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Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Favorite Things

Luther Burbank's Home
The Christmas season is my very favorite time of the entire year, and this year my camera and I got busy in order to record some of the pieces that make up this special period.

It all began early in December with the annual open house at the beautifully decorated Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, one of my most-loved events in  Santa Rosa. Volunteer that I am, I put on comfy shoes and took my place in the Burbank greenhouse to pass cookies and serve hot spice tea to eager visitors from all over Sonoma County.

 I love that there is so much to see and do during this festive season. I attended my first cookie swap this year; I didn't even know these parties existed, though I now understand that they are quite common and enjoyed by many. Where have I been?

I arrived home with 3 dozen tasty cookies and recipes to match. My contribution, pictured at the bottom, was white chocolate coated almond clusters. The recipe also calls for dried cranberries, and the combination of sweet, salty and tart is quite delightful. The only problem was that I ate the recipe's required salted almonds, a particular weakness of mine, the night before I was to put together my yummy clusters, so I had to head out to the market in the morning in order to replace what had disappeared the night before. Oink.

Entertaining and social gatherings in general make this such a fabulous time of year; I love getting together with friends and family.

The red and green dominates and, of course, the Lennox plates jump out of their dark and lonely storage cabinet and join the festivities.

The yard is pretty much at rest during this season, but not the olives and the berries. Oh, no! They are putting on their seasonal show.

The only bad part of this is the ripened olives fall from the tree onto the path leading to the front door, get stepped on and then tracked into the house leaving their messy juices on the floor.


The round and merry berries stay on the bushes until they slowly begin to shrivel and ferment, attracting hoards of greedy robins who proceed to feast and get tipsy.


The food!!! I already mentioned the cookies, but that is just the beginning of the delicious temptations of the season: turkey and stuffing, mince pie, eggnog, candy of all varieties, and maybe a spot of Korbel Brut or sparkling cider since the occasion is so unique.  However, appearing on my table this time of year is a hearty treat: minestrone. I usually make it well before the holiday, when the weather is just starting to get cold and comfort food begs to make its entrance.

I've tinkered with the recipe over the years, and this year I added 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the mix. The pleasing result was a minestrone with a bit of a bite, very subtle but unmistakable. It's a keeper!

I've always been one to go overboard in the decorating department, loving all the glitz and glimmer. As the years have elapsed, I've toned it down quite a bit; but it is definitely still one of my favorite Christmas things.

I so enjoy  pulling loved treasures out of storage boxes, saying hello to them after a long separation, anticipating how wonderful they will look all around the house as the fun times ahead are royally celebrated.  Later, disassembling them and putting them all away... well, not quite so much fun.

I start playing holiday music right after Thanksgiving because the couple of weeks before Christmas is just not enough time to enjoy all my favorite carols and songs.

I've got quite a mix of songs I relish, from Elvis to Chanticleer; but my very favorite sound of the season is almost any version of "Angels We Have Heard on High", also my mom's best-loved holiday song. I can remember loving to belt it out when I sang in the church choir. And, hey, I still know my alto part! I sang it with Ella Fitzgerald just yesterday.

"Let There Be Peace on Earth" is a close second. What a shame all of us can't adopt the sentiments found in this lovely treasure and live them the rest of the year. In the words of John Lennon, "Imagine, if you can."

So, these are my "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens" for this extraordinary time of time of year.

May your holidays be joyous.


  1. Oh, what a delightful post! You've hit on so many of my favorites, too from salty almonds to Let There Be Peace on Earth!

    And that bowl of minestrone looks soooo good...and the bowl itself..oh my! I'd love to have lots of pieces of that pattern!

    Your cookie swap looks wonderful!

    It is a lovely time of year! I'm trying to savor every little bit of it!

  2. Delightful post for the Holidays ~ Wonderful photography with all kinds of elegance and down home goodies ~ thanx ^_^

    A Creative Harbor ~ aks ArtMuseDog and Carol ^_^

  3. nice...i do like the holiday music this time of year....and t does the cookie swaps every once in a while...i like to reap the rewards of those....i like your lamp....smiles....

  4. Hello! I saw your name highlighted on Susan Branch's blog today and thought I'd click to see something about you, and I am delighted to see you are a volunteer at Luther Burbank's home. I am from Santa Rosa and used to love to go there every Christmas. The house is so charming! And the greenhouse is wonderful. I love the way it was decorated with only natural things. And I always enjoyed the tea and cookies. I have a pencil made from the Cedar of Lebanon that had been in the yard. Merry Christmas from an expatriated Californian, sandy :)

  5. Such a lovely list of favorites! The minestrone looks so of my favorites, too. And your table setting looks so inviting. I'd like to pull up a chair and join you : )

  6. Janice ~
    I hope you and your loved ones (both two and four legged) have the merriest Christmas ever!
    Pug hugs from Ohio :)

  7. I remember The Luther Burbank home from previous posts - what a beautiful place. Your almond clusters look pretty beautiful too - I love cranberries in white chocolate. Also love your Santa lampshade! Merry, merry Christmas to you, Jan.

  8. Lovely Christmasy stuff. I still find it strange to be celebrating in summer!


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