Mary Presson Roberts Photography

The Holidays At My House

“The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale…”
― Vera Nazarian

I spend an hour a day taking a walk. It is not uncommon for me to have a wealth of ideas during a good, brisk walk. On the last day of November, I had an idea that would lead to a project that would occupy my thoughts and time for the first twenty-five days of December.

The Initial Why

One of the reasons I wanted a fun project to complete was because I wanted a creative way to share my upcoming educational opportunities. Additionally, every time is an excellent time for a project!

During the years when I was teaching elementary school children, I always asked students to write about the holidays at their houses. Although all students celebrated the winter holidays in different ways, universal things threaded their way through each child’s writing. I wanted to capture some of the busyness, traditions, and joy of the days leading to Christmas Day and other winter celebrations.

The anticipation of Christmas is something that I have always enjoyed. Growing up, I would spend hours moving the figures around in the nativity scene. Our family had an Advent Wreath on the dining table to prepare our minds and hearts for Christmas. While Jeremy was growing up, he had a variety of Advent calendars.

The How

I decided I would attempt to tell the story of the anticipation of Christmas Day within the setting of my childhood dollhouse.

I had some initial ideas for what could be happening inside the house based on things occurring in many households this time of year.

One obstacle to the project’s completion was knowing I would be out of town for five days early in the month. Before leaving to visit family in Florida, I had to prepare the photographs for each day that I would be gone in advance.

After the first days of the project, it became clear that I would need an accomplice or two to help me pull this off. Luckily, Randy and Maui are always game for a good project. Maui is especially eager to participate if peanut butter is involved as was the case when we needed her to kiss an artificial reindeer.

The dollhouse and dollhouse furniture were the toys I played with as a child. Spending time carefully inspecting these rooms brought back a flood of memories. Although I don’t remember her doing it, I am sure that the stamp in the picture frame located in the dollhouse living room was placed there by my mother years ago.

When I began creating composites, I decided only to use things I photographed in each composite. It has just been the right choice for me. I photographed many components for each composite during the month, but I needed to dive back into the archives for some images.

As soon as I thought about adding carolers to the story, the image below immediately came to mind. It took me over an hour to locate it on an old laptop. I found it moments before I gave up the search. Once I found it, I felt it was time well spent to revisit a fun memory from a holiday family outing years ago.

Many of the images in the project required me to use many layers in Photoshop.  The primary Dollhouse base plate has more than seventy-five layers stacked on top of it to create each scene in this space.

The Outcome

Sometimes, I was concerned that I bit off more than I could chew during an already busy time of year.

However, the positives far outweighed any negatives of my decision to complete this project in December.

First, the project allowed me to spend time being creative, which is my favorite thing to do. Randy and Maui’s help allowed us bonus time together and lots of laughter.

As I entered the dollhouse as an adult, I was transported to an earlier time in life at Christmastime. I love holidays, and Christmas has always been my favorite.

“Playing” with the dollhouse took me back to my childhood arranging the people in the crèche, walking around the house for a month singing Christmas Carols while holding a worn-out book with their lyrics, playing with a plastic Santa and sleigh, and looking at what I felt was the most beautiful tree ever with the reflectors around each light and wrapped in silver tinsel.

Working on this series allowed me time to practice my skills in photography, lighting, and using Photoshop. Each picture I make teaches me something (good or bad) that helps me with the next picture I create.

Hopefully, these daily posts made some of you smile along the way.


Somewhere during the process, I got the idea to put all the images together in a slideshow to see the progression from day to day. The slideshow program I used had the perfect song in its licensed library. You can view all house scenes in order in this slide show. You can access it here.

Although we may not all share the same holidays, we share having traditions, loving family and friends, and knowing the importance of memories.

So, from my house to yours, I wish you and all you love a Merry Christmas and a joyous winter holiday season!


I would love for you to join me for my upcoming winter/spring educational opportunities:

Personal Projects Workshop, January 2024…/

Guided Book Study, January – April 2023

Creative Zoo Photography Workshop, February 2024…/

Close to Home Workshop, February 2024

Creative Compositing Workshop, March – April 2024…/

Make Magic Using Digital Processing Tools (One-on-One Experience), You schedule three sessions

Mentorship (One-on-One Experience), You schedule six sessions

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Mary Presson Roberts

I am a travel and fine art photographer living and working in the Carolinas. My camera has taken me to places I never would have experienced and to people I never would have met. Photography has truly changed my life! Using my blog, I hope to share the joys of both travel and photography.


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