Epiphany, in Five Trees

1. In a Carton

wine with treeIt’s a blustery Friday night, one week before Christmas. Outside, the wind whistles past the dining room windows while inside, cozy and warm, Steve and I sit across the table from one another, bellies full of delicious Lebanese take-out. It’s our first married Christmas, and after two years of whirlwind holiday traveling to Las Vegas (my family) and Oxford, England (his), it’s our first to be celebrated at home. Nearby, in the living room of our new house, a Christmas tree lies compressed in a large cardboard box, awaiting assembly and festive accoutrement. We pour second glasses of red wine, the Pinot catching the light from the chandelier above as I lift my glass. Steve smiles, offers a “Cheers” and a gentle clink. We sip and savor, share another smile.

And then each of us grabs one of the stacks of papers sitting in the middle of the table, and we begin the marathon push to complete end-of-semester grading. We’ll get to the tree tomorrow. Continue reading

Happy Holidaze

FsFTB has been busy getting her holiday ON!


Well, okay, not quite THAT on. The credit for this incredible light display goes to Peter Archie, whose commitment to seasonal decor awes me. It took hubby Steve and me an entire afternoon and then some to select, decorate, and hang two lighted garlands and a wreath on our front porch entry; another few weeks passed before we got to the trees. Yes, plural. Between the two of us, we’ve been amassing ornaments for 104 years.

In fact, we visited the above awe-inspiring light display a few days after the holiday, because we couldn’t cobble the time any earlier. This first-married-Christmas thing has been beautiful, surprising, and not a little intense. Continue reading

Rules to Riches: Forging New Holiday Traditions

Thanksgiving greetings, readers and friends! A few days late, but gratitude is always timely. I hope you’ll forgive my delayed good wishes and post. In addition to hosting a family holiday gathering for the first time in our new home, I also celebrated a birthday this past week. I decided to focus on family, food, and fun with friends, and save my reflections for today.

tablesettingCelebrating our first Thanksgiving as a married couple was exciting and exhausting. Hubby Steve’s two grown sons came in, and we made valiant efforts to ready the house for their company, unpacking and arranging the last of the kitchenware (we didn’t quite make it) and situating the remaining cardboard boxes, if not out of sight, at least out of footpath. It was tough for me to host with so much still in disarray, because growing up, a house about to welcome holiday guests (even close relatives) was always scrubbed, straightened, and festively arrayed. It felt like I was breaking an unwritten rule to have stacks everywhere and so much still out of place. Continue reading


Green Gifts and a Few Other Favor-ite Things

A friend recently shared a link to a New York Times article about the amount of plastic accumulating in our oceans. She captioned it with a plea: “Before you buy all those plastic toys and stocking stuffers for Christmas, please consider where it will end up once they’re thrown away.” The accompanying photo was horrifying: a pile of plastic debris on a beach in Portugal, so thick it obscured the rocky shore underneath.

The photo, and my friend’s request, resonated in light of—of all things—our search for personal, useful, and earth-friendly wedding favors. Wedding magazines offer an abundance of what folk musician Nancy Griffith once referred to as “unnecessary plastic objects”: giant “diamond” key-chains, wedding-cake shaped candles, nesting hearts salt and pepper shakers. All sweet to look at, but—let’s be honest—likely to end up in the landfill. Traditionally, favors were foodstuffs, and something simple and edible like Jordan almonds or truffles seems much more earth-friendly than miniature Lucite chairs. That is, until you dress the truffles up in multi-layered packaging, little brown boxes with raffia ties and tags, or festive cones in cardboard stands. So cute! And sadly, sure to be tossed as trash as soon as the guest has enjoyed the treat within.

Some thoughts on the thought that counts

Though I’m not so keen on unity sand, I like the tradition of wedding favors, maybe because I’ve always loved choosing (or making) just the right gift for someone, whether it’s big or small, silly or sweet. My relationship to gifts has changed a little in recent years, however, in concert with my shifting relationship to “stuff.” I’ve become increasingly aware of the costs, both to our planet and to our psyches, of an excess of objects cluttering our minds and homes, our waters and our world. Continue reading