Participating in charity events during the holiday season is one of my favorite activities of the year. Whether we Deck the Tables at the Houston Design Center in support of the MAM Christmas Share Toy Drive or support the arts by participating in the Alley’s Deck the Trees, planning, designing and collaborating on our holiday décor is so much fun. Above and below are a few highlights from past years. You can see we get quite competitive when there’s a contest involved. We are in it to win it… and raise money for charity, have fun doing it and get into the holiday spirit.
Houstonia magazine captured the fun of the 2018 contest. I’m proud to say Pamela Hope Designs won the People’s Choice award. I must admit that I enjoy coming up with new ways to decorate for the holidays because sometimes we want to stray from tradition.
So, this year we were happy to participate in Deck the Trees with the Alley Theatre again. We raised $250K with this effort despite it being a virtual event. The trees are now on display in the windows of the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston and can be viewed through January 3, 2021. It’s a great outing, all outdoors, easy to socially distance and the only real holiday event in downtown this year. I hope you will enjoy it. Here’s a nice article from PaperCity, further detailing the event and Pamela Hope Designs’ involvement.
Other favorite traditions include time at home and travel. We would normally make the annual pilgrimage to Ketchikan, Alaska for the Boyer Towing Holiday party that my father-in-law throws every year. We just love that party and spending quality time with friends and family. You realize how important Christmas cheer is when it’s cold, dark and wintery out and the sun goes down at 3:15 in the afternoon.
I typically end my visit with an overnight stay in Seattle. I visit with my cousin, Alyssa, who has a degree in interior design and she always has a few great design spots for us to hit. The Pacific Northwest can really help get me into the holiday spirit! Here are a few shots from Christmas trips of the past.
Decorating for Christmas
I do holiday decorating for a very short list of special clients. It’s kind of a tradition for us and we all enjoy how I change their favorite displays just a little bit every year and leave room for their families to add new pieces as well. Here are some of the combinations I did this year for a family in Cypress.
Another favorite tradition includes decorating my own home. Jon and I had new holiday photos taken last week. We can’t wait to get them back and share them with you.
One of my favorite events of the year is the Baubles and Sweets Ornament and Cookie Exchange party that I have hosted for nearly 20 years for the Houston Phi Mu Alumnae. This year we had to do it via Zoom but it was fun to see my sisters! We even published a virtual cookie cook book!
Speaking of cookies, I ADORE baking at Christmas. One of my specialties is sugar cookies with icing and lots of decorations. I literally get out a pair of tweezers for careful placement. I have a huge collection of cookie cutters and we have gotten creative with them. One year, after traveling to Alaska for the Christmas party, I looked at my Southwest cookie cutters (think bear, coyote, trout) and thought, why not use a Pacific Northwest outline style to decorate them? Thus, I had bear, wolf and salmon represented on my cookie platter.
Since I am obviously into frosting and piping, I always make a gingerbread house or two. My mother loves them and even sprayed one with lacquer to keep it for a few years. Last year, I did miniature varieties with my neighbor’s little girls.
In the spirit of sharing, here is one of my favorite sugar cookie recipes with some great tips for optimal results.
Roll Out Dough
This dough can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in several layers of plastic and in a Ziploc(R) but the best thing about it is that you don’t have to chill it. You can use it immediately. Also, this is a great tip – omit baking powder to keep the shape and avoid puffy cookies. This really makes your holiday shapes look great!
Pre-heat oven to 350 F, bake 10-12 mins. (Do not brown cookies or they will be too dark on the bottom!)
Mix in food processor with paddle attachment:
2 cups salted butter (4 sticks, cut into 1 T cubes and cold)
2 cups granulated sugar
Incorporate, but do not cream, the butter. It will be chunky and coated with sugar only.
4 T whipping cream, whole milk or ½ and ½
4 T vanilla
2 t almond extract or other flavor (If not using another flavor, use 5 T vanilla.)
After mixing together, add:
6 cups of flour (You don’t need to sift, just aerate and lightly spoon in.) Omit 1 T if it’s really humid! (I live in Houston after all.)
1 T baking powder (optional, if cute details on your cookies are important, then leave this out.)
Pamela’s Favorite Decorating Icing
I prefer white icing and sprinkles for color. Sometimes I add one other colored icing, usually a light blue for snow-themed cookies or yellow/gold for holiday themes.
2 large egg whites
1 pound confectioners sugar
water or the juice of 1 lemon
optional: lemon or vanilla flavoring / pinch of salt/ food colors
Beat ingredients on low speed with an electric mixer. Start with 2 teaspoons of liquid and adjust to desired consistency. If you use liquid food colors and flavorings, take them into consideration when adding liquid. To pipe the icing, it should be fairly thick but not stiff. To spread, the icing can be runny. This icing dries quite hard and cookies can be glued together and carefully stacked when dry.
Nothing inspires me quite so much as Christmas. Until next time, find your Christmas inspiration and Happy Holidays!
P.S. – If you’re looking for last-minute Christmas gifts for the interior design enthusiast in your life or perhaps for yourself, be sure to read our “Home Décor Gifts on our Wish Lists” blog.