As the Christmas season nears, I wanted to share the stories that shaped this year’s collection of holiday greeting cards...
It was autumn on the shores of Lake Tahoe. As we walked along the path that bordered the lake, majestic pine trees rose grandly all around us. As we ventured through the trees, we stumbled upon some of the most beautiful pinecones I had ever seen. Upon investigation, I discovered these pinecones belonged to the Jeffrey’s pine, a close relative of the Ponderosa pine. Jeffrey’s pine trees are found in a long strip from Oregon to northern Baja California in Mexico, at higher elevations, and in my case, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
We gathered as many of these gorgeous, chunky pine cones as we could fit in our car. Draped in twinkle lights, along with sugar pine cones, they have since graced my fireplace mantle every Christmas. Interspersed with candle votives, wax-dipped pinecones, and Christmas tree balls, Jeffrey’s pinecones create the calming holiday ambiance I seek during a busy holiday season.
As soon as the calendar flips to December, I get in the mood for all things pomegranate. Fresh pomegranates await in my fruit bowl, ready to garnish a variety of dishes. These ruby seeds find their way into my cocktails, salads, and hors d’oeuvres boards. I use reduced pomegranate juice in glazes for meats and in several sauces and braises I make over the holiday season.
Pomegranates are one of the quintessential Christmas fruits, bringing a crunchy zing to any dish. They were an obvious choice for including in my holiday greeting cards this year.
Holly, the shiny-leafed evergreen, is one of my favorite Christmas plants. On a stark winter day, their bright green leaves and red berries remind us that spring will come again. The plant’s thorny points that encircle the leaves and bright berries give a distinctive look that enhances any holiday bouquet. It’s my hope that this year’s holly wreath design will brighten your holiday and remind you of the life and love ever present in this season.
Red-breasted nuthatches are a darling and quirky little bird. All winter they flit around our yard, moving between our bird feeder, where they eat upside down, and our massive pine tree, where they run up and down the trunk looking for bugs underneath the tree’s bark.
The nuthatch’s upside-down view of life helps find bugs that are missed by birds that only look at things from a right-side up perspective. Nuthatches may be small, but they fiercely defend themselves and their young against larger predators, such as hawks, woodpeckers, owls, and squirrels.
The spirited personalities of nuthatches mesmerizes me and keeps me returning to the window to watch them. Acrobatic, agile, and loud they surely are. They’re in and out, up and down, back and forth. This amusing and energetic northern bird is a pleasure to include in this year’s holiday collection
As a young girl, I spent my days building forts, playing hide and seek, and picking wild blueberries in the shadows of the great red pines. You see, for many years of my childhood, my playground was a vast forest of red pines in northern Minnesota, where they’re uniquely known as Norway pines. The ubiquitous Norway pine tree is Minnesota’s state tree. With its top-heavy nature, the Norway pine doesn’t resemble your stereotypical conifer.
There are a few distinctive things about northern Minnesota, pine forests and lakes being two of them. Oh, and those -20°F winters! Minnesota is called the land of 10,000 lakes, but it could as easily be called the land of 10,000 Norway pine trees, except it’s probably closer to a million.
These tall majestic trees can grow to heights of 150 feet with straight trunks that often grow to three feet in diameter. When young, they are a popular choice to use as a Christmas tree. This variety of pine is self pruning, which leads to a large percentage of the bottom of the trunk having no branches. In turn, they open up the forest floor, which leaves lots of space for fort building!
Conifer forests of one sort or another have played important roles in my life, whether it’s the lodgepole pines of the Absaroka Beartooth mountain range in southern Montana, the ponderosa pines that scattered across my property in Colorado, or the Norway pines of my youth. When thinking about which conifer to paint for this year’s holiday collection, the red pine quickly rose to the top of the list.
The Holiday Greeting Cards
It is with joy that I offer you this year’s holiday collection of greeting cards. It is my hope that they inspire you to slow down and savor the season. Take a moment to look out the window and watch the winter birds skitter about. Breathe in the pine scent of your Christmas tree. Sip on that pomegranate martini. Light the votives on your holly and pinecone-laden mantle. And through it all, remember what’s truly important in life, and hold them a little closer.