My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Monday, December 24, 2012

A Treat & a Tree for Christmas Eve :-)

Merry Christmas Eve!

I've been struggling with a cold, some technical difficulties with our computer (and with a new gizmo, which I'll divulge in a later post), and with far too many other distractions lately to get my act together in time to do the Christmas posts I'd planned. 

But I didn't want to go all Ebenezer on you either, so here is a treat I've been wanting to share since we discovered it a couple of weeks ago...


Delicious and filled with flu-fighting, immune-boosting goodies that are packed with vitamins (especially C), important minerals (like potassium), and other anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, this festive Ginger Cinnamon Fruit Salad is not only ideal for flu season, it's even perfectly colored for the holiday season with its green pears and bright red apples and pomegranate seeds!

Speaking of which, we had no clue how to de-seed a pomegranate, so we found a couple of helpful videos and this is the technique we use. His warning that pomegranate juice stains mercilessly is not to be taken lightly! 

I follow the recipe, though I don't hesitate to add a second pomegranate if we've got one, and I sometimes use an orange-mango juice blend. Yum!


I also wanted to share our new Christmas tree with you, but have to say I'm far more satisfied with our tree than with my photos of it. But I'll forge ahead anyway...

Our old artificial tree was nearly 25 years old (I'd bought it in Kennebunkport on sale after Christmas before I ever met BW!), had been through many moves, was showing its age, and I'd stopped bothering to decorate it for Christmas a few years ago. So we gave it away during our downsizing project before our house sale, and last year in our little rental cottage we just used the 3' tree I've had since I was about seven, which you can see in the background in the first photo above. (I get a lot of mileage out of my fake trees!)


But I missed my collection of tree ornaments and having a full-size tree to enjoy, and figured a new house (especially one with 9' ceilings) deserved a new Christmas tree. So we got this 7 1/2' tall one from Home Depot, pre-festooned with little white lights. We didn't have a good spot in the living area for it (not without moving furniture out) and since the only large downstairs window that faces the street is in the study, we chose that room for our tree and so got one with a fairly narrow base. I've usually found artificial trees to be too full and bunchy for both my taste and decorating style, and while this one is better than most, it still doesn't compare to the Christmas trees of my childhood. But then, the bar was set awfully high...


We always had real trees when I was growing up, and if we were living close enough, we'd cut our own from my grandparents' 200-acre farm in the Maine woods. They were always balsam fir, a wonderfully aromatic tree with lots of space between the branches. This suited my mother perfectly, because she hung most of her ornaments with pretty ribbons (as her mother had done, and as I do too), and would also drape it in tons of silver tinsel ~ applied one strand at a time. I never had the patience, and as soon as she caught me putting it on five or six strands at a time, I lost my tree-decorating privileges! :-) But her technique worked magic, because our tree would shimmer beautifully in the light, as if covered in ice crystals. 

My dad always had a knack for selecting a perfect tree, but even that was never quite good enough for either of them. So Dad always cut a few extra branches from other balsam firs along with the ones he trimmed from the tree base, and if an area on our tree was too sparse he'd drill a hole in the trunk and glue the extra branch into it. If some branches drooped too much, he hoisted them with invisible thread. And he always took great care in feeding and watering the tree so it stayed fresh until my birthday in early January (I would not permit the decorations to come down until the next day!) And then after all that tinsel, the ornaments and lights were off it, Mom and I would strip many of the needles and clip most of the aromatic tips from the branches, and Mom would spend most of January making wonderful balsam-filled pillows and sachets. They'd last for years - one crush and it smelled like Christmas all over again.

So although I think our tree turned out quite pretty, it does not compare with the amazing trees of my youth. Someday, maybe, we'll be able to get ourselves a real fir balsam and I'll make a zen-like attempt at draping it in tinsel. But for now, here's our tinsel-less fabulous fake...
Plus a bonus sneak-peek at part of the study, to reassure some of you that I have indeed been taking photos of the inside of our house, which I hope to post by New Year's!)

Though my camera and I tend to struggle with low-light situations, I played around with a few photos and got a couple I was pleased with (the one on my current Christmas header is one of them)...

Here are a few of my favorite ornaments (at least the ones whose photos turned out pretty well!)...
A partridge with her pear :-)

I liked this artsy shot, taken through the branches

For our British friends! :-)
We bought this one at Harrod's on our first trip to England in 1996.
(On our next trip to the UK two years later, we bought a Scottish thistle ornament. 
I think ornaments make wonderful travel keepsakes!)

This little glass bear is an antique that belonged to my grandmother and probably dates from the 1930s when Mom was little. It's made to fit a tree light, but today's mini lights are too small and regular sized lights are too big! I made do, but I always have to find a branch for him to sit on, along with a handy bulb above him to stick down in his head!


Here's hoping that yule have yourself a merry little Christmas!
May it shimmer and sparkle like the prettiest tree. :-)

16 comments:

  1. Your fruit salad look and sounds delicious. And your tree is gorgeous. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

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  2. I think you did a great job with the tree! It looks very festive and pretty — a little balsam essential oil is all you need. :) I hope you and BW have a wonderful Christmas and New Years in your beautiful new home.

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  3. That fruit salad is right up my alley! I've been wanting to make something with pom seeds and that is perfect.

    Your tree looks lovely. What a great way to start off in your house, too (btw, I love your floors!).

    All of my trees have been hand me downs from my parents. Otherwise, I daresay that we wouldn't even have one up (or any other decorations, for that matter, since they're also hand me downs). I'm not a scrooge, but decorating is not my cup of tea. Although, with an Airstream, I could see doing some festive lights..... :)

    Happy holidays to you, BW and your pack! :)

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  4. That fruit salad looks amazing. I will have to try it - soon.

    Your trees were beautiful and thank you so much for another lovely post. It is nearly lunch-time on Christmas Day here, so I wish you magic and love for your day when it arrives.

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  5. Eileen ~ Oh, it is delicious! Pretty, too! :-) Thank you for the compliment on our tree! I like having it here with me when I'm on the computer, though I have to turn around to see it -its lights are reflected in my computer screen, at least. :-)

    Merry Christmas to you, too!

    Andrea ~ Thank you! True about the Balsam oil, and I happen to have some. I've been too busy burning my Phebes Christmas candles lately, but I need to put a little of that balsam fragrance here in the study, at least. I'll do that soon as I'm finished here! :-)

    Molly ~ Oh, well then this salad will be just the ticket! :-) I think you'll really like it. I've made three batches in less than 2 weeks - it makes a fair amount, but doesn't seem to last long! :-)

    I think it would be fun to decorate an Airstream! For someone who doesn't take to it, you always do a lovely job of making your home look festive for the holidays.

    Happy merrymaking to you guys and your fuzzy little family, too! Enjoy your holiday!

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  6. Ellie C ~ Merry Christmas! :-) It's nearly 6pm here, cold and snowing lightly. BW is still an hour from being done at work, so I'm keeping busy on the computer, reading a poetry book my friend Robyn gave me for Christmas today, and listening to medieval Yule music. :-)

    Do try that salad, and let me know how you like it! We think it's really yummy - those pom seeds are the bomb!

    Enjoy your holiday - though I just can't get my mind around it happening at the start of summer! You Aussies are crazy. :-)

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  7. Merry Christmas to you and yours too! Thank you for the photos.

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  8. Ah the famous fruit salad! It does indeed sounds and look delicious - if I could only get David to eat fruit he probably wouldn't have a lurgy and we could avoid him emitting the whiff of burning martyr and making us all roll our eyes and go sit in a different room (Charlie is very good at this).

    I found it hilarious that you were banned from tree decorating because of your lack of care and patience with the tinsel! LOL! But dear god, I would be terrified to have let your parents see any of my decorating efforts with the lengths they went to to get their own tree just so.

    Of course I love the Union Flag ornament and that partridge, but do feel somewhat sorry for the bear with the lightbulb stuck in his head. Call yourself an animal lover? :O)

    Your tree looks fabulous by the way!

    Enjoy the rest of today xx

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  9. Hello, love, nice to meet you :) Love the Harrods dangly bits :)

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  10. I watched the pomegranate video. I'd always pulled them out one at a time so that looked pretty interesting. I'll have to tell Melissa who is a HUGE Pomegrante fan.

    Your tree is so pretty. I loved the story about your mom and dad decorating the tree. That was pretty ambitious to actually fill in with extra branches! My mom also did the one piece of tinsel at a time thing and although we always begged to help, we always lost interest after a few boring minutes. Perhaps a sign that our generation was headed into its current fast everything/instamatic phase.

    About half of my ornaments come from my travels so I totally agree that ornaments make great travel souvenirs.

    I really enjoyed you grandmother's little glass bear and I like the idea that a bulb goes in his head. That's pretty clever.

    Thanks for a peek inside your Chistmas home! For us (Catholics) Christmas ends 13 Jan 13 and we're encouraged to keep some decorations up until then (we leave them all up) so by all means leaving them until your birthday sounds fine to me!!

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  11. Had to come over and see the new header - love it! Bravissimo!

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  12. Barbara ~ Oh, it is! David won't eat fruit?! Holy crap. What is WRONG with that man? ROTFL at your description of a martyrdom so potent, it emits an odor that drives the decent from the room. You're too funny! I don't know if this would help his pestilence, but it wouldn't hurt and it sure tastes delicious! So I'd make a vat of it for myself, were I you, and eat it in front of him.

    I was banned from a lot of things as a child, and lost more privileges than I knew I had, for transgressions I hadn't even realized I committed. The price one pays for being the only child of two Marine officers. But in this instance, having my tedious tinsel-application privileges revoked was one of those "punishments" I whole-heartedly embraced. Like being sent to my room - you know, the place wehre my toys and books were, and where I could be alone (which I loved). ;-) As for your decorating efforts not passing my parental muster, I doubt the National Christmas Tree does either. I wouldn't worry about it (though my roommate in my early AF days had nightmares in the days preceding my mother's first visit to our apartment, based on the tales I told her! And sure enough, though we'd spent days scrubbing the place from stem to stern, my mother chastised us the first evening when we got home from work for not defrosting our freezer! I kid you not).

    LOL about my sticking a light in the bear's head! Yes, I AM an animal lover - just doing my best to give these poor creatures the lightbulb moment they need to save themselves from our wretched species!!!

    Thank you, I'm glad you like our tree! It really is prettier "in person." xoxo

    Braja ~ Thank you! :-) We actually "met" once quite a while back, as I've been a follower on both your blogs for some time. I just don't comment as often as I should!

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  13. Fruit salad....one of my favorites! It looks very sweet! Love your tree and all the trimmings. Wonderful Christmas tree selecting and decorating legacy your parents gave you. xoxoxo

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  14. Jo ~ Oh man, that must take FOREVER! This technique of scoring, halving and whacking them (we use a wooden spoon) works quickly, and you only have to pull out a few seeds by hand at the end. BUT, it is messy! I use the deepest bowl we have and I try to be careful, but all I can say is thank goodness we sprang for epoxy grout that wipes clean! I now have a pomegranate colored apron, and have wiped the juice splatters off nearly every surface (not always too successfully!). We watched a Martha Stewart pomegranate seed removal video too, and she uses a similar technique but also advises draping a towel over the pom and bowl to prevent splatter, and from now on that's what I intend to do.

    Yep, sounds just like me with the tinsel - begged for the job, then couldn't wait to get fired from it. LOL I think you're right, it was early evidence of our generation's instant gratification tendencies!

    Fun that about half of your ornaments have come from your travels - with all the places you've gone, I'm sure you've got a fun (and growing!) collection.

    Barbara ~ Thank you!! It was fun to make, and I think it turned out really cute! I'm going to leave it up till NY Day. Thank you for making a special trip over to see it, I'm glad you like it! :-)

    Spud ~ Actually, I find this salad's sweetness level depends mostly on the variety and ripeness of the pears you choose, as well as the apple variety (we use Honey Crisp or Gala). But while some batches we've made are a bit sweeter than others, I wouldn't describe any of them as "very sweet." I think, actually, they've been the perfect amount of sweet and ever-so-slightly tart, with the ginger, cinnamon, orange and lemon juice. I think you'd really enjoy this one! And it's so purty. :-)

    I don't know if that tree selection and decoration legacy is wonderful, or neurotically crippling, but I'm glad you love our tree! :-)

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  15. What a pretty tree. I love all your ornaments...especially the little antique bear one. Antique ornaments are charming. The salad is very pretty too. I hope your cold is all better now!

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  16. Rose ~ Thank you! I missed our ornaments after packing them away for a few years. It was nice to get to enjoy them again this year! My cold is gone, but for some lingering "frogginess." :-)

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"