Make the most of your home for the holidays

With the shift from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah and Christmas, it’s officially time to pull the cause and go complete-on winter holidaze around the house. Of course that method decking the halls for the holidays themselves, but it’s also a call to switch into high gear for all-around winter coziness. We New Englanders know how long our coldest season lasts, so the only way to get by it is by celebrating the whole season as much as possible, with as much sensory comfort as you can muster.

Down to business. What’s the first thing you think of this time of year? For me it’s the fresh smell of pine, or the warm scent of mulled spices. For the first, almost nothing beats real pine. And you’ll need it anyway, to decorate your banister, fireplace mantle, living room table and dining room console tables. With Christmas trees, I’m opting for the real deal.

And there’s a huge selection of fantastic real garlands — all different kinds of well-made boughs fashioned from different types of tree greenery — to be found at Allandale Farm in Brookline (allandalefarm.com), one of Boston’s last working farms. The place also has loads of all kinds of Christmas trees (from frasier to fir), and is about as adorable as can be, from its shelves teeming with holiday crafts to its old-school penny candy section. Sales for Christmas greenery begin this Saturday, and reservations are required to shop on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Walk-ins are welcome Mondays by Thursdays.

Nest’s 4-wick Holiday candle. (Photo bloomingdales.com)

Candles are inarguably an basic part of any holiday season, and I’m uncompletely to Nest’s Holiday Luxury Four-Wick Candle ($150 on bloomingdales.com). It walks the line perfectly between festive and nevertheless complex and subtle (no overly strong or sickly sweet notes here), and blends pomegranate, mandarin, pine, cloves and cinnamon with whiffs of vanilla and amber. Best of all, if you don’t have a fireplace, the four wicks of this beauty mimic the big-flame feeling of one.

Nest’s Birchwood Pine fragrance for Trypura. (Photo Trypura.com)

Meanwhile, more than a few people have discovered the ease of scenting the whole house with electronic diffusers. It’s simple to plug in a Pura device and have the exact same subtle-however-complicate scents (like Nest’s Holiday and Birchwood Pine, both $12.60 on trypura.com).

Having friends over? Make some adult-style hot chocolate. (Photo Metro Creative sets)

And once you’ve got the house all decked out, it’s time to show it all off and invite friends/family/neighbors over for a mini-soiree of homemade grown-up hot chocolate. Spike it with a few of the optional liquors in the following recipe, and it’s a cozy night made already cozier.

GROWN-UP HOT CHOCOLATE

4 c. whole milk

2 T. sugar

1 t. real vanilla extract

6 oz. dark chocolate

1 t. sea salt

8 marshmallows

2 oz. bourbon (optional)

2 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream (optional)

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla together until the sugar and salt dissolve. Don’t let it get hot enough to boil the milk. Add the chocolate in pieces, stirring until completely mixed. Remove from heat and stir in the bourbon and Baileys (if using). Pour into 4 mugs and garnish with 2 marshmallows apiece. Serve piping hot. Serves 4.

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