Monday, December 3, 2018

Deck the Halls With Instagrammable Holly

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It's the first day after the start of Advent, the second day of Hanukkah, the third day of December. However you count it, the holiday season is upon us, and you know what that means: time to drag those cardboard boxes out of the basement/attic/garage/back of the closet and begin turning your house into a winter wonderland.
This year is the first time I'm 100% in charge of the decorating. As you might imagine, last year was pretty subdued, although even in the depth of grief I still felt a small burst of joy at the realization that I didn't have to put Ross's Santa's Marching Band on the mantle, where it would give me seasonal headaches with ear-splitting electronic music. It's staying in the attic again this year; kids, if you want it, come and get it.



For many years, once the Smithie was old enough, I put her in charge of the non-tree decorations, with the command, "Make it look like Christmas barfed all over the house." Let's face it, when you have three kids in high school and middle school in December, you are WAY too busy to do any holiday job you can reasonably delegate. Still, I've always enjoyed having the place done up, and every year I would buy new ornaments or wreaths or brush bottle trees on December 26th or 27th (also the best time to buy seasonal cards, btw.)

Over the years, a certain decorative rigidity set in, a combination of efficiency - it's quicker to put the same swags, balls and stockings up in the same spot as last year - and tradition. I managed to winnow out a few of the ugly decorations Ross received as presents from the parents of his students -

PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANNOUNCEMENT: Parents, your kids' teacher does NOT want another apple ornament for Christmas. Give him or her a gift card to Target or Walmart. Really.

- and to toss some of the oldest, dog-gnawed plastic balls that exclusively adorned our trees during the toddler years. But mostly, we kept bringing out the same decor season after season.

But this year is different. The Smithie doesn't live here any more. The Sailor is arriving on leave on the 15th, and Youngest finishes up the semester on the 21st. Essentially, I'm running a very, very cheap B&B, which means I can do it up however I want to. The freedom is staggering. I'm thinking of all aqua and red ornaments in the kitchen, and an exclusively gold and green theme in the parlor. The living room, home of the traditional red plaid everything? Olive and pink. MILLENNIAL pink! I'm going to take all those color-coordinated looks I see in HGTV Magazine and recreate them in my house. Yes, I know it's Basic White Mom, but it'll be fresh and pretty and new.

How about you, Reds? Are you going to be putting up decade-old decorations? Or are you going for novelty? Sentimental? Sophisticated? Or a mix?


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, um, er. We got nothing. At all. But fantasy?  I'd adore plaid, I'd do the whole house in plaid if I could. Bows, and pillows and wreaths with, um, bows. OR-white! All all white and silver. With red bows. And candles. And candy canes.  Not gonna happen, though.  I do get several amaryllises. Amarylli?  But that's not decorating. That's scraping the bottom.
You're inspiring me, though.



LUCY BURDETTE: Since we're in Key West where we won't have a big tree, we're not putting up the hodge-podge collection of ornaments accumulated over the years. (My rule of thumb is anything growing mold can be secretly trashed. John is very sentimental about things the kids made in the ancient past LOL.)

 We'll do white lights on the balcony and Christmas pillows on the couch and I did buy a new Christmas cactus for the coffee table which is blooming nicely. Key West does such a good job of decorating with lights, that we don't need to go too crazy.


HALLIE EPHRON: When houses in our neighborhood go for sale, they're listed as in "St. Agatha's Parish" - as you might imagine, Christmas decorating is a big deal here. We love to drive around and look at other people's lights. I did buy an Amaryllis and have potted it, hoping it will be blooming when our kids and grandkids get here a few days before for Christmas. I'm going to Staples to get oak tag and markers and sequins so Franny and Jody can make some 'ornaments' for my glorious little Norfolk pine. We open presents Christmas morning and eat potato latkes for dinner.

Though I won't be decorating before everyone gets here, I will be making candy and cookies. Lots of chocolate-covered orange rind. Mandelbrot. And hopefully batches of Christmas cookies (I've been saving recipes including one for orange macaroons.)




DEBORAH CROMBIE: Last year I redid quite a bit of my Christmas decorations, including an entirely new and entirely Instagramable Christmas table! I loved it so much I'm doing exactly the same thing this year. I just sort of tidied up overall, less stuff, and threw out some of the rattiest things. We have a Santa collection that goes on the writing desk in the living room, and a display for the mantel, and needlepoint stockings. The best addition last year was the fabulous little battery powered lights for the table, the mantel, and the buffet. I'm sure you can get them lots of places, but ours were from Crate and Barrel.

Hallie, I wish we lived closed enough to share in your holiday bounty!






RHYS BOWEN:  we never do outside decorations. ( not quite British, you know, according to my husband). But I decorate living and dining rooms... Great big tree with ornaments limited to Angels, stars, hearts and glass balls, many from Europe.
In the fireplace are two large caroling bears from my dear friend who passed away. 





And I do host a big holiday lunch for friends so the table has to be perfect! I love decorating, put on Christmas music, light a fire and sip mulled wine.  John not at all interested and probably doesn't notice until he goes to the desk in the corner and finds a tree there instead!

 








JENN McKINLAY: The year before I turned forty, I went shopping for a fake tree because I felt environmentally terrible about cutting down real trees even if they came from a tree farm. I was immediately besotted by this gloriously dazzlingly brilliant white tree. My friend, Travis, happened by as I was staring and I asked his opinion. My mom who was buying the tree for me as a present was a hard no on the white tree. I asked Travis's opinion - he's an architect and a snappy dresser so I figured he wouldn't steer me wrong - and he said, "Sweetie, it's Christmas, go crazy!" 

So I did. I love that tree even though I have to wear sunglasses to look at it straight on. I put it up every year we're in town and I love, love, love it. Oh, and Hub does the outside lights on the house which are solar powered because that's how we roll!


JULIA: 'Gram-ready AND green! Yay, Jenn! How about you, dear readers? Do you do it up big? Or Charlie-Brown-Tree style? And when, oh when is Hallie going to write a cookbook for the rest of us?!?

For readers wondering: the first picture by my name, the tablescape by Debs and the two pictures illustrating Rhys's comments, ad of course Jenn's tree (with optional Hooligans) are from our own houses. All the rest are eye candy suggestions...

86 comments:

  1. Candy canes line the sidewalk, the manger scene sits under the window, the wreath hangs on the door, but that’s about it for the outside decorating. Inside we tend to have an everything-in-the-same-place sort of tradition for putting up decorations but any grandchildren that arrive while we’re decorating get to be in charge of things while I bake cookies . . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See, that's the benefit of "everything-in-the-same-place." Everyone knows where the garland and the reindeer go, so it's easy to delegate.

      Delete
  2. My daughters will be home for Christmas, which means daily baking. We review the Washington Post Christmas cookie feature article and select new recipes to try. The usual interior decorations, including an amaryllis and pot of paper white narcissus. A toddler fence around the tree to keep the dogs from chewing the ornaments. We have an eclectic collection of kitsch (grapefruit-sized lights that change colors and a lineup of whimsical animals including a flamingo) to decorate the yard. I'm a wreath on the door and candles in the windows kind of person, but my family prefers odd-lot leftovers. All we need is a flashing red neon arrow on the roof: Santa's sleigh stop.

    Julia, enjoy having your kids home, keeping the old and making new traditions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not know about the WaPo cookie feature! Thank you - I’m off to be inspired!

      Delete
    2. WaPo has COOKIE RECIPES? Later, y'all!

      Delete
    3. I know, right! Margaret, you've done a great service to the Reds community!

      Delete
    4. Chocolate chunk Nutella cookies! A new dimension in chocolate chip cookies. Last week the WaPo published an extensive article with recipes of "basic cookies" for your repertoire. Still waiting for this year's Christmas cookie feature. My college kids used to take a break from studying for finals and read the recipes, emailing me their top picks.

      Delete
  3. My mother was the one who did the decorating for the holiday. I do not do any decorating at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can enjoy others decorations while you're out and about and then come home to peace and simplicity (and loads of books.)

      Delete
    2. Julia, I've found I'm not much for being a decoration lookie-loo. I see the stuff as I drive by but I don't get all excited about it.

      But yes, LOADS of books are definitely on the menu at home.

      Delete
  4. The outside lights are up as are most in the neighborhood, nothing fancy, but there are few things as beautiful as when it snows and we get the stained glass effect on the bushes. Nothing done in the house yet, and the Christmas Cactus is looking like she will drop her Thanksgiving blooms. We have a skinny but tall artificial tree that will undoubtedly go up this week. For five years, since Eliot the tree climber cat came to live here, we've only put on the lights. But last year Eliot left the tree alone, so maybe we can hang ornaments finally.

    We have a 500 piece Fontanini creche, big enough to stretch thru several rooms and take up the entire mantle, piano top, and buffett plus a few angels hanging from the chandelier. That also has been kept packed away as we have visions of Eliot dismantling it. What do you say hive? I think the creche, not the tree, sets the spirit of Advent in our home. The Christ Child does not make his appearance in the manger until midnight Christmas eve. In the meantime we have a tiny Fontanini kitten who keeps his bed warm for Baby Jesus.

    The question is whether we have the energy and desire to haul all this down from the baement, only to put it back next month for another year.

    Hive thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My thought, for what's it worth, Ann--if you and Julie love the creche, then go for it! Go big or winnow it down selectively to a scene that is manageable and purfect (sorry, couldn't resist).

      Delete
    2. That's a rough estimate, Hank. Every piece is wrapped in tissue paper and lives in it own box. My favorite is the blessed Virgin, riding on a donkey, and she has a well defined baby bump. https://www.fontanini-heirlooms.com/5-inch-fontanini-nativity-journey-to-bethlehem-2-piece-set/51502

      The creche in the Vatican is Fontanini, life size.

      We've collected all this thru the years, and we are like two little girls with a doll house when we set it up, changing things all the time, ever-moving the Holy Family to Bethlehem and bringing the Magi in from the east.

      Delete
    3. If it gives you that much fun and play time, Ann, you definitely have to set it up. Besides, Julie is a retired woman now, so she'll need something to keep herself occupied. (As if she doesn't already have a list a mile long of stuff she wants to do!)

      Delete
    4. My dad and brother made a creche for a scout project of my brother's way back in the early '70's. I loved that creche. I was the one who put it out every year. I'd love to have one now, but it seems like there are only two choices - El Fisher Price, or Michelangelo. I can't seem to find anything in between.

      Delete
    5. Ann, my mother collected Fontanini creche pieces for years. They're exquisite. I say go for it - the pieces are pretty durable, so at the worst, Eliot will scatter things around, not break them.

      Delete
    6. Yes, that’s the good part. They don’t break. Did you know they are all hand painted in little Italian villages. A painter may specialize in just eyes, for instance

      Delete
    7. Wow, that creche sounds amazing, Ann.

      By the way, happy birthday!

      Delete
  5. We will put up the tree, artificial, that I bought to replace the previous artificial tree two years' ago. It will involve making a desk disappear for the season and only the top half will receive any ornaments (re: 4 cats). Also re: cats, the snow globes will stay packed away yet another year, but the table always gets gussied up and twinkly lights go on the buffet. Baking has also been winnowed down because the person with the biggest sweet tooth in the house is me. There will be peanut butter fudge though, and at least two kinds of cookies.

    And Jenn, love the tree and the Hooligans--takes me back to another pair of small hooligans on Christmas day. And Julia, I look at all those fabulous holiday decorations and think "Wouldn't the house look great?" then a cat or two strolls by....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL - yes, I fear for my tree and our rescue kitten this year!

      Delete
    2. We've been very lucky re: cats and Christmas trees over the years. Of course, we had to stop using tinsel - the look of which I love - after we noticed tinsel butt one year. :-P I keep unbreakable ornaments on the lower branches, so if they get batted off, no harm.

      We had ONE fall-over when our first cat was young - the first time Ross and I got a tree. Mac went right up it - fortunately, Ross always insisted on "resting" the tree for the initial 24 hours inside and there were no lights or ornaments on. The whole thing fell over on top of Mac, who couldn't get out fast enough. He never went NEAR a tree again.

      Delete
  6. The stores are full of Christmas decorations of course, and yesterday I saw a gift bag with a picture of a guy in a red suit, and it was captioned Santa Clause. Yes, just like that. It was not a joke, or a double meaning, it was just a big fat typo. Of course I bought it! And now it is decorated my front door. ( on the inside :/-))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw your picture of that, Hank. Amazing!

      Delete
    2. You know, English isn't THAT hard. Truly.

      Delete
    3. Wasn't there a movie, "The Santa Clause" out a few decades ago?

      Delete
    4. Julie, by the number of businesses that think you make a plural with "apostrophe S," English is, in fact, quite tricky.

      Delete
    5. Julia, true enough. True enough.

      Delete
  7. I already put the electric candles in the windows and little white lights around the doors outside. So cheery! And I put up the nativity scene. It has the usual cast ceramic figures my mother hand painted before I was born, but we now slide in Snoopy, Garlfield, Bert, Pokey, and this year, RBG and Obama snuck in, too. I still need to get the dozen nutcrackers down and put them around.

    No family coming for the holiday this year, alas, and I'm having some knee surgery on the 20th. I'll do all my usual baking before then but might forego the tree for once. Or get a really small fresh one. Julia, I love that you're doing up your house exactly as you want it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Edith, I love love love the look of window candles, but I've never been able to carry them off. This Old House has so few outlets per room, I'd have to put a power switch at every outlet. Ross aka "Mr. Fire Safety" had a strict three-plug limit per outlet - probably for the best considering we didn't know how old the wiring was.

      Delete
    2. Julia, our house was built in 1940, and also has precious few outlets. I've never put lit candles in the windows, either, because of that. I had some battery-powered ones, but they never worked exactly right.

      Delete
  8. We brought down all our boxes over the weekend with the plan to decorate. Well, the tree is up (and it shed so many needles I really do thing the time has come to replace it - this one is 22 years old). I plan to attempt to redo The Girl's decorating from last year, with twinkly white lights, fluffy cotton "snow," and select ornaments. I saw her last night and said, "My plan is to decorate as best I can, and when you get home from break, you can tweak to your heart's content."

    The Boy has zero interest in helping.

    I'm missing some of my ceramics from my grandfather (I'm mad, I found the tip of a ceramin tree, and The Hubby doesn't quite understand why I'm mad about losing all this stuff).

    And once the house is done, we need to decide what, if anything, is going in the new sunroom. The Hubby is right - a skinny tree would look great in the corner (but we'd have to buy a new one).

    Mary/Liz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe a skinny version of Jenn's white one?

      Delete
    2. Possibly. I've been looking at trees all morning. I have to ask how high the ceiling is (I'm positive I could get a 9' tree in here).

      Mary/Liz

      Delete
    3. Oh and The Girl just sent me a recipe for Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread she wants to try. Anybody know where I can get demarara sugar and flaky sea salt?

      Mary/Liz

      Delete
    4. Trader Joe's or a high-end grocery store. Williams Sonoma as a last resort. Maybe Amazon.

      Delete
    5. Sur la Table would also have it, and maybe Whole Foods.

      Delete
  9. Because of cats and the fact that I will not be having any company but will instead spend the holiday with my son and grandchildren my decorating is what you might call minimal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mine was minimal last year, Judi, not so much because of mourning, but because we ere going to Hawaii for eight days surrounding Christmas. It was nice - I had a few touches here and there, but I think my entire "decorating" took about 15 minutes. Big benefit - a super quick pack-up after Epiphany!

      Delete
  10. Hallie - I NEED the orange macaroon recipe! Please!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, agreed....please please please?

      Delete
    2. The recipe ran in the Boston Globe last week, "adapted from Laura Raposa"and I adapted it further - DISCLAIMER: I haven't made them yet
      Coconut-orange macaroons
      1 can sweetened condensed milk
      2 egg whites
      1 T vanilla extract
      Grated rind of 1 orange
      1/2 tsp coarse (kosher) salt)
      2 1/2 cups flaked unsweetened coconut
      3 1/4 cups flaked sweetened coconut
      (Optional: 1 1/2 cup (9 oz) bittersweet chocolate chips)

      preheat oven 350
      Line 2 cookie sheets w parchment paper (I use wax paper and a silpat)

      Combine: condensed milk, egg whites, vanilla orange rind, salt, both kinds of coconut
      Beat until thoroughly incorporated
      Soup-spoon scoops of batter onto a baking shoot leaving 1" between; shape the mounds
      Bake 18-20 minutes @350 until golden brown
      Cool on the baking sheets
      (Optional: Melt the chocolate chips and drizzle over the cooled cookies)

      Delete
    3. Even untested I'm not sure how you can go wrong with this recipe, Hallie. Coconut, orange, and chocolate, it sounds divine!

      Thanks for sharing it.

      Delete
  11. My favorite Christmas decorations are luminarias - when my brother-in-law lived in El Paso EVERYONE in his neighborhood lined their front walks with rows of paper lanterns (paper bags with a bit of sand in the base and a candle). Here's a website that shows how gorgeous it can get. http://www.luminariadepot.com/best-luminaria-viewing-in--el-paso.html

    No one does them in my neighborhood -- :-( - Does anyone out there put out luminarias?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In Atlanta we had a neighborhood display. Frankly, dormant Bermuda grass is flammable and more than one lawn caught on fire over the years. Luminarias don't work well in the snow. In seasonally appropriate areas, they are beautiful.

      Delete
    2. Agreed. We used to spend the second week of December in Cancun (thanks to my generous father-in-law) and the luminaria were everywhere, and lovely. Definitely not for snow climates, though.

      Delete
    3. I love lu I arias. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix always has a spectacular display

      Delete
    4. Sometimes you will see them here for parties. But our December weather is too unpredictable to leave them out. We spent Christmas in Mexico many times when I was growing up and I loved the luminarias. Magical.

      Delete
    5. I have seen terracotta luminarias, which I thought would work great for here in the snow--but there was the cost factor and storage.

      Delete
    6. Mt. Lookout, a Cincinnati neighborhood near us, always has a luminaria light-up in December. And many of the residents keep them going through Christmas. It's lovely.

      Delete
    7. Brother? You have a brother?

      Delete
  12. My house is still a work in progress, although it's getting more coherent all the time. My tree is a two-foot tree my grandmother made at least 45 years ago, strung with tiny LED lights and hung with a few fun ornaments. It takes up a considerable space on my hearth, which is good because my hearth is "well-used"--that is, really stained and ugly--and I haven't figured out how to fix/replace it yet. I have wreaths on my front and back doors, and plan a fresh holly and candle arrangement for my mantle, since I have a very generously berried holly hedge that needs trimming back along the driveway. Beyond that, I have not yet figured out what kind of seasonal decor goes with half-chewed dog toys.

    Hallie, I don't do luminaria, although they are more common around here. The authentic ones are, as you say, paper bags with sand and candles. I can't imagine what a pain in the butt that would be to light/snuff or remake every night. Perhaps there are electric ones? Or maybe you only do them on Christmas Eve? There must be an answer for you out there somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally with you on the dog toy thing. We're really afraid to put up a tree because he'll think the ornaments are toys... though last year, we were able to confine the damage to simple knocking the tree around and drinking from the tree stand.

      Delete
    2. In my experience, everything goes with half-chewed dog toys.

      Delete
    3. Gigi, I have seen them with battery-operated candles.

      DebRo

      Delete
    4. Julia, you are my style guru! Of course, everything goes with half-chewed dog toys. How could I have missed that?

      Delete
  13. We're (once again) trying to figure out how much to decorate given that we'll be traveling down to the Cape to be with my elderly mom for Christmas. Also, we have a young Labrador who has shown Unhealthy Eating Tendencies, so we're a bit worried about putting up ye-olde-glass bulbs. On the other hand, we have a 13 y/o and a 15 y/o, and we all want the season to feel special. So we've put up lights and are doing our best to make simple treats every few days for them.

    A couple of years ago, I realized also that I really missed the Hanukkah traditions I grew up with. I'm not Jewish, but I grew up with almost exclusively Jewish friends, and it was so enriching having my family traditions blend with my friends' traditions, especially in winter and around Passover / Easter. So I realized that my kids aren't having that experience and started teaching them about Hanukkah. The menorah we made has been lost, but I'd like to make a new one. Tonight's the second night. Looking forward to bringing some of my childhood experience to them, even if I can't bring my friends here. :)

    I do wish I had latke recipes, though. No idea how to make them. On the other hand, we do make decent cranberry nut bread and mincemeat cookies...

    Happy holidays to my favorite blog.
    -J

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julie, my very Episcopalian mother made delicious latkes. She grated potatoes and onions - I think the proportions were about 5 or 6 to 1. Add 2 eggs, beaten, and a small amount of seasoned flour. She fried them a skillet in vegetable oil. She would drop them in as lumps and then flatten them with her spatula.

      I have to confess she didn't call them latkes - they're kartoffelpuffer aka German potato pancakes. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of crossover between Jewish and German cuisines.

      Delete
    2. Julie, years ago we had neighbors who had a Weimaraner with "unhealthy eating habits." He ate all the red glass balls off their Christmas tree, and he was fine:-)

      Delete
    3. Julia - thank you so much! Sounds delicious.

      Deborah - honestly, I'm pretty sure our Lab eats half dog food, half... anything else he can get his paws and jaws on, LOL. I have the vet on speed dial, but as he approaches his second birthday, he is (thankfully... another thing for which I'm grateful...) becoming a bit more discriminating (and requiring less watching).

      Maybe if we coat the ornaments with Vaseline or something, that would do. It would make them shiny AND slippery ;) .

      Delete
  14. Does it count as Christmas decorating if you wind lights around a dog crate and put the presents inside?... Hmmm....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I did that for my oldest, dog-crazed daughter, she would have a heart attack of joy. (Except she'd also think she was getting a dog. Which, not in her apartment.)

      Delete
    2. HA! I'm happy to rent out a young chocolate lab for anyone who needs or wants dog time (eye roll).

      Delete
  15. At this point, I still don’t know how much decorating I will do this year. It’s gotten difficult for me to get up and down the basement stairs with boxes. Two or three years ago I decided to keep some of my favorite items upstairs, so they are piled up in boxes in a corner of my bedroom. (Not fun to vacuum around them!) I have a collection of crèche sets, including one I bought in Bethlehem forty years ago, and a collection of various kinds of angels, from wax to ceramic. These crèche sets and angels are the items that I always set up. Last year I bought a new, easier to handle, artificial tree. I never got around to putting it up.(It lives in the same bedroom corner as my previously mentioned items.) Being retired now, I thought that this year I would have more time and would try to go all out again for the first time in many years. However, I discovered that it’s true that retirees don’t have a lot of free time! (And that’s good!) In a few days I’m going to a gingerbread house making party. I’ve never done anything like this before, No matter how it comes out, I plan to display my gingerbread house!

    DebRo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DebRo, I read in House Beautiful magazine that dollhouses are poised to be a big thing in interior decor for 2019 (I know, it sounded crazy to me as well.) Your gingerbread house will not only be festive, it will be on trend! #instagramable

      Delete
    2. That’ll be a first for me :-)

      DebRo

      Delete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  17. On the tree issue, I've done a lot of research on the real vs fake eco-friendly question. Most experts, including The Nature Conservancy, say that real trees are the best option for the environment. Growing trees on tree farms is not only good for the earth, but provides local jobs and supports local economies. In the US most tree farms are in Oregon and North Carolina. Artificial trees are made in China, from petroleum products. If you want to be extra eco-friendly, buy a locally grown tree, and make sure it's mulched at the end of the season, rather than put in a landfill. Many cities have a special tree pick up the first week in January.

    But Jenn, I ADORE your white tree!!! And the Hooligans!!!

    Also, the environmental experts say if you really want to be eco-friendly, don't worry about what kind of tree you get--stay home. It's the air and car travel over the holidays that make the real adverse impact.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm feeling very green, then - I buy a Maine-grown tree while running other errands, so no additional travel.

      Delete
    2. Even better is a balled and burlapped live tree that gets planted in the ground after Christmas. We did this the first year we lived in this house, in 1985. It was the same height as our 16-month old daughter. Now it is thirty feet high!

      We had to dig the hole ahead of time, and of course having the rootball attached limits the size you can have in your home, but it's a nice way to add trees to a property.

      Delete
    3. Yes, that's a great idea. Unfortunately, the evergreens that do well here don't make very good Christmas trees. Although we do have some cut-your-own tree farms, with hay and wagons and mulled cider, etc. We did that a couple of years when Kayti was little and it was great fun.

      Delete
  18. We bought new lights this year as the old ones half-died. We've a tall two story New Orleans style house with wrought iron balconies running across the front on both floors. I string colored icicle lights top and bottom and put a wreath on the door. I've done a minimum inside for several years now. This year has been a year of loss though and I think it is time to get back into the spirit of the season. We're going to haul all the Christmas stuff out of the upstairs closet and the storage unit and see what we have and what we can cull. I know we have one or two stuffed grinches, a Mexican Santa Claus that sings Feliz Navidad, and lord knows what else. It will be a treasure hunt and a trip down memory lane. We've got the lighted artificial tree we bought for my in-laws a few years ago. I think it is time to put it up and decorate it. As for style, we are totally eclectic! Meaning anything goes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pat, now I need a Mexican Santa singing Feliz Navidad...

      Delete
  19. We never put up outside decorations, either. Our house sits way back from the road, so I just have wreaths on the doors.

    This year we are spending Christmas out of town, so I'm not going to put up a tree. I think it might be time to winnow out ornaments, though. Julia, you inspire me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The tricky ones will be winnowing out some of the (many) kids' ornaments made over the years. 3 kids X at least two ornaments each (Sunday school and Catholic school)from preschool through, say, 5th grade = 42 construction paper, macaroni, painted puzzle pieces and hand prints. The hand prints I definitely want to keep... the ones made from cut-up paper plates, maybe less so.

      Delete
  20. I finished putting the hundred million ornaments on the tree this past weekend, and even then I didn't put all the ornaments I have. I was torn between scaling it back this year (on the ornaments) or letting it rip. I let it rip. I especially love the ornaments from my mother, who loved Christmas so. The little windmill ornament is always placed front and center, and it began to twirl as soon as I put it up. Hello, Mommy. Not all the ornaments have a story, but there are many that do, and I think maybe I should write out some notes as to why those ornaments are special, so that my kids and grandkids will remember. My new ornament this year is a gnome, and it's fabulous, one of those porcelain miniature boxes that open and you can put something small inside. It's from Signals, and I'm thinking of ordering a couple of other ones, gingerbread house and snowman, for the grandgirls. Of course, there are still ornaments, a few, that the kids made when they were little. Some of those have bit the dust, like the cookie snowman, whose glaze allowed it to stay around quite a while, but eventually it, well, crumbled. Hehehe!

    I do decorate other parts of the house. The mantel holds some decorative touches, with a few Christmas photos and the beautiful lights I found in the Metal Smith Shop at Michie Tavern near Jefferson's Monticello. There are wooden block letters spelling out Santa, with Santa's face on each "A," that I bought on vacation with the family in Gatlingburg. I decorate the tables in the foyer and the dinining room as well as the living room. Oh, and I put up a Christmas shower curtain in my bathroom. In the dining room, on a side table, I have my Bonnie Lynn Mittens and Mufflers snowmen collection, which I love. You can't buy these anymore, except on ebay, and I have at least a dozen. I have some small lights intertwined in them. A Christmas runner down the dining room table and a centerpiece, with the high chest decorated, too. Oh, and I still put out my Christmas beanie babies. Hahaha! I have fun with them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, I love the idea of writing down what the special ornaments mean. You absolutely don't want those stories to be forgotten.

      Delete
  21. I decorate an artificial tree with old ornaments, some handmade, lights, and tinsel. On shelves I have a lot of ceramic figures like Christmas trees, angel, and choir people. My manger scene is mostly carved wooden figures from Switzerland, Germany, and Austria with 2 ceramic sheep from England and the camels from my childhood set.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julia here - my family has some beautiful ornaments from when we lived in Bavaria. I love that style!

      Delete
  22. Christmas decorating.... As a small child, we were taken to a local tree farm in Sebastopol, Dad would cut down a tree, but we all got a try with the saw. Tree wasn't extremely tall, it had to sit on the small table, that way the cats stayed out of the branches and wouldn't swipe at the ornaments. Of course if a cat tried for a branch, especially when they were kittens, mom would just "bark" their name, and clap her hands really loud and they wouldn't go near that tree. Decorating the tree was a family thing and always on the fourth Sunday of Advent unless Christmas Eve was too close to the fourth Sunday of Advent. We always had white lights and a hodgepodge of ornaments collected over the years, some created, some gifts, some given at Saint Nicholas parties when we were little. As we got older, mom would buy each of us a special ornament that got would pick. Her idea was that when we finally moved out, we would have our own collection of ornaments started. We had an angel on the top of the tree, that was Dad's job, the angel, it was the rule or was that the tradition? My dad cut down the tree, put the angel on the top and hung to 2 ornaments on the tree, 2 small glass bells from his childhood, I have the last remaining bell and it doesn't go on a tree. I put it on the stand with other very special ornaments that I feel I need to protect.

    Now my grandma, if she could get away with no trees there would be no trees since they dripped sap and dropped needles, but since she had a couple grandkids she put up a tree until we were old enough not to need one in her house. Her tree was always a noble fir and it was always flocked white. Since the tree was flocked she didn't have to put lights on it. The ornaments were always red - red velvet bows, red satin balls, red glass balls and red velvet birds. All of her decorations were red and white and always put in the same place every year. In fact that's how I earn some of my Christmas money, by helping Grandma decorate her house. It only took one day, I knew where everything went... I brought down all the boxes from the attic, put out her decorations and put the boxes away for her. Oh, this was in the late 60s and 70s, she loved those plastic flower arrangements.... Brrr... but they didn't mess up her furniture so she was happy.

    As a teenager, I started helping my mom and the Altar Guild at church for special occasions. As an adult I joined the Altar Guild, and every Christmas Eve morning I go down to our 100+ year old redwood church. Red poinsettias, evergreen swags under the scones, Advent candles changed to white...the old nativity scene put in front of the altar. I used to always arrange the Altar flowers, continuing my grandmother's tradition of giving the Christmas flowers but times change so, I'm not doing flowers this year.

    I guess you could say for me Christmas decorations are traditional, repetitive, and comfort. They remind me of my family, (my personal family and extended). Of those who came before me, those who want to know about the past, our traditions, in order to preserve it for the future and that makes me feel good.

    I haven't personally decorated very much, at my home, the past couple of years, but when I do, it's grandma's nativity scene, she gave to mom, who gave it to me (it still has some price tags on a few pieces - 25 cents for one Wise Man) and her electric red candles that go behind her white Madonna. Those special ornaments, old and newer, on stands. And bears, I like bears at Christmas. In fact, I have been known to decorate the office lobby with bears playing with ornaments... They are always getting into mischief, those bears.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete