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December 23, 2010


I do believe that I am a bit behind in posting.  I apologize.  After scrolling through some photos in my camera last night, I realized that I constantly shoot photos with the intention of writing a blog about said photo... but then I don't.  I think it's a combination of my perfectionism and my laziness.  Now it has turned into a really good opportunity for a New Year's resolution!

Inspired by my dear friend Emily, I began to think about the few ornaments that I brought to Portugal and the reasons that I chose to bring each one.  Like her, I began to relive memories of receiving the ornaments or buying them with the intention of remembering a special time or place.  As I look at my tree, I cannot imagine how I will choose just a few to describe here!

Yet before those stories are shared, I do believe I should start with one better: the tree extravaganza!  After [Kim] deciding that Christmas could not be complete without a tree, we headed out to choose one, and I prayed we could find one that you couldn't see all the way through.  You see, the Portuguese have begun a campaign to save the trees, so most everyone buys small artificial ones for their houses, and most are so sparse that you could easily have a dinner conversation with someone sitting on the other side of the tree.  Upon seeing numerous trees on display (of course, a display that was on scaffolding 15 feet above the sales floor), we found one that was shaped nicely, full in the middle, and just the right height.  We even double checked with a sales associate that we were, indeed, buying the correct tree, and she confirmed it as she helped us bring the box to the register.  It wasn't until later, after the diligent and patient Luis Miguel had put together the entire tree, that we realized this tree was not, in fact, the one we had requested.  Of course I blamed the sales clerk, shed a few tears (since most Portuguese stores do not accept refunds of items already opened) and sulked the rest of the evening.  Begging Luis to at least ask the store about an exchange, I took a photo of the tree that clearly did not match the photo on the box, and we headed back to the store the next day.  Thankfully, they were cheerful about it and told us to pack it up and bring it back!  :)

Did I mention how patient my husband is?  This would be our 2nd trip to the store in 2 days... with a receipt that was 6 weeks old.  Have I also mentioned that God is in the details?  I do believe He is, and I do believe that He cares that I love my Christmas tree!  The new tree was perfect, and though there are a few very large gaps in some places, it just gives her character.  We spent a few days decorating, as the lady of the house VERY incorrectly judged the amount of beaded garland needed to fill the tree (despite living with engineers for the past 5 years!).  And can you believe that my very patient husband almost fainted when I approached the register with 4 boxes of 100 count lights???  He thought that we could decorate an entire tree with less.  Knowing the huge expense of electricity in Portugal, I gave in, but have since daily reminded him that my father puts 1,200 lights on our family tree.  Just sayin'.

To further complicate the situation, instead of the lights being in one long string with an outlet plug on one end and an empty plug on the other (so you can connect the strands together), the strand is one big circle.  Time to figure that one out, engineers!  To get the best effect, we had to string them on 2 rows at a time.  Let me tell you, it was a disaster waiting to happen... especially when I asked my very patient husband to take off the entire first strand after we put them on because they were too spaced out.  And I reminded him (with a smile) that my dad was putting on 12 boxes of lights and we were putting on... 4.

Here's a commemorative photo of our first ornaments on our first Christmas tree as a family!

I chose to put on this ornament:
She's a little doll from Japan, carved entirely out of wood.  While in Japan for the inaugural Power [wheelchair] Soccer World Cup in 2007, Luis and I decided that we would commit to dating long distance, so Japan has a special place in both of our hearts.

Luis chose to put on this fish, as the Portuguese are slightly enamored with their fish.

My mom decorated a tree for Luis the first time he visited our family in WI at Christmas, and all the ornaments on the tree had significance to him or us... fish for Portugal, soccer balls because he loves the sport, a suitcase because we traveled a lot, etc.

Speaking of the suitcase, it is definitely one of my favorites...

...and, of course, the Pickle.

Milwaukee (my hometown) has a large German population and the pickle ornament is an old German tradition observed by those true Germans who would decorate their tree on Christmas Eve.  Parents would hide the pickle ornament amidst the green boughs and the child who found it first on Christmas morning would get an extra little gift from St. Nick.  I'm not sure how this got to be a part of my family... I think perhaps one of my mom's daycare parents gave it to her??  Now her daycare kids try to find it first thing in the morning when they arrive.

These two ornaments were ones that I have saved from childhood... I think I made the reindeer out of a clothespin... though I do have a faint memory of perhaps buying it at a craft show with my grandma when I was very very young.  Either way, it's true vintage!  I also like ornaments with words, and this one has always stayed in my collection because of that:

 Another homemade ornament was given to me last year by my favorite twins, Ava and Sofia Brickey!  Their mom, Stef, is a dear friend of mine from college and their dad, Dave, blessed us by officiating our wedding.  They are a family who constantly gives, even when pennies are tight!  We are so thankful for this family!

When choosing which ornaments to bring, I confidently chose a few from each place I have lived, because those are often the most special!  I bought this bird at Patina, my favorite boutique in Minneapolis...

[insert photo that won't load because Blogger is down]

...and this peach is from a peach farm in south Georgia.  My favorite part is that it is made out of a crushed aluminum soda can!

We also couldn't have a tree without representing a little hometown pride...

...and one from the beach to remember our honeymoon, or "mini-moon", in Florida!

I probably shouldn't leave Luis out of this, because he has acquired a few great ornaments from my mom...

And of course, I couldn't forget a few of my favorites from the packages we received from her and my dad and grandma this year:  a Unicef globe hot air balloon, really supersweetawesome metal woven star, "First Christmas", and some great sparkly snowflakes to bring out the silver in our tree!

We couldn't afford many  more decorations considering our couch and mattress came first, but here's a few of our halls that were decked!

The front door:

And of course an American Christmas Advent Calendar... I adore Norman Rockwell!

Our homemade mantle... complete with stockings knitted by my mom's friend Nancy, who knit my parents a set when they got married, then my brother and I one after we were born, then gave Luis and I a set at our wedding shower in Wisconsin!  Such a special memory to have with us over here!

All we had were these sparkly ornaments, so in an attempt to save money, we created a display, complete with a homemade "Merry" sign from some cereal box cardboard and glitter!  I love some sparkle here and there... and now all over my kitchen floor!

 I suppose the "newlywed" thing to do would be to have us actually sitting in this photo in front of the tree...

[just imagine photo of tree here... since Blogger won't let me load anymore photos tonight!]

...but by the time we remembered, we were always in our pajamas!  Maybe in the next post??  More photos and stories to come next week, as we're heading off to our first Portuguese Christmas in the morning, and I'm sure I'll have a LOT to blog about after!  We pray that your Christmas is joyful, and that wherever you are, whether you're facing joy or trial, remember this...

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

- lyrics, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Merry Christmas & Boa Natal!


  1. yes, Christmas ornaments SHOULD mean something...that's the fun of collecting them over the years :-) Boa Natal, Luis and Kim ! *hugs*

  2. Of course I LOVE this post! Hopefully I'll have another package in the mail to you this next week with another special ornament for your tree. LOVE YOU!