21 December, 2008

Deck the Halls with ... a Leg Lamp?

It's finally beginning to look like Christmas at The Box House, with decorations ranging from classic to kitsch, but all of it beloved and infused with special meanings to our family. So let me get you a mug of Ted's famous hot buttered rum and I'll give you a quick tour.

Ted and I drove over to The Home Depot in heavy snow showers last week to pick up this year's tree. There's nothing like trying to determine the quality of a particular specimen when everything is covered under an inch of snow, but the snow lent a festive atmosphere. We even upgraded to the $24.95 tree, still way cheaper than the traditional Chicago Christmas tree lots. So what if they spray painted parts of it green, and who cares if they might have dabbed a little extra pine fragrance on it (I'm convinced they did, but can't confirm it)

After the branches relaxed, it ended up a bit unbalanced. Oh well, I still love it. For me, a real tree is necessary. I know that for many people a fake tree is easier to put up and take down and you won't end up with needles everywhere. But I like that people have been decorating their homes with live greenery for thousands of years, brightening the winter darkness with symbols of life and fertility.

The top of the tree is a mixture of old and new. The star is from my first Christmas with Ted; the elf climbing it is one of several from my childhood.

Mom added the Santa. He's a bit bedraggled, and the tree we got this year is a bit small for him, but he is older than I am and has been on every one of her trees. It wouldn't be a proper Christmas tree without him.

The wooden elf ornament next to Santa is one my mom painted when I was little. We still have the entire set that she picked up at a craft store. Turns out, Ted's mom had painted the same set when he was a kid!

Other favorite ornaments include my first stocking, a bootie knit by my grandma:

And this "new favorite," which my Mom found on etsy.com:

There is a smaller tree in the dining room, our "Candy Tree," decorated with gold foil chocolate coins, truffles and more. Angie the Angel sits at the top of the tree; mom's had her out every Christmas since she was a little girl.

Even the spirit house Ted and I picked up in Thailand a few years ago gets the holiday treatment.

Look inside, and you'll see a tiny Christmas tree and presents. My mom made these when I was eight or so for our doll house Christmas rooms.

Our fireplace is a big ol' fake one. We have arguments about whether we should just take it out, as it would expand our decorating possibilities, or leave it because it's an original house feature. The cast iron electric fireplace dates to the 1920s and produces light, but no heat. Seamus has decided its one of his favorite new perches, but he's getting heavy, and I'm afraid he may break the "realistic" plastic logs."

We took down the usual odds and ends that seem to find their way up on the mantle and put up my Fontanini navity and a small selection of Mom's nutcracker collection.

But the most over-the-top thing we have is the Leg Lamp, which sits proudly in our living room window:

If you haven't seen A Christmas Story with Peter Billingsley, you'll think we're crazy. But it's one of my favorite Christmas movies, and a leg lamp just like this one features prominently, as does a Red Ryder BB rifle. (We were ecstatic, by the way, when we found a Red Ryder BB rifle in the basement earlier this year.)

I think that's going to be it for the decorations this year, but I do have a pot of wassail simmering upstairs, and we'll greet the fruit trees in the backyard with it later tonight for the Winter Solstice. I'll post the recipe for that tomorrow--cider, wine, and brandy! What could be yummier?


modernemama said...

The kitty decoration by the leg lamp is awesome - almost lifelike.

Jean Martha said...

I am loving seeing everyone's special ornaments and hearing the stories about why they are special. I especially love the little doll house tree!

Amalie said...

Home Depot must be the place for trees this year-- they gave one to us for free! I think we must have looked destitute.

It's such a great idea to take close ups of the most special ornaments. I may have to do that for my own archives.

And do put that wassail recipe up pronto!

Anyway, it all looks great!!

Rae said...

All I can say is "hot buttered rum"? Would a recipe be possible, or is it a family secret? :-)

Joanne said...

modernemama--I'm surprised he sat still long enough for me to take his picture.

RT--The miniature tree and packages technically belong to my brother, for his Christmas room. Each package reads "To Ed, From Santa". But shhh! I don't think he knows I have them.

Amalie--I'll have that wassail recipe up soon; we drank a ton of it last night.

Raven--I'll get the hot buttered rum recipe up, too!

Andy said...

You have a leg lamp! You must have been an important winner of a major prize! :)

Also, I'm jealous of your fireplace...that's what we SHOULD have, but someone over the course of our house's history took it out...there are all kinds of clues that it used to be there. Along with the stained glass window, which is bricked in and plastered over...

Bunch of jerks. :)

So don't ever take yours out! :) J/K...of course, do what you want...but taking it out, you may regret it someday. :)

Jen said...

I too enjoy the history of everyone's ornaments.
(since all of mine are still tucked away in boxes )

There are heat producing inserts that you could place on a wish list. I have the gas insert that looks like coal on my mental wish list. It is so cold here tonight I am thinking about the pile of coal left in the basement and how warm it may be lit in the fireplace.

Oh and I will be back for Hot Buttered Rum.

Merry Christmas to all at The Box House.

Jocelyn said...

OMG! I bought that same Obama ornament. Did you see it in the Tribune too? Great minds... :o)

Joanne said...

Jocelyn--Too, too funny! Yeah, we first spotted it in the Trib, and had to get it.

Jenni--I'll have to look for those heat inserts.

Andy--Don't worry, we won't really tear out the fireplace. :-)

myrhiann said...

I love your spirit house. I didn't see anything like that during my several trips to Thailand or I would certainly have bought it. However, I have heaps of photos. I love the Thai attitude to spirituality, and the fact that they find it necessary to honour the earth spirits.

Joanne said...


Thailand is one of my favorite places to visit. I've been there four times, although one trip was just a 3-day layover on our way to Cambodia.

We saw a "spirit house" graveyard outside of Chang Mai, similar to the one seen here, a place people would take their old houses.

myrhiann said...

Thanks for the link to that Spirit House graveyard. That is one of the sights of Chiang Mai that I have missed out on, even though it is my favourite place to visit. I expect that like us you would have stayed in the old city, you get a much better feel of the place and the people when you stay in cheaper accommodation. How I would like to go again. My age (70) and health problems have prevented travel lately, but if I can get them sorted out then Thailand here I come! As an older person I love the respect that Thai people show to elders, and the people we have come to know are so excited to see us come back again. This discussion has got me yearning for temple bells again.

Joanne said...

myrhiann--You have me craving a trip back as well! We always stay in bare-bones, super-cheap accommodation away from the major hotels. There's nothing like a small, family run hotel for getting a better feel for a place. In Thailand--as well as Vietnam and Cambodia--we tend to eat street food. Those tiny little chairs do take some getting used to, however!

myrhiann said...

Aah! Street food. Now you've got me craving it. Those grilled chicken legs that numb your lips are gorgeous.

BTW, I have read your entire blog, it was like a good book that I couldn't put down. We have been renovating for the past 3 years; bought a derelict house (worst house in the best street). Had it rewired before we moved in, then reroofed ASAP, the rain poured in one section, and the guttering was nonexistent. It has gone on from there. Last year we had the drains replaced, the kitchen reno has been happening for 5 months, we now have a working kitchen but still much to be done before it can be considered completed. Next job will be to replace the rotten floor where the rain poured in! We have now had the garden cleared of ivy and I'm about to plant roses - 14 I bought this week plus approx. the same number in pots waiting to be planted. I cant wait.

Joanne said...

myrhiann--My, you've been busy! We started out on the two-year plan. "We can get it all done in just a coupla years." Ha! I'm now thinking along the lines of 10 or so until it's where we want it to be.

Thanks for reading the blog. Writing it has been good therapy, especially on those days when half a dozen house disasters strike at once.