Presépio is Portuguese for "Nativity Scene". Follow along as we build this year's version of a long family tradition. Mai e Pai (Mom & Dad, in Portuguese) started this tradition with just a few figurines bought in a Paris airport, to hundreds of pieces lovingly collected or hand-crafted over the decades and across two continents.

Click here for Wikipedia's description...

27 February, 2012

The Village Sleeps Tonight... (Time-lapse photography)

This weekend was a bittersweet one, with the Presépio being put into hibernation for yet another year.  Dear friend Lili and daughter Yvette gave us the perfect excuse for keeping it intact long after the season has ended -- they are only able to come visit during winter break.  We squeezed in a trip to the  surprisingly excellent New Britain Museum of American Art, lunch with dear friends Ron & Deb at the Polish National Home,  a hike to Mt. Tom State Park, and still had energy left for Saturday's marathon effort that not only got the village successfully packed away, but restored the dining room in time for an animated dinner with yet more friends.
Eric and Molly, with sons Sebastian and Pascal, capped off the evening with piano playing, knitting lessons, a spirited game of 7 Wonders, and of course, more fabulous food.

Merci beaucoup to Lili and Yvette, who in a few hours helped deconstruct what takes weeks to build.  It's a task that when done with friends becomes fun.  I captured it all with time-lapse photography...
With my laptop teetering on top of the bookshelf, it took a picture every 30 seconds...

You can also watch in reverse - gives a pretty good idea of the creation process!... ;)
If only it really were this easy.
For next year's construction process, I will set up a web cam too...

Another Epiphany...

I'm just a little bit late reporting on the Epiphany Gathering...  ;)
So many dear friends and family filled the house with laughs and warmth.  The usual fabulous array of gourmet treats topped even last year's.

At the risk of sounding corny, it truly warmed my heart when 10 year old Milo asked me for the "I Spy" game sheet...  He remembered the "Village Tour Guide" that I had made up a few years ago describing how it's made, and challenges you to find lots of different little vignettes and activities.  There he was, scanning the sheet, checking off each item!
Thank you Milo - I hope these are memories you always keep!
All the kids were great, and took their jobs of keeping the grown-ups from knocking things over very seriously.
The weather was mild enough that they could let off some steam outside, as well as having fun indoors.

I just wish that we had taken more pictures!  If any of you took some, please send them in.
Here are a few by Tim - the only ones we have!

Thanks to everyone who came - we love seeing you all.  And to those of you in far-flung places, at least you're able to virtually visit... ;)  And you can start planning now for next year's trip...

21 December, 2011

Advice needed

Back by popular demand - the poll!!  Where I give you, my adoring public, and fans of Presépios everywhere, a chance to shape this year's village.
This one is about the Portugal, you will often find a church surrounded by these stately cypress trees.
My father made those you see here out of some type of grass.  For the botanists in the crowd...who can identify them for me?  They are extremely brittle, being probably over 50 years old, and I want to be able to make some replacements.  Click here for a close-up... I completely surround the church with cypress, or only line the sides?  Is it too cluttered if completely surrounded?>> Please vote above after watching:

**If you want to tour the progress made today, watch the video here.

And just for fun, here is a close-up of one of the rose standards made by Britains Ltd.  The quality is astonishing. Each rose is an individual molded gem.  Alas, many of them have been lost over the decades, but I have substituted tiny paper flowers from my mother's dollhouse days for some.
Click the picture for a close-up view.

20 December, 2011

Starry, starry night...

I will let this slideshow speak for itself.  Today, sister and fabulously sophisticated nieces came by for a mix of cover-letter-writing assistance, Presépio landscaping, and, most wonderfully, tableau creation!
I commissioned Tessie to create a Starry Night backdrop for the angel orchestra.  While we all helped a little, the overall work was Tessie's.
Best part...When I suggested including several celestial objects, like planets, galaxies, and comets, Emi & Tessie were immediately inspired to paint in an angelic version of everyone's favorite bygone yellow lab, Comet!
(Note - please disregard the construction equipment and the lack of is still a work-in-progress!)

16 December, 2011

Even after 60+ years, innovation is always possible...

I surprise myself sometimes... Far too busy/disorganized this season, but even so, inspiration is never far away.

Today it showed itself in a small way.  The waterfall, which is a simple twist of saran wrap, was always a bit unruly and hard to make stay put.  So, an equally simple trick...a length of wire, around which I twisted the saran wrap, and Presto!  It now will hold any shape.  So here is the very complicated how-to...and the result.
Well, of course, the waterfall still needs plenty of rocks, ferns, and deer cavorting, but we're still at bare bones stage.

11 December, 2011

Great progress - thanks to you-know-who...

We went from Dining Room to Village landscape in one day!
While in past years, we've started as early as October, the double whammy of hurricane Irene, and especially Snotober - the Halloween storm, provided us with an excellent excuse for the delay.

But now that our creaking backs are somewhat recovered from the week without power, followed by the month of dragging everything from tree trunks to twigs out to the street, we have begun in earnest.
Oh - and did I mention that Vóvó is here?  It is by channeling her energy and creativity that we are finally able to get moving!

Here are a few shots of this weekend's advances.  While by now you, my devoted followers, are old pros at the behind-the-scenes, we have one new twist that I think will improve the outcome...
(Vóvó's idea, naturalmente...)
To try to reproduce the impossible-to-find wrinkly kraft paper we used 40 years ago, we spritzed the smooth paper with water, twisted it, then flattened it.  You can see the results - nice anf flexible, and easy to mold around all the books and foam "tectonic plates" that form the hills and valleys,

This may prove to be quite a breakthrough!

And just for fun, a very extra-terrestrial landscape:

Tiny glass bowls protect the 65 year old lights from the shower of dirt, looking like little bio-spheres on a distant planet.
Até amanhã!!

05 December, 2011

A stormy start to the season

The top glass was shattered by this tree.
Is it unfair to blame my late start this season on Irene and Snotober? The weeks following the Halloween storm have been filled with dragging trees off the deck, repairing broken shrubs, and temporarily rebuilding the crushed shed.  Here is before and during...
The woodpile represents about 1/10 of what was covering driveway, deck, and garden!

Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it...
Hopefully I'll get lots done by the weekend - especially if I can convince Vóvó to come up for a day or two...!
Add caption

Temporary fix - doesn't look so bad from this angle...

07 January, 2011


I had every intention of posting on the big day, but alas, diligent updating of this blog has eluded me. I feel justified in having devoted my attentions to family & friends, which is, after all, what's most important about the season.

Well, the 3 kings arrived right on schedule, gifts in hand.

And we had no dearth of visitors of our own from foreign lands - Boston, NY, CT, and Switzerland via France. Even a visitor from the Jewish quarter in Prague! They provided eager assistance and ideas, which you can see in the slideshow.

Among the major advancements were bringing in new sand and shells for the beach...tiny shells collected from a beach in Kauaii decades ago provide true-to-scale realism...
The small details are filling in...the floosy chicken, the deer-plagued garden, the rabbit-haunted farm, complete with cabbages, pumpkins, and arugula...Comet, Windsor & Izzy, Marz & Venus...

And as a backdrop, the wonderful Boxing Day snow.

Here are 3 illustrating Phil's triumphant crossing sign, another with some details of my French helpers and their landscaping skills, and lastly, just a few serene shots of the day-after-Christmas snow.

24 December, 2010

Progress - just not in my reportage...

It has been a huge challenge to make any progress in the past few weeks...but rest assured that things are well underway!
Why the delays??  Let me just say that my next blog will be about the state of so-called healthcare in this country!  Meaning of course, the immense, lumbering beaurocracy that stands between us and our health/sanity...!!  :(

So - you will see a huge difference, thans in most part to Vóvó and her energy and love for this - and her general lack of patience with slowpokes!!!!!

People have come out of their homes and started making their donations of gifts at the Town Square, the farm animals are in the fields, gardens are looking lush, the fauna in the forests are peeking out from among the firs...

The clothesline was a major challenge/setback - with each pole supported separately, it just kept flopping over and ruining the desperation I wrapped the ends of 2 twisty-ties across the bases, gave it some structural integrity with masking tape, and voilá!

We have sighted the wise men - they are nearing the village, and should get there by Epiphany with no problem.  You can see them in the montage below...  (They may be held up a bit, as they seem to be waiting for a sign from above that it is OK to cross the railroad tracks...)

Merry Christmas, Feliz Natal a todos!!!!!!!!!!!

16 December, 2010

More Chances to Vote! (& our Village Tree Lighting!)

I've gotten feedback that the poll was a good idea, so here is another...
The Town Square is shaping still needs the garden and the gift drop-off area, along with some people, of course, but first, need an opinion on which trees to flank the path to the church...
One set is more diminutive, and can if you squint, look kinda like maple trees...
The other pair is a vintage set from my folk's original collection, and are "sculpted" fir trees.
*NB - the tree lighting ceremony took place tonight - we had wanted to get Maroon 5 to perform, but alas, he opted for that other tree lighting today - at the White House!  Watch here... We'll plan better next year...

Without adding my own prejudice, cast your vote now on what will look better...

(I like this idea too - you all will have a vested interest in coming to see it in person...!

10 December, 2010

Lighthouse gets major improvement!

Thanks to the Donald, the village is that much safer tonight...the lighthouse (or farol), now indicates the compass points!  Our fearless explorers can set forth, and indeed return, confident knowing from whence come their all-important winds...

For the linguists out there, the term "lighthouse" dates back to the mid-1600's.  But in most of the western world, the word derives from the island of Pharos where the lighthouse of Alexandria stood.  Hence farol (pt), phare (fr), even Swedish (fyr), and Bulgarian (фар)!!

Anyhow, thanks to the lighthousekeeper/builder Don for designing such an ingenius way to attach the letters - and what wind-blown and artistic letters they are, too!  Thank you!!

Um Presépio numa casa Portuguesa

Take a look at what our dear friend and Presepio aficionado sent along! Very creative - thanks!!!!
These are shots she took last year, and has now compiled, with great artisitc effect, into this show.
And how on earth did you know that "We Three Kings" is my favorite Christmas carol? J and I used to sing it together when we were little. (Though I know he has blocked out that memory...that, and "The Marines' Hymn" - I have no idea why...) Thanks AMD!
Click Um PRESEPIO numa casa Portuguesa to view...

08 December, 2010

The Story of Christmas" - in the digital age...

My querida prima Gu shared's pretty well done, and understandable even if you don't speak Portuguese - though it helps if you understand google, Facebook, and Twitter!!
(The message at teh end says "Times change - the sentiment stays the same..."

06 December, 2010

A Few Novidades, & Apprentices needed!

It's late so, I'll make it brief...
Here is the progress to-date... Contrary to popular opinon, I do NOT spend every waking moment working on the village!  That is why I need to start it in October... ;)

In fact, Phil spent more time this weekend - designing & creating the flashing circuitry for the crossing signal!!!  At last the denizens can go to the beach without fear of getting hit by a train full of toys...
I did lots of the ground work (pun intended) to ready things for hte next phase - creating the farms and gardens, town square, trees, etc., etc..

** NB... Presepio Vista is now accepting apprenticeships for miniature landscaping and animal husbandry...
Please apply by writing the words "Presepio Internship" on the back of a $50 bill and sending it to me!

Boa noite...  (And don't forget to vote in the previous post!!)

04 December, 2010

Waterfall advice needed - mist or no mist? Vote here...

Looking for advice on whether or not to add "mist" to the waterfall this year...
Here are pics of our usual saran wrap waterfall, with and without the illusion of mist at the bottom.
Does it actually look like mist?  Or does it look like a forgotten bit - kind of like when the surgeon leaves a sponge behind in your innards after an operation...?
Please vote...!

30 November, 2010

Day 2 - Blackout!

After the astonishing productivity of the post-Thanksgiving rush, it was back to "normal" activities.
The only Presépio work done involved emergency utility crews (aka Phil) coming in to service some underground electrical cables - part of the town was plunged into blackness!

The bakery, A&S house, and the windmill were affected.  I panicked, as I thought out only alternatives would be a) leave them without power all season, or b) rip up a huge amount of wiring that had been so neatly taped down, then so perfectly covered with a layer of the finest hand-sifted earth that had taken Ana all day to perfect!

Thankfully, our chief engineer knew that 99% of all power problems happened at the junctions - so we were able to dig up only a tiny portion of the ground.

As you can see, the lights are now working all over the village  - and tomorrow is another day!!!!!!

(Soon we can get started on the gardens and farms!!)

In the beginning...

The 2010 Presépio season is upon us!

Thanks for coming back for the second installment of our blog...a bit of the behind-the-scenes action, some how-to and tips, together with some miscellaneous musings...

This year I THOUGHT I was getting an early start - while planting my daffodils, I filled 2 buckets with the soil we would need... (It's important to do so before the ground freezes!). David helped out by bringing the table up from mothballs, but not much more happened till this past week.

However, we have made up for lost time, thanks to Vóvó and Ana! While Phil and I set the table up, together with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, so that it would be ready in time for Thanksgiving, it wasn't until post-Thanksgiving Day that our productivity rose through the roof!

Everyone was here for bbq'd turkey, but we were so enjoying our own company, especially seeing the college kids home-for-the-holiday, (and of course the yummy foood), that no work was done at all. Happily, Vóvó stayed through Monday, Phil diligently wired, and with a surprise visit from Ana, a major progress was made!! Click below to see my fairly pathetic photo-montage of our progress to-date...

And here is our lovely bbq'd turkey!


06 January, 2010

Epiphany has arrived - along with the Farol Sta Marta

The wise men are slightly delayed...
Watch the video to see why!
(And don't forget - you can skip around by clicking the tags - which I would highly recommend!!  Plus, those tags contain important information... ;) )

Farol Sta Marta, and the story of Epiphany

Well, we did NOT get a visit from the wise men today, but we DID get presents!
First, a quick note about what Epiphany is all about. The wise men, hearing about the birth of Christ, set forth, gifts in hand, to go see the newborn king... It took them a while to get there - 12 days, in fact - which is Jan 6!
This is why we sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas". In fact, some people around the world wait to exchange gifts till the day that baby Jesus got his!

Now, to find out why the wise men didn't make it, you must watch the video in the previous entry.

However, some very wise friends DID come to visit today, and here is what they brought!

This is an amazing, handmade replica of the Farol Sta. Marta, in Cascais, Portugal.
Don the GnomeMeister had been secretly at work, with the clandestine support of Joao & Phil, and perhaps others too.
Phil must now quickly work to electrify it.  Then perhaps the magi can finally find their way over the seas to the village!

Os meus parentes Portugueses devem conhecer este farol...muitos de voçes morem mesme ao lado!

And in case you wonder where the inspiration came is the real thing...

And here, the light is now working!!   Our resident electrician was  inspired - or maybe it was divine intervention?

04 January, 2010

Christmas Village tours now available...

Well, I don't think any videographers need tremble in their sneakers based on my first attempt at video production.  Tell me what you think! (Click that big triangle below)

30 December, 2009

Baking, Painting, and Locks of Love

Aprons all around! Christmas presents for the Boston/Paris contingent this year was handmade aprons!
What does tis have to do with Presépio building, you might ask? Well, these are some of my finest helpers, and we often bake, paint, and otherwise keep busy doing very creative things.  They always inspire me!  And Y will be down to help with the all-important job of carefully putting it away till next year.

And in the spirit of giving, I finally got around to doing the Locks of Love donation...I was going to donate my beautiful tresses to Pantene, who require a mere 8" bequest, but when the salon, who normally charges $50, said if I could go a bit more drastic and sacrifice 10 full inches, the cut and styling would be totally free!! Well, with motivation like that, who could resist...
So here is my brand new coif. Good thing Lili gave me a beautiful scarf for Christmas - my neck is cold now!!  I hope this goes to good use!
For more info about donating, go here: or here: NY Times article on hair donation

And lastly, here are all of us (including the hairdresser) who went together to get our locks shorn:
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South Shore Competition... 30 Dec

Sorry to have deprived you all of your daily blog entertainment, but we have had a very busy post-Christmas time!  ;)
Part of it was spent on Boston's south shore, with more elvish helpers, or shall I say "elfique", since they make up the French contingent...

Here you can see that I have some pretty tough is a closeup of Y's crèche - made by her at the ripe old age of 6.   I particularly love the sheep's wooly coats!

And here you see how diligently they worked, even through a power outage! The high winds knocked down power lines, so we were without power or heat for almost 4 hours! But that wasn't going to stop us from painting our Christmas acorns! Candlelight was perfect.

And, the best present of all under the tree - Chou-chou!
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26 December, 2009

Happy Boxing Day - or - The Village People! 26 Dec

Today saw plenty of Elves to help with the finishing touches.  E did some farming, set out some shells in the beach, while T planted lots of grass and bushes, highway beautification, and tended teh cows, pigs, and chickens!

BB placed a few strategic cats, and brought the bull over to visit the cows.

Don had provided subject matter expertise around the lumber yard.  E tried to take some pics, but J (the photographer) left the memory card home! 
D&BB brought a magnificent wreath cake.  They forgot the mashed potatoes, and E forgot the smoked salmon.  Happily, P had a marvelous roast beef with yorkshire pudding dinner, preceded with croquettes & pigs-in-blankets, so now one went home hungry!
Later, he ran the trains a bit - and loaded them up with toys!

After the crowds went home, I continued populating hte village - all the village people are now happy either bringing their donations, or going about their routine...(milking cows, bringing hay to the horses, giving out directions...)

It's about 99% done, by the way!  All that's left are the finishing touches - though their could be a month's worth of those!

All in all, a fun-filled day with friends and family to help and to socialize.  And many thanks for all the help in the kitchen - you know who you are!!!!!!!             Thanks to all !!!!!!

Presepio by Night ... 26 Dec

Here are some night scenes:
In some, you may spot the headlight of the train as it passes...


And the train loaded with toys!

25 December, 2009

Merry Christmas!!! 25 Dec

Today was the big day.  Feliz Natal, Frohe Weihnachten, Joyeux Noël!
Right on queue, o Menino Jesus arrived.  He, and his Mom & Dad, are recent additions to the scene...well, at least these representations of them are...a gift from E&J while on vacation with them in Provence in 2000, I think it was...
There are still a few thigns to be done, I have my elfin helpers coming tomorrow, so we should be able to finish every last tiny detail.
Lots has been done since my last post - the train station and bakery are complete.  Now all the arriving passengers  have a spot to pick up a scone and coffee.

Also tossing in this cozy picture of the windmill (made by Vóvó in I think 1948!) and the deer family climbing the hillside behind it.

The trains are running too - but you'll have to wait till tomorrow to hear about that!

In the words of Old St. Nick..."Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

24 December, 2009

Merry Chrismas Eve! ... 24 Dec

It's almost here!  We will be off to make merry this evening, at J&E tonight, then to wait for Pai Natal (Father Christmas) at Vóvó's.  I hope o Menino Jesus fills up our shoes that we will place by the hearth!   Good thing Vóvó has a fireplace no novo apartamente!

Here are a few tricks of the trade...  Having found some miniscule paper flowers that Mai got during her dollhouse frenzy, I decided to practice "creative avoidance" of all the really pressing things that I should have been doing, and instead used them to replace lost roses from those magnificent tiny rosebushes.
BTW, I must make a correction - those are British - not German, as I had previously reported!
The picture shows the tools that I use.  )The flowers are all lined up like shish-kebobs on those pins).  Spoons help with dispensing and smoothing the various grasses and gravels.  I also make extensive use of tweezers - from picking up stray bits of root or pebble that will ruin a planting, to gently placing some of the tiniest creatures - they are indispensable!
And something I am doing more of this year, as a time saver...depending on where the people are going - either on the road, in the fields, or on the lawns, using the flour glue on their bases, then sprinkling on the appropriate stuff to match.  Really saves having to try to bury them, and then minimizes the scope of hte disaster if they fall over.

(If you click on a picture to enlarge it, then hit the "Back" button in the upper left to get back to the blog)

OK - off to do some more baking now!!!!
Merry Christmas to all!  Feliz Natal!  Joyeux Noël!  Frohe Weihnachten!

23 December, 2009

The Little People... 23 Dec

ave been so busy over the last few days, have not taken pics or updated - so sorry to haveb been depriving you all of your entertainment!!
Still have to run out for some more shopping, and need to makesure the varnish will be dry by Christmas morning on my presents, so this will be short and sweet!
I'll let the pictures do the talking - I've been concentrating on finishing the gardens, but have done many other little details.  Note A&S's house - Izzy, Winnie, Comet & her buddy Marzipan are all frolicking (or sleeping), and totally unphased by the deer eating Steve's beautiful plantings.
I have the duck crossing in place (by the lake in front of hte church) - it's hard to see because of my crummy photo skills, especially when rushed and in the wrong light...
And have been adding lots of deer and angels on the mountainsides.

But most important, the PEOPLE are arriving!  You'll see 2 of them, already beginning the long journey to bring more presents for thos less fortunate...
One has some flour sacks on his donkey, the other a baby pig in his wheelbarrow.  There will be lots more to come!  Ho ho ho!!

20 December, 2009

Taking shape... 20 Dec

Well, I set out this morning planning to make lots of progress in daylight, so I could take pictures with natural light, but...ummm...well, I didn't get to a photo-worthy point until late...

We're getting to the little details point - a basket of apples for the horses (indian corn kernels in a doll-house basket), the small farm in the back (11-bean soup lentils & peas), and Marzipan & Venus on the front lawn...
Also have presents for the toy collection (our version of Toys for Tots), and benches, trees, flowers around hte town square.  The pastor is there encouraging more donations.
And, one of my favorite parts, the ducks around the lake.
Will try and sneak a few photos tomorrow during lunch...
Pressure's on for all being ready by Christmas day!

Let it Snow! ... Dec 20

Our dear Dr. Mel threatened up to 14", but alas we got less than 5 (though it's hard to tell since it's been blown around...
The good news is that our brunchers may be able to make it up here after all...

And in response to one comment, the clothesline was ALWAYS part of our village, as was the wind power, as these have always been enlightened denizens, and just naturally do the right thing.  (It just wasn't laundry day the other times you saw it...)
In fact, this town is a leader in renewable energy use, and has been used as an example of how to make it work - see all the press it has gotten!

So how much snow has everyone else gotten?

19 December, 2009

Tree trimming today... 19 Dec

Today was all about trimming the REAL Christmas tree that we got yesterday.  M was here today to have her laptop de-virused, and helped to expertly test and place the lights - thanks!!
Only Presépio work today was to the schoolyard, and oh yes - the graveyard.  A tad macabre, perhaps, but it was one of the bits of realism my Mom added many years ago.  (And usually, the only part of the village landscaping that P. feels he is allowed to do.

Also, a most important addition from yesterday that I forgot to highlight.  The neighbors have hung out their wash on their solar and wind powered clothesline!  Almost anyone who knows my family knows hte significance of THAT very recent addition to the village... ;)

And while we're on the topic of green sustainability, please note the wind turbines - one powers the church (see foto), and the other powers the rest of the village, as well as grinding all the flour for the bakery!

(Oh, OK - I guess they called them windmills back then - not turbines...)

Let's hope the promised blizzard neither causes a snow emergency in the village, nor hampers the last minute shopping that is yet to be completed!!  8-O

Landscaping with tweezers... 18 Dec

Yesterday was the sending of Christmas cards, so no progress, but tonight got cracking on creating some gardens.
This involves using this wonderful stuff they sell for model train nuts to create layouts.  You can get grass for lawns, scrubby grasses,'s great fun!  You then augment that with split peas and lentils (thx for the 11-bean soup, Ana!), and "plant" it all using tweezers!
But the pieces de résistances are the flowers...As they slowly starting adding to their collection, Pai & Mai found tiny model train flowers from Germany - the Germans are famous model railroad nuts.  These flowers and bushes are spectacular- minute, with incredible detail.  Imposible to show or appreciate in photos.
There are some cool trees too.
I've not seen anything approiaching those in quality.  Same with the tiny deer, cows, etc.

Anyhow, I completed one garden, and planted some underbrush around the hilly areas.
And, got the crèche ready - animals, Mary & Joseph, they're all there and ready for the big event!
Pics are of the town square that Tessie made, with the tree that Ana decorated; the replica Cass Gilbert fountain (anyone who's driven through Ridgefield knows what this is), and worked on the waterfall a bit.