Posts belonging to Category Holidays


In the midst of the hectic holiday season, I’ve decided to offer something light and uncomplicated.Mini

The scene:  a quiet Wednesday afternoon hanging out at a MINI dealership, while waiting for an oil change. Exciting stuff, I know.

Except that the dealership has a fun gift shop, filled with unique car accessories. Even the chairs in the waiting area are fun. (I snapped a photo).

I noticed a rack of postcards highlighting the features of MINI ownership, and the title ‘Build Your Own Brochure’ caught my eye. The idea was to assemble your own reference set of postcards, based on your personal preferences for the car of your dreams. The end result would be a brochure, unique to you.

Cool, I thought to myself.

As I stood there admiring the display, the words started to morph into something else.

In my mind’s eye, the interior designer in me was seeing ‘Build Your Own Design’. In other words, based on your own set of personal preferences, you could build the home of your dreams by creating a similar ‘brochure’.

Here is how an interior design project typically comes together:

You hire an Interior Designer. Together you decide what the different ‘features’ of your project will be. Most likely, you already have a basic idea in mind but the designer will help you tweak things and gain some clarity as to cost, feasibility, and so forth.

These features then become the components of your personal ‘Brochure’.

Is it going to be a Kitchen and Bathroom remodel? Or is it strictly new Furniture that you need? Perhaps a Color Scheme and new paint colors are in order? What about Lighting? Flooring? Window treatments?

Do you want to select from products that are sustainable, and green?

The list is endless, yes, but that is also the best part! See, with your home, you are allowed to do what you want and dream big.

All you have to do is assemble an awesome brochure!


I’ve just learned that a local radio station will be hosting a special holiday talk show titled “12 Days of Green”. I particularly like the ‘green’ twist on the traditional 12 Days of Christmas –it struck me as both clever and timely. After all, Christmas is fast approaching, and every year it seems there are more suggestions on how to make your holidays Green.

Here is a brief summary of the various tips and recommendations I have come across during this holiday season:

TREES & DECORATION                   HolidayLightsiStock_000002392693XSmall

The prevailing wisdom still dictates that a live tree is preferable to an artificial one, since the latter is made almost entirely from plastics, that can’t be recycled. The bottom line is that while it can seem wasteful to have a living tree from one year to the next, it is actually more beneficial to the environment, especially if you support what is grown or manufactured locally.

Other ways to bring the outdoors in are by collecting pine cones and branches of holly berries, or whatever else you might find that suits your holiday decor. If you have children, old standbys like strings of cranberries and popcorn are fun decorations; when the holidays are over you can put them in your yard waste, or give them to the birds.

I literally cringed when I read that we should avoid using tinsel, because it can’t be recycled. In my family, tinsel on the Christmas tree is a tradition that goes as far back as I can remember. When it came to decorating the tree it was always my father’s crowning achievement. He would add the tinsel at the very end, ever so carefully and always very meticulously. Give up tinsel? Me? Maybe next year.


Did you know that LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are at least 90% more energy efficient than regular incandescent bulbs? Cool to the touch, they also pose less of a fire hazard, and will last for thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs.

LEDs are widely available in many different colors, and shapes, and can be found at your local retailer. By switching to LED’s you will save electricity and enjoy a lower electrical bill!

Be sure you don’t throw away your old lights; check your local listings to find out how they can be recycled.


The general idea with the giving of gifts, is to tread light and give less by focusing on gifts that are less wasteful, and kinder to the environment. For example, you can give the gardener in your life a sturdy, easy to care for plant which is definitely green any way you look at it. Plus there is zero waste.

Whether purchased or homemade, food gifts can be a great idea. As with any gift just make certain it is something the recipient would like. Studies show that as much as 20% of food gifts get thrown out!

Avoid using foil or plastic-coated gift wraps as they are not recyclable. Instead, look for gift wrap that is either made from recycled paper, or lends itself to being recycled.

If you want to be really creative, try wrapping your gift with something that can be re-purposed, such as a colorful kitchen towel, or cloth shopping bag.


So many things can be recycled – trees (which can be composted), holiday lights, batteries, electronics, wrapping paper and of course, food. For the latter, take advantage of your local yard waste program, and for everything else check out your local listings for various recycle programs.


The newest thing I’m hearing this year, is the emphasis on eating locally grown, seasonal food. In doing so, you will be supporting both the environment and local businesses. Choose organic produce whenever possible, and you will be doing even more for your health and well-being, especially during a season fraught with temptation and unhealthy food choices.

IN SUMMARY As you can see, there’s no need to give up your traditions, it’s simply a matter of tweaking them!

Plus, whether greening your holidays, or greening your home, I always take the approach that it is not necessary to do everything all at once. While every little bit helps, it is more important, in my view, to do what feels most comfortable to you, in the moment. It’s a little bit like being on a diet, because if you start to feel deprived, or that you are sacrificing too much, your efforts simply won’t last.


It’s that time of year again, the five week stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas Thanksgivingwhen common sense flies out the window and we knock ourselves out trying to produce the ‘perfect’ holiday memories for our families. The endless To-Do lists are guaranteed to raise your stress levels and suck the merry right out of your Christmas.

Every magazine and newspaper I pick up is filled with advice, on how not to eat too much over the coming weeks when faced with the Thanksgiving feast and other daily temptations, and even more importantly: how to reduce stress. Yea, right, you say. I need to buy gifts for 30 family members, put up the Christmas decorations, both inside and out, bake twelve dozen cookies, and plan an over-the-top dinner menu for our holiday repast. There isn’t enough time to get it all done!

Being as guilty as the next person for overdoing things this time of year, I may not be the best source of advice. However, this much I know:  whatever I think absolutely must be done for the perfect seasonal celebration, there is probably a fair amount I could cut back on. For example, as much as I like to bake, we really don’t need eight dozen cookies. My family could easily get by with less. After all, who is going to eat all those cookies? We do not have a large extended family, and how many people really enjoy receiving homemade treats for Christmas? Especially when we’re being told to rein ourselves in and eat less?

ThanksgivingPieSince we aren’t planning on having sixty guests over for dinner, I don’t need to decorate the house from top to bottom. Who would I be knocking myself out for? For the most part, ours will be a quiet family celebration, complete with our most cherished traditions – a  freshly cut, glittering tree  holding center stage in the living room, garlands gracing the staircase, and favorite seasonal decorations scattered here and there throughout the house.

Every family is different, of course, but regardless of your situation my advice to you is simple – put Yourself back on your To-Do list! Cut back wherever you can so you can do something you enjoy, like read a good book or go for a long walk. Honor yourself with wholesome, nourishing meals. Most importantly, seek out some quiet time at the end of the day to be with your thoughts and to re-think your agenda. In making conscious choices, and being kind to yourself, you can ultimately stress less and enjoy the holiday more.

Going Green for the Holidays

The New Year is upon us, and most of us are moving on from the recent holiday revelry.

Even so, I’d like to leave you with some thoughts on how to make your holiday greener in 2008. On the positive side, you still have eleven months to work this out, and determine what changes would feel most comfortable for you and your family.

There’s no need to give up our traditions, it’s more a matter of tweaking them!

For example, the prevailing wisdom dictates that a live tree is preferable to an artificial one. An artificial tree is made almost entirely from plastics – nonrenewable petroleum by-products that can’t be recycled. Many are imported from China, which affects transportation and consumption of fossil fuels. Ideally, the preference is for using what’s grown or manufactured locally.

Other alternatives are to plant a living tree, one that grows in a pot and can be re-planted later – a great idea, but one that requires a lot of acreage (or ingenuity) for the re-planting phase, especially if you still have many more Christmases to look forward to. Organically grown trees are another environmentally friendly choice, as they are grown without synthetic pesticides and are therefore much kinder to the environment.

The bottom line is that while it can seem wasteful to have a living tree from one year to the next, it is actually more beneficial to the environment.

Another subject of discussion for a greener holiday, is our energy-consuming holiday lights. I highly recommend switching to LEDs (light-emitting diodes) which are at least 90% more energy efficient than regular incandescent bulbs. Cool to the touch, they also pose less of a fire hazard, and will last for thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs. LEDs are now widely available in many different colors, shapes and sizes, and can be found at your local retailer.

The benefit to you is that you will save electricity and enjoy a lower electrical bill, while enhancing the environment.

In my family, we actually changed over to LEDs this past Christmas, and were quite satisfied with the results. The outward appearance, as compared to regular lights, was negligible. We purchased white lights, which, when lit, had a lovely bluish tinge – to me the color of new-fallen snow.

If you prefer to keep your current string of lights, try limiting the time you burn them by not leaving them on overnight. Aternatively, try putting your lights on a timer, which also means one less thing for you to remember during the stressful holiday season!

Other ‘green’ suggestions that I have heard of – and will share with you here – mostly cover gift wrap and cards. Some work for me, others do not. Again, it’s a matter of knowing, and understanding, what your family would be most comfortable with.

Let’s begin with the gift wrap, which actually applies to many more occasions than just the holiday season. Suggestions range from recycling brown paper grocery bags to not using bags at all. As an interior designer, aesthetics always take center stage for me, so I’m not so sure I could live with brown paper wrappings under the tree. However, I have been known to recycle gift boxes, which often works in lieu of gift wrap if the outer package is attractive and sturdy enough.

Some members of my family have long been in the habit of re-using gift bags from one season or occasion to the next. This is an equally fine solution. Sometimes it just comes down to being creative, and seeing what you can come up with! As for recycling holiday cards, by cutting off the front and saving it for future use, I think this is another one that requires creativity to pull off properly. Alternatively, many people rely on e-mail greetings.

A rather appealing idea that I’ve come across is from a company called Bloomin’ Flower Cards – a biodegradable card with embedded seeds that you actually plant! Talk about creative!