pines adorned with beads

There were a couple more photos from yesterday’s trip to the Christmas tree farm that didn’t make it into yesterday’s post. There must have been a bit of rain yesterday (though I don’t remember it), as some of the trees were nicely decorated with beads of water. The little tiny pine cones also made for some cute embellishments.

Nicely decorated tree at the Christmas tree farm.
I do love me some water drops.

The kids and I did finish decorating the tree today. While we did find some of the little fuses for the old strands of lights, we ended up adding a long new strand that I’d bought a couple years ago in an after-Christmas sale light-buying spree. Then we added strands of beads, and then the other miscellaneous ornaments.

Strands of beads were never part of the Christmas trees of my childhood, but I have grown to appreciate them. I like the way they add the lines zig-zagging and draping around the tree. Plus I do love their added shininess.

Our (possibly) completed tree.

an appointment with a Christmas tree

I have recurring lab meetings on Fridays, for a couple of my various research/teaching projects. My colleagues suggested that we could still meet as usual, since none of us would be travelling this year. I, on the other hand, suggested that I’d prefer to skip the meetings. Our family had pencilled in a sort of meeting of our own.

What with this year being so challenging, with things like family visits and travel and fun summer activities mostly cancelled, we have really been looking forward to the home-focused activities of our traditional Christmas. Whereas I know quite a lot of people who have been decorating for Christmas early, we decided to wait until after Thanksgiving. But we did want to jump right in today. And that first jump involves getting a tree.

For the last several years, it’s been our tradition to go to a tree farm in our town. We’ve brought the dog with us most years since we’ve had him. John and I were both feeling a bit tired today, and thought that maybe it would be a bit less stressful to leave the dog at home. However, as soon as I started putting on my shoes to go, the dog put together a very compelling argument as to why he should come. I mean, look at that face.

So we bundled him and ourselves into the car and started on our way for the quick drive across town. And then turned around at the end of our street to go back home for another mask. (For John. The dog doesn’t need to wear one.) And then we were off again.

The farm was really busy today, but we went after our spy network let us know that things had calmed down. It took us a while to find a tree that met our specifications, but we persevered.

We didn’t get around to putting up the tree until quite a bit later tonight. And then we brought down some of the bins to start decorating. We started with the topper, and started putting on strands of lights, working our way up from the bottom. Unfortunately, half of our usual strings of lights seem to have given up the ghost since last year. (I spent more time digging through bins trying to find the little fuses, but gave up for tonight.)

So, the tree is only about half lit for now. Tomorrow, we’ll either see about replacing some fuses, or bringing down some different lights. But it does look pretty festive, if rather bottom-heavy.

Go see me in a concert!


I missed posting yesterday, because I was getting ready for a concert. Actually, what I was doing was putting together my late submission for the The Eleventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, graciously hosted by Neil at Citizen of the Month. Go check out all the songs and photos! (And look for my stop-motion video doodling, accompanying a recording of “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” )


2 Christmas trees

We often spend Christmas away from home, but we still like to put up a tree at our house. Here are the two trees that were part of our festivities this year.

Our now-annual tinselling of the children before the tinselling of the tree at home last weekend.(We got our tree remarkably early for us this year, but decorated it in stages.)

The little tree at Grammy & Grandpa’s on Christmas Day.

(I admit it, these photos really aren’t about the trees. The cuteness had to be shared. I am unrepentant.)

Tidings of comfort and joy.

For the past several years, Neil of Citizen of the Month has put together a remarkable online concert to celebrate the many and varied holidays of the winter season, and he has graciously hosted once more. Please go check out the amazing musical and photographic stylings on exhibit at The Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. As always, the entries are varied and wondrous.

I didn’t manage to get my act together this round, for a variety of reasons, but I hope to again next year. You can find me and my voice in several of the past concerts, but I’m too lazy to see which. Last year was one.

I have been in a dark place since Friday, but I’m not yet ready to share those thoughts. Too many thoughts. I wrote something on Monday, but it is still too raw to post. In the meantime, I have taken comfort in many things, including music. Most of all, I take comfort in having my little ones with me and holding them close.

May they remember only joy this holiday season.

Christmas finery, a retrospective

Both kids chose to wear their Santa-esque finery today, making this the third year wearing these outfits. (Did you ever see my Jingle Bells movie of the kiddos from 2 years ago? We know how to do festive at our house.)

Clearly, I have a thing for the Santa-style garments. I always loved wearing a Santa hat on Christmas morning, if one was available. (With all our moves, we didn’t always have the same things each Christmas.) I remember really wanting to get myself a red velvet dress with white furry trim, but that has yet to happen. Instead, I live vicariously through my children.

Christmas Day, 2011: Theo, age 3 years 4 months and Phoebe, age 5 years 10 months.

Christmas Day, 2010: Theo, age 2 years 4 months, and Phoebe, 4 years 10 months

Christmas Day, 2009: Phoebe, 3 years 10 months and Theo, 1 year 4 months.

Christmas Day, 2008: Phoebe, age 2 years, 10 months.

Christmas Day, 2008: Theo, age 4 months.

Christmas Eve, 2008: Phoebe, age 2 years, 10 months.

Christmas Eve Eve Eve or so, 2007: Phoebe, age 1 year, 10 months.

Christmas Day, 2006: Phoebe, age 10 months. No Santa hat, but a festive bow.

It seems highly unlikely that the current outfits will fit another year. Who knows what the kids will want to wear next Christmas. (A few weeks ago, Theo proclaimed that he wanted to be Einstein for Christmas this year, but we didn’t come through with the costume for him. He’d be pretty cute in a wild wig and bushy white mustache, though…)

The Opposite of Chipmunks: Cloying Holiday Songs and Their Antidotes

Has the holly jolly omnipresence of Christmas music been threatening your sanity? Before you let Rudolf drive your sleigh over the edge, just adjust your dials. I’ve put together a playlist of holiday song antidotes to help get the relentless ring of jingle bells out of your ears. ¹

  • All I want for Christmas Is You: What do I get? The Buzzcocks
  • The Happy Elf: Working for the Man, P. J. Harvey
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town: Man That You Fear, Marilyn Manson
  • Here Comes Santa Claus: Psycho Killer, Talking Heads
  • Frosty The Snowman: Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta, Geto Boys
  • The Little Drummer Boy: Don’t Bang the Drum, The Waterboys
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: Lapdance, N*E*R*D (No one Ever Really Dies)
  • White Christmas: Black Celebration, Depeche Mode
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Only Happy When It Rains, Garbage
  • A Child This Day Is Born: Birth, School, Work, Death, The Godfathers
  • Holly Jolly Christmas: Helter Skelter, The Beatles
  • Oh Holy Night : Head Like a Hole, Nine Inch Nails
  • Sleigh Ride: Garbage Truck, Sex Bob-omb
  • Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire: Burning Down the House, Talking Heads
  • Do You Hear What I Hear? Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
  • All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth: Bloodletting, Concrete Blonde
  • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree: The Downward Spiral, Nine Inch Nails
  • Christmas Shoes: These Boots Were Made For Walkin’, Nancy Sinatra
  • It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas: Atrocity Exhibition, Joy Division
  • Home For The Holidays: Institutionalized, Suicidal Tendencies
  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, The Smiths
  • Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer: Don’t Push Me, 50 Cent
  • The Chipmunk Song: That’s When I Reach for My Revolver, Moby

How about you? Any songs in particular spurring you to spike your eggnog or jam candy canes into your ears? And what songs might you use to counteract?

¹ I did a bit of Christmas shopping yesterday, mostly looking for things like pajamas for the kids. I can’t even count how many times I heard Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You.” All I wanted for Christmas shopping was a break from the treacly music. It was such a relief to get back to my car and put on my iPod. When Joy Division came up on shuffle, I knew I’d found an antidote to the ravages of holiday cheer.²

² For the record, I don’t actually hate holiday music. Some of it I actually like. I just can hear too much of it, especially when the songs are so saccharine that they make me throw up a little.³

³ Oh, fine, I do hate some holiday music.⁴

⁴ Would this be a good time to promote Neil’s Sixth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert? I may even participate again. You’ve been warned.

lights and highlights

Theo in the glow of the fire engine lights.

The town next to ours, which is where Phoebe takes her karate classes, has a parade each year a few weeks before Christmas to mark the lighting of the trees on the town green. The parade includes marching bands and groups from local businesses and organizations. I wouldn’t describe most of what is in the parade as being “floats,” but there are a number of trucks pulling decorated trailers. In fact, Phoebe’s karate school participates each year, and invites all students to come in their uniforms and ride a trailer in the parade. This was the second year that Phoebe got to be in the parade. (This is her third year in karate, but that first winter, when she was not yet 4, our timing didn’t work out to meet up with the group. Plus it was a miserably cold, wet, sleety night.)

While John and Phoebe went early to meet up with the karate school to ride the trailer, Theo and I went a bit later to watch the parade. Last year, I tried so hard to get a picture of Phoebe in the parade, and failed miserably. This year, I decided I’d just try to wave to her. It was a much happier experience.

It was a chilly evening (they wait until it starts getting dark to start the parade, as it ends with the tree-lighting), but Theo and I enjoyed ourselves. We stopped in at a bank to hear a barbershop quartet (lots of the downtown business host events), and then wandered up and down the sidewalks to keep warm until the parade started. The highlight for Theo was almost certainly seeing the firetrucks. In fact, he may have had the impression that the event was primarily a firetruck parade. Firetrucks not just from the town, but from many neighboring towns, participated. All were decked out in some sort of holiday decorations (I think there may be a contest), and all had lights and sirens blaring. It was quite loud. Theo was enthralled.

I’m sure that at some point in my life, I might have mocked this sort of event, but I admit I find it a charming holiday tradition. It was all so very earnest. And while pretty much all of the participation by local businesses was no doubt done for PR and advertising reasons, the event didn’t feel very commercial. It wasn’t about stuff. It was about community, and festiveness. And really, really loud sirens.

Marching band.

A specimen of the decorated vehicles on parade.

A few firetrucks in the long, long line.

The last firetruck brought Santa. It’s his job to turn on the trees.

Here’s the barbershop quartet.

back in our element

We’re back home from our visit to my in-laws’ for Christmas. We went down last Thursday night, we ended up arriving around midnight again. Much like last time we went down there, Theo was happy and wired upon arrival. This time I managed to get him to sleep shortly after 3, and then we did at least get to sleep past 9. But it did make me wonder if we’re going to have to rethink our night traveling in the future.

It was a very pleasant visit over all, if tiring. It was great to be able to share with John’s parents the excitement of Christmas morning with small kids. They are no longer able to travel themselves, so they really look forward to our visits and seeing the kids. John’s dad is no longer able to walk, and doesn’t generally leave the house (or the bedroom, for that matter) except for trips to the dialysis center. (These started a few months ago. Since he isn’t very mobile, he gets transported by ambulance.)

Christmas day, after we’d worked our way through the gifts, I was getting ready to start making our part of the dinner (John’s mom had arranged for some non-vegetarian things for the two of them). I was all set to bake a butternut squash and our Tofurky, and preheated the oven. When I opened the door to stick in my squash, I was greeted by a bright flash and dramatic sparks. At first I thought that something had fallen on the element, but it turns out it was the element itself that was sparking. It was burning white hot, and burning itself right up. This changed my cooking plans somewhat, and after sitting around staring at my thumbs and discussing whether we’d be having a Christmas dinner of scrambled eggs, I decided to push forward. Chef Google provided instructions for microwaving a Tofurky, so that turned out okay. Thank goodness my mother-in-law had already baked the pumpkin pie the day before, because I’m pretty sure you can’t nuke that. (And what is Christmas without pie? I don’t think I even want to know the answer to that question.)

The oven element, the day after Christmas. It snapped while John was looking at it trying to determine whether he could order a replacement one. (It is pretty doubtful, as it seems the oven is about 50 years old.)

We had planned to come home on Monday, as we’d heard the forecast of a storm Sunday night. There ended up being quite a bit of snow down there by Monday morning, maybe around 18 inches, and we decided stay another day (for a variety of reasons).

We hoped to get on the road early on Tuesday. However, it is never a small task to collect all of our stuff when we visit, and this time was compounded by all the detritus of Christmas. While we’d aimed to be on the road by noon, and therefore stand a chance of arriving home before dark, it was almost 2 by the time we pulled out of the driveway. We ran into all sorts of crazy traffic in Connecticut, and didn’t get back home till almost 7, even though we’d made only brief stops. Seeing as we can usually make the trip in well under 4 hours, we were reminded of why we usually opt to get on the road later in the evening.

While the snow appeared to be less deep around home, more like 6 to 8 inches, the driveway was not passable due to snowplow mounding from the road. The kids and I sat in the car up on the road with the hazards flashing, eating our dinner of takeout pasta while John attacked the entrance to the driveway. Once he’d cleared the mound, we drove in, and half slid down the driveway. This was one of those times we were super glad to have all-wheel drive. We then took turns shoveling and staying inside the house with the kids. (Admittedly John did more of the shoveling.)

The kids ended up getting to bed quite late, in spite of our grand plans to get home at a reasonable hour. It seems that, no matter what, we end up feeling like we are adjusting to a different time zone whenever we get back from visiting the in-laws, even though they are on the same coast.

Yay, all-wheel drive!

Our driveway.

I have a backlog of things to post once again, but don’t know when I’ll have much time. I don’t usually end up with more than a few minutes to myself when we’re down at the in-laws’. I had a few sort of holiday-themed things in progress that I didn’t find time to finish. Now Christmas seems so last week. There is no daycare this week for the kids, and even though Phoebe had preschool today, I’m once again not left with much time to be online. I finally managed to upload some project 365 photos to flickr–I hadn’t put any up in over 2 weeks. I’ve now passed the 5 month mark!