Preparing for Christmas this year was a totally different experience, and yet it reminded me of celebrations long ago. Usually, Randy and I drive to Swan's Nest in early December in plenty of time to select and cut a tree, decorate the house, hang lights outdoors, and bake cakes, breads, and hundreds of cookies.
This year, for a number of reasons, we arrived exactly one week before Christmas. No twinkling lights on our large spruce trees greeted us as we drove up the driveway, no swags of holiday greenery entwined with lights proclaimed the season, and there was no hint of Christmas indoors. With very little time before our son Timothy arrived for the Holidays, I launched into an extreme Christmas makeover.
As I pulled out boxes of decorations from the barn and moved them to the house, I was reminded of the many Christmases we celebrated in Colorado from the time our boys were infants. With only days remaining until Christmas, Randy and I would pack the car with suitcases filled with warm clothing and boxes of carefully-hidden presents, and before dawn, the four of us and our German Shepherd would set out for the fourteen-and-a-half hour drive from Dallas to the tiny town of Dillon, Colorado.
By the time we reached Colorado Springs, it was always dark and often snowing. We'd stop there briefly at a tree lot to purchase our Christmas tree, since they were very expensive in Dillon. One year, we bought a tree for $15; another year it was $6, and once, the owner simply gave us the tree. For a young family on a tight budget, that was a special gift. Randy would tie it securely to the top of our car and we'd be back on the highway in less than thirty minutes.
Randy's parents owned a two-bedroom condo in Dillon and graciously made it available to us each Christmas. We'd arrive tired after the long drive, but excited. The next day, I would go downstairs to the storage room and bring up two boxes of Christmas decorations – greenery for the mantel, ribbons for the chandelier over the dining table, two strings of lights, a limited number of decorations for the tree, and an electric candle for the kitchen window. It was simple, but festive, and as we decorated our little apartment, with snow softly falling outside our windows, the togetherness we experienced was all we needed.
These memories of simpler times encouraged me to scale back as I prepared for Christmas this year. I hauled fewer boxes of decorations from the barn, left some surfaces undecorated, and baked fewer cakes and cookies. Randy and I still cut down our tree, and once he arrived, Timothy helped us decorate it while Christmas music played in the background and a warm, cheerful fire glowed in the hearth. While the guys were out cross-country skiing, I created a magical Christmas scene on our dining table, since it's around the table so many cherished family memories are made.
I'll probably pull out all the stops again next year, and I'll share the process with you, but for now, I can truly say it has been a Very Merry and Blessed Christmas. May the blessings of this Christmas Season remain with you and your loved ones throughout the New Year.
When A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving was filmed ten years ago, our focus was strictly on restoring our 19th century Colorado mountain home and moving in. Making Swan's Nest holiday-ready and gathering with family and friends to celebrate the season was paramount, even as the new kitchen was still in its early stages of build-out, we had yet to find doorknobs for the upstairs, and I knew wallpapering one of our guest rooms was a task I'd get to far in the future.
Eventually, as one project after another was completed, Randy and I were able to turn our attention to the small, one-room cabin situated behind the house. During construction, we re-roofed the cabin, painted the doors and trim, and removed equipment left by former owners, as well as damaged linoleum flooring – only to find the same fir flooring in the cabin that we restored throughout Swan's Nest. With that discovery, we realized our cabin was a historic structure built in the late 1800's by gold baron Ben Revett, probably as an office.
Today the cabin is cozy and welcoming. It's furnished with an inlaid wood dining table that previously resided in our Dallas breakfast room, upholstered dining chairs, a glass buffet with gorgeous, curved, burnished metal legs I'd always admired in my mother-in-law's home, bookcases from my Fort Worth television set, and a large, wood-framed mirror over the buffet that beautifully reflects candlelight, while hiding a large scar on the cabin wall. Just steps from the house, our cabin has become a destination for intimate cocktail parties and cozy dinners with family and friends. And, since there's no electrical power to the cabin, the room is filled with the magic of candlelight.
As Randy and I celebrate the 10th Year of A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving's national broadcast, we're especially grateful to viewers who will discover the show for the first time this November, and to all who've made our show a part of their annual Thanksgiving tradition. I've heard from hundreds of viewers over the years, and I'm touched each time by their words of support, love for our show, and how it's inspired their own holiday celebrations. My goal has always been to bring family and friends together, and my viewers assure me I'm on the right track.
This fall, I landscaped around the front of the cabin, decorated the interior to reflect this beautiful season, and designed a casual, nature-inspired Thanksgiving table setting to support my 2018 holiday message: Set an extra plate at the table for someone who might otherwise be alone on Thanksgiving Day. As I've always said, "It's not the food, the size of your home, or whether you have the perfect dining spot. The most important thing is gathering family and friends around the table to share a meal." I hope all my viewers and fans will embrace that sentiment this Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday Season. Happy Thanksgiving!
If you're a regular visitor to christyrost.com or reader of my Notes from Swan's Nest blog, then it didn't take you long to realize I stopped posting after January 2018. In fact, I eventually had to step back from my Facebook and Twitter pages, too.
I recall saying to my husband, Randy on New Year's Day, "I think this is going to be a difficult year." And it was. His mother's health was tenuous, and continued to decline, so I chose to reduce the time I spent on blogs and other professional endeavors in order to spend more quality time with her, while providing extra support for Randy.
My dear mother-in-law passed away at home in late August. We were by her side each day during those final ten days, and the memories of those precious hours will remain with me always. In the weeks that followed, I allowed myself time to heal refraining from social media, work pressures, and my blog. Instead, I went on a fabulous one-week cruise in early October with my beautiful 92 year-old Mother on the Queen Mary 2. We had planned the trip for many months, and as we cruised up the St. Lawrence Seaway from Quebec City to New York, I cherished every moment of our special time together.
So now, I'm ready to step back in, and I invite you to continue this journey of "All Things Home" with me. It begins with new blog postings on Notes from Swan's Nest, plus next month's 10th Anniversary broadcasts of our Holiday television special, A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving, airing nationwide once again on PBS and Create TV stations. In addition to your local PBS station, look for the show multiple times November 17 and 18 during Create's annual Thanksgiving Marathon
It feels good to be back!
When was the last time you were invited to a dinner party? Or more to the point, when was the last time you hosted one? I don’t mean a potluck gathering or a backyard barbecue, but a real dinner party with a carefully considered menu, a thoughtfully set table, and candlelight. Do people do that anymore? Well, WE do, and lucky for us, so do some of our dearest friends.
My husband Randy and I hosted a dinner party Sunday night. We invited four couples – three of whom we knew well and one that we had met briefly a few weeks ago during a Christmas party. In fact, the initial reason for hosting our dinner party was to get to know this couple better. I’ve been guilty so many times of meeting someone during a gathering and saying, “We need to get together”, only to lose contact because I never took the initiative and followed up with an invitation. Does that sound familiar?
So this time, I sent out e-vites within 24 hours of meeting this couple. It took a day or two to nail down a date that everyone could do, which is how we ended up with a Sunday night. From the beginning, planning our dinner party reminded me why I enjoy the process, from selecting the menu to designing the table setting. I knew everyone would want a tour of Swan’s Nest during the evening, so I took advantage of this chance to give the house a thorough cleaning in the days before the party, eliminating a last-minute rush to make the house guest-ready. Let’s face it – one of the real reasons I think people don’t entertain is because it’s so stressful trying to clean at the last minute! Rule #1 – Clean early in the week!
Since I grew up with parents who entertained frequently, both for business and pleasure, and I was usually a member of the “kitchen crew” for those parties, I have the advantage of years of observing and helping my mother as she prepared for dinner parties. I believe one of the keys to success as a host is advance preparation, but the other is recognizing that hosting a dinner party is an art – an art that can be learned and mastered with a bit of practice. I always experience an underlying current of excitement and anticipation once the dinner party invitations have been extended, because I know guests regard our invitation as a personal gift.
Enhancing that gift is what thrills me as I select a menu my guests will love – most recently, creamy roasted pumpkin soup served in antique Limoges soup cups while we gather in my studio kitchen, followed by an impressive glazed ham, sweet potato medley, and buttery vegetables, served in the dining room with a selection of beautiful wines. And, to leave a lasting impression, a two-layer dark chocolate cake garnished with swirls of chocolate buttercream frosting. Next, creating a tablescape that conveys an unmistakable message to our guests from the moment they enter the dining room….”Prepare to be spoiled”! In this next step, I select a color-theme for the table, design the centerpiece, choose chargers, dinnerware, pieces of my Grandmother’s silver, crystal goblets, placemats or linens, napkins, and accessories.
In these days of social media when we text our friends and face-to-face encounters seem ever more infrequent, hosting a dinner party opens the door to exciting conversations, personal relationships, new discoveries, and laughter. If you haven’t hosted a dinner party in a long time, take the leap and plan a party this winter when folks long to spend a cozy evening together in the warmth of friendship. As I’ve discovered, the gifts of time and friendship offered to our guests during a dinner party, return to me many times over as I gaze around the table and see the joy reflected in their eyes.
There are many reasons why I adore Thanksgiving – watching the Macy's Parade on television each year as I prepare the turkey for the oven, the sense of joy I experience from the warm colors and nature-inspired textures of autumn décor throughout the house, and the intoxicating aromas-from-the- kitchen that fill our home as our holiday dinner cooks – but my favorite aspect of Thanksgiving is the blessing of gathering around the table with Randy, our family and friends.
Setting a beautiful table is one of my secrets to encouraging guests to linger in conversation, long after the final slice of pie has disappeared. This year, casual yellow placemats provide a no-fuss foundation for bronze-hued chargers, burnished ironstone dinner plates, and English china salad plates with a fabulous turkey in the center of each.
What will grab everyone's attention though, is my centerpiece. I arranged three lengths of silk autumn garland down the center of the table, added pumpkins of various colors, shapes and sizes, large pinecones I found during an outing near Colorado Springs, and loose-woven twig balls. A string of battery-powered mini-LED lights intertwined through the centerpiece and caramel-colored pillars provide a festive and romantic glow.
But at the end of the day, from the first bite of turkey to the last bite of pie, it’s not the menu or décor that make Thanksgiving so special. It's the loved ones gathered around our table, and memories of loved ones who are no longer with us, who make this day unforgettable. I'm grateful for each and every one.
My sincere thanks to all who visit christyrost.com throughout the year, to those who tune in to their local PBS station each November to watch A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving, to my many professional contacts who support what I stand for, and to those who’ve just discovered me. You mean the world to me.