We may not live in Virginia anymore, but the state will always have a very special place in my heart. It was my home for almost nine years (I spent two years living in D.C. before moving to the Commonwealth), and it was the site of so many special things that happened to me in that time. I came home to my first married nest in Arlington. I got the news that I was going to be a mother in Alexandria. My baby’s first (scary, yes, but also magical) weeks were spent in Fairfax. My years in Virginia were the happiest of my life, and I will always, always treasure the memories I have from that time.
My house is full of Virginia and always will be. I have paintings by Virginia artists hanging on my walls. I have photographs of special places – some personal, family photos and some professional – scattered about. I sip tea from a handmade mug I bought at the Torpedo Factory, and I season my food with salts and spices from my favorite shop on King Street. Before we left, while we were soaking in the magic that is northern Virginia, hubby and I went on a Christmas ornament-buying spree, because we knew that our Buffalo tree had to reflect our love for our adopted state. Here are our new additions:
Starting with the top… can you believe that until now, we didn’t have a tree topper? We just never found one that we liked. But I wanted this one as soon as I saw it – almost a year before we actually picked it up. This white dove is a replica of the tip of the weathervane atop Mount Vernon. You’ll notice it isn’t actually sitting on the very tippy-top of the tree. It’s so well-made (read: heavy) that the top branch droops if we try to place the tree topper on it. So it’s nestled in the uppermost branches instead, and I think it looks pretty darn good there.
If you’ve been to Mount Vernon at Christmas time, you know the story of the Christmas camel. Every year, George Washington used to procure a camel to entertain his step-children and grandchildren at Christmas. They still carry on the tradition today, and a camel lives on the Mount Vernon estate and entertains the visitors all through the Christmas season. For the past few years, it’s been a spirited little guy named Aladdin. Here’s our own Aladdin:
Another Mount Vernon Christmas tradition is the rendering of a huge gingerbread mansion inside the visitors’ center. All year, there is a tiny, perfect, scale dollhouse representing the mansion just where the guests enter the property, but at Christmas, it’s all about gingerbread! The gingerbread mansion is so impressive and we always loved checking it out. There were plenty of Mount Vernon ornaments to choose from, but I knew I wanted this one, which gives a nod to the gingerbread version:
If you know me “IRL,” you have probably heard about my obsession with Presidential china. (Someday, I’ll tell you all about the time I toured the White House and wowed the Secret Service with my vast knowledge of different administrations’ china patterns.) The first time I actually saw most Presidential china in person, it was at a special exhibition at Mount Vernon. (If it seems like we were there a lot, it’s because we lived two miles from the estate.) Even without the special exhibition, though, Mount Vernon is a mecca for a Presidential china-loving gal. I always loved checking out the various china patterns that George and Martha collected, including some “protest” china (you’ll see what I mean), their personal china, and finally the Washington Presidential china. There’s plenty to see in the Museum and Education Center, and I knew I needed Washington china on my tree. There were miniature plates and cups, but this tea lover wanted the tiny teapots:
Finally, lest it seem like we only care about Mount Vernon, I have one more ornament to share. Another one of our stops just before leaving was to the gift shop at Christ Church, our church in Old Town Alexandria, where we picked up a few items by which to remember that special place, where we spent many happy Sundays and where Peanut was baptized. We grabbed a black and white photo of the historic building (George Washington was a member!) and a copy of the members’ cookbook, complete with little snippets of church history and members’ favorite graces. And we grabbed this ornament, which I will probably hang up in my kitchen after the holiday season ends:
And there we have it! Our new ornaments for this year. Every time I walk past the tree, one of them catches my eye and I smile, thinking of beautiful Alexandria, where my heart will always be at home.
Any special ornaments on your tree this year? Any that weren’t there last year?