Category: Holiday

How to Make Holly Luminaries

It’s party time! We’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday season and the parties are in full swing. During a bout of mild weather I hosted an impromptu gathering by the outdoor fireplace. The fire kept us warm and everyone agreed that it was nice to get some fresh air. There was hot chocolate, finger foods and s’mores – you can’t have a party around a fire without s’mores!

Set up was simple with Christmas lights to set the mood and a fire to serve as the focal point. For the buffet I dressed up a teak table with a red table cover from Tablevogue and a centerpiece made with a few logs from the firewood pile, Mason jars, holly leaves and votive candles. Here is how I put it together.

Materials:


3 firewood logs
6 Mason jars in different sizes
Holly branches with berries
6 votive candles
Water
Evergreen boughs

Directions:

Cut the logs into pedestals of various heights.

Place the holly leaves and berries in the jars. Fill with water and drop in a votive candle.

Arrange the log pedestals and Mason jars on a table. Add a few evergreen boughs as a finishing touch. Voila! Christmas!

Outdoor Winter Entertaining Tips

  • No fireplace? A fire pit or chiminea will work just as well.
  • Have a few blankets on hand to keep folks extra warm.
  • Tablevogue table covers are handy for gatherings because they are easy to use, fit well and the pleats make these table covers look sophisticated. They are also machine washable, which is a bonus when food and drinks are involved.
  • Serve foods such as fondue or slidders that are easy to handle with cold fingers or gloves on.

So when the temperatures drop, never fear. There are lots of ideas you can use to enjoy some of that colder weather and create a memorable time with your friends.

Gifts for Gardeners, Cooks and Homesteaders

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of the countdown to Christmas. How is your gift shopping going? I’ve got my list pretty well worked out; now I just have to get out there and shop.

There are, of course, a few people who are impossible to shop for. You know the ones that either want nothing or already have everything. For them I have to get creative. What do you give these folks? Tell me in the comments section below.

Here is a roundup of some of the gifts I’m giving this year. Maybe one of these ideas will work for someone on your list too.

Gardener

Motus D-Grip and T-Grip $13.00 and $12.00

T-Grip

D-Grip

These genius grips will make garden work much kinder to your body. They attach to your shovel or hoe to give better leverage and lifting control
Available at www.GreenHeronTools.com.
Photo credit: Green Heron Tools

The Birds of BirdNote® 2014 Calendar $14.99

Support the public radio show BirdNote® and give a great looking calendar with photos shot by Gerrit Vyn conservation photographer and natural history media producer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Available at www.Birdnote.org.
Photo credit: BirdNote®

Gift Certificate to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Prices Vary

With options like ‘Blue Berries’ tomato, ‘Jimmy Nardello’ Italian pepper and ‘Delaware Indian Sacred’ nicotiana the recipient of a gift certificate from Baker Creek will also receive hours of daydreaming as they peruse the seed choices.
Available at www.RareSeeds.com.
Photo credit: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Subscription to Gardens Illustrated Magazine $27.84 for 6 Issues

Inspiration is one of the best gifts you can give a gardener. This British magazine is full of gorgeous photos, practical information and a lot of fodder for the imagination. Also available in a digital format for tablets.
Subscribe at www.GardensIllustrated.com.
Photo credit: Gardens Illustrated

Cook

Handcrafted Cutting Boards $44.99 – $299.99

These cutting boards are made in my home state of Arkansas by the great upcycler Paul Michael. The woods used are locally harvested or reclaimed.
Available at www.PaulMichaelCompany.com.
Photo credit: Paul Michael Company

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart Prices Vary

This New York Times bestseller is suitable for the cook or gardener on your list. Because, really, who doesn’t love a good cocktail? Especially one made with plants harvested from the garden.
Available at www.AmyStewart.com.
Photo credit: Amy Stewart

Berard Olive-Wood Salt Keeper $49.00

This is a gift I wish someone would give me! I have an olive-wood pepper mill that just gets more beautiful with age. This salt keeper would be a gorgeous addition to any kitchen.
Available at www.Casa.com.
Photo credit: Casa

Pie Bird $8.00

This clever baking tool is cute and helpful. The pie bird vents stem from pies as they bake preventing fillings from boiling over and ensuring a crisp bottom crust.
Available at www.LeCreuset.com.
Photo credit: Le Creuset

Homesteader

Weck Mold Jars Set of 6 $15.25 – $19.50

Even if I never put up a single batch of anything I’d have Weck jars around just because they are so attractive. Filled with homemade preserves they are a sight to behold!
Available at www.WeckJars.com.
Photo credit: Weck Jars

Interchangeable Knitting Needle Set $59.99

It’s funny how things go in and out of style. Right now knitting is once again all the rage. Treat your favorite knitter to a set of interchangeable needles from Knit Picks. The kit also comes with two cables for the Magic Loop method of knitting, end caps, a clear vinyl needle case and cable keys.
Available at www.KnitPicks.com.
Photo Credit: Knit Picks

Wire Egg Basket $24.75

It is my opinion that one can never have too many egg baskets. This basket has a center handle that makes gathering eggs a snap.
Available at www.MeyerHatchery.com.
Photo credit: Meyer Hatchery

“Pioneer” Clothes Drying Rack $109.00

This might not be the sexiest gift you give this year, but it will be the most used because nothing beats the smell of sun dried laundry. This handcrafted version offers 30 lineal feet of drying space.
Available at www.HomesteadDryingRacks.com.
Photo credit: Homestead Drying Racks

P. Allen Smith Gifts

I wouldn’t be a true entrepreneur without a little self-promotion. Here are three options for the P. Allen Smith fan on your list.

Tour and Lunch at the Moss Mountain Farm Garden Home $90.00

Treat someone to a tour the gardens and cottage and lunch.
Spring 2014 tour dates are now available. Purchase tickets here.

P. Allen Smith Holiday Collection $39.98 – $69.98

Hand-tied, sustainably harvested Noble Fir greenery available in five different styles.
Available at HomeDepot.com.

P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes from the Garden $24.74 – $17.32

My cookbook is a collection of recipes inspired by seasonal foods and my Southern heritage. There are a total of 120 dishes: 30 for each season.
Available at www.Amazon.com.

Plans for the Garden Home Cottage $500.00 – $1,500.00

Enable someone on your gift list to build their own garden home with a set of plans for the 1,870 square foot, eco-friendly cottage built at Moss Mountain Farm.
Available at Houseplans.SouthernLiving.com.

Fresh Holiday Greenery Without the Hassle

See how to customize fresh evergreen wreaths for the holidays. Read my column in this month’s AY Magazine. Click here.

I’ve always found the holiday season to be a magical time of year, and nothing says it better than fresh greenery adorning your home. After years of making individual pieces by hand for my friends, I started designing fresh greenery holiday décor, and now you can have these pieces in your own home. This year, my Holiday Collection is made from beautiful Noble Fir, the finest and most fragrant pieces handcrafted by my friends at Berry Family of Nurseries . I’ve created several designs that I’m sure you’ll love because beautiful styles and wonderful aromas of my Holiday Collection are the perfect way to enjoy the holiday season. The best part is that there’s a little something to bring the holidays to every style and every space.


You can purchase the Colonial, Chocolate & Spice, Williamsburg, Lodge, and Classic Collections online at HomeDepot.com and the Rustic Collection at Frontgate.com. The Collection is also available at independent garden centers across the country, select Sam’s Club stores, and Reasor’s in northeast Oklahoma.

Old Traditions, New Recipes

 

During the holidays, I always look forward to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a Smith Family Christmas. The holiday traditions of my family have been carried throughout the years, and I love passing our family stories and recipes on to my nieces and nephews. This year, though, I’m hoping to create a new tradition around the dinner table with an alternative to our typical recipes- this year, I’m making Pekin Duck.

Pekin Duck is one of my favorite “sounds fancy, cooks easy” main dishes, and when paired with a citrus glaze it is a beautiful and delicious meal with a holiday twist. Long Island Ducks are what we know as “Pekin.” They were bred in China and in 1873, exported to Long Island. It’s the most common duck meat consumed in the U.S. and in my opinion, the tastiest. We tend to rely on the holiday meal staples, but I think trying out a different bird this year will be a hit and hopefully start a tradition of trying new recipes each holiday.

Pekin Duck with Mandarin Sauce

Fabulous Tobi Fairley Giveaway

Congratulations to Marilyn Herdon! She is the randomly selected winner of Tobi’s St. Nick Pillow. Woot woot!

Designer Tobi Fairley joins us today on my blog to spread some holiday cheer with a special giveaway – a pillow from her Saint Nick collection.

Hello, friends and fans of Allen!

Over at my blog, I’m giving thanks for all sorts of wonderful things in my life: people, places, opportunities, experiences, transformations, and more. I am so grateful for wonderful friends like Allen, with whom I can share big ideas about design, entertaining, food, and the outdoors! Another HUGE part of my gratitude is for the pleasure of giving, so I want to give something special to one of you this week to kick-off your holiday season!

If you leave a comment on this post telling Allen and me what you’re giving thanks for this week, you’ll be entered to win one of my Tobi Fairley Home pillows from the Saint Nick collection! The winner will be selected by random draw on Wednesday 12/05/12.

Sometimes an accent pillow is ALL it takes to make a sofa or chair festive and fun for the holiday season!

Find more inspiration from my Pinterest board: Holiday Treats & Decor

(like this sweet pic…)

Best of luck!

Xo,

Say Happy Thanksgiving with Brussels Sprouts

Thanksgiving is the big holiday for my family- no matter where we host it, we’re all in a frenzy of activity. The kids are playing in the yard, uncles and aunts are enjoying the fire, and my cousins, siblings and I are busy catching up while also putting the finishing touches on lunch. When we finally sit down at the table, though, it’s hard to talk to everyone during lunch because everyone in my family loves to eat.

I find that it just takes one recipe to bridge the gap between the adult and kid’s table, though. Desserts are always a good go-to, but last year I tried fresh Brussels sprouts. I know what you’re thinking- “my kids would never eat Brussels sprouts!” But try this recipe and I bet you’ll be surprised just how many members of your family ask for seconds.

Tarragon Pimiento Brussels Sprouts

Christmas Comes Early

“What do you do every day?” It’s a question I’ve been asked, always politely, throughout my entire career. And it is a fair question. Do I spend all my time in the garden, making recipes, or choosing paint colors? Do I have an army of workers running crazy while I sit back and drink hot cocoa? Do I spend one day a week writing, another filming, another speaking, and another managing my farm?

Honestly, it’s a little bit of each of those (with the exception of the hot cocoa. In Arkansas there is a small window of time when it’s cold enough to drink hot cocoa.). The average week involves all of those details, but usually there’s a little something extra thrown into the mix.

Recently, it was shooting a commercial for my Holiday Collection with Berry Family of Nurseries. Filming is a part of daily life at the Garden Home, but we decided to rent out a studio for a new look for this commercial.

Here are a few things I learned about making commercials:

You have to take your shoes off when walking on an all-white set, otherwise you track dirt onto the set. If you do it correctly, though, the magic of television can turn an empty set into a fully decorated room in the snap of a finger.

It’s better to just bring most of the shirts in your closet, because you never know what is “holiday appropriate,” especially when it’s still 80 degrees outside.

Even a small amount of greenery can get you into the Christmas spirit, especially when the greenery was flown in just that morning from the Cascade Mountains in western Oregon.

It takes a lot of people to make a commercial come together. Luckily, I’ve got a very talented crew.

Five hours, three cups of coffee, one rented studio, a dozen set changes, 10 different wreaths, and a crew of 8 people later, we had a commercial.

Well, let me rephrase that. We had the footage for a commercial, and now it falls to the editing team back at the office. And I will say this much- I can’t wait to see what they produce.


Three Ways to Prolong Valentine’s Day Roses

Did you receive roses for Valentine’s Day? Lucky you! Prolong the love with these three ideas.

When Your Roses Arrive
If your roses came prearranged, simply place the vase in a spot out of direct sun and away from heat sources.

For unarranged roses fill a vase with lukewarm water and add a floral preservative along with one teaspoon of bleach to keep the water clean. Remove any leaves from the stems below water line. Under running water, re-cut the ends of the stems at a slight angle. Place the flowers immediately into the vase.

Every few days replace with water and recut the ends of the stems.

Giving Your Roses a Second Life
Pull the freshest flowers from the bouquet and reuse them in a new arrangement. Buy flowers from a local florist or market to complement the colors of your roses. For red roses try purple, orange, and golden yellow flowers. If you receive salmon roses, add chartreuse, blue, and cream. Pink roses look great with burgundy, lavender, and cream blooms.

Cut the rose and flower stems to about 8 inches long. Grab the entire bouquet as close to the base of the blooms as possible. Wrap a rubber band around the stems to hold the arrangement together tightly. Place the bouquet in a low vase filled with fresh water, floral preservative and a few drops of bleach.

Preserve your Memory
As your roses fade, remove the petals and place them in an open weave basket to dry. Purchase other ingredients from hobby or craft stores to create your own personalized potpourri. I start with a base of pre-packaged dried flowers or potpourri to create a colorful mixture. With an eyedropper add some rose oil to the potpourri and toss gently to refresh the fragrance of the flowers. Place the mixture a bowl or basket where the aroma can be enjoyed.

Plant a Tree!

Is it really time for New Year’s resolutions again? I’ve got one to add to your list. Plant a tree.

While January isn’t the ideal time to plant a tree you can start planning and commit to plant a tree this spring or fall. Stop in at your local independent garden center to learn about suitable trees for your region and the best planting time. If you don’t have room in your garden, consider planting a tree at a hospital, school, or nursing home. Get your neighborhood association together to plant trees around the community.

And there’re just as many reasons as there are places to plant trees. I can’t think of a better way to honor or remember someone, or celebrate a special occasion, than by planting a tree. It’s because trees play such an important role in our environment, and our daily lives.

This New Year make a resolution to plant a tree. And stick to it! It’s a gift for future generations.

Eat Your Black-eyed Peas

Christmas may be over, but the celebrating isn’t; New Year’s is less than a week away. If you’re in the southern United States, you can bet that black-eyed peas will be on the day’s menu. All good Southerners know that if you want to have good luck in 2012, you’ve got to eat at least a spoonful of black-eyed peas.

The traditional dish, Hoppin’ John, consists of rice and black-eyed peas seasoned with onions and pork (bacon or a ham hock), but these days pretty much anything goes from black-eyed pea cakes to black-eyed pea salsa. At the Garden Home Retreat you’ll find us eating salt pork black-eyed peas, turnip greens and cornbread. The turnip greens ensure wealth in the New Year and you’ve got to have cornbread to soak up all the good sauce.

Here’s a recipe for salt pork black-eyed peas. Top them with a tomato relish, hot sauce or some folks even like their peas with catsup.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups dried peas
  • 6 slices of salt pork
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Water

Directions:

Soak the peas overnight and drain.

Place salt pork in a medium sized pot and cover with water. The water line should be about 1 inch above the pork. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 1 hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the water looks oily.

Add the prepared peas, onion and crushed red pepper. Again, the water line should be about 1 inch above the peas. Cook for about 30 minutes and then check for doneness. They should be tender, but not mushy. The fresher the dried peas, the quicker they will cook.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot.