My Favorite Things
We were planning to decorate for Christmas closer to Thanksgiving this year. Last year we decorated earlier than that because of fall-decor burnout, from our fall magazine photo shoot earlier that year. But we had to decorate our shop, and once our kids saw the glittering array of Christmas decor, they took it on themselves to decorate our house. So don’t judge if you see pictures of our house dressed up for Christmas and you don’t think it’s quite that time yet.
I thought I would share a few of our family’s favorite things for this season! Here are the top 11, in no particular order:
1. Free greenery
We have a faux Christmas tree (this sounds so much better than saying “artificial”). Whenever we have a real one, it always ruins the floor. We like our current house, so we decided to get a faux one and have never looked back. But, there is nothing like fresh greenery. Thankfully, lots of people buy real Christmas trees (they must have figured out how to not ruin their floor, or else they are looking for an excuse to buy new flooring*) and when they buy them, tree places cut off extra branches and the stump and throw them in a bin. They’re free for the taking. I sort of hate to tell you this, because then there may be a run on free evergreen branches, so maybe you should all just keep this a secret. It can be a blog-readers only kind of thing. Just leave a few good ones for us and it’ll be okay. We pick them up and put them all over the house (some in water and some just lying across the table as part of a centerpiece). When they get dry, you can throw them out and go get new. *we sell awesome flooring, so feel free to come visit us and we’ll give you a good deal.
The wood circles on the wall were actually free, too…when we picked up the branches, we also picked up the little stumps!
2. Vintage Aluminum Trees
As a kid we had a couple of these vintage tinsel trees and I never actually liked them. I think it’s that way with things your parents have. But then, one day, I found out they’re actually incredibly special and festive. Then I hunted for one and found out they’re really hard to find. If you ever see one, buy it! They’re amazing! We have a couple in our shop for decoration only, so stop by and see what they look like and then try and get on on eBay if you can! Or, ask a grandparent or parent if they have one they can give you. It’s a bit of work to put them up because you have to put every vintage branch in a central pole, but that’s what kids are for. They also make reproductions of these that aren’t at all the same but still charming. Might be a good option if you’re not into hunting and assembling.
3. Shiny Brite ornaments
Shiny Brites aren’t the only vintage ornaments you can get, but they’ve become the iconic ones. The secret to being able to distinguish Shiny Brites from other vintage ornaments is their fluted cap. I probably shouldn’t have told you that insider info either, because knowing this when others don’t is how we often get Shiny Brites for cheap. Anyway, all vintage ornaments are special but Shiny Brites take the cake for the most charming and valuable. Buy them whenever you can, and use them to decorate your tinsel tree! I personally don’t put them on our main tree because of pets and kids, but if you have a mellow household, you might be able to.
The boxes are as cool as the ornaments, too:
4. Bottle Brush Trees
It’s really hard to find actual vintage bottle brush trees, but in the past couple of years, they have gotten popular again and have been reproduced. These reproductions are pretty good, though. They’re available everywhere (Hobby Lobby has a huge selection). What I love about them is that they’re so simple but they make it festive wherever you put them. Do you have dishes on open shelves? Just add a few bottle brush trees and it’ll look decorated. Same with shelves anywhere, or even on the kitchen counter.
5. Peppermint Ice Cream and Peppermint Brownies
I am always on the lookout for peppermint ice cream when November comes. For some reason, it’s hard to find. We like Dreyer’s the best, which is pink with red bits in it (except for the lowfat version, which is white and isn’t as good). Breyer’s tastes like toothpaste. Store brands are hit or miss, but if you can’t find Dreyer’s (or Edy’s, as it’s called in some places), the store brand is better than nothing. We just found Kroger brand because that’s all there was, and it was surprisingly good, except for the appearance when opening the carton.
Peppermint brownies are the easiest crowd-pleaser ever at Christmastime. All you need is a brownie mix, crushed candy canes, and red and green sprinkles. If you want to bump it to the next level, you can throw in some chocolate frosting. What you do is make the brownie mix as directed, and then sprinkle candy cane bits all over the top once you put it in the pan. Then sprinkle on lots of Christmas sprinkles and bake. This is an amazing treat that looks pretty, too. If you are an overachiever (or an overeater), you can add frosting once it’s cooled and then sprinkle on additional candy cane bits and sprinkles. It’s AMAZING. Whenever I bring this somewhere, everyone thanks me profusely and says it’s the best treat ever. Which is great, because I usually make it because I failed to plan ahead when I’m supposed to bring something. All you need to have is a pantry full of brownie mixes, candy canes, chocolate frosting, and sprinkles. It’s good both for overachievers AND underachievers.
7. Eggnog everything
I talked about Eggnog Coffeecake in one of my Christmastime posts from last year, so if you want the recipe, click HERE. I made it from a recipe for Blueberry Coffeecake and adapted it through much trial and error to be the delicious treat it is today. But we don’t stop at eggnog coffee cake. Eggnog is a staple in our fridge from the first time we see it in stores until it’s on clearance at the end. When it’s on clearance, we buy several and then freeze them so the eggnog fun can continue into February. We use it for eggnog french toast, eggnog lattes, and whatever else we think of. We always mix it with regular milk for drinking and for lattes. It would be awesome to have good espresso at home for the lattes, but we don’t. So, we do the convenient option and put a serving of instant coffee in a tiny bit of hot water, and then fill the rest of the mug with half eggnog and half milk. Not as good as Starbucks, but cheaper and still decently good.
8. Juliska Country Estate dishes
These are my Christmas dishes (everyone should have Christmas dishes, just fyi). I first saw them in a magazine a couple years ago and decided to ask for them for birthday and Christmas presents for a couple years. They are pricey, but they are beautiful and fun, and don’t chip or get hot in the microwave. We’re building our set over time. If you have these, share pictures on Instagram and tag me so I can see! (@hollythompsonhomes)
Juliska’s website shows all the pieces. Each kind of dish has a different drawing on it. I am a fan of the charm and the simplicity of them!
9. Christmas pajamas
It has been our tradition to get the kids Christmas-themed pajamas every year. They open them on Thanksgiving and get to enjoy them for the rest of the season. This year, we bought matching ones for everyone, including Dave and me! I usually get Christmas jammies for the kids at the kids’ consignment store, but this year we splurged and bought them from Hanna Andersson:
10. Christmas movies
We are pretty non-picky when it comes to Christmas movies. Everything Christmas will do. The fun is in the tradition. Some of them are boring as heck but still fun because they’re Christmas. Like White Christmas, for example. Our kids love it. I think it’s boring, but that doesn’t matter because it’s fun anyway. We also like (more than White Christmas) While You Were Sleeping, Meet Me In St. Louis, Elf, Christmas with the Kranks, A Christmas Story, Four Christmases, and Christmas Vacation. We also love the classic clay-figure ones (Rudolph and more), Frosty the Snowman, Charlie Brown, and The Story of St. Nicholas by VeggieTales. That’s actually one of my personal favorites.
I haven’t watched Hallmark Channel Christmas movies since I was a kid, but if I end up with the flu and need something to keep me company, I’ll be watching those, too. Anyone have suggestions I’ve missed?
11. Christmas Music
My all-time music favorites for Christmas are Shane & Shane (if you haven’t heard them, you are missing out), Phil Wickham, Lauren Daigle, Sarah McLachlan, and Christmas samplers of midcentury favorites (like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, etc). Shane & Shane have two Christmas albums out and they’re both amazing. I could actually listen to them year-round.
Hope you enjoyed some of our family’s favorites! Are any of these your favorites, too?