Gretchen Buhler Ventura decorates her home to the hilt with holiday décor that’s good enough to eat.
Gretchen Buhler Ventura doesn’t own a cat. Nevertheless, she decorates her holiday table with catnip. “I saw it in the co-op and thought it was beautiful,” says the longtime Wayzata resident.
The emerald-green blades add height to the jewel-toned cornucopia of foodstuffs she describes as her “Moroccan table.” Purple kale shares a vase with red roses. A wooden platter overflows with olives, dates, nuts, pita wedges, dried apricots, and mini red peppers. Clementine oranges are piled high on a silver cake stand that rises above bowls of apples and pears. Watermelon radishes set off shocks of fuchsia. The entire display basks in soft candlelight.
Venture is neither Moroccan nor a chef. She is the CEO of an IT consulting firm, as well as being an amateur interior decorator and jewelry maker. Even though she’s now an empty nester, Ventura still goes all-out for the holidays.
“I do an exotic theme every year,” she says. “The grocery store is the perfect place to shop color, texture, shapes, and sizes. Plus, it’s all-natural so you can compost everything post season.”
That said, Ventura confesses to having boxes of holiday décor stored “neatly” in her attic. They hold treasured keepsakes such as her “Charlie Brown Christmas tree.” True to its name, the fake tree is scraggly, but endearing, and aptly displays Ventura’s collection of vintage ornaments—some made 45 years ago with her beloved German grandmother. Her brother now owns Grandma’s house, where the family still gathers for Christmas. “It’s an old Victorian on a brick-paved street,” Ventura explains. “The tires go clip-pity-clop over those bricks, and I’m taken right back to childhood.”
Her Italian grandmother need not be jealous. Each year, Ventura bakes around a thousand traditional biscotti, packaged in glass jars for friends, family, and kitchen décor. “My grandmother and mother did everything big. The holidays had to be filled with abbondanza—abundance. I carry on their traditions.”
She’s also incorporated a personal tradition of her own into New Year’s celebrations. “We gather at my house on New Year’s Eve to write down our regrets from the past year and hopes for the New Year. We light a fire and feed our slips of paper to the flames to forget our regrets and ignite our dreams.”
Decorating with Abbondanza:
Ventura’s tips & tricks on how to bedeck your home with abundance.
Shop the Grocery Store: I don’t go with a plan. Anything I find beautiful goes into the cart. I shop a variety of stores—my co-op, Lunds, Costco, or ethnic groceries such as Caspian Bistro & Marketplace.
Take a World View: My home is filled with items I’ve collected while traveling. I infuse this international flair into my holidays. Last year, I asked my guests to share an example of how another country rings in the New Year.
Repurpose Year-round Décor: I collect selenite—a crystal symbolic of mental clarity and communication. For the holidays, I pile some around my fireplace. Lit from within, it casts a beautiful glow. I try not to buy holiday-specific décor anymore, rather items I can use throughout the year.
Reconsider Red and Green: I’m not inclined toward traditional holiday colors. I use what I have and what I like—rich jewel tones and vintage colors.
Keep it in the Family: Hold sacred your family traditions. Decorate with family items or things that remind you of your past.
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Phoebe Larson is a freelance writer in St. Paul.