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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Winter White Poinsettias

Sunday, December 31, 2023

One of the beauties of poinsettias is how long they last. Last year in the third week of January, almost one month into winter, pots of huge white poinsettias were still beautiful in my living room. 

Bought the week of Thanksgiving at a local home improvement store, these large white poinsettias were in my heated living room for almost two months when these photos were taken.

New Address Sign | Country House

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Addresses are hard to find for houses along rural roads in the countryside. Half of the mailboxes with house addresses are not on the same side of the street as the house since all boxes are on one side of the road. Our mailbox with our house number stands across the country road to our house. 

Seeing our house street number wasn't a problem for over 30 years since the only people visiting us were personal friends and family. Whenever someone new was coming to our house, we gave them explicit instructions and directions about how to find our house. 

But, with the explosion of online shopping in recent years, FedEx and UPS delivery drivers need to find our house. Unfortunately, the drivers sometimes deliver our packages to our neighbors across the street where our mailbox stands next to theirs or to neighbors down the road. 

Our cedar house sits on two acres. We are lucky some delivery drivers find the house and deliver our packages without a problem. 

Christmas Ivy Wreath

Monday, December 25, 2023

Fresh greenery is my favorite style for Christmas decor. And ivy topiaries in the shape of a wreath are at the top of my go-to Christmas fresh greenery. 

Every season during the year has specific flowers and plants that are synonymous with that time of year. Wreaths are one of the most recognizable symbols of Christmas decorations and often are the first sign of the Christmas holidays. Cities and businesses add wreaths to front doors, street lamps, and windows. 

Homeowners also hang wreaths on front doors and windows. And on gates, fences, car grills, fireplaces,...  EVERYWHERE. Wreaths are made of evergreens, pinecones, artificial berries, FEATHERS, but all proclaim Christmas. 

For me, a live ivy topiary in the shape of a wreath is Christmas. Some years I add a sparkly ornament dangling inside the wreath to add more Christmas. 

Z is for Ziva Paperwhites

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Just as certain recipes evoke memories of Christmas, specific flowers immediately bring Christmas to mind, also. Z is for Ziva Paperwhites is the final post in the series of Christmas traditions from A to Z since it's not Christmas at my house without paperwhites in bloom.   

is for Ziva Paperwhites.

Each year as I make plans for celebrating Christmas, I order Ziva Paperwhite bulbs to force into bloom in time for decorating for Christmas. The bulbs must be planted six weeks before the plant blooms. 

Therefore, it is too late to plant paperwhite blooms for this Christmas, but not too late to enjoy seeing paperwhites used in Christmas decorations. 

Y is for Yule Log Cake

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Christmas traditions add joy, laughter, sparkle, and continuity to the season. In the list of 26 traditions from A to Z, Y is for Yule Log Cake. No holiday season is complete without delicious signature recipes that represent the holiday.  

is for Yule Log Cake 

The origin of yule log cake stems from burning yule logs that once were part of celebrations of Winter Solstice by pagans. Like many Christmas traditions, burning a yule log first appeared in 17th century German writings. 

From the tradition of burning yule logs, the French created a yule log cake in the shape of a log during the 19th century. Now Bûche de Noël or yule log cake is a Christmas tradition in France. France is renowned for delicious recipes that gain popularity across the world, and Bûche de Noël is now a widespread Christmas tradition not just in France.  

X is for XMAS

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

X is for XMAS in the list of Christmas traditions from A to Z.  An abbreviation for Christmas is a definition of XMAS. However, there is more to the story of the tradition of using XMAS for Christmas. 

is for Xmas

X is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, and "mas" is taken from a Latin-derived Old English word for mass. 

In English, "X" was first used by a scribe to abbreviate Christ in 1100. The first known use of XMAS for Christmas was in 1721.

W is for Wisemen

Sunday, December 17, 2023

W is for Wisemen is the 22nd post in a series of 26 posts listing Christmas traditions from A to Z. Traditions we observe during the holidays add joy, love, comfort, laughter, and meaning to our holiday celebrations. 

is for Wisemen.

The Christmas tradition of the three wisemen is an important part of the story of the birth of Christ in the Bible. After the birth of Jesus, a star in the east led the wisemen to where the baby Jesus was in Bethlehem. 

Our tradition of giving gifts to loved ones at Christmas follows the example of the wisemen presenting gold, myrrh, and frankincense to the Christ child. 

V is for Vixen

Friday, December 15, 2023

Some traditions add deep felt meaning to Christmas. Other traditions add joy and merriment. In the list of 26 Christmas traditions, one tradition per letter of the alphabet, V is for Vixen. Guaranteed to bring smiles just by saying the name Vixen. 

is for Vixen. 

Reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh was first mentioned and illustrated in a children's poem, "Old Santeclaus with Much Delight," in New York in 1821. Only one reindeer pulled Santa's sleigh in an accompanying lithograph. 

Two years later, in Clement C. Moore's poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," eight tiny reindeer with names pulled Santa's sleigh to deliver toys. 

U is for Unselfish Acts

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Individuals, civic organizations, corporations, and churches traditionally spotlight opportunities to help others during the holidays. Yes, groups seek to help others all during the year, but organized and random unselfish acts are Christmas traditions. In the list of 26 Christmas traditions from A to Z, U is for Unselfish Acts

is for Unselfish Acts.

Unselfish acts of kindness have always existed during the Christmas season by both individuals and groups, making this the oldest Christmas tradition for many.  

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time." 
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

T is for Tree

Monday, December 11, 2023

Christmas trees to celebrate the season are the most common Christmas tradition in ways to decorate for the holidays. In the list of 26 Christmas traditions from A to Z, T is for Tree. Trees are so popular that many homes now have multiple Christmas trees.

is for Tree.

Decorated Christmas trees became popular in England during Queen Victoria's reign when her German husband, Albert, introduced Christmas trees in the royal family's Christmas celebrations. 

Shortly thereafter the new English tradition was copied by wealthy families in the United States. Each year the tradition spread to more American families. 

S is for Stocking

Thursday, December 7, 2023

One of the reasons Christmas is a wonderful time of the year is the scope and depth of Christmas traditions. Many traditions touch our inner souls while other traditions speak to the child in us. The list of traditions from A to Z includes the full range of traditions. S is for Stocking is one of the our treasured traditions that reminds us of childhood, of the wonder of Christmas, and of the mirth of the season. 

is for Stocking.

Leaving gifts in Christmas stockings reportedly began with Saint Nicholas. According to legend, three poor girls left their washed stockings on the fireplace mantel to dry overnight. Saint Nicholas knew the girls were poor and threw three bags of gold coins down their chimney. The coins landed in the girls' stockings.  

R is for Ribbons

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Christmas traditions add joy, love, sparkle, beauty, comfort, nostalgia, meaning, and laughter to the holiday season. Traditions from A to Z offer glimpses into how different traditions add to the season. R is for Ribbons is a light-hearted tradition that adds beauty, sparkle, and joy! 

is for Ribbons.

Ribbons on Christmas presents began in the 1930s by stationery stores to dress up gift-wrapped packages. Today ribbons play a bigger role in Christmas decorations than tied to gift  packages. 

Q is for Quiet Reflection

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Christmas is a time for many to contemplate the meaning of the season and of how we should live our lives. In this series of 26 Christmas traditions, Q is for Quiet Reflection. For many, Christmas is about deeper meanings instead of presents under a tree. 

is for Quiet Reflection.

Christmas traditions often include time to read, to ponder, and to reflect on how to make one's life better and how to make the world better by one's actions. 

Reading favorite seasonal books, watching holiday movies, and participating in religious activities are among the traditions that provide quiet reflection of our personal lives and of our society.  

P is for Pinecone

Friday, December 1, 2023

Christmas traditions add joy, sparkle, and beauty to our homes during the festive holiday season, and a primary tradition is Christmas decorations inside and outside. A list of 26 Christmas traditions from A to Z includes P is for Pinecones, a popular natural decoration for Christmas. 

is for Pinecones

Natural decorations are a Christmas tradition with origins in Roman times when pagans celebrated the winter solstice. Pinecones were one of the natural decorations for celebrating winter solstice. 

When Christians began celebrating Christmas, pinecone decorations continued, and are often used in Christmas decorations today. 

O is for Ornament

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Since the Victorian Age ornaments on a Christmas tree have been a Christmas tradition in celebrating the most wondrous time of the year. O is for Ornaments in the list of Christmas traditions from A to Z written to add joy, love, laughter, beauty, nostalgia, comfort, sparkle, and meaning to the Christmas season. 

is for ornaments

Traditionally ornaments were used to decorate Christmas trees in England beginning in the reign of Queen Victoria. Shortly thereafter, the tradition spread to the United States. 

Ornaments vary from homemade to heirlooms and have evolved from just decorating a tree to decorating the house in other ways. 

N is for Noël

Monday, November 27, 2023

N is for Noël is part of a series of 26 posts of Christmas traditions from A to Z.  Noël is French for Christmas, and one prominent use of Noël in English Christmas traditions is in the  beautiful Christmas carol, "The First Noël."  

is for Noël.

Noël not only means Christmas. Noël can also mean Christmas carol. For centuries Christmas carols were sung in Latin or Old French. English speakers began using Nowell, an older spelling of Noël, to refer to carols in the 18th century. As late as the 20th century, the carol "The First Noël" was sometimes titled as "The First Nowell." 

M is for Merry Christmas

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Cheerful Christmas greetings are exchanged with friends, family, and strangers throughout the Christmas season making M is for Merry Christmas the thirteenth Christmas tradition in my list of traditions from A to Z.  

is for Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas has been a traditional Christmas greeting for centuries. The greeting dates back to 1534 when one of Henry VIII's ministers sent the greeting to English King Henry in a letter. 

Scrooge"s nephew in the popular A Christmas Carol story greeted his uncle with, "A Merry Christmas, Uncle," which popularized the phrase in 1843 in the United States. The same year, Merry Christmas appeared in greeting cards. 

The phrase has fallen out of popularity in recent years in the United States, but I think it is still a wonderful way to greet people during the Christmas season.

L is for Lights

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Light displays seem to be a bigger and brighter Christmas tradition each year with neighborhoods, cities, parks, and public gardens creating larger and longer periods for creative and sparkling displays. How can any modern day list of Christmas traditions for A to Z not include L is for Lights

is for Lights

Yet, I still enjoy the reserved, not so over-the-top, lights reminiscent of the traditional lights of my childhood. A time when the only Christmas lights were on our one-and-only Christmas tree in the living room. 

The history of Christmas lights begins with candles in the 17th century. From there lit candles on Christmas trees from German traditions became an English tradition in the Victorian Age. 

K is for Kris Kringle

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Christmas traditions vary across the world, but one figure appears in many countries under different names. In a listing of traditions from A to Z, K is for Kris Kringle, one of many names for a person who brings gifts to children at Christmas.  

is for Kris Kringle.

Kris Kringle is the American name for Father Christmas and comes from the German word Chriskindl. Christkindl means Christ child. In Germany children believe the baby Jesus brings presents to children for Christmas. 

Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Father Frost, and Père Noël are just a few of the names used around the world for a person who brings gifts on Christmas Eve. Kris Kringle first appeared in English in the 1830s through the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers who were German Americans. 

J is for Joyeux

Sunday, November 19, 2023

No other holiday season is more joyous for an extended period than Christmas.  Perhaps our greatest Christmas tradition is spreading joy and goodwill. From the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Day we greet everyone we meet, friends and strangers, with "Merry Christmas", "Happy Holidays", and "Joyeux Noël".  

is for Joyeux
Joyeux is French and translates to merry, happy, cheerful, and joyful in English. And, Christmas is a season of being merry, happy, cheerful, and joyful! 

French Country style is my favorite decorating style which means I look for ways to incorporate French Country throughout my home and garden during every season of the year. Joyeux Noël adds joyful French Country to my Christmas decor and has become part of my Christmas traditions.  

I is for Inspiration

Friday, November 17, 2023

A tradition during the Christmas season for many is to be inspired by familiar annual events. I is for Inspiration is the ninth post in a special series from A to Z identifying Christmas traditions. 

If you are just discovering the series and want to read the previous posts, see the Blog Archive in the right hand column for a list of all previous posts. November 1 was the date the series began. Click on the title of the post you want to read. 

is for

During the holidays, inspiration is easily found with several annually occurring events with multiple venues. Many family Christmas traditions are to participate in the same events each year, and families often mark their calendars to insure they do not miss their favorite Christmas activities. 

Inspiration comes from different places for different people, but during the holidays there are three categories of kinds of inspiration we seek. 

Inspiration of the soul, inspiration of the spirit, and inspiration of the heart. 

H is for Heirloom

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Christmas heirlooms are among families' most treasured Christmas traditions. And, dated annual Christmas ornaments are at the top of the list of Christmas heirlooms. Whether ornaments were handmade by grade school children or inherited from grandparents, Christmas is not the same without them.

is for Heirloom. 

Collectible dated annual ornaments often begin as gifts for special occasions. First Christmas for newlyweds, first home, or first Christmas for baby are among the top gifted Christmas ornaments with dates. 

Decorating a tree with ornaments began in Germany in the 1600s. By the mid-1800s, German artisans developed techniques to hand blow glass molds to create glass ornaments. 

G is for Gift Wrap

Monday, November 13, 2023

One of the Christmas traditions followed across the world is the exchanging of gifts wrapped in beautiful packages. G is for Gift Wrap is the seventh post in a series of 26 posts listing Christmas traditions from A to Z.  

is for Gift Wrap. 

Presentation, presentation, presentation.

Seeing pretty packages wrapped under a Christmas tree adds to the excitement and anticipation of the presents inside. 

A beautifully wrapped present takes extra time and thought which is cherished by the recipient. At least, adult recipients. Anyone around young children at Christmas knows they are so excited to see their gifts they gleefully tear open their presents and fling the gift wrapping aside.   

The first gift wrapping began in Japan in the 1600s. The Japanese began using a reusable wrapping cloth known as furoshiki when giving gifts. 

F is for Flowers

Saturday, November 11, 2023

F is for Flowers is the sixth post in a special series about Christmas traditions from A to Z that add sparkle, love, laughter, beauty, comfort, nostalgia, meaning, and joy to the Christmas season. Christmas is a time when our homes are the most festive in the year, often with exterior as well as interior decorations. And, flowers are one the most traditional forms for Christmas decorations. 

is for Flowers.

Poinsettias are sometimes called the official Christmas flower. The plant is native to Mexico and in the 17th century was first used for Christmas by Franciscan monks in Nativity processions in the town of Taxco de Alarcon.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist from South Carolina, visited Mexico on a diplomatic mission in 1828. As a botanist he was intrigued with the unfamiliar plant's red leaves. He shipped some plants back to his home to grow and cultivate in his greenhouse and gave the flowers to friends around Christmas time. 

E is for Evergreens

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Can it be Christmas without decorations? Without fresh greenery? E is for Evergreens is the fifth post in Christmas traditions from A to Z that add sparkle, love, laughter, beauty, comfort, nostalgia, meaning, and joy to the Christmas season. 

Perhaps evergreen decorations are a tradition for you. Or, maybe you will be inspired to add evergreens to your home as a new tradition for you! 

is for Evergreens.

Decking the halls with mistletoe, holly, and ivy has been a tradition in England since the late medieval period. Europeans decorated their homes in winter with holly and ivy long before homes were decorated for Christmas. Cut greenery freshened the air in winter homes and brightened people's spirits by reminding them Spring was coming. 

Decorating with fresh greenery for the Christmas holidays in the United States has its origins in the English traditions. Even today historic Williamsburg, Virginia has lavish fresh greenery wreaths, swags, and garlands for exterior doors, windows, gates, and fences for the Christmas holidays. 

D is for Dashing through the Snow

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Christmas traditions make the holiday special for families. D is for Dashing through the Snow is the fourth post at a look of Christmas traditions from A to Z that add sparkle, love, laughter, beauty, comfort, nostalgia, meaning, and joy to the Christmas season. 

May this A to Z  list, one letter per post, inspire a new tradition for you! 

is for Dashing through the Snow.

Dreaming of a white Christmas is high on many people's Christmas wish lists regardless of where one lives. And, regardless of age! We dream of dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, laughing and singing all the way. 

C is for Cookies

Sunday, November 5, 2023

This is the third post, C is for Cookies, in a series of posts about Christmas traditions that make the holiday special. Similar to an Advent Calendar, but with 26 days, each post is a look at Christmas traditions from A to Z that add sparkle, love, laughter, beauty, comfort, nostalgia, meaning, and joy to the Christmas season. 

Whether making cookies with children, baking cookies to leave for Santa, baking a special recipe for a cookie exchange, or for gifting cookies to friends, cookies at Christmas are a tradition in many homes. 

B is for Books

Friday, November 3, 2023

Christmas traditions make the holiday special for families. This is the second post, B is for Books, in a series of posts similar to an Advent Calendar, but has 26 days for a look at Christmas traditions from A to Z that add sparkle, love, laughter, beauty, comfort, nostalgia, meaning, and joy to the Christmas season. 

May this A to Z  list, one letter per post, add some joy to your Christmas.

is for Books

Christmas books are the sources for many of our Christmas traditions. Foremost for many people is the Bible that tells the story of the birth of Christ with Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. Angels, Wisemen, shepherds, the manger, stars, and gifts are parts of our Christmas traditions from the biblical stories. 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in 1843 is considered the first in a new literary genre of Christmas books. His descriptions of Christmas parties, singing carols, giving presents, Christmas trees, and the spirit of Christmas are the origins for many of our holiday traditions. 

A is for Angel

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Christmas traditions make the holiday special for families. Today is the beginning of a series of posts, beginning with A is for Angel. Similar to an Advent Calendar, but one which has 26 days, the series is a look at Christmas traditions from A to Z that add sparkle, love, laughter, beauty, comfort, nostalgia, meaning, and joy to the Christmas season. 

Different families celebrate Christmas with traditions for different reasons. For some the meaning of the season is built around their religious faith, for some the meaning is the focus on family gatherings, and for some the meaning of the season stems from the heritage of their community. 

May this A to Z list, one letter per post, add some joy to your Christmas. And, perhaps inspire a new tradition for you!

is for ANGEL

What better way to begin Christmas celebrations than with angels, messengers from God, who were the first to announce the coming birth of the Savior to his mother. 

Christmas A to Z

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Christmas Traditions A to Z is on its way to you beginning November 1. Christmas blog series require quite a bit of planning long before Christmas Day. Especially when the series contains 26 days of new posts. And, such a long series requires it to begin early. 

New posts will be published every other day, November 1 to December 21, full of traditions, history, and inspiring holiday photos.   

Watch for the new series coming your way. 

To insure you see every tradition, A to Z, use the blue box in the right-hand column to sign up to get every post delivered to your email inbox. 

Oh, what joy is coming!

Bulletin Board Inspiration No. 8 | French Country Coastal Decor

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

A Paper Series Post 

Summer is flying by! Before it slips away, I created a bulletin board for coastal decor inspiration with a French Country twist. France has miles and miles of coastline from the far north Normandy region down to the southern Riviera making French Country Coastal an authentic phrase for French decor ... and for style of living. 

Ideas for blending French Country and coastal decor
La Mer (the sea) offers sights, sounds, and feelings with countless images to conjure fun-filled hours of a day, a week, or a whole summer. Cool blue and white color schemes echo water, skies, sea creatures, and coastal architecture. 

Only recently, I saw a blend of simple coastal decor and traditional French Country decor that makes a perfect pairing.

French Architecture | Doors

Monday, June 19, 2023

Summertime and my thoughts are filled with traveling to France. Alas, no travel for me this summer, so I am taking a virtual tour to France by rereading older blog posts about previous trips to France. French architecture, including doors and doorways from Paris to ancient smaller cities across France, always captures my attention. And, I have written several blog posts focused solely on my love for French doors. 


Domme, France's medieval doorway is flanked by two large circular guard towers.
So my virtual French tour via older blog posts begins with rereading Amour de Porte française (French Door Love). 

The Dordogne region of France is filled with castles, ancient cities, prehistoric caves, and lush countryside with incredible historic architecture. Two towers flank a large doorway entrance into the Medieval city of Domme, certainly a door worthy to make my list of French doors to love.  

French Country Winter Paperwhites

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Paperwhites brighten winter days whether inside or outside. A large French Country pedestal urn filled with artificial paperwhites is perfect to transition inside from winter to spring.

The arrangement on the vintage pine table actually began as part of the Christmas decor last December. A large glass plate sits inside the urn and provides a flat surface on which the artificial paperwhite blooming bulbs stand. A fresh boxwood wreath is just the right size needed for adding greenery around the rim of the urn.