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"Home For The Holidays" At Collingwood

UCM's shopping and learning holiday event at Washington's farm.

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A view of how Collingwood is decorated for the holidays

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Rooms are decorated for the holidays at Collingwood.

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Items are for sale during the shopping and holiday event.

In the words of that popular yuletide song, "There's no place like home for the holidays." But, in this case, "Home for the Holidays" is courtesy of United Community Ministries Friends.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, and Sunday, Nov. 16, UCM Friends will repeat their successful 2007 fundraising, holiday decorating and gift creation, event at the Collingwood Library & Museum on Americanism. And, this year Collingwood's new American Legacy Center is able to accommodate more vendors as well as hourly presentations on holiday preparations, plus one-on-one interviews with presenters.

Collingwood, located just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway at 8301 East Boulevard Drive, will be transformed into a magical holiday scene by local vendors and designers including Helen Olivia, Insiders, Longwood Manor, Sande Carter and Two Swans. Several local garden clubs will also help to decorate the interior and exterior of both the historical mansion and the new American Legacy Center.

This new Center, which was recently dedicated, greatly enhances the 18th century mansion that once served as the home for one of George Washington's overseers of his five farms. Having started as a small two-room habitat in 1792, it has been enlarged over the years by its various occupants that included a ferry operator, farmers, airline crew members, Intelligence school students, and a local restaurant, to the present two-story colonial mansion overlooking a magnificent sloping lawn leading to the Potomac River.

TODAY, COLLINGWOOD LIBRARY and Museum is home to the National Sojourners, an organization of Commissioned, Non-Commissioned and Warrant Officers, past and present, of the uniformed military services of the United States dedicated to American history research. For the UCM event it will be transformed into a holiday wonderland of beauty and creativity.

Complementing that setting this year will be the new 8,320 square feet Legacy Center that was designed, on the exterior, to resemble a stable/carriage house to compliment the historic nature of the property and the colonial heritage of the mansion. It will house 20 vendors featuring everything from silver jewelry and antiques to custom frames and framed ornaments.

Admission cost this year also includes a full schedule of "how to" presentations on holiday decorating and entertaining. Attendees will be able to gain first-hand knowledge on creating their own holiday decorations and add that personal touch to their holiday party or family occasion.

And, what is a more personal decoration that personifies the traditions of the holidays than a handmade wreath. Mount Vernon District resident and UCM Friend, Helen Walutes, will lead off the presentation schedule Saturday at 10 a.m. by demonstrating the art of creating boxwood wreaths.

"For me making the wreaths is a continuation of a family tradition. As a child my cousins and I couldn't play in the front yard of Grandma's house because we might hurt her boxwood. Now, it has become the sharing of a folk tradition with friends," Walutes said.

"Each wreath looks like the person who made it. One of my friends puts a leopard fur printed bow on hers. I am stuck in red velvet," she said.

"When made in a frame, stuffed with moss, and soaked in water every so often, the wreaths will be perfect until one reluctantly takes them down," Walutes said. She will also be demonstrating how to create holiday bows.

Helping to decorate the Collingwood mansion will be Diane Zutant, owner of Insiders, Ltd., a Rockville, Md., interior design firm. This year her creation will concentrate on Christmas morning breakfast for four by doing a tablescape in the home's breakfast room.

"The focus of the tablescape is a set of wonderful antique plates from Costa Rica. It will bring back memories of a time when there was more emphasis on formal dining. It was a different time when traditions were observed," Zutant said.

"I participated in UCM's event last year. It's a wonderful venue and the organization is made up of absolutely dedicated volunteers. It's also fun for a designer to present their own ideas unencumbered by the wishes of a client," she said.

A first time vendor in this year's "Home for the Holidays" is Embellishments of Alexandria. Located at 1303 King St. in Old Town, the shop, owned by Vicki Burkett, specializes not only in interior design but also offers a wide array of ornaments and gifts from around the world.

"We have gifts for all ages and in moderate price ranges. There are seven, fully decorated Christmas trees throughout the store," said Maeve Cosier, interior designer, who will be presenting a session entitled "Variations at Christmas" on Nov. 15, at 1 p.m.

"My presentation is on the history of Christmas trees and a variety of holiday traditions and items that people often don't even think about. We will also be displaying various scents and gifts from the around the world," Cosier said.

"Home for the Holidays" will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16. Cost is $15 per person each day. However, tickets purchased at local businesses and Friends of UCM prior to the event are $10 per person, per day.

A preview cocktail party will be held Friday, Nov. 14, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at a cost of $75 per person. Reservations and group sales are available by calling 703-785-3272.

Additional information about the event, presenters, vendors, and garden clubs is available by visiting www.ucmagency.org. For questions or to arrange interviews with presenters, contact Gale Curcio at 703-256-5332 or galecurcio@cox.net.