November 10, 2011 12:00 PM

Ask Bethenny Frankel what she’s most excited to do with her 18-month-old daughter Bryn this season and the reality star sounds like a kid breathlessly rattling off her wish list to Santa. “I want to take her to buy a cute holiday outfit and a new mini Santa suit. I want to decorate ornaments with her with lots of rhinestones. I want to take her to Central Park to watch ice skaters,” says Frankel. “The holiday season is a wonderful time, and I want Bryn to be excited by all the special things.”

Frankel, 40, and her husband, sales executive Jason Hoppy, 40, are also eager to start doing activities like baking cookies together and sharing a new Christmas story before bedtime. “I want Bryn to have her own traditions that we create together,” says Frankel, whose daily life is chronicled on Bravo’s Bethenny Ever After. “That way she’ll always feel excited about the holidays.”

Frankel’s own holiday history has been less than merry. After her father, famed horse trainer Bobby Frankel, walked out when she was 4, Bethenny moved at least seven times over the next 10 years with her mother and stepfather. “I did have traditions for short periods of time, and I remember them more than anything,” says Frankel. “I would long for that time when everything seemed picturesque and homey. They’re my most vivid memories.”

Which is why Frankel is so eager to give Bryn festive Christmas mornings, fun holiday surprises and happy family memories that she didn’t experience as a kid. “I love the Christmas feeling, especially in New York. I can’t wait to take Bryn to see the toys at F.A.O. Schwarz and the holiday windows,” says Frankel of the Fifth Avenue displays. “I want to show her all the hustle and bustle.”

At their downtown Manhattan apartment, Frankel will create a calm, cozier environment this season. “I used to think it was very Carmela Soprano to have a fake tree, but now I’m into it,” says Frankel. Plus “Bryn loves Christmas trees, lights and anything sparkly.” But of course her decor will have some Frankel flair: Sticking to her signature colors, she’s planning on a white tree with red ornaments—which the family will gradually replace with Bryn’s personal picks. “I want her to have an ornament collection,” says Frankel. “We’ll buy one together so she has a new one each year. Hopefully, she’ll have enough one day so our whole tree will be her special ornaments.” Frankel also plans to fill her closets with winter keepsakes and “kitschy stuff,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to have a place where I’d bring out Christmas china and holiday glasses and napkins. I want Bryn to have special things we only bring out in December.”

Come Christmastime, the trio head to Hazleton, Penn., to celebrate the occasion with a big family feast with Hoppy’s parents. “He’s Catholic, so on Christmas Day we all go to church, which his mother gets very excited about,” says Frankel. Plus “it’s fun for them to see Bryn open up presents.” (Word from Santa is that he’ll be delivering a dollhouse to Bryn this year.) As for the family’s 11-year-old Lhasa Apso mix Cookie? “She has reindeer antlers and a stocking too!” says Frankel. “Jason is better at buying her gifts than I am. She’s tough. Whatever toys we get, she rips out the stuffing in minutes. She only likes squeaky toys.” Between Frankel and Hoppy, “we don’t really splurge on each other,” she says. “Our gifts are practical like pajamas and rain-boot warmers for me and a golf GPS for him.” Besides, Frankel’s Christmas wish is simple: “I always want Bryn to feel loved.”

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