Posts Tagged With: Christmas decorations

The Perfect Christmas Tree

Because our neck of the woods includes actual woods, it’s a tradition for many people to cut their own Christmas trees. (And where did that expression come from, anyway? Why isn’t it the “head of the woods” or the “heart of the woods” or even the “left elbow of the woods”? According to informed sources, aka Google, this phrase apparently came to be used for a small local area because “neck” was a term for a narrow strip of woods. Which, really, could just as well be called an “elbow.”)

But never mind that. In this part of the world, for a mere ten bucks, you can get a permit from the Forest Service to go out to the Black Hills National Forest and get a tree. This involves finding the perfect tree, cutting it down (unless you’re Paul Bunyan, a tree saw is probably safer than an ax), and hauling it home. (Don’t forget the rope or straps to tie it to the top of the car or secure it in the back of the pickup. Trees have been known to escape.)

These tree-cutting expeditions, of course, are perfect opportunities for spirited family discussions about exactly what constitutes the “perfect” tree. Continue reading

Categories: Family, Living Consciously | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Lighting Up the Neighborhood

Christmas lights, for me, are like beautifully wrapped gifts or elaborate holiday cookies and meals: I’m not up for doing them myself, but I’m happy to enjoy the results of other people’s labors. After all, somebody has to be the appreciative audience.

The lights on some houses in our neighborhood are familiar year after year. There’s the one with a waterfall of tiny white lights along the eaves, the one with a little train that appears to be moving, and the one with several lighted reindeer who often provide a glowing backdrop to evening meals for their living cousins.

One nearby house on a major street used to get more elaborate every year, highlighting every horizontal or vertical line on their house, draping lights over every tree and shrub, stringing lights and ribbon the length of the fence, and filling the large yard with lighted reindeer and artificial trees. Then one fall the yard was decorated with a “For Sale” sign, and now the new owners merely put one line of lights along the roof. My theory is that the previous owners decided to sell because they just couldn’t keep up with their own Christmas-lighting reputation. I imagine them now, having sold all their decorations at a garage sale, living happily on a dark, inconspicuous dead-end street.

One yard features a small light-draped bush and a slender sapling with lights wrapped around its trunk and several large flashing snowflakes in its dainty branches. This is quite attractive from one direction. If you approach from the other side, though, an unfortunate alignment of shrubbery means you see what appears to be a lighted reindeer whose head, no doubt whirling with the pressure of getting all around the globe in one night, is about to explode.

My favorite light display, however, isn’t the most spectacular or elaborate, but the one that makes me chuckle every year. Two thick bushes in the yard are simply decorated with strings of colored lights—arranged horizontally in precise, perfectly spaced, perfectly straight rows. I always imagine the homeowners out there doing their decorating with the help of a couple of rulers and a level. My inner perfectionist approves of the symmetry; my inner anarchist wants to sneak over there and impose some randomness.

And my inner underachiever is just grateful that our house isn’t very visible from the street, so we have a perfect excuse not to put up Christmas lights at all.

Categories: Odds and Ends | Tags: | 2 Comments

Little People at the Holiday Table

Sitting around the breakfast table on Christmas morning over our traditional homemade cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, and bacon, I had an epiphany. (Is it permissible to have an epiphany on Christmas Day, or does it have to wait until January 6? Maybe it’s okay as long as it’s an epiphany with a small “e.”)

Anyway, it happened about the time I was eating my fourth (or fifth or thirteenth—but who’s counting?) piece of bacon and watching the three newest participants in this particular tradition. The two-and-a-half-year-old, having rejected the unabridged dictionary as a booster seat, was on his knees in a chair of his own. The two littler ones, just past one and not quite one, were on their mother’s laps. They intercepted bites of egg with surprising tidiness and did their best to get a full share of the bacon. They seemed enthusiastic about the cinnamon rolls, too—though I did have some suspicions about my daughter’s request for a third one “because the baby ate all of the last one.”

And that’s when I had the small-e epiphany. “Oh my gosh. We’re going to need a kids’ table.”

One of the biggest blessings in my life right now is having two of my kids and their growing families living right here in Rapid City. And that means, one of these years, at family gatherings we will need an extra table for short people. A place where they can skip their green beans without anyone noticing, decorate their fingertips with black olives, and giggle a lot over conversations not meant for adult ears.

Just to be clear, in my experience the point of having a kids’ table isn’t to segregate squirmy small people with rudimentary table manners away from the good china and crystal. It’s more about squeezing people into the available space. At family gatherings when I was growing up, the kids were put at the kitchen table and card table because the dining room table, even expanded with all its leaves, would only hold 12 or 14.

It was usually fun at the kids’ table, of course. And sometimes educational. I remember one discussion about whether some red stuff in a little bowl was jelly or Jell-O. No one wanted to be the first to taste it. When someone finally got brave and tried half a spoonful, we still weren’t sure. (All these years later, I assume it must have been cranberry sauce.)

Still, I always felt I was missing out by not being at the adult table, because so many family members were and are such great storytellers. I loved hearing their stories, and every time I heard a burst of laughter from the dining room I assumed I had just missed one.

So at our house, when we do need a kids’ table, I hope we have room to put it at just the right distance from the adults’ table. It’s a delicate balance. They need to be far enough away so we can pretend we don’t hear or see what they’re doing. Yet I’d like them close enough so, if they want to, they can easily eavesdrop on our conversations. It’s just one more way of passing along the family stories. Especially, perhaps, the ones we don’t necessarily intend them to hear.

Categories: Family, Food and Drink, Living Consciously, Remembering When | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A Simple 12-Step Program

As they all do at first, it seemed like a simple project. All I wanted to do was move the wardrobe in my office into the bedroom as a replacement for my dresser. (The wardrobe is antique; the dresser is merely old. Trust me, there is a difference.)

I'd been intending to get this done for weeks. Finally, Saturday was the day. We set to work.

Step One: Take all nine drawers out of the dresser and set them out across the bed in the guest room. Move the dresser into the guest room.

Step Two: Sweep up the large family of dust bunnies that had been living under the dresser.

Step Three: Take all the office supplies, art supplies, notebooks, software CDs and manuals, file folders, etc., etc., off of the wardrobe's five shelves. Stack them on my two office chairs, under my desk, behind my desk, on top of my desk, and in the middle of the floor.

Step Four: Move the wardrobe (80 inches tall by 40 inches wide by 18 inches deep) through a doorway (79½ inches tall by 28 inches wide) into a hallway (42 inches wide), turn it, and haul it down the hall to the bedroom. This, remarkably, was accomplished without scratching either the wardrobe or the woodwork, breaking the light fixture that was hanging in precisely the wrong place, smashing any fingers, yelling at one another, or resorting to profanity.

Step Five: Sweep up the small family of dust bunnies that had been living under the wardrobe.

Step Six: Start to put the shelves back in the wardrobe. Decide that, since they were originally built to hold office supplies instead of cashmere sweaters, they needed to be sanded first.

Step Seven: Make a trip to the hardware store for sandpaper and wood filler.

Step Eight: Apply wood filler to shelves. Lots of wood filler. Decide they are rougher than first thought and need to be painted.

Step Nine: While wood filler is drying, start rearranging office. Move file cabinet out of closet. Empty small bookshelf in closet, adding its contents to the piles already on the chairs, on the floor, and under, behind, and on top of the desk.

Step Ten: Sweep up community of dust bunnies in the closet.

Step Eleven: Take bookshelf downstairs to exchange it for larger bookshelf that is in the closet under the stairs. Empty big bookshelf of Christmas decorations and old geology magazines. Drag it out of closet. Vacuum up mixed community of dust bunnies, dead moths, and spiders. Move small bookshelf into closet. Replace geology magazines and Christmas ornaments.

Step Twelve: Haul large bookshelf upstairs, put it into office closet. Look at stuff piled all over office. Decide to take a break and have some chocolate in order to gain strength before starting to put it away.

Fast forward, mercifully, to Monday morning.

The office furniture is rearranged. The bookshelf in the closet is full. The computer and both chairs are uncovered, but most of the available surfaces, including my desk, are still cluttered with miscellaneous small objects waiting to be put away.

The wardrobe—empty—is in the bedroom. The shelves are downstairs in the workshop waiting to be sanded and given their first coat of paint. My clothes are still in the dresser drawers, which are still arrayed across the bed in the guest room. It's kind of handy, really, to be able to see exactly what's in each one.

But the closet under the stairs is clean, organized, and looking great. If I need any old geology magazines or have an urge to put up Christmas decorations in May, I know exactly where to find them.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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