it’s christmastime!!!

i’m a little bit particular about christmas trees.

i can’t imagine a year without a real, fresh-cut, smells like heaven christmas tree – one with just the right balance of lovely symmetry and yet also charlie-brown charm. i prefer picking out a christmas tree in a magical, festive setting, my heart sparkling with that particular brand of joy that floats into the world every december. i grew up picking out a tree with excited parents and siblings in fantastically transformed parking lots adorned with fairy lights and wafting christmas music and that cinnamon-orange-pine smell. and the last five years i have sawed down my own christmas tree at festive farms in the california hills.

so…i was a little crestfallen when i searched online and realized most real-christmas-tree-type people in london simply order one online and have it delivered. what?! i tried to find some semi-enchanting spot to pick out a tennenbaum … all i needed was some red ribbon or stringed lights or even just one person dressed up as an elf … and decided we’d go to a chain pop-up shop across the river to try our luck this saturday morning.

on wednesday, i decided to walk the long way home from work to see if the corner flower stand at holborn station (which always has the most gorrrrgeous flowers!) had any fresh wreaths for sale. i thought a wreath would tide me over until we could get the tree (all the way on the fifth of december!). there was a nice little pine-and-holly wreath among the flowers that i decided to buy, and then i heard some fellow customers ask the owner how much the trees were. i turned and laid eyes on the absolute loveliest christmas tree, just standing there on the street corner. i didn’t even realize this stand had trees to sell! it was love at first sight.

IMG_7836the supernice owner of the flower stand convinced me i could carry the tree home by myself if he tied up the branches a bit for me (i assured him i certainly couldn’t take the one next to it that was totally wrapped up in string even though he told me it was same, same!). so, on a bustling london street without a fairy light in sight or any christmas music wafting anywhere, i bought us a christmas tree. and i was so, so, so happy!

i put the stand and the wreath in a big black bag, hefted the tree onto my shoulder, and walked the three quarters of a mile home. as i saw big smiles and hearty chuckles stretch across passerby’s faces, as my arms turned to jelly, and as i saw my silly reflection in shop and restaurant windows, my heart lit aglow. then i asked a complete stranger to take a picture of me holding a seven foot christmas tree in front of covent garden. because i had to!

our darling tree is now untied and watered at home, and it’s glorious! it will be decked out this weekend in ornaments inherited from both my and the boy’s childhood. and christmastime is really here. hoooooray!

a couple of weeks ago, i made a spreadsheet of christmasy activities for each day in december. because christmastime only comes once and year and it is actually the best thing in the universe. because it’s fun and cheery and sparkly and wonderful and because its true reason – celebrating the greatest gift ever given, the christ child – compels us all to love more.

we put up the advent calendar the boy’s mom made for us (sewn from scratch to perfectly the match the one ian grew up with at home – it’s absolutely fabulous and we are totally obsessed with it) and i have been following my spreadsheet of festive activities with so so much christmas gladness the past few days. on december first we pulled out our pretty edition of a christmas carol and began reading it together (it was a gift from me to ian our first christmas dating, because we had read the story together each night in december, starting a tradition that i hope never ends!). on december second i went to “christmas at kew” at the kew royal botanic gardens with friends, and yesterday i watched the lighting of the super tall christmas tree in trafalgar square with my dear amy and her kids.

yes, christmastime is off to a great start!

^^ christmas at kew was really cool! you walk a mile-long path that includes lit up singing bushes, a tunnel of changing colored lights, a “fire garden” with hundreds of candles, shimmering lanterns and ornaments in the big trees, and a fountain and light show (shown in small part above). our group included several small children, which made it even more fun and exciting.
FullSizeRender (1) FullSizeRender (2)
^^ every year the country of norway gifts a tree to london, in commemoration of the uk’s aid during world war two. this is the sixty ninth tree that has been cut in the forest outside oslo and transported to trafalgar square via lorry and ship and lorry. before they turned on the lights last night, the choir from st. martin’s in the field sang a few gorgeous carols, and then all the onlookers (there were thousands of people there!) joined in on singing hark the herald angels sing together – it was absolutely fantastic. the princess of norway flipped the switch and the whole crowd gasped. the announcer declared that “the christmas season has officially begun in the world’s greatest city.” it was so fun to be there with my lifelong friend amy and her four darling girls (and another of their friends who was in town for business, who had a selfie stick in his bag – yes!).

here’s the lineup for the rest of the month!:
4 dec: write christmas cards and make cookies for our neighbors
5 dec: go to the christmas markets at southbank
6 dec: make our epic gingerbread house {see last year}
7 dec: decorate the christmas tree with friends and listen to the first presidency christmas devotional
8 dec: see the nutcracker at the royal opera house (fingers crossed we can get day-of tickets as everything sold out last month!)
9 dec: do some christmas shopping together
10 dec: eat at the churchill arms (dubbed the most christmassy restaurant in london)
11 dec: commemorate st. lucia day (a bit early) by having breakfast for dinner
12 dec: go to christmas markets in baden-baden germany and basel switzerland!
13 dec: read christmas scriptures while driving to vienna
14 dec: go to the vienna christmas market!
15 dec: go to the nuremburg christmas market!
16 dec: go to the rothenburg christmas market!
17 dec: read christmas stories driving back to basel (via hohenzollen castle!)
18 dec: sleep under the christmas tree
19 dec: decorate sugar cookies with our primary class at our home!
20 dec: see the lights around london with the boy’s brother and his wife, here for a visit!
21 dec: go to winter wonderland in hyde park
22 dec: go ice skating at sommerset house
23 dec: carols by candlelight concert at royal albert hall
24 dec: jerusalem supper, open one gift, and attend midnight mass at st. martin’s in the field
25 dec: have christmas morning! and eggs benedict for breakfast, walk to christmas lunch at punch’s tavern, skype with our families go to evensong at westminster abbey, and go celebrate with the schwartzes in writtle!
26-31 dec: fun together around london, enjoying a few days off!


  1. I made a Christmas spreadsheet too - glad I'm not alone in this!! Thanks for sharing your fun ideas xx

  2. Magical days for your holiday season! So special. Love the tree carrying and big bag over your shoulder with your wreath and tree stand.

  3. That Christmas tree story is classic! I have done similar absolutely ridiculous things in a walking city so I am glad to see I am not the only one! We make a spreadsheet as well...we put one activity per day with a scripture in our advent calendar and let our kids count down to Christmas pulling one out daily. Your photos and words always bring light into my days. Merry Christmas!

  4. I love the picture of you with the black rubbish bag over your shoulder & the tree. That's the kind of thing I would do:)

    Kew Gardens looks really pretty.

    I love your list, it's brill.

    Did you buy a chocolate advent calendar for you & Ian? I've got a Milky Bar one.

    You & Ian now just need Christmas jumpers for Christmas Jumper Day on Fri, Dec 18th. Christmas Jumpers & onesies etc are really popular here now. Primark etc have loads of these.

    I bet it'll be strange for you both to have Boxing Day off rather than going straight back to work after Christmas, actually the 29th is the bank holiday for this year, as Boxing Day in on a Saturday.

    Enjoy the run up to Christmas, I love how excited you are about it.

  5. I'm so excited to read your posts from the Christmas Markets!

  6. WOW! "No grass grows under your feet!" What fun! So happy to see you embracing the beauty of Christmas in your typical grand fashion in your new surroundings! Loved every picture! Wish we were there! Love you!

  7. This makes my heart so so so happy. Well done. My heart gets all tingly when I think about spending next Christmas-time in London with you guys. I hope we can make it happen!

  8. Have fun visiting all the Christmas markets in Switzerland, Austria and Germany! Even though the markets will be super crowded, it will be a great experience! As a short note:
    All christmas markets will have a lot of different christmas-y drinks like mulled wines. However, I don't think they will always state which drink has alcohol and which one doesn't. But one alcohol-free drink is "Kinderpunsch" (children's punch).

  9. I'm a little bit stunned that a classical christmas tree sale (romantic lights and street corners involved) is rare in London.
    That destroys my image of Oliver Twist's city by far ;)

    I wish you lots of fun exploring the christmas markets. As Jasmin said, they will be super crowded. But that is part of the fun, I guess.
    And don't worry. No one will fool you, if you ask if a certain christmas speciality has alcohol in it.
    There is much more than "Kinderpunsch". To be honest I've just found out about the variety of non-alcoholic christmas market drinks this christmas season, since I'm pregnant. I drank something with hot orange juice and spices. It was delicious. Sometimes there is non-alcoholic egg nog, and obviously hot chocolate (regular, dark and white... and special hot chocolate with spices in it)

  10. This is just the Dolly, Baby, ChiChi that I love--epitomized!

  11. This is just the Dolly, Baby, ChiChi that I love--epitomized!

  12. This is just the Dolly, Baby, ChiChi that I love--epitomized!