The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We’ve been decking the halls, girlfriends, in the Most wonderful time of year!

You know I love my bird trees . . . this is the white feather tree I did for the guest room. (We have the larger 24″ tree in our store now, in case you’re looking for one! Ignore the photo of it in the web store, that was the 12″ one — double it in your mind!  So darling!)

And, in case you missed it, here’s Jack helping me decorate the bird tree for the kitchen table.  Without knowing it, slowly, over the years, I bought little paper and feather birds whenever I saw them, and they ended up being a collection that was perfect for a small table tree.  My absolutely favorite holiday decoration! I put it out usually before Thanksgiving, because it represents my favorite thing no matter what time of year, nature. 

And speaking of trees, we brought in the big one last night!  Had turkey soup for dinner, turned on the Christmas music and brought in the tree.  When we first saw our house, we knew this corner of the living room was the spot for the tree, in front of those windows!  Figuring out where the Christmas tree will go is just a natural part of home buying! Out to the barn goes the dining table and chairs that are usually in this space — in comes the little box Joe made to stand the tree on.

Beautiful Christmasy night — under a cold moon shining through thin clouds we went past the barn to where the tree has been soaking and drying . . . don’t have photos of the next part, couldn’t handle the camera while carrying my end of the tree (the top) in the dark, singing Oh Come All Ye Faithful down the driveway, out to the front of the house, following Joe up the steps, through the front door, squishing past the piano in the front hall, into the living room, lifting it over the sofa, “fit it in the hole, back, back, no, too far, lift higher, there!” and viola!  Like buttah.

She’s in!  The first thing we did is tie her to the wall!  Taking no chances with you-know-who.

Then Joe unleashes the ropes and Pop goes the Magnificence! O Christmas Tree! We turned it to get the best side, “Is it straight? How about now?” . . . Girl Kitty came in to help.

 The tree was cold from being outside, you could feel little clouds of coldness when you were close to it . . . and it filled the room with that wonderful woodsy piney smell.  Heaven.  This morning I came downstairs and now the whole house smells of it.

And then Nightmare on Elm Street, all wrapped up in fuzzy cute ball of adorableness, shows up.  Asks Joe “Could you please explain this to me?  Please?  What is it what is it what is it.  Can I have it?  Please?  can i can i can i?”

 We had to pull him out of it twice, although the tree was still standing this morning, so I think we’re doing pretty good.  Today we’ll put the lights on, drape it with garlands, and make a true kitty toy out of it. 

Before I wrote any books, I used to have a list I kept in my recipe box.  My mom wrote it for me; it was a list of all the traditional foods we made for holiday dinners. I didn’t want to forget anything.  Which gave me the idea when I wrote my Christmas Book, to put together a list of every single thing I could think of about decorating for Christmas so that all I had to do is read it every year.  I still just pull out that book, run my eyes down the list for inspiration!  Lots of ideas for decking the halls!  Another handy perk of book writing . . . permanent lists!  For the most wonderful time of the year! In case you don’t have a list of your own, here’s mine:

I hope you found that helpful!!  My girlfriend Sarah wrote last night and gave me a link to a website that has lots of ideas for decorating I thought you’d like to look at.  I also love decorating with books.  Old books bring old Christmases into the house.  This year our house will celebrate its 162nd Christmas!  Since back before these books were brand new.

 See the little one on the top of the stack above? Here it is close up. Published in 1938, a charming story of Christmas-gone-by, complete with line-drawings by Lois Lenski.

In case you like to decorate with books too, I thought this would be a wonderful one to add to your collection, or maybe you’d like to start a collection! They’re darling on guest-room dresser tops; look wonderful in guest bathrooms; nice on the coffee table, and sweet to read to children. 

If you’d like to have this book, just leave a comment, share your Christmas doings with the Girlfriends or just say Hello, and you’ll be entered in our drawing!  In a few days, I’ll ask the magic random chooser to do its thing and draw one of your names and this little book will zip off, in fairy manner, with love from me to you.  Here’s one of the darling little line drawings in the book . . .

And I haven’t forgotten, not all the girlfriends celebrate Christmas!  We are lucky enough to welcome friends here from all over the country, all over the world — there will be more drawings this month, that don’t have Christmas written all over them — but this little book called my name . . . if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you may know someone who does, this would be a wonderful little gift!  Happy Holidays to everyone!  I wob you.

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884 Responses to The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  1. Laura Croyle says:

    Love your Darling bird trees! What a sweet idea! I have a few mushroom birds but not quite enough for a tree of their own, but maybe I’ll just add them our big tree! Looks like little Jack is loving all the decorating going on too! How Fun! I found an old Christmas book years ago, abut the Nativity that I always set out at Christmastime. Love your idea of setting out Christmas books around the house. I’m slowly getting my house decorated this week. Thanks for all your wonderful ideas! Love your big, bushy tree! What a perfect spot for it! This truly is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”!!

  2. Chris S. says:

    I have been remembering my mom…she went to heaven this past January…I will miss her traditional fudge this year – I just am not up to making it this year. As a child, we used to have a BIG breakfast after opening up presents – and fudge would be served as dessert (we were only allowed one piece) – the one and only time we would have dessert at breakfast. With what ever is left over – we would have more after dinner…all soft and squishy after sitting out all day. Yes, that is a great memory! Maybe next year I will be melting chocolate and butter for my family…
    Thank you for your stories – they always make me feel good…no matter what. Your home is beautiful as are you!
    I would love to be entered in your contest, in going through some of my mother’s things, I found books from her childhood (30’s) and my grandmothers childhood (early 1900’s) they are very very special books – your looks very special as well and would be a great addition to my new yet old collection.
    Merry Christmas Susan.

  3. Ruby Bundy says:

    Love your bog and dote on every word. Takes me back and allows me to appreciate each day. I am still frantically working on handmade ornaments for my friends & family. Also, make many of my gifts. I make sure that each grandchild has something handmade each year. This is truly Christmas to me–using my God given talents to make someone happy. Merry Christmas and thanks for the great give-away. I love old books and would treasure this one and pass it on someday.

  4. nancy kananen says:

    Hello Susan!,

    I have been wanting to comment for a while now. I just adore your blog! Everytime I hear that darling little bird chirp it makes me smile! So fun to look at your beautiuful home decorated for the Christmas holiday. I too love to decorate with books, its fun to hunt for them at the various resale and antique shops that are nearby where I live. Reading your blog always inspires me, (I have a few of your books on my Christmas list this year!) going to be on the look out for some bird ornaments, would love to have a few bird trees up next year:) Wishing you and your husband a Very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Years,

  5. Sherri Fabbri says:

    Hi Susan,
    That looks like a very special little book! I am always browsing antique stores for books like that. I only have a few, but they are special. I love it when they have cute pictures. I would love to be in the drawing, if it’s not too late! Have fun decorating – that’s what I’ve been doing for a few days now! I sure miss the Arroyo Grande shop! Merry Christmas!

  6. Candy Abney says:

    I’m so happy you showed this book. I love my Betsy-Tacy books with Lois Lenski’s illustrations. Thank you for inspiring all of us with your wonderful blog!

  7. Sandra Bemis says:

    You always inspire me and have for years. I am so enjoying Jack and his mischief and life on the vineyard, how blessed you are. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there so every time I read your posts I can picture the setting perfectly (plus we travel to the Cape every year). Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  8. Robbie Hall Raker says:

    We’ve been decking the hall’s around our home as well! Wish I could send you a picture of the little village I put up every year. It’s actually my very favorite Christmas decoration! It’s the first thing that goes up and the last to come down. The tree – a very ‘real’ one, natch – comes in a very close 2nd! My hubby, son and I will get the tree this weekend, put it up, string the lights and garland and wait… It will sparkle with lights only until my daughter comes home from college on the 20th! I love that my kids want to decorate the tree together, so wait I will, very happily! Wishing you a merry little Christmas!

  9. Kathy says:

    Oooh, I would love to win that little book. What are the chances? I read many a Lois Lenski book to my children when they were young (a looong time ago). Merry Christmas!

  10. Ann says:

    Hi Susan,

    Books are treasured at our home. Thank you for all your wonderful ideas and colorful photos!


  11. Teresa Baker says:

    Oh Susan! LOVE LOVE LOVE Lois Lenski…her books are my absolute favorites ( well, hers and Tasha Tudor’s). and in RED!! I simply adored today’s Christmas post and am decorating my own little house all Christmasy. We are pretty traditional decorators…North Carolina Fraser Fir wrapped up in colored and white lights, soon to be hung with treasured, precious ornaments from our childhoods and from our children’s Sunday School classes. Also on the tree are ornament collections that we started for each child, so that when they are grown, they can have their own ornament collection to decorate their own trees! We also display three Nativity sets – a pottery one from Guatemala, a child’s wooden block set and a wooden set carved in “Persia”. The stockings are hung, spiced tea is simmering and we are ready to GO!!

  12. Natalie says:

    One of my favorite things about reading your blog is how much you inspire me to decorate my house and try new ideas. Sometimes I can’t wait to get home and move something somewhere else or add a little something to it.. Christmas tree was bought last night and goes up tonight. Tomorrow night all three children are home and it gets decorated!! Love your tree, yet another inspiration!

  13. Kelly Biertempfel says:

    Hi Susan, Our halls are decked earlier this year than usual so we can enjoy the best parts of the season just a little bit longer . I too love to decorate with Christmas books old and new, and would love this little red one illustrated by my Strawberry Girl author Lois Lenski. It would feel right at home in the basket of books by my fireplace with Twas the Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Santas Toy Shop and others from my and my kids’ collection. A few years ago we made paper chains of red and green and they are the first thing to go on the tree after the lights, along with gingerbread cookies, candy canes, our collection of Hallmark ornaments and then we finish it off with some tinsel (on the high branches only, we too have a kitty that likes to paw at the tree and eat what he can reach!) I also love to use my kids’ homemade ornaments as decoration -you can never have too many hand painted gingerbread men or construction paper angels made with your children’s school picture hanging on the tree! Or candy canes in every empty pitcher, X-mas mug, or wine glass! Santas elf bringing the ornament while we are at church on Christmas eve, new pj’s as first gift to open on 12/24, feeding the reindeer, setting out milk and cookies, reading Twas the Night Before Christmas are our traditions. Shopping under way, wrapping not started, sugar cookie dough chilling and new cookie cutters bought. Enjoy this busy season on your island paradise with Joe, Jack and G. Kitty!

  14. Kathy H says:

    Every year when I retrieve my Christmas decorations from the “pit” (the now enclosed old storm cellar entrance – you know with the “Auntie Em, Auntie Em” doors) I think “Kathleen, you have got to get a grip on Christmas!” Bin, after box, after bin is brought up our narrow stairway to be stacked until the unwrapping begins. Last night it began – much to the delight of Fiona, our largess cat. I’m not sure which she likes more perching on the stacks of boxes and bins, the paper wrapping which I throw on the floor, or the garlands -waiting to be placed on tables and stairways. Wait – I know – her favorites are the 21 wreaths (one for every window) waiting in their respective piles which she thinks are set up as a hurdles course (except that she doesn’t jump over she jumps in – and then bounds out – then into the next group – it makes me laugh! Truly the most wonderful time of the year!

  15. It is indeed the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

    A bit different for us this Christmas, as we’re heading from Seattle down to Orange County to stay with my bro and his lovely wife and my darling nephew (Spuddy) and niece (Petunia) (not their real names, but may as well be.)

    The impetus of our visit is to see our oldest boy graduate from Marine Corps boot camp four days before Christmas. I’ve been baking and sending his favorite Christmas shortbread to him every week. Two slabs of it bubble wrapped in a small box – only enough that he can consume on the spot since the recruits can’t store food in the barracks. He’ll be home over Christmas for 10 days. We all fly back up on 12/22.

    Needless to say, Santa’s workshop has never been so busy since EVERYTHING has to be Christmas-ready before we leave. The shopping’s been done for weeks and most everything is wrapped. All that’s left to finish are the gifts we’re making–doll clothes and quilts by me, and gorgeous wooden candlesticks and bowls of lovely maple burl-wood by my clever husband. The wood is from a tree that stood in the front yard of the house I grew up in. The tree split into 3 pieces from heavy snow and hubby kept the burl when he chopped up the rest of the tree. My folks moved out of that old house about 5 years ago, and now we’ll all have a beautiful memento from the tree. Won’t be a dry eye in the house when those gifts are opened I’m sure.

    Here’s to Christmas and family!

  16. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Oh Susan, your Christmas Tree and home look so festive!!! Little Jack seems to be smiling a smile each and every time I see him in your photos. What a bundle of energy!!! Your Christmas books are so nice….we put out our son and daughter’s Christmas books on the piano bench, from when they were young, every year at this time. (There are even acouple from my childhood of the 1960’s (Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, by Robert Barry.) I must bake your Apple Cranberry dessert for my hubby, soon. He loves cranberries alot, and eats cranberry sauce practically at every dinner! Just a habit, I guess! Thank you for all of the ideas for decorating, your little touches here and there really complete the picture of your beautiful Christmas decor!!! Take care of yourself, the 25th is fast approaching!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      I could eat Cranberry Sauce at every meal too. I don’t for some reason, but now I know that your husband does it, I think that makes it much more OK for me!! Thank you!

  17. Sandi says:

    Love the list. It has everything that makes me think of a magical Christmas.

  18. Debbie says:

    Hello, Miss Susan and fellow girlfriends! I haven’t been here in a little while and had to come see what was going on. I’ve been making magic happen at our cabin in the woods – more making a mess than anything! I have also been getting in the Christmas spirit and hauling out all the garlands and lights and decorations and now, finally, we have our tree! I love the smell of the tree all through the house! I feel so Christmasy this year! Thank you all for helping me get here! We all need each other to keep each others spirits high and you’ve all done it for me. Thank you!!
    I love the books you have setting out! I have some of my Mom and Grandmother’s old schoolbooks (Mom would be 84 and Gramma would be 111, so they are VERY old schoolbooks!) I think I will carefully choose a spot to place them for all to see! Thanks for the inspiration! I find that I have been digging more and more things out of the attic to set out like that ever since finding and reading your blog. I’ve always felt that they are so wasted in the attic but just didn’t see where to put them. You have all helped me figure that out! Great girlfriends, you are!
    One quick question for Susan – I made the spiced pecans (they’re WONDERFUL) but mine are pretty sticky. Is that just the way they should be or should I bake them just a bit longer?
    Thank you all for being you! I love you!

  19. Kallie says:

    Love that book. Very Betsy-Tacy”ish”. (which my girls adore, BTW!!!)

  20. Cindy says:

    Hello! Susan, your decorating is beautiful. I will be getting a late start this year as I am visiting my daughter and helping to take care of her baby!! I too, have a collection of Christmas books, mostly children’s books as well as your Christmas books! Thanks for all of the goodies you share with us. Love seeing your Christmas list in the blog.

  21. Mary Helen Z says:

    I am about 1 and 1/2 hours away from home for my job. I stay here three nights a week. This year, my husband insisted I get a small tree to decorate for here and I have set it up and now am trying to decide how to decorate it. I am hoping to bring some ornaments from home to put on the tree to make it seem more like home. I have to finish decorating the tree at home this weekend.. Thank you for all of the magical words. Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday season!

    • sbranch says:

      If you’re there, you could do something while watching TV and string popcorn? Eat string eat string? 🙂

  22. Mia Sophia says:

    The little book would look darling next to my Joan Walsh Anglund books, Christmas Is Love and Christmas Is a Time of Giving. Books are wonderful little vessels full of wonder! Love your blog so much. Thank you!

  23. Susan NC says:

    I’m a sucker for old books and this one is just tooo cute. I can’t believe you can bear to part with it. But I sure am glad that you can! Thanks for sharing such a treasure.
    Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays. Hugs!

  24. Susan, IL says:

    I pulled out your Christmas book for inspiration just last night!

  25. I too collect clip on birds, although my collection is much smaller than yours. Thank you for the great Christmas Lists and a lovely give-away.

  26. Stephanie says:

    Love your tree in window nook! You are right; it’s a sweet view from the outside too.

  27. Lindsay Drace says:

    Hi Susan! Your Christmas decorating is so beautiful, warm, and inviting! Your Christmas book giveaway is darling and would look wonderful among my Christmas decorations! I hope you and your family and friends have a very Merry Christmas that is filled with health, happiness, and love!

  28. Sue says:

    Hi Susan,
    Leaving for work today, I went to my very full cookbook bookcase to choose a fun ‘lunch break read’ and I spied the “Heart of the Home” edition that was one of the first I ever bought myself back in 1986. It’s always been a favorite because the recipes magically never fail me. Which is something that I can’t say about many of my experiments in the kitchen. I have a bit of a cookbook addiction as it’s my favorite room in the house. Your beautiful book brought back so many memories of days past and helped me to think of many new ideas for this year’s Christmas gathering. Wondering what you are now up to, I googled and low and behold quickly came upon your wonderful blog. What a special gift to all of us. Some day, I dream of living on Martha’s Vineyard. We have spent many summers and weekends exploring the island and fantasizing about that day. My husband brought me there on one of our first dates in 1981 and I was hooked. Thanks for sharing with all of us, glimpses of your special home, family life and beautiful island world!! Merry Christmas!

  29. Idelsy Rebozo says:

    Susan – I just want to thank you so much for your Blog! When things get really hectic for me at work and I need to step away, I go to your Blog. Reading your posts takes me away to the most wonderful places where I can relax and get great ideas for decorating and recipes for yummy treats. And then when I’m done reading I can go back to my daily craziness. So thank you again!!!

  30. Melanie Knight says:

    Love all of your decorations. I would love to have this little book. Thank you, Susan!

  31. Kate says:

    I love the little book and remember Lois Lenski’s illustrations from several of my childhood favorites but have never seen this one. Had one heck of a couple of weeks with work projects and can’ wait to decorate my own sweet house this weekend!

  32. Susan Elizabeth Roubal says:

    What a great idea it is to decorate with “old” books! I have many squirreled away and now I have a perfect use for them. I think I’ll cluster them with other decor in their theme, in fact, I just saw a vignette like that last night. It was an older bird book by a small porcelain bird and a real nest! So clever.

    So, if buck chance, My name were to come up, I’d love and cherish that little book.
    Merry Christmas, Susan; you are kindling to the Christmas spirit! Susan R.

    • sbranch says:

      You are darling Susan, thank you. If you have lots of books, you can also pull out all the red ones and put them together, they really look good like that!

  33. I love love love decorating with books! I never thought of decorating with OLD Christmas books. I have many special newer ones!

    • sbranch says:

      I was at the bookstore yesterday, SO many beautiful books! I was choosing some for my nieces…that was not an easy choice!

  34. Michele says:

    I love old books, and keep them scattered throughout my house. It would be a treat to add this one to my collection. Thank you, and Merry Christmas!

  35. Lola says:

    Oh, I am not doing anything with the girlfriends but I hope to have much fun with my 5 children and my husband just enjoying a bit of down time. And we love books: reading them, decorating with them, looking at them!

  36. Debbie Juillerat says:

    Hi, Susan! How I love old books! I love reading about your little town. I’ve never been able to visit, but would love to someday. Til then, your posts are just awesome; how cozy!!! Thanks!

  37. Jacqueline says:

    Hi Susan!
    I have grown up making many of your recipes alongside my mother. It wouldn’t be Christmas without giving her your yearly calender. When I saw that Lois Lenski book, I could not believe it. Lois Lenski is one of my mothers all time favorite authors. She is constantly looking for copys of her books. It would be so awesome to give her that book this Christmas! Hope all is well and Girl Kitty and Jack are getting along.
    Merry Christmas!

  38. Judy Hall says:

    Reading your blog every day helps me pause during this busy time of year (why is work so hectic at the end of the year). Love reading the reflections of family, traditions, cooking, and all the wonderful things that make this season “the most wonderful time of the year”. It truly is. I don’t see the ‘heart of the home’ cookie cutter. Is it available for sale? Merry Christmas to you and Joe.

    • sbranch says:

      No sorry, it was just a prototype I designed for a company that was sold before the products could be made! So it’s the only one as far as I know! Merry Christmas Judy!

  39. Kirsten Wichert says:

    Hope I’m not too late for the latest drawing……..that book is adorable!!
    I’m just catching up! I wob you too!

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