Around the holidays, adding a handmade touch to the table feels especially in keeping with the sentimental vibe of the season. Crafting your own place cards or centerpieces adds a wonderfully personal touch to the table — and they’re likely to become keepsakes, carefully unpacked year after year. For the holiday dinner party we threw at our studio with California Walnuts, we let a traditional element (walnuts) become the launching pad for a party that was full of handmade touches with a sophisticated spin, from the invitations to the DIY decor, and of course, throughout every course of the menu. Keep reading for ideas on infusing your parties with homemade touches that feel chic – plus the holiday menu I’m loving this year.

photos by kristen kilpatrick


Hosting a dinner party for friends is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening, especially as the weather turns cold and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than curled up in front of the fire with my most fun-loving pals. As a nod to the culinary theme of this party, we created invitations inspired by winter’s bounty: walnuts, pinecones, and greenery branches.

The dinner table was framed by a wall hanging made out of dried oranges, walnuts, cinnamon sticks, pinecones, and star anise. Not only did it make a gorgeous backdrop, but the scents from this piece of art set a warm tone for the evening. Learn how to make your own wall hanging here.

Each cozy place setting was topped with a linen napkin and an ornament placecard. The mini ornaments were handmade using wooden beads and walnuts, and they made the sweetest favor for our guests to take home at the end of the night. Post-party, they’re perfect for tying onto holiday packages and of course, hanging on the tree.

When designing this party, we were inspired by minimalist Scandinavian design and the feeling of hygge, which is a Danish word that translates to coziness, well-being, and a sense of community.

Isn’t this greenery runner gorgeous? To recreate this simple centerpiece, all you need is a linen runner, eucalyptus branches, pinecones, walnuts, and taper candles.

My holiday menu was heavily influenced by the nutty and versatile flavors of walnuts. To start, I whipped up these burrata toast appetizers topped with caramelized walnuts and mint-pomegranate pesto. All the flavors (and colors!) of the holidays.

Get the recipe for my burrata toasts with caramelized walnuts and mint-pomegranate pesto here!

It’s not very often we get to break out our turtlenecks in Austin, but nothing makes me feel cozier. What is it about these certain sights, scents and sounds that stir up festive feelings… and make even the “Scrooge”iest among us want to spread good cheer?

For the main course, I served up butternut squash ravioli topped with sage, walnuts, and orange brown butter. You’ll want to set out this dish family-style so your guests can easily go back for seconds! Get the recipe here.

We toasted the holiday season and reminisced on all the fun of the past year. From moving offices, hiring new team members, and working on so many dream projects, we’ve had quite a 2017!

I love setting up a cider bar as an unexpected way to welcome guests to the party. Set out a few mugs, a hot pot of cider, and some spicy garnishes, then encourage guests to help themselves throughout the evening.

Fresh apple slices and cinnamon sticks infuse the cider with so much flavor – and they’re a feast for the eyes, too!

No holiday dinner party is complete without a great dessert. For the final course, I dished out slices of my pumpkin bread bundt cake topped with a maple glaze, powdered sugar, and walnuts. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and there’s usually plenty leftover so I can send guests home with a slice or two.

Get my recipe for a healthier take on pumpkin bread here.


What do y’all love to make by hand around the holidays? Share your ideas in the comments, and hope you’re all having a cozy (and chic!) start to the season!

2 comments
  1. 1
    Cynthia | December 7, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Last year I purchased a ten pound bag of organic walnuts directly from the grower. I found the perfect wooden mushroom nut cracker that even 4 and 5 year old children can maneuver to crack their own nuts. A sack of walnuts with this nut cracker made a fine family gift for a fun combo of healthy snacking and fine-motor activity! Walnuts epitomize autumn and winter and you couldn’t have chosen a better theme for your party!

    Reply
  2. 2
    Mariya aka BrunetteonDemand | December 7, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Once again, amazing pictures and great theme choice!

    x Mariya

    http://www.brunetteondemand.com

    Reply
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