Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

The Ritz-Carlton, a company known for the repetitive and never tired “my pleasure” as an answer to any request, is a place where making things pretty comes quite easily.  Two 12″ trees flank the entrance to the Ritz Residences on Market Street here in our fair town.  I decided on tall structural Silver Tips (my fave), carefully decorated with bronze ornaments.

Initially I had thought about going all au naturel, using nothing but glittered cones and pods and seeds, and then covering the trees with hundreds of Papillio Ulysees butterflies.  Then, as the days progressed, I realized that people really do like a bit of bling on their trees.  So I visited my favorite Long Island madame at the Kurt Adler showroom and purchased some really beautiful gold and bronze ornaments to compliment the cones and nuts I did use.

So I want to introduce you to this very simple and SUPER CHIC little ornament, one that can be made quite easily.  All you need are:




Chestnuts (fresh)

Brass eye hooks from the hardware store (preferably mixed sizes in a cozy plastic box)

Elmer’s Glue (with a touch of water)

A ramekin

GOOD glitter (see and a spoon

A paper plate to catch the additional glitter that does not stick to the nut or cone

A blotter, paint brush or a lightly wetted clean sponge


Prepare a hanging area which could be something as simple as a shish kabob skewer that is weighted down at one end.  You will thread the skewer with the chestnuts after you apply the glitter.  

First you take the eye hook and gently screw it into the top of the FRESH chestnut (or at the bottom of a pine cone)

Then you carefully pinch the eye hood as you dip the nut into about 3/4″ of glue that you have in the ramekin, slightly watered down.  You can use your fingers or a pair of rabbit ears. Lift out of the glue and let the extra glue drip away and blot the “tip” of the nut with a wet sponge but do not wipe away the glue.

Spoon a fine glitter (fine as in texture and quality) over the nut as you gently turn it for full coverage.

Thread the skewer with the nut and let it hang dry.

The next day you will be free to gently brush away any additional glitter and thread with a thin ribbon.  Voilá, you have a beautifully scaled and very elegant ornament for your tree, or frankly with a cute cap sleeve T-shirt, good jeans and good shoes, you have a very elegant necklace.  (Too big for earrings)

I made 40 of these in 2 hours.  Wrap in soft tissue paper (not paper towels) and store for the following year.  They will last forevz.

HINT:  Should some of the glitter fall away over the years, use an even more diluted glue “solution” and gently, and with a small fine brush, apply a thin layer of glue over the affected area. Gently apply a fine and gentle stream of glitter.  (You do not want the ornament to appear chunky or sloppy-heavens no!)




Last photo courtesy of the magnificent and delightful Antonette Streeter.

Have fun!!! and Happy Happy Holidays from John James Designs.  May abundance and peace and gratitude be comfortably yours for now and always.  YES!!!!!

Monsieur Benjamin

Never been here, and for some strange reason I am not compelled to go.  Perhaps one of you can convince me that the food is good and I will give it a go.  But for now, I am not so much concentrating on the food as I am the cozy table and the flowers on it.


My dear friend Laura, who works with Silicon Valley Bank and WeWork, the co-working space start-up (now valued at 5B) in the TL here in town were having a birthday dinner for a colleague.  They wanted something sexy, a touch dark but also whimsical and pretty.  So off to work I went.

I thought it would be nice to have something at each setting-something that made the guests feel special, a trifle that could rest on the plate.  There is something so wonderful about going to a restaurant and seeing that one table amongst all the others that has been decorated thoughtfully for guests.  It makes people feel special and does not have to be a very elaborate affair, (though I love me some elaborate affairs).



These cozy Dusty Miller leaves were topped with a plant with the most wonderful pale yellow trumpets whose name escapes me at the moment.  I have so many plants in my garden now it is hard to keep track.  I will ask my friend Shiloh and get back to you all.  This particular plant does very well in the Bay Area and makes a delightful, albeit short stemmed cut flowers.



The flower arrangement, small enough not to be disruptive to conversation (IMPORTANT) and large enough to be exciting for the recipient (EVEN MORE IMPORTANT) was made of black calla lilies, dusty miller and Monarch butterflies in a simple 6″ glass cylinder.  Of course the guest of honor had one of the butterflies magically fly onto her place setting.  And while I am a bit on the fence about paper tablecloths, in this particular setting it worked.



Even if you just pluck some greenery out of your yard and add a touch of flowers to it, there is something so nice about bringing a floral centerpiece to a birthday table.  (It is also nice to keep a cozy box perhaps lined with some paper towels for the guest to use in transporting the flowers home.)

So there you have it.  A touch of floral coziness for good friends celebrating another good friend’s birthday.


Sherlock Holmes and the Place Card

I cannot take credit for this SUPER CUTE!!!! idea.  It is good for the kids, (especially) and for the kid at heart.

Okay, so these are photos from a birthday party for an older gentleman.  The stunning environment of BOND estate needed little to no amending.  However, the beautiful antique dining table just screams for flowers, food, friends, and fun so off to work I went with rich brown, orange and caramel colors.  Sounds simple enough right?


Well, in comes the one and only Kathryn Fowler with a party favor of magnifying glasses.  At each setting was an old fashioned paper ball in which lies a trifle, good fun, and the addition of the glasses was truly delightful.  Each magnifying glass had a different handle, good weight in the hand and so we set about placing them as well as the place cards.  I always wait, as I am sure others do, to put the place cards down last.

EEK!  The place cards were nowhere to be found.  We all looked at each other, knowing that no one’s handwriting was “good” enough to mimic the pros and suddenly Carissa asserts, “We should right the letters super small and have the guests use the magnifying glasses to find their place at the table”!!!  How cute is that?  (Granted this was a group of good friends totaling only 14.  I would not suggest this for a group larger than 30).



I wrote the smallest letters I could possibly write without making it impossible to see and though it does not show up well in the photos, when one scans the place card with the glass, POP!, the name becomes crystal clear.  Without the glass, one was, as my father would say, shit out of luck.


Any manner of magnifying glass will do.  I suspect one could order a less expensive version on Amazon.  So much fun!



Get inspired!!!

Have fun and don’t forget that the old wived tales are in fact not true.  Fresh cuts and fresh water, no additives, are all that flowers need.  (Just don’t forget to change the water every other day)


Glitter, glitter and more glitter!

I am not stranger to glitter. Friends and family alike are familiar with the precious little twinkles coming from my neck, hair, cheeks, jeans, shoes, floor, closet, bed, laundry room, patio and fireplace-all as a result of indulging in the late November early December tradition of glittering the sh*& out of anything that wasn’t glued down.

Actually that last part is not too terribly true. I am discerning about what to glitter as you should be too. So, for a quick lesson on how to make a bow, any old bow look super duper great, I have created this cozy post for you. This project is something that can be done with the kids, is easy to store and re-use and if you are using metal or glass glitter, is completely non-toxic.

Here is what you will need to make ribbons and bows look super glittertastic. (Glittertastic? Yeah, I am gonna stay with it for a bit though I am not sure it has the weight of say “fanfu*^$ingtastic”)

Step one! Get your goodies. I have a gigantic collection of ribbon from Ribbons Unlimited in Pasadena. When I first walked in this store I gasped. Perfectly aligned shelves house zillions of ribbons, a whole section of satin solids of gorgeous colors and in about 14 sizes!!! So love this place.



Several plates (paper for throw away if you wish) for excess glitter
Good German Glass or metal flake glitter (don’t be shy to try Car Paint Companies)
Disposable paint brush
Bowl of lightly watered down Elmer’s glue
Cut your ribbon into a dove tail and with either painter’s tape or with your own hand, create the starting point of your glue about two or three inches above the center cut of the dove tail. Lightly glue but be sure to cover.

Then sprinkle the glitter onto the ribbon, completely covering the glued area. DO NOT PRESS DOWN. If you have to go over the glitter with the brush because of poor coverage, do not be shy. Though you may need another brush should you change glitter color.

Gently pull the ribbon off of the paper and hang from the side of your craft table (ha! like we all have craft tables, I use the dining room table or the mantle and weigh the ribbons down with a candle. Once I even used a potato. Hey, I was out of candles and had to make a ton of these things-later I had glorious mashed potatoes but that is for another post-I make very good mashed potatoes.)




There are a million and one ways to use theses ribbons. Often I will tie an old-fashioned bow and then glue these behind the knot in the center of the ribbon for a lot of added drama. These are also very nice to tuck into holiday trees with the glittery wonderfulness illuminated by the sting lights. If you use these as an elegant touch to your tree, you will need a good amount of yardage.

For the Ritz-Carlton Residences here in San Francisco, I used these sparingly on the mantle. The look is super chic in the space and a perfect match to the topiary I made. You can see how I used the ribbons at the top and bottom of the topiary for a super dramatic effect.


Remember, there are no rules other than to use non-toxic materials and to have a great time. What is so good about this ribbon is that the texture and body of the ribbon make it super easy to work with. Simply puddling them down the side of your tree will create a gorgeous shape. The ribbon is very forgiving.

Now here is the topiary I made. I will talk more about the topiary in another post. SUPER EASY! But look at the ribbons. They are connected to the topiary body by ends being poked into sections between the ornaments and cones with a bamboo shish kabob skewer.


Because the glue makes the ends of the ribbons stiff, you can really tweak and bend the tips for high drama!

Hope you have fun and should you have any specific questions, please feel free to write.