Christmas begins at Belle Grove

Dec. 6th 2015

December 6, 2015

Wow, what a week! Just coming off Thanksgiving, followed by a week of decorating Belle Grove Plantation’s mansion and grounds and ending with our Annual Holiday Tea, I have to say, I haven’t been this tired in a long time! But as tired as I am, I look around the mansion and grounds at the Christmas decorations and think to myself … this was worth it.

Christmas decorating at Belle Grove Plantation is no easy task. Last year, Clare DeSantis, Tammy Anderson and I tackled it alone. So this year, I reached out for more help. And boy did we hit the jackpot with those who came to volunteer!

First to join Tammy and I this year was Jean Rodino. We have known Jean for about a year through her floral work at Belle Grove Plantation’s weddings. Her business, The Floral Paltette, has done many weddings and showcases over the last year with us. Knowing her work, I was more than excited to have her come on as head designer for the Christmas decorations.

We were then joined by the other “Ladies of Belle Grove”, Kathleen Mangold (a mother of the bride from this year’s weddings), Paula Wilson and Cindy Frith (loyal followers of Belle Grove) and Lynn Mitchell (Mrs. Peacock from our “Get a Clue” Murder Mystery). Each of these ladies gave us 110% of their time and efforts and helped us pull off the most beautiful mansion decorations I have ever seen!

Thank you Ladies from the bottom of our hearts!

The week didn’t start out as planned. Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade. Monday was the day Tammy and I were going to start cutting and collecting our greenery. So instead, we decided to wait until Tuesday. So I took advantage of the free day and hit the stores for need items to complete our decorating. We had decided to add a second tree so I needed things to fill it. I hit the new Port Royal Trading Post first and found some beautiful ornaments and four fresh cut pine and boxwood wreaths. Then I headed to Unique Antiques Mall for even more ornaments. I found in both locations these beautiful enamel ornaments and got them at such a great price that I am ashamed to say I “stole” them. The best part of this shopping trip is that these two locations and Belle Grove are teaming up this December! If you shop at either location in the month of December, save your receipt! Bring that receipt when you come to tour Belle Grove’s December Christmas tour and Candlelight tours and we will donate $2 for each ticket in your part to go to Cops4Kids in either Caroline or King George County!

So Tuesday rolls around and Mother Nature is still not helping. But we can’t really afford to wait. We had our Annual Holiday Tea on Saturday and the decorations needed to be done before. So the “Ladies of Belle Grove” arrived and we formulated our plan. By afternoon, the weather broke (just a little) and we headed over to Oaken Brow Plantation to collect the greenery.

Oaken Brow Plantation is just three plantations down river from us and is owned by the sweetest couple you could ever meet. Mr. and Mrs. Bowen have been friends with us since we arrived. Mrs. Bowen is a fellow South Carolinian and keeps me on my toes with my true Southern manners. They have allowed us to come and cut greenery for two years now and we can’t begin to say how much we appreciate it.

So off Tammy and I went, rain, cold and mist, we were going to get the job done. After showing her around, we split up and gather different kinds of greenery. Tammy got the holly, both solid green and green and white holly. Best part is that they are full of red berries! I got the boxwoods, hanging pine and magnolia leaves. The boxwoods at Oaken Brow have to be at least 100 years old! They are huge and full. And some of the inside has open up to create little hide aways. Every thing was moving along well, even though our shoes was starting to get water logged. I moved to the final cutting, the magnolia leaves. When it was time to move, I realized that I was stuck. Not in my car, but Brett’s truck! No matter how I tried, the back wheels just kept spinning. So I went to let Tammy know that I wasn’t going any where. We started looking around for anything to stick under the wheels to give them some traction. The only thing we could find was hay. So we jammed it up under and tried again. Still no where. So I called a friend that works on our car and truck to see if he could help us. Lucky for me, he said he could. So while Tammy and I waited, we cut more greenery.
My friend arrived and got me out. Whew ….

So the next three days, the “Ladies of Belle Grove” poured their heart and souls into getting the mansion completed. Fresh cut greenery lining the staircase and railing outside. Two beautifully decorated Christmas trees, so full I don’t see how they are supporting the weight. So many floral arrangements with fresh cut greenery, I can’t even count them. Each room is perfect. Each room is unique. Each room shows the love and care the “Ladies of Belle Grove” took with making our Christmas decorations more than I could have every hoped for!

We finished up at 5pm on Friday, just in time to welcome our overnight guests.






To get the season off right, we had our Annual Holiday Tea on Saturday. Ladies from near and far arrived at 1pm to not only enjoy a wonderful Christmas Afternoon Tea, but were the first to view the love and work that went into making our Christmas decorations so special.

Our menu this year was centered on Christmas. Our scones were Gingerbread and Chocolate Toffee with Pecans. Our three tea sandwiches were Turkey and Cranberry Puffs, Mouse King Cheese Balls and Crab Salad in phyllo cups. Our desserts were Glazed Fruit in a Chocolate Tartelette, Red Velvet Mini Cup Cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Sugar Plum Cheese Cake. The choice of teas were Classic Earl Grey or Hot Apple Cider.






The tea was a smashing success and the table couldn’t have been prettier. The ladies were merry and enjoy lively conversations followed by a tour of the mansion and decorations.




So Christmas is off to a great start!


Today we are doing December Christmas Tours from 1pm to 4pm. We will be doing them all the month of December from Thursday to Sunday. Our Candlelight Christmas Tour will be December 17th to December 20th from 7pm to 9pm. Cost for the December Christmas Tours is $15 per adult and Children 10 and under are free. We are sorry, but no discounts the month of December. Please check our website for dates we will be closed due to private events in December. No reservations are required. No advance tickets. Just come and enjoy the tour.

We invite you to join us as we celebrate one of the best seasons at Belle Grove Plantation.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Diary | Comments Off on Christmas begins at Belle Grove

Christmas Dinner Made Easy

Dec. 26th 2012
Hurley watching a Christmas Show

Hurley watching a Christmas Show

With the loss of my mother last month, the one holiday I was dreading most was Christmas. Being that the emotions were still really fresh, I knew that it was going to be really hard getting through it without a lot of tears. So I asked my family if they would help me out this year by not making Christmas a big holiday as we always do. All I can say is I love my family. They sacrificed the decorations, the Christmas cards and the huge meal I always cook each year to help me make it through without being a basket case.

I can’t say I didn’t cry this Christmas Season. One that caught me off guard was when we were visiting the BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville for lunch just before we went to Montpelier for the Candle Light Tour. The weekend had been really nice. It was the first weekend we had gone away since my mother’s death and I was doing pretty well. As we sat talking and enjoying our meal, we could hear Christmas songs in the restaurant. All of a sudden the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” came on. I fought really hard. I tried to ignore it. I tried to focus on something funny at the table. I even looked around to see if I could focus on someone else almost in an attempt to draw a smile out of myself. But it wasn’t going to happen. Before I could stop it, tears started flowing. I allowed them to and tried to do it in a way that no one would notice. A few minutes later, Brett looked up and realized that I was crying. It only took a second I think for him to understand why. As I wiped the tears away, I tried to smile and said that I was sorry, the song just got me. The song ended and I was okay again.

But since we didn’t have the huge meal of years past, I wanted to do something special for my family who give up so much for me. So I made reservation at one of our high end restaurants in Virginia Beach. At first, I wanted to go to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, but I was a little late in getting the reservation. So instead we decided to go to McCormick and Schmicks. It was really a wonderful time. We brought my father and my son’s girlfriend along for the evening. If you haven’t tried it, you need to go. The food was out of this world.

But don’t worry, by next Christmas we will be in the plantation and will have lots of wonderful decorations and celebrations. New Years is coming and I have a traditional New Year’s dinner planned at home! It’s a new year and a new chapter that we will be starting soon.

McCormick and SchmickVirginia Beach, Virginia

McCormick and Schmick
Virginia Beach, Virginia

McCormick and SchmickBar

McCormick and Schmick

McCormick and SchmickDining Room

McCormick and Schmick
Dining Room

Meet the Family

Meet the Family

Pawpaw and Tyler

Pawpaw and Tyler

Tyler and Leah, his girlfriend

Tyler and Leah, his girlfriend

Alexa and Brett

Alexa and Brett

Brett and Michelle

Brett and Michelle


If  you are hungry, don’t go any further! 

You have been warned! 


Shrimp KissesShrimp stuffed with Pepper Jack Cheese and wrapped in Bacon. It is served on a bed of corn with red and green peppers and a touch of cayenne pepper.

Shrimp Kisses
Shrimp stuffed with Pepper Jack Cheese and wrapped in Bacon. It is served on a bed of corn with red and green peppers and a touch of cayenne pepper.

Crab Soup

Crab Soup

Chicken and Wild Mushroom Cajun Pasta

Chicken and Wild Mushroom Cajun Pasta

Shrimp and Andouille Macaroni and Cheese

Shrimp and Andouille Macaroni and Cheese

Parmesan Encrusted Chicken with Lemon Butter and Capers. Served with Linguine Alfredo and Roasted, Marinated Grape Tomatoes

Parmesan Encrusted Chicken with Lemon Butter and Capers. Served with Linguine Alfredo and Roasted, Marinated Grape Tomatoes

Ultimate Seafood Platter with Shrimp, Scallops, Salmon. Served with Mash Potatoes and Vegetables.

Ultimate Seafood Platter
with Shrimp, Scallops, Salmon and Stuffed Shrimp. Served with Mash Potatoes and Vegetables.

Stuffed ShrimpServed with Mash Potatoes and Vegetables.

Stuffed Shrimp
Served with Mash Potatoes and Vegetables.

See More Food Pictures on our Facebook Page!

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Don’t forget to keep your favorite Cookie Recipe close at hand!

A big announcement coming soon!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 87 Comments »