handmade christmas 2023 : maximum festiveness

simple, colorful, twinkly and cozy

In the kitchen there is a huntington carpet rosemary and a parlor palm (both super easy plants), pomegranates, dried orange slices, herbs and peppers from the garden and extra candles.

festive kitchen with candles, dried oranges and peppers ceramics and a turnip

And 3 Christmas trees (branches). One tree couldn’t contain all the festiveness this year.

A lesson learned about stick (branch) trees: don’t wander around in a cold rain storm for hours searching desperately for the one magic stick that’s gonna get the job done – just get lots of good-ish branches and bundle them together.

For this tree I used three branches. The largest branch actually goes into the container ( a heavy vase) and the two others are attached to the large branch with masking tape. Lot’s of masking tape. The tape is covered with a torn strip of fabric wrapped around and tied. The little skirt is a block from an old cutter crazy quilt (thanks french general). It’s just right.

I would have paid cash money for a snowy day outside that window.

The ornaments are super simple. I started with orange slices and learned a couple new things about making those. I laid the slices on dish towels and let them air dry for a couple hours before putting them in the warm oven for four-ish hours. They stayed in the oven overnight after turning it off and were perfect in the morning.

The knitted tree garland is one of my most favorite holiday things and was a gift from my sister. The crow is made from this sewing pattern:

sewing pattern for a realistic crowget the pattern

the other ornaments on stick tree number 1 are:

jingle stars
little owl
scrappy trees
sleepy moon

single pine branch (stick tree number 2)

Rocking the asymmetry…  And I like the simplicity and the moodiness.  The little traditional glass ball ornaments were just right for it. This was my first branch effort and was going to be the only one. The minimalist aspirations dissolved almost right away.   Pro tip: Know what takes out pine sap? Rubbing alcohol…  PS – we’ll talk about the antique daybed of my dreams soon – there’s welting and everything…

white pine branch in an antique jug with mini christmas ball ornaments - the room is otherwise dim and moody

and stick tree number 3

This year I finally got my old Christmas stuff out of storage, the things from my mother and grandmother. I haven’t seen them in so long I forgot how magnificent they are. I’m knee deep in nostalgia and crumpled tissue.

The secret to holding these branches in place is pennies. Once they were arranged in a
pyramid, tree-ish shape in the vase I dumped a bag of pennies into it. It holds the branches perfectly in place. I bet gravel would work too.

Besides the old glass ornaments there are some wax paper snowflakes. The star on top is also made from the snowflake tutorial but with tin foil and paper layers too.

I sure do love a holiday project, and always have. There is extra permission, an absolute invitation, to be whimsical, to create a warm and sparkly atmosphere. I’m looking forward to the next week or so of basking in the twinkle and being in a general state of wassailing. I’m also percolating all sorts of ideas for the new year – stay tuned!

I hope your holidays are merry and bright!



  1. Thank you, Ann for another inspirational news letter! Every time I see one I can’t wait to read every word and explore each picture. I’m looking forward to 2024’s projects and am sure they will be as marvelous as always.

  2. Lovely ideas for the holidays on a very grey day here in Devon. Thank you for all your ideas through out the year. With all warm wishes for the Happy Holiday Season and 2024

  3. There’s a beautiful rhythm to your posts. A warm, supportive, encouraging hand on the back. Thank you.

  4. Thank you Ann for sharing your thoughts and beautiful decorations. I love the simplicity of your designs and your make do approach to problem solving, bag of pennies : )
    Best wishes for the Happiest of Holidays to you and yours. Maybe you will get a white Christmas too.

  5. Carol Schmitt

    Thank you Ann for all this inspiration and how to make it happen like you do. Pennies, I love that idea. Merry Christmas to you. hugs – carol

  6. Thank you, Ann. I always look forward to your posts and savor each one. The happiest of New Years to you!

  7. Love the simplicity and beauty and cozy feeling of this! Thank you for sharing little peeks into your wonderful home–Wish I had a big sunny window to decorate this way!
    Merry Christmas!

  8. I enjoy seeing all your clever creations. Thank you for sharing ideas and patterns.

  9. I love the window scene ❤️
    All of this post – so inspired to create my own home made Christmas ❤️ thank you

  10. I too, love to read the newsletters. This one was especially good! Thank you for writing.

  11. It all looks stunning. A fabulous warm cosy xmas with real style and comfort. Enjoy your festivities

  12. Pat Sointu

    I know your holidays will be happy with your beautiful decorations around you. The trees are all brilliant, but I think I’m partial to number 3. I wonder how you knit those trees for the garland.

  13. Phyllis Grove

    Your trees look like the just appeared out of one of your mini paintings. Charming, simple, but with their own elegance. Merry Christmas.

  14. Melissa Turner

    What a lovely Christmas set up! I love all the little touches ~ branches, odd bits of fabric and the handmade & vintage ornaments. Swoon worthy! Wishing you & yours a happy Christmas

  15. Elaine Lim

    Thank you so much, Anne, for another year of inspiration. Looking forward to 2024.

  16. Your blog always brings me such joy and causes my creative juices to start percolating too. Hope your Christmas is full to the brim with happiness and your new year full of all things creative. I look forward to seeing what you will come up with next.

  17. thank you!! I’m waiting for the snow in central VA, too. please, oh please! when travels are completed, of course.
    and ummmm…that little paper castle!!! it’s giving me hope for a new winter post-holiday. Thinking of medieval projects for school kids and I have to get my imagination in gear first, so thanks for the wee paper castle vision.
    cheery holidays to you, and thank you, again for the inspiration!
    xo, leslie

  18. Love your tree and the darling ornaments

    Wish you a fabulous Christmas
    Sometimes we need to look around
    And be thankful

    I like to hang the mushrooms too on my tree
    Merry Christmas Ann

  19. Love your tree and the darling ornaments

    Wish you a fabulous Christmas
    Sometimes we need to look around
    And be thankful

    I like to hang to mushrooms too on my tree

    Merry Christmas Ann

  20. Wendy Clark

    Thank you Ann for all your lovely emails through the year, they are always a delight to receive. Almost without fail a new little creature appears in my sewing room shortly after!
    Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2024
    Cheers, Wendy

  21. Katy Carlin

    Thank you, Ann! Everything is just perfectly lovely! My best to you and yours and all your followers for a wonderful Christmas and the best of everything for 2024!
    xo. Katy

  22. libby hunter

    Love your style and every single thing you make! The tree garland link from your sis didn’t seem to lead anywhere,
    at least on my computer. Thanks so so very much. Libby

  23. This is all absolutely beautiful. I LoVe every single thing about it …. thank You!!

  24. Ann,
    I appreciate your suggestions. This year I pulled out three trees: a wooden dowel tree with candles and gingham bows, a white branch covered in twinkle lights, decorated with Pom poms, and a dry brown twig supporting my rustic vine ornaments. Can I send photos?

  25. Thank you for a beautiful look into your life. I love reading your newsletter. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas

  26. Catherine Wood Flavin

    Everything looks amazing! I love what you did with the old ornaments. I will send you some photos tomorrow

  27. Jane Elson

    I love your trees – everything is so simple and yet so impactful. I look forward to your newsletters in my in box each week and enjoy looking at projects for when I have a little more time to sit and sew. Best wishes for Christmas and a wonderful 2024.

  28. A delightful post, as usual. Thank you! Going to try the orange slices tomorrow.

  29. I love all your little trees – all different and so cute. Maybe I’ll try something similar another year – depending on how cat-proof they might be, lol. Can’t help noticing your tiny castles in the background! Did you make them? I’d love to know how! I did try making a large one years ago – it went on our VBS float in the local Dairy Parade (I used milk cartons for the towers!) It was truly a fun project! Have a happy Christmas!

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