Tidings of Comfort and Joy



Story by Lee Rennick | Photos by Erin Kosko 

From the moment you enter the home of Heather and Mike Geren, there is a sense of joyful energy and good cheer. As an interior designer and owner of Carpets by Ozburn, Heather has a love of bright colors in both her home décor and her Christmas decorations. 

“I love color,” said Heather. “I love to mix patterns, florals and geometrics.” 

Guests are met in the front foyer by a collection of carolers sitting on a dresser that has been passed down through the family and a cascade of greens tied with red gingham ribbon down the stair banister. 

“My carolers are a family tradition,” explained Heather. “When they come out it indicates Christmas has arrived to me…I have them all through the house.”

Deck the Halls with Lots of Color

The entire house is decorated, including with a Christmas tree, in just about every room, including one in the bedroom of each of their three children -- Anna Clark, Yates and Kamari McGowan. 

Decorating is a family affair. With help from her mother and mother-in-law, Heather covers every inch of the house in bright holiday delight. Calling her look “Country Traditional,” she loves classic decorations, like her carolers, greens, ribbons, holly, berries, boxwood balls and wreaths and a collection of Christmas trees made out of many different materials. But, she also brings in a trendy bit of sparkle and a dash of playfulness. And, of course, lots of shimmering color.

“We like to add touches of Christmas scented candles all around the house,” added Heather. “I always stock up from The Peddler and Mimi’s Boutique.”

There are many special decorative pieces Heather uses as part of her Christmas decoration, including the Elf on the Shelf dolls she has collected, starting with the one she bought when her oldest was a baby. She and her husband used to be all hands-on deck during the season moving the elves around and creating a fun story for her kids. Although their kids are all older now, with Kamari in college, they still look for the elves during the season. Another special decorative piece is a manger made by her husband’s great aunt that sits on a table in the den where friends and family gather just off the kitchen when the family is entertaining. 

Happiest Season to Entertain

Entertaining is what the Christmas season is all about for the Geren family. The house is always full of kids who are friends of their children. Plus, Heather does an open house for sorority sisters, other college friends, close Middle Tennessee State University friends and neighbors every year.

“I always have holiday snacks and goodies ready for guests dropping by,” said Heather. “I like specialty cheeses and crackers, charcuterie snacks, pepper jelly and cream cheese and a variety of sweet treats for all of my guests.” 

One traditional dessert served only between Thanksgiving and Christmas by Heather’s family, but no other time of the year, is called Blueberry Delight. “I grew up having it made by my mother and grandmother,” noted Heather. “Now, I make it for my family every year. It is considered a holiday ‘special dessert’ in our family.” 

Holiday Blueberry Delight Bars

Crust

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup chopped nuts
1 stick oleo

Melt oleo. While oleo is melting, blend graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and chopped nuts.  Mix melted oleo well with the other ingredients. Pat into a 9x13 inch pan that has been greased with butter. 

Filling

1 8-ounch package of cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of lemon juice

Mix all of the ingredients together until smooth. Pour over the crust. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Cool. 

Topping

1 can blueberry pie filling
1 container of Cool Whip

Spread blueberry pie filling over the entire pan. Top with Cool Whip just before serving. 

“My mother-in-law gets into Christmas big,” said Heather, “but we started hosting Christmas and she turned it over to me. My husband’s parents come over on Christmas Eve and my parents come over for Christmas morning. Then, I always have brunch for everyone. I serve this casserole every year. It is a recipe that my aunt has been making my whole life and it is also a family favorite.” 

Heather’s Family Christmas Brunch Breakfast Casserole

One dozen eggs
1 ½ cups of shredded cheddar cheese 
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound sausage browned in a skillet, drained and crumbled
2 teaspoons of nutmeg (optional)

Mix together eggs and cream in a large bowl, then add the cheese and sausage crumbles. Mix everything together well and then pour into a lightly greased casserole dish. Bake for one half hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Recipe needs to be doubled for a large family. When doubled, baking needs to be about 45 minutes. Test with a toothpick to see if fully cooked. 

The Christmas season is not completed without cranberries. Heather serves her Cranberry Salad from Thanksgiving until Christmas. 

Heather’s Cranberry Salad

Make two 3-ounce packages of raspberry Jello and let cool. While the Jello is cooling, mix together:

1 pound of cranberries, ground in a food processor
2 cups granulated sugar
5 cups chopped Mandarin oranges
1 cup chopped pecans

As the Jello starts to thicken, blend the above ingredients into the bowl of Jello. Let set in refrigerator until solidified. 

They end the holiday season with snacks and a game night to ring in the new year. “If we didn’t do all of this the kids and family would be upset. We are never going to have no decorations. We will always carry on the traditions.”

A Home Decorating Chronicle

Six years ago, the Gerens bought their home, in spite of originally planning to build one on their farm. They had already sold their previous home and liked what they saw, so they bought it from the builder. Catching it before it was completed, Heather was able to add some personalized treatments and finishes. 

“I added wallpaper from Thibaut bought though The Peddler,” said Heather. “And, we added the chandelier in the powder room. It is from my grandparents and it has been in every house we have owned.”

Heather does all of the decorating herself. They had the arabesque tile put into the kitchen for the backsplash and had the marble tile in the master bathroom shower done in a herringbone pattern. They chose a free-standing tub. And, they chose to have the kitchen island cabinets painted blue to match a sideboard in the breakfast room. They also had the office converted into a sitting room. 

“I love that we caught it in time to add our finishes and colorful touches,” added Heather.  
All of the rugs are from Heather’s family business, Carpets by Ozburn. They are custom cut and bound, designed for the room in which they are located. 

The dining table came from their previous home, but they wanted a round table for the breakfast room. They found what they were looking for at JD Home. Heather likes that the table is old. 

“I love things that have been passed down,” said Heather, “but I also like to add in some trends.”

When styling her children’s rooms, she kept each child and their interests in mind. They all wanted carpet in their bedrooms instead of wood floors, which she did. Her daughter’s room has strings of twinkling lights. Their son Yates has a deer head in his room because he loves to go hunting with his father. The head is from his first kill. On his dresser are balls from winning football games and a home run he hit. “Kamari took much of his room décor to college with him,” explained Heather, “so his walls look a bit bare.”

What ties the whole home together is the color pallet that she used throughout. And, she also uses repetition of textures and the use of her collections all over the home to create a feel of consistency. 

Heather has a number of collections, including antique plates inherited from various members of her family, antique furniture passed down, crosses and her bunny collection. The bunny collection includes sculptures, artwork, lamps and porcelains. 
“I love bunnies,” said Heather. 

Happiest Season Outside, Too

The decoration extends to the outside of the home, not just for the holidays, but throughout the year. On the front porch there is a wood swing that was a Mother’s Day gift and on the back patio, an antique cabinet with plenty of storage using woven baskets that are employed throughout the house. 

During the holidays, these items become part of the Christmas decoration, as does the entire outside. “We even get special lighting,” added Heather. 

Inside and outside, top to bottom, the Geren home says “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” with their decorations, their entertaining and their abundance of energetic good cheer. 

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