Advent Calendar: Day 15 – Christmas Tree Decorations

The Advent Calendar of Memories for 15th December was Christmas Tree decorations: Do you have unique decorations that you use each Christmas? How did you get them or were they passed down to you from family members? Do you have certain traditions surrounding Christmas decorations such as purchasing one from every state or country you visit? Describe your favourite decorations!  Once again I’m behind with the topics.

Xmas decorations collage

Collage made using photovisio.com

Yes, we have a stash of Christmas tree ornaments that are put up every year in the first week of December. Some are common or garden ones from department stores but many are special ones that we’ve bought while travelling: in Ireland, England, France, Bavaria and Africa. Just as well we often travel around that time of year (another post!) Strangely while we were in the USA just before Xmas once we don’t have any ornaments from there, or indeed from Scotland.

Our daughter bought us a beautiful Inuit Christmas ball a while ago but when hers bit the tiled floor a few years ago we passed ours on to her. This year the glue on my Tara bell suffered from tropical melt, and it too fell to the floor. Thank heavens for super-glue, and it’s only missing a tiny piece!

We have only one bright-pinks 70s ornament from our very first Xmas trees but when Target had some similar ones a few years back I bought some more in similar colours.

It’s always interesting to “tour” our daughters’ trees each year as among their collection are ones we passed on to them when they set up home and we became empty nesters. Craft they made as littlies and some of our Bavarian wooden ornaments from Nuremberg. Hopefully they will eventually pass down to our grandchildren, and at the rate we insist on buying more, despite a total over-supply, there’ll be plenty to go around.

A while ago I mentioned I should do an A to Z of our Christmas ornaments which decorate our tree and house.

A is for a choir of angels, in all manner of styles.

B is for baubles (flash glass ones or newer plastic ones), multi-coloured butterflies and birds

C is for craft (made by family or friends), crystal danglies and cherries

D is for a tiny drummer boy

E is for recycled Xmas earrings and Eeyore with gift

F is for French birds –lovely ornaments bought in Provence

G is for geese, mainly from Bavaria, or hand-crafted cross-stitch;  blogging gift swaps or gift ornaments

H is for a beating of hearts –all over the tree, and for heirlooms

I is for my Irish ornaments –a Royal Tara bell and Waterford china angel

DSC_0524J is for Jingle bells – some of the bells jingle when touched

K is for our kids’ craft: special things like mushrooms we’ve made from the Gnome Book of Christmas

L is for the strand of lights which circles the tree

M is for our Maasai decorations from Kenya: birds, hearts, angels

N is for Noel and the nativity set (manger)

O is for Ornaments and the orange ball which is a flash back to our original set

P is for a Procession of Pusscats with Puddings which marches up our stair-rail

Q is for a quirky mermaid ornament a friend gave me

R is for ribbon bows and the reindeer from a gift swap.

S is for a heaven of stars from around the world, sleds, snowflakes and snowmen

T is for tinsel and Tigger

U is for uncoordinated – our tree does not have a uniform style

V is for vibrant – colourful, varied and very evocative

W is for tiny wreaths on the tree, large ones on the doors, and world ornaments

X is for eXtra special but not eXpensive (unless you count the airfares to get some!)

Y is for a little yellow bird, the only splash of yellow on the tree

Z is for the Zanzibari dhow hearts which I bought for the tree.

christmas-ornaments-300x224

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar of Memories: Day 8 – Christmas Shopping & Kiva

The topic for Day 8 of the Advent Calendar of Memories was Christmas ShoppingFor many of us, the focus of the Christmas season isn’t on “things” but on family and friends. Still, we like to give presents – large and small – to those we love. Do you shop during Christmastime or do you shop much earlier in the year to get it out of the way? Have you seen a change in your shopping habits as you’ve gotten older? Do you shop online? Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday activities? What was Christmas shopping like for your family and ancestors?

blogged on this topic back in 2011 so I’m not going to add much to that. Yes, I shop online for some gifts. I also do lay-bys for the grandchildren some time during the year. When I have to go shopping in the real world I try to get there before school closes to minimise the aggravation factor. Just yesterday there were several people in the toy aisles saying “I’m over this!”

As a family we decided that we were getting carried away with gifts so some years ago we swapped to the Secret Santa model where each family draws another family for a large-ish gift (about $75) and then each person draws another (<$20). The grandchildren of course get their own gifts but we try to contain our shopping spree so they don’t come to expect that every thing they want, everything they get.

kiva lge

We have also used Kiva as one of our nominated gifts. In only two years, our original gift has grown from three normal donations to 11 donations, with four having been fully paid out already and further loans paid from those repayments. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

Back in late 2011, Judy Webster established the Genealogists for Families group within Kiva and what an impact it’s had! Thanks to the generosity of genealogists world-wide, other less advantaged people have had the opportunity to further their economic independence. Here’s some stats to show just what we’ve achieved in a couple of short years. It would have been great to reach the $100,000 mark by end 2013 but that may be a goal too far. Why not join us in making a difference for other families around the world, surely the essence of the Christmas spirit. You can read a bit more about the process here. Just think, not only can you make a difference, you don’t have to go anywhere near the shops!

Team Impact Report

In 2011 the group made $US 6,675 loans. In 2012 this grew to $32,200 and in 2013 to date, $US42,700. Total $
A few breakdowns in the stats – the female:male distribution probably reflects the gender distribution of the team of genealogists making the loans.
Gender of Borrowers
74% Female (2,272)
26% Male (819)
Category of Loan
  • Agriculture  693 loans 
  •  Food 693 loans
  •  Retail 471 loans
  •  Services 355 loans
  •  Arts 190 loans
  •  Housing 156 loanssanta-shopping-300x199

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! 

Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 9 – Christmas Craft

Christmas Craft or Christmas Shopping, that is the question. The prompt for today is: There’s a movement towards making items for Christmas gifts or even for Christmas decorating. Have you ever made something by hand related to Christmas? What was the item, how was it made and what did you do with the finished product? What about other family members – was or is there anyone who excels at hand-crafted items and giving them as gifts during Christmas?

Xmas cross stitch

I need to straighten up that right hand picture!

On reflection it seems our family was fairly crafty, though necessarily every year. This was possibly an inheritance from my mother and her side of the family, as my Aunty Mary was also an enthusiastic crafter.

Family craft activities by three generations: my mother, me and my daughters.

Family craft activities by three generations: my mother, me and my daughters.

Like many families ours would decorate our tree with craft made by the children at school. Unfortunately they’re not really all that durable and over the years have become completely tatty and had to be retired. Now it’s the turn of the grandchildren, as in the weeks between school ending and Christmas we usually tackle at least one craft activity for the parents, with a painting on canvas blocks done by each child being the chief activity.

Santa Xmas craft

As our own children got in the mid-late primary school years we’d engage in craft activities at home. In my mind they’ve become the “Year of…”. One year it was the Year of Fymo when several families of neighbourhood kids would be on the family room floor creating havoc and craft with Fymo: beads, wreaths, and ornaments.

I based this Jubilee swap craft on the Xmas ones we used to do - and which were all given away.

I based this Jubilee swap craft on the Xmas ones we used to do – and which were all given away.

Then there was the Year of Cross-stitching when we created small decorations with Christmas themed cross-stitch. When travelling in Europe at Christmas-time 1989 we amused ourselves each evening making up these with an Aussie theme (koalas with gifts etc), and then gifting them to the Bed and Breakfast owners we especially liked. I unearthed a blank frame last year and completed it for the French-based blogger I’d been allocated in the Faith, Hope and Charity Jubilee Swap.

Or the Year of Applique, when I stitched appliqued T-shirts or aprons in a variety of patterns to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary as well as Christmas shirts for daughters, nieces and nephews.

Kermit and Xmas_edited-1Or the year I made photo albums for our daughters of events in their lives to that point. And then topped them up a couple of years later – but mixed up the gift tags so they had to swap to the right daughter <smile>.

One Christmas craft which gets turned out each year is the Kermit with Christmas Stocking that I made probably twenty plus years ago. If it wasn’t for our tropical insects it would be able to contain lollies and treats but instead it’s largely ornamental.

I guess there have probably been other Christmas craft activities that have faded from memory but each one giving pleasure in the activity at the time.  Quite apart from crafty activities there’s always the opportunity to make food-goodies for gifts which has happened occasionally, but not recently. They often included white chocolate or rum balls made by the kids for their grandparents or aunts.

In many ways I don’t think craft or food gifts are about saving money, because they have a cost in themselves. What they are about is the gift of the crafter’s love, time and ability (or just aspiration!) which is what Christmas sharing is about.

And as always, the cat has the last word when it comes to Christmas decorations, as you can tell from his pugnacious expression.

What do you mean I have to get off?

What do you mean I have to get off?

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar 2013: Day 5 – Christmas Recipes (and food)

christmas-recipe-200x300I’d guess that for many of us, one of the key elements of celebrating Christmas is the sharing of food with family and/or friends. No wonder then that the topic for Day 5 (I’m late, again!) is Christmas Recipes. The prompt: The smell of cookies baking in the oven or perhaps mulled wine on the stove top. What are your favorite recipes during Christmastime? Are they different than the Christmas foods your mother made? What about your ancestors – what were their favorite recipes and Christmas foods? Share your favorite recipe and the story behind it.

After seeing the delicious pavlova as the feature image my thoughts are straying to a new tradition. Maybe we’ll have pavlova this year, along with a new easy-peasy recipe from a friend for marinated fresh fruit.

Smell is definitely a powerful memory invoker, and the smell of cooking and baking in the kitchen echoes down the years, no doubt aided by my own repetition of the same cooking and baking. So what foods does Christmas bring to mind? Well shortbread is right near the top and I always use my paternal grandmother’s recipe. The trick is cooking it just right, not too dark, not too light, not too soft and just crunchy right.

Of course Christmas cakes are in a league of their own because the fragrances are so pervasive: spices, rum, fruit, all marinading to perfection before being baked for hours, filling the house with even more wonderful aromas.

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly (I think) circa 1990

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly (I think) circa 1990

As I mentioned in 2011 I always cooked the same recipe as my mother. It’s deliciously moist and fruity….a Christmas cake really has to be moist in my opinion. And then I defected: I found an unusual recipe (above) which is perfect for those who like something different and even spicier. For a while I cooked both cakes but eventually settled on the Green Peppercorn cake.

This may be the first year in over 40, when I no longer cook a cake – though perhaps I’ll weaken: maybe I should consult the family. I love Christmas Cake but it no longer loves me and, getting ahead on the topics, is more foe than friend these days, sadly. Christmas pudding, complete with sixpences and threepences, was a feature of all my childhood Christmases and again has been something I’ve cooked for over 40 years.

However we’ve also started a new family tradition with tiramisu for dessert and that has largely overtaken the fan club for pudding. My grandmother’s and mother’s recipe makes two puddings so I’ve had one frozen since last year, half of which has gone to my mother, and the other half will likely satisfy those who hang out for Christmas pudd.

The main Christmas course is where the changes have come to pass over time. We might still have a roast but it’s more likely to be on Christmas Eve with cold slices for lunch on the big day. In my childhood the roast would be chicken which was then expensive and not eaten often, unlike today. Our own preference has turned to roast pork, cooked in the oven or the BBQ, ironically a nod back to my Kunkel ancestor’s heritage.

Ham is always on the menu too, but the feature is now the fresh prawns from the trawlers that come into Darwin around this time of the year, with an entrée of Coffin Bay oysters which our son-in-law prepares. So much more suitable in a tropical climate, even in the air-conditioning. As a child the Christmas table would always include lollies, nuts and crystallised ginger (one of my mother’s favourites). These days we have “only” a tiny sample of lollies and nuts, and some yummy Swiss chocolates.

For Christmas Dad would have a beer, a relatively unusual event as his mother, living next door and a good Presbyterian, didn’t approve. For years our own family would make Sangria as the day’s tipple, along with a fruit punch for the kids. But I’ve diverted from recipes to food: the joys and memories of Christmases past.

Why not pop over to my Tropical Territory blog and see some of those delicious spices where they are grown in Zanzibar. It was so interesting to see them outside the Masterfoods spice bottle.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.