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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year In Review, at That Old House

Why does every year seem to zip by faster than the year before?

I am joining Cindy at My Romantic Home for her A Year In Review Blog Party.
Click here to see other bloggers' favorite photos from the year past.

With uncharacteristic restraint, I chose just one picture from each month.
There's no theme, and these pictures aren't necessarily the prettiest.
I just like them, so I put them in one mosaic to make it easy on me, and you!
(Click on the mosaic to enlarge it and make it easier to see.)

January -- Ice-coated conservatory windows.
February -- Wide plank floors in the Parlor.
March -- My mom and dad, on her 88th birthday.
April -- The word "Hunger" scratched into a cellar wall.
May -- That Old House in Memorial Day finery.
June -- A simple cheese and tomato pie.
July -- A Pink Gladiolus!
August -- Mr. Dion DiPoochy, doggie extraordinaire.
September -- Our grapes, fast ripening.
October -- A silly Jack O'Lantern by the Parlor fireplace.
November -- Vintage silver serving pieces.
December -- Our front door, decked in pine and ribbon for Christmas.


There's so much missing from this brief year in review: my husband, our daughters, our dear Connie dog who left us in May of '09, and the rooms and grounds of That Old House that have been a constant source of blogging material for me, to name just a few.

I am posting this at past 2:30 in the morning, too soon to even link to Cindy's party. I am up late -- very late -- waiting for my daughter Alida to wake at 3:00. She is catching a very early plane back to southern California and I don't want to be asleep when she leaves. She probably won't be home for a visit until the summer.

So one more picture -- a special memory from 2009 -- my daughters, Alida and Anne, on their sisters-only trip to London following Anne's college graduation. The girls are 17 months apart in age, and now living 3000 miles apart. Growing up is tough.

There are so many blessings in my life.
Thanks be to God, for this gift of 2009, and the new year to come.
-- Cass

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Confessions of a Weihnachtsbaum Junkie

I confess: I am addicted to Christmas Trees.

No other holiday bling is as mesmerizing as a Christmas tree.

I even put a tiny tree, a gift from my daughter Anne, at the side of my kitchen sink:

The card stock backsplash is temporary while we slowly remodel the kitchen!

In our powder room, a wee Santa Claus tree greets visitors.
(Get it? Wee? I crack myself up.)

In our front hallway, a tabletop tree, decorated by Anne for a past dorm room:

In the dining room, a spiral tree in the middle of the bay windows.
No ornaments, just lights.

At the front entry, a small tree with lots of red balls and
red gilded apples,and glass Santas and Snowmen, by day:

And by night:

Turn around from the front door, and look up the center hall stairs,
where a topiary tree stands sentry outside Annie's sleeping room:

My feather tree, from Winterthur's Museum Shop, is on top of the old pie safe in the sunroom:

I have to edit the ornaments for the feather tree, or it tips over.
I just love collecting the mini decorations.
It's so cute and so much fun. You should have one, yes... you should!

Our girls' tabletop tree, in the study, by night:

And by day:

In the Parlor, a tall artificial tree holds court. Night, and day, pictures:

Yeah, Christmas trees sure do look better at night.
Come to think of it, so do I.

Back in the conservatory, the fresh tree, everybody's favorite, and always a Frasier Fir:

Our trees are a rag tag group, with a hodgepodge of ornaments, from home-made lovelies and uglies to Lenox and Waterford, from Dollar Tree to Lord & Taylor. Some are older than me, others are brand new. They all find space on a branch. No themes, no color-coordinated decorator beauties. Our trees hold memories, and lots of them.

I love to look at and admire beautifully and carefully decorated, themed or color-coordinated Christmas trees, but I love to live with Trees Gone Wild for my 12 days of the holiday.

And that Frasier Fir in the sunroom? It holds 1700 colored lights. Bling-Bling!
My husband Howard is a Christmas-lights junkie.

What is, or was, on your Christmas tree(s)?
A crazy jumbled slumgullion of glitter and gleam, or a carefully edited collection?

Now go visit Sue at It's A Very Cherry World! for more REDnesday posts; Sue is like me -- having a hard time letting go of Christmas. Don't worry Sue -- no need, we've still got a week until Epiphany!

And visit Susan, host of Outdoor Wednesday, as she lets us continue to post holiday greenery, both indoors AND out, on her lovely A Southern Daydreamer blog. Gorgeous photos! You can spend a lot of time in Susan's beautiful world!

May peace enfold your home and family, may you rejoice in the rest of this Season of Joy, may your New Year be shiny, bright, and full of hopes and dreams, and may your Christmas trees always be full of your special type of Bling! -- Cass

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Present Miracles, Old and New

Every once in awhile, all the ducks line up in a neat little row,
and everything falls into place, and your Christmas gifts are perfect, just perfect.

I am talking about the gifts you give.
Gifts you receive are always perfect, because they are gifts.


I've had three minor Christmas gifting miracles, two of them this year.
The first involved these:

Yup, flatware. Vintage silverplate. But, not mine, at least not anymore.

There is a lot of it, and it now belongs to my sister Peggy. To make a long story short (yes, first time in my life I ever did that!), I'll just say that for personal reasons I wanted to give Peg some ornate flatware, something really special.

I haunted Ebay, and fell in love with a Reed & Barton pattern, patented in 1901, called Tiger Lily. It has a sterling silver twin, Amaryllis, but that's very rare and also out of my price range for gifts!

Ebay had some sets of Tiger Lily, or its 1950s incarnation, Festivity,
but this is a popular old pattern; full sets were pricey.

Craigslist to the rescue with my miracle.

On a fluke search, I discovered someone only 30 minutes from me, selling an estate set of silverplate flatware: Reed & Barton's Festivity from the early 1950s, with a few of the older pieces too. Full dinner service for 9, plus extras. And at a price a third of anything on Ebay.

I cleaned up an old silver chest, and tucked all 65 pieces happily into their rightful places,
and gave it all to Peggy on Christmas Day.

I was kind of hoping she wouldn't like the set;
I'd have happily kept it all for myself!

My other Christmas miracle this year was a gift for daughter Anne. She vacillated between wanting a wide-bed scanner or a professional dress form. This will make sense if you know that she is a graduate design student -- theatrical costumes.

The Christmas deadline approacheth-ed. Finally, on December 23rd, I went ahead and ordered the big scanner from Amazon, with free shipping. I considered shelling out $58 for next day delivery, but figured, "Anne's 22; she can understand a delay!"

But . . . a delivery man tromped up our porch steps on Christmas Eve, the very next day, and dropped off the scanner. I was flabbergasted. And grateful. And stunned. The next day!

But neither of these minor miracles compares to one from nearly 20 years ago.
Daughter Alida, then a pre-schooler, wanted a Care Bear for Christmas -- Cheer Bear.
Remember them?

The problem was . . . Care Bears had been discontinued several years before, and no store carried them. No store. I went everywhere, and even called the manufacturer. No luck.

Then just days before Christmas, Howard and I were pushing the girls in their double stroller through a local mall, and I noticed a tiny toy store across from the food court. I'd never noticed that store before, but it was worth a shot.

Leaving Howard with the girls, I dashed in and got hold of the owner. Did he have any Care Bears? I wasn't even asking for Cheer Bear at this point; I'd have taken Crack Bear if that was all I could get.

"Care Bears? They don't make them anymore." I turned to go. . . ."But wait," he said. "I think I have one in the back, old stock. Let me check."

I don't think I breathed while I waited for him to come back. He returned and -- you know how this turns out, don't you? -- in his hands was a brand new Cheer Bear.

I nearly cried, but instead I asked how much, and he said he wasn't sure -- it had been so long since they'd sold one! So he charged me $20, and I double bagged ol' Cheer Bear, and smuggled him home. Happiness all around.

And that toy store I had never noticed before? I never saw it again; it was gone when I went back to the mall after Christmas. A lot of small stores were closing then, around 1990, so I am sure it folded like so many of its size. I'm pretty sure. There can't be any other explanation, can there? Nah.


Thanks to Tam of The Gypsy's Corner for letting me share my 3 minor miracles on her Three Or More Tuesday blog party. Click the highlighted words or icon to go there for more!

And thanks also to The Roomies for Past Due Tuesday, for letting me share my vintage silverplated flatware with you. Again, click on the titles or icon for more, or to join in a lovely new blog party.
Tomorrow, on Wednesday, a tour of all the Christmas trees at That Old House -- and there are a lot of them! Now, go sharpen your pencils; it's nearly Resolution Time! -- Cass

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's 12 Days of Christmas at That Old House!

We are die hards.

We celebrate Christmas for its full 12 days, from the 25th to Epiphany on January 6th. Our Christmas decor doesn't get tucked away until then; perhaps this is because the church I grew up in was called "Epiphany," and that holiday was a big deal for us Sunday School kids.

Notice the "Quote-a-saurus" at the right; it is a wooden dinosaur built and painted by Annie for her
Philosophy PhD student sister Alida, as a Christmas gift. He's covered with quotes, wears a mortarboard, and an academic stole. He has joined the Wise Men, ready for Epiphany. After all, aren't philosophers always searching for epiphanies?


Leaving our decorations up till Epiphany means our fresh greens shed a bit, our Frasier fir begins to bend and droop and drop its ornaments, and the Santas and Snowmen collect that fine protective coating of dust that covers so much of the things at That Old House.

Today, three days past the 25th, I changed a few things about our parlor mantelpiece decor.

It started out simple, on the 19th of December -- fresh cedar roping, a few plain glass hurricanes with thick red candles, and a glittery red mesh ribbon, wound through the greenery by my designer daughter Anne:

"How about some nice big shiny red glass balls?" asked I.
"No," said Anne. "There's enough bling with the ribbon. Leave it alone."
"But . . . ."
"Mom, no. Leave it. It's enough."

Oh honey, I thought to myself, you are so young. It is never enough.

I was good; I left it alone for our big Christmas party on the 20th, and beyond.
But today, Anne is out at the mall, and I have the run of the house.
Into the parlor I sneaked. . . .

And I added three big vintage-style glass balls, and a wild shiny sequin-ed red reindeer,
that my husband found yesterday on the sale table at T.J. Maxx.

Christmas is a time for indulgence and over-the-top-ness.

And speaking of indulgence, I have another metamorphosis to share,
this one involving Mr. Dion DiPoochy, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Daughter Alida had a canister of Poppycock, that nut-and-caramel popcorn snack that is crazy delicious and uber-sweet and sticky. She left it, half eaten but tightly closed, on a high table. We found it the other morning . . . . on the floor.

Note the teeth marks. And the emptiness. Presto-change-o! All gone!
Our darling doggy transformed thousands of calories of
Poppycock into -- well, you fill in the blank.

As for our thief, he looked a little droopy:

Rather like that old TV commercial:
"I can't believe I ate the whole thing."

It was too much effort to stay awake:

Or even move.

No other ill effects! He was a little put out that his normal meals were half their size for a day and a half. He never connected it with the extra 2000 calories he'd consumed in Poppycock.

Two days earlier, he ate 7 pieces of thick gingerbread coated in chocolate that Anne had bought at a Christmas mart in NYC. $8 worth of gingerbread, down the hatch. Luckily for Dion, since he's eaten more than his share in his time, he is not sensitive to chocolate.

So, from our parlor to yours, we wish you a very happy and contented rest of the Christmas holiday,
as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and the visit of the Magi to the stable in Bethlehem.

I'll try and wind down the Christmas posts as the days go by, but we're still in celebratory mode. I tried to get a picture of That Old House at night, outside, with its Christmas trees shining through the windows, and ended up with a rather ghostly look:

That's the fresh tree in
the sunroom on the right,
but you can't see the
girls' tree in the study windows
or the faux tree in the parlor
all the way to the left of the

But you can see our chimney
pumping out way too much
vapor. Guess what? We need a new steam boiler! Oy.

Thanks to Susan at Between Naps On The Porch

for hosting Metamorphosis Monday!

Visit here.

Thanks to Cielo, of The House In The Roses,

for hosting Show Off Your Cottage Monday!

Visit here!

Happy Christmas, Happy New Year, and a blessed Epiphany to all! -- Cass