CHRISTMAS EVE 2018 – Garry Armstrong

It was a very enjoyable Christmas Eve. A drama free (dee-lish) dinner.

Everyone enjoyed their gifts including the furry kids who hadn’t destroyed their toys as of Christmas morning.

I had a long and delightful phone chat with my family. Two younger Brothers, cousins, and cousin-in-law. I was able to hear everyone clearly (first time!) with my cochlear implant. I think I was a bit giddy because I rambled all over the place, chatting about how the cochlear implant has changed my life.

We shared memories about Christmases past. Lots of laughter as I said goodbye.

Owen brought over a bunch of old ’78’s (Those of a certain age know what I’m talking about).

We listened to vintage performances of Christmas music performed by Bing Crosby, Mahalia Jackson, Gene Autry and Red Foley. Yes, Red Foley. “White Christmas” is still a signature song of the season and it belongs to Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby.

One of the 78’s contained soundtrack music from the 1942 film, “Holiday Inn” in which Bing Crosby introduced Irving Berlin’s beloved “White Christmas.” Gene Autry’s “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” brought back a rush of childhood memories as did a rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” I found myself singing along — softly — because I sing off-key.

What a blast! Thanks, Owen.

I, too, wonder about the mince-pie mystery.

What happened to mince-pie? Marilyn and I have been searching in recent weeks for mince-pie, fresh or frozen.  No luck.  No answers.  I just read an online piece about a cache of mince pies discovered in England, stashed in a basement — from World War Two. A Mom’s gift to her Son in the army. The pies are over 70 years old. No mention of how they taste.

This still doesn’t answer our mince-pie mystery. Russian collusion?

Christmas Day is upon us. The house is quiet. The furry kids are searching for their toys. Santa Claus has been very kind to us. Yes, Donzo, there is a Santa Claus.

I suppose he forgot about you.


FOWC with Fandango — Discovery

Owen does Thanksgiving and we go out (or not, but we always talk about going out) on birthdays … but it seems that come the night of Christmas Eve, it happens here. Like it or not, this is home for the holidays.

I spent far too much money on a “special” roast from the butcher — flank steak wrapped around cheese and veggies (it needed salt but was otherwise pretty good). Vegetable. Baked potatoes and I forgot to put out the sour cream. Which was my best because it was the ONLY thing I forgot to put out.

A five-pound roast (I asked for a four-pound roast) is too much food for us these days. Garry and I don’t eat that much. Actually, no one eats that much. I think I’ll roast a big chicken next year and stuff it with something. Maybe add cranberries. But the baked potatoes and veggies are a keeper.

Why don’t they sell mince pies anymore? For that matter, where are peach pies? There was apple — three kinds of apple — and cheesecake, various kinds of cream, key lime, and lemon meringue … but no rhubarb or even rhubarb with strawberry. Something called “mixed berry” and cherry, which is too sweet for everyone. One fork and that’s it for me.

We managed to eat 1/2 a cheesecake, never opened the key lime. The apple pie is still frozen against future holidays.

Maybe just as well since we were all barely moving from the preceding dinner, leaving us with at least two pounds of leftover beef. All the potatoes disappeared, though. Too many baked little bread thingies. We even have remaindered apple cider.

I told everyone to eat more, please, but they couldn’t, didn’t, and I’ve got a defrosted lamb roast waiting and NO appetite. I could live on sandwiches and one frozen pizza would be more than enough.

We discovered — among many discoveries — that no matter where the holidays may roam, Christmas stays here. Because we are here. For how long, no one knows, but as long as we are breathing, this is where Christmas happens.

Owen and the old recordings on a 78 rpm record player

And it turns out the little gifts are every bit as exciting as big expensive ones, advertising and television notwithstanding. Short of someone actually giving us a lot of money, I was really happy with a new nightie an a pair of warm little slippers (and they were the right size and go with everything. Garry got new stretchy pants and Owen got the same chopper that I ordered after Judy Dykstra-Brown suggested it (I really love it) and I just had to warn him not to whack to excessively hard. He’s very strong and it’s pretty sturdy, but he’s a big guy and plastic just IS.

I gave Kaity and Sandy Volumes 1 and 2 of Animusic. It turns out you can’t explain Animusic. You have to see and hear it. If you want to read more about it, they are an interesting organization and not like anyone else. They create the animation and the animation makes the music.

And I got a new pair of pants and two shirts, blue and gray, which I wanted because I bought them myself so at least they would fit. Garry thinks I’m a LOT thinner than I am, the darling.


On the first day of Christmas

And so there we were. The family. We actually opened presents before dinner because no one could wait. And that’s sort of funny because they were all small presents. Not big, grand surprises. And I think everyone liked their stuff.

Owen brought over a record player and a bunch of Christmas 78 RPM records. They still play, too. Lots of crackle and pop. Amazing.

There was a roast at least a pound bigger than we needed, making me wonder what I’m going to do with the food I defrosted for tomorrow because we have a lot of food. Really. A lot of food. An entire unopened key lime pie, too and half a cheesecake.

Good thing I didn’t also make apple pie.



When I was little, everyone’s trees were covered in tinsel and some fluffy white stuff. It imitated snow on the branches of your tree and placed judiciously, was quite lovely. The white fluffy stuff was banned because it was mostly fiberglass. It was lethal to pets and dangerous for people, too.


As for tinsel, I think it was a cleanup issue. It got into everything. Animals ate it, including dogs, cats, and baby rug-rats. It did look very pretty, all silvery on the trees. It came in other colors too, but I don’t think most people really got “into” the pinks and oranges and blues.

From when I married Jeffrey in 1964, we had ‘real’ trees. It was a family thing, to get the biggest tree you could, then spend hours reconstructing it with saws and wires to make it look perfect


Real Christmas trees weren’t expensive, either. Even though they made an awful mess (I was usually still trying to get those dried pine needles out of the wood floors a year later when the new tree was going up), it wasn’t a big deal to get a tree and there was a tree lot on every corner.


Then one year — it must have been during the late 1970s — the price shot up and a tree that had cost $10 the previous year was $50 the next.

We still got a real one until the end of the 1970s when Jeff and I divorced and I moved to Israel.


By the time I came back from Israel (August 1987), a $10 tree was $100. Garry and I bought got real ones for a few years when we had the townhouse in Boston. One was so perfect — and so WIDE — it took up the entire living room. The following year I tried to find an unreal tree that would fit into our actual space.

Christmas cactus – 2018

Then we moved here and since we live 5 doors down from an actual Christmas tree farm (which today I noticed is for sale, so there goes Arrowhead Farms!), you could choose your tree in August or September, watch it grow, then cut it down yourself immediately before you were ready to put it up. Talk about a FRESH tree.

I never had trouble putting up the tree and everyone was eager to help decorate it, but no one ever wanted to take it down or put away the decorations. We still had a tree standing one year on my birthday in March.


We had a few more live ones after that, but the bloom was coming off the rose. Even a six-foot tree took up more room than we could really give it. There was nowhere to walk around it — and the dogs were always trying to eat the glass ornaments.

NO ONE wants their dogs eating glass anything, much less those fragile ornaments. Cats just liked to play with them, but the dogs liked a good hefty bite! Then, for a while, it became almost impossible to get glass ornaments. Some sort of national agreement that all decorations would be plastic.

A few years ago when my son and his family moved out, Garry and I realized we didn’t need gigantic trees. We started buying little real trees in pots on the theory that we could plant them in the spring, but they never survived long enough to plant. They dried out and died long before it was warm enough to plant anything.

2014 – The year of two small trees!

Finally, three years ago, I found the perfect fake 4-foot tree. It looks so much like a real tree, most people think it is real until they touch it and even then, they aren’t sure.  I had a lot of searching to do to find it.

Also, it is big enough to have some presence. It feels like a tree, not like a toy yet it is small enough to put on our huge coffee table on which we never serve coffee. The table really functions as a place to show off old pottery and other small decorative things because under the glass top is a shelf for “stuff.” And it’s big enough to sort the laundry.


Thus we found a viable version of Christmas for us. It is big enough to be a Christmas but sufficiently small and neat to make it something we could do ourselves without winding up exhausted with a giant mess following the holiday.

I think our 4-foot always-decorated tree is perfect. It safeguards all our earlier Christmases and it’s ready in half a blink to take its place. From last year, it also has lights.

2018 again

There’s nothing religious — per se — about the tree but there is symbolism in it and continuity. It means something because we’ve always had some kind of Christmas. This is easy, pretty, painless … so we get to keep our personal history.

A very little, very pretty Christmas from us to you! And don’t forget: at least one of us is sort of Jewish, in a casual sort of way.

THE BIRDS OF CHRISTMAS – Marilyn Armstrong

I almost missed Christmas. I was so busy taking pictures, my son said: “So, see you tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? Not Tuesday?”

Hiding Woodpecker and a Warbler. For reasons best known to the woodpeckers, they hide on the opposite side of the feeder most of the time
Little Yellow Warbler

He looked at me. “Tuesday is Christmas Day. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.”

Diving Chickadee
Red-bellied Nuthatch and a Chickadee

I thought about what I had to do. It was daunting. Garry hadn’t even looked at the Christmas cards and no one had wrapped any presents. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to wrap them in. I had nothing written for either the Eve or the Day and I wasn’t even sure when I was going to wrap.

Couldn’t I just hand things out?

Two Chickadees
Tufted Titmouse and Chickadee

I think I’m not wrapping. I’m okay on most things, but I don’t want to wrap.

And then, today, it snowed today. Just a little bit, but photographically perfect. I had to take pictures, didn’t I?

Woodpecker in snow
Nuthatch in snow
Titmouse and two Warblers
Tufted Titmouse and a Warbler in Christmas Eve snow
Hungry Warbler
Another Nuthatch with Warbler
Junco with two Warblers
Tis the season from this Warbler

And a Merry Christmas from birds and beasts!

All shall be well fed this season!