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Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and I always get a flutter in my heart when I know it is approaching. Every year, I can hardly wait until October to start watching Hallmark Christmas movies and begin playing Christmas music. Christmas evokes a sense of warmth and joy in me. I remember my own childhood Christmases with large Italian family gatherings filled with good food and lots of presents. I have always tried to make a big deal out of Christmas for my family and at Wren & Willow. I love decorating our beautiful office with a grand tree and festive windows, and I enjoy hosting a party for our staff and their spouses as a way to celebrate their hard work throughout the year.

To be honest, this year just felt off. This Christmas season was not giving me that fluttery feeling. All of the things we looked forward to all year like going to dinner in Seattle as a family, Christmas parties, live performances, and so much more, had been cancelled and it started to take the joy right out of the season. I don’t think I ever realized just how much I looked forward to during the Christmas season.

Then, a few weeks ago I realized that ready or not, Christmas is still coming, and my family is still going to want to celebrate. I started putting one foot in front of the other. I bought that first Christmas present, which inspired me to make a list and buy more. Then I began to get excited to plan the Christmas Day dinner menu. Next, I was pulling out the decorations and looking for a tree. I scheduled a nice Christmas luncheon for our team. I wrapped gifts for the Ruston Police department as our yearly way to say "thank you." I just did the next thing, inspired by how to make Christmas special for others, and little by little, I found myself more and more excited for Christmas.

A lot of what we do is by choice. We tell our children to “choose joy” on a day when they are discontent. Adults also need that reminder when we get discouraged. The human spirit is so strong and resilient that even when things are falling apart, we can still do hard things. One way to choose joy is to look for ways to give to others. I have seen countless creative ways that people are still trying to make this Christmas special for those around them. This season, even if you are feeling unmotivated, think about ways you can put one foot in front of the other, do the next thing, and add sparkle to someone else’s Christmas season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Laureen Skrivan

Wren & Willow President

This year we all need a little extra sparkle and are looking for ways to bring joy to others. Here are some ideas for how to share a little sparkle-

  • Bake treats for your neighbors.

  • Christmas carol around your neighborhood.

  • Cook a large meal and offer to deliver it to those who have no family during the holidays.

  • Make up pamper baskets for those suffering from an illness.

  • Thank your local police and firefighters with homemade goodies.

Laureen's granddaughter was able to be part of our annual tradition of gifting the Ruston Police Department with Twelve Days of Christmas treats.

The framers are busy with the third floor. The view from here is outstanding and we cannot wait to see what the view will look like from the rooftop.

The third floor apartments.

Look at that view!

Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Bread

This is a delightful treat to bake and share with your neighbors.



2 C. Gluten-free flour

1 Tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp. Salt

1 1/4 C. Granulated Sugar

1 Tbsp. Orange Zest

1/2 C. Buttermilk1/2 C. Vegetable Oil

1/2 C. Fresh Orange Juice

2 Large Eggs

1 Tsp. Vanilla

1 1/2 C. Fresh Cranberries


1 C. Powdered Sugar

2-3 Tbsp. Orange Juice

Sea Salt for garnishing


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until well combined. Set aside. In a separate small bowl, use a spoon to mix the sugar and orange zest until the sugar becomes light orange in color. Set aside. Add to the bowl of a stand mixer the buttermilk, oil, orange juice, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined. Add the flour mixture and the orange zest/sugar mixture. Continue to mix on low speed until all the ingredients are smooth like muffin batter. Next, add the cranberries and use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir until well incorporated. Transfer the batter to the greased loaf pan. Place in the oven and bake for 70-75 minutes. If the bread begins to become too brown, place a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top to prevent burning. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a very light crumb. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool for 5-7 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Glaze: While the bread cools, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar and orange juice. Whisk or use a hand mixer on low until the glaze is smooth and creamy. Adjust the amount of orange juice to reach desired consistency. After the bread cools completely, drizzle the glaze over the top, sprinkle with sea salt, slice, and serve. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Recipe from

This sparkly set of snow globes will bring joy to your home through out the winter season.

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Photos by: Nathaniel Gutierrez, Effie Gurmeza, and


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