Thursday, December 15, 2016

On Christmas trees and best laid plans



Helen's and my post is up a little late today, and we do apologize. Because Helen remembered it the night before it was due and I didn't remember it at all. Nevertheless, we wish you all a beautiful holiday season, full of peace, hope, and joy. We hope readers continue enjoying Harlequin Heartwarmings in 2017 as much as we enjoy writing them.


by Helen DePrima

Through the years, the Christmas tree has been our family’s most enduring tradition. I can’t recall a single time we’ve bought one already cut. In the first few years of our marriage, my husband and I would pay a small fee to cut a tree from one of the National Forests along Colorado’s Front Range. We lived in a hundred-year-old cottage in Fort Collins near the CSU campus; its 10-foot ceilings lured us to cut a tree to match its dimension. The challenge was getting a tree that large home from the mountains strapped to a VW Beetle. Because of the car’s egg-like shape, keeping the tree on top proved impossible; first it slipped backwards to drag behind and then forward to obscure the windshield. We finally compromised by mounting it upright on the rear bumper and drove home at 15 mph, accompanied by cheers and jeers of the motorists who had to pass us.


Since moving to New Hampshire, we’ve cut trees in shirtsleeve weather and leaning against arctic winds so strong we could scarcely stand upright; sometimes my husband has needed to scoop out a trough in the snow to reach the tree trunk with his saw. The transport problem has been solved by my succession of Ford trucks although there have been years when we’ve slithered down icy mountain roads leaving a wake of graceful S-curves as pick-ups tend to do.

For the last fifteen years, we’ve driven far north to a Christmas tree farm north of Franconia Notch, stopping first for lunch at the Littleton Diner which serves the best clam chowder in the state. Then on to Mountain Star Christmas Tree Farm to cut our tree, followed by a stop at the Brick Store in Bath, NH, which claims to be the oldest continuously operated general store in the US. The covered bridge close by is still in operation although snow is no longer shoveled inside to accommodate sleigh runners.

Gotta run now – time to put up the tree.

by Liz Flaherty 

I love Christmas. It is my favorite holiday for reasons both spiritual and because it is a cherished memory bank of my life. Actually, I love the whole time from Thanksgiving through Christmas. However, that five-or-six week period goes by in the blink of a geriatric eye, so I like to plan ahead.

What I Plan

·         Buy wrapping paper, labels, bows, Christmas cards, seasonal paper products, Christmas fabric, and 22 pounds of candy at after-Christmas sales for something like 90% off.
·         Start Christmas shopping immediately following 4th of July fireworks.
·         Begin sewing Christmas gifts. Make out schedule for the holidays since I am on deadline. Write from 6:00 AM till noon, sew from 4:00 PM till 6:00 PM. Use other waking hours productively.
·         Buy baking necessities in September so that I will have plenty of time to make cookies. Remember parchment paper.
·         Early in November. Finish Christmas shopping to avoid Black Friday. Buy turkey and other Thanksgiving needs.
·         Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Go to store to buy a turkey bag because even in the best-laid plans, I forget something. Red and green M & Ms are on display. Buy some.
·         Each day until Christmas, do things like wrap gifts or complete a handmade gift.
·         By the Sunday night after Thanksgiving, have the tree and all decorations up, half the gifts wrapped, a few batches of cookies in the freezer.
·         Enjoy the holidays! God bless us, every one!
My girls on Black Friday

What Actually Happens

·         Buy wrapping paper, labels, bows, Christmas cards, seasonal paper products, Christmas fabric, and 22 pounds of candy at after-Christmas sales for something like 90% off. Eat the candy. Lose the rest of it.
·         When my sister-in-law calls in August and asks if I have my Christmas shopping done, I call her names, hang up, and eat the M & Ms I’ve been stockpiling to make Christmas cookies.
·         Buy more M & Ms.
·         Lose them.
·         Oh, fine, I ate them.
·         Decide I will sew aprons for everyone for Christmas. Lay the fabric out neatly on the cutting table. It will remain there until dust gathers on it and I forget what I was going to do with it.
·         First baking day in October. Buy more M & Ms. Replace the parchment paper I’ve lost.
·         Find the parchment paper from last year and the year before. Put it somewhere that I will remember.
·         Thanksgiving Thursday, the day the holiday season begins for me. Remember the meaning of a full heart because all our kids and grands are wherever we’ve chosen to gather. I am never a perfectionist, but this day is truly perfect. It goes by in minutes.
·         Black Friday. Go shopping because it’s so much fun. Buy things no one needs but are on sale. Go home smelling like every single tester in Bath and Body Works. Show my husband the purse he just bought me for Christmas.
·         Saturday after Thanksgiving. Husband can’t help get tree and decorations out of the attic because of rotator cuff surgery—what an excuse!—so I do the sensible thing and buy a new tree. And some ornaments. Put tree up and discover flocked trees shed white stuff indiscriminately. Run vacuum. Run it again. Husband keeps sling on for no better reason than they told him to. Run the vacuum again.
·         All of December. Try to catch up with myself.
·         December 24. Finish Christmas shopping. Say “Where did the time go?” 37 times. Search frantically for the cellophane tape I know I bought. Use Band-aids to secure packages.
·         December 25. Everything is perfect. I've enjoyed the holidays! God bless us, every one!




25 comments:

  1. You guys are awesome! Helen, I've never had the opportunity to cut my own Xmas tree (I've always had artificial). This made me want to tho! And Liz...your list looks a lot like mine. Especially where the M&M's are concerned. Merry Christmas, ladies! <3

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    1. Merry Christmas, Anna. Tonight we're having a tree-trimming party with a young friend and her boys, a new holiday tradition. The cat will hide, the dog will go berserk with all the attention, and with luck, the tree will emerge all decorated.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading both these posts, Helen and Liz. I am in awe of your efforts to cut down your own tree every year, Helen. Living in the city is no,excuse for us, but we manage to carry one home from the fruit and veggie store down the street. And I love the Christmas to-do list - especially using bandaids. We did use newspaper one year and everyone thought we were being 'hip'! Haha. Hope all those plans work out without any hitches and Merry Christmas!

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    1. I used to used the colored comics sections! Now I don't know if they even HAVE colored comics--that's how long it's been since I've read a Sunday paper. Not a good thing to confess! But they sure made pretty packages, didn't they?

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  3. And, Helen, I love the Littleton Diner!

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    1. The Littleton Diner is the perfect place to fuel up for tree cutting.

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  4. I love these stories. Helen, there should be a Christmas card showing a VW with a giant tree on the bumper. I can just see it.

    Liz, your Christmas preparations sound eerily like mine. Do you ever find little gifts in January that you'd squrrelled away like I sometimes do?

    Merry Christmas.

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    1. Hi Beth -- Merry Christmas! I do have a photo somewhere of that big tree on our brave little car but couldn't lay my hands on it in time to scan and post. Maybe sometime before Christmas.

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    2. Yes, I do, Beth! And, since I keep a few gifts around so I'm never without, I have a few that I've had for years because I never reach the bottom of the bag! :-)

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  5. I used to shop all year long and put gifts away. That was when I seemed to better know what everyone in the family wanted. Now I have to guess, and things in stores change so fast, I plain get behind in shopping, wrapping and mailing. I had to give up having a real tree a number of years ago due to allergies. I really miss the smell of the old-style Christmas.

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    1. Hi Roz -- Merry Christmas! I have a closet where I store gifts collected through the year, but sometimes they get buried under my quilting supplies and I find them around Fourth of July.

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    2. Been there, done that, Helen. I miss the smell of real trees, too, but not the trees themselves. I buy a lot of gift cards anymore. Not so much fun, but satisfying for the receiver.

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  6. Helen, I love the visual of the tree on the bumper of a VW Beetle. The Mountain Star Christmas Tree Farm sounds like the setting of a book! Liz, your real list sounds much more like my reality. I have an afghan I have been making for my son for two years, just because I keep setting it aside and remembering it later. Merry Christmas! And, yes on Christmas morning everything is perfect!

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    1. Hi Carolyn -- Merry Christmas! I really do have to find the old photo of that huge tree sticking up over the roof of our Beetle. Driving a tiny car requires real ingenuity to transport impossible loads. I hauled a second-hand office desk on the roof once and brought home a dozen six-foot cedar fence posts by putting them down through the sunroof.

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    2. I'd love to see that picture, too! It sounds like a perfect scene from a movie. Good luck on getting that afghan done, Carolyn. I need to get going on making some quilts, too.

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  7. Helen, I'm imagining that tree on your car and it makes me giggle.We always get a real tree, although I wish we could cut our own. That would be so much fun! Liz, your first list scared me a little. Here's mine: morning of Dec. 24th - wake up and realize I haven't shopped at all and panic.
    Pretty much every year. And I agree with you, Thanksgiving is perfect and goes by way to fast.
    Hope you both have a wonder Christmas!

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    1. Hi LeAnne -- Merry Christmas! I've hauled furniture, fence posts and fertilizer in that '68 Beetle and it's still going strong almost 50 years later.

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    2. Oh, no! I'd be a mess if I hadn't started by the 24th. The first list, alas, will never come to pass! Merry Christmas, LeAnne!

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  8. You guys! Everyone. I'm laughing so hard I sound like I'm slap happy! I never thought of the band aids but resorted to Gorilla tape yesterday in a panic. The gift was not inspired, but they'll never open the dumb thing anyway. So, who cares? Yesterday I had to go to the next town to shop. I remembered 5 gifts. Drove home. It was 4 degrees. Then remembered 3 gifts I forgot I needed in the same store. The 90 year old sales lady is becoming my friend. I should take her to Red Lobster.
    Seriously, Helen you made me cry. My husband and I used to do fun things like the tree cutting ceremony and find a lovely spot for a bowl of soup. What memories!
    Great post!!!

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    1. If we'd had Gorilla tape then in the year of the Band-aids! We had NOTHing else! It is a fun memory to pull out now and then, though. Merry Christmas, Catherine!

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  9. Sorry for being late to comment ladies, but thanks for the great post!

    I wish you and your families a wonderful Christmas!

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    1. Thanks, Kate. Same to you and your family--including those precious dogs!

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  10. Helen, I had a difficult time scrolling beyond the covered bridge...I love them! How fun to cut down your own tree, as long as it's not too cold outside. :)
    Liz, I love your plan, especially buying more M&Ms. I love them as much as covered bridges.
    Merry Christmas, ladies!

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  11. Thanks, Jill. I love covered bridges, too. And M & Ms. Sigh.

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