Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All Thai-ed Up

This is some SERIOUS fair trade, my friends. This is a gift I ordered on eBay; it was made in Thailand, upcycled from already used materials. I can't say more but ask me on Saturday, and I can give up the secret. It arrived EXACTLY like this. The box was tied together with two pieces of what Duncan referred to as "candy cane string," and the top of the box was completely unsealed, the contents wrapped in one small piece of Thai newsprint. I'm dumbfounded that it arrived here, intact, from across the world.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I always wanted to have two trees, and we never had space for them until we lived in Connecticut. That house was great for trees, but I couldn't talk Jamie into two. I did eventually score this miniature tree, which we have used for our tiniest ornaments. It's a lot of fun to put it up in Duncan's room. He loves having his own little tree, and it's nice to have his bedtime stories under the glow of Christmas lights.

Decorating 101

I always think that decorating the Christmas tree with Duncan is going to be a Norman Rockwell experience, complete with hot cocoa and followed by a nice dinner. Surprise, surprise. It never turns out that way. In my vague memory, there was a lot of occupying Duncan (who was itching to start) while Jamie got the lights on the tree and then shifted all the lights because he strung them to close together at the top.  What followed was a fair amount of "don't touch that" or "that's too heavy." Eventually, I was forced to abandon my Martha Stewart ideals (damn you Martha for setting me up for failure) and abandon all hope, and that was probably when we started to have a good time. At one point I looked down to realize Duncan had an entire box of breakable ornaments, and I had an entire box of things made of felt and yarn. I feebly suggested a trade but then just let Duncan do it. It turns out it's a beautiful tree (aren't they always?), and the memory of the afternoon is a pretty happy one. I thought I'd share with you Duncan's #1 tree decorating tip: bunch as many ornaments together as possible in one place.

Luckily, Jamie touched it up a little while Duncan and I were getting ready for bed.

Oh Tannenbaum.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Freeze, Trees, and Santa's Knees

Last Saturday, we made our annual pilgrimage to Battenfeld Christmas Tree Farm. Just in time, the weather cooled enough that it felt seasonal to be out hunting for trees. Just in time, we got in, selected a tree, and headed home before the snow began. Shockingly, it never takes us long to find a tree although I am pretty indecisive. We narrowed our field down to two pretty quickly and then again to one and dug out our saws. I'm always tempted by the less traditional trees - the white pines and concolor firs; then I consider the commitment of living with that tree for three weeks.  What if it's just ALL WRONG. And then we wind up with a white spruce or a balsam fir.  (I don't know these trees by name. I just cheated and looked them up on Battenfeld's website. Just in case you wondered.) I do love the look of those long, shaggy ones; I simply cannot commit. Santa made an appearance at the farm, but Duncan was still too shy. Duncan picked out our wreath instead.

Sunday, we gave Santa another chance. He rode to the Amenia Library atop a fire engine festooned with Christmas lights and then entertained the children's wishes. The line was long, and I am certain that the two-room library's maximum occupancy was exceeded by parents, children, library board members, and the Elks' Club; however, everyone remained in pretty good spirits. The ample supply of cookies and punch helped. Each child received a book and a photo of him/her with Jolly Old Saint Nick. Duncan still would not sit on Santa's lap, but he did talk to Santa and agreed to stand next to him for a photo. The weekend could only be topped off by a viewing of The Charlie Brown Christmas. The Christmas season is off and running.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Festival of Trees

Duncan's preschool has an intergenerational program with the local retirement community, Noble Horizons. Ever other week, the preschool kids go to Noble Horizons for activities and snacks (always, it seems, graham crackers and apple juice). Noble Horizons also hosts an annual festival of trees. Residents and local schools and business people donate decorated trees, which are displayed during the week after Thanksgiving. Then the trees are sold in a silent auction. We stopped at Noble Horizons last weekend to see the tree that Housatonic Child Care Center decorated, and Duncan tried to show us which ornaments he made. It was fun to see the wide variety of decorating styles.

Here's the HCCC tree:

And a few of my other favorites...a pressed flower tree.

A Tiger Woods tree, which probably netted a hefty profit after the scandal:

My favorite was this organic, entirely natural tree. If we didn't own so many ornaments with sentimental value, I'd be tempted to do this myself. Maybe some year I'll decorate a small tree like this one.

On our way out of Noble Horizons, we ran into none other than Santa himself! There was an awkward moment as he was dressed in his suit but carrying his street clothes, but Duncan didn't notice, and Santa took it in stride. Duncan was a little too shy to talk to him, but Santa admitted he hadn't received Duncan's letter yet. We said we'd see him this weekend (at the Amenia tree lighting). That Santa gets around. For the rest of the afternoon we chuckled about how funny it was to run into Santa at Noble Horizons. What a great way to ring in the holidays!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Meaner Than a Junkyard Dog

I don't know whose junkyard critters these were, but they took us by surprise when we dumped our garbage at school last week.  Someone with a sense of humor obviously posed them appropriately in the top of the dumpster.  What a find!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turkey Cookies

After our disappointing Halloween and the onset of yet another little-kid-bug, Duncan and I needed a pick-me-up. On one of his sick days, we headed outside to collect leaves for a turkey collage, but I could never motivate him to make it.  (note to self - give up and throw away the leaves that are flattening in the kitchen)  I had seen this cookie idea in a few different places and thought we'd give it a try instead. I love baking but don't have much patience for cookies that need to be rolled out and decorated. Once I accepted the fact that it would be messy, and I would have little editorial control, we had a lot of fun. I think I am still cleaning sugar cookie dough off the floor, and I'm not sure if we'll have another go for Christmas, but the turkey cookies did help bridge the dark and gloomy time between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Small Steps

This morning, Duncan and I were eating oatmeal for breakfast. If you don't have children, you may not be aware of the mucilaginous quality of oatmeal. If an adult drops a little oatmeal, s/he wipes it up.  Done. When a Duncan drops some, it's more than a little. When you attempt to wipe it up, each molecule sticks to something else, and you end up with an impressive, sticky mess. Duncan and I tried to wipe the oatmeal from his pajamas, to no avail. Oatmeal stuck to the napkin and to the table and then restuck to the pajamas in a vicious, ever expanding loop (or so it felt at 6 a.m.)  Finally, I said "How about I just put this napkin in the hamper and get you a paper napkin?" My angel-child looked at me incredulously and asked quizzically "A PAper NAPkin?"

Duncan is about 3 1/2; I gave up paper napkins about 16 months ago. He has almost forgotten they exist. These steps seem so small on a day-to-day basis, but they are already teaching my child that we don't have to (and indeed, shouldn't) live in a disposable society if we want to "save the planet, Mama."

(And yes, Mom, I am rinsing out and reusing Ziploc bags.  I'm sorry if I ever mocked you.)