Monday, December 12, 2011

Bringing Christmas to the Living Room

11-08-10-12-26-04H 11-08-10-12-52-55H  11-08-10-12-40-16H 11-08-10-12-36-43H 11-08-10-12-37-36H 11-08-10-12-39-51H

When we were in Leavenworth, Washington in late summer I went to the remarkable Kris Kringl shop.  I was looking for an advent calendar.  As a child, a friend of my parents had sent us one from Germany, a traditional street scene in a Bavarian village with all the stores bedecked with boughs of greenery and people carrying packages and Christmas trees across the town square.  It had a sprinkling of white glitter on it, like fairy snow.  We had loved it for years, competing to be the one to open the window for that day, searching through all the ornamentation to find the right numbered door. 

Now I was in a Bavarian town that looked like an advent calendar itself, minus the sprinkle of glitter.  It reminded me of my wish to find a real, authentic German calendar.  I wanted to buy one for my friend who now has grandchildren coming to her house –it could be both a souvenir of our trip and a teaching tool for the grandkids.    Leavenworth seemed like the place to have them, being German and all.  And they had a store dedicated to Christmas goods!  Perfect.

So I went to the Christmas store, Kris Kringl.  There I found every conceivable collectible: fairies and sugar plums, gingerbread houses, elves, Snow Babies and Santa Clauses.  There were hand blown glass ornaments and carved wooden ones, fabric elves and crystal icicles.  There was vintage Christmas with Lucia brides and 1950’s diner scenes.11-08-10-12-41-52H

I wandered around between the Jack Frosts and the crystal snowflakes looking for an advent calendar.  Finally I asked a sales clerk.  “Oh, is that religious?  That’s upstairs, at the back.”  I couldn’t find the stairs and she said “The stairs are over in that corner behind the door”.

So upstairs at the back behind the door I went.  No advent calendars here.  Some Fontanini nativity pieces, relegated to the back of the inn store.  In a store about Christmas there was very little of Christ’s birth.  I felt the chill of  “No room at the inn.”

I like elves and sugar plum fairies and snowmen and snow globes, don’t misunderstand me.  I just want it to be remembered that the reason for Christmas is that Christ came to earth. The angels filled the sky to announce it to the shepherds and a star led the learned men from different countries to welcome the new king.  All of history pivots on this event, and it needs to be more than “Upstairs, at the back.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

How Lovely Are Your Branches

Oregon has a lot of Christmas tree farms.  Besides the larger nurseries and tree farms, many folks with a large piece of property plant Christmas trees on their acreage as a tax write-off.  I think our neighboring state to the north, Washington, is the Christmas tree capital of the world (so I’ve heard) but Oregon has its share of the green.11-11-12-09-55-45H
    There are many styles of trees and how a Christmas tree ought to look is buried deep in the human psyche.   Often a couple’s first serious argument will be about the shape of the tree: bushy or open.  Personally I say that ornaments show off better on an open (Noble) tree.  11-11-12-09-56-18H
Of course, there are Grand Firs and Scotch Pines and Blue Spruce (I don’t recommend; they have very sharp needles) and Douglas Firs (so plentiful and native here that they are somewhat despised) and many more varieties of fir and pine trees.  How long the needles should be is a subset argument.
Another debate looms large: real tree or fake tree?  Your feelings about this, deeply ingrained and prejudiced as they are, may change over the years with the shrinking dollar and your waning energy.  When the kids are little, it is magic-making (even if you’re miserably cold and wet) to tramp around the forest (tree farm) looking for just the right tree and cutting it down and dragging it back to the car and tying it on top of the car (trunk end forward) and driving home and untying it and bringing it into the house dragging half of the forest floor with you.  Magical.  Especially the hot chocolate when the ordeal is over and the tears of those who didn’t get their tree of choice are wiped away.
Later in life when money is more available you can just go to a lot of precut trees and choose one.  They tie it on top for you (it may even come baled if you don’t mind getting one sight unseen—but who is that trusting?) Then you bring it home, cut the end off and put it in a bucket of water to try and revive it after its sojourn in the tree lot, and after a day of soaking bring it into the house dragging it across the floor with half of the tree lot behind it.
Still later in life when you realize that 1) the smell of fresh pine is what’s making you sneeze through December and 2) for the amount you have spent on live trees over the years you could have had an artificial, light weight one with detachable branches that you keep in a box in the attic and never have to crawl on the floor to water and 3) it’s already got the lights wrapped in it so you don’t have to mess with miles of tangled strings of lights and replacement bulbs and then taking them all off again on Jan 1.   4) besides which, you can spray pine scent around in the air…
Or you can just get a teeny tiny tabletop one like the folks in the nursing home. 
After you have settled the Basic Shape issue and the Real or Artificial issue and the Variety of Tree issue, you must settle the last one:
I recently attended an open house at my local gardening store.  They had a back room filled with flocked trees.  Apparently the flocking seals in moisture in the needles so they do not need to be watered and thus can be ready to purchase by Halloween or so.
But wait!  There is a new style of flocking.  It is called
It is truly lovely and as natural looking as any snow-covered tree residing in a snow-free zone can be.   The store says that putting lights on it is problematic but you can get around that by putting spot lights on it from below.  I guess you need a horse trailer to get it home from the store, or maybe they deliver…

O Christmas Tree
English Version 1

Author unknown
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
In beauty green will always grow
Through summer sun and winter snow.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!
How often you give us delight
In brightly shining Christmas light!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me
That hope and love will ever be
The way to joy and peace for me.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Victoria reigns!

When I left you in Victoria, it was still summer and we were having lovely days in the sunshine.  After spending a day at Butchart’s Gardens, we came back to our timeshare in the city where had been moved into the penthouse because of last minute reservation grabbing on my part.

What I want to observe is that we had a great time in our 6th floor unit and we had a great time in our 1st floor “penthouse” unit (yes, they call the ones closest to the harbor the penthouse, not the top floor units.)  Our friends actually liked the 6th floor one better because of the view toward Parliament and the Empress.  Being on the first floor end unit put us right on the harbor with a front row seat to the seaplanes taking off and landing, the cruise ships and dragon boat races, the water taxis, and also all the joggers, dog walkers, and strollers.  We could have fed them over the railing.  I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that the the big advantage to the penthouse was 1) not having to walk the length of the hallway and down the elevator and across the lobby in our swimsuits to get to the hot tub because there was one on our own deck and 2) in the penthouse they give courtesy bathrobes which you really don’t need because you are not walking down the hall, down the elevator and across the lobby in your swimsuit, anyway.  So as an improvement, it was a wash.  I couldn’t leave the drapes in our bedroom open in order to see the early morning light as I like, because the passers by right outside my window would have been seeing me, which I don’t like.  To sum up my thoughts on penthouse dwelling: It doesn’t matter either way.  You make your own fun wherever you are.  Most of the time we were outside, anyway.

But I want to show you the last pictures of Victoria.  I got up at 6 AM because I was determined to take an early morning picture of the sun on the houseboats.  I sat on the deck waiting for the light to hit.  I made coffee and sat some more.  I dozed.  By the time the sun rose high enough to hit the fronts of the houseboats it had also diffused over the whole sky, so it wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped.  But it was lovely: 

6:08 AM11-08-13-06-08-57H

6:37 AM: 11-08-13-06-37-48H

6:59 AM: 11-08-13-06-59-21H 11-08-13-06-59-56H 7:00 AM11-08-13-07-00-55H 7:34 AM11-08-13-07-34-46H

Our no-can-see-um room:11-08-12-18-06-28H Penthouse perks:11-08-13-08-27-12D  Remember how we ate ice cream for breakfast on the first day of our trip?  This last day, we had Hot Dogs for breakfast on the deck!  11-08-13-09-40-50H Other wonderful last sights:                               water taxi ride to Chinatown: 11-08-12-20-22-37H 11-08-12-20-27-29H 11-08-12-20-28-11H 11-08-12-20-34-56H 11-08-12-20-35-41D


  11-08-12-20-57-40H 11-08-12-20-59-08D 11-08-12-21-00-31H

11-08-12-21-36-58R 11-08-12-21-08-31R Tents set up for the dragon boat races tomorrow ^

11-08-12-21-09-26D     Pretending to be Queen Elizabeth at the Empress: 11-08-12-21-25-27R 11-08-13-11-12-07H

11-08-13-11-16-01D  11-08-13-11-15-16D 11-08-13-11-15-38D 11-08-13-11-15-45D11-08-13-11-16-12D 11-08-13-11-16-32H 11-08-13-11-32-23R 11-08-13-11-32-37R

11-08-13-12-16-18R11-08-13-12-16-18RVictoria had hanging baskets of flowers everywhere!

11-08-13-07-29-15D Dragon Boat races:



Leaving on the ferry, but we’ll be back, Victoria!