Page's Turn

The inherited traits of tree trimming

December 20, 2011

“Okay, you need to move the horse to where the bird is,” Katherine directs from the side of the room. She has stepped back from our tree-trimming session to assess ornament symmetry.

A new use for Katherine's lacrosse stick (Photo by: Page Evans) A new use for Katherine's lacrosse stick

“Do you not see that, Mommy? What were you thinking, putting all  those pears on one side?” She walks up closer, pointing her finger at three glittery pears hung next to each other like Orion’s Belt.

“Really?” I say, stepping back for perspective. “Huh, you’re right. We need to spread them out a bit.”

I stare at her, thinking, What have I created? My 11-year-old is turning into a mini-me. She is taking the art of tree-trimming to new heights. Just as my own mother did. Just as I do.  I’m not a Mommy Dearest mom, and neither was my mother, but we are both  aesthetically obsessed when it comes to the tree. 

I wish I could let things be. I wish I could let go and allow the mayhem of the holidays to flow over me. Breathe. Accept. Chill.

But I’m not hardwired that way. I’m hardly a perfectionist.  Ask anyone who knows me. A friend calls me a catastrophile. (There are the piles of paper in various corners of my house, which I’ll discreetly shove under chairs or in closets when tidying up. Which is why some bills go unpaid--a result of being hidden in places I can’t remember.) But I do want things to look a certain way. Some might call my devotion to dim lights and votives a borderline psychological disorder. I’ve been known to dim the lights in friends’ homes when they’re not looking. After all, who wants their living room to have the ambience of an operating room? 

I have standards. And at Christmas, it starts with the tree. As I learned from my mother, place the biggest, shiniest items on the inside branches. That way, the tree glows from within, particularly when you place the lights just so. Then make sure to have a nice mix of old and new: children’s hand-made treasures, flea market finds, found objects from nature, like dried hydrangea, or store-bought ones from Target. I have a few red ornaments, but I gravitate toward shades of green and silver. All of these things combined create not just the tree’s look, but it’s soul. The key is in the mix--and placement. 

With A Charlie Brown Christmas playing in the background, our decorating session is winding down. We are at the tweaking stage and Katherine looks pleased. Until she catches a glimpse of our angel tilting precariously. Climbing on a chair, she uses her lacrosse stick to adjust the angel’s 

Clearly, the ornament does not fall far from the tree.

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Dreaming of a frugal Christmas

December 12, 2011

Our pocketbooks may not be plump with cash these days, but that doesn’t mean we need to skimp on Christmas decorations. In fact, look around: your garden, the grocery store, the sidewalk. Inspiration may be closer--and less expensive-- than you think.

Mantle with pears and magnolias (real pears from grocery store; glittery ones from Home Goods) (Photo by: Page Evans) Mantle with pears and magnolias (real pears from grocery store; glittery ones from Home Goods)

Friends coming over for a drink and you don’t have flowers? Check out your yard for supplies. Grab a branch and hang a few ornaments from it. On one twig, I used glittery pears. On another, I dangled a bird ornament I bought at Target for $3. You could also add twigs to paper whites or orchids to dress them up. 

(Photo by: Page Evans)

And think about getting the most out of your--or your neighbor’s--magnolia tree. After all, every tree needs a little pruning. Full disclosure: my magnolia branches came from a generous friend’s yard. And, yes, I did ask for permission.

Nandina bush outside back door (Photo by: Page Evans) Nandina bush outside back door

Nandina bushes are another good bet. I have them outside my back door. I’m actually not a big fan of red, but I’ll use a sprig of berries this time of year in my powder room.

(Photo by: Page Evans)

As for the mantle, a few pilfered magnolia branches, combined with some pears (real and ornamental) and votives, make for a chic display. And it didn’t hurt my wallet. Who says you can’t be festive and frugal?

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Coffee with an attitude

November 21, 2011

I can’t properly function without coffee, so every morning after carpool, I race over to “my” Starbucks near 34th and Wisconsin.

I park on the street alongside the lot and groggily head toward the entrance. Inside, I know Amanda, Tameika or Emily will recognize me and get my latte started. Is there a more chipper person in the morning than Amanda, the manager at Starbucks? She deserves major credit for running--in my opinion--one of the best Starbucks in town. 

But today there’s a line snaking all the way to the front door.  A well-coiffed blonde comes out as I’m entering and mutters to me, “It’s a mob scene in there. I don’t know what is going on today.” She’s looking svelte in a black suit and Tory Burch patent leather pumps. I’m clad in yoga pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt with a smear of toothpaste on the front, which I just noticed. It’s a good look.

Feeling a little insecure and unkempt, I walk in and see a slew of well-turned out Washingtonians waiting in line for their lattes, macchiatas and mochas. Sun streams in through the windows and you can see eye  shadow sparkling on women’s eyes. My mood is not so sparkly.

 I really just want things to speed up so I can take a swig of coffee. Please let me get out of here before I see anyone. Yes, I realize I could have made my own coffee, avoided the crowd, and saved the four bucks I’m about to shell out.  But trust me, my home brewing does not compare. Plus, I’ve become accustomed--some might say, addicted-- to plastic lids.

I’m thinking all this while Tameika, another upbeat barista, walks along the line taking orders. She gives me a smile and says, “Venti latte, right?” 

“Yep, thanks. It’s really crowded in here today, isn’t it?’

I expect to hear a complaint or heavy sigh, but instead hear this: “Yeah, and I LOVE it this way!”

It was hard not to be swept up in her cheerfulness. And I thought about that quote I see everywhere: “Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens.”

Every so often we need an attitude adjustment. Tameika had a good one. And it gave me a wake-up call--even before the caffeine!

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