Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Wreaths - Inspiration & an Easy DIY

williamsburg wreaths

Ever since I was in elementary school, I loved taking a trip to Colonial Williamsburg (CW) around the holidays for two very important things that have created traditions lasting all these years:  gingerbread & Christmas wreaths.  I figure I can't be the only one who loves their decorations, so up today are my favorite wreaths from this years pilgrimage, along with a few tips to create your own.

CW was restored and continues to be maintained as a historic site thanks the the Rockefeller family.  Yeah those Rockefellers - with the big tree in New York.  They must have a thing for evergreens.  Back in the 1700s, the homes in the town weren't decorated with greens & natural ingredients like these wreaths.  That tradition started in the 1930's as a way to attract visitors to the site.  And now that I've ruined all the illusion....

Consider this your warning that there are entirely too many pictures in this post.  Disclaimer: I don't care.  There were too many ideas on these wreaths to leave any out - trust me, I skipped over more than a few handfuls of excellent ones!  I'll highlight in the captions why I love each one.  

This one is unique with it's partially exposed wreath, but it keeps to the symmetry principle.  The deconstructed pinecones into "flowers" is my favorite part!

This one is unique with it's partially exposed wreath, but it keeps to the symmetry principle.  The deconstructed pinecones into "flowers" is my favorite part!

This wreath was HUGE and actually displayed at the top of a barn.  It was completely covered with flowers and flower pods - no fruit here!

This wreath was HUGE and actually displayed at the top of a barn.  It was completely covered with flowers and flower pods - no fruit here!

These two wreaths both are made of completely dried out materials - corn on the right, and okra pods, pomegranates, & sunflowers on the left.  Just as beautiful as the greenery wreaths but you don't have to worry about them drying out in the sun or dying before Christmas.

These two wreaths both are made of completely dried out materials - corn on the right, and okra pods, pomegranates, & sunflowers on the left.  Just as beautiful as the greenery wreaths but you don't have to worry about them drying out in the sun or dying before Christmas.

I adore this one and it's simplicity - magnolia leaves, pinecones, and it looked to me like dried thyme.  Or maybe lavender.  Either way - awesome. I love the look made by combining the front & backs of the leaves to give extra dimension.

I adore this one and it's simplicity - magnolia leaves, pinecones, and it looked to me like dried thyme.  Or maybe lavender.  Either way - awesome. I love the look made by combining the front & backs of the leaves to give extra dimension.

I've entitled this one 'Oranges 3 Ways"- whole, dried whole, and sliced.  Or maybe it should be the circular cornucopia. Apples, oranges, limes, lemons, walnuts.  All I know is it's beautiful!

I've entitled this one 'Oranges 3 Ways"- whole, dried whole, and sliced.  Or maybe it should be the circular cornucopia. Apples, oranges, limes, lemons, walnuts.  All I know is it's beautiful!

Seriously - don't you just love the mind that created this one?  It's on a styrofoam form, so super easy to attach the flowers and insert the dried okra pods and flower stocks.  It's almost a star if you use your imagination.  

Seriously - don't you just love the mind that created this one?  It's on a styrofoam form, so super easy to attach the flowers and insert the dried okra pods and flower stocks.  It's almost a star if you use your imagination.  

This was on display for purchase in the garden shop at CW.  I love the flowers they chose - a very un-Christmasy feel - which is a great reminder that natural ingredient wreaths aren't just for Christmas!

This was on display for purchase in the garden shop at CW.  I love the flowers they chose - a very un-Christmasy feel - which is a great reminder that natural ingredient wreaths aren't just for Christmas!

Another magnolia wreath (I'm partial to the name of course!) for good measure - I love the simplicity of it!

Another magnolia wreath (I'm partial to the name of course!) for good measure - I love the simplicity of it!

For years I've had aspirations of drying out fruit myself and making my own wreath.  And finally this year I woke up, realized I don't have unlimited time, and IT'S OK TO CUT CORNERS.  Can I get an amen on that one?  I can still do-it-myself if I buy all the parts and put it together.  Don't make something harder than it has to be!

So here was my first (not nearly as beautiful as CW's, but made with as much heart!) attempt at a natural wreath.

I bought dried limes and orange slices last year during my visit to use in my wreath - you can see the lineup of products they have in their garden shop to take home and use to DIY your own!  I bought red peppers and cotton to use with my leftover fruits in next years wreath.

That green book 'Colonial Williamsburg Decorate for Christmas' has lots of tips on drying your own fruits and constructing your own wreaths.  A great tool if you plan to make your own!

That green book 'Colonial Williamsburg Decorate for Christmas' has lots of tips on drying your own fruits and constructing your own wreaths.  A great tool if you plan to make your own!

If you ever get a chance to visit CW around the holidays, be sure you take the Christmas Decorations walking tour.  It takes about an hour and you get to see the finest wreaths that year, including those that won in various categories.  It's worth the extra ticket (PS - they usually sell out so reserve a time before you leave home)!

Happy wreath making - I'd love to see if you make your own - comment with a link to your picture or email it to me & I'll update the post to share your great examples!

Cranberry Butterscotch Soft-Baked Cookies

I love to bake and I can follow directions but I DO NOT GO OFF COURSE.  There's no experimenting in my kitchen.  My brain just doesn't think that way.....until this past Thanksgiving.  I love cookies but rarely make them because I end up eating way to many.  Self-control wasn't passed down in my genes.  So Thanksgiving was going to be my pass to bake a batch - a room full of people I could force to save me from myself & all those calories.  

I found some cranberries on the baking aisle, figured they were festive enough and I started looking for a recipe.  Everything Pinterest brought my way looked yummy.  Cranberry white chocolate seemed to be a fan favorite.  But I had no chocolate. Sigh.  But I did have butterscotch chips.....and the desire to "create my own" welled up so high it was a shock to me too.  Since the family wasn't expecting cookies I figured if they flopped no harm, no foul.  But excuse me.  THEY. ARE. DELICIOUS.  I almost kept them all at home.  Doubts are high that I'll be this adventurous & successful again, but fingers crossed!  

*Disclaimer: I don't love cranberries.  I don't even really like them - they are too bitter.  But the butterscotch is a perfect pairing - sweetened up the cookie without overpowering the cranberries.  If you aren't a cranberry fan, I would only use 3/4 cup cranberries in your batch*

cranberry butterscotch cookie

This recipe was adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

The Kid-Friendly Christmas Tree: Low on Cost, Time, & Broken Ornaments

I'll be honest, it was a workout to get out all of the Christmas decorations pulled out before having a little helper.  And the thought of spending tons of time decorating trying to kid-proof my favorite ornaments and such just didn't seem worth it this year.  I love the beauty that is my living room late at night with the lights off watching the glow of the tree, but I wasn't interested in policing the tree 24/7.  

Having the bottom half of the tree ornament-less just wasn't going to work for me.  Call it OCD, a controlling personality, whatever you like.  But I needed it to be beautiful - having a toddler wasn't an out for my inner decorator.   

So here's how it went down.

Our tree went up out of the box.  All the while contemplating whether to decorate as normal and install a huge baby gate around the tree, or just decorate the top.  The hubs and I headed out later for a date night that included the finest of Indian (give me all the Naan) and a trip to Michael's.  I know - we are such romantics.  It was a perfectly timed trip & the inspiration hit.

Michael's had a whole wall full of laser cut wood ornaments that were meant to be painted and glittered and whatnot.  But we fell in love with the "natural-ness" of them.  Add to it that they were all 70% off that one night (how lucky were we!), so for 30 cents or so each, we loaded up on a variety of wood and cardboard ornaments and a roll of christmas plaid ribbon.  For less than $40 we had enough stuff to easily cover our 7 foot tree.  Top to bottom.   Success.

wood ornament christmas tree

Baby girl can take them off and move them around.  Cart them around the living room (and she has).  Heck - she could break them and I wouldn't care.

The best part - the tree is beautiful.  I can leave the room to switch the laundry without fear of broken glass when I return.  Or her climbing up to to reach the Mickey Mouse ornament.  Honestly, if I was still single and kid-free and looking for a cheap way to decorate my first Christmas tree - I would do this same thing!

It's the best of both worlds - all the ambience I want and yet something the little one can enjoy equally (& safely). 

For the next few years we may stick with this natural themed tree for the sake of my sanity if nothing else.  Sure I miss reminiscing over trips and family moments when unpacking special ornaments - but they haven't gone anywhere - the boxes in the garage are constant reminders of that.  They'll be back one day and thankfully all in one piece. Can I get an amen?  For now I'll keep my focus on the real reason for celebrating and enjoy moments filled with memories, cider, cookies, and the best of Christmas movies in the glimmer of beautiful lights.  

 

P.S. If you are looking for a little something to jazz up your decorating - grab the most beautiful free printable from HappyGoStuckey over here.  It's a great reminder that as we gather with loved ones this month, that it's less about what we are doing, and more about who we are doing it with.