Christmas Heirlooms

While the Christmas spirit is not about material items, we can all admit that a bit of visual Christmas cheer emphasizes that Christmas feeling. Whether it’s your small town Main Street decked out in lights and trees for the holidays or the city’s storefronts elaborately decorated, the sight of candy canes, or your own Christmas tree, we all have our favorite pieces of holiday elements.

December has long been my favorite month of the year, partially because I have dear memories of my childhood home turning into a Christmas wonderland. My mother has acquired many Christmas items over the years, enough now to redecorate every room for the Christmas season. Plates, framed photographs, snowmen, Christmas trees, candy canes, towels, wreaths, tchotchkes, snowflakes, candles, blankets, books — it’s like living in Christmas. Combine all that with our standard 12′ Christmas tree, and our house was and is always a welcome place for Christmas guests. My sisters and I love it, and Mom continues to decorate, with help from whomever happens to be home. The exterior is less complicated, but Dad has settled on lights and garland around the porch railings, nothing of the lawn ornament kind.

My Christmas collection is only a fraction of my mother’s, but I have a few treasured pieces. These featured below belonged to my great-grandmother Ethel. A few years back when my grandmother was still alive, I was visiting her around the holidays and I took out a basket of Christmas decorations. Included in that basket were a few ceramic figurines that hadn’t been displayed in a while. My grandmother began telling me that her mother always brought these out at Christmas, and she kept them because she always liked them (which is significant coming from a woman who never kept much). When my grandmother passed away, I made sure to keep these Christmas figurines because I knew they were important to her.


Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus are actually salt and pepper shakers.


This snow angel figurine has a twin, and both are bells.

Now I proudly display these Christmas heirlooms, knowing that so many of my family members have seen them over the years. To me, knowing that something belonged to my family makes it significant. I’d rather have those heirlooms than something new. I’d rather add myself to the story of the heirloom.

What about you? Do you have a favorite Christmas decoration or any favorite family holiday heirlooms?

Home for the Holidays

Wishing you + yours safe travels to and from home this holiday season. And wishing you your favorite type of Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) weather. We woke up to a snowy Vermont this morning (it’s about time).

Snow covered trees, hooray!

Snowy Vermont. Drive carefully.

Happy Holidays! Check back for fun holiday related posts throughout the rest of this year.

Baling the Christmas Tree

Do you have a Christmas tree in your house? Do you prefer real or artificial, fresh-cut or chosen from a lot? Some of my favorite holiday childhood memories includes hunting for a Christmas tree on a tree farm with my parents and sisters. We couldn’t always find a tree to cut — for a while it was much too expensive so we had to resort to those already cut (I suppose the tree farms ran out of old enough trees). Thankfully the trees are tall enough once again so my parents can still cut down a fresh tree. And, to my delight, up here in Vermont we have many tree farms.

One part of the tree farms that I always liked – aside from the wagon rides on some farms – was watching the trees get baled by those crazy looking machines. Much to my delight, the tree farm near us had a seemingly older tree baler in operation. Rather than white plastic rope or some white plastic netting, this baler wrapped the tree in red twine. How festive! (In full disclosure, I know nothing of tree baler history. Searching Google Patents reveals some Christmas tree balers in the 1950s and 1960s. My guesses are only guesses – not facts. Feel free to jump in.)

Christmas tree baler in operation. The metal plate reads "Howey."

A search for Howey tree baler finds that this company has been making tree balers since 1967.

Red twine! Metal hooks attach to the bottom tree limbs.

The end of the machine. The pulley system is on the other side - it seems to operate in a circular or oblong shape.

All baled up and ready to go, with help from the tree farm employee.

So, any tree baler historians out there? How about you industrial archaeologists? Fill me in! I’d bet this one is a few decades old. The farm had a newer one (shinier, white plastic rope) in operation as well, but I much prefer this one. If we go back next year to the same farm, I’ll ask a few questions.

Enjoy your Christmas tree cutting and decorating!

Flamingo Motel

Who wants to stay at the Flamingo Motel? I’ve seen one in Michigan, but I also have one under my tree.

Flamingo Motel located underneath my Christmas tree.

Click and zoom in for some fun details like $29 per day, Check out time at 11:00 am, after hours key drop, curtains in the window, smaller flamingos around the building, a Do Not Disturb sign, Color TV & air conditioned…. such fun!

Holiday lights on the Flamingo Motel.

Enjoy the week before Christmas. Anticipation is one of the best parts of Christmas.

Friday Links

Rather than tell you about the remaining school assignments I have, I thought I’d find some interesting preservation links for you. Happy December! Happy snow!


* Ah, Long Island, or ultimate suburbia as I call it. Fortunately, there are still some hints of its interesting past. I have no idea how I came across this blog, but Old Long Island features historic images of the great Long Island estates (think Great Gatsby style).  Some posts have Library of Congress images, some have real estate ads, others are from books and other printed materials; most are linked with images to Google Earth. Even if you do not have a Long Island connection, the architecture of these estates is beautiful.

* Sabra, over at My Own Time Machine, always finds interesting articles and current event topics. I love a recent post of hers about Historic Heidelberg – Kerlin Farm, located outside Philadelphia. From the post, this is the issue:

WHAT:   Now under threat of demolition, one of the oldest residences in Pennsylvania at 1050 Ashbourne Road, Cheltenham, PA.  The 300+ year old estate hearkens to the very beginning of European settlement in this region.  It would be difficult to stand in a place that more completely describes the settlement and growth of a particular place over the course of three centuries.  Now it is facing the wrecking ball.

Click through for more information. Be sure to read Sabra’s comment to mine addressing issues such as how much is too far gone, stabilizing ruins, and the education system.

* Route 66 News talks about an article that finds John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley to be fiction. Personally, I could care less if it’s fiction. I love the book anyway. You?

* Are you an alum of the UVM Historic Preservation program? Check out the new HP alumni website. And come to the party on Saturday.

* This warrants a much longer discussion, but for now: the University of Mary Washington has a master plan to raze seven buildings including the historic 1931 Seacobeck Dining Hall. Seriously, UMW? Your historic preservation program is one of the best undergraduate programs in the country and you’re not going to take the advice of that department? Bad move.

* Actually, Preservation Nation’s Story of the Day feature often has stories about demolition threats. Yikes! (Not to be confused with that yikes!) Isn’t it time people got over the whole demolition thing? It’s not green, people.

* Christmas and historic mansions? Oh, how grand living that life must have been.

Shared with me, courtesy of Sabra, who found this on Etsy (via caramelos). If anyone has sent one the way of Preservation in Pink, I’ll love you forever (ahem, sisters). Just kidding! But they are adorable.


Unrelated but worth sharing:

Follow my sister Annie O’Shea through the skeleton World Cup race series this winter.

Send thank you notes to the United States soldiers! (It takes about five seconds.)

Merry Christmas!

from Preservation in Pink!

In honor of my favorite day of the year (Christmas Eve), this post combines three of my favorites things: flamingos and Christmas and cats. Here are photographs of the cats reacting to the flamingo, just in case you can’t get the video to play. It sings and dances.  I don’t kid about such things. (If you’re wondering – it was a gift, one that provides holiday amusement).

Fuzzy, intrigued by the Santa flamingo

Fuzzy, intrigued by the Santa flamingo

Lucas, conversing with Santa flamingo

Lucas, conversing with Santa flamingo

…and here is the entertainment for you. Click this link, which will bring you to the video (I cannot upload videos directly onto wordpress). It will be on and you’ll know it’s this one because it is called “Santa Flamingo.” It takes about 2 minutes to download (5MB). Skip ahead or wait until the very end for a hysterical ending. Really. But, if you can’t wait, here are screen shots of the best parts.

Lucas investigating the flamingo.

Lucas investigating the flamingo.

Lucas realizing he's going to be embarrassed on PiP

Lucas realizing he's going to be embarrassed on PiP

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

It’s almost here!

Get excited! Tomorrow you will be able to read the December 2008 issue of Preservation in Pink! It will be posted here tomorrow as a pdf document for easy downloading, printing, reading, etc. If you are in my address book, you will receive an email. Check back tomorrow!

In the meantime, you should know that I have many flamingo ornaments on my Christmas tree.  I realize that one day I will probably have an entire tree dedicated to flamingos, a la Preservation in Pink. This one shows my North Carolina side. Pardon the Christmas-y blurriness.

Outer Banks Santa Flamingo

Outer Banks Santa Flamingo

And, just for your entertainment, this pictures demonstrates just how much my cat Fuzzy loves the traditions of Christmas.

Fuzzy loves Christmas so much that he eats trees!

Fuzzy loves Christmas so much that he eats trees!

 Then again, he also likes to pretend that he will be mailed as a present.

Don't forget to cut holes in the box.

Don't forget to cut holes in the box.

Whatever your Christmas preparation traditions may be, I hope you are enjoying the holiday anticipation!