It’s all about the tree

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Tree simplicity at its best: a tiny tree in antique blue & white.

How are you? I know it’s been awhile. Frankly, I fell into a bit of a mental rabbit hole and needed a break — time to escape with a few Sue Grafton mysteries, watch old movies, and putter around my kitchen. Has this happened to you?

By now you probably have your tree up, most of us do. But you may not, or you may still be perfecting the decoration of it, or maybe you decided you didn’t really want a tree this year. This “Covid year” is a challenge in so many ways and we have a few more months to go.

As I was scrolling thru Instagram last night (and I am always scrolling thru Instagram!), I started thinking about what a personal statement a Christmas tree is.

For some it’s a slice of personal history, ornaments the kids made (you know, the beloved popsicle stick Santas). Many of those trees are also decked with signs of a family’s interests — mini Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty souvenirs, tiny replicas of golf bags, basketballs, and sports cars, tiny picture frames with tooth-y grins, salt-dough figurines.

We hang a lot of ourselves on a Christmas tree. 

Some of the Instagram trees are a decorator’s masterpiece. Color-coded glass balls with matching garlands of ribbon and flowers. I’m frankly dazzled by these trees, but if I committed to a theme, I’d also have to eliminate all the ornaments that didn’t fit. Or, decorate a second tree!

 

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Suzanne of @suzannezingstyle is a stylist, and her trees are perfection.

Others are artfully spare, just a tree and some lights. Some trees are propped in rustic buckets or boxes, others strike a more glamorous pose on a table surrounded with coordinating decor. One of my favorites, below,  is one of the 12 trees by Courtney Allison @frenchcountrycottage with lots of lights, a veritable party of ornaments and sitting in an antique bucket. Her stylist touch is one of the prettiest and most natural around. (This may be my tree goal in 2021).

 

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I’m personally attracted to tiny trees, like my bottle brush forest, which grows annually.

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But then there are others, deceptively simple in their charm.  I love the simplicity of this tree, below. For me it holds the same magical promise of the season as the sparkling lights and ornaments on our own tree in the living room. 

This is one of those years — and we all have them — where tradition goes out the window and we have to improvise on the holiday. We didn’t have family and friends around the table on Thanksgiving, and we won’t be descending on my son and daughter-in-law for Christmas. My forty-odd year string of holiday open houses has been rudely interrupted.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m missing all of that. But, we are all healthy. For that I’m very grateful.

When I sit beside our tree with morning coffee or a book in the afternoon, or Steve and I have a glass of wine there before dinner, I relish the sense of calm. Christmas comes with its own brand of magic, peace, hope and memories. It’s nice to be surrounded by the familiar in an otherwise strange, even scary time. And there is a little light ahead at the end of a long, dark tunnel. The vaccinations have begun. That’s something to hang on to. A kind of hope. Maybe like the Christmas star?

I hope your days ahead are filled with joy, hope, something good to eat & drink and — most of all — good health.  Happy, happy holiday! 

From pumpkins to Christmas Curtains

My non-orange pumpkin patch.

How elaborate is your “fall decorating?”

When my son was 3 he asked if we could do some Halloween “decoration-ing” like his friend Brian’s mother did. So, we bought a few of those colorful pumpkin/black cat/witch cutouts to hang in the windows and a smiling skeleton (because you wouldn’t want to scare the 3-year-old) to hang on the font door. Done!

After a few years, we upped the ante, using a bale of straw as a seat for a scarecrow and “artfully” propping cornstalks in a few places. That was outside. I began to collect a variety of over-size dried gourds for inside. Then I traded the bale of straw and scarecrow for my own pumpkin patch, adding several of them to the landscape in early October.

Now we have morphed into pumpkins inside and out, especially decorative if they are not orange but rather green or white. (I even have a large pink one this year!) And we go to great lengths to get them to last until, hopefully, Thanksgiving. And I do fuss over a fruit and/or vegetable and/or floral centerpiece here and there. But I don’t make  point of adding seasonal throws to the furniture or even own fall pillows for the sofa. I don’t even have a single potted mum this year.

One “real” pumpkin with my ceramic ones from a Kentucky artisan.

Is this some sort of rebellion on my part? I am after all the person with files — electronic and paper — on her favorite rooms and decorators. (Thanks to Pinterest I can efficiently call up gallery walls, tabletop vignettes and mantels.) And I can spend hours rearranging books, collectables, and whatever on a shelf.

The Christmas Curtains

I was mentally making fun of all this when I remembered my grandmother’s seasonal change of curtains. Sometime in early November, she would start plotting the hanging of the Christmas Curtains. (And I say “plotting,” because the change of curtains required the assistance of my mother and/or my uncle to accomplish. My grandparents lived in an old, shot-gun cottage in Chicago, with high ceilings and tall, narrow windows. Grandma no longer did ladders, but it was fine with her if someone else did.)

The Christmas curtains I remember were sturdy barkcloth with red poinsettias and deep green leaves on a white ground. (And in truth, if my adult self had seen them on their way out, I would have rescued them and found a way to use them at my own house!) First, the living room and dining room windows and woodwork needed to be washed and/or polished before hanging the curtains, because who would hang nice, clean curtains on a window that could be dirty? (Thus making it even more of a project.)

Because these were Christmas Curtains, the process had to be repeated in January to hang the Winter Curtains. Then in the Spring, came the Easter Curtains. And, I think, there were separate Summer Curtains, though she may have eventually given them up. This was Julia’s salute to the seasons, so perhaps I come by this seasonal urge genetically.

No images of Christmas curtains, but here are my Grandmother and Grandfather with a Christmas tree in 1943 or 1944. This is a favorite photo. I love those smiles. War-time holidays were melancholy, but these two always made the most of every holiday.

I’ve been thinking about my grandmother and her curtains. To us it may seem an odd choice. If she knew how infrequently I wash or otherwise freshen up the few curtains I do have and how many of my windows are frankly unadorned, she would be wagging her finger at me. But in my grandmother’s day curtains were one of the few ways she could indulge in a little decorative pizzazz. And she liked that.

So I’m thinking that though she would have found my alternatively-colored pumpkins a little odd, she would have liked the idea of a pumpkin patch and maybe even a scarecrow.

My pumpkins will stay outside at least until the squirrels devour them. The gourds will remain in place inside until Thanksgiving weekend, when ready or not my husband will start bringing up Christmas boxes. And we’ll probably eat turkey leftovers on the Spode Christmas Tree plates.

What about you, are you holding off on Christmas until after Thanksgiving?

Thanks so much for stopping by! See you soon.