Entertaining with Emily: How to deck the halls without overdoing it

It’s decorative gourd season, friends! And if you’re not familiar with how that line is actually supposed to be written and want a good laugh, google the first four words. Unless you’re easily offended — in which case, skip right ahead, Dad.

Anyway, for me, October marks the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year: when I get to bust out seasonal decor and make the The Boozy Bungalow festive as you-know-what. But holiday decor doesn’t have to look like Hobby Lobby threw up all over your house. In fact, simple decorations can have a much bigger impact than Christmas bear tea towels or child-size candy canes — and some, like those aforementioned decorative gourds, can even pull double duty for multiple holidays.

If you think I’m jumping the seasonal gun here, for starters, stop hating on Halloween. It’s a holiday too, you know! And clearly you’re not taking into account the time it takes to shop for decor, clean your house (because who wants to slap decorations over dust, dog hair, and piles of mail?), get distracted with a deep-cleaning project, maybe do a little DIY, clean again, then finally get the decorations up.

Whenever you get around to it, here are a few of my favorite tips for tasteful — and easy! — holiday decor.

String Up White Lights

A string or two of white globe lights can take you all the way from Halloween to New Year’s Eve — or even Valentine’s Day. They’re actually a permanent fixture on our front porch, back deck, and in the garage, because they really do make any setting feel more special (like you’re living in an episode of “Parenthood” or something). A week or two before Thanksgiving, I get out my fancy string lights with cords I’ve spray painted gold to hang inside, and leave them up for a couple months, at least.

Pick a Peck of Pumpkins

Want to get your house ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving? Get a bunch of different sized pumpkins at the grocery store — or pick your own if you’re feeling especially festive — and do your best to arrange them somewhat artfully. If you don’t trust your own eye, remember that everything looks better in threes, and mixing different shapes, shades, and sizes is a good strategy.

If that feels a little too tame, try my favorite non-tacky Halloween DIY: Ghost Pumpkins. The only thing you have to do is paint a bunch of pumpkins white. I leave the stems unpainted, but to each her own. They look fabulous on my black mantel, but can be grouped together on a shelf, porch, or table for chic — but kinda spooky — decor. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, they’re perfect for your hip, monochromatic centerpiece. But after that, definitely throw them out because they’ll start to smell.

Go Green

For those who celebrate Christmas, nothing feels more festive than a freshly cut green tree. (At my house, the tree is adorned with white lights and vintage glass ornaments.) But they’re kind of a pain to put up. And if you have a rude cat, ornery puppy, or small child, forget about it.

Even when I have to skip the tree, I drape fresh pine boughs — which are available at most hardware and garden stores — over the fireplace and archways. They’re a breeze to hang with Command hooks, and easy enough to replace if the needles dry out mid-season. And if you’re really missing the idea of a tree, consider putting a sturdy fresh evergreen branch in a large glass jug or wine bottle and congratulate yourself on your minimalism. Or, if you’re a minimalist failure like I am, put a bunch of them all over the house.

I also use fresh pine clippings for centerpieces, either arranged around a candle (in a jar, of course — safety first!) or in small glass medicine bottles. You can stylize your centerpiece even more by adding a few sprigs of fresh eucalyptus, which you can find at Trader Joe’s for $3 a bunch.

Add Some Bling

Your greenery will feel even more festive if it’s paired with something metallic. Brass candlesticks with white taper candles are the perfect touch for a mantel draped in pine boughs. The candlesticks are easy to find new or used online, or you can hit an area thrift store for a vintage version. I usually spot them for a dollar or two apiece. If you’re lucky, you might find some vintage ornaments while you’re thrifting.

When it comes to ornaments, think outside the, er, tree. Pick up a mix of silver and gold glass ornaments (which are everywhere around the holidays) and scatter them with your greenery to create a centerpiece, or hang them from your wine bottle branch for a cool, modern take on Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. For an even funkier option, hang the ornaments at varying heights from the ceiling with clear thumb tacks and fishing line. Want something a lot less labor intensive? Put them in an oversized clear glass jar or vase and call it a day.

Feeling festive yet? Then pour yourself a glass of bubbly (even I can admit it’s a little early for eggnog), put on holiday tunes, and get to decorating!

For more holiday styling tips (and festive recipes) all season long, follow Emily on Instagram @theboozybungalow or visit her blog, theboozybungalow.com.  Her dress is from COCO Brookside.


Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

Yield: About 1 Pint

Need a little something to get you in the holiday spirit? This boozy cranberry sauce is (1) A delicious way to brighten up any holiday table, and (2) Definitely not for kids. It can be made ahead of time, stored in a mason jar with a lid, and refrigerated for at least a couple of weeks (booze is a preservative after all). And if you use a little caution and a small spatula getting it out, it will even retain its log shape just like the kind from the can.


12 oz. fresh cranberries

¼ cup water

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ cup Grand Marnier

Lime zest


Combine the cranberries, water, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stir, and let the mixture cook until the cranberries are soft, and bright-red foam has formed, about 15 minutes. Mash the cranberries with a wooden spoon (which will be stained red forever — deal with it), reduce the heat to low, then add the lime juice and Grand Marnier. Mix well and let the mixture simmer until it has reduced to a sauce-like texture, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest. Let it cool to room temperature before serving or storing.