Today at 11:28 AM marks the occurrence of the winter solstice. Its Latin roots are sol and stit or sun stopped. As a practical matter the sun appears to have moved as far south as it ever goes and will now start its journey back north. Tomorrow there will be two more seconds of daylight.  Phew! What a relief. However, even so, it’s going to take a few months to warm up again.

Cold or not it’s a beautiful time of the year but, come on, it can also be a little hectic. Sometimes it whirls by in a swirl of color and that helps make the short bleak cold days tolerable.


The little figures above were as seen by my Lensbaby Composer Pro lens. Sometimes it gives the effect of too much partying but I like what it does. The little figures were in a stand at Philadelphia’s Christmas Market in Love Park near City Hall. It’s always fun to wander amongst the families enjoying the scene with its Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) character.


Elsewhere in the area, in Dilworth Park Garden just west of the City Hall building we found an enchanting America’s Garden Capital Maze. A half dozen of these big guys were watching over everything and I thought they were a great contrast with the downtown center-city buildings.


Still in the Christmas Market area I came across this artist who created animals from heated colored glass rods. Seen again through the eye of my Lensbaby lens there is an aura of 10,000 B.C. to it all.


We’ve been blessed with two decorative snow storms. They’re decorative in that traffic didn’t get snarled and they didn’t have much impact, and lingering warmth disposed of them pretty quickly. While they last the results are magical and fit our northern concept of Christmas. Here was my view of my friends’ nearby town house, that of Valerie and Dick C. They always enhance their place with decoration and lights, both inside and outside, and it adds to our life.

On a snowy night, perfect.


After the snow my late wife Marty Lou’s crafty snowman looked good and felt at home. Marty and three of her buds would get together in December and make a Christmas Craft. They started here with a clear glass lamp chimney and painted it white. The get-outta-here felt hat is pinned up in front with a tiny sleigh bell. On the rim is a cardinal’s nest and miscellaneous grasses. There’s also some mistletoe berries and a tiny ceramic ginger bread man on the back of the rim. A plaid scarf protects against a sore throat, and the nose is a painted slash.

Sadly, of those four crafty ladies only one is still with us. I look forward to the annual reappearance of the little snow man. Christmas as a family event refreshes memories of family and friends who have left us. This year that includes Miss Pearl who I lost last December.  I miss her very much.



You bet!  Too many traditions to ignore. First, my 86th Christmas Tree. I don’t remember the first three or four. Frankly, there are lots of others that I might not specifically remember, but I do remember the concepts and isolated memories of Christmases past. Notably, the $2.00 Charley Brown tree from our salad days in the early 70’s. This year’s tree is beautiful, loaded as always with ornaments from over the years including some from my grandparents’ trees. Age? I don’t know, but my parents married in 1918 and probably had their first tree that year.

Barb and I decorated mine last Saturday and we applied the tinsel one strand at a time as my childhood friend, Bimmie W. trained me to do.


Elsewhere Christmas has cropped up in my living room. The Snow Village houses have appeared on the top of the china cabinet and on top of my wall unit. The houses and trains of my youth are on the shelves of the wall unit. One of the centerpieces which Sigrid made for our recent joint (Barbara and me) birthday party is on my coffee table. A basket of tree ornaments is on the little side table between the two chairs, and crystal and pressed glass pieces are on the dining table and on the coffee table. With the candles lit it is festive.



Finally, I tackled and completed another beveled glass panel this fall. It doesn’t say Christmas but it will be a long-requested gift. Details and construction are seen here (scroll to the bottom) on my Stained Glass page.  Tho not specifically a Christmas theme, it is a warm inviting window panel for the holidays.









The Christmas decorations are up.  The process always brings back memories from lots of past Christmases.  The picture below is of houses and toys from the Christmas Garden or train platform I grew up with beginning in earliest memory.  They were on the platform for my brother before me so, presuming he got them by age five, they’re around 87 years old now.  The items are a little chipped here and there, one of the cars has lost a wheel, and one of the houses is leaning a little.  I’m kind of in the same shape.

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I have more of the items including the Lionel freight train set from the 20’s but they’re stored away in the basement.


Here is a city comprised of models based on buildings found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, particularly with the emphasis on half-timbered construction.  I’ve built these models over the past thirteen years from kits made by Faller, a German company.   The prototype for the six buildings together on the right is in Frankfurt and I’ve visited there.  Known as the Römer, the square was heavily damaged by Allied bombing but since rebuilt.  The model city being arranged on my coffee table, I think of it as Stadt Kaffeetisch.

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Here is a closeup of the building fronts showing the great detail in these kits.

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Below is a more contemporary, classic small town winter/Christmas scene.  Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell are in there somewhere.  It includes two of the ceramic houses from the Snow Village line of Department 56.  These are a pretty good scale size next to O-gauge trains so I began to buy these in ’87. 

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I soon had some 44 buildings plus accessories on my old 200+ square feet, O-gauge, three rail, three mainlines layout seen here.  My daughter, Sigrid, used to say that she’d like to live in the village.  It seems like a world where there is peace, no stress, no poverty, no disease, and everyone’s nice all the time.   As a part of my move, however, the residents were evicted by right of eminent domain: the layout was disassembled and the houses packed away but I pulled out eight of them for the living room this year.

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In the years before I plunged back into photography I did a lot of stained glass work.  Here’s an original design that has just been hung again for the holidays.  The creche set next below was from a 70’s pattern book and I still see them from time to time.  I made a number of them over the years but lavished special care on the last three sets, one each for my daughters and one for me.   I visited Sigrid this week and was pleased to see her set out amongst the greens.  (For more of my stained glass work you can click on that title at the top of the screen.)

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Finally, I still struggle with a real tree.  (N.B.  It’s not a holiday tree; it’s a Christmas tree.)  It’s a chore getting it home and into the house and into its holder and stringing the old fashioned lights with the foil reflectors I found on ebay.  Then my friend, Barbara, helped me hang the ornaments.   A few carry tags as from my grandparents’ or my parents’ trees;  others were accumulated by us over the years, typically from the Wanamaker Christmas Shop after seeing Santa.  Of course there’s the late Vince Guaraldi’s “Charley Brown Christmas” or Julie Andrews’ “Christmas Treasure” albums playing while we do the trimming.  The tree is then dressed with glass icicles and tinsel from my dwindling supply that I hide from the EPA.  (I think I still have a lifetime supply.)

What a joy it is to see it done, glowing softly and filling the house with its fragrance.

I understand the ecumenism and inclusivity that has led to “Happy Holidays” and I certainly wish them to all.

But, I also have to say (borrowing from Clement Moore) … Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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THE BLIZZARD OF ’09 – 12/19/09

Yes, we had a little snow today. At 8:00 in the evening, it’s at about 14″ and it’s still coming down. I suspect it’ll be a record.

My snowthrower bit into more than it could chew last winter.  I’ve been working on it; I disasembled it to try and free it up.  The manufacturer had gone bankrupt.  Some parts were available through Freddie’s Bicycle Shop in Zelionople but with strange part numbers so I demurred.  I put it back together and attacked the snow…..for a distance of  four feet.  The gearbox had ground up what was left of the gears from last winter. 

So, God Bless Bobby who had just acquired a brand new snow thrower from Home Depot and drove over here with it in his truck. He and Sigrid unloaded it and he did a number on my driveway.

Before that I was out on a walk at about 4:30.  Here’s the entryway to the walk to my house.


At 9:15 PM it’s still coming down pretty good. 


Outside of that short walk I stayed in and decorated my tree.  Why wouldn’t I stay inside?  Merry Christmas, everyone!


Now we begin digging out.  I guess UPS won’t be coming to the back door.

The mail box is another  indicator.

But, Bobby came back again and recleared the driveway.