Thursday, January 8, 2015

Is it Christmas without a tree?

This year, for the first time in forever, I did not put up a Christmas tree.  It made sense not to. I was going to spend the week before and after Christmas with my daughter and son in law in Austin, TX and a tree just didn't make sense.  This doesn't sound like a big deal, but to me it was huge!  I have always had a tree, sometimes as many as in the living room, one in my office, a small one in the bedroom and a tiny one in the dining room. And now, this tree?  Gasp! Not only do I put up a tree every year, but I decorate each and every room in the house with Christmas cheer.  Last year, I had so much cheer in my small apartment that after one day, I had to take about half of it down.  But a tree...isn't that required?  I'll let you in on a, it is not.  And, brace yourself, I didn't miss it one little bit.

My daughter puts her tree up before Thanksgiving, yes, you read that correctly, before Thanksgiving. She loves Christmas and has an 8ft, prelit, artificial tree that is simply stunning.  She decorates it with an eclectic mix of ornaments from her childhood, ones she added as an adult and others she and her husband have bought together, topped off by a gorgeous golden star.  I waited for tree envy to set it, but there was never a quiver. 

I have friends who choose not to have trees of their own for various reasons.  Some enjoy the trees at their children's or grandchildren's houses, some have trees at their offices, and one just plain doesn't like decorated trees.  Does that make their Christmas celebrations any less meaningful or fun or cheerful?  No, it does not. Not having a tree doesn't make you Scrooge or the Grinch. In fact, not having a tree can be surprisingly liberating.

Here in no particular order are some benefits to not having a Christmas tree.
  1. No chasing your cat out of or your dog out from under the tree. I have no idea why, but every year my dog thinks I have put up a tree solely so that he will have a nice place to nap. And speaking of dogs:
  2. No panicked dash when you see him eyeing the tree and starting to lift his leg.
  3. No dead needles in your carpet, your slippers, your food!
  4. No leaping out of bed in the middle of the night to see what that crash was, only to discover your tree has fallen over because it was too heavy to turn around and you ended up putting ornaments only on the parts you could reach and none on the back which leads to:
  5. No trying to anchor it to the wall with dental floss and a thumbtack.
  6. No having to remember to add water, and no spilling water when you do remember.
  7. No frozen trek thru the woods looking for the prefect tree...ok, that part I do miss.
  8. No trying to get the tree home only to discover you don't have any twine to tie it to the roof of your car.
  9. No picking out the perfect tree only to be amazed that a 9 foot tree doesn't fit into your house.
  10. No sap on your hands.
  11. No feeling awful because your friend is horribly allergic to pine and spends the evening sneezing.
  12. No frustrating search thru 10 strings of lights trying to find the one bulb that is burned out and therefore causing your entire tree to go dark.
  13. If you have an artificial tree, no sore fingers from straightening out bent branches (how do they tie themselves up in knots?) and then trying to cram the metal rods into the obviously smaller notches.
  14. No panicking when you don't have anything suitable for the top of the tree because you stepped on it last year and forgot to replace it and you end up at Target at midnight sorting thru neon colored angels and multicolored stars because you can't sleep if the tree isn't completely finished.
But the best reason not to put up a tree?  Because you don't have to if you don't want to. If you want to, that's great.  Enjoy the heck out of that tree in all its green lighted glory.  But if you don't want a tree, don't beat yourself up and don't apologize for not having one. There is plenty more to do at Christmas that doesn't require a playing Trivial Pursuit with your way too smart daughter even though you know you will come in dead last, or watching sappy Christmas movies you have seen so many times you can recite entire passages from, or drinking egg nog and listening to Josh Groban's Christmas album for the 10th time in a row because you just love the way he sings in Latin. None of which require a tree. 

I had a wonderful Christmas season this year and hope you did, too.  With or without a tree.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Coffee cups and memories

I admit it, I am a coffee cup snob. I like sturdy, oversized mugs with large handles so you can get a good grip on what you are drinking. Not for me are the delicate china cups, Styrofoam containers or tea cups wishing they were coffee worthy. I don't even like Starbucks cardboard cups. When I am in their stores I ask for a mug...yes, you can do that. On the occasional morning I make use of their drive thru, but when I get home I pour that liquid energy right into a good mug...probably one that has their name emblazoned on the side.  You see, I love drinking coffee. Straight up, nothing added to it black coffee, hot and fragrant. I love everything about it from the smell of the freshly ground beans to the aroma of perfectly brewed yumminess. And to fully enjoy the whole coffee experience, a good mug is essential. I had a friend who used to serve me coffee in a clear glass mug. She was sadly misguided, bless her heart. The other morning my friend Marilyn and I tried out a new breakfast place.  We were delighted to find they served excellent coffee in mismatched but wonderful mugs...and the breakfast was pretty good, too.
Knowing how I feel about the coffee drinking experience, it should be no surprise that I have an extensive collection of mugs I love. I have so many of them, I have to limit those I use so that my kitchen isn't overrun. The rest are safely packed away, awaiting their chance in the cupboard. I have tried over the years to give them away, but the most I can manage is to send one of two to my mom or my daughter so that they can enjoy them...or I should say, so that I can enjoy them when I am visiting. So many of them have histories, you see. Like the one my kids got me one summer when we were camping. I wasn't feeling well one morning so they went on a hike with my then husband, while I stayed at camp feeling pitiful. When they returned they brought me a locally made pottery mug in a gorgeous lavender shade with Pine Lake engraved on the side. The best part is that they had taken the time to fill it with coffee from the little store where they bought it. How do you part with something like that?  Then there is the mug with the Los Angeles skyline on it my mom bought me when I was visiting her and the one my daughter sent me from Texas that is a creamy white with a gold handle. I have a Neiman Marcus Christmas mug from 1997 that I got in a gift exchange and a blue Starbucks mug that is the exact size of their grande cup.  I have a handful of Thanksgiving mugs, a few Halloween ones and a nice assortment of Christmas mugs. I have a Fiesta mug in lime green and a blue and white Spode Delamere.  And I can recall exactly when, where and why I bought each one.
I have a feeling that one day when my kids sort thru my things, they will look at my collection roll their eyes and say "Sheesh...think she had enough mugs?" But maybe, just maybe, one of them will say, "Hey! I remember when I bought her this one!" And maybe, just maybe, they'll put that one aside to take home and put in their own cupboard.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Aqua Net and Hairpins revisited

I got my hair cut today and as I watched the stylist add a quart of hair product I did not want and had specifically declined, I thought about all the many things I have done to my hair over the years.  This post is from May 2013.  Enjoy!

My hair has been thru a lot.  It's a wonder I have any left considering the things I used to do and have done to it. When I was little there were two choices for my hair.  Pigtails or not. That is actually the way my mother asked the you want pigtails or not? If I went with pigtails, I could add ribbons to the ends and barrettes at the sides.  Sometimes the pigtails came with hair stretched so tightly away from my face I looked like a premature facelift casualty.  If I chose no pigtails, I still got the barrettes or maybe a hard plastic headband that made tiny dents in my head with its vicious little teeth.  Pigtails or not lasted until around 4th grade when it became ponytail or not.  By then the plastic torture devices had been replaced with stretchy headbands.  I had a black one with Susan written in gold cursive. I loved that headband.  I wore it until the gold flaked off and it read S_sa_. By the time I got to high school, hair exploded.  I teased my hair to within an inch of its life, sprayed it, then teased it again. Bangs below my eyebrows, crown of hair reaching toward the sky, with a cute little clip-on bow delineating the separation. Unlike some of my friends, I always checked the back to make sure everything was smoothed down, right before I AquaNetted the heck out of it.  My best friend Barb never bothered combing the back since she claimed she never saw it, so what was the point.  As I was at least 3 inches taller than her, I could have told her what the point was, but I was nothing if not a good friend.  Huge hair was so out of control, articles were written in the LA Times claiming tough girls hid razor blades in their do's and, since you didn't comb out a good tease for maybe a week, sometimes black widow spiders made nests in them. At my high school, all the cool girls had wiglets. Constructed on a stiff net, a wiglet was 3-5 inches of hair that could be washed, set and styled into a froth of hair sprayed curls and attached to your real hair with built in combs. Girls would bring them to school before a dance, pinned on Styrofoam heads so that we could ooh and aah over them.  I didn't have one.  My hair is red and there were no wiglets for redheads.  What I did have was a custom blended 2 ft length of hair from a high end department store, fastened in a huge knot at one end. It could be left loose in a free flowing pony tail or braided and coiled into a sort of hair crown attached with dozens of hairpins. My freshman photo shows me wearing it plopped on the top of my head like a Davy Crockett coonskin hat, my own shoulder length hair in a cute little flip below. Around my senior year, we all got over the need to lacquer our hair, yes they really called the product lacquer, and things got a whole lot simpler.  We wore it long and straight or long and curly.  If you were a straight fan and your hair wasn't, you either ironed it or set it on empty soup cans...yes, that is right, soup cans.  If you wanted curls but weren't born with them, you got a perm.  Eventually even guys got perms.  I had a friend in college whose perm went horribly wrong, causing him to shave his head.  He got a nice settlement in exchange for the promise to take the salon's name to the grave.  Today the thought of teasing, or as we called it, ratting, my hair makes me laugh.  So does the idea of sitting for an hour under a plastic hood, hot air burning my ears while baking my hair onto rollers. Those days of bobby pins, clippies and Dippity Do are long gone and not missed at all. I still have that long braid somewhere.  And I still wish it was a wiglet.