Sunday, 11 December 2016

Deck the Halls

Before Decking, Clean the Halls

With 14 days to go, I have begun the holiday preparations around the home of DixSterling <>. For now, my workbench sits idle and my focus moves into the house.

Nana's Shortbread Cooling on the Counter

It would not be Christmas without a batch of my Scottish grandmother's wonderful shortbread. The secret (I'm sure she will not haunt me for telling) is to use confectioners sugar in place of the usual brown sugar. The result is a super smooth texture. Once I have baked that, I know Santa Claus will be coming to town. Other cookies, carrot pudding and hard sauce will follow. My baking schedule is posted in the  kitchen.

Nana's Crystal Chandelier Must Sparkle for Christmas

This lovely chandelier, a family heirloom, hangs above our dining room table here, as it did when we lived on the river. Before that, it graced the 10 foot front hall ceiling of our Victorian farm house in Ladner, BC. Of course I dust it regularly, but just before Christmas, I always undertake a thorough cleaning process (how-to will follow below).

My grandparents purchased this in the mid-1950s, so it is about 60 years old. It has survived three of their moves and three of ours in pretty fine shape, although a couple of the major crystals were either lost or broken at some point. I have looked in antique shops over the years but could never find replacements. Even with the advent of the internet, it has proven very hard to find the right shape for one and the right size for either. In chandelier terms, these are huge.

Each of these teardrops is almost four inches long. The one on the right is a shape I have never seen anywhere. If you know where I can find one, please let me know. The "almond" shape on the left is readily available but only at two to three inches long. This Christmas, however, I finally located one that looks to be a very good match. After browsing dozens of other sites, I actually obtained what I need from a fellow etsy seller: SharetheLoveVintage <>. So the chandelier gets a gift this Christmas!

Now, Here Is That How-to

The only way to make the whole chandelier sparkle as it should is to dismantle it ( with all those pieces, a scary thought). Here, I have already removed and dealt with the big crystals from the lower tier and am — very cautiously — taking down the crystal chain. In the kitchen, I use a plastic dishpan set in the sink. I add water as hot as is comfortable for human hands plus about a tablespoon of ammonia and a few drops of Dawn liquid (great cleaning solution for lots of things). Next to the sink, I put a soft towel to lay the washed and rinsed pieces on for drying. While the crystals are off, I give the gilded frame as good cleaning with a soft, slightly damp cloth. I also wash the light bulbs. By cleaning one section at a time (and having photos to remind me which teardrops hang where), the job becomes manageable. Once it is done, the way it glitters makes it more than worth the effort.

I Also Love the Warm Glow of Brass, But. . . 

It takes a lot of polishing to keep it glowing. I am blessed with a husband who is willing to pitch in on "polish the brass" days. This photo shows our two work stations set up for the chore.

When we were on the river, we had all the brass items we have now plus a brass stair rail (very nautical, we thought; very labour intensive, we learned). I found out about Wenol polish from the custodian of a charming North Vancouver pub which had a long brass handrail on its staircase. Great product.

Finally, A Special Piece of Christmas Past

Here, fresh from its Christmas polishing, is my most treasured heirloom: "Annie's Kettle". Annie was Annie Morgan McCaig, my GG Grandmother. I assume she got this as a wedding gift. They were poor folk in Glasgow and such a grand kettle would have been a costly item in 1859 when they were wed. To my certain knowledge, this kettle has resided in Glasgow, Winnipeg, Greater Vancouver, Washington State and Surrey, BC. It bears lots of battle scars and, according to the woman who appraised my late mother's estate, is worth about $35. Hogwash. To me, it is priceless.

So, from my home to yours; may your days be merry and bright this holiday season and throughout the year ahead.