The Christmas holiday at our house is a low key affair-we like it that way. I worked Christmas Eve in the shop until 3 with Jenny. I wrapped a few last packages in the laundry room. I was more or less ready for our celebration by 7. A very leisurely evening was capped by homemade soup and bread.
The sheer excitement of spending an entire evening in the living room with us proved to be exhausting for Howard. He was out for the count about 8:30. I like a quiet Christmas. Gifts of books meant that Christmas Day could be spent reading-divine.
I actually did no reading Christmas Day. I spent the late morning with MCat at the shop-he deserves his Christmas too. While he was enjoying his treats, I had coffee with half and half (a holiday luxury) and played ball with the corgis. Buck brought left over soup for lunch. Early in the afternoon, I knew I needed to go home, and finish decorating the Christmas tree. Finish the tree? The brown needled white flocked artificial tree constructed in the style of a Victorian feather tree enchanted me when I first saw them-I bought 4 of them for the shop in January of 2011.
Well, 3 for the shop, and one for me. I had never had an artificial tree, but were I ever to have one, this would be it. I thought it was great looking. It made no pretense of being a real tree. The short stiff needles were an olive brown; the white flocking was similarly unnatural. The branches were sparse, making it ideal for decorating. I took it home December 15, where it sat unattended; I had not one clue in the world about how to decorate it. The days were flying by, with no scheme in mind.
I finally went shopping for Christmas ornaments. Not one thing in my shop was right for my version of that tree. I am very keen for everything in my own shop, but this was my Christmas. Luckily, English Gardens, on M-59 and Garfield Road, still had lots of holiday ornament-and some of the right sort. I think I took 5 carts worth to the check out.
Their giant glass ornaments in copper, chocolate and green were a perfect start for this tree. I like the glow provided by matte glass ornaments. This feather tree has lots of empty spaces that asks for a big gesture. In a pinch, these would do. Next I studded the tree with lots of large dark pine cones. The stiff branches captured them in whatever position I wanted. Small glass ornaments in antique gold and cream from the shop described almost every branch. A few mercury glass acorns provided a little more ornate interest. To finish, 180 feet of platinum bead garland.
I learned the following things about decorating an artificial Christmas tree. Once it comes out of the box, every single branch needs to be striaghtened out, and positioned properly. Fluffing that tree before you take ornament one out of the box will make the decorating part vastly easier. An artificial tree is perfectly symmetrical. Arrange every branch such that each tier radiates in a perfect circle. Not interested in this level of artifice? No doubt there is nothing quite like the beauty of a natural tree. But as I subscribe to the idea that just about anything can be done in a gorgeous way, I was interested in the challenge. The beaded garland hung in almost symmetrical sweeps and swoops was the crowning glory of this tree. I say almost, as I did not spend the time fluffing and arranging every branch that I needed to. Once I had ornaments on this tree, it was too late to rearrange. Next year I will be better prepared for what this tree can do best.
The second chaallenge from this tree-the lights. It had vastly more lights than I would string on a real tree. That light was so strong that the view of the ornament almost disappeared. But I did love how it illuminated this room with its dark chocolate walls. All in all, my rookie tree looked just fine. It was kept company by other treasured ornaments.
My dining room is not much decorated for the holidays beyond a topiary I made in an antique French pot. Flanking the topiary, a pair of Italian paper mache goats. Most certainly these were used in scenes of the nativity. That said, the topiary and goats reside on this sideboard all year long.
Tine, my sister-in-law, sent me an ornament of the Eiffel Tower last Christmas. This year, a second Eiffel Tower, and a tiny star ornament arrived just in time for Christmas. This is my family tree – a Christmas tree not so much about how it looks, but much about what it means.