Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Party's Over...It's time to Call it a Year.


Ugg...OKAY, I'll admit it, I'm bummed. It's time to face the music and face the Christmas tree one final time and say my goodbyes. It's been a year (technically over a year) since I assembled the tree in the dining room and never in my wildest imagination at the time did I anticipate keeping it up for an entire year. In fact, I rarely make it through New Year's Day with a Christmas tree in the house.




I am doing all I can to mentally prepare myself. I had no difficulties taking down the 'family tree' in the family room and did so on the 27th. It just felt like the right time and a necessity to bringing back a feeling of order and welcoming possibilities for the arrival of the New Year. Why can't I seem to feel that way about this tree?




For starters it occurred to me this morning as I once again enjoyed gazing upon it over my morning coffee that it makes me FEEL GOOD. I can't imagine how many times this past year I got lost in those gazes throughout the day. It's among one of the first things I visited every morning and the last one at night as I turned off its lights. During overcast days it was my beacon of warmth and cheeriness and during bright sunny days it captivated me as the sun reflected off of the ornaments. It's certainly been a conversation starter more than a few times and it delighted me to watch our guests venture closer to it to take a peek at all of its hidden treasures.




The thought of turning to that corner and finding a dark emptiness after all this time weighs heavy on my heart and makes the burden of taking it down that much larger. I toy with the idea of the fact that Valentine's Day is not far away and since there are already red lights on the tree couldn't I just keep it until then?




Maybe it's not about the red lights as much as it is the ornaments themselves. Years in the making...a testament to my family and our rich history together. This year in many ways was a very difficult year for us and yet...I can honestly say without hesitation that it has been one of the greatest years ever and I have never felt happier. That feeling permeates throughout our house and our family and for that I am grateful beyond words. Was a Year in the Life of a Christmas Tree responsible for that or was it what the tree represented and thus reflected back to us all that captured and amplified those feelings?




As I continue to enjoy what will soon be my last few glances at the tree it reminds me of a well worn treasured quilt. You know the ones that are tattered and a wee bit torn? To another they would mean nothing, but to the bearer of such a treat it is a living memory. Every piece has a story, every stitch a legacy to the hands that stitched them. In times of trouble or need of comfort it wraps us up and soothes us as nothing else can because it is a reminder of all that has been and still is good in our lives. I look at that tree and that is exactly how I am feeling, like I could crawl up in to it and be forever safe and happy. As delightful as that sounds ( and yes, quite itchy) I realize that happiness is ALWAYS just a thought away and even in the darkness there is always the ability to bring forth light. Again I am overwhelmed by the experience this has been and continues to be.


I have come up with some additional ways of entertaining myself this coming year with a new blog of which I am already working on and a way to capture Christmas on a monthly basis this coming year, but on a much smaller scale of which I will not necessarily be blogging, but definitely highlighting thru Facebook.


Thank you all for taking this journey with me. I hope in some small way it inspired you throughout the year as well. I have enjoyed your comments and greatly appreciated your support. I wish for you all a new year filled with abundance, prosperity, good health and numerous blessings.

Much Love,

Gina

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It ALWAYS Starts with an Inspirational Vision











For those of you who have joined the journey this past year, you know that all of my trees have started with a piece of inspiration. Some times the initial inspiration revealed surprising additional pieces like the charm bracelet from my Nana that I hung on the St. Patrick's Day tree. Each tree along the way triggered memories I hadn't anticipated would come and I think of all the things this experience has provided me, the ability to spend time with long forgotten, but happy memories was the absolute best part.


In deciding what the final tree should be...I was at a loss for ideas or motivation. For many years, the trees have been about the decor of the room. Long gone were the kid's handmade ornaments replaced by anything from beaded Victorian fruit to pheasant feathers and polished seed pods. No two trees were ever the same and every year was an opportunity for something grandeur and totally unexpected.


I have certainly taken a lot of ribbing from my children who at times questioned, "Mom, can we have a REAL Christmas tree this year?" This being the FINAL tree of this blog I decided to surprise my children (who are now nearly all adults) with a REAL Christmas tree. What I did not expect was all the SURPRISES I would gift myself.

With my new motivation in focus, I immediately knew where the inspiration would come from. Years ago my husband's aunt knitted each of the children their own personal Santa stocking. When the first one arrived in the mail for our daughter's second Christmas I nearly cried at the sight of it. I was so touched by the thought and the care taken by the hands of their beautiful Aunt Dorothy. She continued the tradition for the next two children as well as all of her nieces, nephews and grandchildren. For many years displaying those stockings was one of the highlights of our holiday. Years ago I tucked them away for safe keeping. Aunt Dorothy is no longer with us and I worried the stockings would get ruined and I wanted to preserve them. Still...I knew they had to be a part of this year's special tree and so instead of hanging them on a mantle, I hung them on the tree.

Further rummaging through long hidden boxes in the attic led me to ornaments and keepsakes I honestly had forgotten we had. Carefully unwrapping the tissue paper they were packed in, each and every one brought back a flood of memories of either the person who gave us the ornament or the reason behind our purchasing it. Everything from all the babies first Christmas ornaments to puzzle piece wreaths made in elementary school. I stumbled across bags of ornaments made by the ladies auxiliary group at the Church my grandmother attended. Many of the women responsible for those beautiful pieces are long gone, such as my own grandmother and yet...these pretty trinkets stand testimony to their talents and serve as a legacy. Of ALL the treasures I joyfully reconnected with there were a few that truly took my breath away. I found two ornaments from my own childhood Christmas tree and a precious envelope addressed by my son Ryan to the North Pole. Inside is his letter to Santa asking for specific gifts for himself, his sister, dad and me. ( Seth was not a part of our family then). I also discovered Ryan's favorite baby rattle. I happily tucked all of them in the tree.

For years I couldn't wait to have a REAL Christmas tree. The trees I long admired in magazine photos and fancy establishments. Trees of glorious ribbons and color coordinated adornments. Trees that had a theme where everything matched and flowed with a decorator's touch. Trees that said PRETTY.

Is this tree Pretty??? NO! It's BEAUTIFUL!!! I have a REAL Christmas tree for the first time in years and I couldn't be any prouder of it.

Merry Christmas friends!
















Friday, November 26, 2010

I Survived!!!

I can't believe how quickly the year has passed. It seems like yesterday that I was announcing to the world my intentions to live a year in the life of a Christmas Tree and now I've come full circle as I get ready to decorate the tree for Christmas.



As I sit here this morning after Thanksgiving, I find myself lost in reflection. I spent some time rereading the previous posts as a reminder to myself of how I got here. My memories go much deeper than this past year and the blog posts and I seem to find a greater understanding of how I got here and WHY this experiment (or experience) meant so much.



I have nothing but amazing, happy, warm memories of my childhood holidays. In fact those memories were so ingrained that it led me to a period of holidays as an adult that left me feeling anything but happy. As a young adult and the oldest, married daughter of an Italian family, Christmas (and all the other holiday gatherings) fell on my shoulders. It is some kind of unwritten by law in the growing up Italian handbook right there along the rule thou shall NEVER serve sauce from a jar no matter how convenient.



My immediate family was living in Florida a great distance from our extended family and so it was just the 5 of us. The Christmas holiday started its spiral downward trend for me our very first Christmas in Ft. Lauderdale where we found ourselves spending the day on the beach. Nothing like a lifeguard in red trunks and a Santa hat that says, "We're not in Connecticut anymore Toto." To add further insult to injury, my mother decorated the house that year with a 3 foot pop up Christmas tree. Literally, the woman opened a box and out came this little tree fully decorated and ready for table top display. To this day we still harass her about that one.



Far away from family, my mother would open up our home to all the other "strays" who had no family to spend the holidays with and that was how it started. Years later, living in Central Florida, I was married with a family of my own and the job of holiday hostess became mine. My family owned a restaurant and so although we had no extended family we certainly had a huge gathering of friends and as it had been further South, the need to make certain everyone had a place to spend the holidays continued and now it was in my home.



Growing up our holidays were something straight out of a Currier and Ives print. Christmas Eve was always spent at my Mother's parent's house which was next door to ours. My Aunt, Uncle and cousins lived to the other side of our house and we would all gather at the Grandparents. The table was set with Grandmother's finest China, everyone dressed in their holiday best attire and the evening almost always concluded with the family sitting in the formal living room enjoying Christmas music played by my Grandfather on the organ.



Every year as a young adult, I tried desperately to bring to my home and my children those memories I held so dear. Every year I failed miserably. At times we had well over 25 people crammed around tables that stretched from my kitchen through my family room and then some. The fine China had been replaced by Chinette, the fancy attire gone and the magical memories of my youth were completely lost in my feelings of overwhelm and pure exhaustion. In fact, it was not until about 10 p.m. on Christmas night that I would have my "Christmas." Alone in the dining room, long after the crowd had left and my own family was tucked away asleep...I would sit in the silence and the dark except for the glowing lights of the Christmas tree and the last flicker of the candles on the table to enjoy a glass of wine and the blissful quiet. Often times tears would silently flow down my face. The holiday was over and I had failed again.



It wasn't until many years later when we were blessed with our last child right before Thanksgiving that I finally "got" it. Four days after giving birth, the family and extended others gathered around my dining room table again. Left to the kitchen alone to clean the remaining dishes, I burst in to sobs at the thought of another approaching Christmas. In hindsight I'm sure much of my emotional breakdown was due to the exhaustion of a newborn baby and hormones running amok. My husband appeared from the bedroom after putting our new bundle to sleep and noticed my meltdown. Boy...did he notice it, I couldn't stop the sobbing and all of the previous year's holiday anguish flooded to the top and boiled over. He then said something that changed my holiday views from there on in...He told me that our children could never miss what they did not have. At first I was angered by his comment, but he went on to explain. "You haven't failed them for your memories are yours, and their memories are theirs and you have done an outstanding job of providing them with wonderful ones."



As I listen to my grown children now talk about the holidays we have shared, I realize my husband was right. They have nothing but warm, happy memories.



We now live in Georgia and our first Christmas here was just the 5 of us and I could not believe how much I missed the "stress" of our holidays in Florida. Our first Christmas celebration was over in what seemed like minutes. We have since made an adjustment and started our own new traditions to insure that the entire day is celebrated. In the evening we find ourselves enjoying the company of our friends who are like family to us as we all make an effort to make new memories in our lives which have transported us from those we love "back home."



Comes 10 p.m. on Christmas night I still take time out for "my Christmas." It has become one of my most cherished times of the holiday season. The tears still show up, but they are happy ones. As I sign off, I can't help but wonder if my Grandmother and my Mother shed tears on Christmas...and I can't help but rejoice in the fact that my daughter; the oldest of our family will be married soon and I'll get to pass the torch. I will do it however only if and when she is ready and should she feel the need to use jarred sauce in her holiday lasagna...it will be okay with me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Fall Ya'll







As I wrote in the previous post, I had no real expectations for the November tree and no purchased supplies. Having removed the Halloween decorations I was immediately saddened by the harsh coldness of a bare green tree.


With no design notions in mind, I grabbed the first garland of fall leaves I could get my hands on which was still on display in the kitchen from the Halloween decorations. The moment I wrapped it about the tree branches, the excitement grew and I was on a mission to make due with what I had.


I stumbled across some fall colored seed pods long forgotten in a box of greenery at the bottom of my design closet. I also discovered packages of pheasant feathers and some faux gourds from a centerpiece I had made years ago. I must admit I laughed a time or two at the insanity of the things I do own. Being a former decorator with the ability to shop wholesale certainly had its perks and for a woman who suffered A.D.D when it came to my own home's decor...I have what appears to be an endless supply of decorating paraphernalia.


In no time at all the tree was filling in nicely with the rich, warm colors of the fall season. For a final touch I found a fall floral arrangement I had used a couple of years ago hanging on a hook in the garage. With a pair of clippers I dismantled the sunflower spray and went about inserting the large sunflowers throughout the tree.

I finished the tree just as the sun was starting to grow low in the sky and the illumination of the sunlight on the tree through the dining room window was nearly breathtaking. The fall season here in Georgia this year (at least in my area) has been nothing to write home about. Due to a dry summer, the leaves are falling from the trees having hardly turned color. Thanks to the new tree design I get to enjoy the beauty of fall a bit longer this year. The view from my office window may be less than spectacular, but the view from my office door...GLORIOUS!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Thanksgiving Tree


Oh MY! How did that happen??? I almost always start my holiday decorating the day before Thanksgiving. Nothing fancy...I attempt to get the trees up and lit, but rarely any decorations until after we have had our holiday meal. I just LOVE the subtle lights of the trees adding to the candle light on the dining room table. I can't believe that it is NOVEMBER and it will nearly be time to set my attention on THE Christmas tree (s).

Perhaps it was the whole year's experience of living with a tree that made the months pass more quickly than I wanted. My daughter asked me on Halloween what my plans were...if I would just go straight to the Christmas design, but I couldn't. This was meant to be a new design a month and so November needed a theme of its own.

I was once again running behind. I greeted the start of November with the flu and have done little to nothing about anything in my life these past couple of weeks, let alone worried about what to do with the tree. Today being the first day in some time that I felt human, I thought the least I could do was remove the Halloween decorations. To be honest, I was dreading what I thought would be a huge mess in trying to remove the spider webbing. Fortunately and happily...it came off with no problem at all.

Then IT happened...what??? The "IT" is what happens every time I get anywhere near a Christmas tree. I can't put it in to words...the closest I can explain is what I believe a painter must feel every time they eye a blank canvas. It's the NEED to touch it...to create something that wasn't there before and just like that...I was mesmerized and committed.

In all honesty, I hadn't made any preparations for this tree...no goodies bought and tucked away in the closet...no expectations at all. For a few moments I had thought about leaving it be until it was a proper time to turn my attention to Christmas decorating, but the thought of eyeing a naked tree was more than I could handle.

I am proud to say this tree cost me nothing more than my time. A couple of visits to my "design closet" and the attic was all it took to find all the accessories needed. My greatest find of all....the turkey place mats made by my oldest children from elementary school. For the time being they are proudly displayed on the dining room hutch. I can't remember the last time a child's drawing or painting graced the walls or refrigerator of my home. THAT in and of itself may prove to be one of the best feelings enjoyed this year.
Stay tuned....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Halloween Tree




If you have been keeping up with the Year In the Life of a Christmas Tree blog, you are well aware that I lost my tree mojo sometime between the Easter tree and August. It had grown in to another to-do in an already hectic life of too many to-do's. Just at the point when I was ready to admit defeat and dismantle the tree for the final time, I happened upon some Halloween tree decorations in a craft store. They were meant for one of those little table top trees that are so popular now and way to small for a full size tree, but their inspiration was huge. In first deciding to do this year long event the one thing that truly excited me was the idea of creating a Halloween tree. Of course, back then Halloween seemed so far away but before I knew it I was steering down October 1 on the calendar.




Halloween has long been one of my favorite holidays. At our home in Florida we had a good size front porch that allowed me the opportunity for a very theatrical display. I spent the entire day preparing it for the evening's festivities. Some years, I obviously spent a little too much time in my creativity causing the youngest children to be frightened to come forth and ring the bell. ( note to readers...this is a great way to save on candy expenses) Over the years the displays increased and we were thrilled to find return visitors year after year who made the journey to enjoy the decorations; often times opening the door to find people with video cameras. I should explain that we lived in a fairly rural area outside of Orlando and although our housing development was small the folks out in the country would load up pick up trucks with children to bring them in to town for the ability to trick or treat. One year, I opened the door to find a costumed cowboy...ON A PONY...there...on my front porch!




We moved to our new house in Ga. two days before Halloween nearly 11 years ago. What a fabulous way to quickly meet our new neighbors! Unfortunately, our new home had no porch and my yearly Halloween display that brought me so much enjoyment was now a memory. I did get to use my skills in another way...participating in our new housing development's Haunted Trail event, but sadly that too has gone in to the memory books. Fortunately for me...I had a whole new way to experience the fun of Halloween decorating in transforming the tree. Going up in to the crawl space in search of long forgotten Halloween items proved to be a wonderful walk down memory lane.




There is no doubt in my mind that once this year is over...I will definitely be packing up the Christmas tree. It was a fun experience, but one I don't feel the need to repeat. I will however admit, chances are another Halloween tree will be in my future. As the days are turning darker earlier and the night air is becoming crisper...the glowing orange lights are a warm reminder of wonderful memories. I can't help but smile every time I look at the tree. I wonder however if I will still be smiling when it comes time to try and get those cob webs off....


To be continued....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Gator Girl




I'm a little behind in getting this post updated. I had promised to share something about my Gator Girl last month with the launching of the Gator tree as it brought back so many funny memories of my daughter and her love of ALL things Gator football.




Meet Kristyn, or Miss Priss as she is affectionately known in our household. Not quite certain when the nick name took hold, but I think it may have been started by her youngest brother who had difficulty saying her name as a baby. He called her Hiss which somehow led to Priss. Comes to think of it, I think he still calls her Hiss. Thank goodness her nickname for her second to youngest brother is nothing more than a memory as I think he would have had a difficult time especially during middle school being known as Fluffy. Sorry...I digress.




The one thing I do remember is her obsession with Gator football took hold in elementary school. Openly encouraged and celebrated by her Kindergarten teacher, a former Gator Alumni. Being raised in the South, it is understood that college football ranks right up there with Religion. There are two questions you can almost guarantee in the meeting of a new person...what Church do you attend and what team do you root for and not necessarily in that order.




Although Priss no longer lives at home, her bedroom continues to serve as a shrine to the
Florida Gators. One trip to her room was all it took for me to gather up all the necessary items for the tree design being careful to not attach to the tree any of the sacred Gator Chi items needed for game day. (Gator Chi Items are those items that MUST be present at every game and MUST be placed in the exact same spot to satisfy the Gator Gods and assure a winning game) Yes, I know...we take this very seriously.




Some time in middle school Priss informed her father and I that she wanted to be the world's first college football coach. I for one could not have been prouder and encouraged her to go forth with her dreams. Sure, I realized the uphill battle she would have to climb. I worried how she would handle the locker room situation and warned that patting her players on the butt could open her up to a sexual harassment suit. Then there was the whole concern of how her hair would look after it was doused with a bucket of Gatorade...not to mention what that would do to her mascara...but had she wanted to go for it...I'm sure we could have worked out the logistics.




Once in high school she came busting through the front door as happy as someone who had just won the lottery. She excitedly told me she had made the high school Powder Puff football team. She spent the entire weekend drawing up football plays. After their first practice I went to pick her up from school and could tell immediately by the look on her face that things had not gone well. "How was practice, did your plays work?" "Plays MOM...PLAYS?" Then with total disgust she proceeded to tell me that the only thing they'd "practiced" was how they were going to wear their hair during the games. "These girls know nothing about football Mom, they only want to dress in short shorts and tie ribbons in their hair." Looking back, I remember with pride that she did look pretty cute and was without a doubt the most aggressive, determined player on the field.




Priss's knowledge of football is amazing. The girl can call the penalty before the Refs have had the opportunity to throw down their flags. She is well versed in plays and knows a tight end from a running back. She's a Guy's Girl when it comes to talking football and often blows men away because they don't expect it.




One of my all time favorite memories of her is the time she and I attended the SEC championship game a few years back. Her Dad had surprised us both with 2 tickets on the 50 yard line and about 16 rows up from the field. He booked us a hotel room in downtown so we wouldn't have to worry about driving home late and sent a limo to take us round trip to the game. While we were certainly no where near the only females in attendance, Kristyn became quite popular in our section. The man sitting next to her begged to adopt her as his own as he was completely taken back by her enthusiasm. Surrounded in a sea of gorgeous college Frat boys she only had eyes for one man and that was our QB Chris Leak. I swear to you he spent more time looking up in her direction than the direction of his coaches on the sideline looking for instructions on the next needed play as she was surely shouting them out there.




How appropriate that she would find the love of her life at the infamous World's Largest Cocktail party or in other words, the Georgia/Florida game that takes place every year in Jacksonville Florida. Proving that love is blind...at least blind to team colors, my daughter brought home a DAWG. His team lost the game, but he scored a win in his future bride. I'll be honest, I am a little concerned about this mixed marriage...especially where future grandchildren are concerned. Will he or she be raised a Gator or a Dawg? Only time will tell. Shhhh...don't tell anyone but I've pre-ordered tapes for the womb. Not Beethoven or Bach...The Gator Theme Song. Alls fear in love, war and football!


Miss Priss by the way is not very happy that the Gator tree is now but a memory. A GREAT memory for sure. Love you my Gator Girl!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Another Month...Another Tree Design

I must admit...as excited as I was about the idea of a Halloween tree and still am, the thought of having to say goodbye to The Gator tree is difficult. My family has really enjoyed lighting the tree these past few Saturdays in honor of our beloved football team. This tree has brought so much enjoyment to my children and I especially. BUT...this is after all A Year in the Life of a Christmas Tree and just as the leaves on the trees around us are about to CHANGE, it's time for the decorations on the tree to do so as well.
I hope you will check back in to see the newest design. If you don't hear from me any time soon, please send help. I am off to the darkest regions of our crawl space in hopes of finding Halloween decorations. Many have been boxed up for at least 11 years as we had no use for them when we moved into our new house. Surely hoping I can find them. Looking forward to another walk down memory lane...hoping for more treats than tricks.
Until next time....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TOUCH DOWN!!!













Happy September Everyone!






I don't know about you, but I for one am counting down the days until the start of the Fall season. This summer has been an exceptionally long and hot one. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself wondering who in their right mind would be decorating a Christmas tree while the temperature was 91 degrees, but I guess we long ago established the fact that I am not in my right mind for if I was, would I have a Christmas tree still standing in September? Worse was my recent confession that the tree was still adorned with Easter decorations well past their expiration date.
I want to thank my numerous friends who showed their support to me when I confessed to losing my interest in the year long Christmas tree experiment. I had come very close to just taking the tree down once and for all when I spied some Halloween tree decorations while visiting a Michael's store. The thought of a Halloween inspired tree brought new excitement to the stale experience, but I had felt as though I failed by not reaching every month of my commitment with a newly decorated tree. One friend offered the following words of advice...You can pick up where you left off as you've come to far to give up. With that gentle encouragement I recommitted myself to the task and vowed to have a new tree designed for September.
The next concern was the design itself. What type of tree would best represent the month of September? Well it didn't take me long to figure out what my favorite part of September is...it's the start of college football season and anyone who personally knows me, knows I live for college football. Not just any college...but the University of Florida GATOR football. A quick run to my nearest Hobby Lobby to find some orange colored ornaments and I was on my way. On my return home, I had a new found sense of urgency and excitement as I went to task finally removing the Easter decorations. OH and for those of you who have been keeping up with me through this journey...the Peeps held their own and looked just as fabulous today as they did when I strung them through the tree back in April. NO, I didn't eat any! Okay...I thought about it, after all I had been out and about shopping with no time to eat, but it was a very quick thought and I erased it while saying a tiny prayer for their sacrifice and then gave them a proper burial in a hefty bag.
I gathered up numerous Gator items many of which still remain in my daughter's vacant bedroom and went to work placing them through out the tree. I must admit as I strung the orange and blue lights I congratulated myself on my choice knowing that for the next two months the orange lights will remain on the tree saving me additional work with the future design plans. Stepping back to admire the tree I felt a sense of accomplishment. Yes, I missed a few months over the summer, but my friend was right...I'd come too far to not see it through and the time spent working on the tree was pure bliss. It not only renewed my excitement in the idea of being able to live with a Christmas tree on display for an entire year, but the excitement of welcoming another season of football.
It was just a few moments after cleaning up my mess that my youngest son came in from school and with one look at the tree he smiled and said Mom, that's epic! After sending a few photos to my daughter she phoned with total excitement over the tree and announced that it was the greatest tree I had ever designed and she wanted it to be our actual Christmas tree this year. I told her that I couldn't do that as I was already planning the Halloween design. Slightly defeated, she quickly rebounded with the idea that this year's annual holiday Christmas card photo would be done well ahead of schedule as it was her request that I take their photo in front of the Gator tree. WOW...this is already turning out better than I expected! A family first...children WANTING to have their holiday picture taken!
As I sit at my desk writing this I can see the tree in all its glory. All I can say is GO GATORS!
This brings a whole new meaning to the words all I want for Christmas is another SEC championship!
OH and speaking of my daughter...she probably won't appreciate it, but I have a story or two to share about my Gator Girl. : ) Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

An Embarrassing Confession

OK, well truthfully, how embarrassed can I be...I mean it's August and I still have my Christmas tree up. To add insult to injury however the tree is still decorated in its Easter best. BTW...for those of you who wondered...the PEEPS have held their own. They are still going strong...hard as rocks, but none the less still as cute as can be. Peeps...not just for Easter baskets any more.

The Year in the Life of a Christmas Tree started as an experiment fueled by a few ideas. #1) I am the first to want to put the tree up every year with the excitement of a child, but ready to take it down the moment the last present has been unwrapped. I love the holiday decorations, but I love order and organization more. Would I be able to handle the sight of a Christmas tree well past the expiration date? #2) I was a tree designer years back and I never tire of the creativity they allow. Never satisfied with the traditional Christmas tree designs, I use every new year as an opportunity to do something very unique. A year's worth of designs was definitely an enticement to explore all the options. #3) A lit Christmas tree months past the fact is a fun way to embarrass the heck out of your offspring. #4) Last Christmas was so special part of me wanted to extend the amazing feeling of warmth and good cheer in a world that was feeling cold and gloomy.

Unfortunately, all good intentions and reasons aside, I lost interest in it. I meant to do the Margaritaville theme to welcome in summer. I envisioned a tree of pink flamingos and margarita glasses which I would have decorated to the background music of Jimmy Buffett. I looked forward to celebrating independence day with streamers of red, white and blue...BUT then it happened...I lost my tree mojo. No longer an object of desire and inspiration, but another thing on the to-do list which seems to grow day by day. SHAME ON ME! Knowing that this experiment was meant to teach me something...I realize today's lesson is that once again I allowed myself to be distracted by all the things I don't necessarily want to do but failed to allow myself time for the things I WANT TO DO. How often does that happen???

And so although I could call what happened a failure, I will refuse to do so. There have been so many wonderful surprises that took place on the journey so far and you know what...I'm not ready to give in. There are Halloween decorations that are calling to me. It's time to put on my big girl shoes...take a bite or two off a stale peep to allow for the sugar rush and find me a theme for September!!!

Stay tuned....???

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Memories Re-Created and New Ones Started




If you read yesterday's blog post than you know I spoke about one of my fondest memories of Easter...the magical Easter Egg Tree that grew in my Aunt and Uncle's yard. So inspired by my memories and the warm cherished feelings of seeing that tree every year...I decided that I would decorate the little tree outside my office window. I got it done right as the elementary school children were walking up the street. I only managed to get about 3 dozen eggs on the tree before I ran out of twine. I wasn't too disappointed because can I tell you...tying Easter Eggs to a tree is no easy task! Now I KNOW that it was most definitely a labor of love for my Aunt and Uncle...there's no other way to explain the lunacy.




I must admit however that the bright pastel eggs dangling in the breeze is a beautiful and festive sight. My daffodils have produced the brightest blooms I have ever seen in all the years since we planted them and the ornamental pear trees are heavy with their mass of white blossoms. Every time the breeze blows it's like nature's confetti as the blossoms drift through the air. A perfect back drop to my memory in bloom.




I wasn't too certain how my high school age son would feel upon finding the egg tree out front on his way home from school. I was pleased to find that he thought it was fun. I now wonder how many times in his life that memory will revisit him. That alone, warms my heart and makes me happy.




Since it was such a glorious day outside he joined me out on the back patio with his after school snack. As we sat there I took notice of a tiny little pine tree that had found its way in to our landscape. I pointed it out to Seth because it really does look like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. In fact, I thought about running upstairs to grab one little red Christmas ornament to hang from it...but in an inspired burst of creativity...I gathered a few more plastic eggs from the house and brought them out to the tree. We now have our very own Charlie Brown Easter tree.




What memory will you uncover or create today?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Eggs on Tree


When I was a child one of my most favorite parts of Easter was a yearly trip to my God Mother's house. We rarely had the opportunity to visit she and my uncle at their home it was almost always a matter of seeing them at our house or my grandparent's. They weren't relatives by blood, but we always referred to them as Aunt and Uncle probably more so out of respect than anything else. Uncle Joe had worked for my Grandfather since the time he was a young boy and stayed on learning all he could about being an electrician at the hands of my Grandfather. His wife became my mother's matron of honor and eventually my God Mother. Unfortunately my memories of them are scarce but there are a few distinctive ones.


One such memory was the name "Mushy Joe". I'm not quite certain where it came from. I always thought it had something to do with a character off of the bazooka bubble gum wrappers. Remember those? They had the little cartoons and you were always real careful to unwrap the gum so as not to destroy the wrapper and miss out on reading the latest adventures of Bazooka Joe and his friends. If I remember correctly, you could collect them as well and when you had enough collected you could mail them in for some cool prize like coveted X-ray vision glasses of which I do believe I am still waiting on. "Mushy Joe" always had bazooka bubblegum on him so to us young children he was of a God-like status. On the occasions when my mother would take us to our grandfather's business we excitedly got out of the car in hopes that Uncle Joe would be there. We were never allowed to call him Mushy Joe. Even though my cousins were able to get away with it, my mother would have had our hides as she would never allow us to address any adult in a disrespectful manner and that was disrespectful as far as she was concerned. I will admit he did have a mushy type expression on his face, but he was a kind and dear man whom I adored.


His wife, my Aunt Louise was an absolute favorite of mine. A beautiful woman with a warm smile and distinctive voice. She always looked so glamorous to me. Being her God daughter, I always got a little something special from her at Christmas time because she made certain to bring my birthday gift over as well. My birthday is two days after Christmas and her gift was the only one I could open early so that she could be present as I did so. There are two gifts that to this day I remember as though it was yesterday. One was my first watch, a Cinderella watch with a beautiful pale blue band. It was far too large for my wrist so for years I would just admire it in my jewelry box. The other was a beautiful doll that I adored. To this very day, my heart still aches for the fact that when she stopped working my mother sent her off to the "doll hospital" for repairs and that was the last time I saw her. I can not tell you how many days I sat anxiously waiting on Mr. Johnson our mailman to bring her back to me, but he never did. Hmmm....maybe it's time I have a long talk with my mother about that supposed doll hospital or put out an APB on Mr. Johnson.


One of my fondest memories of all took place every Easter. It was one of the few times I can ever recall going to Uncle Joe and Aunt Louise's house. It was the highlight of my year however as they had an Easter Egg Tree in their front yard. Legend has it that it was a one of its kind from what I was told. The Easter Bunny himself had planted it. From down the block as we made our way in the family station wagon the site of it beckoned us and all who drove past. It was magical! A special tree that "bloomed" plastic Easter eggs. I'm sure there were probably just a few dozen eggs strung on that tree, but in my memory there were hundreds! Each child had the opportunity to pick just one egg. If you were real lucky...you got the one egg that actually had money in it!!! My Uncle and Aunt never had children of their own and so I know this yearly egg tree tradition was a labor of love and the opportunity for them to do something special for other people's children bringing them much pleasure.


Okay yes...you know what I'm thinking... I'm sure there is some kite string somewhere in my garage and after hosting 2o plus Easter Egg hunts for my children over the years, I have a ton of those plastic eggs available. We haven't gotten around to trimming off the bare limbs on the crepe myrtle out front and it would make for a perfect Easter Egg tree.....to be continued???

Monday, March 29, 2010

Peeps Not Just For Eating...


Welcome back to another edition of A Year in the Life of a Christmas Tree and our new Easter Tree. What a lesson in patience this one has been! For one thing...it is the only tree to date where I had to keep replacing my decorations. Apparently, once a certain item becomes labeled "decoration", my hungry men decide it's the one thing they NEED to eat. I had boxes of Easter peeps, jelly beans and gumdrops carefully hidden, or so I thought, in the pantry. With the scent of bloodhounds they uncovered my treasures and went to work snacking. The worst part is, I had the peeps opened for weeks so they would harden as I thought they would be easier to use that way. I can not tell you how many boxes of them I have thrown out over the years as although they are an Easter basket staple, they've never been a huge hit with the kids. Like I said...reassign their lot in life and they become delicious delicacies. I guess I can't be too upset, because my "brilliant" idea of stringing all of the above was less than brilliant and more sticky than I had anticipated. I scrapped most of it, but still wished to use the peeps in some way other than what they were intended for.


I was up until the wee small hours of the morning stringing eggs, making tissue paper flowers...questioning my sanity. Will hope to get the room back in shape at some point today to be able to post additional photos soon. As for the peeps, they gave a good fight and did not go in vain. They actually are quite cute hanging on the tree. Now the real trick will be keeping the dogs or my guys away from them.


Now if you'll excuse me...I have a date with a vacuum.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Erin Go...BYE!

Ahhh...once again the feeling of a heavy heart as it's time to say goodbye to another month In the Year of a Life of A Christmas Tree. I know by now I shouldn't be so surprised, and yet I am. I have felt a heavy heart with each deconstruction project.

It has surprised me how much I have become attached to every one of the creations. All of them to date have been something entirely different than what I first envisioned...and perhaps it is because of that, I find myself so tickled and amused by the finished product. Every day when I catch a glimpse of them they continue to delight me. Some times it's the way the light is hitting them or maybe it's a way a certain decoration seems to stand out more than the others.

Tonight as I realized I had no choice but to get to work taking apart the St. Paddy's day tree I was completely awe struck by the way it appeared in the glow of the setting sun. The only word to describe it....magical. As if it also knew it was the last hurrah and just like a star that shines brightest before it falls from the sky it excited me like the rare site of a shooting star.

From my vantage point from my office desk where I type this, I once again look over at a bare tree and can hardly believe that just moments earlier it was a festive site of St. Patrick's Day pageantry. How sad and lifeless the bare branches. But like a painter with a brand new canvas there is a tinge of excitement to get started with that first brush stroke. An anticipation for the artwork to unfold...another reason to let go and create.

To beautiful beginnings all over again........

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sprung is Spring!


Pollen count up...snow flakes down? Hard to believe that we once again experienced snow here in Atlanta this past week. Granted, the flakes were so tiny that at first we did confuse them with pollen, but nope...it was snow! I must admit this has helped me to keep inspired in my task to maintain my Christmas tree year round.


Perhaps it has been the wacky weather pattern that has played with my internal calendar and inability to accept how quickly the time is passing. I truly feel as though I just finished the St. Patrick's Day tree and just realized that I have got to get to work on the Easter tree this weekend or I will once again be behind.


Looking forward to our Eggstravaganza event here on our town green this weekend. Proud to say I know the Easter Bunny personally and will in fact, be fastening the Velcro on his costume and adjusting his whiskers as I deliver him to his adoring fans who will be assembled for the egg hunt. Weather looks as though it should cooperate for a sunshiny day of egg gathering. We have in excess of 12,000 eggs so the hunting should be good. It truly is one of my favorite activities that we celebrate here every year. Just love the site of all those pastel eggs and the excited children dressed in their Sunday best. Equally glad that I am not the mother who then has to deal with all those grass stains on said attire after the fact. : )


I'll just gather up my Easter Bunny whom I'm sure will be more than ready to get home and put his tired paws up. Pictures to follow soon. In the mean time however, one last look at our St. Paddy's Day tree. We have all enjoyed it!

Until next time....

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It Always Start With An Inspiration...


As noted in a recent post, I was finding every excuse imaginable to drag my feet on re-decorating the Christmas tree. I had reached a point where I was growing tired of it and questioning whether or not I could make the year. In blogging about my feelings, I suddenly was inspired by thoughts of my Nana and her Irish heritage. I didn't know how the tree would look, nor did I really care because I suddenly realized that it didn't matter. I had given myself a task and dwelling on the "how" was keeping me in the now. How often does that occur in life?


After making a run to the local craft stores and also a visit to my own crawl space, I soon had a large supply of items handy to begin the decorating process. The first thing I did before even removing the Valentine's items from the tree was to hang a shamrock from the chandelier to inspire the mood. OK...pardon me...the FIRST thing I did was pour a nice cold glass of chardonnay and THEN I affixed the shamrock.


Posting to face book my plans for the evening...I once again found myself in an enjoyable conversation with supportive friends. One such friend even introduced me to his beautiful wife Beth and with in a few comments back and forth she shared her thoughts that both my Nana and her Grammie were looking down from heaven and sharing a laugh together. Wow! What a beautiful thought. Now that is inspiring!


What could you create today if you didn't think you would fail? What would you create right now if you weren't distracted over not knowing HOW to do it? What inspirations are brewing within you? Peel back the layers and be ready to gaze upon your treasure. It all starts with one step...HANG YOUR SHAMROCK!!!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

When Irish Eyes are Smiling...for my Nana


"When Irish eyes are smiling, Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing."

I heard angels sing numerous times in the company of my wonderful Nana. I was her first grand daughter and believe me...she didn't hide her feelings of enthusiasm of having a granddaughter. I was her third grand child and she affectionately greeted me as "The Queen". Upon my entrance either she or my Grandfather would burst in to " Here she is...Miss America." I think they did it just to watch me blush. Nana was my Dad's mom and we usually went to visit every weekend. I loved visiting her as her home was in the city and it was so different an experience from where we lived. I also got to see my cousins who lived downstairs from my Grandparents. During the summer months my grand parents stayed at their cottage on Long Island Sound on the coast of Connecticut. We spent many a weekend playing along the shore fishing and crabbing.

My Nana was taken from us way too soon. She died of cancer when I was 12 years old. Too young to fully know what was going on...I went nightly with my dad to her hospital room and could remember how frail she appeared. I also remember when they brought her home to die amongst her family in the life long home where she raised her family with love and devotion. Right before taking her final breath, she called for my grandfather. " Edward, you need to run to the deli." He tried to argue with her that there was plenty of food in the house, but she insisted that he listen and he take down her grocery list. She knew soon there would be a house full of people and she wanted to make certain there was plenty of boiled ham, salami and cheese. The woman knew how to throw a party and this gathering would be no different!

I remember her funeral as though it was yesterday because it was also the very first funeral I ever attended. It was also one of the only times I saw my father cry. You would think that I would have horrible memories, but I don't. Not a one. I was a witness to one of the most beautiful celebrations of the life of a remarkable woman. It was a privilege to be a witness to it all. I was in awe.

Tonight I went about the decorating of the "St. Patrick's Day Tree" in her honor and was amazed by the memories that came flooding in.
Her laughter...
Her brightly colored dresses...the woman NEVER wore a pair of pants in her life. I don't think she ever owned a pair.
She never learned to drive a car...
She made one of the best meatballs I have ever eaten in my life.
Her charm bracelet...a silver toned testament to her life displayed proudly on her wrist announcing every birth date of her children, 9 grandchildren, holiday celebrations, communions, and places visited.
Christmas...she LOVED Christmas. Every year she hung 9 stockings for each of her grandchildren and you almost always knew what to expect...a large size doodle pad, crayons, hair ribbons and perfume. It wasn't that it was fancy and honestly it paled in comparison to the many other gifts we received especially from my other grandparents...but it was my FAVORITE part of the holiday and to this day still is. It was the little things...Just like my Nana...it was the million "little things" that mattered.

She really would come out of her bedroom during a party with a lampshade on her head and a glass of burgundy wine in her hand and SING....loudly...joyously...she was the life of the party!
I wished I would have had the opportunity to know her better. To speak with her as the adult I am now. I would love to know what her life was like...what her dreams were...had she accomplished all she had hoped or did she hide some secret desires or hidden talents?

My grandfather could bring a tear to her eyes when he sang to her...but even through the tears...there was no denying the smile of those Irish eyes....

"When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away."

Miss you Nana...hope you like the tree. : )

It Will Take The Luck of the Irish at this Rate


Oh my! Okay so I'll be honest. I've been avoiding both the tree in the corner and my blog. I don't know where the time has gone so quickly and honestly, I'm waning a bit on the tree. I said this would be a HUGE undertaking for me and all bets were off as to whether or not I could make it a year and now I worry if I'll even be able to make it a quarter.


I looked at the calendar today and realized the huge task in front of me if I wanted to get the tree done up for St. Paddy's Day. I actually even ventured out today to see if I could find any unique decorations that would get the creative juices flowing. I keep thinking if I would just go up in the crawl space I am certain to have enough Green Flair to pull it off. You see, I was married on St. Patrick's day and so numerous celebrations have taken place with lots of decorations so if I could just get myself motivated, perhaps I would find that I already own all I would need. ( wedding story to follow )


I am giving myself through tomorrow...and if I haven't found what I would like...then it will be straight to the Easter/Spring decorations. I do however hope I can rally to the occasion. I know my Nana would be proud if I could. All of my grandparents were of Italian descent except for the one stand out...my Nana~ Rosalie Bernie. Oh how I adored that woman! She was taken from me far too early, but I can still recall the smell of her perfume, her LOVE of burgundy wine and a fabulous laugh that could fill up a room. OH and did that woman enjoy a good St. Patrick's Day celebration!


OKAY Nana...you've convinced me...we've spent too much time apart and it would be my joy, my honor and privilege to spend some time in thought of you. Where are my keys? Looks like I am getting ready to hit the stores again. It may not be pretty...it will probably be pushing the limits of tacky...but I know a woman who would put a lamp shade on her head and belt out a tune with such wild abandonment that even if she and I are the only two that get it...that's more than enough.


Go n-eírí an bóthar leat. xoxo

Monday, March 1, 2010

Where Did the Time Go???


As I sit looking out the window this morning I am delighting in the return of all the Robins. Here it is the first day of March and it's obvious that Spring is about to wake from its slumber. Well, today anyway...tomorrow there is snow in the forecast for Atlanta. For now however, it is a beautiful sunny morning and I am anticipating all the beauty that will soon mark one of my favorite seasons.


I spent most of my life in Florida where we had 3 seasons. Hot, Hotter and Hottest. I kept my seasons in a box in the attic. I anxiously circled the dates on the calendar and marked the change of seasons with some faux representation since Mother Nature rarely provided the color changes I was longing for. I would beg my husband for the opportunity to move up North and his response was always, what part of Jacksonville would you like to move to. I wasn't able to convince him, but thankfully his job was and we happily settled in to the suburbs just north of the city of Atlanta where we now get to experience all the seasons without the harshness of some areas. It's the perfect amount of each.


It's time to say goodbye to February and to winter. It's also time to say goodbye to the Valentine's Tree. I say goodbye with a heavy heart as I have enjoyed it very much. But just like the seasons, each change brings something new to admire. Mother Nature goes to great lengths to provide the changing palette and I for one hope that I never become too busy, too cynical, too removed to take the opportunity to delight in each of them and whisper a heartfelt thank you.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Memories...Light the Corners of Her Room....


What I have grown to enjoy most about the Year in the Life of a Christmas Tree is the wonderful reactions, inquiries and conversations it inspires. One of the biggest surprises to date is how many people have confessed ( in hushed tones ) the fact that they too still have their Christmas trees up. Many of them sadly naked in the corner of the room just waiting on a spurt of energy from someone in the house to finally pack it away. Others share that they like the warmth that the tree lights provide during the cold and dark days of winter and are not ready to let go of the holiday feelings it represents. Perhaps it has something to do with the overall sadness that so many people are feeling right now with the economy in such a state of disarray. Or maybe the tree is a reminder of simpler, happier times that many of us are wanting to wrap ourselves in.


That is why I was most delighted when my new on-line friend, Caroline Johnstone, shared the following story with me. Having enjoyed an exceptionally warm Christmas holiday she wanted to find a way to experience the feeling a bit longer and that led her to the idea of a Memory Tree. She got a large branch, attached lights and the concept is every time she celebrates something special, she finds a way to hold on to that memory with a treasured representation of the occasion with an "ornament" added to the tree branch.


Above is a photo of her memory tree as of Feb. 8th. The following items have been added to the tree so far: Champagne corks, a snoopy phone charm - A large red heart - the outside of a small chocolate box as a reminder of a fantastic party - a completed Sudoku laminated (from Glasgow Herald) - pretty little bag of bath salts, a reminder of a fabulous, amazing hot stone massage - nail varnish (as I stopped biting my nails this year) - a four leaf clover given to me by Emma last year for my birthday, one of my seven wonderful gifts, but it's allowed in this year to remind me to make my own luck and be thankful for it - And a healing crystal to symbolise the many I got as gifts to help me continue healing quickly.


I am so delighted that Caroline shared this with me and I can not wait to see what the tree looks like at the end of the year. I hope that it is completely covered...not a bare branch in sight as that would mean her year was blessed by numerous happy occasions and memories to be treasured.


I LOVE the concept and have shared it with numerous friends who also feel inspired by Caroline's story and idea. I do believe there will be a lot more Memory Trees being started and enjoyed!!! What would your tree hold?


Until next time...BE INSPIRED!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Being Open to Change


I mentioned in my last post that the V-Day tree did not turn out anything like I initially envisioned. From the very idea of what the tree would be like, I looked to one of my favorite objects as inspiration. A few years back one of my dearest friends gave me a beautiful burgundy colored, Victorian inspired Christmas stocking. So delighted by it, I couldn't bring myself to pack it away at the end of the Christmas holiday. Instead I found a spot for it in my "Macy's Powder Room" where I allow it to remain on display all year long. ( Ahhhh...the Macy's Powder Room...intrigued? I feel another blog post coming forth...but that is for another day)


My initial concept was to use the stocking as a focal point on the tree. Unfortunately, when I attempted to secure the stocking to the tree it became more of an eye sore than the visually appealing focal point I had so clearly saw in my mind's eye. So determined was I to make it work that an hour in to my project I began to resent the tree and question my desire to go any further along in this silly quest.


Walking away to allow myself some time to chill out ( okay, walking away to go pour myself a glass of wine), I returned a little while later in a more relaxed frame of mind. I resolved myself to the fact that no matter how I tried, the stocking was just not going to work and it was time to return it to it's previously loved display place. Preconceived notions behind it was time to look at what I did have available and allow the design to take shape with no boundaries or expectations. From that point on, the design process was no longer a chore, but a freeing opportunity to enjoy. Wasn't that what this whole experience was supposed to prove in the first place?


I finished up the tree in no time and stepped back to take a good look at what had come forth.

What stood before me was this beautiful tree that warmed my heart. It was nearly perfect...except it felt like it was missing something. I suddenly realized what that was...the beautiful Victorian stocking that I treasure. Only...it didn't belong on the tree, just along side it.

Now every time I look at that tree ( which is quite often) I am reminded of the possibilities that exist when we allow ourselves to be open to them and the love of a dear friend who always sees in me the endless possibilities.

Thank you Cathy!

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'm in the Mood for Love....


Simply because your near me....Funny but when you're near me....I'm in the mood for LOVE! Can not get that silly song out of my head since nearly completing the V-day tree. I am once again amazed at how a transformed tree can transform my spirits. I NEVER decorate with red. So once again the thought of having a tree accentuated in a color that I normally dislike was less than inspiring to me. Perhaps that is why I found myself dragging my feet initially to get it done. Now that it is nearly complete...I find myself enchanted by it. It just "feels good" to look at it.


It did not come out the way I originally envisioned it. I think that's one of the reasons I have always enjoyed the process of decorating a Christmas tree. You can have something in mind, but when hands meet design, the best laid plans can quickly change. That's just the process of creativity and design. When we can't allow it to just flow, and attempt to force something, the results are less than perfect and natural. This also comes from my former experience as a home decorator. It's a person's inability to think out of the box or lack of confidence in their skills that results in rooms that never "feel" as good as they should. Good design is something you see and feel. When both are in sync the results are dynamic. It's the room you WANT to come home to.

That's exactly how I am feeling about the tree. It's something I want to come home to as every time I see it, I feel something different.


It's nearly done. I will explain more about the changes in the design in a later blog, but for now my only disappointment is in not being able to find the right topper. Apparently I share this disappointment with many others but on a somewhat different level. I posted a status update on Face Book the other day questioning how difficult it was to find Cupid. I guess I should have been more clear in my desire because the immediate reactions I got from some lady friends took me off guard. I quickly realized that LOTS of women are in search of Cupid and based on their comments he is obviously an elusive fellow. I had to offer a better explanation of my needs by explaining I was looking for the one dimensional man who did his job and quietly sat in the corner...LOL...ONCE again this is exactly the man they were searching for as well. So Cupid...take this as a warning, you are a WANTED MAN!


Hoping we all find our Cupids to fulfill whatever the desired need is...until next time....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Masks and Memories



I got a late start yesterday on attempting to get the new V-Day decorations on the tree. I had my husband's birthday celebration dinner started on the stove by 10 a.m. I was up the night before until 1:30 in the morning getting his Red Velvet Cheesecake baked. I knew the idea of attempting to have the V-Day tree finished in time for his birthday gathering was not a realistic idea, but what's reality got to do with anything? It's February and I have a Christmas tree standing in my dining room.

I got as far as having all the Mardi Gras decorations removed and sorted out to be packed away when my children all appeared. Oldest son home from work, oldest daughter visiting for her Dad's party and youngest son home from school. Just for fun, I told them I would like to get a photo of them with the Mardi Gras masks on before I packed them away. Was I shocked when they said they would actually participate.

In a matter of minutes however, the silliness truly broke out and although I was looking at the faces of two grown adults and a 15 year old, I was suddenly transported in time to when they were all young children. The older two were about 9 and 8 year's old when the baby arrived in late November. I thought it would be fun to make them matching outfits, snap a photo and introduce our newest family member in our Christmas cards. This launched what would be a very long tradition of the children's yearly holiday picture minus the matching attire. Back before the amazing world of digital photos, I would gather the 3...place them in some type of pose, snap off 24 photos and run to the one hour film developing place. I would hold my breath in hopes of just one of those 24 being an acceptable photo. Who's eye's were closed, who was making bunny ears...who had just poked his or her sibling??? I would eventually laugh as I enclosed the final product in the year's Christmas card, but believe me, during the photo taking process it was anything but a laughing matter. One moment I was a crazed Mother yelling and seconds later I was saying...SMILE! To finally see their angelic faces captured on Kodak paper was miraculous. I was always grateful they were still photos and not videos, yet now that they are grown, I would welcome the opportunity to hit the play button and rewind the years.

Last night I was able to do just that. All it took was a view through a camera lens and I was looking at 3 "children" who still know how to push my buttons. I snapped a few photos, looked at the results and suddenly realized my oldest son had his mask on upside down. Sensing my irritation it was all they needed to bust out in to laughter. If only you could see the smile on my face right now...




Monday, February 1, 2010

The Party's Over....

Happy February Everyone! Guess you know what that means. Another month, another Christmas tree re-do. Yes...I know...Mardi Gras is actually much later this year and in fact, it doesn't occur until after V-Day...but I was an overachiever this year and hey...I still have a Christmas tree standing in my dining room...does it appear I consult the calendar??? : )

I was really feeling a bit down this morning knowing that I HAVE to get busy removing the festive masks and shiny beads that have lifted my spirits more times than I can say during the dark and gloomy month of January. It amazes me a tree I at first was so hesitant to create and feared I would hate, due to the use of some of my least favorite colors, has become so endearing to me. I haven't a clue how many times I have caught myself lost in thought just embracing its uniqueness and pageantry.

Today while making a quick run to the store, I actually found some twinkling red lights. I have never had a tree with red lights on it. In fact, although my Christmas tree designs have run the gamut over the past several years, I remain a traditionalist when it comes to the lighting. The lights are ALWAYS white and I do not allow them to flash. Armed with those red lights I found myself energized and once again excited about the possibilities. So excited by my purchase, I forgot the real reason I went in to the store...a topper for the tree. Oh well...just another excuse to shop one more day before getting to work.

I am hoping to get the tree done tomorrow which will be a big task considering it is my husband's birthday and I have already committed myself to creating one of his all time favorite dinners. Still...the thought of having a tree covered in hearts and pretty red lights seems extra special thinking it would light his birthday. Hey...maybe I can get him to stand extra close so we can find if he sees his shadow...yes, I know, bad Ground Hog's Day joke. After ummmm...well...A LOT of birthdays...believe me, he's heard them all. If I am successful, perhaps I can place his birthday gift under the tree. I can guarantee you he's never had to get his birthday gift under a Christmas tree before.
Wish me luck...and STAY TUNED...new photos soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sunshine on my shoulders....Makes me Happy....

Sunshine on my Tree makes me happier! I don't know what it is, but every now and again the sun enters through the window so perfectly that when it reflects off the tree it is just magical! I'm sure it has everything to do with the glittery decorations and the colors of purple, gold and green that really make it sparkle. I can't believe how accustomed I have grown to it and sadly watch each calendar day pass knowing that it will soon be time to transform it in to a tree to celebrate Valentine's Day. I will use these next few days to fully enjoy what is left of the Mardi Gras tree. The decorations will soon be gone, but the memory will linger and the anticipation of what will unfold is exciting. A blank slate...a new opportunity to release the creativity and a whole new experience to delight in.
Back to John....
"If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I'd make a wish for sunshine all the while"
Until then....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pasta Ciotti Recipe

I have had a few inquiries to my recipe that I posted for the Italian pastry known as Pasta Ciotti. Pasta Ciotti literally means little custard tarts. They are my favorite Italian pastry and I am equally fond of both the chocolate and the vanilla filled varieties. It is a rather lengthy recipe so for editing purposes here is the link to the recipe I found through google that I have used with great results. http://www.dianasdesserts.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipes.recipeListing/filter/dianas/recipeID/4405/Recipe.cfm

Through much trial and error, I would like to share the following tips. DO use unbleached flour for the dough recipe. My first go round, I only had all purpose flour in the pantry and didn't think it would make any difference...it does. The first batch had a strong flour taste, but since using the unbleached flour that has not been a problem.
I remember the pastries from back home having a slight taste of lemon so I add about 3/4's of a cap full of lemon flavoring to the dough recipe...perfection!
I do not own tart tins so I use a standard muffin tin. I spray the pan well with Pam. I did go at the recipe the first few times, rolling out the dough and using the biscuit cutter but find that I can do it much better by just grabbing up a small hand full of dough in to my hands, rolling it into a ball and then using my fingers to mold the dough to the sides of the muffin pan. Unfortunately, I have also found that this doesn't work well if you prefer to maintain long nails...sorry. For the tops...I do the same...just make certain to keep a bowl of flour handy to rub your hands in for when the dough starts to become sticky. I slightly flatten the dough in my palms...place on top of the filled tarts and gently push the dough together along the sides to seal.
For my oven...12 minutes is the perfect amount of baking time. I shut off the heat and allow the tarts to remain in the oven one additional minute. I then flip the tarts out on to a large pizza pan and usually they all pop out with no difficulty. I flip them back over and while they are still warm, sprinkle them with a generous amount of confectionery sugar. Once completely cooled, I place them in a sealed container and keep refrigerated.
Do let me know if you try the recipe and what you think of them. I am planning on preparing both the vanilla and the chocolate ones for my girlfriends next month when I host our monthly canasta game.
Enjoy and until next time...create something of beauty...