Home for the Holidays with Ashley Izsak

Yesterday, we got our Christmas tree. It’s so fresh you can still hear the branches crackle as they adjust to the indoor heat. It’s really beginning to feel like Christmas is just around the corner and this anticipation is growing inside of me. This is such a magnificent time; everything loud gets quieter and as a family, we become hemmed in. We just give in to days lost doing Christmasy things, old and new traditions, hours upon hours of cuddling, playing, laughing, holiday-ing and all that delicious time together. Oh, I can feel it approaching – and how delighted I am!

I remember the excitement I had in the pit of my stomach for both of my babies’ first Christmases – and honestly, I’m just as mad about Christmas morning with my children now. It’s just so magical, so joyful, sigh. I can imagine there is a lot of excitement happening at Ashley’s home these days as she prepares for the holidays and celebrating her baby boy’s first Christmas! Ashley, aka the wearer of many hats, is a writer, designer, weaver, and a mother of three – among a many other great things no doubt. She is an artist in every sense of the word and it’s always inspiring to take a look at her beautiful works and catch a glimpse of her heart-filled home. 

I am so pleased to have her here today to not only share lovely holiday decor inspiration (I love her tree!), but to also let us in on some of her holiday traditions and how she enjoys this season with her beautiful family. And on that note, grab a coffee and let’s go home for the holidays today with Ashley Izsak.

Do you have a special Christmas memory that stands out?

The first Christmas Andrew and I were living together, we borrowed a fake tree and ornaments from my parents, spent an afternoon decorating it, and had a few hours to admire it before we went to bed. Another new thing that year – kittens. We adopted two rescues that October and that night, we soon found out, was their first official mission.

The next morning we found the tree decimated, all traces of ornaments, tinsel and ribbon removed. It was annoying yet hilarious, and after we redecorated, we got a first hand view of how they launched themselves from table to tree. After that we bought the biggest tube of plastic ornaments we could find.

Every year when the tree goes up I remember that morning and smile..

What holiday traditions does your family have?

For me, it always starts with the decorating. Come mid november the urge to Christmasfy our home will slowly build until one random weekday, I will casually ask our twin daughters if they think that now would be a good time to decorate.

Cue the enthusiasm of children (Yes, Yes, Yes) and the background cries of Elf…. Santa’s Coming!!! and then we’re off….

My husband will have no knowledge of this and generally arrives home to find an explosion of glitter and sparkle.

That night we have our first tree time of the season, which involves tacky christmas songs (Alvin and the Chimpmunks Christmas is a longstanding favourite), sock covered heels sliding between our legs as we twist, twirl and heave our girls around our dance floor, and repeated cries of “My turn!” (because Dad can lift way higher than I can).

In your opinion, what is the true meaning of Christmas?

For me, Christmas is about the time spent with the people you love. It’s the airport arrival of my sister who lives on the other side of the country. It’s the two weeks that my husband stays home from work. It’s catching up, talking stock, eating good food and drinking (lots) of wine. And I’d be lying if I didn’t include the magic of Christmas morning and the excitement pouring out of their giggles.

Do you host during the holidays? Do you have a tip or two to share for joyful entertaining? 

Ever since we had children, Christmas has been mostly at our place. This means a lot of hosting space wise but everyone contributes food wise. I have two tips: to start the day off with champagne and to consider outsourcing your food!

A toast with family is a great way to start the day (don’t forget non alcoholic fizzy drinks for the children and non drinkers). I love to add fresh or frozen berries to the drinks for some festive flair.

Last year I was newly pregnant with our son, we had seven people sleeping under our roof and I was crazy tired, so instead of making all the food for brunch, I called Frank’s Catering and ordered four quiches. Then my Mom called Take Another Bite and ordered our entire Christmas dinner. It wasn’t how we usually do Christmas but I think we all left converted. It sucked the pressure right out of the day and that dinner was one of the best we’ve had.

What are your favourite kinds of gifts to give?

Books! I devour books of all kinds and my happy place is definitely walking the aisles of Indigo with a Starbucks in hand. I love picking out a good western for my Dad, a biography for my Mom, something quirky for my sister and a mix of classics and new favourites for our girls.

How would you describe your holiday decor style?

Fun and minimal! While I’d love to fill our home with lush foliage and a real cedar tree, both our daughter Isla and I, are allergic. So around here you’ll find fake trees, lots of little twinkly lights and a crazy long snowflake garland that I made with my daughters when they were three (picture an assembly line of spray glue, coffee filter cut outs and sparkles everywhere).

In the same vein, what does a wrapped gift from you look like?

The joke around here is that if it’s nearly impossible to unwrap a present, I was the wrapper. I usually buy a couple new rolls of paper each year but also try to use up whatever we have in our Christmas decorating box. So this usually results in an eclectic mix of gifts under the tree.

Do you like to bake during the holidays? 

While I don’t do a lot of traditional Christmas baking, food is definitely a focus come Christmas Day. Christmas morning begins with champagne cocktails, coffee and these orange cranberry muffins (that I was likely up until one o’clock in the morning baking)! I remember the longest ten minutes of my life every christmas morning growing up.. waiting for my parents to make their cesars (and set up the video camera) so over here we prep it all the night before – that way we can just enjoy Christmas morning with our family.

Are there any holiday activities that you and your family love to do?

Christmas eve day we love to walk around our village and admire all of the lights and decorations. Last year our girls convinced my husband to build a skill hill off of their playhouse in our backyard. A couple hours of grunt work and determination later, they had their hill. This year I’m sure we will have new things to add since we have a new baby in our family.

Lastly, what’s on your Christmas wish list this year? 

All I want for christmas is a tent trailer but i’d also be happy with these:

These boots from Madewell would make the walk to and from school a little warmer.
This float frame from Artifact Uprising has been on my living room wall wish list for a long time.
A set of linen sheets from Parachute Home would be lovely.
Another tube of this Jurlique hand cream. It’s a favourite of mine but definitely a splurge.
A weekend camping at our favourite KOA would give us all something to look forward to during the cold months of our Ottawa winter.

I just loved reading your answers Ashley, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us a look into your holiday home. I can’t believe that memory about your new kittens and the tree, what a hilarious (probably more so after the fact) story! I’ve heard cats can get pretty wild about Christmas trees. I love your holiday entertaining tips, champagne is a must – or at least some sort of bubbly – I totally agree! For both young and old, having fancy drinks to toast is just wonderfully celebratory. It’s so lovely to see your cheerful decorations scattered through your home and your adorable children taking part in the magic of the season. I hope you and your family have a fantastic holiday season, full of treasured moments and epic dance parties, xx 

You can connect with Ashley on her BLOG  INSTAGRAM  TWITTER  LINKEDIN  ETSY

Emily Smith

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