Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Confessions of a Christmas Tree Nut --The Sequel

(Too much still to do, too little time, so I'm re-posting this five-year-old essay about my Christmas trees.  It  still applies--I've got those four trees up now.   But this year I expanded my tree collection, adding two more trees, just as I threatened in the original post.  In the living room, near the large real tree, is a small white one with some of the handmade ornaments I bought in Mexico and India.  And in the family room, a small green tree has appeared decorated with the forest creatures I've collected, mostly made out of twigs and straw and wood.  I couldn't resist giving them a tree of their own.  And I keep thinking of new tree themes for next year.  As for the Christmas cards, about half or them are in the mail and the other half will be late--as usual.)

Right now I should be addressing Christmas cards but I'm in the grip of my seasonal craziness which involves decorating...lots...of...trees.  Each with a theme.  In every room. Well, not EVERY room because my husband has started to crack down on that--especially in his office, despite the lovely all white (sprayed snow and icicles and pine cones) tree I did one year.  It shed.

Above is the Woodland Creatures tree, new for 2015, made up mostly of ornaments I got from Pier One (all at least 30 per cent off, because it's the last minute.) I just couldn't resist these rustic little animals and birds made mostly of twigs and straw and natural products.(The star on top is a tiny starfish.)  The gold stars seem to be made of twigs--I cut apart a Pier One garland to get them. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

And here below is the little white tree I decorated with my hammered, painted tin ornaments  from Mexico and the lacquer-on-wood (I think) ornaments from India.

The Mexican tin ornaments are wonderfully crude and folk-y and the Indian ones are so  carefully detailed and elegant, so each country really should each have its own tree.

There's even a Mexican nativity scene of tin.  I love the clay angel at upper left sucking its toe.  And I love the Indian sets of three camels and three elephants.

At Thanksgiving 2015, with the help of kids and guests at the tree-trimming open house on Saturday night before Nicolas's baptism, we decorated the four trees that I always have. And here they are (in photos from 2010, but they look much the same in 2015).

The Real Tree goes in the living room.    I usually pick a color scheme, and this year went with silver and white, with the only color coming from some crazy peacock ornaments I got from Pier One.

With the peacocks, I also used lots of white butterflies (from the Dollar Store) and white birds and angel wings, so I guess the theme of the wonderful-smelling Real Tree this year would be wings.

In the dining room I always put a wire tree to show off my antique ornaments.  And I put a wire from the tree to the window latch so that it (hopefully) can't get knocked over.  You can see that we don't have snow yet in Massachusetts, unlike Minnesota, but we will soon.

Some of these ornaments are reproductions, but most are the real thing.  My grandmother had a whole tree decorated with blown-glass birds with those spun glass tails and often a metal clip to hold it on the tree.  I really love the fragile teapots once sold at every Woolworth's for pennies. They cost a lot more now.  The blown-glass ornaments usually say "West Germany" on the metal cap.  The  glass ornaments that were once screw-in light bulbs were made in Japan between 1930 and 1950 and are a lot less likely to break.

In the library I always put my Shoe Tree, which started when the Metropolitan Museum in New York first started selling ornaments based on shoes in their collections.  
This became a kind of mania and now I can't afford to buy the newest ones from the Museum, but I've added lots of cunning real (baby-sized) shoes, and people keep giving me more.  My favorites on this tree are the Chinese baby shoes that look like cats and the fur-lined baby moccasins and the tiny Adidas sneakers. 

On the porch I've put the  Kitchen Tree, or Cookie and Candy Tree.  This was inspired by some friends who live in a tiny apartment and decorate their tree only with cookies and candy and pretzels and candy canes.  Then, when Christmas is over, they put it all outside for the birds and other New York fauna to enjoy.

As you can see, I've cheated quite a bit--adding ornaments that look like kitchen utensils and non-edible gingerbread men and peppermints.  An authentic Kitchen Tree should have chains of real popcorn and cranberries (which we did back when I had children small enough to enjoy stringing them.)

Last year  Trader Joe's sold little gingerbread men with holes already punched in their heads so I could string them on the tree, but this year the gingerbread men are frosted but the holes are missing, so I just  stabbed them with the wire hooks and it worked fine (and any that broke, I ate, of course. They taste better frosted.)
That's four trees so far (six in 2015!)-- and I haven't  shown you my Santa Claus collection and the miniature town in the bay window in the kitchen and the many creche scenes we have from around the world....But let's face it, I have to get back to those Christmas cards.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Who Wore the Turkey Hat?

 Last week we had the best Thanksgiving ever.  We say that every year, but this was really the best for several reasons:  There were two new baby faces at the table—our seven-month-old grandson Nicolas Jose Baltodano Gage, and Efro and Sy Suire’s six-week- old son Stone.  (Efro is the daughter of Eleni Nikolaides who lives with us and she grew up like a sibling to our kids.)

Here is a picture of the two new moms comparing their babies’ weight to the 15-pound turkey.  Stone, at nine pounds, was out-weighed by the bird, but Nicolas, at a pudgy 18 pounds, took the prize.

And Efro and Sy posed for a family shot with baby Stone and new grandmother Eleni Nikolaides.

Another new face at the table was Carmen Oyanguren, mother of Emilio, mother-in-law to our daughter Eleni, and co-grandmother of Amalia and Nicolas with me.  She’s at the left in the photo above.  We remarked on the fact that there is no word in English for our relationship to each other except for the non-specific “in laws”, but in Greek, Carmen is my “sympethera” and in Spanish my “consuegra”.  In the photo, daughter Marina looks dashing in the coveted turkey hat which has become part of our Thanksgiving tradition.

Another reason this Thanksgiving was extra special is that everyone pitched in and used their talents for the holiday table. Granddaughter Amalia made the turkey place cards from a kit…

and her little brother Nicolas tried to eat his.

Amalia also decorated the pumpkin pie with candy corn, while her Aunt Marina fixed her hair.

Eleni cooked a Spinach Gratin, while, in the background, “Big Eleni” Nikolaides is making her famous chestnut stuffing.

And Marina made a persimmon salad with toasted almonds.

Early in the morning, Big Eleni and Amalia set up the Christmas village in the kitchen’s bay window.

Later that night Nicolaki practiced standing up by himself….

And his Abuela Carmen taught him to play the maracas.

And although he couldn’t eat a turkey leg, because he only has three teeth, Nicolas had his moment of glory wearing the turkey hat.

Next Thanksgiving, we promised, both he and Amalia will get a drumstick.