Have Yourself a Fairy Little Christmas

New Christmas Traditions

I’ve started a new Christmas tradition. It’s called patience.

I’ve learned to wait patiently in line at the post office. I peel of all my layers before going inside so that I don’t pass out from the heat. I know all the post office regulars, and look forward to a brief yet satisfying chat when it’s my turn at the window. I use the time in line to people watch. Sometimes I make productive use of the wait by addressing a card or filling out custom forms.

Patience is a gift you give others, but it’s also a gift to yourself. I feel better about myself when I’m patient.

I’m patient with my husband’s annual fretting over the lights. He once spent four hours on the floor of the garage trouble shooting strands of Christmas tree lights. Our boys were young at the time, and I grew frustrated with what seemed like such a waste of family time. I’ve mellowed. And I’ve come to understand that it’s his thing. He hangs lights on the tree, strings lights on the house, and replaces all the lights in my son’s Christmas inflatables. He makes multiple trips to the hardware store to find replacements.  Small packages arrive in the mail containing  fuses and bulbs. Mike is a fixer and that’s what makes him happy, so with patience comes an understanding. Everybody wins.

I’m patient with Lindy’s demands for more and more (and more) attention, but I’m patient with myself, too. When I know I need to buckle down and get some work done, I relocate her to a sunny spot in the house and close the door.  Prior to that she gets pets, cuddles, treats and a roll in the catnip, but after repeated demands for ear-scratching, I finally remove her from the room so I can get things done.

I have two remarkable teenage boys requiring no patience. I guess all that earlier guidance and patience eventually paid off. They’re both delightful young men. Perhaps this tradition of patience isn’t so new at all. That said, it takes patience to cultivate any good habit, so I’m learning to be patiently patient with myself.

Go figure?

I’m sticking with a few favorite traditions this year, too.

I use tiny silver clothes pins to attach cards to the tool skirt

I use tiny silver clothes pins to attach cards to the tool skirt

I’m adorning my dress-maker selfie with Christmas cards once again. I love putting her to use sporting all the beautiful cards we receive by mail. It’s a dwindling tradition, but we continue to send our own cards each year and love the ones we receive.

christmas-tree-collage-2016

The boys decorating the tree a decade ago. Gifted ornaments over the years reflecting my love of gardening and hot tea.

We pull out our artificial tree the day after Thanksgiving and decorate it with the ornaments we’ve collected over the years. Every  ornament has a story and that’s what makes it fun. We hang hand-made school ornaments from the boys early days along with ornaments we’ve received as gifts. We like to pick up an ornament when we travel, each one a fun reminder of a different holiday. Thomas the Tank Engine sits among the branches along with a hand-painted Christmas ball from Cannes France. It will come as no surprise that fellow bloggers Julia, Kelly and Marlene also contribute to the history and diversity of our tree. In the few days leading up to Christmas, I enjoy sitting in the dark, tree illuminated, grateful for the love in my life.

Our acrylic globe, a gift from my friend Marcia, becomes a “snow globe”  this time of year. Each year is a little different from the last. Here’s the latest: I made a path using Petra paper left over from a holiday plant and some artificial snow. I added a few tiny trees  from prior years and a twenty year old wooden snow man. I can squint my eyes and pretend that it’s snowing in San Jose.

snow-globe-2016

Snow + Globe

Tomorrow I’ll start one more tradition. I’m volunteering for a toy distribution shift at Sacred Heart Community Services. Sacred Heart will distribute over 18,000 toys and books to 6,200 children in need in our community. This is a big step for me, as I used to get mired in depression when working so closely with the disadvantaged in my community. I retreated to a “safer” form of volunteering, either hosting drives, or serving on committees or board of directors. Since the election, I’ve been motivated to get up close again. The goal is to remain open, while at the same time protecting my tender heart. Wish me luck.

‘Tis the season…of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and Solstice; a time to share of ourselves.

What are your special traditions this time of year?

Cats With Hats

You know the old saw: kids prefer the box to the gift wrapped inside?

This year the “kids” are 15 and 18 and the proverbial box is actually a miniature Santa hat. The last item unwrapped was a gift basket full of goodies from our friends next door. A bottle of craft brew sported the tiniest of Santa hats. Santa’s chapeau weighs about as much as a tissue.

Slinky was sound asleep under the Christmas tree. Since she’s hard of hearing, she was oblivious to all the activity around her. My son reached over and deposited the tiny hat on her head.  Eyes open, she posed as we all lunged for our camera phones.

Slinky in Santa Hat

Slinky wonders what all the fuss is about

The game was on. Could they get Lindy and Mouse to wear the hat too?

I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

lindy in santa hat

Lindy was game. The hat is so light, she didn’t seem to notice

Mouse with santa hat on his nose

Mouse brought it to his nose first

mouse holding santa hat

…then he took a nibble.

Mouse sleeping with Santa hat 2

Finally asleep and oblivious to his mega-watt cuteness.

mouse wearing santa hat 1

One parting shot because he’s so darn cute.

Photos courtesy of the Milner-Francini boys.

Seeing Red

red rosebud

A beautiful shade of red

Did you know that red is the highest arc of the rainbow and the first color you lose site of at dusk?  Red evokes love and passion, as well as anger, joy and enthusiasm.

Growing up as a “redhead” my mom steered me away from the color entirely. “Redheads don’t look good in red,” she advised. Red’s pastel cousin Pink was a fashion no-no as well. I had it drummed into me from an early age that redheads do not look good in red or pink.

It’s hard to say if those biases colored my experiences going forward or if our color preferences are inborn. My passions fall to blue, green and purple.

Invariable, when Christmas rolls around the color red is suddenly everywhere. Santa’s suit and his tiny elves wear red from head to toe. Green wreaths sport red bows, red sweaters go on sale and controversy aside, Starbucks’ serves coffee in a red paper cup.  I wonder if my slight aversion to red contributes to my sense of relief when the holiday season is over?

In all fairness to red, it’s probably not the color but the excess. Too much of anything is, well, too much.

How are you managing the holiday season?

Footnotes

surgical boot

Sporting some fancy footwear

My left foot is healing well. Still no weight-bearing for another week or so. I see my doctor next week, and hope to get the go ahead to begin physical therapy.

Gifts for the Joyful Gardener

Gardeners are practical souls.  We don’t mind dirt under our nails, or bruises on tired knees.  We’ll get up early or stay out late, weeding, pruning, planting and generally enjoying our time in the garden.  We love sharing seeds and flowers fresh from the earth and enjoy swapping tips for keeping the garden pests at bay.

If you have a joyful gardener in your life, here are a few gift ideas to tuck under the tree.

Practical

Your gardener will never lose their gloves in the garden again.  Floral Gardening Gloves allow you to pull weeds in style.

Floral Garden Gloves

Floral Garden Gloves

Seed Keeper or Seed Keeper Deluxe. I’ve been using mine for several months. It’s an easy and efficient way to store and retrieve the seeds you save or buy. They come packed with all sorts of garden goodies as well.

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Fanciful

Slipcovers: They’re not just for sofas!  Dress up your pots with a Patio Art Planter Slipcovers. You can change with the seasons, or simply cover up an ugly pot. It’s a nice way to wrap up a potted plant to gift as well.

plant slipcover

Slipcover Your Plants

Fair trade birdhouses attract birds to the garden. Keep those baby birds toasty warm till it’s time to leave the nest.

Felted birdhouse

Fair Trade Birdhouses

What a clever idea! It’s a card and a desktop garden all in one. It’s edible too. It’s a postcarden!  Click on the photo below and check out the time-lapse video on their site.

Postcarden

Astronomical

For the gardener with the travel bug: “Botanically themed cruises and garden tours of Europe are designed for gardening and gourmet enthusiasts who enjoy taking in ancient castles, magnificent châteaux and stunning landscaped gardens with iconic sites.”

Let’s all go! Who’s with me?

The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake?

The Crew: Ready to deliver the neighborhood trees

The Crew: Ready to deliver the neighborhood trees

I struggle with this question every year: Is it better to have a freshly cut tree or an artificial one?  I think the answer is neither. Or both.

Aren’t you glad we got that settled?!

As a nature-lover, I’m not fond of the idea of cutting down a tree each year, only to throw it away (or at the very least compost it) after a few weeks. People float the idea of a live tree that you bring indoors each year, but given the size of the average pine or fir, the tree would outgrow your home in a few years. Further, the tree would do poorly in a dry, heated home, preferring the outdoors instead.

Clearly, artificial trees are the way to go.

Or are they?

Fluffy Under the Tree

Fluffy Under the Tree

Artificial trees last a long time. You can use them year after year, they never dry out, they’re less likely to catch fire and they’re sized for the average home. They are, however, made from synthetic materials, that will one day end up in a landfill. Styles change, the frame of the tree might break or you may buy a bigger (or smaller) house that dictates the size of the tree.

In our neighborhood, we have a coordinated effort to display cut trees on our lawn each year.  The trees go up the first week of December and come down New Year’s day. I’m block captain for our street, and we make it a family affair. We borrow a neighbor’s truck, load up the trees, and delivery them up and down the block.  The neighborhood coordinator purchases over 300 trees.  Each block captain collects the order forms, deposits the checks and then delivers the trees.  It’s fun and festive.

Indoors we have an artificial tree that we store and use year after year. We made that choice for all the reasons I mentioned above. So…I feel like a fraud at times, supporting different choices on either side of the door.

One choice isn’t really a choice at all: simply giving up the long-held and delightful tradition of a Christmas tree.

If you celebrate Christmas, do you put up a tree each year?  Real or fake?

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