Sunday, December 27, 2009

Last of the Christmas Trees

This post is especially for my grand-nephew, who at age two has discovered the magic of Christmas trees. I want to share mine with him and love the idea of being able to do so through the inventions of digital photography and the Internet. This is such wonderful fun!

This is the last of the little trees, sometimes known in the past as "little, little tree", but the one in the sewing room may actually be smaller. Called last because it was the last to be decorated, and the only one not actually ready by Christmas Day.

A new picture of the crane tree after a friend found one crane that sat perfectly on the top. In Japan, I believe that the cranes symbolize peace, while in the United States, I have heard that Japanese-Americans see them as symbolizing courage and patience.

Finally, a picture of the tree in my office. The ornaments are ones that I made by hand about twenty years ago, which makes them vintage ornaments now. The angel on the top was a a package topper that may very well be forty to fifty years old.

Come to think of it, the tree itself is about twenty years old now, so that makes it vintage.

I love each and every tree for their special symbolism; for the history that each one has and for the way that they have brought Christmas to me this year, even though I can not go out to find Christmas at church. I am grateful for the way that my Mama loved Christmas, for the many ornaments and decorations that were hers and for the friends who have made Christmas decorating a community effort at my house. For the friends who have brought me food and flowers, too, I am grateful. Finally, for that little boy in Arizona who is learning the customs and wonder of Christmas, I am most especially grateful.

Blessings and a joyous and prosperous New Year to you all--through every day of it until we come full circle and are celebrating our Christmas again.

More Christmas Around My House

Here is the Christmas cactus on Christmas Day. I was so happy to see that more than a month after it began blooming, and even with frost advisories, it was looking happy and pretty Christmas afternoon.

These roses were blooming on Christmas Day.

The last of the big red roses, which I brought in on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve Day a dear friend stopped by with these beautiful flowers.

The flowers added to the colors of Christmas and also reminded me of the legend that says that at the moment of Christ's birth all the flowers bloomed. That same legend says that the animals spoke and the birds sang. I love these legends.

A blessed third day of Christmas. I am so grateful for this beautiful and peaceful time of year and for the memories I have of my family and Christmases past.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas All Over My House

It was a quiet Christmas at my house this year, with the sound of music for the season coming from my favorite classical radio station. Now I will have to find some tapes and cd's to continue the festal sounds through the season. Too many goodies were made or received as gifts and consumed. (Yes, I do have a freezer and sometimes, it seems, I forget to use it!)

All over the house decorations have come out. First and foremost are the tree and creche in the living room.

The next picture is of the large creche in the living room.

Next is the angel tree in my room.

The small creche, which is over sixty years old now, sits next to the angel tree.

Mr Papa Bear looks on from his usual vantage point with frizzly bear in his lap.

Next is a small tree on Mama's dresser in the room that is still evolving into a sewing space. Amidst the clutter, Christmas has come to this room. Last year this little tree held no decorations. Here it is with its own array.

In addition, hidden away in a bureau drawer in a box that had once held canning jars, I found a collection of vintage (maybe actually antique) candles and ceramic figurines that had been Mama's. What fun to unwrap them after decades of being stored away and arrange them now!

And here along the top of the high bureau are more candles.

The crane tree, a custom I began last year, is set up in the dining room, with a small nativity, a gift from a dear friend several years ago.

There is one more little tree, here in my office, but the sun was shining brilliantly behind it and the picture did not turn out. More to come.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rejoice Sunday

I started this post on Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, time for the rose vestments and the rose candle. (This color is not pink but is more of a rose mauve. I have actually found what looks like the perfect shade on line in a ribbon that I may buy next year.)

Anyway here are my thoughts as of Sunday--it's been a crazy week and I am only four days behind, after all.

Some years Christmas sneaks up on me and seems like it almost takes forever to arrive. Other years, it seems as though Fall has barely started and wham, bam it is Thanksgiving and Christmas is coming so fast that it takes my breath away.

This year has been one of the latter years, perhaps because I have begun to reactivate a business that I loved twenty years ago, but that without the Internet was doomed before it was even begun. So with all the business activities, the Christmas preparations have been swept to the background. A few weeks ago
I thought I might even forgo decorating this year.

Two weeks ago my dear friend, who is also my housekeeper, took the big tree out of the box from the front hall closet where it lives most of the year. Last Monday another dear friend brought out the boxes with all the decorations and the bags with the little trees. On Wednesday another friend "fluffed" the branches on the big tree and put on the garlands. She (the tree, that is) is beginning to look like she is getting dressed for the party.

Another tree sits in my office, waiting. This year there may be ornaments. There were none last year for this little tree. Still another tree, with a plastic bag of paper cranes, sits in the dining room waiting for me to make a space and then begin the meticulous task of placing the little paper birds with their beautiful symbolism of peace. (I am tempted to glue them in place for next year. Would that be cheating?)

The tree that goes in my bedroom never did get put away last year. This season, when Christmas is over, it will be put away. There is nothing quite so forlorn as a barren Christmas tree lying on its side during summer heat waves.)

Two more little trees will find their places, one in the master bedroom sewing room. (AKA, "the big room"). The dolls and bears who occupy that space need their holiday too. The other still has to have a spot designated for it, but I will find one.

The house is also beginning to smell like Christmas. Chocolate and spice fill the kitchen air and I am having fun baking, albeit it is a smaller and simplified menu of choices from what I used to do.

Gingersnaps, cappuccino flats, sweet curry and cardamon icebox cookies and some scrumptious cheese slices that would have been even better with dry sherry (Amontillado, or Harvey's Bristol Cream, come to mind here.)

The only smell missing is that of fresh pine. One or two of my patchouli sachets with their rosemary and cloves can make it smell woodsy too.

Christmas is coming and it will be lovely. I am grateful for the traditions, for the artificial trees, which I would once have scorned and for the goodies. Most of all I am so grateful for all the friends, their patience and kindness in sharing with me and making Christmas possible.

While all of this preparation overshadows Advent, the truth is that I couldn't do it anyway, since I need the help of friends to make it happen. Preparing for Christmas is truly a work in progress all through Advent. The goal is to have everything in place by Christmas Eve and then relax and enjoy it for two weeks before beginning to dismantle it so that it is all put away by Candlemas. (Even that tree that didn't get put away last year.)

Pictures need to be taken too and an inventory of where everything is put away. It will be a busy time!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December and it is Cold

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of the most beautiful Marian feasts of the year. Lovely chant, lovely music and so appropriate to Advent, which I think of as Mary's time.

We are having unusually cold weather here in California, the kind of weather that reminds us that our houses are shells--granted, shells with furnaces. This makes them difficult and expensive to heat. Still the photos on the various newscasts of snow in various parts of the Bay Area are beautiful.

I will be glad to see it warm a bit and to get ready for Christmas. Some more cooking and baking are scheduled. Some wrapping of presents, if I can remember where they are, and some general tidying of the house. I have a calendar full of visits planned with friends, so I am looking forward to the next few weeks.

The goodies which I posted Saturday were as good as they looked. I am so grateful to everyone who came to my Open House days over the weekend. It is good to see people and to have a positive cash flow!

I am grateful for the good furnace, for the good space heaters and for all the good knitted goodies that I wrap myself up in to keep warm. Will be even more grateful when the low is a little higher and the rain comes. Apparently, we are doing well for the snow pack in the mountains, forty-two inches already at one of the ski resorts. Hurray! With sufficient snow and rain, we will have a summer garden in due season.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Goodies for the Feast of St Nicholas

Chocolate Stout Cake made up as mini-cupcakes. I finally made the recipe that I found on the King Arthur Flour website last spring. The Guiness stands out in the raw batter. (I always have to taste the dough or batter--before the eggs are added.) After baking the stout disappears and simply acts as a subtle underscore or amplifier for the chocolate. A very moist cupcake. Yummy. three dozen minis and nine full sized cupcakes. I will definitely make this again. This recipe and the beer batter bread make it more than worthwhile to give Guiness "housespace" as my great-grandmother used to say. (Drinking it is good too, but I can't really do that because of the neurological problems that I already have.)

Above, a Christmas tray full of cappachino flats awaits visitors for St. Nicholas Day. This is a fairly standard recipe for these delicious cookies, but I have ramped up the chocolate by adding about 1 T of dark Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa powder. Very, very good and they don't need the extra dipping in chocolate, although that would make them look prettier.

It was a lot of work, but I had fun. I hope that it will entice folks to come to my little Open House--something that the big box stores definitely won't be offering. But then I can't compete with them in so many, many other ways.

We are having some very cold weather, unseasonably so for so early in the year and I am worrying about how the plants will fair and my heating bill. The gas and electric are the one thing that we don't know the cost of until after we have used them and I have wondered for years what it would take to change this system.

I am grateful tonight that I have a warm house and a warm electric blanket. Grateful for the goodies, which I have enjoyed making and will enjoy sharing.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Garden for Advent

On this Wednesday of the first week in Advent I still have the perfume of roses in my house. This is so amazing to me. I don't think that it has ever happened before, although at least two friends have told me at different times in years past that they have had roses blooming at Christmas.

First is the Christmas cactus continuing its joyous bloom.

Next are the roses

A friend brought these flowers from her garden (also in my neighborhood) last week

I found the combination of orange and lavender in this arrangement absolutely stunning. Not colors that I would have combined if I had been consciously thinking of a palette to play or design with, but they work amazingly well.

Much to be grateful for on this wintry day. The light at this time of year has a wanness and poignancy as the year wanes. Soon though, the days will lengthen, the light will return and the flowers of Spring will come back. All part of the waiting and expectation of Advent. Christ, Our Lord, will come into our weary hearts to remind us of His eternal light and joy. The light of day will come, too, following the celebration of His coming. Much, indeed, to be grateful for. I just have to remember it!