Saturday, December 22, 2012



With Christmas only a few short days away, I finally managed to complete my decorating venture and managed to bake almost ALL of my goodies for this festive time of year.

My Christmas post features my home and some of my traditional baked goods. This is also a blogfest entry for the Romantic Friday Writers. Create a post of ANYTHING that has to do with HOLIDAY SPIRIT.

Our host Denise Covey, and Donna Hole have the linky open, so you can still post yours if you wish.

Merry Christmas and welcome to my home!

I will start with a tour of my condo, located on the lake front in Chicago, IL. As many of you know I have just created an amazing office to do my writing, illustrating, or anything else creative. It also doubles as a guest room. So feel free to drop in anytime.

The entry welcomes you with lovely traditional red poinsettias draped on an antique grandfather clock. I believe that every space should feature some holiday decor. Why just limit it to the living room? Guests want to feel festive throughout a whole space.

The gallery features built-ins of rosewood and glass. How could anyone who celebrates Christmas not have a nativity scene?

I wanted to have a rustic, authentic feel to mine. Made of papier mache', I added in raffia and twigs to create the stable. A spot light illuminates the scene as the north star had at Christ's birth.

The next showcase features Santa, his sleigh, and a few of his reindeer friends. The upper shelf glitters with golden pinecones, a bit of crystal and candles. The crystal glistens from the glowing spot.

Displaying anything behind glass gives your decor a more polished and professional look.

Remember your kitchen is the heart of you home, so have baked goods at the ready. Feature holiday plates and subtle accessories that will not clutter you kitchen, but enhance it.

Don't forget to have a bit of whimsy too. An Anna Lee baker just happens to be overseeing the whole kitchen.

How do you like my fantastic new espresso/cappuccino maker? A nice bright red, perfect of the holiday season. Pops of color in a kitchen breathes life into the space!

The dining area should be simple, elegant, and functional. Keeping the table free from too much decoration is a wise choice. You don't want to have to move everything off the table every time you use it.

Placing a few festive candles, placemats, and perhaps a simple centerpiece. I chose to use a three-tiered display piece. As soon as I finish baking the Christmas cookies I will add them to the candies. By doing this it is east to immediately have some sweet at hand for any unexpected company.

One thing to remember when holiday decorating .... always have a sprinkle of Christmas around the room, but subtlety is the key.

In the master bedroom, I concentrated mainly on two surfaces. The table in from of the bed and on top of the turn-of-the-century armoire. (to the right of the table.)

Since my bedroom is period and more "old world," I used hand carved wooded nutcrackers and smokers set with a spray of everygreen. The holly garland adds a nice draped softness to the table. In the center of the poster, a potpourri ball adds a subtle spiced apple scent wafting through the room.

The top of an armoire is a perfect place to create a dramatic vignette. An old world santa and his elves are busy decorating the evergreens. Imagine the brass trumpets singing out a festive carol. 

Remember, it's all in the details. Decorating is jus like writing!
Why not take in all the festive elements, 
even while lounging in your bedroom. 
Many an hour is spent here.
The living room is your show room .... Let is truly represent your spirit! Since I no longer have a Grand space, opting to split my space into two rooms, I needed to create a feeling of coziness. Placing a huge evergreen in this space would have overpowered it. That is why I decided to make my tree out of tree branches. 

I decorated the sideboard with all crystal and glass items to keep it light and bright. Only a set of candles and a small fragrant dish dress the coffee table. Under the buffet, I hand made the snow family and tree skirt. I do love my crafts... LOL.

From this pic, the tree almost blends away... but in person, it's delicate and whimsical. The close ups below say it all.


I always like the viewers eye to move throughout the "whole" space, and that includes the floor. To the entry of the final room on this tour, I placed two vignettes, one on each side. I love old world Christmas, so a few elves slumbering under a lit ceramic tree circa 1970's accompanied with a Steiff teddy bear (A classic toy) and the mink bear I made is quite appropriate for this time of year.

The office is probably the coziest room in the house. When I created this space only a few short months ago by splitting my oversized living room, I wanted a space that I could let my creativity flow.

This space I kept to a minimal only decorating the fireplace and placing a small vintage santa an reindeer on my desk.

Another vintage santa holds court on the day bed. The fireplace is festooned with a sting of holly garland along with two Dr. Suess-like stockings that I made after creating similar ones for a close blogger friends' children. I loved them SO much I had to have some for me. LOL. 

This fireplace is my favorite feature in this space. The great thing is, anyone can have a fireplace. this is a decorative one, but burns jel. So it creates real flames and crackles. It burns cleanly, so no muss or fuss. You can find them on line. This one I bought from a Spiegel catalogue eight years ago when I first moved into this condo.

On the floor, I have my treasured signed children's books, a plant and a charming view from my desk into the living room.
Well, friends that concludes the HOLIDAY DECOR TOUR. Now are you ready for a YUMMY recipe?

One of my FAVORITE things to make during the holidays is my Pumpkin, pecan rum cake. I found this recipe in a Better Homes and Gardens baking pamphlet. It's not really a book. Curious, very curious. BUT it has the most AMAZING recipes in it.

This is what it looks like when done. It smells as incredible as it looks.

Now you can use any type of mold, this one is your basic Corning ware. Anything round will do.
At the end I will show it in a different presentation.


3/4 cup of chopped pecans (I use more... I love pecans)

3 cups of all purpose flour (in the first batch I made I forgot to add about a cups worth of flour. I still baked it anyway since I hadn't discovered the error until I had the batter already in the forms. It came out lighter and even more delicious. Either way is amazing.)

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

11/4 cups of butter ( 2 1/2 sticks), divided / softened

11/2 of granulated sugar, divided ( I cut the sugar down. I like it less sweet. If you do as well cut out the half cup.)

1 cup of brown sugar ... packed. (I used 3/4 of a cup)

4 large eggs

1    15 oz. can of pumpkin

I teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of water

2 to 3 tablespoons of dark rum (add more if you like the taste of rum... I did. LOL) I also put rum in the batter... JUST throw some in... I never measure. LOL.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease pan(s). They recommend a tube pan, but you can use any from, I even made them into cupcakes.

Sprinkle pecans on bottom.

Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.

Beat 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of granulated sugar, and brown sugar in large mixing bowl (use less sugar amounts of 1/2 and 3/4 if you so desire) until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beat well; add pumpkin and vanilla extract (and rum,,, ); beat well. 

Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, 1/3 at a time; beat well. Spoon batter into pan(s).

Bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. ALWAYS check because each oven is different and it also depends on the forms you are using. Cupcakes take less time, Deeper pans a bit more. Cool ten minutes on rack.

Melt remaining butter in small sauce pan; stir in remaining granulated sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in rum. Make holes in cake with a long pick. Spoon on half of the mixture onto the cake. Let stand for five minutes. 

Invert onto decorative plate. Carefully make holes in top of cake and pour mixture over cake. (don't disturb the nuts too much. I generally just spoon it on and let it soak by itself.) 


When the cake is still just a bit warm ... just a bit. I wrap in plastic. It keeps the cake super moist for a longer period. 

This is what it looks like in a tube type form.
If you like it more "rummy," just add more rum with to the glaze. Be careful though, you don't want the cake to be too saturated or it will fall apart. 


Well everyone. Thank you SO much for dropping by and letting me share my traditions with you. I know this was a very LONG post, so thanks again. I wish all you you the HAPPIEST and HEALTHIEST holiday. This time of year is all about sharing with friends and family. I think of all of you as part of my family, since mine is scattered and my parents are no long with me. You mean the world to me.                                                             HAPPY HOLIDAYS! May they be as MAGICAL as you DESERVE!

Hi, It's me again, I just realized I still would like to post a Christmas excerpt from my first novel, AMBER and the WHISPERING WILLOWS. For those of you who have the time, I hope you enjoy it. I am in the process of doing a tweaking on it to submit in the beginning of 2013. I also illustrated the whole manuscript.

Twin Noble pine trees, one on each side of the staircase, graced the grand foyer as Amber entered the following morning. They towered past the upstairs landing, as hundreds of lights draped on each and every branch. To Amber’s astonishment, dozens of oversized plastic containers lined the grand hall, filled to the rim with the most beautiful Christmas decorations she had ever seen.  
 Nina unpacked the first box filled with dozens of Krinkles ornaments. Amber liked their whimsy: different animals and elf-like characters painted in vibrant colors, wearing oversized shoes and zany outfits — even tutu’s. 
“These are my absolute favorites!” Nina gushed.
Box after box they opened, decorating the various rooms. After several hours, Phipps served lunch in the conservatory.
The rest of the afternoon they decorated the seven mantels in the house. Nina wove holly and mistletoe throughout fresh pine branches and then draped them along the mantel’s edge. By the time they had finished the last one in Nina’s room, they both collapsed on her bed exhausted. 

After breakfast the following morning, Mr. and Mrs. Landau joined Amber and Nina in the grand foyer. They spent the whole morning unpacking boxes of ornaments for the tree: Austrian glass blown ornaments, angel ornaments, musical instrument ornaments ... plus all the partridges, drummers, reindeers, and so forth from FAO Schwartz. 
Amber felt like one of the family. She loved her uncle and Justin, of course, but it was nice to be part of a family with a mother and father. She and Nina laughed for hours, running up the stairs decorating the upper parts of the trees. 
Mr. Landau joined in the fun, climbing the huge ladder to decorate the parts of the tree that couldn’t be reached by the staircase.
By late afternoon, Mrs. Landau draped the last of bead and pearl garlands, and then trimmed every branch with an individual strand of tinsel. 
Mrs. Landau opened the last box: two cut crystal stars reflected colorful spheres of light. She handed one star to Nina and the other to Amber. 
“Two twinkling stars — for my two twinkling stars!”  
Mr. Landau positioned the ladder. “Who’s first?” he asked. “Nina, how about you?” 
Nina blanched. “Not me. Guests first.” She smiled at Amber.
“Okay.” Amber stepped onto the first rung. Mr. Landau held the ladder in place. She sailed up the ladder, placed the star on top of the tree, and came to rest on the third rung. 
Nina shook her head. “How do you do that? You made that look so easy!”
Both Mr. and Mrs. Landau laughed.
“Your turn,” Amber said, sheepishly. She leapt off the latter, landing as light as a snowflake. 
Mr. Landau moved the ladder to the other tree. Nina lost the pink in her cheeks. 
“It’s okay, Nina. I’ll do it for you,” he said.
“No! If Amber can. I can.”  
Nina stepped on the first rung. Mr. Landau held the ladder in place. One rung at a time, Nina shakily climbed the ladder. Amber watched her every step. Nina made it to the top, wobbled a bit, and placed the star on top of the tree. Mr. and Mrs. Landau applauded. 
“No problem!” 
She bowed and lost her balance. Screaming, she headed toward the hard marble floor. 
Mrs. Landau shrieked. 
Amber focused on conjuring an air barrier in front of the tree. Nina hit the barrier and cradled into it. The Landaus stood in stunned silence. 
Nina, on the other hand, leapt up exclaiming, “That was so cool! Thanks, Amber!” She ran to Amber and hugged her. Nina turned to face her parents. “Mom — Dad, I’m fine — it was fun!” 
“W-w-what h-happened?” Mr. Landau croaked, his eyes bulging. 
Mrs. Landau came to her senses. “Miles, dear, it’s all right. Nina is safe.”
“I-I still don’t understand. W-What just happened?”
Amber knew that she would be discovered. What choice did I have? Nina was in danger — I had to do something.
“Mr. Landau, I-I ...” 
“Amber, let me,” Nina said. 
“Wait, Nina — I think it is time to tell your father the truth. Miles, dear, let’s go into the library and I’ll explain everything to you. Nina, please, take Amber to your room and call Mr. Sanders. It’s late, and she should be getting home.” Mrs. Landau smiled at Amber. 
Nina grabbed Amber’s hand and led her to her room. “Dad will be okay. Mom is good at smoothing things over.”
Amber raised a brow. “If you say so.”
An hour later, Uncle Paul pulled into the drive. The quaint little house looked alive with Christmas spirit. Amber’s eyes widened. Carefully strung icicle lights hung from the pitched eaves. Colored twinkle lights lit up the shrubs lining the front porch. Tiny white lights flashed like diamonds, reflecting off the snow. Two, five-foot high, lit snowmen flanked the front door, welcoming visitors. 
Amber marveled at the eight reindeer pulling Santa and his sleigh, lighting up the entire roof.
Uncle Paul faced Amber. “Not too shabby, is it?” He grinned.
“Awesome,” she uttered. 


  1. Fantastic. I love the look of your tree--so elegant and beautiful.

    As an artist with a zillion paintings in several art galleries and at home, I live in a world of clutter. Paintings 4 by 6 ft. take up a lot of space! I envy your pretty, uncluttered world!!!

    Merry Christmas,
    Mary Montague Sikes

  2. Oh. My. GOSH. That tree is amazzzzzzing. Stunning, truly. Wow. And how am I supposed to pinpoint what to comment on? There's all so much... Your entryway is my FAVORITE... I love that little space.

    And the NUTCRACKERS. I love Nutcrackers SO much--they're magic to me--they're what reminds me of my whole childhood at Christmas. And the stockings are gorgeous! And I love your cabinets... So many details are so lovely--it's like living inside a catalogue :-)


    I'm exhausted looking at the pictures--you need a break! Thanks for the fun tour, Michael, and I hope your Christmas is absolutely amazing...

    And man, I can almost smell that pumpkin from here...

  3. Oh! And the excerpt is REALLY great. You have the ability to create a "mood" or "magic" that I really love in books. And you totally created this scene that immersed me into this Christmas moment. Can't wait to read the whole book, Michael!

  4. wow, you have truly turned your place in something magical! I adore you tree; it's so pretty and festive and sparkly! I love it :)

  5. Hi MIchael! Well, I just wrote a gazillion-word comment and blogger ate it up!! I don't think I can say it all again, but when I returned I took another tour. You have done an amazing job! From beginning to end, your condo looks all dressed up ready to party.
    I can't believe how many things you made yourself -- so much more satisfying if you have the talent. The tree is just GORGEOUS as are the mink bear, and all the other beautiful things you've created. Your antique furniture is truly enhanced by your decorations.
    The new writing space is so restful and cozy -- good place to write that best seller! Amber is coming along nicely -- maybe 2013 is going to be your TIME!
    Thanks for the recipe! I'll try it, but not in summer -- looks like it'd be amazing -- pumpkin and pecans -- how could you miss!

    Thank you Michael, for this inspiring post. I wish you a blessed Christmas and a very prosperous New Year in every way -- in writing, in interior design, but most of all, in health and good spirit.

    Denise x

  6. I am in total awe... That's all in your condo? You have enough decorations to do my house ten times over. Wow, it looks amazing. I'd want to hang out at your place.
    Saw the socks you made for Morgan's family - really awesome!
    Four poster bed. I want one of those. The possibilities... (Wait, did I say that out loud?)
    Michael, Merry Christmas! You were on my list to contact before Christmas because we hadn't heard from you in a couple weeks. And you send your final Christmas post out with a bang!

  7. wow, just wondering where my invitation is to come over and stay at your condo!!! :D

  8. Very elegant - thanks for the virtual tour! (Love the espresso machine, BTW.) Merry Christmas!

  9. Hey Michael,

    I too am blown away by your "eye" for design and tranquility.

    Ab-so-lute-ly amazing and I am truly impressed that you made so much fit cozily into your home.

    And the writing was bloody brilliant, too :)

    Great job, and I know you said the family is spread out, but I hope you are able to enjoy your home with some friends over the Christmas season - you put a lot of work in there, phew :)

    Merry Christmas and a *very* Happy New Year from our family to yours, Michael:)

    Talk to you next year :)

  10. Wow, your design eye is awesome. You did such a wonderful job putting just the right amount of Christmas in each room. I love your handmade touches, especially the Suess stockings (which are kind of steampunk in a way). So cool. I loved them at Morgan's blog and am loving them in your home, as well. Your nativity is also really well done. You are one crafty dude!

    The writing sample is really cool, too. It's so traditional until the superpowers kick in, and then I was really intrigued. Very cool story. The illustration is great, too.

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

  11. Lovely pictures :)

  12. Your tree is seriously exquisite.Your spaces look absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for sharing. Wish you a merry Christmas and a great 2013, and the very best of luck with the submission.

  13. Like Alex, I was beginning to be concerned since we hadn't heard from you in awhile. But I knew you were busy doing your condo and other work so I was going to wait a bit more before inquiring.

    Like Nilanjani, I think your Christmas tree is elegantly equisite. And great luck with your submission!

    Merry Christmas!

  14. Michael darling; if I were ever able to "drop in" to your home I'd feel as if I were staying at a luxurious hotel. Everything is magnificent; and knowing how much time, effort, money, and enthusiasm you've put into making your home a "home' is inspiring to me. My red-neck ways and and lower middle class values would have me embarrassed to sit on the furniture though :)

    I have been looking forward to your Christmas post for months. I know how much you adore Christmas, and look forward to the Holiday Spirit, and I could no wait to see your posted enthusiasm. I am happy just being in your presence.

    I know you have had some upsets and set backs through this last year, but your love of life, and you ability to see beyond the present. Even when your posts (or e-mails) are less than positive, I know you just need a little understanding to keep your mood positive.

    Dude; your existence makes me believe in miracles. And, I have a special fondness for nativity scenes. Thank you for letting us tour your home at Christmas time. So much elegance and beauty. The fireplace scene is my favorite. I hope someday you have a special someone to share all this beauty and holiday spirit with.

    LOL; how come I'm always expecting to see tattoos on your arms or biceps? I know, as a model you're expected to keep your skin clean; but it seems weird to me you have no tats. No matter; your smile is your most beautiful feature. I'd recognize its uniqueness in any crowd.

    You illustrated Whispering Pines? Awesome. I know some say its not prudent to illustrate children's chapter books, but I disagree. I think children need that little extra illustrative synopsis, though I'm only judging by my own grandchildren. And the fact I adore your illustrations.

    Michael, your excerpt perfectly portrays the Holiday Spirit, and has so much of what I presume is your personality as an author. Thank you for posting with RFW, and thank you for being such and inspiration at this time of year. I love you my friend, and I am so glad to be a part of your world.

    Hugs, kisses, and best wishes to you during this holiday season.


  15. Love it, Mikey! I'm coming over to infiltrate myself into the festive palace :) And I'm not leaving till next year :)
    Love the backsplash in your kitchen, but my absolute favourite are the three black ducks figures :) I adore such figures which come in two or three of four pieces... delightful.
    Love your new profile pic too!

    Hope you managed to visit DEZZY'S CHRISTMAS MAGIC and read my own recipes too :)

  16. You sure went all out! Everything looks amazing. Have a wonderful holiday brother dear, thanks for sharing some of it with us :)

  17. You had me at sparkles! great recipe thank you for sharing. I hope this holiday season brings you many happy memories to carry you into the new year.

  18. That recipe is just delish! And I love the decorations.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

  19. Oh my goodness. Your "tree" is exactly how I pictured it--whimsical, sparkling, and fabulous!

    The whole tour was amazing. HGTV-worthy, if I do say so myself. :) Merry Christmas, Michael!

    P.S. I love how easy it was to imagine the scene at the end!

  20. I love your decorations, and thank you for the recipe! I'm going to give that one a shot this week. I hope you have an excellent holiday!

  21. Hello Beautiful, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! And with your fabulous abode, I'm sure you did. Feels so warm and welcoming and I love the nativity scene, THAT is so on my list for next year!! And I love the magic of your excerpt from Amber, so fitting for the season! I wish I had some super magical powers, alas, its just me. ;-)

    Have a lovely festive season, my friend!!
    -Talei xox

  22. Elegant is definitely the word! Gorgeous Christmas decor here, great job. :) Love the poinsettias on the clock (nifty color contrast), the natural nativity scene, the crisp clean kitchen (I agree about kitchen and also coffee table clutter), grand bedroom, STUNNING white handmade tree, and wonderful earthy tones of the couch/fireplace. It's all very RICH visually. And the pumpkin pecan rum cake sounds scrumptious. :)

    Nice photos of you and your artwork too! Enjoyed the excerpt, to see another glimpse of your story. I remember reading a few books as I grew up that were for older "kids," that had a few to a dozen illustrations throughout--mostly ink drawings. I loved coming across them. Merry Christmas, and thanks for sharing all this with us!

  23. Your home is beautiful! Merry Christmas
    Laura xxx

  24. That tree is absolutely fantastic! You're so, so clever, and I'm sure in real life it's even more stunning. I hope you're getting lots and lots of joy from it.

    I love this week between Christmas & New Year's because it extends the holiday at a more relaxed pace than the crazy days I've just completed - and this post, including the wonderful Amber excerpt, is the perfect thing to up my holiday vibes. Thanks. :)

    I'm glad you're having a great time in Galena. Enjoy the rest of your stay there and I look forward to being more out & about in blogworld come the new year.

    P.S. Mia's almost done with her current read, and guess what's next on her reading list. ;)

  25. Thanks for sharing pics of your condo - they're great (although I do love my very-non-cool Christmas tree that my kids decorated!). And thanks for sharing a bit of Amber - by submitting, do you mean ABNA? It starts in a couple of weeks!

  26. Oh, wow. Every room looks so elegant and inviting--the decorations are fabulous. I love how unique your tree is, especially!

    Great excerpt.

  27. I loved taking the tour of your home with all your wonderful decorations. So elegant and classy. Your excerpt had me right there decorating those trees. Wonderful writing. Happy New Year.

  28. Very nice decorations!! Very Christmasy! I hope your holiday went well!
    Merry late Christmas!

  29. It felt like I was right there with you! Your welcoming spirit just oozed through the computer. And your home is lovely. Merry Christmas

  30. wow. You put my lack of decorations to shame. I LOVE your tree and the poinsettias everywhere are gorgeous! I'm going to have to get me some of them for next year.

  31. Wow! The decorations are beautiful. Your house is gorgeous. Your illustrations are WOW and your excerpt has pulled me in.

    WOW and a late Merry Christmas to you. I hope to get back to blogging next week. I've missed it.

  32. You have a beautiful home and I love all your decorations. The warmth practically jumps from the computer screen! Happy Holidays to you. :)

  33. Your taste, my friend, is incredible. I could feel so comfortable there. It's the backsplash, the choice of dark woods, the stainless steel appliances... WOW. This could be in "In Design" magazine.


    *snaps fingers

  34. Michael: Have a Happy New Year!

  35. January 3rd, 2013

    Dear Michael,

    Love the photos!
    You have made your home so beautiful for Christmas! I love it! Makes me want to cry. I wish my apartment had looked more like that for Christmas for the children.

    On the other hand, I can't keep things too perfect with an eight-year-old and and an eleven-year-old who are still just learning about keeping things in order. But they would have loved to see your Christmas decorations. Just lovely!

    I was in the US, in West Virginia, from December 4th to 17th, but had no time to travel anywhere else or do anything fun. I was alone. I had to leave the children with their father. There was nothing for them to do. The only thing I did was visit with my 86 year old mother and pack. I packed my very last belongings that I had stored at my parent's old home. All of my drawings from childhood through college.

    My brother is selling our parent's house. It is so sad.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Best wishes,

  36. I'll be back to read your story later. It is ten minutes past three in the morning and I need to get some sleep!