Decoration Decorum

“How early do you start shopping/decorating for the holidays?”

Shopping! How I miss the hustle and bustle of shopping centers decorated to the hilt and finding just the right gift for just the right person!

I have been some distance away from  big shopping centers that are easy to get to for many years now.
I also have fewer and fewer people to buy for, since the extended family is not nearby and we adults have simply stopped exchanging presents. Money has been tight for many of them, (and often for us), plus health has also been an issue for some of us.

I would still enjoy it immensely.

I got into the habit of buying things that I considered perfect for someone any time during the year and putting them away,

especially when I find them on sale!

I still do that some for the grandkids; I still do that if I see something that would make a nice gift for someone, somewhere.

Although more often than not, I try to feel out what the kids like at this point.

Teenagers that do not live with you are hard to buy for. Nothing is worse than spending good money for something they don’t want or can’t use. I remember being a teen and being on the receiving end of presents that were really wrong and wishing that the person knew to spend half of the money on something that I really wanted. There would have been many things that made me happy, but it was like people were radar-guided to go in the wrong direction. (We covered this here  once: bad presents. It was amusing…and heartbreaking)

Little kids are easier to buy for. Next year will be that kind of fun again with a baby in the family.

Still, I enjoyed wrapping presents in one or two shifts, with the smells of Christmas and seasonal music, or even a movie, playing away.


As for decorating, it depends on the holiday.

It’s too much trouble to decorate a lot for a short time, so Christmas gets going relatively early, right AFTER Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a big thing here, which should not surprise anyone who knows me. It was always big with my family when I was growing up. Relatives would come in and some would even ‘drop in’ from several states away because they knew my mother would have great food and plenty of it.

Shopping for and preparing food for Thanksgiving and Christmas and even Halloween begins early. I pick up Turkey breast s on sale, (I cooked my last big turkey last year. Son #1 is now gluten-sensitive and he can’t eat the turkey since I want to stuff it. I make 2 kinds of side dressings, bread and quinoa now.)  Since The Grandson and Son#2 don’t get to town for Halloween or sometimes Thanksgiving, I make and box appropriately–themed goodies and ship them off to them. People will be around before Christmas more than ON Christmas, so cookies, breads, etc.  must be made early. I stopped making most of the candies I once did, but at least the Almond Toffee gets made, if nothing else.

Mom didn’t decorate much. She did have great “Harvest” decorated dishes, the story of which I told here on the blog before.  I have a few harvest-themed serving dishes, decorations and linens which I pull out;  I leave up the scarecrows from Halloween and the ceramic and candle jack-o’lanterns get their faces turned to the wall to  show just their ‘pumpkinness’  for Thanksgiving. Turkeys and colored leaf candles go on display.

Halloween decorations inside get put up the first or second week of October. The outside decorations, lighting, luminaria, etc., are put out on Halloween afternoon to try to let trick-or-treaters know to come to our house. Few have been coming, and so few neighbors give out treats. Pity.

Christmas also gets left up at least until Epiphany, the first week of January. My mother left her decorations up a lot longer, but I feel like after all the hoopla, it’s time to get started on a new year.

When my kids were young I decorated like crazy for St. Valentine’s Day, then I decorated for St. Patrick’s Day. Easter gets put up during Lent; I have a lot of Easter, and it gets left up for a week afterward.

When the kids were young I also decorated for Independence Day.  Those were up for maybe a week; it wasn’t much.

If I digressed, and we’re talking only about the Christmas-New Year holidays, the quick answer is that, as stated above, I decorate right after the Thanksgiving weekend, or on it, depending on whether company is here, or the weather, since my decorations are in the garage.

I want Santa and The Holy Family up, and not any creepy-crawlers that may have gotten into the boxes.
Even when decorating for Halloween, the spiders were not of the real, live variety.

However, with fewer people here for shorter lengths of time, I find myself decorating less and less, but most people who had never seen my homes before would believe that I had cut-back either on the ambience or the food, and yet, I really have.

Also, the box with many of my best decorations was taken by mistake with others to a local charity shop. I cannot not replace them and would not if I could. The thought of them gone breaks my heart, but it is freeing in a way; I guess it was a lesson in letting go that I needed.

But come on by my house; the place will certainly look like the holidays and there will be plenty of food!

And I may even be able to scare up a present for you, too.

Posted in America, author's life, Autumn, childhood, Christmas, collections, experiences, Family, favorites, food, Fourth of July, Holiday, holidays, inspiration, recipe, Tonette Joyce | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

I’m No Early Bird

In Fact, I Procrastinate

(about Christmas gifts & decorations)

By Jeff Salter

I know people who begin the countdown to Christmas during the stifling heat of mid-summer. And we’ve already seen – from some of the Foxes this week – that many folks shop sales as early as January.


Well, before I tell you what I do now, I should back up and tell you how I grew up.

Back on the Old Days

Like one of the Foxes, I’m a December child – born on the ninth, to be exact – and December kids are typically in danger of having their birthday celebrations absorbed by the nearby Holiday. To assist in keeping my birthday a separate event from Christmas, my mom didn’t do ANYthing seasonal – at least nothing visible to us kids – until the day after my birthday, Dec. 10.

You’ll have to understand that we kids had already been poring over the Christmas catalogs of Sears, Montgomery Wards, and J.C. Penney’s for a good six weeks or more by that point, so WE were certainly already “tuned” to upcoming Christmas. Even back then, however, I appreciated Mom’s effort to keep my birthday observance separate.

[As a side note, my daughter’s birthday is Dec. 23, so for many of her younger years, we’d observe that day with birthday gifts of course… but we’d hold her party (with her friends) in January after families were back home from traveling and/or local family events after the school term vacation.]


Sacramento, 1973

I’m not certain this actually fits this week’s stated topic, but it will give y’all some context on the part of Christmas I find most important. When I was still in the Air Force – as a buck sergeant netting about $660 a month and supporting a wife and toddler – things were understandably tight. Furthermore, we were some 2000 miles from the nearest relative and it was our first Christmas to be completely away from any family. On the Saturday’s leading up to Christmas, the three of us would ride the city bus from North Highlands into downtown Sacramento for a dime each — it was their so-called “Santa Fare” and was considerably cheaper than the gasoline that would have been required (plus parking fees). We’d walk along a section of streets that had been closed to vehicle traffic and window shop. That Christmas, we had a total budget of around $25, as I recall, for gifts and decorations. While downtown, we found a few inexpensive (but attractive) components of a manger scene. I made the “barn” out of cardboard. I think the manger itself was a matchbox or a soap dish. Most of the gifts we had under our scraggly tree were whatever our parents had mailed us. [Don’t recall where we got the tree, but I assume it was either free or very cheap.] I find it interesting that one of our most meager Christmases is one of the few I remember best.

Middle Years

My wife had her own family holiday traditions to maintain, including specifics with the stockings, antique ornaments, etc. She was usually in charge of both the tree and the household decorations – as well as acquiring most of the gifts – but she followed my family’s tradition of holding off on the visible aspects until after my birthday.

Okay, fast-forward to my years working in the library system in Shreveport LA. We four – Julie having joined us in 1975 – lived in a tract house with neighbors about 10 feet on either side of us. During most of those years (1980 through about 2000) I made a big deal of buying gifts for wife and both kids… and did whatever we were doing at the office gift exchange. During some of those years, I was also involved – either at church or at work – with buying gifts for a family that we’d “adopted” for the holidays. Yes, I bought each of them gifts also.

At some point around middle December, I’d take a day of vacation so I could shop the mall on a weekday and (presumably) not have to fight as many crowds. [I encountered plenty of shoppers, however, so maybe other folks had that same idea.]

I was so focused on “balance” that I’d try to spend the same dollar amount and get the same number of gifts for each child. That, of course, was over and above whatever my wife was getting them. After several years of that gift “doubling” – and partly due to my own medical issues – I had to drop most of that frantic activity and just left almost all the shopping to my wife. In many ways I miss it, but in other ways, it’s a relief not to have to deal with it.

Current Days

Since grandkids entered the scene, I’ve relied more and more on my wife to handle things. She seems to thrive on it and she would spend the same amount on kids and grandkids even if I was out there in the trenches frantically searching for the “perfect” gift for each. So I just buy something for her and let her deal with the rest. As before, she waits until after my birthday to pull out the decorations and our artificial tree.

Some years we have one set of grandkids to celebrate with, some years we have both sets, and some years we don’t see either set. This past Christmas (2018), our local grandkids were in Texas, my wife traveled to Louisiana to be with the other grandkids, and I was here at home, tending to my elderly mom who’d recently fallen and was needing multiple visits each day. [This was a couple of weeks before she entered the nursing home.] It felt odd to be “alone” at Christmas, but that was not the first time. I’d spent the Christmas of 1972 at the “top of the world” at Thule Air Base in Northwest Greenland.


I guess you can tell I’ve drifted off the assigned topic. Very sorry, folks. The short version is that I don’t think too much about Christmas until after my Dec. 9 birthday. And after that point, I just try to fit in with whatever plans, events, and decorations that come our way. A lot depends on where the grandkids will be, what our Sunday School class is doing, when the church services are, etc. And since I do very little shopping (of any type) any more, I tend to deal with it around the middle of December.


What about YOU? Are you an early bird with Christmas decorations and shopping? Or do you deal with everything as a frantic finish-line rush, right before the holiday itself?

[JLS # 457]

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So I Go Overboard


How early do you start shopping/decorating for the holidays?

I’ll begin by saying that the upcoming holidays are my favorite time of year. I think maybe that started when I was just a child. My mother made everything special for us even though we didn’t get an over the top amount of presents. Being with our large, extended family was the best gift we received.

When I was a child I never understood why we had to go to school on Halloween. It was so much fun I couldn’t imagine not having a vacation day for it. We never decorated for Halloween, and I still don’t.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. I have a nice cornucopia that I put on my table, and a couple of Pilgrims and an Indian, and that’s all the decorating I do for that. I’m not much of an advance food shopper. Typically you’ll find me in the grocery store at the last minute trying to find the perfect turkey. For my family that would be about ten pounds, but the year before last I sent my husband to the store, and he came back with a twenty pound bird. I didn’t do too good of a job cooking such a big turkey so since then I buy my turkey ready to eat.

The Christmas season begins for us on the day after Thanksgiving. I never go to sales on Black Friday. We put up all our decorations. And there are a lot of them. I started the tradition of heavily decorating when my grandson lived with me. I wanted him to have a magical Christmas environment, and he did appreciate everything. His favorite was a Christmas village I put up every year. Actually, every child in the family loved that village, and my great granddaughter is very attracted to it now.

I usually put up three Christmas trees. One is our family tree, one is silver with some white, flocked deer under it, and the other is a theme tree. I started the doing the themed tree when my granddaughter was younger. The two of us got together and put it up from start to finish. All year we’d look for ornaments for whatever theme we’d picked. We’ve done cowboys and Indians, polka dots, candy, birds, retro, shells, pigs, and various color combos. Her favorite is the candy tree, and I have to admit it’s the most beautiful, but I do like my cowboys and Indians tree.

Besides our trees I sit things wherever I can find a place. I’ve also made several wreaths to go on the walls.

With all of that being said, this year I may cut back some. But then again I still have that great granddaughter to think of so we’ll see.

I used to shop early for gifts, but in recent years I’ve fallen out of the habit. Everyone gives me a list of things they might enjoy, and I pick from the list. No one yet has complained or returned any of their gifts.

Still, the decorating, presents, and eating isn’t the important part of the holidays. The important part is being with the people you love. That’s the best part as far as I’m concerned.

Do any of you have any special traditions during the holidays? Do share them with us.

The picture shows three carolers. It sits on the top of a small china cabinet in my dining room. The picture behind it is a Norman Rockwell Christmas picture. There’s a car going down the street with a tree on the top. I love that touch.

Posted in Christmas, Elaine Cantrell, Holiday, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Its Never Too Early For Christmas…

This week we’re talking about how early we start decorating/shopping for the holidays. I love the holidays! Its such a cheerful time of year, people seem to be in better spirits (unless you work in retail then some people can be downright rude to you), the house always smells amazing, snow is falling softly putting a calm over the world. Things just slow down.

Those who know me well wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I started my Christmas shopping last December! That’s right, a few days after Christmas I started scouring the shelves for items I knew would be wanted. I purchased several items for my daughter that I knew she would love. I found a few things for my sons, my sister, and my parents! I shop all year, I don’t spend a lot of money on Christmas but you wouldn’t know that by looking under our tree. I shop clearance racks all year long. Not only do I shop all year but I wrap the gifts as I go.  I have a nice little stack of wrapped gifts hidden away. When Christmas morning rolls around there are times when I am completely surprised at what the kids have because I may have purchased it back in February and forgotten all about it! My Christmas shopping will be done by the first week of November (we draw the Secret Santa names at the end of October).

Just last week I began to purchase things for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Its rapidly approaching and I hate to buy everything all at once. The items that can be purchased ahead of time will be. I like to hit the sales and use coupons when I can. We have a large freezer and I like to keep that stocked well before winter.

I don’t decorate my house for Thanksgiving. I know many people do and I always think it looks so nice but I just don’t do it. Maybe someday I might but right now that’s not for me. We used to decorate for Christmas on my birthday December 1 (or the Friday nearest), it was like a little party for me. I love decorating for Christmas. However, when my youngest started going to see his dad some weekends out of the month he wasn’t always home for my birthday so we started decorating the day after Thanksgiving dinner. Some years, that is the day after Thanksgiving. Other years it is earlier in November. This year it will be toward the middle of November as that it when I will have all my kids home so we’ll do Thanksgiving early. I don’t overly decorate my house. We don’t do the outside of the house. We decorate our tree, put out a few snow globes, hang the stockings, set out some candy dishes filled with peppermints. A pillow or two for the sofas in the living room.  There are a few angels and a few Christmas village pieces I have gathered throughout the years. This year I have a nativity that will be going out. My sister made it for me when she found out I didn’t have one and I absolutely love it! The soft glow of the Christmas lights is so relaxing. After we spend the day decorating we get out the elf microphone and sing Christmas carols in an elfish voice. We spend so much time giggling at how silly we sound. Then its a nice Christmas movie and cup of hot chocolate. With many similar nights like that to follow leading up to Christmas. Why wouldn’t I want to kick all that off a little earlier in the season?


My youngest belting out Jingle Bells in his elf voice after decorating the tree last year. 

How soon do you decorate/shop? Are there any traditions that go along with that?

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Deck the Halls… or Not

Christmas fireplace

No, this isn’t my house! My tree is still in the box, my ornaments are a jumble of colors, shapes, and themes, and the gifts I give are never this artfully wrapped and arranged. But it’s a pretty picture.

This week one of our foxes asked, “How early do you start shopping/decorating for the holidays?”

I’ve never been one to spend much time decorating our house. I suppose it’s because I probably spend less time in my home than I should. Between my teaching schedule, my music rehearsals, other hobbies, and family needs, I’m usually more worried about whether or not guests have a clear place to sit than what’s adorning the walls. I guess paid a little more attention to it when I started using social media to promote my writing, but other than Christmas time the house looks the same for most of the year. Still, there have been times when I’m putting up our tree and other decorations on the morning of our family party.

As for gifts, I guess I don’t really stress much about that either. I suppose that’s because we really don’t have what most people would call a large family. We have five kids, nine grandkids, and two great-granddaughters. Between hubby and me, we have three brothers, six nieces, and one living parent. We don’t exchange gifts with everyone, and that’s fine with me. On my family’s side, we play a game in which we as a family bring one gift to exchange. If our family gathering is at someone else’s home, I’ll take a hostess gift. Since I’m always sewing and crafting, I can usually wrap up something I’ve made, like a set of greeting cards, a set of coasters, napkins, or a small quilt.

Thirty years ago, I did a lot of shopping and wrapping, but most of the time I’d do most of it in one marathon shopping session after my school vacation started. But now that most of the grandkids are legal adults, their needs have changed. Of the nine grandkids, only two are at the age where they want to open gifts. Now, I purchase and wrap gifts for the two elementary aged grandkids as well as two great-granddaughters. I’ll often start asking for gift ideas in November, although I’ve already picked up one or two small stocking-stuffer items. The seven older grandkids have repeatedly said that they prefer gift cards. So I’ll text them all in late November and ask for their favorite stores.

Shopping for our adult children (they range in age from 32 to 50) is easy. We play a game that involves a gift exchange. On my side I pick a letter, and everyone brings a $10 to $15 gift that begins with that letter. Last year, the letter was B, and people brought bonbons, beaded necklaces, a Battleship game, a six-pack of Budweiser, and gift cards for businesses that started with a B. Since I only needed two gifts (one for me and one for my husband), this was easily done while taking care of other errands.

I suppose it seems odd that while Christmas is my favorite holiday, decorating and gift-purchasing aren’t high on my list of priorities. For me, it’s about spending time with people, listening to and performing music. I read many of the holiday books that my fellow authors write, and I try to complete a holiday story each year. I do appreciate a well-appointed home, but not enough to spend time making MY house worthy of a magazine spread. And I enjoy giving gifts, but they’re more of a token of appreciation for being part of my life.

How important do you consider holiday decorations and gifts?



Posted in Christmas, Holiday, holidays, Patricia Kiyono, traditions | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

I Dream of Genie

The Hound asked: “You’re stranded on a desert island (or someplace deserted). There are only three different things to eat/drink and that’s what you’re stuck with until you’re rescued. Which three items would you choose?”

I think the fun of this escaped the others.

Everyone else wanted to be rescued immediately.  With the way things have been in my life, a nice deserted island with a beach sounds like a nice respite.

When can I get dropped off?

The reality of finding an island with a fresh water source is the biggest problem. People who used to talk about finding an unknown island and claiming it as their own country  never realized that fact, and the fact that every square inch of this planet is claimed by one nation,(or more, in dispute), except for parts of Antarctica, and even there, they try. Canada has been trying to claim the North Pole, of you didn’t know. As usual, I digress; but it is the water situation that makes most small islands uninhabitable.

So, since this is the Hound’s topic and he gave water as a given, I’ll take it. I’ll assume that I can get it coming straight up out of rocks or the ground, since I want no chance of contamination.

I think with wild vegetables, bananas and some seeds or nuts, I could make it, at least for a while.

(I admit to being a hypocrite only when it comes to meat-eating. To have to kill and prepare an animal is an awful thought to this suburban-raised girl. Fishing, no, not even that, if I can avoid it, although I do love well-prepared fish. Eggs, well, the idea of raiding birds’ nests doesn’t appeal much to me, either. I suppose if someone were there starving with me I could manage to  do some, but hey, I’m blissfully alone on this island, right?)

Let’s assume I’ve found a genie bottle and the dude inside can’t get me home, but can  grant me an endless supply of whatever I three things I want to eat.

(That would be my luck, to get a defective genie. His 7,200-year warranty was up last March.)

OK, I’m game.

Fox Elaine’s idea on Tuesday of nice, cold cola is good, but I will go with a nice, cold supply of fruited iced tea: mango or lemon.

Speaking of which, a nice supply of perfectly-ripe fruit would be great: sweet apples, bosc pears, oranges, plums or peaches (genie’s choice!)

Now, I’ll splurge: Strawberry waffles with whipped cream, or strawberry shortcake with the same.

I seldom partake of these anymore.

I think being stranded would exempt me from having to worry about indulging.
Of course, I COULD substitute those for the fruit, after all, STRAWBERRIES, right?



If I have to be more realistic nutrition-wise, (if no other way), I’ll then go with soup, also as Elaine did.

Lentil. Greek Bean-Vegetable. Veggie-based Egg-drop with Spinach and Parmesan.

(That one got me through the first week of recovery last year.)

Beef and Barley?  Ham and Bean?  Broccoli-Cheddar?  Wonton?  Mexican Meatball? Chicken with Rivels?  Tortilla Soup?  Oyster Stew?  Turkey Noodle?  Chicken Rice?  Cream of Asparagus?

I take soup seriously.


I’ll let the genie make the choice on that, too.

Posted in decisions, food, imagination, Tonette Joyce | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Stranded and Awaiting Rescue

What 3 Things Shall I EAT?

By Jeff Salter

Here’s another topic attributed to me which I don’t remember submitting. Mind you, it does sound like something I’d suggest… it’s just that I don’t recall suggesting it. No matter.

The actual topic is:
You’re stranded on a desert island (or someplace deserted). There are only three different things to eat/drink and that’s what you’re stuck with until you’re rescued. Which three items would you choose?

Firstly, I’m glad I get to choose. I’d hate to end up on the deserted spot where only Brussell’s Sprouts, Calamari, and Eggplant were flourishing.

Secondly, I’m pleased that I’ll presumably be rescued — sooner rather than later. I’d hate to spend five years yakking with a volleyball, like Tom Hanks did when he was a Castaway.

Thirdly, if I did actually propose this topic, I don’t think I intended it quite as literally as some of the Foxes (so far) have assumed. I mean, we’ve practically developed a seminar here on survival strategies. That, however, can certainly be useful… so, in the spirit to which the topic has evolved, I’ll try to treat my reply as a survivalist might. [Rather than say something snippy like M&M Peanuts, Root Beer, and Hershey Bars.]

Fourthly, in this altered “survivalist” sense of the topic, I’m going to assume that my deserted location has its own source of fresh, safe water. I’m sure some will accuse me of “cheating” but — hey, it was supposedly my topic.


Castaway Tom Hanks and his friend, Wilson

My Choices

So what, in addition to the fresh water, would be my three choices?

  • I’d like a supply of chickens (and food for them to produce nice big healthy eggs). I’d coddle the layers until they exceeded their egg-laying timeframe… and then I’d use them as fryers. The feathers might be useful for bedding or clothing.
  • I’d want a tasty and healthy fruit that’s easily edible – and doesn’t require a lot of labor to harvest – and it’s a tossup between apples and bananas.
  • I’d like a supply of something like peanut butter, which is tasty in itself, and can be used with honey or jelly (should I locate any of those items).

Lastly, I wish I’d asked for more than three items, I wish coffee could be on the menu, I hope the rescue folks find me quickly, and I hope there’s a book deal waiting for me with a big NYC publisher. In the movie, Brad Pitt can play me.


What three things could you NOT live without? [which is actually a better question than the one I supposedly phrased here].

[JLS # 456]


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