Credit: Erin Kunkel
When it comes to the holidays, Mary Heffernan knows that family gatherings are meant to be savored and not stressful. From her ranch in Northern California, the author of Five Marys Ranch Raised and Five Marys Family Style makes sure that cooking and decorating don’t feel like a chore. With her signature style and simplicity, Heffernan shares tips and inspiration for making lasting memories around the table.
Both my husband, Brian, and I come from big families, and we have a big family of our own as well (we’ve got four girls … yes, all named Mary!). Thanksgiving is a holiday that we spend on the ranch, but during Christmas, we try to make a trip out of town to visit both of our families, including all the grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Holidays with us are loud, fun, busy, and chaotic, and I love every bit of it!
Credit: Kathryn Gamble
Food is always the centerpiece of our family get-togethers, but on the ranch, we don’t eat until the animals do. After our morning chores, which include feeding the animals, we start prepping the big holiday meal. My mom is the queen of making things ahead of time so that dinner for a crowd doesn’t appear to take much effort at all. It’s a skill I’ve learned to use often on the ranch for regular meals too! So if you can, make things like pickled onions, candied pecans, sauces, and salad dressings the day before. I also make a big pitcher of my famous sidecar cocktails at the start of the evening. Instead of spending time making individual drinks for everyone, they’re already ready to enjoy throughout the night.
For decorations, I like to go for a natural look and feel. The soft glow of beeswax candles, the beautiful indigo designs of a shibori tablecloth, and a citrus wheel garland hung imperfectly around the tree are perfect. I love to mix glass and pewter together (especially from Arte Italica) and add some dried flowers or leftover branches from the tree to a big vase in the middle of the table. Simple touches like that create a gorgeous, thoughtful addition to a table. My girls also like being crafty, and I love including whatever holiday decorations they create!
Holidays are about celebrating being together and sharing food rather than making sure everything looks perfect. Enjoy delicious food, pour yourself a cocktail, and don’t overthink it. Memories are made no matter what, so focus on appreciating the time breaking bread together!
Find her cookbooks below: