Cookie Swap - It's Pretty Sweet Cookie Book Cover Buy it! Cookie Book Cover Buy it!

"This really is the ULTIMATE cookie book. Whimsical, elegant, colorful, and creative!! What more could you ask for? You will not be disappointed.”

Colette Peters

Celebrity Cake Decorator; Owner, Colette's Cakes


Apr 01, 2019 2:48pm

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

Color Me Christmas

You might be dreaming of a white Christmas, but I prefer the traditional red and green - for decorating, that is! These colors cheer up even the dreariest of winter days; they’re naturally found in nature, which often means cheaper, faster decorations (think: hand-cut evergreens and berries); and, better yet, they coordinate perfectly with the palette of my house!

I swear, not more than a week ago I declared to my Facebook friends that I wasn’t going all-out this year. Too much travel, not enough time, yada yada . . . I’d just slap my quirky 50s-era masonite wreath (below) on the front door, and that would have to be fine. But once I latched onto this easy red and green idea (with a Santa subtext), I soon found myself on overdrive.

Yep, there’s no better decorating guide than a strong theme - with a few unusual twists. And no better impetus than an appreciative husband. (Can you believe it? The sweetie left me a handwritten thank-you note after seeing what I’d done!) Want to see too? Read on . . . along the way, I also offer a few tips for making holiday decorating more breezy!

1 | Start the Theme Outdoors.

Why decorate your house one way on the inside, and another way on the outside? A wide variety of elements only complicates the decorating process and usually blows the decorating budget (if there is one) straight out the roof. I stuck with simple greens and berries, and lots of them at every door and vantage point (see photos 1 to 5). But to prevent them from being too blah (a risk you run as you streamline elements), I paid special attention to containers and small embellishments. Normal planters, window boxes, and door hangings wouldn’t suffice, so I substituted a rusty cistern, an old newspaper box (hung the wrong way!), and a milkbox handed down from my mom. I already had these things, I just used them in new ways. As for the small details, I kept them simple and similar to make the whole setup easy on the eye . . .  a burlap bow on the newspaper box (photo 2), burlap ties with red buttons on the hanging wreaths (photos 3 to 5), and galvanized metal containers everywhere.

2 | Bring the Indoors Out.

It’s important to project a warm coziness to guests, especially when it’s icy cold outside! And I like to do so from the get-go by putting touches of the inside on my front porch. A toss of a Santa pillow and a red quilt were all I needed to dress up the old bench that greets my guests (photo 6). The Santa was also an intentional sneak preview of the sub-theme I had going on in the house.

3 | Be Consistent Inside, To a Degree.

Again, a wide variety of decorating elements can be time consuming and expensive to assemble - not to mention completely distracting. Greens (a mixture of pine, fir, spruce, and boxwood, to be exact) and red berries also dominated my centerpiece (photos 7 to 12), as did different forms of Saint Nick! You may have seen my vintage papier mâché guys last year - and that’s quite alright. It’s wasteful not to re-use items from Christmases past; we all should, but with caution intact. By that I mean: if you don’t change things up in some way, you’re bound to put your spouse and other regular guests to sleep. But here’s the good news . . . even small twists can be a big hit. I went from mini trees (last year) to arranged greens (this year), and from Santas in 7-Up crates to Santas surrounding an old chicken trough! If you check out the photos then and now, I think you’ll see a considerable difference.

4 | Carry the Theme Through the Details.

If you’ve read even a few of my posts, then this tip should come as no surprise. I’m a detail person - God is in the details, beauty is expressed with details, and guests feel fully appreciated when they know you cared enough to sweat the details. (You catch my drift!) Here, you’ll see this principle expressed through Santa. When you least expect him, he pops up everywhere (photos 13 to 18). He’s the mug that will be warmed by hot cocoa; in postcard form, he’s the liner in the tray that holds those mugs; he’s the vessel used to serve Mulled Cider Sorbet; he’s the prime decoration on a plate of gingerbread cookies . . . and when those cookies get photographed, he turns into a bunch of colorful gift tags (last two photos).

5 | Learn to Let Go.

It’s easy to let holiday decorating consume you. We all get caught up in the passion to make everything as special as possible for our family and friends. But, remember, the season won’t be special for anyone if you’re too frazzled to give of yourself. After spending a few hours hanging the wreaths and garlands on my porch (photos 4 and 5), nearly all of them blew off in high winds today. Initially, my heart sunk and I scurried around in the storm salvaging them all. But you know what?! I’m pretty sure they’ll stay un-hung from here on out. I’m getting tired, which is a signal that it’s time to turn on the Christmas tunes, pour a glass of eggnog (spiked, preferably), and kick back!

An Aside: For all of my Santa cookie how-tos, check out the tutorial here. I think you’ll like the fact that this cookie uses a relatively quick drawing technique! And for the sorbet recipe, you needn’t click any further than here. Lastly, be sure to scan down to the bottom of this post to catch all of my pictures, or click on any one to enlarge it and then use the arrows to advance the photos in a slide show.

May your holiday season be filled with cheery decorations, great food, friends and family, and well deserved time off! Live sweetly!

Share |


Email: (required)



Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Beautiful love love it Julia! Happy holidays and Merry Christmas
Best wishes on a wonderful and blessed year

By Rowaida Flayhan on December 22, 2012

Thanks, Rowaida! It’s a nice day today and I’m caught up on work, so I think I’m actually going to repair the wreaths on my porch. (It’s hard to keep a perfectionist from tweaking.)  :)

Have a great holiday yourself! We’ll be talking in 2013, I’m sure!

By Julia M Usher on December 22, 2012

Great ideas.  Love it!

By Rachel on December 22, 2012

Thanks, Rachel. Happy holidays!

By Julia M Usher on December 23, 2012

Julia I just got around to reading this! I did the same thing this year! I swore I wasn’t going to go overboard on the decorations but once I start I can’t help myself! I went with lime green and red for my theme and carried it from the outside in. I put some of the pictures on Pinterest under Gail Roth.  I have realized this year that I love the decorating part of Christmas the most, making cookies 2nd, and the rest of it third Ha Ha! My daughter and son in law and I made 38 dozen cookies this year, of course some of them your recipes along with Italian favorites Pizzelles, and Honey cookies.
Sadly this year my Brother and sister in law had to close The Bookery Nook in Denver where I met you. Wanted you to know you I was so happy to get to meet you there and know you through FB and Twitter and Pinterest now. Hope you had a wonderful holiday and Best Wishes for the New Year
Gail (Piserchio) Roth

By Gail Roth on December 28, 2012

Hi, Gail, So sorry to hear about the close of The Bookery Nook - unfortunately, shuttering seems to be the continuing trend for indie bookstores . . . though they remain my favorite place to get books! I can’t wait to see the results of your decorating; I’m going to check out your photos now on Pinterest! Happy, happy holidays to you too!

By Julia M Usher on December 29, 2012