Category Archives: Oh Tannenbaum

Oh Tannenbaum 8: Inge-Glas Ornaments

Old World Christmas, Inge Glas ornaments(Oops, I fell off the blogging wagon last week. It’s still okay to post about Christmas stuff, right?)Old World Christmas, Inge Glas ornamentsAfter the pickle, I chose to buy an orange slice and an apple slice for my next ornament purchases. They both really pop on the tree with their glittery edges and bright colors. The apple came with a little story card that explains how the apple is a symbol of temptation in Christianity. The orange didn’t come with a story, but it always reminds me of getting the tiny oranges in our stockings as kids. Old World Christmas, Inge Glas ornamentsAnd a cigar–its burning end is my favorite detail, black and glittery. I purchased this ornament before I met Naoto but oddly enough one of our first dates involved a cigar bar in Greektown. We were the only non-old men in the place and it was a lot of fun. Old World Christmas, Inge Glas ornaments Old World Christmas, Inge Glas ornamentsMy parents added to my collection with a teapot and a ruby slipper.  I love the delicate little teapot and the bright red glittered shoe. Old World Christmas, Inge Glas ornamentsThe last Inge-Glas ornament I received was the champagne bottle–an engagement gift from my parents. Naoto and I have a lot of “First Christmas” ornaments, but this engagement ornament is my favorite. This year it’s front and center (along with Charlie Brown) on the tree.

Naoto is already asking when we are taking down the tree…but I’m not quite ready yet. I’m still enjoying the Christmas lights…it’s been so gloomy and cloudy here that it’s nice to have a little brightness and sparkle inside for a little bit longer.

For the other Oh Tannenbaum ornament posts, go here.

Tagged , , , ,

Oh Tannenbaum 7: The Christmas Pickle

Old World Christmas, Inge Glas ornamentsDo you know about the Christmas pickle? A German tradition, a pickle ornament is the last ornament hung on the tree, disguised among the green branches and hidden by the other colorful ornaments. On Christmas morning when children wake up, they search for the pickle. The keen-eyed child who finds the pickle gets an extra gift from St. Nicholas. Isn’t that a fun tradition.

Once I learned about the pickle, I was obsessed with finding one for my own tree. Back then, they were hard to find…now I see pickle ornaments everywhere. Somehow, the search for the pickle led us to an Ace Hardware store where they sold Inge-Glas ornaments*. I walked into the store and found huge glass jars filled to the brim with these delicate ornaments–handmade blown-glass ornaments, many embellished with a dusting of glitter, all topped with a signature star. They were all so beautiful and so different than any of the ornaments I had ever seen. They were also expensive…for a college student anyway… But I had to have the pickle. So I bought it and I’ve treasured it ever since. And every year after that, I visited Ace Hardware on Black Friday to add to my collection. My parents added to my collection, too. Soon after, though, the Ace stopped selling the ornaments, so I only ended up with seven ornaments. (But I’ve recently found them on Amazon and here, so look out bank account!)

Since we got Presley, I’ve kept the ornaments off of the tree. Instead, I chose to display them in my china cabinet. But they always got forgotten. This year, I couldn’t resist…I hung all of them, except the pickle, on my tree. I have a lot of ornaments, and all of them are well-loved, but the Inge-Glas ornaments really stand out. They belong on the boughs, glittering among the lights. This week, I’ll share a bit about the others, too.

To see the other ornament stories from previous years, go here.

*When I bought my ornaments, they were known as Old World Christmas Ornaments. But Old World ornaments are now made in China. They are sold at a much lower price point, but what I found so compelling about my ornaments is the fact that they were still handmade in Germany, some using original molds from years ago. Inge-Glas ornaments are the ones to look for now, along with the star on top. (This article explains more, if you’re interested.)

Tagged , , ,

Oh Christmas Tree 2014

Christmas Tree 2014I think this year’s tree takes the cake…I love its little shape better than the fuller trees of the past two years (2012 & 2013). I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to hanging ornaments, so I’ve found places where there are little ornament clusters and spaces that are kind of bare, but I guess that just adds to the fun. The saddest part of my tree this year is that my favorite vintage tree topper would not light up, so I had to use a colorful replacement. (It’s hard to see in the pictures, but it has multi-colored lights.)  Christmas Tree 2014I included pretty much every single ornament that I own on the tree this year. Our full trees of the past two years meant that some of the larger and heavier ornaments had to be left off, but this year, the strong Fraser Fir branches could handle them all. I also have not hung some of my most loved ornaments since having Presley. This year, I put most of them on the tree. (They will get their own ornament story post next week.) I just feel like I haven’t enjoyed them in ages and they are just too beautiful not to hang. Christmas Tree 2014Here’s hoping this little devil behaves herself. (Knocking on wood, crossing my fingers, rubbing a horseshoe…)

Tagged , , ,

Thoughts on Christmas Trees

Thoughts on a Christmas treeWhen I was growing up, we always got a real tree for Christmas. I remember always being cold and annoyed at the tree farm while my parents picked out a tree. I remember being bummed that we couldn’t get our tree right after Thanksgiving. (“It will dry out!”) I was jealous of the families who dragged their fake trees out of the basement and got to decorate for Christmas right away.

When I graduated from college, I bought a cheap fake tree at Kmart. It was fine, but it really did lack pizazz. I had it for years but once Naoto and I got married, I convinced him that we should try a real tree. (If we could turn back time, I bet he would veto that decision.) So, we bought a $9 tree stand (which still serves us very well) and found a tree at Menards. I know it’s less than picturesque to buy a Christmas tree in a home improvement store parking lot, but it works for us. Their trees always go on sale the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the price is right and, at this point in my life, I don’t need to visit a tree farm with an ax to make my Christmas complete.

Now, I can’t imagine going back to a fake tree*…even though it can be a lot of work to do the real tree thing, I love that our tree has a different personality every year. I love that fresh pine smell that fills our living room. I love tossing it off the balcony every January and not having to store it in our closet all year. (Our village collects the trees and recycles them as mulch.)

Growing up, I think we always got a Scotch pine. They are very traditional looking Christmas trees, very full, very green. Scotch pine needles are medium length and their branches are really strong, good for heavy ornaments. My issue with Scotch pines–the needles are verrrrry pokey. I guess my dad never minded getting stabbed with thousands of pine needles when he was manhandling the tree into the stand? Naoto and I always alternate between White Pines and Firs, either Balsam or Fraser.

White Pines are one of the least expensive trees ($14.95 on sale at Menards for a 6-7 foot tree, the same price as Scotch pines) and they are really full and lovely with their long, soft, deep-green needles. They also, in my experience, last a really long time, staying green and fresh past the New Year. The big downside to the White Pine is that sometimes the branches are floppy and they don’t support the weight of ornaments as well. And they are so full and the needles are so long that tiny ornaments tend to get lost in the tree. But, the trees are so pretty and traditional looking that I don’t always mind leaving some of my ornaments off for a year.

Balsam Firs and Fraser Firs are my favorites, but maybe that’s because we have a Fraser Fir this year. (Every year’s tree is my favorite.) They are more expensive ($24.95 on sale at Menards for a 6-7 foot tree) but it’s totally worth it. Both are skinnier trees with short needles. Balsams have more olive green needles and Frasers have blue-green needles. The shorter needles allow tiny ornaments to shine. Both trees’ branches are sturdier, so they can handle heavy ornaments. And the branches are more spread out, leaving room for larger ornaments to dangle. Supposedly both retain their needles well, but in my experience, they do dry out a bit faster than the pines…this could just be my luck with trees though. Both Balsam and Fraser Firs have incredible scents…our tree has been around for more than a week and it still smells divine in here.

I’ll share more pictures of our actual finished tree tomorrow. It’s all decorated and my ornaments really pop on its skinny branches. Now, I just need to keep Presley from nibbling the lower branches…

P.S. This post is not sponsored by Menards–we just like their trees. For further reading on Christmas trees, I found this interesting, educational website. I feel like someday I need to expand our tree search and try a spruce or a cypress!

*Sometimes when I’m struggling to string the lights (or swearing as I remove the tangled lights from the tree in January) I remember an old friend whose family kept their fake tree in the basement, fully assembled and decorated. Every year, they would just carry it up to the living room and plug it in. Instant Christmas! But honestly…I’d miss bringing out each ornament and remembering its history as I hung it on the tree…

Tagged , , ,

Merry Christmas!

christmas gifts under the tree

Happy Christmas! We hope your holidays are merry & bright!

Oh Christmas Tree 2013

christmas tree 2013We got our Christmas tree the week after Thanksgiving. Naoto has been taking Thursdays off, so it was the perfect day to head over to Menards for our usual $15 tree special. We were going to splurge on a $25 fir. Their branches hold heavier ornaments better and we had a pine last year, so I thought it would be a nice change. But when the tree guy shook the firs, needles flew everywhere. When we shook this one, not a single needle fell. Decision made! Plus, there is just something so soft and fluffy about the longer needles of the white pine.

The tree guy at Menards was in good spirits and laughed at our “backseat method” of carrying the tree home. It felt like the tree stuck out a little further than normal this year…Menards tree guybackseat treetree in the elevatornaoto and the treeNaoto did all of the heavy lifting and I did all of the decorating, as usual. (He doesn’t mind it that way one bit…)Our Tree 2013After last year’s leaning tree debacle, I am happy to report that this tree is standing straight and tall. I lost my ornament hooks and had to improvise with a limited supply of bent paperclips, so fewer ornaments made it onto the tree this year. The ones that made it are the most special ones, so the tree is all right with me. And the sage green bedsheet/tree skirt is lame…you would think I would have a real tree skirt by now…but really, Presley attacks the tree skirt on a regular basis, so something not-so-precious is really the best decision. presley and the treePresley approves (and simultaneously tries to destroy).

Tagged , , , ,

Oh Tannenbaum 6 – Road Trip Honeymoon

DSC_0030

Since we had so much fun on our first road trip, I made my mind up that a road trip honeymoon was the right idea for our wedding the following year. We didn’t want to do anything too crazy expensive, since we knew we wanted to go to Japan at some point. And we didn’t want to do a beach honeymoon because we could visit Naoto’s host family in Hawaii any time.

DSC_0027

So we decided to head east for the honeymoon. We started in Cleveland and the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. The ornament isn’t crazy-awesome, but the building really is amazing. It was designed by I.M. Pei (who also worked on the Louvre expansion) and the building itself is enough of a reason to visit Cleveland, not to mention the rock awesomeness on the inside. It was super-educational for Naoto, too…because he didn’t have the same rock education growing up as I did.

After Cleveland, we headed into Pennsylvania for the main event: a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water (ornament pictured at the top). We are both huge fans of Frank Lloyd Wright‘s work, especially since we were surrounded by so much of it while living in Oak Park. (Plus, we were married in Wright’s Unity Temple.) Falling Water was stunning…we geeked out over all of the architectural details during the tour and had the perfect summer day to walk around the grounds. We even took a quick side trip to see Kentuck Knob, another Wright house nearby.

DSC_0025

Our next stop was Hershey, Pennsylvania– home of chocolatey goodness! We stayed in the Hershey Lodge (which was slightly cheaper than the fancy Hotel Hershey) and it was sweet (pun intended) and filled with cute details. The room numbers are adorned with Hershey kisses, the pillows had Hershey Kiss covered pillowcases, the restaurant served chocolate-themed food (not just desserts either!) and I drank the most delicious, not-too-rich chocolate martini I’ve ever had, and Naoto had his favorite chocolate beer ever! And, when we left our room in the morning, there was a York Peppermint Patty hanging out in the hall to greet us! He gave me a hug.

DSC_0008

After Hershey, we drove along to Philadelphia to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (pictured above). The Liberty Bell was way more impressive in real life and Independence Hall was very simple…it seemed smaller than I imagined.

And finally, with no ornament to share, we ended our trip at the Crayola Factory. Because of Mister Rogers and this video, I’ve always wanted to see the Crayola factory. And while it isn’t the actual factory where the crayons are still poured, we still learned a lot. And, we were the only people in the whole place without children. Because it is one of those places that kids go on school trips or with their parents…there were crafting areas where kids could play with the clay, the markers and the crayons. We didn’t do that (because it would have been awkward), but we learned a lot. The best thing we learned was that Mister Rogers poured the 100 billionth Crayola. And a cardigan hangs in the museum next to that crayon. Neat, huh?

So that was our honeymoon…I have to admit that a road trip honeymoon wasn’t completely relaxing. It would have been much calmer for us to head to a beach and stay in one place. But the road trip was perfect for us, and we had so much fun together on our first adventure as husband and wife.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Tagged , , , , ,

Oh Tannenbaum 5 – Road Trip!

DSC_0018

In 2005 I was tired of work travel and itching for a good vacation. Naoto & I had taken several flying vacations before, but I wanted a road trip. I kind of hate flying, so sometimes the anxiety about getting on a plane is enough to spoil the relaxation in a vacation. Plus, road trips are a great way to see plenty of states.

We started in Iowa in Madison County. I’ll let you take a moment to giggle…I’ve always loved covered bridges, not necessarily because of the book or the movie, but because I visited one as a kid and I thought they were neat. Well, I probably didn’t think it was neat at the time, but as an adult, I grew to love them. I think Winterset, Iowa is just about the cutest tiny town in Iowa and I loved that the bridges held years of history…many initials and names were carved in the old wooden walls and the floor boards of the bridges were gorgeously worn.

DSC_0013

Our next stop was Mount Rushmore. On the way, we visited the “required” stops in South Dakota: the Corn Castle and Wall Drug, the Black Hills, Crazy Horse, the Badlands. Mount Rushmore was incredible…breathtaking…it’s absolutely amazing to think that it was designed and executed without technology… I am not someone who gets weepy about my country (okay, I sometimes am) but seeing those presidents sitting on a mountainside just made me feel proud of their hard work many years ago…

DSC_0038

Our final stop was…the SPAM museum. Naoto grew up in Hawaii from age twelve and is a huge SPAM fan. He ate it all the time growing up and he still eats it today (when I’m not around). The museum was great fun…the exhibits were interesting, educational, historical and hilarious. I think we giggled through the whole place. And we spent a fortune in the gift shop on crazy SPAM paraphernalia and “limited edition” SPAMs (that sit unopened in our pantry, yet still have a few years to go on their expiration dates…)

 

 

Tagged , , ,

Oh Tannenbaum 4 – Childhood

DSC_0036

When I was little, I wore these knitted red and green bells on my coat every December. They were a gift from my great-grandmother and they were out of rotation for many years. In junior high, it’s not exactly “cool” to wear knitted Christmas pins! Once I moved out on my own, I decided they would make a good ornament for the tree. This year I might borrow them for a day to use them in my childhood Christmas pin rotation.

DSC_0021

The green angel ornament is a gift from my grandmother. The angel is one of those painted wood ornaments that were everywhere in the 80s. I have a box of tiny ones that I pilfered from my mom’s collection. My grandmother and I picked it out together. Her wings are dated 12-21-1982, and though that was long ago, I remember this rare shopping day and how excited I was to have my own ornament to put on the tree.

Today, I am finishing my Christmas cards. Hopefully I can get them all in the mail tomorrow and my international friends get theirs in time (crossing fingers!) I still need to finish some last bits of shopping and all of the wrapping, and I need to poke through the closet to make sure I don’t forget anything I had tucked away during the year…so much to do before Christmas and so much to enjoy before Christmas.

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Oh Tannenbaum 3 – work travel

DSC_0032

My first job out of college was working for an education company. In the beginning, I traveled quite a bit, and traveling was an adventure. Somehow, I lucked out and always traveled with entertaining people, we went to interesting places and there was enough free time for shenanigans (not to mention the free-flowing alcohol and generous expense accounts).

Since our headquarters was (is) located in New Jersey, I ended up in New York City quite a few times. My first time in NYC was in the winter of 2001 for a staff training. I stayed the weekend with my colleague friends, Rita and Jeanine. We saw Chicago on Broadway, visited the Today Show (and made it on TV!), walked along Fifth Avenue and checked out Tiffany’s…cliche, yes, but fun nonetheless. On our walk around the city, we saw a group of sailors touring the city in their dress whites. I had just watched the musical On the Town and I when I saw the men in their perfect white hats, I couldn’t help myself and I uttered “Sailors!” Jeanine thought this was hilarious and she poked fun at me about it for the rest of our working days together. I found the teeny sailor up above at the Hallmark store the next Christmas…he reminds me of those first days of work (when things were fun!) and those first work friends.

DSC_0030

I went back to New Jersey that summer. I decided, even though no one else was staying the weekend, that I wanted to head back into NYC. To this day, I have never taken another solo trip like this, but at the time, I felt such a wave of independence wandering through Central Park and the New York Public Library, taking the subway to a Yankees Game, seeing Rent…all on my own.  I bought two library ornaments that summer–one for me and one for my mom (a librarian)–and every time I hang mine on the tree, I remember that trip and that exhilarating feeling of freedom.

DSC_0004

My last trip into New York City happened a few years later. It was Christmastime…Christmas in New York City is magical…someday, I want to go back in December again with Naoto. I ventured into the city with my colleague Maurice (who was Irish and was best Japanese/English interpreter in our company). Maurice and I walked through Central Park and saw all of the people ice skating and we explored Fifth Avenue. We ended up in Macy’s choosing Christmas ornaments–one for Naoto and one for his girlfriend, now wife. I picked out this yellow cab–which ended up being a little ironic because Maurice and I ended up spending a fortune in cab fares just to get back over the bridge into New Jersey…

DSC_0029
For some reason, the only other work-related travel ornament I have is Elvis. I went to Graceland twice with my company (apparently Memphis is an inexpensive place to hold meetings). As a matter of fact, I wasn’t such an Elvis fan until I went to Graceland. My first visit was at Christmastime…Elvis loved Christmas (so I’ve heard Priscilla and LisaMarie say a dozen times). The house was decorated with Elvis’s now-retro decorations and there were plenty of lawn decorations and lights everywhere. Blue Christmas is a holiday standard around our house.

Thanks for a little walk down memory lane with me…a few more days of memories are coming up!

Tagged , , , , ,