HGTV does the whole 'Holiday'

Today's cuppa: Barry's Classic Blend Irish tea

Monicapederson_2 I can't find a link to a complete version of my syndicated feature story on tonight's HGTV special, but it's such a nice show, and I enjoyed doing the story so much, I thought I'd share the whole thing below...

Come Christmastime, even celebrity designers and carpenters like to kick back with friends and family and revisit some cherished traditions.

On Sunday, Nov. 30, HGTV lets viewers go home with a few of its stars, who get to show off their decorating, party planning and culinary tips to make the holidays shine.

Designer Monica Pedersen ("Designed to Sell") is host for the one-hour "HGTV's Home for the Holidays," which also features designers Vern Yip ("Deserving Design"), Lisa LaPorta ("Designed to Sell"), Kim Myles ("Myles of Style") and Angelo Surmelis ("Rate My Space"), and carpenters Eric Stromer ("Over Your Head") and Steve Watson ("Don't Sweat It").

Chicagoan Pederson is the only one of the stars who doesn't actually go home for Christmas in the special. Instead, she heads to the historic Deer Path Inn, located on the North Shore of Lake Michigan, in the town of Lake Forest, Ill.

Her father-in-law owns the 55-room inn, which opened in 1929 and is modeled after the 15th-century Manor House, a half-timbered and stucco Tudor home in the English county of Kent .

"This place has got such integrity," Pedersen says. "There aren't many places like it. It's in a town that's very WASP-y and tree-lined, with perfect, great old homes."

It also represented a dream that Pedersen had with her mother, who, like Pedersen, is a dedicated crafter.

"We've gone there every Christmas Eve," Pedersen says. "My mom and I would walk by, and they had this little pastry village, and we would always say under our breath to each other, 'We could do such a better job that.' We always had this fantasy to do it.

"When this came up, HGTV said, 'Can we come to your house?' I said, 'No, my house is a disaster. I'm decorating, and my house is so not done. But I can tell you about this place that we can do it in.

"'I was already planning to do the holiday decorations there, and I've hired a couple of assistants to help me. I'm going to be doing this anyway. Do you guys want to film there?'

"So my mom and I were psyched."

Not only does Pedersen get to show off her decorations -- which include a 30-foot-tall poinsettia tree -- but she, her mother and a longtime family friend create a very special gingerbread house.

"We'd wanted to do a gingerbread replica of the Deer Path for so long," Pedersen says, "we were giddy, just giddy. We were so excited. It's a family affair, doing something that we love and have wanted to do for a long time.

"Then they said, 'Do you want to host it?' I'm like, 'Yes, this is awesome.'"

Watson -- who has done musical theater, acting and stand-up comedy, as well as home remodeling -- offers up a somewhat different version of getting a ring out of the old jingle bells.

He and his girlfriend hop on four-wheelers and head into the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California in search of a Christmas tree.

"A buddy of mine's got a huge property up in Altadena, up in the foothills," Watson says. "There are lots of small pine trees and medium-size ones. So I would cut a tree and plant a couple of saplings.

"I've been riding dirt bikes my entire life. I used to race dirt bikes, and I do desert races now. My houses kept getting larger and larger, and it kept getting harder to find good trees. So I started riding around on my dirt bike, looking for a tree.

"That sort of a hunt became a little bit of a tradition."

Watson then invites friends and family over for a gourmet dinner. It turns out that when he's not swinging a hammer, a chainsaw or a power drill, Watson's a whiz in the kitchen.

"I love to cook," he says. "That's how I Zen out at my house. I like to bury myself in it. I put on my iPod or put on some music, then I just sit down. I like to chop my own shallots. I like to mince up my fresh garlic."

While you may immediately think of turkey or perhaps roast beef for Christmas, Watson had a different idea for the meal HGTV filmed being prepared.

"The roasted pork loin with rosemary was pretty amazing," Watson says. "I've got a huge rosemary bush in my front yard. It's there, so I use it."

This year, Watson is flying in family from Tennessee for a celebration and another sumptuous feast.

"This year," Watson says, "I think I'm going to do a nice, big prime-rib roast. Sometimes I like to do a prime rib in the smoker; sometimes I like to put it on the grill.

"This year, I think I'm going to put it in the oven very low, let it slow roast for a good eight, nine hours."

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