Design & Décor, Entertaining, Holiday, Seasonal, Winter

Fanciful Christmas Details Around the House

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Christmas is a magical time, a complement of many details that delight the eye, pique the senses and make our hearts feel full (sometimes our tummies even fuller!) Taking pleasure in those simplest of details can also inspire a re-think of holiday to-dos. Perhaps this year it’s not necessary to decorate every room and corner of your abode…

Bettie Pardee Christmas Tea-58

Little vignettes or one decorative accent delights the eye when found in unexpected places around the house – on a side table by the fire; dressing up the powder room sink; a small gift artfully placed on crisp white bed linens or a personalized stocking hanging from a guest room door handle, or acting as a placecard on a dining chair.

In a little ritual that has become a winter favorite for me, I go through my basket of Christmas cards, re-reading the messages, both printed and hand-written, perhaps finding a sentiment that would inspire future notes to friends. Some cards are just too beautiful to part with…on wonderful, thick card stock, with an engraved image, wrought in such detail that you have to admire this age-old art. The color selections are also exquisite, usually set off with gold or silver.

Inspired one day many years ago, I took a special pair of sharp needlepoint scissors and meticulously cut out very closely around the edge of the card image; the resulting shapes were part of the surprise of this spontaneous exercise.

And then the question…why not start a Christmas card tree? Gathering fallen branches from under trees was easy, then dressing them up with gold spray paint added the final festive note. (The branches are easily held in place using florist’s oasis.)

It’s good that I started collecting them when I did, as fewer and fewer of these beauties are appearing in my mail box (where’s Crane’s stationery when you need them?)

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While decorating a large Christmas tree can sometimes seem daunting or time-consuming, this little tree is a delight that comes together so quickly…and it’s a great project for the young ones. Let them create their own paper ornaments for their tree.

And for under the tree…consider an elegant coffee table book, always sure to please even the most difficult-to-shop-for on your gift list. Forego the wrapping paper and just tie it with a fanciful bow, letting the winsome cover make the final statement.

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And don’t forget one last little detail — a sweet take home nibble for your guests.

Bettie Pardee Christmas Tea-3SPICED PECANS RECIPE


  • 4-5 cups unsalted half pecans
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten to a froth
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. each powdered cloves and ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. cardamom


  1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir pecans into frothy egg whites until nuts are fully coated
  3. Mix sugar, salt and spices in a separate bowl, incorporating with a whisk
  4. Pour over the wet nuts in small increments, tossing well after each addition until nuts are evenly coated
  5. Spread nuts in a single layer over a parchment-covered cookie sheet
  6. Bake for 30 minutes  until nuts are brown and crisp
  7. Cool slightly, but while still soft, use a fork to separate nuts
  8. Allow to cool until nuts are no longer sticky; store in an airtight container


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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

10 thoughts on “Fanciful Christmas Details Around the House

  1. Beautiful thoughts and holiday inspiration… so elegantly simple, and filled with thoughtfulness.

    1. Hi Bettie, How about a recipe with no sugar for diabetics? Best to you and yours this holiday. Linda

  2. Oh Bettie! What a wonderful way you have with words and ideas! Yes, so inspiring! Beautiful photos! This is going to open many more avenues for you.. can’t wait to hear more! Merry Christmas. Big hug!

  3. Beautiful and inspiring as always! Can we have the recipe for those delicious cheese crackers sometime?!!!
    Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

  4. Your home always has tasteful vignettes in unexpected spots just lying in wait for the eye to discover with delight! Why should Christmas be any different? What a wonderful hint to give your readers!

  5. Love your card tree! Wonderful ideas!
    Thanks and Merry Christmas to Jonathon too!

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