Christmas Home Tour 2015

Welcome, welcome to new friends and old friends!
Holiday Housewalk collage At the Picket Fence

I’m so thrilled that you stopped by today. If you are following along on the Holiday Housewalk hosted by Jennifer Rizzo (click here to start at the beginning of the tour) then you might be coming here after seeing the beautiful home belonging to my wonderfully talented friend Jenna Burger. We’re also so excited because this year we’re teaming up with Joss and Main and Good Housekeeping to bring you some truly inspiring Christmas ideas for your home.

holiday housewalk Jenna Burger design 19  2015.jpg

When I was a little girl, the holiday season didn’t officially begin until we had our Christmas tree.

Front door basket with greenery and ice skates

We would pile in the car and head out to the Christmas tree lot (we lived in Southern California for most of my childhood).

My mom and dad would examine each tree, turning them this way and that way until they found THE tree. The one which had been deemed worthy of gracing our family room.

Christmas entry with garland on staircase

And when the box of decorations was opened, I loved nothing more than to pull out each ornament. I would gingerly pick them up, one by one, and feel like I was greeting long lost friends.

But, of course, the lights and ornaments couldn’t be added to the tree until it had been properly placed in the plastic stand.

greenery spray on banister

One year, when I was about 7 years old, after finding the perfect tree and bringing it home strapped to the top of our Datsun station wagon, my dad brought it inside and began the thankless task of putting it in the stand. And for whatever reason, this particular year the trunk of the tree just wasn’t cooperating. Or maybe it was the stand that wasn’t cooperating. Or maybe it was the tree AND the stand that weren’t cooperating.

Either way, our warm and fuzzy Christmas moment was quickly vanishing as my dad wrestled that beast of a tree. There was some mumbling. There was some grumbling. There were some ‘helpful’ tips from my mom standing nearby. And there were two wide-eyed little girls watching the scene unfold in front of us.

Christmas entry decor


(Holy Night Pillow)

No matter how hard my dad tried, that tree just wasn’t going in that stand. And money was tight in those years, so the thought of having to buy a new stand added even more stress to an already stressful situation.

sled with vintage books and little tree

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, it appeared that my dad had achieved success. The trunk was in the stand and as my dad let go of the tree we eagerly moved forward to begin decorating.

branches and greenery in metal basket

But, in that split second, the tree suddenly tipped right over, stand and all!

We all froze.

And one look at my dad’s face told us that the best thing we could do in that moment was to stifle any giggles that threatened to leave our mouths.

french country style Christmas living room

He turned on his heel, marched out to the garage, grabbed a big metal bucket and some bricks and that year our family officially started the galvanized bucket Christmas tree stand trend! 😉

Christmas mantel with noel letters in twig frame

(NOEL Garden Plaque)

This year, as I went out with my own precious family to cut down our Christmas tree, I imagine I had all of the same hopes and expectations that my parent’s did all those years ago.

pine cones and fresh greenery on mantel

A longing to create memories. To enjoy spending time together, celebrating all of the magic of this season.

cream colored snowflake pillow

(Snowflake Pillow)

 After trudging all over a local farm in freezing cold temperatures, we finally found our perfect tree.

wood reindeer ornament

(Wood Reindeer Ornament)

It was shaken and baled and carefully tied to the top of our SUV and we made our way home singing Christmas carols and feeling all of the warm fuzzies that those moments can bring.

metal santos doll angel

My son and husband unloaded the tree and as they were getting ready to bring it in the house, my husband showed me the branches that would probably need to be cut in order for it to fit in the stand.

I expressed concern. You see, I like the branches to hang down lower than the top of the stand and this year we had tried a different variety of tree so I was worried that it might not look right if we cut off too much.

Large Urn on Christmas buffet table

But, my husband assured me that it would be fine so I gave him the go-ahead.

Those lower branches were snipped off and the grand moment of bringing in the tree arrived. As my son removed the twine and we watched each branch fall into place we just KNEW that this was going to be our best tree ever.

My daughter and I stood to the side holding lights and ornaments, eager to get to the decorating.

winter buffet table from

But, when at last the final piece of twine was removed, the truth was revealed.

Those lower branches? Well, we kinda needed them.

There was a lot of trunk showing.

winter bird in nest under glass dome

I wasn’t happy. And I informed everyone of my unhappiness. And my husband informed me that I had given him the go-ahead to trim those branches. And I informed him that I went against my gut instinct when I gave him the go-ahead. And he informed me that even though we’ve been married for 17 years he can’t be expected to be aware of my gut instincts.

And, meanwhile, our kids stood off to the side fighting the giggles with all their might.

As I was alternating between fuming and trying to come up with a solution, praying the tree skirt would be big enough, I remembered a day many years ago.

One involving a Christmas tree and frustrations and situations that go from Norman Rockwell moments to ones we would just as soon forget.

Christmas family room

I realized that out of all of the years of getting Christmas trees as a young girl, that was the only one that really stood out to me.

It wasn’t the years where everything went perfectly. Where all of the light strands worked and the tree didn’t topple over and the cookies didn’t burn.

Winter mantel with white pitchers and greenery

No, it was the years when real life happened. When a tree didn’t stay in the stand and we had a bucket in our family room before they were ever considered stylish.

It was the year that my parents encountered a frustrating situation but came up with a solution and laughed about it later.

And have laughed about it every year since.

Christmas mantel with white pitchers and greenery

So, I apologized to my precious family. And we laughed. We laughed at our tree that looks like it’s trying to show some leg. We laughed at mommy’s reaction and at daddy’s reaction.

And we made a memory. One I’m sure will stand out in my children’s minds far more than the times when everything came together seamlessly.

greenery in white cup on mantel

And when I really think about it, that’s the gift I want to give my children at Christmas. I want them to know that it isn’t about the perfect tree or the perfect decorations.

It’s not about the perfect moments.

simple and sweet hot cocoa station

It’s about the unexpected ones. The ones we don’t orchestrate or have expectations for.

hot cocoa station details

Like when your sweet girl asks if she can help make the banner for the hot cocoa station and you didn’t expect her to add a drawing of a mug of steaming hot cocoa. But you can’t imagine that banner without it and when you praise her talent and see her beaming face you realize that you will never forget that moment…and that you will save the banner forever.

It’s the unexpectedness of life that allows us to really experience it.

simple pennant hot cocoa banner

It’s the unexpected, like a King being born in a barn, that reminds us that really living means embracing it all. The joy with the sorrow, the bitter with the sweet, the gain and the sacrifice.


My heart’s desire is that my children will embrace the unexpected in their own lives. That they will see it as an opportunity to grow and stretch and get to know themselves better.

Pots spell out Joy to the World

So maybe Christmas trees surrounded by bricks and stuck in buckets or ones that are showing too much trunk are really the gifts that keep on giving.

Because, they are the memories that are made when we least expect them.

And, perhaps, those are the sweetest memories of all!

Vanessa signature

Now, be sure to head on over and take the tour at The Yellow Cape Cod!

holiday housewalk Yellow cape Cod 21 2015.jpg


For more holiday inspiration follow our Pinterest board with Good Housekeeping here.


  1. JoeyfromSC says

    I absolutely love your decor! I also thoroughly enjoyed yoyur story!! You are such a great writer!

    I’m going to be putting up my tree & decorations this week & I’mj excited because I have new ornaments to add to my collection:)

    Thanks for making my day with this story!

    • JoeyfromSC says

      I absolutely love your decor! I also thoroughly enjoyed your story!! You are such a great writer!

      I’m going to be putting up my tree & decorations this week & I’m excited because I have new ornaments to add to my collection:)

      Thanks for making my day with this story!

  2. says

    Lovely post and lovely tree! You reminded me of the scratch on the living room ceiling of my childhood home. We used to go to a “real” Christmas tree farm up in the mountains, where you picked a growing tree and then they cut it for you. One year, the tree was just too tall and scraped the “popcorn” ceiling when my dad was setting it up. As kids, that scrape was kind of a badge of honor….”remember when we had that huge Christmas tree?”

  3. Velia says

    Vanessa, your home looks lovely decorated for the holidays, it evokes warmth and comfort. Your use of greenery throughout the home added a festive holiday touch and your cocoa station is especially nice. Thank you for sharing your childhoid memories, your writing was delightful. Blessings to you and yours.

  4. Carol Reddin says

    Your Dad and I laughed again this morning remembering the bucket with the bricks. Our tree skirt had a big job that Christmas trying to hide that rather large bucket. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Vanessa! Love you!

  5. says

    Your home is just gorgeous, warm, welcoming and loved! I love the story of the tree growing up, such great memories. Ray and I have had that problem a few times with the trunk, finally we went out and purchased a bigger stand, should have just put it in a bucket :)

  6. Maggie says

    We also had a similar story where the tree fell. I remember my parents not being too happy. P. S. May I ask where you purchased those cute felt skates. So sweet

  7. Sheran Steading says

    I love this story!!!!! more than your beautiful home and gorgeous decorations. it’s real. and wonderful. Thank you!

  8. Pat says

    Thank you for reminding us that truly living is about embracing it all– especially this time of year when rushing around trying to do too much we lose our joy and often forget the very reason for celebrating. The birth of a King, what could be more joyful?
    Your home is beautiful and your words are always inspiring.

  9. Robyn MacLaine says

    Thank you for your beautiful words that go along with your photos. It can be so overwhelming, especially when viewing so many other people’s beautiful homes and decor. Your post was like a breath of fresh air and just what I needed. Gorgeous

  10. says

    Yes! I love the truth of this as it mirrors so my own Christmas expectations in many ways. Followed by the wisdom and gentle reminder to embrace the unexpected. Thank you for sharing your heart, and your home. It’s so cozy and stunning all wrapped up in one.

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