Saturday, November 25, 2006


I know, this isn't a very good picture of the wreath on my front porch, but I'm tired after stringing lights up outside all day and then babysitting my five grandchildren (age 5 and under) this evening. I think you can get the idea anyway. It's starting to look a lot like Christmas at my house. Or at least outside. It was a decent weather day, about 50 and sunny, and since a bitter cold front is moving in from Alaska next week it was now or a very shivery later.

As soon as I brought the stepladder outside to start stringing the lights on my little Amur maple the neighbors gathered to offer advice and suggestions. The neighbor across the street said she wanted to see the animated reindeer from her kitchen window and could I move them a little to the left so the juniper bushes wouldn't block her view? The neighbor with the two-year-old asked if I could hang one of the glittery stars on a low branch so the little one could reach it. The triplets next door gave everything a thumbs-up and then ran home to ask their dad when they were going to decorate.

If I have any energy tomorrow the tree is next. When the ornaments have all been hung, I'll reach for the angel topper. But I do have my own live Christmas angel, and not to be outdone, her brother the little devil (whose sweet nature belies his costume!) They are my darling three-month-old grandtwins. A little young to enjoy the lights and decorations, but they and their siblings sure put Christmas in my heart. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Okay, I noticed these in WalMart the other day, and my friend the neophyte gardener tells me they're at Lowe's too. No, these are not plastic, but real poinsettia plants. I'm pretty sure I hate this blue poinsettia but there was another bunch that had been painted a kind of creamy gold-apricot with gold glitter on them. I had to hesitate over those before I told myself no and walked out the door. Are you cringing? Or have you already bought some of these? Apparently they've been painting poinsettias in Europe for some time, but not particularly for the retail trade. But suddenly these have caught on big in the U.S. and because they're about twice the price of a red poinsettia, greenhouse growers are overjoyed that they might finally make enough profit to offset the cost of rising energy prices.

I guess I'm not really a big fan of poinsetties, red or whatever color they get painted. In the past I've received those big three-foot tall ones as a company Christmas gift. I've watered and displayed them until the first trash day after the holiday when I set it out on the curb and watch to see who will get it before the trashman comes. Someone always does, so I don't feel quite so guilty.
I've tried to like poinsettias. One year I bought this variety that I think is called Jingle Bells. It's kind of a watermelon color and is that Christmas-y? On the other hand, it's been a long time since red and green were the only Christmas colors. And that's something else I read about the blue, lilac, apricot, and gold colors. "They're not your grandma's poinsettias." That's supposed to be the appeal of the new colors to a younger generation. So would you buy a blue or lilac poinsettia? Or would you prefer that Joel Poinsett not turn over in his grave? Am I going to buy a creamy gold-apricot one with gold glitter? Wait, I think my tree skirt is gold, that could work!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Some of us at work collect these Audubon stuffed birds. You press on their back and an authentic birdcall sounds. Sometimes, to relieve the monotony, one person will start it off and soon answering birdcalls come from around the room. It's rather amusing and fits in with my belief that a huge room filled with staffers is not much different from a kindergarten class except for the work being done and the naps not taken. The birds in this shot from last Christmas were decked out in holiday hats.

Which brings me to my point. I looked out the kitchen window yesterday to see workers swarming over the grounds of the assisted living center behind my house. On the grass they were setting up a life-sized Santa in his sleigh with eight not-so-tiny reindeer. Multitudes of white lights were being strung on the gazebo, stapled across the rooftops, hung from the gables, and swagging the trees. This is the beginning of the holiday display that the center puts up, a bit more elaborate each year. When it's in it's full glory and the lights are switched on every evening after Thanksgiving, I no longer have to turn on the nightlight in my kitchen to find my way around in the wee hours. It's rather like living next door to Chevy Chase in "Christmas Vacation" but at least it doesn't blow all the power in the neighborhood now that public utilities has put a new transformer in.

After reeling from the thought of Christmas decorating coming right up, I opened my door to find a package from my daughter. She sent me these glass lanterns from Gardener's Supply Company to kick-start my own holiday decorating. These are really charming, with little leaded glass window-panes. They take a votive candle at the bottom. Bearing in mind an unfortunate incident from a couple of years ago, she also sent battery-operated votives. They flicker like a real candle and aren't likely to set my wall-hung kitchen clock on fire from a candle burning too close to the plastic frame which would scorch the brick wall and send burning bits of toxic plastic floating across the kitchen. As if!

So when do you start decorating for Christmas? Thanksgiving weekend? Sooner? The night before Christmas? All I know is that soon I'll have to throw out the pumpkins and the frost-blasted chrysanthemums lining the front walk and haul out the boughs of holly.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Last weekend I flew to Chicago to see the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum. It was marvelous but "no picture taking allowed." Darn it! But I could and did take photos at the Garfield Park Conservatory. I found these Joint ferns astonishing. They covered every rocky surface in the Fern Room. Living in a semi-arid climate I'm always agog when I see lush growth like this in a moist, humid environment. I almost took off my jacket but did I mention it was windy? The cold seeped into my bones and stayed with me even in the hothouse!
I almost warmed up when I saw this version of a prickly pear cactus. I couldn't find the sign with the botanic name but if it was up to me I would call them chenille cactus. Instead of spines they had soft white dots on them just like those chenille bedspreads we used to have when we were kids. Speaking of bed, I slept on the best mattress at a Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. I would like to have taken it home with me. Or maybe it wasn't that good but just felt like it in comparison to the lumpy one at my house. I ventured out into the small walled garden at the hotel a couple of times (I guess that was the Courtyard part).

It was actually quite charming with frescoes and sculpture on the walls. This guy summed up my feelings about the weather quite well. I understand the wind ceased as soon as I left, but I came home to my own windy city in my leaf-strewn yard.