There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

apple time

APPLES are a quintessential part of autumn. They signal the cool, crisp weather to come with their own brand of cool crispness. Having just eaten a late lunch with some friends on a clear-skied autumn day on a restaurant patio, none of us indulged with a finish of dessert. But as we were standing in the restaurant's parking lot saying our goodbyes, I noticed the blackboard touting a new seasonal offering for dessert—an apple-pecan cheesecake. I went back in as we were leaving and ordered a piece to go. It sounded like the perfect thing for a bright fall day such as this. I'm glad I did, because the cheesecake itself was dotted with cubed apples and topped with chopped pecans. It was coupled with a sweet caramel sauce, which rendered it as perfect taste of autumn.

GEORGIA is well known for its summer peaches (and peanuts, boiled or otherwise), but more and more, its becoming known for its autumn apples. As they are grown in the north Georgia mountains, I made a special trip to Ellijay, in north Georgia to buy a variety of the first of the season's apples for this post, and filled in with a couple of "Yankee" varieties imported to the local supermarket for good measure. While not exactly a "tree," this centerpiece of apples stacked on a tiered wooden stand is a beautiful way to decorate for the season. The variety of natural-color-coordinated apples lend themselves well to such a dramatic display of their inherent beauty. This harkens back to the wooden German tree stands (or pyramids) that held evergreens, fruit, nuts, and other baubles around the holidays (thought to be the predecessor to the Christmas tree). The forerunner of the pyramid was a construction known as a "Lichtergestelle" (literally: light stand) which were very popular in the 18th century.

ELLIJAY, Georgia has a yearly apple festival which spans over two weekends in October. The Ellijay Lion's Club, the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce, the cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay, and Gilmer County join forces to usher in the autumn season with a bumper crop of apples. The 42nd Georgia Apple Festival will be held the weekends of October 12-13th and October 19th and 20th. There will be over 300 vendors with handmade, hand-crafted items, as well as many on-site demonstrations of how selected types of crafts are made.

ALTHOUGH most apple farmers in North Georgia don't adhere to organic methods to grow their apples, my friend Margie Thorpe has ferreted out one farmer named "David" who she gets organically-grown heirloom variety apples from in Ellijay. You can contact her through her "Vegetable Husband" website to procure a few of David's organic apples in her baskets of fresh produce. Near Ellijay at Mountain Valley Farm, you can stock up on fresh milk products, including roll butter and homemade ice cream. They also sell farm fresh eggs that have never been refrigerated or had the natural just-laid bloom washed from them (which helps prevent bacteria from permeating the eggshell) and a variety of delicious grass-fed meats (frozen to carry home). If you don't want to veer off the beaten path, in nearby Blue Ridge, Mercier Orchards is probably the most visited "apple house" in the area boasting a variety of their own branded products for sale (aside from many varieties of apples). Their famous fried pies are a must! If you are not an adventurous sort, an easy stop is Penland's Apple House just off the main road heading into Ellijay from Atlanta (Highway 515).

AUTUMN wraps up the abundance of crops grown in the summertime, but autumn is the time for enjoying the crop that defines the apple season. Here's to a big piece of apple pie with ice cream, or just a pie in your hand that's been fried and lightly glazed. Or as I enjoyed today, a piece of apple-pecan cheesecake with a drizzle of caramel sauce. But just a for a simple treat, there's nothing else like a fresh crisp apple, sliced and eaten out-of-hand. It's a time to celebrate the bounty of the season, no matter how you slice it!

photography and styling by Darryl Moland

Monday, September 2, 2013

the (un)decorated tree

ALPINE MAGIC | The Decorated Tree's first tree, The Alpine Feather Tree is now for sale to the public. Sure to become your next family heirloom, you can purchase yours here.
I AM HAPPY to announce the first (and second) exclusively-marketed trees designed by yours truly at The Decorated Tree. I drew up the plans and the first trees that you see in this post were made-to-order by Dennis Bauer. The trees went live on the website just this weekend.

The front of the tag for the tree reads: THANK YOU for selecting The Decorated Tree’s Alpine Feather Tree. An artist’s unique vision and a craftman’s fine handiwork are united to create a museum-quality heirloom. Hometraditions is pleased to offer this feather tree designed by Darryl Moland, creator of The Decorated Tree blog. Each tree is handcrafted from real goose feathers by Dennis Bauer in Ohio, one of the best-known craftsmen stateside to uphold German tradition. is proud to provide you with a fresh take on an old craft.—MANY HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
The back of the tag for the tree reads: EMBELLISH each season with The Decorated Tree—holiday fantasy intertwined with the rich symbolism of nature. A time-honored Yuletide ritual has become a modern tradition any time of year. This large (12"x 12") 144-page, hardbound and dust-jacketed coffee table book contains the best of the blog’s informative stories. Accompanied by 183 inspiring full-color images, this book will become your decorating resource for every holiday, every year.—CELEBRATING THE SEASONS 

FEATHER TREE TRADITION | The alternate version of The Alpine Feather tree is more traditional in shape. It is wider and features seven rows of snow-capped branches. You can purchase yours here.
HOMETRADITIONS.COM is known for their finely-crafted feather trees handmade by Dennis Bauer, who has also made many custom trees for the staff of Martha Stewart Living magazine, which are also available on the site. Ann Pummel, proprietor of Hometraditions contacted The Decorated Tree and in our conversations, we arrived at the idea that I could design a tree for them. I know all about decorating, but this was a first for me in thinking about an undecorated tree. For sure, I immediately knew I wanted a slender tree with a long trunk that would fit into a small space. I dubbed the tree "The Decorated Tree's Alpine Feather Tree." It was an amazing opportunity to have something made that I would like to see on the market. Now it is a reality—a dream come true—thanks to an amazing collaborationd between Ann Pummel, Dennis Bauer and I. Please place your orders early, as each tree is handcrafted individually by Dennis. Even though it's only September, the holiday season is closer than you think!

TAGGED AND READY | Your tree will arrive with this tag tied to its branches. You can see and order both versions here, available in your choice of two trunk colors. Whitewashing the trunk with thinned milk paint (instructions on the Hometraditions site) gives it a snowy effect. Order both versions here.
THE DECORATED VERSION of the slim profile tree at the top of this post will be featured in Matthew Mead's Christmas All Through the House. I can't reveal much about it until his publication hits the market, but let's just say the tree is transformed into a bright and modern take on an old tradition. I'm very excited about the unveiling of the final results in the magazine. A lot of collaboration between Matthew and I went into developing a plan for the overall color scheme and some of the details included in the story in which it is included.

YOU'LL HEAR MORE about Matthew's magazine/bookazine (two versions) on this site when it becomes available sometime in mid-to-late October on newsstands everywhere and on—so save the date! Right now Matthew has an amazing Halloween Spooktacular publication for sale. You'll also be able to check back on Matthew's site when it shifts gear as each holiday issue is published.

THE DECORATED TREE would also love to see how you decorate your tree purchased from Hometraditions. I plan to have my first decorating contest involving readers of this blog! Join me in the excitement of creating meaningful holiday decor for every season!

tree design, photography and styling by Darryl Moland
handcrafted tree by Dennis Bauer