Dumping all my Christmas on you

Today I am dumping all things Christmas that I know of on to you. I've yet to set  things up at home. A single wreath is on the door but that is it. My cubicle is decked out with lights, paper snowflakes and my usual Christmas decor. I listen to Christmas music as I slave away forty hours a week. I find chai and gingersnaps to be the perfect office snack this time of year. No matter what the temperature is outside, my office is always a constant 55 degrees. The recession has failed to raise the office temperature. I've got the thinnest blood ever so I bundle up and I actually become a bit cozy in my cube this time of the year.

In Mexico the nativity scene is the Christmas centerpiece, not the tree. These nativity scenes are huge and intricate and stay up until January. I have heard that in South and Central America they go up in September and come down in February. If I had the space I'd have a large nativity scene like the one my Abuelita has in Mexico. When my Abuelito was still alive he would set it up. He'd add rocks and live plants from around the garden creating a beautiful and touching centerpiece that spanned several feet. I have come across several different nativity sets from all over the world in some shops in town, each so beautiful and unique. Terra Toys has several from India. Playmobil even makes one and Fisher Price also has a {new} Little People one. Pictured is a crochet nativity set from Vietnam.

If you want a new or non-traditional advent wreath, I thought this was a clever idea:

Snowbound for Christmas is a cute song by the De Castro Sisters. A favorite is The Bells of Christmas sung by Frank and Nancy Sinatra and The Christmas Waltz (sung by anyone).  I love Christmas songs and every year I purchase a few new Christmas Cd's or holiday vinyl. It's easy to get carried away. I recently discovered I have as many Christmas albums as regular albums. I don't have everything. Sorry, no Jingle Cats in my collection and I wasn't too keen on an entire Christmas album by Bruce Springsteen. Here are some cool Christmas music blogs:
Hi-Fi Holiday
Christmas a Go-Go

Did you know Bell, Book and Candle was a cute holiday film? I think it is. It begins with Christmas and carries that feeling throughout the film. There are plenty of films out there and I am always on the look out for new ones to watch starting December 1st. Check out this list if you want more than A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life, HolidayInnWhiteChristmasMiracleon34thSt...

Christmas websites:
*Be sure to look up your local Christmas Bureau to find families in need.
Mondo Fruitcake (Know of a ready made gluten free fruitcake?I miss my Collin Street tradition)
Tacky Christmas Yards (I don't see too many that are really all that tacky though, is that wrong?)


Trees, trees, trees

It's a recent family tradition to visit a new Christmas tree farm after Thanksgiving. The day was nice and cold (for Texas) as we headed out of the city. This year we visited the Elgin Christmas Tree Farm. This farm has been by far the busiest one we have visited. We were lucky to find parking. It was fun to be around all that Christmasy energy though.

We were taken to the trees on a bed pulled by a tractor with several other families. Once we reached the middle of the tree farm, everyone just sort of disappeared. So we wandered about and among these gorgeous Loblolly pines and Leyland Cypress trying to find the most perfect tree, taking pictures and enjoying the day. It was hard not to keep from posing with those specimens we felt were indeed the most perfect Christmas tree. Some were magestic and others earnest and sincere (see pic). We roamed for almost two hours, clearing our heads and taking in the enchanting scent of pine and oranges.

We never take a tree home because we are all so allergic to Texas trees. It seems to take over two hours to get to us so we never stick around the farms for over two hours. It sucks because we can't hang out long enough to enjoy a picnic and roaming through the trees. I do love a live Christmas tree in the house so every year I order a Balsam fir from Nova Scotia through De Long Farms. I love receiving it in the mail, that never gets old, teehee. I don't know why this tree doesn't cause us to sniffle and sneeze and wake up with headaches. I hope it never does.

We have loved all the tree farms we have visited so far but my favorite was Loma Alta (now closed) because it was so remote. The location  probably led to the closing. I read somewhere they lost trees to drought. I hope it opens again someday.  It was a beautiful acreage.  Tree farms with petting zoos are especially fun for me because I dig the goats, lambs and llamas, the only one in my family who does.  I find livestock usually has a keen intelligence and awareness when it comes to humans.  All they do is watch and observe us making up their minds, forming opinions and drawing conclusions.  Christmas trees and cute animals, I'd love to live on a tree farm.

I really can't believe the season is here. It's cozy in the house tonight and William is playing some Christmas tunes (and stuff by the Byrds). We had the last of our turkey and stuffing leftovers. I just received an invitation to my first Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.



Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with yummy food and coziness. Enjoy your turkey lunches and turkey dinners, your friends and family.  And remember if ever you cannot sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.


Egg salad sandwiches and other stuff

My friend Bonnie introduced me to the divine egg salad sandwich found at the Kosher HEB deli. It is so delish! Tell them to burn your bread (rye) and then ask for black olives, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and sprouts to be added to the egg salad (prepared fresh). If you have room for dessert get Green's Kosher Cinnamon Babka. I had this on Sunday and had to return Tuesday for it again. It is so addictive.

Teaching my friends how to knit has been fun and I'm way more patient than I ever thought possible. I should be so patient with myself. It took two hours to teach them how to cast on the way my Abuelita taught me-using one needle- but once they got it I was proud of them. Looking forward to the next lesson which is actually knitting and hoping they are perfecting their casting on.

The Beat exhibit at HRC struck me as tiny at first but it's actually more extensive than it appears. Seeing the handwritten and typed letters from Ginsberg to Kerouac, Orvlosky's diary and Cassady's letter to his wife...wowsers, moving. There is so much more. If you want to see everything it takes more than an hour. They don't have enough photos but what they do have a lot of is the personal correspondence. The Kerouac scroll arrives on the 7th and 20 feet of it will be displayed.

Been thinking of kite flying. One Sunday afternoon my grandfather and us kids flew kites in his front yard. It is a huge front yard (he actually made us a putt-putt golf course there once) and perfect for kite flying. The kites were homemade using paper bags from the grocery store and some thin sticks possibly from a store bought kite that had died. He made us sorts of toys, kites, toy guns that shot rubber bands, sling shots... All afternoon we were outside flying kites and I remember how very happy he seemed and how very happy we felt. It was a really windy day and I remember how the string tugged and how it was surprisingly strong to the point that he had to help me keep my arm from flying off. It was the sort of wind that whipped through your ears and made it hard to hear anything. The sun was shining in my eyes and I looked at my grandfather and he was looking up with his hair flying and he had the biggest smile. He was running around and seemed so young to me that afternoon. He was young. He was only 56, but being my grandad, that was old to me at the time. My mother took a photo of us all that day and it really captured more than the day, it captured my whole childhood with my grandad.

PS: It is amazing how much attention my previous entry got. I received emails from friends and strangers inquiring on the mysterious guy I was flirting with. Mr C. refers to my awesome husband. So yeah, you weren't the only one wondering, teehee.


Beds in corners

There was a set of numbered books that came with the encyclopedia set my Mother bought for us when we were little. I have written of the set before. I so loved the stories in those books. For some reason, this evening, I longed for my childhood twin bed that was positioned in the corner of the bedroom I shared with my baby brother.  I couldn't have been more than four years old. The faux wood paneled walls of that corner provided me with constant entertainment. The faux grain of the faux wood morphed into images if I stared at it long enough. I would see a bunny, a tree, faces. It was like watching clouds and it was something I liked to do. The two walls would hug me and it was the coziest place on earth.

I'd  hop into bed and start looking for pictures in the walls, finding the old ones. Then I would hear my Mother walking down the hallway and I knew she'd bring me a story and sing me some songs. We'd say our prayers and I would pick a story out of the book. The one I loved the most was of a teddy bear who ran away from his family called The Story of A Little White Teddy Bear Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed by Dorothy Sherrill. As my Mother read I would look at the window and could see how dark it was outside.  I could only imagine stepping just outside the front door. There was no way I would leave the secure little corner of my room or my bed to go wandering off like like the little white teddy bear. The story intrigued me and I suppose that is why I liked it so much. Here I am, almost forty years old and so far away from that little corner.


Aunt Juanita

My Grandmother's sister was named Juanita and she became deaf after a terrible fever at the age of four. She went to school and learned how to read and write but didn't get beyond the 6th grade. My great-grandmother finished high school and then attended all all girls school taught by nuns for a year. She didn't want Juanita to be left uneducated so she did her best to teach her what she learned. Juanita just didn't want to go to school.

Aunt Juanita lived with my Great-grandmother. She learned to sign and read lips but developed a sign language of her own with Great-Grandma. I remember her being so serious yet very warm. When we would visit she would always talk to me and show me all the things she had made. Aunt Juanita would also knit and crochet and made beautiful sweaters and bedspreads. She would make booties,socks, mittens and hats then go door to door to sell them. I remember her coming home one day and showing me the money she earned then tapped my chest really hard with her hand and then picked up the bag of yarn, needles and half-crocheted booties, her eyes sternly fixed on me. She handed me a hook and yarn and I sat beside her and crocheted. She worked very fast and I remember each piece was symmetrical and perfect. All her sizes were uniformed. She never used patterns.

Aunt Juanita was pretty with her long, jet black braids. She was older and stood taller than Grandma who was only five feet tall, Juanita was five foot seven. She had a presence and was always very serious. To see her laugh was always surprising and to make her laugh was gold. Still she was very sweet and I don't know why I didn't ask her more questions, I mostly listened and watched.

I wish Juanita and my Great-Grandmother were still around today. Since they passed I have hundreds of questions for each of them. I would like Aunt Juanita to show me how she made her sweaters without patterns because I have been trying and still cannot master it the way she did. I would like my Great-Grandmother to tell me how things were for her growing up as a Native American woman. I'd like to hear her play the twelve string guitar that hung behind her bed and tell me how she met her husbands and things like that. I ask my Grandmother all those things and I ask her about Aunt Juanita and Great-Grandma, she tells me what she can then says,"I don't have their hands."

I was lucky to have my Great-Grandmother around until I was 20. My Aunt Juanita passed away when I was 24 and my Grandmother gave me all her hooks and needles. I was hoping they held her skill and talent in them and would help me create the things she did. Every hook and pair of needles I have has a story, some once belonged to my Aunt Juanita, others hold memories of walking with my Abuelita (maternal Grandmother) to stores in Mexico to buy them. When I do crochet or knit all the women in my family sort of come together in my heart. There are pieces in my family that my maternal and paternal Great-Grandmothers have made, there are sweaters and hats by Aunt Juanita, Abuelita's tablecloths...

With the whole craft resurgence I have often thought of how websites like Etsy would have have helped my Aunt. She could have made a small fortune selling her pieces online. She saw it as her job to make things and she never stopped making things. She treated it as a real business and helped support my Great-Grandmother that way. If she were alive today I'd set her up on Etsy and I know she'd be able to navigate the website on her own after only being shown once. There is nothing worse in life than wasted talent, Aunt Juanita never wasted her talent.