About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Done Right

(This week's Fun Monday assignment is all about what we love around the holidays. Our hostess, the woman in charge over at Mamalang's , asks us to share a picture of our favorite Christmas "thing" and our three favorite Christmas carols.)

I watched the Rick Steves' European Christmas special on PBS last night as I do each year because it reminds me of what Christmas done right is all about. Starting in London's Trafalgar Square and traveling on to the Swiss Alps with many stops in between, Steves provides an insiders look at how people of many countries celebrate the winter holidays. Regardless of the country, the essentials of Christmas--family, friends, community, customs, traditional decorating for the home, food, music, and faith--could be found.

Many years ago I really loved the holiday season. Starting in early November, I began cleaning the house from top to bottom; nursing live plants like paperwhites, amaryllis, and poinsettias into bloom at just the right time; gathering the live greenery, berries, and ribbon to make wreaths, swags, and arrangements for all through the house. I studded oranges with cloves and rolled them in cinnamon for hanging pomanders and even buffed great quantities of red delicious apples to a high sheen and piled them in pine bough lined baskets.

Finally the first week of December it was time to bring home the Christmas tree--which was my favorite thing about the holiday. The tree had to be a fraser fir from the mountains of North Carolina because no other tree branches would hold up under the weight and quantity of glass ornaments that I'd collected at tag sales, auctions, antique stores, and Christmas shops throughout the year.

If you look closely at the tree you can spot some of my most treasured ornaments. There's
the six huge striped and decaled balls that I found at an auction. There's all manner of Shiny Brite ornaments with their bold stripes and glittery sentiments like "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World". Shiny Brites were popular in the 1950s. I also had a great collection of fancy shaped reflectors that went around each colored light. When the tree lights came on it was magic. In addition to the balls, icicles, and pendants, my all time favorite tree decorations would have to be the German and Czech glass ornaments of every imaginable shape--houses, fruit, vegetables, animals, lamps, teapots, birds, clocks, Santas, and even the good luck pickle.

Underneath the tree, all the presents were wrapped in simple paper and tied with real ribbon. That is, except gifts for Zack the crazy border collie, whom you all have met on many occasions, and his brother Frank the chow mix with his white "taillight"! Their presents went in gift bags, which as you can see, was not nearly secure enough to last until Christmas.

After the Christmas tree, hearing the music of the season has to be way up there on my list. Mamalang asked that we share our three favorite Christmas carols. That would be really hard, so I'll share the three music collections that I've just bought for this season:

Celtic Christmas--is a Windham Hill Collection. A new collection is released every year. I love these recordings because they remind me of the music of my childhood in the Appalachian Mountains, like the English ballad "Barbara Allen".

A Midwinter Night's Dream--by Loreena McKennitt is a real event. McKennitt is also Celtic in feel. All her recordings are artistic journeys with the lyrics and instruments exploring a theme. Favorite carol on this one: "In the Bleak Midwinter."

Wintersong--by Sarah McLachlan has her arrangements of old standards like "Greensleeves" with heartbreaking harmonies. On this CD "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" carries a wish that we all have in this season.

So, there you have my favorite Christmas thing and the sounds that I'll be playing this holiday season as I try to do Christmas right. Now be sure to head over to Mamalang's and check out how other Fun Monday participants plan to celebrate the season.


Sai Hijara - Ferraris said...

I love your tree! Unfortunately our trees here are fake...but I have real one in the garden...LOL

I'm envious with you, I still have to do my wrappings!

Living Life said...

I love Celtic music. I just may have to check out your selections. I like to collect ornamnets from every "special" place I visit and then adorn them on my tree. It is fun to look at the ornaments from year to year and remember the significance of each one.

MommyW said...

Amazing that we both picked the same Greensleeves arrangement. What a lovely tree. It's very festive!

Have a great Monday.


Janice said...

So, Faye, when and why did you stop putting up the tree and going all out for the holiday?

Jaynie said...

That's a very pretty tree - it looks so symetrical with its decorations compared to mine - we hang our stuff all over the place.

Hootin Anni said...

Everything Faye...it's all so perfect! I can even smell the pine!!! Love it.

Happy Fun Monday

m (the misanthrope) said...

Gorgeous pics and stories! And...of course...beautiful dogs. I loved your description of the white taillight! I was *this close* to saying Bah Humbug to the whole season - I even missed signing up for FM because I was running around too much - but now, reading everyone's posts, I feel a little less Scroogey :-)

Jan n Jer said...

What a beautiful tree,where every ornament has a special meaning to it. I thought I was reading something from "Martha Stewart" at first. I love Celtic music also, will have to check out your selections.

Ari_1965 said...

I also like Czech glass ornaments. Last year or the year before I bought a couple of vintage ones for a friend who likes grapes. She has no children and no pets, so they're safe on her tree.

I haven't done a thing about Christmas decoration yet this year. I should probably get in the mood.

Sayre said...

Celtic treatments of Christmas carols are so lovely... Maybe it's time for me to buy some new Christmas music!

Your tree is beautiful. Finding a tree that's strong enough to hold up ornaments is a bit of a trick these days.

Faye said...

mariposa--outdoor holiday decorating? That's good since your climate is warm enough to enjoy.

church lady-- since you like Celtic music, check out Loreena McKennitt's "To Drive the Cold Winter Away" and "A Winter Garden, Five Songs of the Season." Agree about the ornaments--one at a time collections are the best.

mommyW--"Greensleeves" is quite beautiful any time, but Sarah McLachlan's arrangement is just luscious, isn't it?

janice--about 12 years ago I brought a pit bull pup named Willie into the house on Halloween and the treasured Christmas ornaments didn't go up because of his wild curiosity. Since then I've tried artificial but it's just not the same to me.

the blogger--the fraser firs have naturally good "figures", but a jumble of all the Christmas favorites is a great decorating approach as well--more is more!

hootin' anni--yes, the smells of Christmas from the real thing--not fake--is one of the best parts of the celebration. Are you able to find cedar in Texas? It's the best, especially when cut fresh.

m(the misanthrope)--yes, Frank's white butt was the only way I could spot him out in the dark--sometimes used it for a light to follow on night walks!

janis--guilty as charged! I did use Martha Stewart's directions for making wreaths and even fancy papercut ornaments one year. For all her "stuff", she's a great teacher.

ari--the colors of the Czech ornaments--pink, purple, pale green, icy blue--made them so different from traditional Christmas colors--and appealing. Yes, in 1996 I decided not to sacrifice my vintage ornaments to an inquisitive puppy.

Mamalang said...

Beuatiful music choices. I love the great variety of choices everyone is sharing!

ANd your tree is lovely as well!

Pamela said...

I'm sorry I missed that special (I haven't even looked at a tv guide -- or hardly turned it on.)

Wish I was there listening with you to your albums -- Will there be hot chocolate? (:

Ali said...

Love the mix of celtic music and carols, I have some linked in for my Fun Monday post.

Great tree!

Another Chance Ranch said...

Oh great tree!! I too love Celtic music. Does it take you forever to put all the ornaments on your tree. I find that when I put the special ornaments on our tree I tend to reflect on all the different memories. Maybe that is why I didn't put all of the special ones on this year. I just didn't feel like it.

Another Chance Ranch said...

Sorry that is the old blog address,
the right one is anotherchanceranch.typepad.com

Gattina said...

You write in the past, don't you do it anymore the same way ? I love the doggie's bottom under the tree, that made me laugh !!
I only put few ornaments on the tree I love to still see the green of the branches.

Lane Mathias said...

A pickle ornament has got to be the best!

Zack and Tailight Frank looked like they approved of your beautiful tree. I take it Willie doesn't have the same level of appreciation but I hope you get some of those lovely Shiny Brite's out for an airing this year. Did you have an angel or a star on the top?

Lovely music choices too. I love Sarah McLachlan.

Swampwitch said...

Oh, I missed this Mon Funday but so enjoyed yours. Will go find that Celtic music because I love listening to it. Hope you had a good week and this next one is even better.