“Deck Those Halls and Trim Those Trees”

Today, The Engineer and I (finally!) got down the Christmas decorations. And when I say The Engineer and I got them down, I should add two things: 1) Getting them down is as far as his contributions go as he is not a fan of holidays, and 2) We are not a family who goes overboard with holiday decor because #1.

The job/duty/joy of decorating has traditionally fallen to me, then Darling Daughter and I, and now me again.

Also for the record, I should admit DD has told me in recent years I always made her feel she wasn’t doing it right. Since I didn’t realize I was quite that bad of a control freak, I’m very sorry for acting that way.

Perhaps it serves me right that I’m stuck doing it alone.

As I’ve gotten older, I find myself wanting to simplify the holiday season while at the same time wanting it to be as magical as it was when I was young and later when Darling Daughter was a child.

I guess what I really want is a Christmas Fairy to come along and put up all the ornaments and decorations I’ve collected through the years, and then come back and take it all down sometime around New Year’s.

In the absence of said fairy, it falls to me. And once we have all the crates down, I find myself enjoying the process.

This year, for some reason, I found myself humming The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping.” (You can click through for the song, although the video is kind of a non-event despite featuring a tablecloth I know my mother once owned.)

You may or may not know (and I didn’t until I looked the song up after hearing it on my very favorite Christmas CD, “The Edge of Christmas”), The Waitresses were a New Wave band from Akron, Ohio. They formed in 1978, which means they were likely performing in Akron around the time I was going to college there.

And yet, I never heard of them until driving across town to buy “The Edge of Christmas.” Apparently (and unsurprisingly), I was not as cool as I thought I was when I was in school.

Yes, I bought the CD before iTunes and cell phones existed (I’m old; I admit it). I used my land line to call every record shop (and they were still called that because CDs were actually pretty new back then) in the Cleveland area to locate the disk. I wanted it because it has the all-time best Christmas song ever, “The Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth).” (Don’t try to tell me any different because I’m not listening.)

Anyway, “The Edge of Christmas” is a great CD, and also includes (along with Bing, Bowie and The Waitresses) the second best holiday song, “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues, featuring Kirsty Macoll and a theme that’s about as different from Bing and Bowie as it could be.

But I digress.

The point is tonight I decked our halls and trimmed our tree and sang The Waitresses.

Our tree has a lot of handmade ornaments — some crocheted by a friend who does a different design every year for her card, a few from Darling Daughter’s younger years, and some from my mom’s years attending ceramics class. (The cat is from then too.)
More ceramic class results: the big lighted tree and two smaller ones, along with the third Santa from the left.
My manger is also one of Mom’s projects. It’s just four pieces, which fit together like a puzzle.
I’ve included this second view so you can see the small angel, also made by Mom back when I still spelled my name “Kim.”
And from the “I can make stuff too” school of decorating, here’s one more tree decked out with some of last year’s “Super Scrappy” Christmas stars. In looking up that post, I noticed I shared Bing and Bowie in it too. I’m nothing if not consistent with my holiday likes and dislikes. 🙂

Speaking of scrappy, dig these great bees I bought from my friend Joyce.

These girls are made from steel drums.

Joyce does mission work in Haiti with E=H: Education Equals Hope , and I like to buy stuff from her because the money goes right back to the artisans and to support the lunch program at the schools there.

A few years ago, I bought some other pieces of metalwork from her, and this year I had the idea of asking if the artist could do some bees. I was really pleased with the results and ordered four, three for us and one for a friend who also keeps bees. Aren’t they great? The Engineer suggested we hang them outside on the trees aound our hives, and I think that’s a wonderful idea.

Meanwhile, on a completely different subject, that same beekeeper friend taught me to make pierogis this week!

One recipe makes a lot and I may share a few … not too many because I love pierogis!

All this decking the halls and trimming the trees and making pierogis and sending cards and even winterizing the bees have been challenging to fit in because The Engineer went to Canada to work for eight days and ended up staying for two weeks. Then, my co-worker got a severe case of COVID and has been out, so I picked up an extra day at work for a few weeks, which probably doesn’t seem like much, but it did change my plans quite a bit.

The good news is she’s on the mend and will be back doing half-days at the end of the week. I’m pleased for her sake, but also for mine because I’d really like to do some Christmas baking, and next week, another friend and I are having a “cooking with phyllo” day at my house.

We’re doing this because after spending hours (NOT exaggerating) attempting to sign up for a similar class at a local college, we decided to just give up and buy phyllo and do our own thing.

If we are successful, I’ll try to remember to take pictures to share. If we are calamitously unsuccessful, I’ll do the same. 🙂

Scrappy Christmas

While I’m not really part of the “Scrap Happy” tradition started by my friend Kate and her friends, I felt I could offer another post on the subject — or at least a continuation of the first.

Since that post, I’ve continued to crochet stars as if they were needed to populate the night sky.

I’ve made at least seventy and am still going strong.

Some have gone to work with me, as thank yous to customers who donate to our staff fund for a local charity for families in need. Some have gone in Christmas cards and on presents. Some will go to my mom to give to her caregivers and friends at her facility. And some have gone on our tree.

It’s not our usual tree. But it’s going to be a weird Christmas for everyone, and things are no different here. Darling Daughter and I have not yet decided if it’s a good idea for her and Boyfriend to come home for the holiday. Somehow dragging the tree and all its ornaments down from the loft and decorating it seemed, not a waste of time exactly, but sort of superfluous.

I wanted something simpler, and chose to decorate the Norfolk Pine I’ve been growing for more years than I can remember.

I also strung popcorn for garland. (Note on stringing popcorn: After I’d already started stringing, I read it’s best to let the popcorn sit for a day or two so it doesn’t crumble so easily. This would probably make it easier. Still, the squirrels are enjoying the scraps, so that’s a good thing.)

I’ll admit I didn’t envision the tree turning out quite so Charlie Brownish. But that’s okay. I’m going to buy more lights. Twinkle lights make everything look better. (The Brits call them “fairy lights,” I think, which I prefer. I like the hint of magic in the phrase.)

In other scrappy news, three more lap rug/afghans went to my mom’s place for the residents.

One could also make an argument that my “Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter” is also scrappy. Heaven knows the recipes came from many scraps of paper stuck in many cookbooks in our cupboards.

And now, though I’ve shared it many times before, I feel compelled to (once again) share the best Christmas song ever. I know you are probably saying, “Kym, that’s your opinion,” but I disagree.

It is the best Christmas song ever.

The Scrappy Type

I’m not very good at handicrafts. And I have the test scores to prove it. (I also have photos, shared below. I have no pride.)

You see, when I was fourteen, we took an aptitude test at school. This test rated a person’s aptitude for a variety of work-related abilities and assigned a score from 1-10 for each.

I recently stumbled across my results. Readers, I scored under five on motor coordination, manual dexterity, and a measly 2 on finger dexterity.

So, I have an excuse.

However, my grandmother was very good at crochet, and she taught my mother who taught me.

Because of them, I can manage basic patterns and might even be able to do more complex work if I wanted to concentrate.

But that’s not why I crochet.

I crochet while The Engineer and I watch movies. It helps me relax.

Complicated patterns would defeat the purpose and almost certainly involve a lot of swearing.

Instead I use two basic patterns — a giant granny square and one where you do a single crochet in the back loop of the previous rows stitches. Or a double crochet. Or a half double. (I can do these stitches as long as no one asks me which stitch it is I’m doing. For that I need a book.)

No bad language. Very relaxing.

In this bumbling manner I’ve managed to make more afghans than we could ever possibly need, one for practically every member of my family and many of my friends, and have long since moved on to making them for people I don’t know.

First, they went to our library’s Warm Up America program. Then, I donated to our local hospice. When it closed, the afghans piled up in the spare room until I found a fabric store accepting such donations.

However, I recently had a brain wave and thought to check with my mom’s long-term care facility to see if they had residents who might like such donations.

They were thrilled! I was thrilled because there were six on one of our living room chairs.

These afghans are scrappy because they’re made primarily from thrift store yarn. I’m not rich, after all.

Thrift store yarn is usually single skeins of single colors and ends of skeins left over from someone else’s project.

Yarn from my most recent score at the thrift shop — a huge tub of beautiful color!

As a result, my afghans are a bit like the crazy quilts of our ancestors made from old dresses, flour sacks, and any bits of fabric they had saved.

This appeals to me because I love randomly mixing colors and textures, though I must admit some turn out better than others.

They’re all cheap and cheerful, as the Brits would say, which is great because I like cheap, and I like cheerful.

There have been a misshappen few I kept, unwilling to foist them on others (though they are lovely and soft).

See below for illustration of just how far off course I have wandered.

To make it even more obvious.

Generally, however, they turn out well. This is my latest endeavor, and another I’m not quite sure about. That rust colored yarn … hmm.

Too bad I didn’t take photos of the ones I just donated. They were more — how do I put this? — normal in their color combinations. Still, that rust-colored yarn is very soft, and I hope it will feel comforting to whoever ends up with the afghan.

Recently, I found a pattern for these super-simple crochet stars. They’ve become a small addiction because I can whip one up in about fifteen minutes. At least, I can now I’ve reviewed how to do a double and treble stitch.

I’ve made quite a pile and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I’m going to give them to everyone! On packages, on cards, to co-workers, strung for the tree and/or our mantle.

The best part is I’m using up all sorts of little scraps (more scrappiness!) of yarn that I didn’t even remember I had.

My third scrappy project is using some of our beeswax (mostly from cappings cut off during the extracting process) to make candles. So far, I’ve made just the one. I wanted to see how it worked out.

Beeswax smells so good when it’s burning.

In summary, I guess you could say I may not be handy, but I’m definitely the scrappy type!