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December 18, 2005

A Tale of Two Christmas Trees

When we did our house remodel a few years ago, we gained a bank of windows in our great room that just begged for a big Christmas tree.

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This nine-foot artificial tree is pre-lit and covered with family mementoes and keepsakes from our travels including an ornament from our honeymoon at Glacier National Park, a metal building from Brian’s visit to Brussels and a Russian birch heart.

There are also plant and garden-related ornaments, some purchased at a garden store outside of London during our last visit. Blown glass carrots, peaches, hummingbirds and cardinals mingle with tiny pitchforks and spades. It may be winter but the garden is never far from my mind! Click here for a videocast of my favorite Xmas ornaments.

This tree is beautiful but Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the scents of a real tree. So each year we purchase a tree just for Graham’s ornaments. These range from 101 Dalmatians and Bob the Builder to Scooby Doo and the Flash, a chronicle of his childhood toy progression. This year’s cool ornaments are a Star Wars storm trooper and R2D2 & C3PO. Not to mention this cool rocket ship which screams "we have a boy":

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His tree is the one we gather around on Christmas even to open presents, which makes it even more special.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Winter Wonderland

Our recent snowfalls have lent a holiday spirit to the gardens.

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Christmas Cookies

It is a well-known fact in my household that while I can do many things, baking cookies is just not one of them.

I never seem to trust the amount of time that the directions tell me to leave the cookies in the oven, so my cookies are always well done. Okay, over done.

When I told Brian that I wanted to bake Christmas cookies with Graham this weekend, he just laughed.

I want Graham to have “typical? childhood memories of baking home made Christmas cookies. So I cheat a little. I buy a tube of pre-made sugar cookie dough, roll it out and call it home made. Graham doesn’t know the difference. He just likes to spread LOTS of flour onto the granite island and cut out his favorite shapes.

His cookie cutters of choice do not have Christmas motifs. He likes to use an old, old set with the images of cartoon characters such as Tom and Jerry, Droopy dog and a duck. They must be from when my brother and sister were kids.

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We may or may not get around decorating the cookies. It doesn’t matter. The point is that we did a traditional Christmas activity together. And I’ve got pictures to prove it.

Afterwards, when Brian asked Graham how the cookies tasted, he said, “Crunchy.?

Some Christmas traditions never change.

Feeding my Inner Geek

Readers who love arcane information should look no further than the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books series. With more than 130 titles on everything from “Africa? and “Amphibians? to “Weather? and “World War II,? these books provide a comprehensive, in-depth look at a single topic. The books are quality products, made with gorgeous photographs and high production values.

Graham and I both enjoy them. Between the two of us, we had a huge stack of them checked out from the library last week.

Sometimes a novel or autobiography just won’t fit my mood because I want to learn something new. The other night I finished “Watercolor? and on my bedside still await “Rocks and Minerals?, “Medieval Life? and “Crystal and Gem? for when that mood strikes again.

For younger readers, there’s a spin-off series called Eye Wonder – same great photos and production values – just a simpler focus.

And they’ve even made a few of the titles into videos and DVDs. As I type, Graham is watching “Oceans?. His other favorites are “Shark? and “Planet.? He’s even going to give “Shark? the book to his school buddy for Christmas.

Check them out at

What I’m Reading

In the middle of: What do You Do All Day?? by Amy Scheibe, a childhood friend. It’s a funny and frank story of a stay home mom in Manhattan. Run out and buy a copy now! (Okay, so that was a shameless plug!)

Also: “Chewing the Cud? by Dick King-Smith, the autobiography of the author of “Babe: The Gallant Pig?which was made into the classic film by the same name.

Listening to: “The Blue Last? by Martha Grimes. Only about 10 minutes left!

Graham’s current favorite: “Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman" by Dav Pilkey. I couldn’t have made that up myself if I had tried.

Remaining Garden Chores

Clean out my gardening tote. It’s filled with old plant tags, clods of dirt and other detritus.

Pack the canna, four o’clock and sweet potato tubers in sawdust for the winter and store them someplace in the house that won’t be too hot or too cold.

Today’s Grahamism

“What if the chickadee only said, ‘Dee-dee-dee-dee?’ Could it keep its old name??

“I want an easy job when I grow up. I’m going to take pictures of dinosaurs in museums.?

“I don’t need to write a letter to Santa. The elves have already made want I want.? How do you know that? “Oh, Mom, it’s a long story.?

When Graham and I came home from running errands one evening, we discovered that Glynis had eaten the remaining 10 squares in Graham’s chocolate calendar. I told him that dogs that eat chocolate can get really sick and even die. He walked over to where Glynis was lying on the couch, gave her a pat and a kiss and said, “Good bye, Glynis.? And then walked away.

Posted by maasx003 at 4:40 PM

December 10, 2005

Countdown to Christmas

In a household with a five-year-old, counting the days down to Christmas takes on the meaning of ritual.

When I was a kid, we used the Advent calendar that my Aunt Betty gave us. It was kind of like a flannel board - a green Christmas tree appliquéd onto a red background. Everyday from Dec. 1 to 25, we would pin a tiny ornament onto the tree with the big yellow star saved until Christmas day.

A few years ago, my sister Juanita made copies of this cherished holiday keepsake and gave them to my brother and me. Juanita updated it by putting little pieces of Velcro on the ornaments.

This year it hangs in Graham’s room, and when he wakes up in the morning, he begins his daily calendar countdown.

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After the flannel calendar, he moves to the paper Advent calendar with a wildlife scene. Each day, he opens a little flap to reveal a tiny bird or woodland animal.

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Then he goes to the traditional green and red paper chain that he made at the beginning of the month to tear off a link.

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Finally, in the evening after dinner, he can eat the chocolate treat in the last calendar.

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What a sweet way to count down to Christmas!

Xmas Trees

In addition to counting down to Christmas, we celebrate with two, count 'em two, Christmas trees. I'll talk more about the trees and special ornaments in my next blog entry.

Christmas Tree One

Christmas Tree Two

The Seed Doesn't Fall Far From the Vine

During Graham's harvest party at school, he painted a jack o'lantern garden pot. A few weeks ago, he brought it home, planted with three pumpkin seeds. They have grown quickly, and he and Daddy measure them daily to chart their growth in an Excel spreadsheet.

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This weekend with the temperatures in the mid-30s, I finally finished my outdoor gardening chores. I put 55 bags of leaves down on clematis vines, hellebores and hybrid tea roses.

I had been waiting for the ground to freeze, which took some time considering our warm November. There had been a few inches of snowfall so I might have missed some hellebores. I guess that will just have to be an experiment – did they really need winter cover or not?

Then I loosely wrapped the two dwarf Alberta spruce in lengths of burlap. This will prevent severe winter burn from the reflection of the sun off the snow.

The garden looks a little goofy now, with the burlapped trees and black bags of leaves all over, but I know that the tender stuff is snugly tucked in for the winter.

What I’m Reading

In the middle of: “What do You Do All Day?? by Amy Scheibe, a childhood friend. It’s a funny and frank story of a stay home mom in Manhattan. Run out and buy a copy now! (Okay, so that was a shameless plug!)

Listening to: “The Blue Last? by Martha Grimes. It’s been a while since I’ve either read or listened to one of the Richard Jury detective novels. It’s good to be back.

Graham’s current favorite: “Henry Huggins? by Beverly Cleary. A classic tale of an All-American boy and his dog.

Remaining Garden Chores

Clean out my gardening tote. It’s filled with old plant tags, clods of dirt and other detritus.

Pack the canna, four o’clock and sweet potato tubers in sawdust for the winter and store them someplace in the house that won’t be too hot or too cold.

Today’s Grahamism

When told that his cousin Elise’s picture was in my college alumni magazine, Graham asked, “Why? Is she famous or something??

“What do you call people who live in Antarctica? Snowmen! I made that joke up by myself.?

Daddy, “I was the fastest kid at dodgeball.? Graham, “But remember, Dad, that was when you were young!?

When Graham noticed that our Christmas stockings were hung along the stair railing, he said, "But that’s not how stockings look in the cartoons.?

On our dog history, “Sister Olivia was Sister Glynis’ mommy so Sister Glynis is Pont’s mommy. And he thinks I’m his daddy.?

Posted by maasx003 at 6:00 PM