Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Putting Christmas away

Most years, I mind putting Christmas on display a lot more than putting it away.

(Or, in the parlance of Texas: I mind putting Christmas up more than putting Christmas up.) It'll make sense if you think about it.

But this year, whether because I've waited a few days to do so instead of plunging in on the morning of the 26th, or because I wrote the 24 blogs on ornaments, I find the experience a bit nostalgic.

I've studied each ornament as I took it off the tree. I've pondered why I have so many and where they came from. As in: "This is my ornament? I don't think I've ever seen it before." Or, "These are not all going to fit back in the chosen boxes." Nor did they.

How does this happen? There's just not room! So, I rearranged.

All but the outside lights are now boxed and ready to be taken to the attic. The tree still needs to disassembled but I can't do that without the box in the garage and it's been raining and it's an ungainly box... and we'll get to it soon enough.

Then, just in the blink of an eye--or two--Christmas 2011 will be here and I'll see all this again and welcome the sight of it.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our own personal Buttery Fly Effect

Now that Christmas Day is over and we're once again taking shallow breaths, the stories can begin. This one is our version of The Butterfly Effect.

Heathrow Airport in London closed last weekend and only gradually opened in the wake of a snowfall they were totally unprepared for, principally because it just never happens in England. The Continent was caught off guard as well and chaos in the form of cancelled and changed flight plans ensued. Caught up in this were our English in-laws, due to arrive in two batches, last Monday, the 20th and last Wednesday, the 22nd.

Neither event happened. Not to prolong the suspense, both parties arrived on the same plane Friday afternoon but by then our version of the Effect was already set in motion.

Previous to all the bad weather and its consequences, our daughter-in-law had purchased tickets for an ice sculpture show. The tickets weren't cheap and were subject, as we found out on Christmas Eve as we waited to get in, to being sold out. When it was obvious that the English weren't crossing The Pond in a timely matter, something needed to be done.

Two were sold to coworkers. Two, those of the senior-rate, were still in hand upon arrival at the exhibit. Seeing an woman of the "senior variety" sitting alone, they struck up a conversation. Her husband was in line to try to get tickets, but they were announcing that the next show was sold out. My children handed the senior tickets over and asked for nothing in return. The woman was surprised and very grateful.

Which is how a snow storm in London allowed two people to see an ice show in Dallas they wouldn't have otherwise seen.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 24th

Why does this ornament get pride of place by being number 24? It's certainly not the plastic and yarn frame which, by the way, is red and not pink. (Scanner!) It is my husband's favorite ornament, the one packed first, the one he searches for first, and the one I put front, center, and at eye level.

My mother is responsible for this photo. She was keeping the boys while we were out of town. She took them to the dime store that was having a photographer in. Somehow, she sweet-talked (she was a master of this) them into letting her bring our dog as well. For this is Jenny, our "first child." She was very, very good with the boys as long as they didn't come between her and her food bowl.

(Note: Two ways to learn: listen and do as you're told, or stick your hand in there anyway. Matt can tell you the difference.)

The boys are probably about 2 and 4. It must be spring or summer. A friend gave me the frame, and photo and frame just found their way together. Last year, I scanned it into the computer, so now there is a digital copy. Whew!

It is hard to believe that today is Christmas Eve and my 24 days of Ornaments is over! I've had such a wonderful time writing about these special mementos in my home. Guests have circled my tree trying to find them and I've been able to tell more stories. If nothing else, your take-home lesson from this should be to circle your host's tree and appreciate the sentiments expressed thereon.

Thank you for reading my blog this month and taking this journey with me.

Merry Christmas.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 23rd

Just to prove there are classy ornaments on our tree, as well as the sentimental and homemade, I've included this one as representative of the Waterford ornaments.

As well as this snowflake, there's a star, a set of carolers, and a nativity, released over a period of three years. All of these were gifts and the snowflake had the best chance of scanning, so it got the job of representative.

These are carefully packed back into their original boxes each year and bundled into a special area of the closet. With them, I remember the giver.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 22nd

In 1994 two friends and I decided to make and sell Christmas ornaments of landmarks around town. We highlighted the depot, a hospital (now demolished), a historical home, the public library, the Methodist Church, and this one, the Presbyterian. I think we had the wood screen-printed with the basic design and then we added the embellishments.

The experiment and the experience did not last past three years. Maybe just two. But it was fun to do, and I have number three of twenty-five of the collection.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 21st

Nine years ago, our son Matt undertook a summer internship in London for his graduate degree. Along with invaluable experience in his field, he brought home a young woman, Mary. Eventually, we all sojourned to London for a wedding and we have the grandest grandchildren in the world. (And if you don't believe me, just ask to see a photo. Or two.)

But the Christmas of 2001, Mary was a guest in our home. She brought with her two ornaments for our tree, this reindeer and a cat. (If you guessed kangaroo, you get half the points.) I marked them on the back so I could remember their provenance.

Someday, when I'm no longer putting up a tree, I'll hand them over to the grandest grandchildren. (By the way, would you like to see a picture?)

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Monday, December 20, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 20th

The Angel Cat.

I bought this one in a shop in Colorado, most likely Crested Butte. Don't remember if it were Christmas and a ski trip or summer. I don't ski (the one and only experience is worthy of either youtube or Funniest Home Videos) so I shop.

We all know cats are angels only when they wish to be. This one wishes to be all the time.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 19th

The Angel Roo. How, how, how could a kangaroo ornament lover possibly pass this one up? Obviously, I didn't. I don't remember where or when or how it came into my possession, but I love it.

And it's big. It stands out. It should.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 18th

They had me at first glance. Sturbridge Yankee Workshop had these delightful pewter fellows about 4 years ago. The set was the traditional "Night Before Christmas" eight. Guess who cost extra if you wanted a "complete" set of nine?

You bet. Rudolph, or Rudy, as he's known here.

I thought about it for a few days and then didn't buy any more reindeer that season. They knew a sucker when they mailed the catalog.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 17th

I am not an artist with the paint brush, no matter the medium. When we paint pumpkins at the library for our annual fall sale, I can base paint and fill in the colors. It takes my friend Carole and her narrow little brush to bring my creation to life.

But many years ago, I was under the delusion that perhaps I could learn to paint. Our beloved back neighbor Lucille was an artist, both in oils and on china. Bless her heart, she tried and tried with me. It finally came to the point that we were just visiting and I was fiddling with a brush while she went behind me and brought it to life.

One year, sensing my boredom, she suggested we paint Christmas ornaments. I bought a box of gold ones and attempted a scene on each, one for each of us, with a name "artfully" displayed on the other side. This is my husband's. You can see I chose not to balance the glass ball on the scanner bed and try for the scene on the other side.

But no matter how stiff my efforts, I love these ornaments because they remind me of Lucille.

In the meantime, I'll stick to painting with words. They are more easily edited.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 16th

I knew almost from first meeting of my husband that he was an Eagle Scout. It was very important to him and therefore, when we had two sons, it became very important to the whole family. I was a den leader, then a Cubmaster. My husband became a Webelo leader and Scoutmaster. Our sons earned their Eagle Scout rank. Along the way, I began to collect Boy Scout memorabilia, and although I'm not as active doing it as I once was, I keep an eye out for something old and rare which might fit nicely into my Scout case.

So it's logical that one ornament on our tree celebrates Scouting. It's actually a three-dimensional ornament, but for scanner's sake, it's been reduced to flat.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 15th

Why I was so late to the game on this set of ornaments, I'll never know. But three years ago, there was an article on the local e-news (have you noticed that things are ON the internet newspapers but IN the paper newspapers?) about the Texas Capitol Gift Shop ornaments. They've been marketing these lovely pieces for years! Usually they copy some element of the Capitol itself. This one is just a bit different, as it features the six flags.

They also allow you to order the older ones, up to a point. So in 2008 (or so), I ordered the 2000 one, which is this one. Then I thought, wouldn't these be a nice gift? So I've ordered one each year for my English "opposite number", ie, my son's mother-in-law, so a little bit of Texas hangs on a London Christmas tree.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 14th

A few days before Christmas each year, our door bell rings and there stands friend Julia with a gift from her kitchen. Often, it's a coffee cake; always it's delicious. Attached to the top will be an ornament, often made of a tiny clothespin, like this snowman.

These are favorites of mine: it's clip and go! They snap into the tree, whether snowman or angel or Santa, and hang there to delight.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 13th

Hmmm... yes, the image is a bit fuzzy on the bottom but that's the way it is trying to squeeze a three dimensional object onto a scanner bed. This is a spoon with an 'S' on the end of the handle. It's from the Hotel Statler (a Hilton property at one time, I believe because Mother always referred to it as The Statler Hilton) and no, it did not come home with me from a dinner. I found it in a pile of old silverware at a flea market.

My goal was to find four spoons with an 'S' on the end, that way I could have four Santas, one for each of us and one for each of the sons. That plan has mushroomed into needing, at minimum and for the moment, eight, so it's just as well that I only have two.

A friend painted the Santa on them. Indeed, she painted several and sold them at the library bazaar. My two with an 'S' (Sheraton, flea market) were a special order.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 12th

I loved this ornament the minute friend Carol gave it to me. It glows from within because you place it on a tree light. Quite conveniently, there's a hole in the bottom.

It reminds me of Sunday School as a child. There was a small white church which lit up in one of the classrooms. It also looks vaguely like the church across the street and when its beautiful, antique stained glass windows are lit at night, I have the best view in town.

It's warm and inviting, just as church should be. And there's not really anything else to say on the matter.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 11th

Isn't he a happy fellow?

Twenty five years ago, give or take one or two, the women of the church decided to have a Christmas bazaar. This Cowboy Santa was one of a set of 6 ornaments we cut and sewed together. There were two different angels, a snowman, a more traditional Santa, and a 'NOEL.' I can't remember what we sold them for, nor if we copied or designed them ourselves, something I'm not capable of, but there was a real artist in the group.

I remember these ornaments, however, not for the artistry involved nor the labor, but for the camaraderie we had as we worked on a group project, donating time, effort and materials. In the end, we received far more in return.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 10th

In a household of males, sports can be a big deal. (Of course, I know they can be in a household of females, too, but they'd be different?) Each year I would try to find a representative sports ornament, such as a basketball when Matt was playing or snow skis for Daniel. When they moved out and formed their own households, I handed over their sports ornaments.

Which must mean that this one and the other bowling ones belong to my husband. Although the scanner was not particularly kind to it, it's a Santa face on a bowling pin. I thought it was cute. Dated 1994 and a reminder of all the games--all sorts of games--we watched and cheered for.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 9th

And then there are the clowns in my life.

I've had quite a run with raccoons and this ornament is a reminder of them all. Given to me by friend Marsha the year after my first adventure, the one where wily raccoon number 1 managed to break in through the pet door and amble down the hall at will, I've always hung it in a prominent place.

Marsha and my spouse got a big kick out of it. I store it in the attic.

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24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 8th

Ah, the Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego. We had a lovely week there about 15 years ago. I toured the top "dome" and talked the front desk into letting me into the ballroom so I could practice my songs on the piano for the Easter cantata at church. We stayed in the original building, in an odd little corner room with a view of the roof. The bathroom was terribly small and the crack under the door into the hall terribly large. I would love to go back.

This is just one of the "vacation" Christmas ornaments we've picked up. I keep it in its special box. Others include Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Glacier Bay in Montana (a gift from my in-laws), the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg TN, and Alaska.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 7th

While we're on homemade ornaments, we might as well go all the way to this charmer. Yes, that's a thumbprint in the center of a nursery school/day care creation. The date on the back is 1983. There are two of these, supposedly one per day care attendee. They may have made it at Thanksgiving, but it's a Christmas tradition now. The shrinky-dink turkeys were gone long ago, but pipe cleaners and paper would appear to last forever.

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24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 6th

What is so funny about this ornament is that it's not pink! Why the red didn't come through, I've no idea. Perhaps there was too much light coming onto the scanner although I covered it up with a blanket to block the sun. But that's neither here nor there.

This little snowman was one of two styrofoam ball creations crocheted for my sons when they were little by a wonderful woman named Faye. This is the survivor. The other, one in purple cap and scarf, went by the wayside some years ago. Now seeing this ornament reminds me of a wonderful older couple who were lots of fun to be with and who had quite a regard for my children.

It also reminds me to dig into the cedar chest and get out that other piece of Christmas which Faye crocheted for us, a green and red Santa commode lid cover. And, no, Santa is not covering his eyes!

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24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 5th

This is a tiny book which doesn't open. It is the last remaining ornament from a collection of small children's ornaments sent to us 25-30 years ago from my Australian penpal, Julie. There were small angels and elves and a silver garland wreath among other things. Over the years, they were broken or lost or they just wore out. But this book stays and every year as I pull it (gently now) from the box, I remember Julie and her family.

Once upon a time, before there was email, at Christmas time we would record audio cassette tapes for each other, a device which seems to be universal in a way that DVD movies are not. Before we went to Australia in 2008, I transferred all of her audio tapes to CDs and mailed them to her. Now she also has a recorded diary of her life as a young mother. She can hear her children's voices and listen to her husband's stories as told to people a half-world away.

Merry Christmas, Julie and Wil and Nathan and Sarah.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 4th

Reindeer, kangaroos, and cats. That pretty much sums up the animals allowed on the tree, although there are exceptions. Today we feature a cat. Not just any cat, of course. A Chico's cat.

For several years, Chico's stores put up a Christmas tree and hung it with various metal ornaments. Over the years, they became more elaborate and I think I might actually own 75% of the styles. This cat is one of several felines in my possession. My habit got so bad, that I would place them on a copy machine and keep the resultant copy with my November calendar pages so I wouldn't re-buy what I already had. That worked all but once.

This year, Chico's has moved on, having exhausted the ornament idea. But I'm still enjoying my cats. And dogs. Reindeer. Stars. A lady in a car...

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24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 3rd

I didn't expect it to be this hard to decide which ornament would come next. I do know which will be last, my husband's favorite, but in between? Maybe I should just close my eyes and let my trackpad and finger do the choosing.

In lieu of that, I've chosen this white kangaroo. If you look closely, you might see the year 2005 on the tip of his tail. That's the year of our first trip to Australia. I found this wonderful keepsake (and really I'm surprised I didn't see more kangaroo Christmas ornaments during the trip--talk about a tourist trap!) in a shop on the Circular Quay in Sydney. He had several things going for him: price, size, easy packability. Being a symbol of Australia didn't hurt plus we're graduates of Austin College which has as its mascot, the kangaroo.

A no-brainer, so he joined the kangaroo sub-collection of the Christmas tree.

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24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 2nd

If my mother's Christmas trees had a theme, it was determined by color. One year the flocked aluminum tree sported all green balls, the next red. I don't remember there being cutesy Santas or handmade pipecleaner efforts on the tree. Mother was all about symmetry.

None of that rubbed off on me. Or, perhaps it did, just in the opposite way. Our tree, as you're going to see, is all about memory--and a few reindeer. And cats. And kangaroos.

Today's featured ornament is the latest to be added to my collection. I found it at an antique show in Austin this past weekend. Technically, I don't think it's an ornament. It's felt and about 5x7. There's a way to hang it on the top. I saw it in the booth and went to it like a fly to honey. I loved the stylistic antlers. I picked it up, then noticed there were 4 others of the same ilk, just different colors and drawings. I don't remember them. I turned it over and read "Paul, Vi, and Debbie." So, what did the others say? Three were "Paul and Vi", one other as the reindeer. A growing family--now at an antique show, discarded by Debbie?

But, now I knew they were greeting cards! Of felt! I wonder why that didn't last?

The man in the booth noticed my interest. "Four for $12," he told me.

"There are five of them."

"Five for 12."

But I didn't want the yellow and violet and red and blue ones. I wanted the green reindeer. I put it down and walked away.

"Or one for $3."

He had me and he knew it.

My newest reindeer had a new home.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

24 Days of Ornaments: Dec the 1st

It occurred to me as I was hanging ornaments on the tree that while I know the stories behind them, it might be fun to share with my blog readers what makes them worthy of a hang upon my tree. So I'm going to try to spend the next 24 days, our Christmas countdown, sharing the story of an ornament, or group of ornaments. I'll scan them in, so the results may not always be uniform, but we'll give it a whirl.

Appropriately enough, I'll start with the star of our previous days' stories, the topper angel. I took this photo with my phone since I didn't think she'd lie down well enough to scan. She looks all angelic now, but we know we found her with the snowman. This year, when she goes into storage, I think I'll put her downstairs in the VIP boxes where I can keep an eye on her. After all, I don't know what all goes on in the attic.

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