have collected for decades, many are gifts from friends. I can quite see the excitement in changing the tree each year, this year a white theme, next year a red one, but for all of us the tradition of repetition wins. The memories that come flooding back every time we unwrap a bauble, the anguish every time someone drops one, and yes it happens every single year! This one being no exception, the second trinket out of the box smashed to a thousand tiny pieces of coloured glass on the hard tiled floor. I won’t tell you who the culprit was, that would be too cruel, besides every year it is someone different, we are none of us immune to clumsy fingers! But these are the memories that make Christmas so special, broken ornaments and all, so year in year out our tree remains much the same.

IMG_4892p4930739Along with our traditional Provençal crib, bought more than a decade ago in the south. Each year the children unwrap the santons (the little clay figurines which we picked out by hand) and each year they recreate the scene of the nativity.

P7330559Flickering candles are an absolute necessity.




And mistletoe is a must! The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe comes from Norse mythology and the tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. Mistletoe is thought to bring good luck to the house and to ward off evil spirits. It adds a little romance, it sets the children giggling and it looks wonderful, so despite the fact that Roddy had to risk life and limb to find us some, (as it only seems to grow at least 40 feet high in the old oak trees around here), we have our mistletoe and it is hung with great pride!


I had better not forget to mention presents, the art of giving is every bit as important as the joy of receiving. Now unless you are super organised then you may well find yourself in the predicament I seem to run into every year, no matter how much I plan in advance there never seems to be enough wrapping paper. So I came up with an idea using a blank sheet of paper, (actually I think, lined or squared would work just as well), some simple garden twine and a few offcuts of greenery. I was so happy with the outcome, I might just forgo the bought paper altogether next year!


At the end of the day it’s not all about the tinsel and the partying and who has the best tree or the best decorations. Sometimes its about the simple things.


120 thoughts on “Setting the Scene for Christmas

    • Very charming. I love the natural elements you used along with all of the candles. Your pine cone trees turned out lovely. The largest tree on your dining table ( in the center), is it made of oyster shells? You do realize the real beauty in your pictures are of the angelic faces of your children and your pets…the real treasures in life.

      • Thanks so much Susan, I am afraid I agree with you, I always think the best photos are those involving family and beloved pets. The other things are just decorations! Yes the central tree is a tree we bought several years ago which is made of miniature abalone shells. We loved it so much that I was determined this year to add lots more trees and that’s why I came up with the idea of pine cones to make the trees out of. xx

  • Your home looks gorgeous. I adore the beautiful magnolia wreath you fashioned. Every year this time I wish I had a magnolia tree in my yard! You are right Susan we do have very similar taste in Christmas decor. I did a Christmas home tour for years that more was more. I have to tell myself edit, edit, edit. You and Annie have done what I am striving for! Happy Holidays!

    • The magnolia is a godsend in the winter months, I cut branches from it all winter and keep them in a huge vase in the hallway, a big splash of greenery. This year we have tried to keep things as simple as possible, with more lights but less ‘stuff’ and a lot more greenery and actually the effect has been really quite magical. Of course it all takes longer, as you know, but it’s part of the fun, late nights and all!!! Wishing you a very Happy Holidays xx

  • so stunning in simplicity! each year i purge more and more of the gaudy decorations we’ve collected in 40 plus years and like a touch of gold or silver with natural greenery! so pretty, so calm and chic! merry christmas to you and your family…i love reading your blogs and enjoying all your photos both indoors and out! those pinecone trees are wonderful! and yes, flickering candles are a must! thanks for sharing your wonderful family and life- you are a gift!

    • I know just what you mean. This year we left things in the big boxes that normally go on display somewhere and instead just focused on the tree and plenty of greenery and lights and the result has actually been prettier than ever, of course, like most things, simplicity isn’t always as simple as it sounds and it has taken longer than usual to decorate, but that’s half the fun and certainly gets us into the festive spirit! I am so glad you are enjoying the blog. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas xx

  • I had a most interesting conversation in Barcelona with a young Danish friend of my daughter’s about Hygge. I have read books and watched programmes but speaking to a young man brought up in the notion of coziness and warmth and content and conviviality was really lovely. Your house would please him immensely in it’s simple but inviting Christmas clothing x

    • I would love to have been a part of that conversation, I too have read the books etc etc., it all makes complete sense to me. I always say I would love to live in Norway and then Roddy reminds me how cold it is and how I hate the cold!! We have friends in Denmark and they really do have a good lifestyle, very different to that of southern Europe, but, as you say, very convivial. xx

      • Haha! This young man was rolling with laughter at my daughter asking me if Grenoble will be cold in February when she is with me for the month …. he said it depended if she was comparing it to Barcelona or Scandinavia!! Xx

        • Brilliant, of course for him it would be positively mild and for us absolutely freezing!! Very mild here now, what a winter we are having so far, we’ve had everything thrown at us, the 120kph winds early Monday morning were quite eventful, now we have a garden full of branches to clear and we’d only just finished the leaves the week before! But it’s all way too soggy at the moment! xx

          • Yes – I thought of you with those winds. I actually thing really high winds are my worst weather … particularly the mess it leaves behind. My eldest was 9 months in the great storm of ’87 …. I was scared witless. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in the islands and Florida this year. I know you have many friends there. In fact thinking about it high wind has been rather a theme for you this year 😨xx

          • I remember that storm, but only waking up in the morning and seeing so many fallen trees on the farm at home. High winds are horrible, actually we were woken during the early hours of Monday morning, around 5am when some seriously strong gusts woke us, which is incredible in a house with 2′ thick walls and all the shutters on the western side, where the gales came from were closed. Still have to clean up the garden, perhaps tomorrow when it finally stops raining. Today we had hail and rain in torrential proportions! xx

  • OMG that present wrapping idea is so easy and looks just really good, great little tip, thank you and a very Merry Christmas to you all.

  • You’ve had the wind and rain and we have snow and ice, we are in Shropshire, the frozen north! I don’t want to make you jealous, but is is very pretty!

    • I have seen the pictures on the news, it looks incredible, but I did hear it was going to be down to -14 last night or the one before, that is really cold. Stay safe on the ice and enjoy it. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas xx

    • Thanks so much Rebecca, we are so pleased with the pine cone trees, they took a long time, but were certainly worth the effort and will last for years to come. Plus the children look at them and think “I made those” it makes them very special. xx

  • Such joy on this grey winter day…. Totally agree on EVERYTHING: Lucky those who can, like you and me, just go outside and cut greenery off our own shrubs and bushes and trees. I will never look at ivy in a ‘bad’ way since I know how much money I save by being able to gather twigs and berries à la queue-leu-leu.
    Love how the tiny ‘cone trees’ have made it on your Xmas table. Beautiful.
    Our large dining table too is an ever overflowing ‘work in progress’, my husband works from it, we have all our food (in winter!) at this table, it was plastered until yesterday with my hundreds of cards, addresses, little stars and glittery stuff I ‘stuff’ with my cards in the envelopes, it’s full of candles, (9 right now) and flowers…. it’s called Living the Life 🙂
    I do love your choice en famille for the tree and you brought home a BEAUTY. Your tree reminds me strongly of my last year’s tree – it was a ‘nostalgic’ trip with ‘only’ animals, tiny puppets & toys, all from all over the world, with anectodes, some from felt, metal, glass, bast, clay, fabric…. This year I’ve been going with a classic tree – my eyes needed a rest. So it’s all in glass baubles, red plus some red topped ‘mushrooms’ and all tied with red ties. Plus the guirlande with warm lights. In Switzerland we’re still allowed to have real candles on our trees (with the many also occurring fires….) and I just got a photo of my sister’s tree with calmly burning candles in the greenery!
    I am no longer putting up my home made crib with the clay animals. No space and nobody around with any interest in it. It was very popular however at the child raising times.
    Now, the wrapping paper story! Made me grin. You know what I did for many seasons? I bought cheaply Laura Ashley wallpapers at their end-of-shelftime. Makes also fab book-covers, sturdy if a bit difficult to fold…. The ties were assorted ‘ends of assortmet’ ribbons from another store who specialised in ‘bits of fabrics’ and ribbons and buttons…. And other years I bought brown packing papers on large rolls and wrapped everything with raffia or garden twine. Nowadays I have no longer need for them as we don’t ‘do’’ presents any more. I do however make pressies throughout the year and they still get fancy but cheap wrappings. And everything not completely new, e.g. an antique piece, 2nd hand item etc did not get wrapped up but ‘only’ tied up in fancy ribbons. I used to do quite a number of flower posies for gifts and they all went in old pots, cups & saucers, bols so were already ‘sort of packed’.
    In case we don’t hear from each other before Christmas: The very best of Christmas wishes, God bless and keep you all, give kisses to the kids, dogs and if you want, chickens and cats – but NOT the spiders, not even the pet ones (Roddy!)
    PS. Your card with letter is being put in the postbox today so MAYBE (if you’re lucky) you’ll get it before Christmas

    • OK, I promise no kisses to the spiders, not even Esmerelda or Gertrude, or whatever the latest pet one is called!! Your wrapping idea is brilliant. My father used to save every single piece of gift paper each christmas. We would all open our presents and he would carefully take the paper and fold it, ready for use the following year. I guess that is what the war years did, even though he was only young, it taught people to be careful and those things never changed. Now I do the same so often with wrapping paper, the children laugh but they know it makes sense. I would be far too scared to put real candles on the tree although I am sure they must look amazing. What if someone knocked it, help, terrifying thought. Your kitchen table sounds much the same as ours, at any given time it has various stuff from the day’s events all over it, the kitchen is very much the heart of our home and the table plays the central role. I am sure we will talk before Christmas, but wishing you and HH a very very Happy, Peaceful and very Merry Christmas and let’s hope 2018 is the year we actually get to meet. xxx

  • The house looks beautifully stylish yet still natural and homely. Who’s turn was it this year to put the star on the tree? I seem to recall from previous posts that the children take it in turns so only get to do it once every 5 years! I have had great fun decorating the château with 2 enormous trees (from our trusty local Gamm Vert) and lots of silver and glass baubles. I’ll have to email you some pics. Merry Christmas!

    • Yes please do email some pics, would love to see them, oh to have a chateau to decorate that necessitates two trees, what fun you must be having, it really does sound fabulous. And where would we be without Gamm Vert, our tree came from there too and the rosemary and numerous other things, I mean they really do sell everything! xx

    • Ha ha, well there is always stuff on the table, but it does get moved, not just for photos but for meals too, Right now it just has one teddy bear and a jug of water. Later on today it will be covered in books from school, and then a few hours later it will change once more into a dining table, clutter free!! Then the whole cycle starts again, the merry go round of life!!! xx

  • Lovely piece. You created an ambience of warmth and the season with your description and photos. Bonnes fêtes de fin d’année.

  • As usual, Susan, a stellar job. I really like the silver pinecone trees. I’ll have to remember that for next year. I love the natural look. We have lots and lots and lots of Christmas decorations, most of which we’ve had for years and quite a few from Germany and Europe, either via my s-i-l or an amazing Christmas store that was only a few blocks from our home in Cleveland. Our crèche is from the former East Germany, so a bit of a collector’s item.

    So much of what we put up each year is that same and we love it that way. My mom made beautiful cross-stitch stockings for the girls and me (Bill has one from when he was growing up) and a number of years ago at my request, she made a batch of Christmas bags from festive materials and of various sizes. Along with yarn to tie the tops, they make beautiful and completely reusable wrapping. Of course, I have Christmas boxes, paper, ribbon, etc. and I reuse as much as possible from year to year. I just finished wrapping this morning and now will have to get it all cleaned up (and the house as well) for our daughters’ arrivals early next week. Hurrah! Christmas!


    • Thanks so much Janet, we re-use as much as possible too, it just seems such a waste to throw it all in the bin, especially the beautiful paper and ribbons. The Christmas bags and cross stitch stockings sound beautiful, isn’t this one of the best parts of Christmas, all of the memories that come flooding back each year. Hope you have a wonderful time with your family and wishing you a very Happy Holidays and Christmas xx

  • Xmas without deco ist not Xmas and however you style your home, colorful or more austere it makes you feel happy.
    A mistletoe is hard to find here and I surch already some years for it .We doesnt give presents since many years so
    I can’t tell you which paper I use to wrap it but I would definitely go for a style like you chose and keep it for the next year. And I will not forget to mention the little DIY silver trees, your girls have made. Just wonderful. Enjoy every of
    the pre-xmas-days, which for me are the best.

    • Oh I agree, these pre-Christmas days are magical, I love all the decorating and preparations as much as the day itself. It is so much fun to make things with the children and to all be a part of the decorating together, and yes it makes me smile very time I walk into the house, and that is what is important. Mistletoe is easy to find here it is just almost impossible to get at! Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and holidays xx

  • Understatement is so much more elegant that a mass of gaudy bling and you have carried this out to the letter, just beautiful in every way possible. Your home would be much talked about for being so different here in the States, but in a very good way, I love it.

    • Gosh, thank you so much Shari, what a huge compliment. It’s funny, the simpler the decorating gets the longer it all seems to take! But this just adds to the magical charm and the build up to Christmas that is so special. Wishing you a very Happy Holidays xx

  • Susan, it all looks perfect. Festive, glowing and welcoming. Like you, I decorate our FrenchGardenHouse pretty much mostly with greens and natural materials. The tree is the exception. And like you, we don’t have a dining room either, so our large French table in the kitchen has to work for meals, wrapping gifts and more. I love how the pine one trees turned out. Beautiful! I can tell you and your darling family are fully enjoying this season, friend. Xoxo Lidy

    • We have much in common Lidy, I don’t think I could do a really understated minimalist tree! But otherwise natural materials and greens are just so lovely and each year we addd more and more of them. The pine cones are fabulous, we are so enjoying having them on the table and they are so easy to move around, so that, again like you, the entire table can be used for gift wrapping, cooking or whatever! I love this build up to Christmas, it is all so much fun. Wishing you the most lovely of holidays xx

  • Beautiful post. Beautiful home. It looks warm and snug and inviting and love-filled. What home should be. Thank you for sharing.

    re weather – ours has been extraordinary this past week (for the American mid-South especially). Last Friday morning we set out from Asheville, NC on our way to Birmingham, AL (my wife wanted to attend a Christmas showhouse charity event sponsored by a local Presbyterian church). The six hour drive took us through Knoxville, TN, down through Chattanooga and on into the ‘ham. We drove the entire way through softly falling snow – the big fluffy kind – it was like being in a snow globe! The mountain scenery was simply magically beautiful. Neither she nor I had ever experienced anything like it before. The drive home from Birmingham to Atlanta Saturday afternoon (typically a two+ hour trip) was mostly clear and sunny but the effects of the “storm” were more evident – hundreds of tall pines along the road margin had fallen and had to be cleared from the interstate – and too many vehicles in ditches. Southerners simply don’t know how to drive in snow conditions. Sunday morning we ventured out cautiously – to our delight our neighborhood was a winter wonderland – it is quite hilly with large lots and mature, old growth hardwoods – many of the houses were decked out with wreaths on every window and swags of greenery and holiday finery so the view was Christmas-card worthy everywhere you looked. We still have snow in the backyard a week later – an unheard of thing for us. On the rare occasions that we get snow it is typically gone within a day or two – just enough to say “oh, that’s lovely” and then it clears itself out of the way. We have a much worse problem with ice.

    I’ll put the pine cone trees on my list of projects for next year. They’re great!

    Best wishes for a joyous Christmas.

    • Thanks so much Steven, wow that drive sounds absolutely magical. Did you get to stop at all and enjoy it, I would love to have seen it, as you know we always long for snow! But just the same as with you, no one here on the coast has any idea of how to drive in snow and when, on the very rare occasions, once every few years, that we get more than a slight dusting, everywhere comes to a complete standstill. Your snowy back yard and your neighbourhood must all be quite stunning, especially with all of the Christmas decorations dusted in snow. I remember once in the UK when it started snowing on Christmas Day, just as we sat down to lunch and continued for over 24 hours, it was as if we were living in a fairytale. Our eldest daughter who is in London was completely snow bound on Sunday, so much snow, she ran outside at 8am and with kids in the neighbourhood they built several snowmen! She said it was absolutely beautiful, London in the snow. The pine cone trees, were time consuming but great fun and definitely a project that was well worth while. We love them! Wishing you a very happy and peaceful Christmas xx

  • I love your decorations. Just like i imagine a perfect Christmas should be. With only the two of us, we do not have much but we do have a lovely tree. Christmas can be a difficult time as we have no family here

    • I know what you mean, it is always difficult with family scattered in different countries. If you have the desire to travel and have a couple of days off would love you to come up here for a couple of days. xx

    • Thank you so much Jo, it is such a wonderful time of year and we all love this build up to Christmas and doing everything together, it’s a busy time but a fabulous one. Wishing you too a very Merry Christmas xx

  • I can almost smell the pine. The flickering candles of tiny lights are perfect. And your simple white paper with twine and greens is beautiful. Lovely. Lovely. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, it is all so much fun and surprisingly it actually seems to take much longer to decorate simply with just greens! But it has been great fun doing it all together, I love this time of year and the build up to Christmas itself. xx

  • Simplicity at its very best and I do share your thoughts about the tree, using the same decorations every year is a part of the holiday fun. We like to collect glass balls whenever we travel and then we can look back and reminisce each Christmas when we trim the tree. Yours looks as if it holds many memories. Lovely seasonal post, but then I have come to expect this from you! Merry Christmas to you all.

  • Susan, how perfect. I was looking forward to the photos so much. I really don’t think anything feels and looks as good as real greenery. We are also fortunate that all I have to do is go outside and clip away. We also have Salal, which has wonderfully green waxy leaves. Yes greens and candles….so simple.
    Our weather is quite beautiful … for the West Coast…9°C and sunny. Rain maybe next week, but still mild.

    Email to be sent soon…

    Hugs to All the Hays family
    Ali Xxx

    • Hi Ali, I have never even heard of Salal, but thank goodness for google! The leaves look beautiful and I can imagine that would make a perfect winter decoration, just as we use the magnolia and evergreen laurel, both have big waxy leaves also and I find they mix really well with the feathery branches of the juniper. Our weather has turned really mild these past two days, we were up to 12C today, but wet, this winter really is throwing the book at us and it is only mid December! Hope you are enjoying being back home, do send some photos if you get time. Big hugs from all of us to both of you, one year maybe you can do Christmas here??? Now there’s a thought! xxx

    • Thanks so much Penny, fresh greenery really is the simplest of decorations isn’t it and just looks so lovely. We grew up with it, my father would cut trug loads of holly and ivy and then it would be placed over every single painting in the house! xx

    • Thanks so much Denise, the trees are a huge success and the best part is we can move them around the table and make space for whatever we are doing! I am assuming you got snow and now the ice and the freezing cold? Stay warm and safe in the cold weather. Wishing both of you a very Happy Christmas xx

  • So elegant and simple. I love using the greenery from the yard. I love your Idea of the pinecones and want to creat them fit next year. Merry Christmas you and your family…
    looking forward to your blog in 2018❣️🎄❣️

    • Thanks so much Carolyn, it is great fun isn’t it, cutting the greenery and then bringing it in to decorate with, I think actually it takes longer this way but it is so much more rewarding. Do make the trees next year, they are such fun, rather fiddly and time consuming but we look at them now and the children think, “we made those” and that makes all the difference. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas xx

    • Thanks Theresa, I love the simplicity of natural greens from the garden and a few candles and lots of lights, visually it all comes together rather well and is so relaxing to actually live with. xx

    • Thanks so much Candi, the trees were so much fun to make. The shell tree is made of tiny abalone shells, we bought it many years ago in Florida and it has been at the centre of our table ever since every Christmas. It was this that made me want to add more trees, but I thought making them ourselves with pine cones would be so much more fun! Wishing you a very Happy Christmas xx

  • Thank you for such a lovely post reminding me I can stop decorating and that a favourite Christmas decoration lying smashed on the floor this morning (in Australia the boughs begin to droop early with the heat) is not the end of the world. There are and will be many others! Merry Christmas 🌲

    • I remember from past Christmases in New Zealand how the heat and the trees are not a match made in heaven! After the first decoration accident this year the children went and grabbed several beach towels and laid them all around the tree whilst we were decorating so that if any others got dropped they would hopefully not smash, they are smarter than the adults and the towels saved at least two more from disaster! Stop decorating, stop worrying about the broken ornaments and enjoy the build up to Christmas and your sunny warm weather! We are being battered by gale force winds again tonight coupled with pouring rain once more! This winter is throwing all it can at us and it’s only mid-December. Have a very Merry Christmas xx

  • Your home is so beautiful and the love of your family is so obvious. We have not started decorating yet, we always wait until the week before Christmas and your timely post has reminded me to look to the garden for inspiration and a more natural look. We shall be following your lead. Happy Christmas to you all, two and four legged.

    • Thank you Zoe. We always used to wait until the children finished school, just as I did when I was little, but recently school seems to end closer and closer to Christmas, this year not until the 22nd and so we have sort of changed plans! This year, is the earliest we have ever had the house decorated and actually finished, by the 14th, is very very early for us, but I am rather enjoying it, it seems to make these pre-Christmas days even more festive. xx

  • Oh Susan – I know this will be the most beautiful family Christmas story I shall have the privilege to read this year. I love the way you have been able to transform your home into a Magic Kingdom for yourselves – above all, your very lucky children. Just because I personally do not celebrate does not mean I do not have a few happy trickles falling from my eyes! Thank you so much for sharing . . .

    • I can tell you this is the most wonderful build up to a lovely time of year. For so many reasons, it’s mid winter, the children have nearly finished school for 2017, another year is nearly dawning and everywhere looks simply magical. There are so many bad things in the world that it is lovely just to drive through towns and villages and walk down narrow streets and see festive lights everywhere, even if some are gaudy and over the top, people make an effort, strangers wish each other a Merry Christmas, I love it! Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • Christmas has snuck up on my husband and moi. Seems like that happens quicker each year, but we will get ‘er done and enjoy the wonder of it all shared with friends and family.

    • I think I know your feeling, the house has been decorated earlier than usual but the gift buying is lagging behind, I cannot quite believe we have only just over a week, I have much to do still!!! xx

  • joyeux Noël, Susan, to you and your family. Your home is lovely and must smell heavenly with all the greenery. And you have created some wonderful family traditions to enjoy and pass on to future generations. Cheers, Ardith

    • Thanks so much Ardith, I really do love the smell of juniper in the house, a very Christmassy scent. I love family traditions and always enjoy telling the children stories of my childhood christmases, of course they think that was back in the dark ages, but it is lovely to see how many of those old traditions we have kept going still today. Have a very Merry Christmas xx

  • Holiday wishes to you and your family, Susan. I love how the silver pinecone trees turned out, although the largest one looks like it’s made out of tiny abalone shells instead of the “petals” from a pinecone. I love your use of natural greenery.

    • Thanks so much Kathleene, you are so right the central tree is one we bought several years ago and is made of small abalone shells. We have had it as the centre piece of our table ever since and it was this that gave me the idea of adding to our silver forest! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas xx

    • Ha ha, my husband still says he had to risk life and limb to climb a good 25′ or more to get it. But that’s half of the fun, the story that goes with it! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas xx

  • The silver trees turned out beautufully! Tell your elves I like their work! As always it looks cozy and festive. Wish I were there! Merry Christmas to all! Xoxo, Nan

    • Oh I so wish you were here too Nancy, we’ve had several fabulous Christmases together. The trees are fabulous, we really love them, and next week we are going to make your reindeers out of old corks, I have never forgotten those! Hopefully 2018 will be the year we get to show you France. Very Christmas from all of us xxx

  • Joyeux Noel to all…..

    Susan, despite the cold rain outside, your home looks joyful and warm and inviting. I would love to come and curl up by the fire with your dog.

    I love all your natural decorations; especially the silver pine cone trees on the table with candlesticks and rosemary trees. Just beautiful. I want to do that look for a January table, looks like winter wonderland. Now, I just need to borrow your girls to make the trees. They worked so hard on them. Please tell them that they look terrific. Good job girls!

    I love the white paper wrappers, simple classic look. I had to cut up brown grocery pages one year when I ran out.

    Now that you are decorated for the holidays, you can now spend your time cooking all the goodies.

    Merry Christmas with hugs to the whole family, critters included……….Patty

    • Hi Patty, I will pass on your lovely words to the girls, they will be very happy, the trees were something of a labour of love! I would be honoured if you created something similar for your January table, using the Rosemary trees has been a big success, because when someone knocks a hand against theme the scent is lovely. This evening we were making more mincemeat, wonderful aromas filled the kitchen, it is such a fabulous time of year. I hope you too have a wonderfully happy and peaceful Christmas, I can’t quite believe it is nearly 2018! xx

  • I’m so glad to see that someone else has a traditional tree with different coloured baubles and items from past years – lots of little memories!! So many of my friends & family have one-colour trees, looking beautifully stylish in white and gold perhaps and all so ‘balanced’! Whereas ours is full of colour, even coloured lights! – Santa Claus, Christmas puddings, trains, elves, snowflakes and any number of other things, all adorn our tree year after year, some given as gifts, some bought on a Christmas outing. It sometimes takes a bit of courage to not follow the masses but in our old cottage, the warm glow of reds, golds and greens, looks quite at home and very inviting, so I shall hold my head high and stick with our tradition!! I also have some pine fronds from trimming the tree and have used those around my lovely gold stag. But I love your stair decoration and the mantle piece and those lovely silver trees made by your children are gorgeous!! They will need special storage indeed!! I so agree with you that trying to keep things manageable and simple is the best idea and I shall take a leaf out of your book! I also like to have some mince pies handy – I add some grated orange zest to the pastry which is really nice and cut out a star for the ‘lid’ which is festive and keeps the pastry/mincemeat balance at a good level! This year, I also made some mini mince pies using a mini cake/pie/case tin from Lakeland. They worked very well, with mini stars on top and were a perfect and easy to handle mouthful if you have some friends around and space is at a premium!! Thank you again for a lovely post and have a lovely weekend.

    • I know just what you mean, the super stylish trees, and I cannot deny they look fabulous, but the trouble is we just love all the memories every single bauble holds so I cannot see our tree changing at all!! Your tree sounds utterly delightful and I know it looks gorgeous because I have seen it (and liked it) on Instagram! In fact your cottage looks absolutely gorgeous, made me feel quite homesick. I just made another batch of mince pies yesterday with stars for the lids, I shall try the grated orange zest in the pastry when I make the next batch, it sounds like a fabulous idea. I still cannot quite believe that Christmas is just a few days away, the time has flown by! xx

  • Susan,
    Your home is absolutely stunning! ❤️ The silver trees are beautiful. The heartfelt love that radiates throughout this post by the Hays Family only reaffirms that “life is beautiful.”
    With all the “hustle and bustle” that goes on during this season it is nice to take a few steps back and reflect.
    My husband bought a manger scene many years ago. If I were to pick One memory of the years gone by it would be the “Love” and “Care” of this Manger. It really is what Christmas is all about; that an Family! ❤️
    The Anderson household has definitely simplified “the meaning of Christmas” this year. I personally have put a “no buy” clause of Christmas “ditty’s.” Instead, as a family we are looking at ways once again to help those who could use a Christmas “boost.”
    Enjoy this final week up to Christmas! Thank you for all the Blessings you have bestowed upon your readers and myself in 2017.
    Happy Holidays, Dear Susan, Roddy and Family! ❤️🎄🦌

    • I so totally agree with you, this is exactly what Christmas is all about. I love how you think of everyone else at Christmas, what an incredible family you are and how lucky are all those people who you help. This really is the true spirit of Christmas. This is such a wonderful week, the family are arriving, special days, I just love it. Hope you have a wonderful run up to Christmas as well and wishing you a very Happy Christmas xxx

  • Wishing you and all the family (including the animals) a Very Merry Christmas & a Happy, Healthy New Year 2018. Looking forward to more great stories and photos to enthrall us. Loving the decorations by the way; lots of inspiration. xx

  • Looks wonderful and your home sets Christmas off so well. I have abandoned France this Christmas for family obligations, but next year our barn we hope will be christened with Christmas and the pine cones, mistletoe and holly will be in full swing. Happy Christmas and good luck for 2018.

    • Thanks so much Judi, I really hope for you that next year your barn will be completely finished and you can celebrate in French style! It will be sure to be very special. I hope you have a wonderful, happy and peaceful Christmas xx

  • Your decorations are so classy giving your home the most warm and welcoming ambience. I’m striving for the same kind of look and was inspired by the beautiful displays of foliage I saw decorating the shop fronts on my recent trip to Bruges. I put the secateurs in the car tonight with the aim of ‘trimming’ some fir and conifers in my village on the way home from night shift under the cover of darkness! X

    • Thanks so much Fiona, I love using fresh foliage for decorations, aside from the wonderful scent it is also very natural with a wonderful effect. Hope you found some good ‘trimmings’ your way home last night and that no one spied you!!! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas xx

  • What a darling family…and I adore les chiens!
    The decor is elegant simplicity…and inspiring. Those pine cones are the most amazing shape! Ours here in the states are much more rounded, but I love spraying them silver and gold also! Have a blessed Christmas!

    • Thanks so much Margaret, the pines are a good shape, they lent themselves perfectly to what we wanted to do, that was just pure luck! It is great fun to spray them and then keep them for years, simple decorations that are so effective. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas xx

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