sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

December 5, 2016


virtual advent tour: day 5
posted by soe 6:45 am

Virtual Advent Tour logo
Welcome to Day 5 of the Virtual Advent Tour!


Today’s host is Kat at As Kat Knits. She’s got a great post on her favorite part of the season, for you.

Thank you, Kat, for a great post and for your willingness to take part!

Check back here tomorrow for the next stop on the Virtual Advent Tour. And if you’re interested in taking part in the tour, badges, details, and sign-up info can be found here. We’d love to have you participate.

 

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 0 Comments.

December 4, 2016


virtual advent tour: day 4
posted by soe 4:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2016Welcome to Day 4 of the Virtual Advent Tour!


My 20th annual tree-trimming party is today, which meant we spent Saturday buying groceries, cleaning, and, most importantly, buying a Christmas tree.

My family and Rudi’s both share the tradition of having live trees. Rudi’s family, though, living in a city as they did, bought their Christmas tree from a lot.

An Afternoon at the Christmas Tree Farm

I grew up in a large town that was, to the east, surrounded by farming communities. So when Christmas rolled around, my folks would head to the farm to cut down a tree. Please note that I don’t say that I went to the farm; I so loathed the trekking up and down the hillsides hunting for the perfect tree that by the time I was six or so, my parents had found it a far less painful experience for everyone if they dropped me at my grandparents’ house for the duration of the trip.

However, when it came time for me to have a tree in my own apartment, there was never any doubt in my mind that I’d head off to the farm to cut one down. And, we did, right to that same tree farm I’d whined about visiting 15 years earlier.

An Afternoon at the Christmas Tree Farm

When we moved to D.C., it was more challenging. People get really pissed when you cut trees down in their yards in the city, and it’s a crime to cut them out of the parkland nearby. So the closest living trees are at least a 45-minute drive, often further. The first couple years we compromised by buying a tree at the farmers market. But after that I was back to wanting to get the tree ourselves and we set aside the first Saturday in December as our day to do so.

I do tend to prefer to pick out my tree quickly. One year the farmer told me I hadn’t even gotten a walk out of it (to be fair, we did cut down literally the first tree we came too). But some years, a speedy choice is more challenging, and this year was one of those.

An Afternoon at the Christmas Tree Farm

We’re onto our third tree farm of the region, and we’ll probably have to move on from this one next year. (The first one gave up farming trees, and the second one had a few in-between years where they didn’t have trees the size we needed.) Clagett Farm is located in Maryland and is owned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, who operates it as a nonprofit.

The most important thing when picking out any Christmas tree, be it artificial, still growing, or at a tree lot, is the dimension of the space it’s going into. You don’t want a tree that’s going to crowd up against your ceiling, and you don’t want one that’s going to encroach too much on the space around it. So know roughly how tall your ceiling is and how wide your desired location is.


Too Short Too Tall
Too short…
Too tall…

A lot of the trees at Clagett are still growing, so they’re shorter than I would like. (I’m somewhat flexible, but have a strong preference against being able to look down at the top of my tree.)

The second-most important thing to consider is how heavy your ornaments are. If you’re decorating with lights, popcorn strings, and yarn ornaments, it doesn’t matter what kind of tree you come home with. You’ll be fine. If, however, you’ve got lots of heavier ornaments, you’ll want to be pickier. Around here, almost everyone grows some combination of four trees: Norway and blue spruces and white and Scotch pines. Occasionally you’ll see firs, but less frequently than they grew in New England. White pines (on the left) have long needles and very supple branches. Scotch pines (on the right) have pointier needles and less flimsy branches, but they’re still going to bend under heavier ornaments, like we have. Spruces are very prickly, particularly the blue variety.


An Afternoon at the Christmas Tree Farm An Afternoon at the Christmas Tree Farm

This year, the Eastern seaboard had the added challenge of drought. At the tree farm my parents went to this year, the farmer said he’d lost thousands of dollars of trees. The mid-Atlantic region fared slightly better, but we still saw a lot of trees that looked like these.


Too Dead An Afternoon at the Christmas Tree Farm

Ultimately, though, we did find a tree — a blue spruce. It’s got a definite backside, and there’s a bare patch that we’re going to have to work to cover by dangling ornaments through it. And it’s shorter than we would have liked. But it’s got strong branches and fits well within the parameters of the space.

An Afternoon at the Christmas Tree Farm

(This is a recreation. We realized as we were walking back to the barn that we should have taken a shot of one of us sawing down the tree. I started the process, but ran into trouble with the dull bow saw, so Rudi finished it off for me.)

After last year, when our tree had severe leaning issues (I tie it up just to make sure it won’t fall if the cats get too curious or gravity gets too strong), we made sure the base was flat, going so far as to get one of the farm hands to level it off for us with his chain saw. And because Dad and I had just measured their stand, I knew we’d need 8.5 inches of branch-free space at the bottom, so we lopped off those there, too. Then we fastened it to the roof and drove back home.

Currently our tree is sitting in the hallway, relaxing in a bucket of water, waiting to make its debut later today. We’re all very excited.


Check back here tomorrow for the next stop for the Virtual Advent Tour. And if you’re interested in taking part in the tour, badges, details, and sign-up info can be found here. We’d love to have you participate.

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 2 Comments.

December 3, 2016


virtual advent tour: day 3
posted by soe 4:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2016Welcome to Day 3 of the Virtual Advent Tour!


We’re suckers for Christmas short films in the Burrow, so I thought I’d share a few for today’s post.

Much like the commercials Hallmark used to air during their Hall of Fame movies (do they air them still now that they have a whole channel to themselves?) or some of the Super Bowl ads, companies in the U.K. create long-form, story-based commercials they air during the holidays. Here’s the one for H&M this year, filmed by Wes Anderson and starring Adrien Brody:

While many of us know H&M by name, at least, in the U.S. John Lewis is a distinguished civil rights leader, Congressman, and award-winning author, rather than a department store. Looking at their website, I’m guessing they’re maybe somewhat similar to Target. But whatever they are, they’ve got a cute commercial:

A couple voices you might recognize:

Stephen Fry, from the Alzheimer’s Foundation UK:

James Cordon, from Sainsbury’s (a grocery store):

And maybe my favorite, from Marks & Spencer (another Target-like store):

You can see some more of this year’s UK Christmas adverts here, including the one that the article’s writer thinks is the best.


Stop back here tomorrow for a new post for the Virtual Advent Tour. And if you’re interested in taking part in the tour, badges, details, and sign-up info can be found here. We’d love to have you participate.

A few other Advent-y things going on around the internet:

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 1 Comment.

December 2, 2016


virtual advent tour: day 2
posted by soe 4:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour logo
Welcome to Day 2 of the Virtual Advent Tour!


Today’s host is Zoe at Playing by the book. I follow Zoe on Twitter, so last night when I saw her promoting this post, I dropped her a line and asked if she’d be willing to take part in the tour. I think you’ll really like her idea: A poe-tree (advent) calendar. This would be a fun project to work on year-round as you come across poems you want to share or remember next December 1.

Thank you, Zoe, for a great post and for your willingness to take part!

Stop back here tomorrow for the next stop on the Virtual Advent Tour. And if you’re interested in taking part in the tour, badges, details, and sign-up info can be found here. We’d love to have you participate.

 

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 0 Comments.


christmas car, participants, and completely clean
posted by soe 1:20 am

Three beautiful things from my past week:

Christmas Car

1. A jeep drives past with colorful lights on its roof rack.

2. Everyone’s enthusiastic responses to the Virtual Advent Tour. You all rock!

3. I know from my washing method of peanut butter jars that the easiest way to empty out my ancient jar of Fluff is to pour the cocoa into it, tightly close the lid, and shake it around (over the sink). A scrape of the the spoon for the stubborn bits, and I can empty it back into my cup.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world recently?

Category: three beautiful things. There is/are 0 Comments.

December 1, 2016


virtual advent tour: day 1
posted by soe 5:30 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2016Welcome to Day 1 of the Virtual Advent Tour!


Macy's 2016 Christmas Windows

One of the great things about working in downtown Washington, D.C., at this time of year is the Macy’s Christmas window display. For those of you who aren’t in the U.S., Macy’s is one of our largest upscale department stores. Their original New York location (worth a visit should you be in the City) is the setting for Miracle on 34th Street, they host the famous Thanksgiving Day parade, and outposts can be found in every major city and many suburban malls across the country.

Macy's 2016 Christmas Windows

R.H. Macy is supposedly the mastermind behind the animated department store holiday window display, having created one in 1883, in which Santa’s sleigh was mechanized and moved around a track set up across his New York City’s store’s front windows. After that, department stores in major cities would compete informally to see who could create the most talked about windows of the season. While that tradition has faded from most places with the disappearance of the standalone department store, Macy’s (and their New York City competitors) keeps it going.

Macy's 2016 Christmas Windows

Here in D.C., Macy’s unveils their windows the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Since I like to be surprised when I return after the holiday, I alter my path from the metro station to my office to avoid spoilers.

Macy's 2016 Christmas Windows

The first and the last windows are Macy’s-themed staples, highlighting their underwriting of both the Thanksgiving Day parade and the 2010 animated Christmas special, Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus. The ones in between, however, change every year or so.

Macy's 2016 Christmas Windows

This year, the second and the fifth windows are the ones to pause in front of. In the second window, swirls of snow magically manifest themselves into a variety of wintry creatures. In the fifth, Santa and an elf are making their lists and matching kids up with their perfect gift. The North Pole has moved to a database system, which tracks incidents of good and bad behavior, children’s likes and dislikes, and scanned copies of their letters to Santa. (I’ve included a slideshow at the bottom of this post so you can see some of the details of these two windows.) They’re really cool window displays.

Macy's 2016 Christmas Windows

The audience for these windows is varied. Gaggles of very small kids from the downtown day care centers parade past on their daytime excursions, pausing in their trolley push chairs and duckling lines to exclaim over details. Office workers out to grab a bite to eat tend to give the windows a sideward glance while remaining in motion, rather than stopping to take in the windows as a whole. In the evening, it tends to be older folks, probably mostly tourists staying at the downtown hotels, who stroll past leisurely, conversing about past Christmases while the Muzak that’s set to be heard over the daytime bustle swells around them theatrically.

Macy's Windows, Christmas 2016

Stop back tomorrow for the next stop on the Virtual Advent Tour. And if you’re interested in taking part in the tour, details and sign-up info can be found here. We’d love to have you participate.

 

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 6 Comments.