Since the first year my husband and I married, I have decorated for Christmas. Like most newlyweds in 1966, we were barely into our twenties and lived in a one-bedroom apartment.
I grew-up with a Daddy who loved Christmas as much as I do and was the chief decorator. He made a big production of buying our live tree and letting it set in water in the garage until the limbs had opened sufficiently. Then he’d untangle all those big, colorful bulbs and test them all until he had many brightly lit strings of lights to put on the tree. Naturally I assumed all husbands came equipped this same way.
I think that December 1966 was a rude awakening for this 23 year-old woman. My new husband did not have a clue how to properly put lights on a tree or how to prepare them before starting the task. And further more he really wasn’t interested. As our family grew it became a family tradition to decorate the tree together. We eventually bought an artificial tree with lights attached.
Fast forward many years and now my husband has assumed the task of getting the tree out and up and decorated. I hang a few ornaments here and there, but he meticulously decorates for days before it’s complete. I add the finishing touches and eventually all the empty ornament boxes go back to the attic. I love the Christmas tree.
And this year my husband bought a taller ladder so he could put an additional lighted tree on the inside ledge above our front door. He was determined to get it up there and positioned without calling an electrician to finish the job. He loves our house decorated and prepared for the kids to come home for Christmas as much as I do.
We did manage to get that first tree together and place a small, pretty angel at the top. She graced our tree through the birth of three children and through their college graduations. We retired her to a lower branch on the tree when we added a much larger and colorful angel. We still love our first tree top angel. We wouldn’t have Christmas without her on our tree.
When I was 12 years old I received my last doll for Christmas. She was a Madam Alexander Crissy doll. I spotted her in the department store with my little brother on a Friday night. My mom and daddy were grocery shopping next door, and I could hardly wait to show them this glamorous doll. She was expensive for our family, and I wished with all my heart for her. I also had an older brother and two older sisters who were married with children. When I looked for the doll the next Friday night, she was gone. I was one sad little girl. I still wished and hoped for her.
On Christmas Eve, when we gathered around the Olafson Christmas tree, I spotted her red high heel shoes hanging on our Christmas tree. Can you imagine my excitement? My daddy made me wait until all the gifts were opened before he’d let me have those shoes. Then I had to follow a map he had created to find the doll that went with the shoes. My daddy died when he was only 51 years old, so this memory is very special to me. I still have the doll, and her shoes grace our tree every Christmas.
For several years our dear, sweet friend Claudia Joines, came from Victoria for a couple of days to help us decorate for Christmas. She worked for an independent furniture store there where we bought a lot of items for our home. Claudia knew how to place everything in just the right spot. Sadly she died three years ago, and we weren’t sure how we could even get into the Christmas spirit without Claudia to bring in the season with us. We still miss her all through the year.
Thankfully, Kim DeCoste, my assistant at Quilts, Inc., came to the rescue as he often does. Now each year he comes for a day to work with us. He starts with the banister at the front entrance following exactly what Claudia had done when she was here. We are so grateful to Kim.
From the front entrance, Kim goes to the dining room and decorates the light fixture over the table. My joy is setting and dressing the table in a slightly different way each year. This year I extended the table so all 13 of us can sit at the same table. No one wants to be at the “kids’ table” any longer. Note the “poppers” at each place setting. Before we start eating our Christmas dinner everyone pops theirs simultaneously and then wears their paper crown throughout dinner.
We also do “poppers” at our Christmas Eve Day “children only” tea in the kitchen also. I started that tradition when our 17-year-old granddaughter was a year old to teach her tea manners. When her little brother came along, he wanted to join us because he liked the sugar cubes and other fancy treats. Now we have five grandchildren who participate. Next year we’ll have six. Oh, happy day!
Kim places decorative poinsettia and gold pine cones on top of the breakfront and the Spode Tea set on the lower shelf.
He decorates the buffet and mirror.
He places the Italian Crèche on top of my Mom’s china cabinet exactly as Claudia had done. Fortunately, we have photos to follow that we took when Claudia decorated. Each year, Tommy and I take pictures of all the vignettes around the house to follow for the next year. Some have stayed just as they were the last time Claudia decorated, but some have changes as I have retired many items and added some new.
We also decorate the living room, den, kitchen, great room upstairs and backyard. Following are some random shots of some highlights. It takes me the better part of a week to get everything the way I want it. Tweaking and handling special memories is my favorite part of Christmas decorating. So many things are gifts from friends which some they have made. You’ll note a repeating theme throughout of family pictures over the years, stockings, quilts, and nativity scenes.
Come on a little bird’s-eye tour. When we finish we’ll have sugar cookies and wassail which I make every Christmas. Just call me Martha Stewart.
Six years ago I made a recipe book of things I have made over the years that are family favorites. This year I revised it with additional recipes the kids request and a new, updated cover. I have given you the recipe for the Sugar Cookies and Wassail I make each Christmas season.
Merry Christmas from Our Home to Yours
Grammy’s Sugar Cookies
I make these cookies at least every Valentine’s Day and Christmas season. Our grandchildren love to participate, but it takes lots of time with their help.
This recipe is the one most people ask me to give to them. I got the recipe with some Tupperware cookie cutters when Tommy was a Lieutenant in the Army. We were stationed in Joliet, Illinois at the Army Ammunition Plant during the Viet Nam War. Lucky us he stayed at APSA for his whole tour of duty. Todd was born during this time…1967-1969.
Cream together: 1 cup margarine or butter
2 cups sugar
Blend in: 2 whole eggs
Sift together and add to mixture:
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 C. flour
Add to mixture: 1 tablespoon vanilla
Do not refrigerate. Divide into 3-4 balls. Roll one ball at a time. Use left-over dough from each rolling all together for last ball.
Roll out 1/8” thick on floured pastry cloth using a floured sock on rolling-pin. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on waxed paper.
I received this recipe in 1982 from the wife of the man Tommy replaced at First Victoria National Bank in Victoria. She served it to us in their home the first Christmas we were there. I’ve made it multiple times each Christmas since then. My son-in-law makes a joke about me offering it to everyone who comes in the house during the Christmas season. “Would you like some hot wassail?”
1 gallon apple cider
1 quart ginger ale
1 8 oz. package of cinnamon candies
8 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
Pour liquid into bottom of electric coffee maker. Combine remaining ingredients in the top basket.
Perk until ready.
Makes 30 cups.