Sassy Living Below the Mason-Dixon Line

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Christmas category.

The Poetry of A Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree has lights, tinsel (the old-fashioned kind), icicles and branches filled with colorful memories.  As I look at it, I see a narrative poem that weaves the many friends and family who have moved through my life.

Here are my Mom’s favorite tea-pot vintage Shiny Brite, a memento from a long-ago London trip, a specially inscribed china ball from Pem’s years in Holland, rabbits galore collected by Sarah, and a sweet Radko bunny compliments of Margaret.  My Aunt Nancy, who was a Roanoke librarian, always sent me a book for Christmas with a knitted bell tied to the ribbons.

Our former next door neighbors, the Rupps, shared a lot of friendly jokes with my parents about the multitude of squirrels, so a painted squirrel ornament reminds me of those fun times.  Nutcrackers are a favorite theme, and look at the cute Rudolph face from childhood friend, Bettie!  Teri, a veteran of the German Christmas Markets watched a glassblower create an angel and brought her home to me.  Owen keeps me on my home decor toes with a Jonathan Adler memento that I keep up year-round. I can’t resist stitching needlepoint ornaments, although I think it is time to stop!

My favorite ornament is a small, gold ball with my name carefully inscribed by a secret santa while I was an undergraduate student at Radford.  I am in awe of the care it took to create something so special.

Ho ho ho . . .













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Shop Local Day!

Saturday was “Shop Local Day” and I spent it browsing Winchester’s  very sophisticated gift/linen/china emporium — Kimberly’s!  This has been a favorite home decor haunt of mine for many years.

The owner, Kimberly Sowers, also runs a nearby children’s shop, and a new menswear store in General Sheridan’s former headquarters!  (Dear readers, he is a distant cousin of my great-great-grandmother Sarah Sheridan Ward, but let’s just keep that to ourselves.  General Sheridan was an unwelcome presence in Shenandoah Valley in the summer of 1864, and memories are very long if you catch my drift.)

Kimberly’s stocks my favorite Kate Spade, Gien and Juleska china, and the shop also has the most fabulous stationery, candles, scents, ornaments, linens (be still my heart), with a wide range of prices for any purse.  Kimberly is very fashionable herself, and has such refined taste that it would be worthwhile just to come in with your Christmas list and follow her lead.  Here’s a holiday peek …























Set the Table!

I love this season!  My creativity comes alive, and I freely indulge my love of tabletop.  Linens have been important in my family for generations, and I continue to build on my grandmother’s collection.  My favorite are these Indian cotton napkins my mother bought at the now defunct gift emporium — The Richmond Art Company.  Even after much use, they still look great.  Good  quality cotton will last forever — obviously!




The Southern designer Miles Redd advises to always be party ready.  I’ve organized my buffet accordingly.  Here’s how I plan to mix and match napkins, placemats and napkin rings to create interesting tablescapes throughout the season.  Cheers!















‘Tis the Season — Almost!

The season has begun!  I know, Halloween was just  a moment ago, but at Wharf Hill in Smithfield, Virginia, an elegant open house today announced the official beginning of Christmas.   My friend Teri and I took the Jamestown Ferry to the Isle of Wright, and stopped in the historic area store, where country living and decor is raised to a high art.  (Think Martha Stewart meets Ralph Lauren on a chic sleigh ride.) They begin their holiday festivities the first weekend in November, so it seemed the whole town was in attendance.

Smithfield, you might know, is located on the Pagan River not far from Jamestown.  Famous for hams and other pork products, the town was established in 1752 by Arthur Smith IV as a seaport.  Wharf Hill is a nod to this illustrious past.  Take a look and better yet, take a trip!












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Post-Holiday Spree at Lucketts Vintage Store!

Have you ever been to Lucketts, Virginia?  It is between Winchester and Leesburg, and VERY charming.  I visited the vintage store over the holidays and I was completely enchanted.  According to the management, they have regular “pickers” who visit antique shows for inventory.  I found the items displayed in a careful and pleasing manner with an emphasis on design.

If you are looking for a fun winter getaway, this is the perfect day trip.  In the meantime, here’s a peak…








Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids!

It’s fall!  If you are like me, the holidays are already on your mind — and do I have the perfect gift for families with children, Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids.  Filled with all of the inventive, creative solutions for making the ordinary extraordinary.  the text is accompanied by lavish illustrations and tips to insure success.

Time to start thinking about gifts?  Or maybe you will have family with children visiting you over the next couple of months.     This new book has 175 hands-on projects for children of all ages, and it is your one-stop resource for hours and hours of family fun. Pipe-cleaner animals, papier-mache rockets, felt-flower barrettes, city-scene snow globes, duct-tape wallets, and more—you’ll find endless inspiration to spark their imaginations.

The  Pom-Pom Animals are my favorite, and here’s a free project from the book:!  Thanks to Carly for the treat of reviewing this.


Holiday Books — Add Panache to Your Home!

Well, dear readers, you know how I love decorating, reading and writing.  These three books combine all three.  Rejoice!

Thom Filica, who shot to fame on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, has restored a home in New York’s Finger Lakes district.  American Beauty:  Renovating and Decorating a Beloved Retreat highlights the result with over 300 photographs spotlighting luscious lake views and cozy, rustic comfort.  How to keep your own home in ship-shape?  The Butler’s Guide To Running The Home and Other Graces will help you!  Written by Stanley Ager, trusted butler of St. Michael’s Mount, off the shores of Cornwell, England.  If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you will delight in this interesting romp through proper housekeeping.

And, Christmas is about making certain every thing is perfect, right?  Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Barefoot Contessa – Foolproof, offers recipes that  guarantee the culinary success of your holiday meals.  Think lobster corn fritters and mustard-marinated flank steak.  Your guests will be impressed, and only you will know the secret.

Thanks to my pal, Carly, for sending me these fabulous books!  Christmas is coming…




My Jewish Christmas

Hanukkah and the holidays have begun!    I was raised Southern Baptist, (with a dose of Episcopalian), in a Jewish neighborhood.  The Barshaws, an elderly Jewish couple, lived across the street when I was barely in elementary school, and they were my adopted grandparents.  Mr. Barshaw owned a deli and small grocery store, and he kept my family is kosher meats and other delicacies.

I could see their front window from my bedroom, and I was always excited when the menorah finally appeared in December.  But, when the blue candles were placed and lit, it was really official.  Eight days of pure joy — opening the front door each morning where a special treat would be waiting (I still have the blue cameo I received the first year.)  Mr. Barshaw would come over during the holidays and bring a basket of food specialties.   Latkes.  Gilt coins.  Brisket.  All delivered with love.

To this day, Christmas (for me) begins with Hanukkah.  And, I always think of the Barshaws, and I celebrate their religion and kindness!


New York in the Fall!

It’s fall.  Don’t you feel like we should be going back to school in a brand new outfit?  With a cute, plaid tote stuffed with bouquets of sharpened pencils?  I love New York in the fall.  Best.  Every where else, fall feels like an intermediate season, almost a winding down to an eventual ending, or perhaps  a last gasp before winter.  BUT, in New York City, fall is the prelude to the greatest seasons of all:  Winter and Christmas!  Maybe that is why I always feel so optimistic there.  There’s more of a “the best is yet to be” vibe.

The small, local nursery, near my house in Richmond, has a glorious array of  golden mums, pansies and pumpkins.  No matter where you live, it is easy to celebrate autumn by illuminating your home with the season’s splashy colors!

A Tiffany Christmas

Ok, it’s time to get serious about those table settings — Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day, Boxing Day — you get the picture.  Some years ago I went with a group of friends to New York from Virginia the weekend before Christmas.  We took the train and arrived in time to see the star being illuminated on Fifth Avenue.  To commemorate the occasion, my mother gave me John  Loring’s beautiful book, A Tiffany Christmas. 

Mr. Loring was the long-time design director at Tiffany and he collaborated on many design titles with Jacqueline Kennedy (including this one!).  Who had better taste than Mrs. Kennedy?  Good news is you don’t have to have expensive china to get the look.  How about a last-minute dash to Target or Kmart  — both have great white china you could pair with greens cut from your backyard.  One of my favorite Virginia haunts is the Dollar Tree (and, in New York — Dollar Jacks).  Look for simple stemmed wine glasses and white mugs.   You could pack candy canes and a few holly berries in the mug and use it for an accent piece.  If you don’t want to serve wine, fill the glasses with colorful candies and give them away as favors (a take off on the British Christmas cracker concept).  You are more creative than you know.  Promise.

Enjoy these ideas as the weekend of celebrating approaches…