It’s the little things at Christmas

Ever since the Christmas of ’53,

I have felt that the yuletide is a special hell for those families

who have suffered any loss

or who must admit to any imperfection;

the so-called spirit of giving

can be as greedy as receiving,

Christmas is our time be aware of what we lack, of who’s not home.

——John Irving, “A Prayer for Owen Meany”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– if you haven’t read “A Prayer for Owen Meany”, I insist that you do. Right now. It’s Christmasy… sort of. There are few books that I can read over and over again and still enjoy every time, and this is one of them.

For today’s prelude to Christmas, I’ve found a few photos of some of my favorite ornaments and village pieces. The husband and I are big holiday decorators. We decorate for almost every holiday and go all out for a few.  For Christmas we decorate three trees inside and have a lights display outside that will someday rival the Griswold’s, I’m sure. One of the reasons I love decorating for the holidays is the memories associated with all the “stuff” that we have. We are blessed to have so many ornaments and knickknacks that have been gifted to us over the years from family and friends, students and colleagues. We have pieces that are up to 60 years old, inherited from grandparents. All are cherished.

It takes me quite a while to actually decorate our trees, mostly because every ornament I unwrap from storage brings a smile to my face as I recall how it came to be in our possession. I’ve always somewhat envied those who have the themed trees, all one color and ornament type. Those trees can be quite lovely. Ours is more hodgepodge though. Each ornament has a history. Each one tells a story. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Every year we add a dated ornament to the collection. These ornaments always come from Hallmark but from a variety of different collections. This year’s is from the eskimo collection. We have several from this line and they’re all adorable. Just one of many homemade ornaments on the tree. I have handmade ornaments that date back to high school when several friends would make them at Christmas for those in our circle and they still grace our tree today. This particular ornament is from college (Metcalf, 3rd right, girls!!) It still cracks me up (in a great way) because these ornaments were accidentally made upside down by one of my hallmates. Love it.

Speaking of college– WAHOOWAH! One of many UVA ornaments on the tree- to combat all those silly orange and maroon ones!

I have a ton of baking ornaments. Lots of these came from former students and family members. This ornament is from a line at Hallmark, begun just a couple of years ago. I’ve received the last couple from my mother-in-law who continues a tradition of buying each son (and wife) a new Christmas ornament each year.

We have quite a few cardinals on the tree in memory of the husband’s grandmother. The large one on the left we purchased on our honeymoon.

Another baking ornament! I told you I have a bunch of these. On the left is an angel that was painted and given to all her favorite French V students by our beloved Madame H. The purple ball ornament was a Christmas gift from a former student. And in the very back you can see a tribute to my husband, the grillmaster.

Hockey! …. I won’t touch the fact that they are penguins tho. Believe me, that part hurts.

On the left, one of our dated snowmen gazing unto the sparkly angel, part of a set that we bought on our honeymoon. I love those angels.

A few of the ornaments on what I lovingly refer to as my “Antique Tree.”  This is our upstairs tree that gets all of the older ornaments we inherited from my grandmother (plus a few from the parents).  The following pictures are all from that tree.

Of course, in addition to all these trees, we have candles, lights, snowglobes, figurines- you name it. We also have a holiday village that we put up every year as well.

The town Christmas tree. Another inherited piece from my grandmother. I love this tree. It may just be my favorite Christmas decoration we have.

Every town should have a winery. Where else would the nuns hang out?!?

And Hot Nows. Gotta have those.

Alright– that’s a lot of pictures for tonight. And not even a tenth of what I could show you, ha! But it’s a glimpse into Christmas inside our home and what makes it special. I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday shopping, wrapping, baking, and decorating. Christmas is coming!

so this is christmas… what have you done?

Lordy, lordy, lordy. Christmas in less than a week. You know, every year I try to start my preparations early. And yet every year, it seems I am still scrambling to get everything done! However, the vast majority of shopping is done. Only waiting on one more item to ship. Most of the decor is up– all three of the trees are decorated. Cards are sent. Cookies and other goodies are started. Wrapping is mostly complete. Lights are twinkling. And so it continues.

It’s been rough getting going this year though, I will admit.  The husband has been traveling a lot this year (more than usual, and that’s saying a lot for those of you who know!) and I think that even though I am used to his work schedule and the fact that we’ve often had a “long-distance” relationship in the 11 or so years that we’ve known each other, for some reason, it’s hit me harder this year.  But it’s been a rough year in other ways too. And some day, I will learn that while some people in my life may need some serious psychological help, there’s nothing I can do about their needs. And I shouldn’t take to heart or worry so much about the things that they say, because I know that they desperately do need this help and without it are floundering like some of us sometimes do. Still it can be hard to deal with.  As much of a judgmental bitch as I can be, I really am a sensitive soul at my core, which makes it hard. … But now I’m just getting depressing. Let’s not do that! Let’s move on to something more important and more fun.

How about a nice winter recipe?

brussels sprouts we can all enjoy!

Yes! It’s Brussels sprouts! Now I know what you’re thinking— “Erm, Brussels sprouts?! EWWW… those suckers are nasty!”  Which I will grant you, is exactly what I used to say about them too.  Growing up, I only ever had them boiled until they were mush and those really are not good at all.  But if you roast these little guys to caramelized perfection, then they really can be delish!

To begin, you will need:

  • a half pound of Brussels sprouts
  • olive oil (about an 1/8 of a cup, give or take)
  • salt (a few good sprinkles, a Tablespoon, maybe?)
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped (but you could always do two for good measure!)
  • 2 T. of shredded Parmesan cheese (again, more or less to taste)

Can you tell I never measure anything when I make these??!  Anyhoo. Start by cutting off the bottoms of the sprouts and then slice them in half.  In a bowl, mix them with all of the ingredients.  Spread them onto a baking sheet and place in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Half way through, stir them up to get as much caramelization as possible.  You can also add in your favorite chopped nuts or maybe even some pomegranate seeds to liven up the dish with another layer of flavor.  And there you have the perfect winter veggie side to whatever meal you are making!
There, that’s more the spirit, yes? I think this week will bring some more Christmas cheer, so stick around and see what we’ve got to come.