The Big de-Grinching

I don’t usually get very excited about Christmas. My holidays of choice are Halloween (which caters to my inner child creative) and Thanksgiving (which is just plain nice). If you ask me, it’s all downhill from there. This year too, I heard some complaints about my Grinchy demeanor. The commenters were rightly justified in this – I even wore my Grinch t-shirt to work, between laundry cycles.

So how to snap out of it, and get in the Spirit? Well, that’s always a challenge. There are a few things that will soften my stony heart, and Christmas music sure as hell isn’t one of them. This year (and just about every year, for that matter), strings of Christmas lights to help light up the dark evenings will help. As mentioned in my Wednesday Vignette a couple of weeks ago, my husband talked me into getting a tree. Dressing it, and reacquainting myself with some of my favorite decorations started the thawing of my icy reluctance. I must have been a fly in a former life – I’m helplessly drawn to these lights during the dark months.

Christmas tree and gifts

I enjoy giving gifts, and when I find the right one, I can barely contain myself, before I can present it to whomever I had in mind for it. But Christmas… meh… I despise the commercial hysteria associated with it. In my pragmatically inclined family, it has all gotten completely mechanized. We all write our wish lists in a Google doc, which we share with each other, complete with links and suggestions on where to get the items in question. It makes it really easy, but also very unexciting, as the element of surprise is pretty much completely eradicated. I also have a terrible time of even thinking of things I want. Often, whatever goes on my list is a replacement for something that might have broken, or gotten lost or worn out. This difficulty in itself speaks volumes of my (our) privilege – I have just about everything I could wish for. Even the kids are having a hard time coming up with a list. I find this mechanized, structured giving rather devoid of soul.  A couple of years ago, I came up with an antidote to my apathy, which has been working fairly well. I think of someone(s) who has done something I admire during the year that has passed. Then I present them with a small gift – usually something I’ve made, and often something edible. Nothing big, but even if it’s a small token of sorts, the act of surprising someone, and let them know that they and their hard work is appreciated, self-servingly adds to my Christmas spirit. Since its inception, these small tokens of appreciation have gone to people around me whom I know are doing good things for our community. They have always been acquaintances or friends – they are never complete strangers. (Probably smart, or I’d likely be accused of stalking.)

Another thing that added much needed Christmas cheer this year, was my friend and fellow blogger Loree’s idea to put on the Poinsettia Challenge. As always, I was late to the party, and turned my contribution in late on the last possible day – the deadline was Christmas Eve. The photos I sent in were pretty bad, as they were taken in that yellow, incandescent lighting, but no matter… I had fun putting my attempts together even so. I ended up taking a new photo of the one I submitted the following day, which made the colors more representing of what they actually look like.

This was my first attempt. More like a vignette rather than an arrangement. I just really liked those gnomes...

This was my first attempt. More like a vignette rather than an arrangement, as I just tucked it in a large pot of Dracaenas. And, I just really liked those gnomes… I’ve also always liked Poinsettias. This one is a darker, more burgundy red than the traditional red one.

This was attempt #2. I fell in love with the peachy orangey yellow of a Poinsettia variety called Autum Leaves . I paired it with some red-twig dogwood, the curly straps of Carex rekohu 'Sunrise', and some more traditional cut Christmas greens. It looks great, but even so, the photos I got did not do it justice, so it did not make the cut.

This was attempt #2. I fell in love with the peachy orangey yellow of a Poinsettia variety called Autum Leaves . I paired it with some red-twig dogwood, the curling straps of Carex rekohu ‘Sunrise’, and some more traditional cut Christmas greens. In reality, it looks great, but even so, the photos I got did not do it justice, so it did not make the cut.

With this one, I had fun with foliage. Besides the Poinsettia, the star is Homalocladium platycladum or Ribbon Plant' - a new favorite that makes me think of tape worms. Such an unusual plant... The Diffenbachia provides a really nice color echo to the white Poinsettia. A Fiddle leaf fig lingers in the background.

With this one, I had fun with foliage. Besides the Poinsettia, the star is Homalocladium platycladum or Ribbon Plant’ – a new favorite that makes me think of tape worms. Such an unusual plant… The Diffenbachia provides a really nice color echo to the white Poinsettia. A Fiddle leaf fig lingers in the background.

This was the one I settled on, and finally submitted. I used leaves and flowers of a variegated Fatsia japonica, Eucalyptus, and your more traditional Christmas fare for this one.

This was the one I settled on, and finally submitted. I used leaves and flowers of a variegated Fatsia japonica, Eucalyptus, and your more traditional Christmas fare for this one.

Pigs are a prominent symbol in Scandinavian Yuletide celebrations. It harks back to Särimner – the hog that was slaughtered each night in Valhalla, fed to the warriors, and resurrected the following day – only to be slaughtered once again, and again… Those traditions are ancient, and Swedish Christmas traditions in general are pretty meat-centric. Mind you, this year we ignored pretty much all of the traditional (and labor intensive) goodies. My Pinoy husband brought traditions from another pork-loving nation, so by family vote, we decided to do pretty much a repeat of our slow-cooked pork roast from Thanksgiving. Again, it was heavenly. As the aromas wafted from the kitchen from morning to late afternoon on Christmas Eve, I felt my Grinchy resolve melt away at a rate comparable to the mouthwatering drippings in the roasting pan. I know and respect all the social, environmental, and economic reasons for vegetarianism, but as I peeled off a little piece of the crispy outer layer of that roast, I knew in my heart that I’m a weak soul who would never, ever be able to completely wean myself off pork – it was simply too delicious! Other meats maybe, but not pork. Although I don’t know how this particular pig met its fate, I can assure you all that it did not die in vain. I swear, any king would have been honored by a seat at our Christmas dinner – however non-traditional it might have been – it was so good!!!

My Mexican pig vase with Autumn Leaves poinsettia, and greens, earned a spot on the table. It didn't make it to the challenge, though.

My Mexican pig vase with Autumn Leaves poinsettia, and greens, earned a spot on the table. It didn’t make it to the Challenge, though.

Here is the pork roast that has effectively shattered all aspirations of vegetarianism. So irresistibly tasty...

Here is the pork roast that has effectively shattered all aspirations of vegetarianism. So irresistibly tasty… My “Swear pig” in the background –  a piggy bank I feed regularly when I get dinged with a foul language penalty.

As far as libations go, this year brought another favorite – through the brilliant minds of two of my friends and workmates; William and Tamara. Spiritopia is a local distiller (Corvallis, OR) who makes the most incredible ginger liquor. The genius pairing with Coconut milk egg nog has kept me happy for days, and has pretty much completely out-competed my more traditional Glögg.  I’m honestly not entirely comfortable knowing how quickly I nearly emptied that bottle, pretty much singlehandedly. Thinking of it as actively supporting my local economy justifies the means though, and makes me feel better.

This season's most stellar combo - it is fabulous. The only remotely negative thing I can say about it, is that it makes you drunk far before you are ready to stop drinking it.

This season’s most stellar combo – it is fabulous. The only remotely negative thing I can say about it, is that it makes you drunk far before you are ready to stop drinking it.

So far so good. Poinsettias, crispy pork, Spiritopia and a general sense of gratitude toward a few select humans all contributed to making me embrace Christmas a little more, but I still wasn’t quite there, and some stubborn measure of Grinchy-ness prevailed. A vital element to Complete Christmas Spirit (in my book, at least) was missing. This year, Portland had more rain than any previous December since records have been kept, but (as is the norm) no snow. I think I’m genetically programmed to require snow, in order to get it on. Another family vote had dictated that we do Christmas American-style this year – meaning gifts on Christmas morning, instead of on Christmas Eve (as customary in Sweden). So, in the afternoon, after reveling in our gift-giving abundance and the required poetics, the kids and I headed up to the mountain, and I volunteered my first shift of the season as a Mountain Host – an organization under the umbrella of the Mount Hood Ski Patrol. The mountain has been pummeled with snow to the tune of about a foot per day in the past week, and night skiing was beyond wonderful. By the time we returned home around midnight, it finally felt assured that Christmas was indeed here. And, that wondrous feeling hasn’t left yet. Amazing what gazing out over a frozen Winter Wonderland can do to a Grinchy constitution. 🙂 I’ll end this post with the photos from the mountain. I hope this season, you will experience some of the same kind of boundless beauty I was privileged to see up there – quiet, still, peaceful, magnificent, snowy expanses in near solitude. It was indeed MAGICAL – just like Christmas is supposed to be. 🙂

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

There is that full moon that everyone is talking about - the first full Christmas moon for our millennials.

There is that full moon that everyone is talking about – the first full Christmas moon for our millennials. The next opportunity to see Santa and his sled silhouetted against a full moon is far into the  future, they say…

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

The adorable Warming Hut in Lower Bowl - built at the same time as the more famous Timberline Lodge. With a crackling fire, and a resident cat, it retains a lot of the rustic, red-cheeked, woolen atmosphere of days gone by.

The adorable Warming Hut in Lower Bowl – built at the same time as the more famous Timberline Lodge. With a crackling fire, and a resident cat, it retains a lot of the rustic, red-cheeked, woolen atmosphere of days gone by. But, when I took this picture, I had no desire to go inside. I only wanted to experience it from the outside. 🙂

#Winter Wonderland #Mt Hood Skibowl, #nightskiing

IMG_7154

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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22 Responses to The Big de-Grinching

  1. Pretty good for a Grinch

  2. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening! says:

    Wonderful read, and those mountain photos — spectacular! The one thing about Christmas that bothers me most: why can’t every season, or even every day be magical? That’s what we should strive for IMO. (I’m completely Grinch except I don’t steal presents)

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Alan – and yes, I totally agree. I don’t steal presents either, although this year I felt like I made out like a bandit. They even managed to surprise me! 🙂

  3. FlowerAlley says:

    I enjoyed this so much. I felt as though I was there arranging leaves, eating pork , drinking that irresistible concoction and walking in the light of the moon. You amaze me again.

  4. While I much prefer my sighting of the full Christmas moon in a blue cloudless California sky, even I have to admit your Mt. Hood pictures are gorgeous. As are all of your poinsettia creations…

  5. Alison says:

    I was right there with you up until the snow. Not my favorite thing, it would have made me even more Grinchy. I’m also not into throwing myself off a mountain strapped to two bent pieces of wood. Your photos of it are spectacular and wonderfully moody though, so thanks for sharing them. And I love the vignette you picked for Loree’s Challenge. That one has such a great rustic background.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Alison – I have to admit it took me a while to get my ski legs back – even a little bit. Dreadfully out of shape, and very remorseful about it… About the wall behind the poinsettia – I have a thing for old farm and kitchen tools. The old copper cookie molds used to hang on my grandmother’s kitchen wall. When visiting, I used to play with them in her bath tub. Oh, the memories…

  6. Kris P says:

    I love this post. The truth be told, I’ve turned a wee bit grinchy myself over the last several years in response to the same deluge of commercialism you mentioned. My nieces and nephews, now mostly grown, just want money/gift cards, which has taken a lot of the joy out of Christmas giving all by itself. It also doesn’t help that my husband, who in everyday life has a generous spirit, is the very personification of scrooge when it comes to Christmas. Next year, I’ll have to hunt for more meaningful gift-giving opportunities. I’m glad you found Christmas bliss on the mountain – and that you shared those beautiful photos with us! The roast pork sounds – and looks – wonderful too. And I liked all your poinsettia challenge creations, although I think the one in the pig vase is my favorite.

    • annamadeit says:

      I know exactly how you feel, Kris. For the past two years, my wise and generous mother has given us all tickets to go see a play or a concert, or some other event of our choosing. Giving the gift of memories is a wonderful thing, and we cherish it every time. Another one of my fave gifts is a good book – which in itself is often an experience which will change you. So much more personal than money and gift cards. Those are more fun getting than giving… Glad you liked the pig vase! It was one of those thrift store finds where you just can’t believe your luck! 🙂

  7. I love a white Christmas but it was warm and rainy for us this year. As for gift lists, the adults in my family have stopped giving each other gifts. We’d turned into each others personal shoppers and it felt empty. We donate to charity, instead, or take a trip. Last year we blew off Christmas completely and spent a week in the Florida Keys. It was incredible!!

  8. rindymae says:

    I love every single thing about this post. Especially the pork. 😉

  9. hoov says:

    What a lovely post. If it is a beautiful landscape that de-grinches instead of a commercial consumerist binge–well that’s the best way, isn’t it?

  10. Elvis says:

    All the lead-up pictures of your ungrinching are great, but the ones of night skiing just blew me away! I’m a confirmed pork lover, too: even during my vegetarian years I had to occasionally eat some pork-flavored TVP or baco-bit thingys..:-)

    • annamadeit says:

      You had vegetarian years? Wow – my hat’s off to you for such self control! (I’m not going to count the occasional indulgence.) Seriously – I’m impressed!!! 🙂

  11. Peter/Outlaw says:

    What a great post! Your heart grew many sizes in the course of just a few pictures. Hooray! Your night skiing pictures are amazing! Now I’ve got something to look forward to for next Christmas – Ginger liquor and coconut milk nog sounds divine! Your table is so warm and welcoming! Are the dishes a family heirloom?

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Peter! Yes, there is a story behind the dishes. My grandparents bought them at auction from (I think) the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, back in the day. The dishes themselves are from Rörstrand, and the pattern is called Eveline. Ever since I was a little girl, I have liked them. They stopped making them the 1910’s.They only come out for special occasions. 🙂

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