For more than sixty Christmases I have carried on a tradition dating back to 1909 and my Grandmother’s first Christmas as a young married woman. That year she hung a gold ball on the tree shared with my Grandfather and for every year after that only my Grandmother could hang The Ornament upon the tree until. . .
“Here it is, now you hang it right where we can see it.” So were the words of my Grandmother as she carefully unwrapped the gold ball. As I hung the ornament on the tree she continued to relate the story of this simple piece. “That’s the only ornament I have from the first Christmas your Grandpa and I spent together after we were married in 1909. This other one, the little bell was from your Aunt Vivian’s first Christmas in 1910. Hang it right near the gold one.” Every year I went through the same routine with Grandma and I never tired of her telling me the stories. I felt duty-bound to follow set traditions, and putting up my grandparents’ Christmas tree was the most sacred duty I had as a young boy.
For my family, as I grew up in the 1950s, the holiday season did not—could not—begin before the Friday after Thanksgiving. On that day we children rushed to the nearby Sears in Chicago and anxiously waited for Toyland to open. Usually during that weekend my father, mother, grandparents and I would climb into the Chevy and go out to Amling’s Flowerland to see the displays. On the way home we stopped to buy our trees, a process that often tested my father’s patience to the extreme. You see Grandma was a choosy shopper, and the tree had to exactly right. Once the purchase was made the trees were tied to the top of the car and we headed home. Dad later cut a bit off the bottom of the trees and placed each one in a bucket of water. The next weekend we decorated for the holidays.
I found the traditions my parents established to be like beacons in my life as they guided me toward the right understanding of family and the over-arching meaning of the December madness that prevailed. Our tree stood proudly in the front room bay window. As my father grew older and I taller, the task of hanging the lights was turned over to me. Holiday music played from the stereo and the multicolored lights cast a warm glow in the room as we hung ornaments. Every so often Mom would relate a bit about some of the older ornaments as we hung them on the tree. I still have a few from their first Christmas in 1935.
Finished with our tree on Friday, I usually went upstairs to Grandma’s on Saturday. I had the wonderful luxury of having my grandparents live in the flat above—an intention of my parents when they bought their only house in 1955. Up at Grandma’s I was in charge, and it felt great. Grandma unwrapped all the ornaments and I hung them wherever I pleased—all but the two originals that Grandma made sure hung in a prominent spot. Little did I realize how much more was going on as we decorated the tree. The small bits of conversation, the reassuring “Oh, that looks nice there!” and the twinkling glances from Grandma, all were a part of my sense of belonging.
I have never grown weary of telling this story and so once more I’ve shared it with all my readers. Many of my grandchildren have heard this story and with the approach of another holiday season, I am again filled with warmth as I once more enact traditions of more than a century. The season must not be about buying and spending and camping out for great deals; rather, it must always be about the personal relationships we have with each other. Just as many of us do in our gardens as we “talk” to our plants, plant trees to honor grandchildren, or many other plant-like relational ideas, we must also foster the human relationships. This season, as you hang ornaments with children or grandchildren, tell the stories of holidays past and pass on to others the warmth and love you’ve known.
‘Was My Dog Poisoned?’
DEAR PAW’S CORNER: We have three dogs that freely roam our 26-acre property almost year-round. In August, our youngest dog, “Striper,” went out for a couple of hours and when he returned he was panting heavily. He began drooling and then vomiting. As we got ready to take him to the vet, he collapsed and stopped breathing. We weren’t able to revive him. Our vet said he could have eaten something poisonous.
Since then I’ve walked or ridden all over our property to see what he might have eaten, but I’ve found nothing. My neighbors couldn’t have given him something bad. What could have happened? — Mystified in Northern New Hampshire
DEAR MYSTIFIED: First, I am truly sorry that you lost Striper so tragically. Finding the reason may require a little more investigation.
Did the veterinarian give any indication of what the poison may have been? Did you look at what Striper vomited up just before he collapsed, or take a sample to the vet? While it’s not always possible to tell without more testing, looking for clues to what happened can help to keep your two surviving dogs safe.
Some wild plants are poisonous to dogs, though the worst types usually taste terrible. Standing water with a blue-green algae bloom is a possibility; this cyanobacteria, deadly to pets, often blooms in Southern states in late summer but is creeping northward due to climate change. Household garbage may have cleaning chemicals or old medications mixed in with tempting food scraps. Could old antifreeze have been dumped near the edge of your property? Consider any and all possibilities.
Meanwhile, you can keep your other dogs safe by securing outdoor garbage can lids, separating household cleaning containers from regular trash and monitoring the dogs’ outdoor roaming more closely.
Send your questions, tips, or comments to
© 2019 King Features Synd., Inc.
Bird whistles are still made, but of modern materials. This multicolored bird, a whistle that would whistle,
sold for $212.
“I bought a wooden whistle, but it wouldn’t whistle” is part of an old children’s song that goes on to joke about buying a metal whistle. But a modern metal whistle used by a policeman looks very different from the wooden whistle made centuries ago. And today, if a whistle is wood, it usually is carved into an interesting shape or painted to hide the wood surface.
Very early whistles were made from a hollow reed or bird bones. By the 17th century, ceramic whistles were made, often in the shape of an owl or other bird. The center of the whistle held water. Blowing into a hole on its back made the water move and make a sound. There also were wind whistles handmade or molded from clay. Many have been made since the 17th century, but few of the early clay bird whistles remain. Most are not marked, but are decorated with an identifiable regional design.
Today you can find a lot of whistles made of pot metal, celluloid or plastic. An unmarked earthenware bird whistle with colorful paint decoration was sold at a Hess Auction Group auction that featured Pennsylvania wares. The 4-inch-long bird sold for $212.
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I’d like information about a Mary Gregory vase I own. It’s purple glass with white figures of a girl and boy playing tennis. The vase is cylindrical and is 8 inches tall and 5 inches in diameter. Can you tell me its age and value?
Mary Gregory glass was first made about 1870. Similar glass is being made today. All early Mary Gregory glass was made in Bohemia. Later it was made in several other European countries. The first American glassware with Mary Gregory-type decorations was made by the Westmoreland Glass Company beginning in 1957. These pieces had simpler designs, less enamel paint and more modern shapes. Vases like yours are worth about $300. The tennis game adds value.
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I’ve seen some interesting “antique” telephones online and was wondering if they work with modern wiring. I’d like to buy one if I can use it as a phone.
It depends on the mechanism and wiring in the phone. We tried hooking up two old phones and couldn’t get either of them to ring. There are sites online that show how to rewire an old phone so it works, and there are companies that will do the work for you. They also have replacement parts.
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Ginger jar, dark green body, 5 country scenes, gold trim, Gerold, West Germany, 10 inches, $25.
Photography, tintype, Geo. W. Butler, sea captain, holding octant, tinted, Civil War era, $120.
Ride-on toy, St. Bernard, hard plastic, painted steel frame and wheels, handle bar, England, c. 1905, 19 x 24 inches, $325.
Decoy, merganser duck, wood, polychrome, gold and black, overlay, 17 1/2
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TIP: Be careful handling birdhouses, bird cages and bird feeders, old or new. It is possible to catch parrot fever (psittacosis) through a cut or even from breathing the dust.
For more collecting news,
tips and resources, visit
© 2019 King Features Synd., Inc.
Cremer’s E–Z Whole Beef Tenderloin
• 4-4-1/2 lb whole beef tenderloin
• Cremer’s Rub-Me-Tender Seasoning
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Season tenderloin with Cremer’s Rub-Me-Tender seasoning.
Place tenderloin in roasting pan or on cookie sheet.
Roast tenderloin for 30 minutes or until 130 degrees internal temperature for medium rare (10 minutes additional for medium well).
Remove tenderloin from oven, cover with foil tent, and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
Internal temperature may increase 5–10 degrees while resting—due to residual heat.
Slice tenderloin into 1/4” to 1/2” slices. End piece will be more done and center of roast more rare.
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As Christmas fast approaches it represents the busiest time of the year for many of us. For most of us there are holiday gatherings that continue through the month and spill over into the New Year.
The hands down most popular item we carry for the upcoming season is Whole Beef Tenderloin. Its versatility becomes as favorable as its delicate beef flavor. Whether sliced thin for finger sandwiches at a cocktail party or the main course for Christmas dinner. Roasting these at a high heat for a relatively short amount of time is sure to ease the challenges of entertaining and delight your guest.
For other Holiday entertaining or gift giving ideas give us a call.