De-Ornamenting the Trees 2022

I had originally posted this a few years ago, but decided to update it for this year,

I think I just invented a new word in 2018. Maybe. But it sure says what I’m feeling right now!

De-ornamenting. Better known as taking down the Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. Returning to whatever state of normalcy we live in the rest of the year.

We actually have 8 Christmas trees every year. Well, if you want to be technical there’s actually now 12, but the skinny white flamingo tree in the Florida room stays up all year with its clear mini lights and huge assortment of the various flamingo decorations we’ve collected over the years. And there are now three 2 foot little trees which are in the kitchen, our granddaughters’ guest bedroom, and my craft studio, but they only take a few minutes to take down. There’s also a lighted palm tree in the far corner of our family room, with its clear lights and eclectic collection of beach and a few extra flamingo ornaments that wouldn’t fit on the other tree, but we don’t count that one. (If you missed my blog series “Each Tree Has a Story” check it out to see all these trees in their full grlory!)

And yes, putting up all those trees is a lot of work, along with hanging the stockings, putting out the silk poinsettias, and decorating the foyer ledge in a holiday theme. It takes several days. But it was worth it. And it’s worth it every year.

Because there’s just something special about the beauty of Christmas decorations. The sparkling lights, the candles, the shiny ornaments on the trees, and the magnificent sight of so many homes lit up with colorful and imaginative lighted displays in front yards. It just gives each home a touch of brand new elegance, and when the only light in your living room or family room comes from that Christmas tree, it just feels different. Almost magical, with an air of expectancy. The perfect room for enjoying time with family and friends.

And then in all too short a time, it’s all over. It’s time to take everything down, pack it carefully away, and wait another year to bring it back and create those feelings all over again. Even thought taking it down is a bit quicker, it’s still an awful lot of work.

Many people say they’re done with it all the day after Christmas Day, and can’t wait to pull everything down and put things back the way they were. Before the decorating…before the transformation began…before the magical beauty entered their home and took over, just for an all too brief time. Maybe they just don’t feel that special sense of magic that some of us do.

I’m just the opposite. I dread taking down all the decorations. Not because of all the work involved, because my husband and I do it together as a team. But because I just don’t like giving up the sparkle…the glow…and the special feelings that all the decorations bring, not only to our home, but to our lives. There’s a special feeling in our home when all those trees are decorated and lighted that just appears for that one all-too-short time. I really can’t describe the feeling. But I know there are more of you out there that feel the same way.

A few of our friends have actually left their trees up and just changed the theme. One friend re-did hers as a winter tree with icicles, silver ornaments, and snowmen. Another friend re-did hers in a Mardi Gras theme. Well, I do keep our flamingo tree up year round, so i guess I’m right there with them.

Spending the weekend removing and carefully packing up ornaments was not fun. And we’re still not quite done. It wasn’t just all the tedious work involved in doing it. It was thinking about all the memories so many of those ornaments evoked. My grandmother’s glass birds that have survived over 100 Christmases still intact. The ornaments that graced my mother’s tree when she still put one up. The special ornaments memorializing my husband’s and my first Christmas together…our daughter’s first Christmas. And now our two granddaughters’ first Christmas ornaments, along with framed picture ornaments of our daughter’s wedding the grandchildren growing up, and their trips to see Santa Claus.

Now there are empty spots in our rooms where the trees were. Not literally, because the furniture we moved to make room for our Christmas trees is slowly going back into place. But it still takes while to have it feel “right” again. But it will. In a few weeks or so. And we’ll forget about all the beauty and “specialness” of those Christmas decorations until about ten months later until it’s time to start thinking about it again.

But then the cycle starts again as the next Christmas season approaches and we once again get to experience that special excitement, that magical feeling as the trees once again are dressed in their familiar splendor with, of course, a few new ornaments that we traditionally add every year.

Am I looking ahead already? Of course! Because I’m already looking forward to that special magic that starts to happen when we start putting it all back together again. And we don’t wait til after Thanksgiving any more to start decorating.

Or maybe we could even do Christmas in July? Maybe a beach themed masterpiece. Decorated shells and starfish…clear ornaments with sea glass and sand inside of them…some kind of beachy garland…maybe on a blue Christmas tree? What do you think? Who wants to help join in the fun?

Gingerbread House Fails Inspection

I really didn’t plan on having a second blog on this subject, at least not this Christas season.

Christmas may be over, but there are still a few stories left to tell.

But since I did buy those four little gingerbread house kits right before Thanksgiving, I thought, what the heck?!

And as you may have already guessed, it certainly wasn’t the greatest of Christmas projects. The granddaughters still had fun, as kids usually do. But Mom and Grandmom? Not so much.

I think I mentioned in my previous gingerbread story I’d ordered these cute gingerbread house kits on line because they weren’t in stock in the store. Not in any of the stores in our area. Being a regular online shopper, it shouldn’t have been a problem, right? Well, it wasn’t. Until we opened the first two kits and several pieces were broken. And of course they were the little reindeer gingerbread cookies that the younger granddaughter wanted to do, and the sparkly pink cottage the older one wanted to make.  And none of the stores had received any more.

So on to the set of the four small gingerbread chalets.  Shouldn’t be too bad, right? Actually they’re really cute. Right?

Notice I said there were FOUR of them. Yes, they were small, but what was I thinking when I ordered them? That was four times putting together houses, icing the walls and the roofs, making sure they all stayed “glued” together til the icing hardened…. Why did I do that? And yes, I was also thinking to myself, why weren’t THESE the ones that were broken?

As you’ve guessed, the construction job is left to me. My daughter doesn’t have the patience. She and her daughters like the decorating part.

So being the good grandmother that I am, I set out to construct the FOUR little houses. Which came in a block of pieces that needed to be (carefully) broken apart in order to make the house.  And I do have to confess, I almost wanted them to break in the wrong places so I’d have an excuse not to put them together. But being a good grandmother, I separated the pieces carefully, and none of them broke. Would it be wrong of me to say “unfortunately”? Yeah, probably.

Actually, three out of the four went together fairly easy. It was that last one with the funky side roof that didn’t. If you look carefully, the roof sort of has a gap in it.  Which was filled in with a lot of the “snow” icing, which will most likely cause it to fall in. Our son in law said it most certainly failed the final building inspection! (I’m not even sure it had a building permit to start!)

But I guess the other three don’t look all that bad. At least the girls had fun decorating them, and getting almost as many candy decorations and sprinkles on the floor as they did on the houses.

Of course, as luck would have it, when we returned the broken kits, the cashier told us they had pre-assembled gingerbread houses in the Christmas department which only needed the icing and candy decorations to be added to it. Well…….let me tell you how quickly we bought one of those!

You certainly don’t think I’d try to make one from scratch, do you? After all, these were difficult enough!

And even better, guess whose job it was to help his daughters decorate that house! And Daddy did a really good job!  I think we have a new assignment for him next Christmas. Why not?

After Christmas Blues?

Yes, it happens. It’s real. And there are reasons it happens to some people, most of us, really, to some degree. It’s a natural reaction.

Think about it for a minute. 

You work so hard at preparing for this one big, important day. For many of us it starts before Thanksgiving. We’re bombarded with Christmas shopping ads on the radio, TV, and social media almost as soon as Halloween is over. 

Suddenly the stores are filling with gift ideas and holiday decorations. Craft stores are stuffed with Christmas goodies of every kind to make special gifts and fun projects for the kids and grandkids. You’re hearing wall to wall Christmas music everywhere you go.

It’s already overwhelming and it’s not even Thanksgiving.

There’s an unspoken push to rush to get everything done so you can have a picture perfect Christmas. Which actually doesn’t exist, by the way.

We’re almost as bad in our household. Our ten trees (yes, ten; read my series describing them “Each Tree Has a Story”) go up every year now before Thanksgiving. Why? Because I love the beauty of them and the way it brightens our home. It’s a lot of work, but I really do enjoy it.

But then there’s shopping, baking, gift wrapping (thank goodness for my husband who enjoys it), visits to Santa with the grandkids, Christmas lists, parties (well, not so many of them in recent years). It’s almost an overload, and for some people it is.

Instead of taking time to enjoy the beauty and peace of the season, many of us frantically rush around and knock ourselves out trying to be sure every little detail is perfect. Our lists have lists, even.

It just gets totally crazy. 

And for those with kids, it’s even crazier, because they’re so excited about Santa Claus, and presents they just can’t wait. “How many more days, Mommy?” is heard at least ten times a day, or so it begins to seem.

It’s exhausting. 

And Christmas Eve sometimes brings panic in procrastinators who put everything off til the last minute. Those of us with lists go over them two or three more times to be sure everything is done, from presents for everyone on our lists to Christmas Day breakfast and dinner. Do we have everything?  What did we forget? Instead of breathing a sigh of relief and relaxing, our nerves are on edge. 

Then comes Christmas Day with all the madness. All the carefully wrapped gifts are torn open, wrapping paper and bows discarded everywhere, and quickly the room where presents are opened goes from beautiful anticipation of what’s inside those boxes and bags to a blur of chaos, trashed paper, and boxes piled around everywhere. And at our home, the grandkids deciding to play with the empty gift bags and putting the dogs’ toys in them to give as more “gifts”.

And suddenly it’s over. Done. All that hard work for an hour or two of excitement.

And now what? We have our traditional dinner and eat too much, friends and families may drop by, and then suddenly it’s over, almost as quickly as it began that morning. 

To some of us it means another Christmas of happy memories to cherish. To some it’s a relief that it’s all over and things can return to normal again. To some it’s the opportunity to go out the next day and collect more things on sale for next Christmas. Like we really need to do that.

But for many others, it’s a sense of letdown. There’s nothing left to anticipate. There’s nothing to plan for right away. Nothing to look forward to with excitement. Just the remnants that have to be put away for another year.

Or for some, it’s disappointment that Christmas didn’t measure up to what they expected, what they wanted, or what they hoped for. All that hype and preparation, and for what?

Suddenly life returns with a vengeance. All the things we put out of our minds for this special time quickly come back, and once again we’re overwhelmed in a different way. This beautiful time of friends and family and joy we just experienced is gone. 

Or so it seems. We think about how we’d like to go back to those feelings we had on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but sadly, the magic seems to be have left when the clock struck midnight. And now the winter is ahead and we realize it’s back to our day to day world. As if Christmas never happened.

We miss that anticipation of something wonderful being about to happen. And worry about what life is going to bring next. And it depresses a lot of people.

Why can’t every day have the excitement of Christmas? Wouldn’t it be nice? But then, we’d lose the sense of excitement of those special days in our lives.

Why not start changing your outlook now by taking a moment each day to think about something you’re anticipating. Not the daily dreading of a day that might not go as you’d like, but the anticipation that something wonderful could happen at any time. Something to look forward to.

A surprise phone call. A chance meeting with someone you never expected. A friend bringing good news. Reconnecting with people you haven’t seen in months, or even years.

Something great can happen at any time. And it usually does when you least expect it. 

Because not everything wonderful that happens is limited to Christmas. That’s just the beginning. It’s time to turn those blues into sunshine.

Remembrances of Holidays Past

Unfortunately I only vaguely remember a few holidays spent with my family with my dad also there. Being only eight years old when he died wasn’t an easy thing, because it robbed me of so many memories I’d never have the opportunity to make. Oh, I do have some fuzzy ones in which we were all seated at my grandmother’s huge ornate walnut dining table, with her and my mom and my aunts bringing in huge plates of food, and my grandfather bowing his head and saying his quick “grace” before we all dug in to eat. But unfortunately, they are, as I said, fuzzy. Faces blur with time, as do my memories of who was really there at those early family holiday meals when my grandparents were still alive.

But the years have a way of fast-forwarding. Children grow up, adults grow older, and loved ones are gradually no longer with us. Holidays become increasingly difficult because our most special loved ones are living only in our memories, and our memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases past are sometimes remembered as being a lot more “perfect” than they ever actually were.

And we’re bombarded with holiday commercials where we see families joyously sitting down together, a perfect meal on the perfectly set table, adults and children alike beautifully dressed up, everyone laughing and smiling, clinking glasses together in holiday toasts, Christmas carols playing in the background, and perfectly wrapped presents under a perfectly decorated Christmas tree.

Those are my real holiday memories. They were fun. We enjoyed being together, and never even thought about not being the “perfect” picture postcard family gathering. We were Just Plain Family. And yes, I miss those days.

I totally understand now why my mom and her sisters used to talk about “the old days” when we were younger. Because now those “old days” I just described, that to me are just memories from what seems just a few years ago, are now “the old days” in the eyes of my daughter and her friends. How I wish I knew what “the old days” had really been like for my mother when she and her sisters and brothers were younger.

As the holiday season is ready to culminate this week with our Christmas Day celebration, I still long to look back and relive the memories of those family Christmases so long ago. But those special times, as I’ve said, still live on in the memories in my mind, shared by just a few who are still with us. We’re all scattered now, and yes, we’ve all made our own new traditions now, just as our daughter Ashley and her husband Chris and their two daughters will be doing again this year.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I know many of my friends are going through similar feelings, for various reasons. It’s normal, and it’s a part of life. We’re expected to automatically be happy at this most festive season of the year, a season that celebrates love and family. But many of us are almost forced to hide our feelings behind smiles that we force ourselves to wear, because we think we’re the only ones feeling this way. We’re afraid to let anyone else know; but chances are, many of those we meet while wearing that smile, are wearing that same forced smile, because they’re hurting, too.

The next time you start feeling like that, don’t be embarrassed. Don’t think you’re alone. If you’re having a tough time, you’re not the only one. If you’re hurting, you’re hurting. And it’s OK to feel that way, because there’s a loss there that is still all too real, whether the loss is recent, or months or even years ago.

You may be bombarded right now with all kinds of reminders of the holiday season that trigger your emotions. Scents of spicy pumpkin, pine and spruce trees, or fresh-baked Christmas cookies. Colored lights on a tree, or glowing candles. A child’s laughter, or the sounds of Christmas carols. Though these reminders evoke memories of happier times that are now in the past, let them also be a reminder that there ARE better times coming, new memories to be made, and new delights in the smile of new friends who are yet to come into your world. While it may be difficult now, the hope and joy that is Christmas, and always has been Christmas, is just around the corner, waiting to be found. Find one thing that makes you the happiest right now, and share it with someone else as your gift to them. It’ll make you feel a bit better that you were able to share with someone, and it just may very well do the same thing for that person, too. They may end up doing the same for someone else.

We never know how we’ll impact someone else with just a small gesture, especially during this very special season. Make it your gift to someone else, even if you don’t know them. Isn’t that part of what the Christmas spirit is all about? You may be surprised at how much better it makes you feel that you’ve been able to bless someone else.

I know I’m going to try it.

The Magic of Santa Claus

There’s something special about believing in Santa Claus when you’re a child. I remember how excited I became the closer it got to Christmas, just thinking about what I might find under the tree Christmas morning. I remember being so excited I could hardly go to sleep on Christmas Eve. 

My mom made sure we left cookies and milk out for him on Christmas Eve, and she always emphasized that I had to stay in bed and get to sleep so he’d come with all the presents. It was sure hard to do.

But somehow I managed to go to sleep and sleep through the night (oh, how I wish I could do that now!) and wake up so excited I didn’t know what to do!

And I was always even more excited when I looked under the tree at the wrapped presents that hadn’t been there the night before. He’d been there! He really had! Santa Claus himself! And I knew it because he’d also left some cookie crumbs on the plate and almost finished the milk in his glass. I knew he was real.

That special feeling of wonder and excitement just can’t be duplicated. Children need that wonderment, that excitement, that feeling of awe and amazement that only comes once a year, on Christmas morning, under that Christmas tree.

I still remember when one of my friends told me there was no Santa Claus, and I came home from school so upset I didn’t know what to do. When I told my mother about it though, I didn’t ask her if my friend was correct. Because I knew in my heart she was wrong. I told my mom I was upset because now my friend wouldn’t have Santa visit her anymore and bring her presents.

Ahhh….the wonder and magic of Santa Claus to a child at Christmas is just indescribable sometimes.

 And it’s so important.

Our adult minds can’t fathom and certainly can’t believe in the man in the red suit who never ages and who lives in the utter cold of the North Pole with his wife and a bunch of elves who spend all year working tirelessly to make one night the most special one ever for children around the world.

We can’t fathom how this man can get in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, of all things, filled with an inexhaustible supply of toys and gifts, and deliver them to every child in the world on Christmas Eve, stopping long enough at each house to also sample the cookies and milk left out for him by sleeping children.

We can’t understand it with our adult minds because we’ve lost the gift of imagination. We’ve lost the ability, and perhaps even the desire, to see things the way we used to, when the world was a far different place. Many of us have become jaded and cynical, preferring to stomp on the dreams and imagination of others because we don’t believe, and we want others to agree with us, and validate our truths.

Let me tell you this, the wonder and excitement and joy I see in the eyes of our granddaughters when they think about Santa Claus, when they see him, when they talk about him…that’s all I need to know how real he is.

And I briefly go back to being that little girl in this picture seeing Santa Claus in Wanamaker’s department store and telling him what I want for Christmas and knowing (hopefully) I’m going to get it.

I see the excitement in our older granddaughter’s eyes and hear it in her voice when she holds this little green Beanie Baby reindeer we have with our decorations and saying how she really, REALLY wants Santa to bring her one like it. And talks about how she’s going to introduce hers to this one and let them play together.

And guess what. I truly believe Santa is going to do just that. 

Because he’s Santa Claus.

And for those who don’t believe, or don’t want their children to believe, well I have to say I’m sorry, because you really don’t know what you’re missing out on.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 5

Today’s homes don’t usually have a formal dining room, opting for a big eat-in kitchen or a gathering room, an all-purpose room where family and friends can eat together in a casual setting.

The house I grew up in had a formal dining room, and I had that as well in several of my homes. The house we live in now is no exception, and because we’d added a few feet on to the living room to accommodate my piano, the dining room beside it is a bit oversized as well. But since I have my mom’s large dining set and the bar cabinet my grandfather made, it all fits together perfectly.

Except at Christmas time, when it just seemed a little dark, compared to the living room with its big fancy tree.

And like the area by the fish tank, there’s a corner in the dining room that has a large silk tree in it that could easily be moved for the holidays…

When I told my husband my brilliant idea for yet another tree, he reminded me we hardly ever use the dining room. 

Except at Thanksgiving and Christmas I reminded him, and people could see that tree as well when they walk in the house….it would really look great.

And another 5 foot tree just sort of appeared a few days later, right in that corner. 

I hadn’t really thought about a theme, but since Christmas colors are red and green, I decided to use those colors and just go from there.

Of course I started looking through the ornaments I had on our family room tree, to see what I could move around (and make room for more ornaments on that one, of course). I found a number of red ornaments, and birds, and a few similar creatures, and all of a sudden the ideas started flowing.

It started off fairly simple, but in a few short years, it quickly filled up (imagine that) with a collection of red and white birds, including my grandmother’s little antique glass birds perched carefully on the branches, fancy pine cones, and some adorable little woodland creatures. And since our two Yorkies have a “thing” for squirrels, there are several of those on the tree as well. The dogs aren’t allowed in there unsupervised, of course, or those animals would probably not survive.

The finishing touch was adding a number of our acrylic dated Hallmark ornaments to it, making the tree really sparkle. 

This year I added a couple of strands of garland made with red Buffalo plaid wooden beads, and that really set it off even more.

Lots of our friends have said this is their favorite tree. But I love them all!

And there’s still a few more to come. As you’ll see in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 6” to be published December 15.

Christmas Cork Crafting

Since I have a large collection of wine corks I decided to do something more with them this year  than the garland and ornaments I’d already made a few years ago.

So I got the brilliant idea to make some of those wine cork Christmas trees I’d seen all over Pinterest. How hard could they be, I asked myself? They really look fairly easy.

Sort of. But what you don’t realize is that wine corks aren’t all the same size. Some are longer than others. Some are thinner. And try as you might, they don’t always fit on that styrofoam cone the way you want them to. It was a bit of a challenge at first.

But I was determined to make it work, and I finally did. They aren’t perfect, but then again, that’s part of the fun of crafting. Each piece I make is unique, my own creation. And I’m probably my own worst critic, not always happy with what I make, even though most people don’t notice the imperfections I see.

It was also a bit of a challenge decorating them, because I wanted to do something different. I’ve had a collection of large metal beads for several years that I’d originally bought for wine cork bottle jewelry, and while those turned out well, they just weren’t that popular. So what to do with the leftover beads has been a challenge. They weren’t quite right for most of my bracelets, but I couldn’t bear to get rid of them.

However they were just right for my wine cork trees. Their slightly curved shape fit perfectly around the corks in strategic places that needed a fill-in or a pop of color. So I ended up designing the trees around the beads.

And no, I’m not going to sell any of them this year. I’d have to charge too much for my time! But they are fun to make, except when I get the hot glue all over my fingers. That hurts!

I’ve also just completed my first wine cork snowman, based on more photos on Pinterest. He was a lot easier than the trees, and I think the plaid Christmas ornament hat (from the dollar store of course) really makes him festive! And even better, my husband painted the corks white for me. And if you try it, be sure to paint it after your snowman is assembled and glued together. Much easier and it saves on paint.

What next? Well I do have some styrofoam cones left, so you never know….

Or I may find another hat and make another snowman. Or I could just make my own hat for him. You can still use snowmen after Christmas!

Have you done any special crafts this season? Or maybe some wine cork trees? Feel free to post pictures in the comments section. We’d sure love to see them!

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 3

Since I was sure we needed another tree, I had to figure out a reason for doing it that my husband would agree with. While he’s usually pretty good at seeing things my way, well, I wasn’t sure about something like this. I also didn’t know what it would lead to.

When I first mentioned it to him he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. But after a little bit of giving all the good reasons for doing it, like the living room is the first room guests see when they come in, it would look pretty through the windows at night, and I just really thought we NEEDED it, he sort of agreed. 

Then he asked how I’d decorate it. Good question.

But one of my contractors had just given me a Christmas ornament a few days before which was a cat dressed as an angel. Why? Because I’d shared with him earlier that year how we’d almost lost our white Fluffy cat to a bladder blockage, and how we knew he had a guardian angel that saved him, with the help of our excellent vet of course. My contractor told me he saw the ornament and just thought I needed to have it!

So I told my husband it needed to be an angel tree and that kitty angel ornament would always be on there to remind us that miracles still happen. 

How could he refuse that? So a new 7 foot tree appeared in the living room within a few days! Coincidentally that same year, our local craft store had a ton of Christmas picks that were different styles of angels, and they were conveniently on sale. So obviously I bought several dozen of them and made them into ornaments, and they’ve been on that tree ever since.

Of course, over the years new ornaments have appeared, and now although the tree still features the angels and my kitty angel ornament, it also has jeweled butterflies, glass roses (my mom’s favorite flower), and loads of other delicate ornaments in shades of pink and rose. (Remember, you have to get a couple new ornaments every year for each tree. Just to keep it interesting.)

You can see we even have lights with acrylic roses added to them that my mother gave us many years ago.

As you can see from the pictures, it’s a beautiful tree, and everyone loves the story of why we started it.

Obviously though, that wasn’t the end of the trees….

So be sure to read about the next one in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 4” to be published on December 10.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 2

Yes, I do love Christmas trees. For me, the Christmas season starts as soon as the first tree is decorated. It just brings such a festive, happy feeling to the house. And yes, I did say the “first” tree. As you’ve probably figured out by now, we do have more than one.

I’ve always had a Christmas tree every year, even after I had places of my own. I started collecting ornaments my last year in college, and actually still have a few from those early years. They were inexpensive ones, of course, but I bought them because I liked them, and even almost fifty years ago, my tree had a theme to it. I liked the strands of plastic popcorn and candy for the garland, as well as the cupcakes and cookie shaped ornaments and a set of pink popcorn shaped ornaments that I still have, although they’re now on another tree. (Some of my ornaments do move around.)  

But I’ve come a long way from that first tree that I created for myself.

When my husband and I were first together, he helped me decorate my tree. We collected new ornaments together, and we still have a very special Hallmark ornament “First Christmas Together”.  It quickly became a tradition every year to collect at least one special ornament that was dated, so we could watch the progression of our life together. Our family Christmas tree was created.

Of course, it wasn’t just one ornament a year…more like four or five. Four or five each time I’d go out Christmas shopping, that is. After all, they were there in the stores, staring at me from those display trees, and well, I just couldn’t resist some of them. They were so cute. And I knew they’d look perfect on our tree.

There’s always room for one more ornament, isn’t there? And we had a big tree…

And there really wasn’t a theme then. Like most of you, I imagine, I just started collecting ornaments I liked, and because a Christmas tree can really be anything you want it to be, that tree became a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes. Candies, animals, Santa Clauses and snowmen, flamingos, and oh yes, let’s not forget all the Hallmark Barbie ornaments. I don’t think I missed a year of not getting at least one, and now if I find one on eBay I don’t have, well, let’s just say I make sure it joins my collection. But more on that later.

It turned out that we didn’t have a big enough tree after all, because after our daughter was born, we had to have the Hallmark series ornaments for Baby’s First Christmas, and then the rest of them which went through year five. And yes, they’re still on there. Of course we started collecting a lot of ornaments with children’s themes then, many of which I’ve actually given to our daughter now for her tree.

Still, that one tree kept getting fuller and fuller every year, but I still had to have just one or two (or five or six) more ornaments each year. It was tradition. After all, it was our family Christmas tree. And it was filled with a wide array of different ornaments we’d collected over our years together, so many that I was actually running out of branches to put them on.

I soon realized that one 7 1/2 foot tree in the corner of our family room just wasn’t going to be enough any more. And looking around the house, I realized the rooms looked kind of plain compared to the family room, even with all the silk poinsettias and holly and other decorations sitting around.

So what do you do?

That answer should be obvious. I’ll tell you all about that in a few more days. Watch for “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 3” to be published on December 8.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 1

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by Christmas trees. Whether they’re decorated in restaurants and store windows and displays, part of an outside holiday display, or in someone’s (or my) home, there’s just something almost magical about the beauty of a Christmas tree.

For me, it just seems to evoke all the feelings of the season…peace, joy, beauty, and love. The sparkling lights and the ornaments, whether glass or acrylic, homemade or purchased from stores, or made lovingly by little hands for special family gifts, are beautiful reminders of things and people we love, as well as the beauty of the Christmas season.

When I was growing up, we always had a real tree. Of course back then there were very few artificial trees, and the ones available didn’t really look that great. (And remember those silver aluminum ones with the colored swirling light in front of it that changed color? I think we all had one! What were we thinking?)

I do vaguely remember my father bringing home a tree each year about a week before Christmas so he and my mom could decorate it just in time for Santa. It would sit outside in a pail of water for a few days to keep it fresh until it was time to bring it inside. I didn’t help much, of course, because I was too young. I certainly couldn’t help with the strings of lights, and the ornaments were glass and fragile, and broke easily, and we always had a colorful glass sphere on the top of it. 

I did get to help throw those aluminum icicles on it after everything else was hung. I just loved that finishing touch. And for those of you in my age group, I’m sure you remember the same thing. And weren’t they messy as could be when it was time to take that tree down? I don’t think they’re even made anymore. And if they are I’d never get them again!

But every year, once that tree was decorated, I thought it was the most beautiful tree ever! Those old, now vintage, ornaments were so special.

And because the tree was real, we had to water it every day so it wouldn’t dry out. Plus the old lights weren’t nearly as safe as the ones now, and there were lots of Christmas tree fires back then from overheated or frayed tree lights.

And those needles made a mess when they started dropping, so we had to constantly vacuum around it, but it sure smelled good…just like Christmas!

Even then, I was always a bit sad when Christmas was over and we had to throw the tree out and pack up those shiny ornaments. It just didn’t seem fair for all that beauty to only be around such a short time. And back then, we could only leave it up for about two weeks before it started drying out too much to be safe.

After my father died, my mom and I always went together to get our tree from the Christmas tree lot set up in a vacant lot in town. It always smelled so good there, many times with a small fire burning in a barrel to keep the attendants, and the shoppers, warm. Sometimes they even served hot chocolate. We’d carefully pick out a tree, and they’d tie it on top of our car. 

Because my mom had no one to help her with it, especially after my aunt and uncle moved a couple hours away, a lot of years one of the men who’d been helping at the lot would follow us home and help get the tree set up for us. 

Yes, times were a lot different back then. And being in a small town, everyone tried to help out everyone else. Especially at Christmas.

Unfortunately I don’t have hardly any pictures of our Christmas trees growing up, and none in color, but in my mind’s eye I can still see them, and still see the colors in the ornaments and lights. Yes, they were old fashioned compared to today’s styles, but they were beautiful to us.

Unfortunately over the years most of those precious fragile ornaments have gotten broken. Between various moves and accidentally dropping some of them, which really upset me every time, there are only a few left, most of which are now used in decorative bowls of ornaments set around the house.

I couldn’t ever imagine Christmas without a tree and all those lights and ornaments; without the beauty they brought to our home, especially when I was a child with my father no longer with us.  And I’m sure if it hadn’t been for me, my mother wouldn’t have ever had another Christmas tree after he died.

I guess my love of Christmas trees sort of sprang from those childhood days, and has slowly evolved to the craziness my husband and I have now.

Craziness you ask? Well I’ve been told having a tree in almost every room is a little crazy, but then again, I’ve never claimed to be totally normal. But I like to collect things, so why not Christmas trees? 

Which I’ll tell you more about in a few more days. Watch for “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 2” to be published on December 6.

Making a Gingerbread House

All the pictures make it look so easy. Right?

Mom and the kids sitting around the table, maybe even with Grandmom, and happily frosting/gluing the pieces together, adding the candy, and then a perfect gingerbread house is completed.

May I ask you, have you ever really tried doing one? With or without kids? It’s really not as easy as those pictures show. And it definitely doesn’t always turn out like it looks like on the box. Even for those of us who are usually quite crafty.

How do I know? Well, last year my daughter and I decided to make one with the grandkids. At the time Rachel was 4 and a half; Ryleigh a year and a half. 

I guess I should’ve said my daughter and I decided to make one. While the kids watched. Or played something else. Or waited to eat the candy that went on it.

We’d actually done one the year before. That didn’t turn out well at all. Besides Rachel being a little too young to really be a lot of help, actually putting these together isn’t that easy. The sides and roof pieces that have to be assembled are “glued” with white frosting. The frosting doesn’t work like my hot glue gun! And getting them to stay upright and in place isn’t a piece of cake, or gingerbread, either! 

Trust me, our finished product from that year certainly isn’t worthy of being seen on here!

Last year though, was a bit easier. But only just a bit.  It may be because we used a different brand gingerbread house kit. Maybe because the grandkids were a year older. Or maybe we’d just learned from last year what NOT to do.

Our daughter learned what not to do. She learned that she had no patience in putting the sides and roof together. So guess who got the job? The same person who did it the year before. As you can see from the pictures.

And getting the roof on and actually getting it stay is almost an engineering project. But I did it. And when the frosting “glue” dried, it actually stayed together. That was an improvement over last year!

Next was the part our daughter and Rachel were looking forward to. Decorating the house. The kits contain all the candy needed for the houses, and there’s usually some left over. Which makes all the kids, big and little, quite happy.

And our daughter and older granddaughter really enjoyed putting the candy on, even though not all of it went on the house. What did little Ryleigh do? She watched for a few minute, grabbed a bit of the candy, and went back to playing and watching cartoons.

Fortunately the house turned out fairly well. We were all proud of our accomplishment. 

So proud, in fact I actually got another kit for them, and we all put together a gingerbread camper. Which wasn’t quite as difficult. Or else we’d learned a little more about how to do it.

So what do you think about our collection? Are you ready to try and do your own? You don’t even need to have kids or grandkids to try it. But that makes it more fun. 

Or you can do what our daughter did and order an acrylic one to put together. Much easier. And lasts a lot longer. Isn’t it cute? And you knew it had to have a flamingo with it!

Here are the finished products. What do you think?

To show how brave we’ve become after this, we now have four gingerbread kits to make this year. We may or may not write about those, depending on the finished products. But you never know!

And why not send your own gingerbread house pictures in a comment. We’d love to see them!

Happy holiday creating! The fun is just beginning!

A Season of Love?

Today is December 1. There are 24 days until Christmas. It’s the season of love; of hope; an almost magical time when we can actually begin to feel that spirit of anticipation. Of knowing that good things are going to happen.

It’s a time in which we should all begin to focus on what’s really important instead of complaining, griping, and spreading falsehoods and baseless theories about how things have been stolen away. Insulting others and name calling in order to make themselves look, well, I don’t really know what they think it makes them look like, but I think it makes them look small and petty. And even calling for people to rise up against others, many of those neighbors, friends, and even families, just because they don’t agree with you.

Christmas is a time to celebrate when love came into the world in the form of a tiny baby. A baby knows no hatred, bears no animosity to others. A baby looks at the new world around him and sees only wonder and awe. He sees not black and white, but a multitude of colors that fascinate him and cause him to want to explore each and every one.

So why are we so fixated on trying to make the world into something it is clearly not anymore? Why, especially in this season of love, are we so fixated on spreading so much hatred?

This has been a difficult year. Many people are still unemployed. Many are worried that they won’t have enough money to eat and keep a roof over their family’s head, let alone get gifts for their children. Many have lost loved ones, not only to the pandemic, but because their hatred is stronger than their love. And that’s sad.

My husband and I have lost friends this year to Alzheimer’s and cancer. We have also lost friends who do not agree with us, and rather than agreeing to disagree, have insulted us, called us horrible names, and even telling us we cannot be Christians because we disagree with them.

This is not the way to show love to anyone. And it’s certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the Christmas season.

Many people who read this will dismiss my words and say I’m being ridiculous. Many will say they have every right to say what they want when they want and to who they want. Yes, they do, unless they are trying to incite violence.

However, is it the right thing to do? And what does it say about them? Are their hearts that hard?

This is the beginning of the Christmas season. The season of love.

Can we maybe, just for a few weeks even, try to live that way?