Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas in Vermont

Welcome to Church Street.

I collected this assemblage of carved wood Santa Claus figures over the course of about 10 years. I stopped adding to it a while ago when it reached a critical mass on the mantle. 

Our collection of ornaments has a general theme that developed naturally over time: snow sports, woodland creatures and woodland creatures engaged in snow sports.
I add a few new ornaments every year and this year I received two nice additions as gifts. From my friend Cindy Hattersley, a designer in California and author of the beautiful blog Rough Luxe Lifestyle, a star for the tree top.

And from Monika who pens Splendid Willow, is the proprietress of Splendid Avenue, and knows that I love all thing Scandinavian, a set of linen ice skates from Danish company Maileg.

In a heroic feat of crafting not seen before, or ever since, Mr. H and I made three 6-foot strands of this pinecone garland during our first winter in Vermont. (That was before we had kids or gainful employment.) This is the 18th Christmas that they have graced our tree.

We eat very well in Church Street as Mr. H spent his 'gap year' in London at Le Cordon Blue culinary school. He is a renaissance man; he also plays guitar, writes poetry, and has a master's degree in creative writing.

Making s'mores is a nightly activity from the beginning of Christmas break until New Year's. There is some debate but I think the secret to the ideal s'more is getting the chocolate into the middle of the molten marshmallow so it melts.

I made these luminaries with empty wine bottles and half-gallon milk cartons. After the initial freeze I removed the wine bottles and added more water to raise the bottom level to conveniently hold a votive candle. It is my annual homage to Martha; I have been a fan since the early days. Full instructions below.

On Christmas Eve stockings are hung on a bookshelf as the fireplace cannot be spared even for a single night. In addition to candles, we go through a lot of firewood here.
Before signing off for a bit, I'd like to wish my readers all the best in 2013. I feel enormously grateful to have met so many warm, generous and funny people in the last year through the wonderful world of blogging. Thank you all for the inspiration, education, friendship and laughs. With lots of love, 

Instructions for the luminaries:

Use empty ½ gallon milk cartons, cut the tops off with a serrated knife, put an empty wine bottle in the center, arrange assorted holiday greens and branches of red berries around the bottle and fill with only a few inches of water or the greens will ‘float.’ When that level of water has frozen fill to the top and freeze again. After the second freeze let the cartons sit out for a few minutes to thaw ever so slightly and you can remove the wine bottles. I then filled the center with a few inches of water and did a third freeze to raise the core to a level convenient for me to put in a votive candle.

For the clearest ice use distilled or boiled water that has returned to room temperature.


  1. Everything is beautiful! The tree is perfectly imperfect and I especially love the ornaments from Monika's shop. She's got some great things!

    Wooden Santas. Love.

    Pine cone garland. Love.

    Antlers. Love

    Luminaries. Love

    Smores. Are you kidding? Love, love, love.

    Warm wishes for a wonderful, merry Christmas!


  2. I'm so glad we've become friends! You encourage me all of the time and I am forever grateful! I am thrilled so see your beautiful wooden Santa collection! It is incredible and looks great on the mantle! Your home is as lovely as you are! I can learn a lot from you..of that, I am truly convinced! You are wise, fun, intelligent, imaginative, creative, beautiful, warm, lovely, loving…thank you for being my friend and taking the time to always stop my silly blog! I hope you and your precious family have a wonderful Christmas! Your ice luminaries are amazing…i want more detailed instructions….but then, I guess I also need much colder temps here in Alabama and we all know that will never happen! Much love to you!

  3. What a BEAUTIFUL christmas you have create this year Phyllis!
    Wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS from Vibeke in Normay:)))

  4. Each image is just so lovely, Phyllis. You have created a beautiful winter home for your family. What an inspiration you are. Have a Merry Christmas!

  5. Such lovely decorations! And I love that you do S'mores every night! Have a very Merry Christmas!!

  6. So beautiful! And I love the S'mores tradition, I know my sons would love that.

  7. Pair of garden urns with head sculpture in the middle. Perfect. Nubby linens on the table with so many smooth & shiny surfaces. Lovely.

    Adored your message about the TV !

    A new man in my life. Yes, it has been my concession. Of course he must watch Downton Abbey.

    Your tree is timeless.

    Found a huge new ironstone Turkey platter yesterday, somehow, on the way to walk around Stone Mtn. It seemed to come with 4 mixed ironstone plates. Everything old, brown/white transferware. Bargained a 'bundle' price.

    Merry Christmas.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  8. Phyllis your home is beautiful! Love the garland you and Mr. H made and your luminaries are fabulous! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Holiday Season and the very best for the coming New Year!

    Much love and hugs~

  9. Indeed the Lord is your shepherd and he does walk with you and I bet smiles at all you and Mr. H so joyfully prepare.
    I have been showing off my round beautiful bird cookie mold. I love it and cannot thank you enough!
    Merry merry! I really need to connect you to my friend in VT. You two would have such fun.

  10. Your home looks beautiful. Your carefully chosen ornaments and accessories are the consummate New England Christmas.

  11. How gorgeous!!! Just breathtaking, with all its rustic beauty and those luminaries....amazing!!!! What a beautiful way to greet your guests, I can see you took a lot of time and care into making things look so festive. Wishing you a merry merry Christmas Phyllis!

  12. Your home looks fabulous!! Just love the luminaries and your tree is so lovely. Is there anything more beautiful at Christmas than fresh greenery and red berries...stunning!

  13. so much goodness in this post...elegant use of your antlers. The luminaries the meaning and memories behind your decorations. TV at all?

    Merry Christmas to you and your family

    1. No TV at all, and not for philosophical or intellectual reasons I assure you - I couldn't decide where to put one when we moved in about six years ago and it has just never happened. But we talk about it...

    2. Phyllis
      I love everything you have done. That pine cone garland is just lovely. I am so glad the H found a Happy home. I will do a post on the lovely shop from whence it came at some point. Hooray to you for going without ( a tv that is). We did not have a TV at the lake forever. We played board games and took the roar of sports is constantly in the background....Happy Holidays to you all!

  14. Phyllis, your home is beautifully outfitted for the holidays...someplace I would love to come home to. Wishing you all the best in 2013, and a very Merry Christmas surrounded by your loved ones.


  15. I am in LOVE with it all. I too love to use antlers in my holiday decor. I also love the jute ribbon edged in red.

  16. Hello Phyllis,
    It all looks wonderful.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas,
    Liz x

  17. Absolutely beautiful - love your taste!
    Trisha Troutz

  18. oh my, oh!
    phyllis i can close my eyes and feel i am in vermont. how warm and cozy! your christmas decor is beautiful and tells a family story. how i dream of christmas in vermont, my fav. state
    blessings to you

  19. Phyllis,
    It's so beautiful. You had me at natural greens and pine cones, throw in the ilex berries and beautiful luminaries you've made and I'm inspired beyond words. So lovely, who needs a cocoa, the warmth of hearth and family, it will be the perfect Christmas for your and yours.
    It's been such a pleasure getting to know you too!
    Karen at Garden, Home and Party

  20. I ate up this whole post! Your Christmas decor is fabulous! Forgive my exuberance, but I REALLY like it.

    Have a wonderful Christmas,

  21. Phyllis! I love every single thing you have done in your home. I can just imagine how beautiful it all looks in person. Especially love the ice candle holders, I would love to do that , but alas, too warm here in California. Merry Christmas to YOU,
    xo Kathysue

  22. So beautiful Phyllis, warm and thoughtful. I love the luminaries( I might have to copy that one!) Enjoy your family in good health and love. xob

  23. Your tour was the best in blogland! I love your table setting, all the natural elements--I love that I feel Im really getting to know you Phyllis, and thank you for sharing your life and good taste with us this year. God bless you and your family and have the most wonderful holiday.
    xo Nancy

    I love the luminaries! It isn't cold enough here to do that :(

  24. Just beautiful, love everything you did. And, that decanter on your table is a prize, love it!

  25. Dear Phyllis ~

    Your home is beautiful and so thoughtfully decorated for the holidays. I love it all! You do everything right. I haven't had smores in a long time.....yum! :)

    Many thanks for all your wonderful posts this year. I am delighted we connected and met, and hope we'll see each other in 2013.

    Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!


  26. I'm in awe right now... breathtaking! I now know you live in Vermont, one of my favorite places in the world!! We have friends that have a lake house on lake Bomoseen! We drive though all the charming little towns and I feel like I've stepped back in time. What a beautiful place to live and your home is so characteristic of it. Thanks so much for sharing, sounds like your whole family is so talented.
    I hope you have a wonderful Holiday season with your beautiful family!

    much love,

  27. spectacular, love all the details and so meticulous too. happy holidays to you and your family! xx

  28. Just adore all of your decoration! And the Christmas tree "ornaments" - so, so special and individual - simply lovely and unique!

    The ice-cube - WOW, what a brilliant idea!

    Beautiful, beautiful images!

    All my best wishes, dear Phyllis, for a wonderful CHRISTMAS.
    Lovely to have met you via the blogworld.

    Heartily greetings from the Périgord,

  29. Your home is beautiful!

    You've created such a memorable place to celebrate the holidays.

    Looking forward to sharing another year with you :)

    Happy 2013!


  30. What at beautifull christmas you create! I would very much like to enjoy the holidays in your magic home!! Thank you for all kind words on my blog, it makes me happy :) I wish you all a great christmas and all good wishes for 2013! Varm hugs from Gry

  31. Dear Phyllis,
    I love this holiday posting - what a beautiful, peaceful retreat. It perfectly embodies the quote you posted from John Saladino.
    Merry Christmas!

  32. Wishing you a beautiful Christmas full of wonderful company, gorgeous food and raucous laughter. May 2013 be a superb and very stylish year at Church street. Paul xo

  33. What a wonderful Christmas decoration, Phyllis! The little fox on skis is sooo cute! I wish you and your family, a merry Christmas!

  34. I wich you and your familly a merry Christmas!


  35. Dear Phyllis, so glad to have found your beautiful blog this morning....we had our first real snowfall today and I am happily ensconced by the fire with my precious blogs, catching up!
    Your home looks beautiful, warm , inviting and thoughtfully presented...and no TV! Perfect! N.xo

  36. I love love love the ice votives...sheer genius! I hope your holiday was amazing. It looks like it was.

  37. Welcome to my blog I am very pleased that you're here and I hope you have fun.
    Your blog is wonderful
    ♥ Doris

  38. Phyllis, Christmas in Vermont is divine! Love the ice lights along the walk up and all of your beautiful vignettes. Truly, a natural
    Christmas! Hope it was a wonderful. Thank you for the nice wishes in 2013 and I wish you the same! Monica

  39. Phyllis, Everything is just incredibly beautiful. You are one talented lady. Would love to meet one day. Happy New Year. Mona

  40. Dear Phyllis your holiday decor is wonderful! Love your Santa collection and I cannot believe the beautiful pine cone wreathes! The luminaries...very smart!

    Wishing you all the best in 2013

    Art by Karena

  41. Happy happy new year to you! May 2013 become a great year for all of us! And thank you for sharing your passion for interior and lots of good inspiration :) Hugs Gry

  42. Just stopping by again to thank you for all of the beautiful inspiration this year and to wish you every happiness in 2013, Phyllis!

  43. Wow! I am so sorry to have not seen all this earlier! Your milk cartons .. such a great idea, and I love your wood carved Santa's. Your table decor is so pretty.

    I've added you to my blog roll and look forward to staying in touch.
    Happy New Year and wishing you all the best in 2013!


  44. Phyllis - those ice votives are AMAZING. i love them. and so wish it was cold enough here to do this.

    I want to thank you for your new friendship and support in 2012. It was so nice to meet you this year and see your beautiful creativity. We look forward to 2013 with you!

  45. Thank you for the instructions for making ice luminaries using milk cartons. I'm planning to make as many as I can to light up our driveway and front porch.


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