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...

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.

16 December, 2009

Santa's Elves came to help (with 11 bean soup)! 16 Dec

Lots more to report today - dear goddaughter and sister came to lend their creative skills. Poor T just got 4 wisdom teeth removed, so cam looking like Jacob Marley, but with a great spirit!  T, a student of fine arts, was commissioned to paint the ocean (one of her specialties).  As I am writing this, I realize that she neglected to sign her work!  Meanwhile, sister worked on redecorating the town tree, which was starting to show its age.
She also made a fabulous whale for the ocean!
T and I then turned our attentions to finishing off the town square, putting in a few more roads, landscaping the mountainsides and church yard.  T also gave the horses and sheep some greener pastures.
Sister ran out for hte all important 11-bean-soup - its dried peas and lentils are destined to become cabbages and lettuces  for the farms!

This bout of productivity started with some hot chocolate & Christmas carols to get us in the mood, and ended with dim sum made by our in-house master chef!
Thanks so much!!  All others welcome to add your own touches!

News Flash: Narrow escape for the villagers!! - 16 Dec

Near disaster for the sleepy village of Danrochberg!  A marauding kitty-kat threatened the town early this afternoon- but, as it turned out, the ferocious feline was simply looking for a sunny spot...

First visit!.. Dec 16

Just got our first viewers - Larchmont sister-in-law and pilot nephew...  They approved heartily, and were able to detect many differences from the 2007 version.  Hopefully they'll be back with babies and siblings in tow.

Forgot to mention other progress - the Angel Orchestra is now in full swing, comfortable on their puffy cotton cloud.  These are the next generation handmade German wooden angels from the Erzgebirg.  My folks collected them about 40 or 50 years ago, and they are remarkably similar - though the older generation have curly hair.
I also prepped the crèche (the stable where Mary & Joseph await the blessed event.  In our little world, it is not a stable - it is a stone structure - you could call it a cave, or even a dolmen, which is what it resembles most.
Pics of that later...!

15 December, 2009

An Unexpected Advantage... 15 Dec

Well, just as I was beginning to think this virtual Presepio would take too much time away from the real one, I discovered an unintended benefit...

 It makes me want to make progress every day, so that I have something new to post!  I'm very busy between work (end of year, ya know), and all the other yuletide preps...and can't set aside as much time as I would like...but the blog must go on!

Having said that, the only progress made today was to tidy up a little.  Now that the "heavy lifting" is done, I can start putting all the boxes away, and clearing the dining room table for the festivities to come.
This picture is of all the  grass, shrubs, lichen, moss, etc., etc..neatly arranged so that I can tuck it out of site when y'all come visit and/or help!!

Trains, Pools & Automobiles- anachronisms be damned! 14 Dec

OK - a little of the fun details...
Now, you may say - but wait - there weren't many swimming pools or Mini Coopers when Christ was born, but well, for that matter, nor were there street lights or let's just forget about pointing out all the little "inaccuracies".

Here you see  the swimming pool going in one of the yards, and the newly paved driveway with my ragtop already parked there.  Top's down, of course!

Sorry for the fuzziness in some of these shots... maybe one of my photog relatives or friends can do a shoot for me!

Good fences make good neighbors... and Roads! 14 Dec

The BIG milestone is getting the main thoroughfare in.  I've been avoiding it, but finally bit the bullet and got it started.  The town square is still empty - that will be next.  In the photo the road really stands out - that's partly 'cause of the flash, and partly because it is just against the bare earth. 

Another small milestone - fences...  They are important because they define the boundaries of the farms at the edge of town, and of the yards in town.  I need to set them up early to ensure that I have enough to corral all the livestock and plan the gardens.  Sorry I don't have a great shot of the fences - you can see the white picket fences, but the corrals are at the far end.

It doesn't look liek I've done too much - because I HAVEN'T!  Been so busy with my day job.  This is a delicate balance, trying to carve out enough time in the evenings not only to work on the village, send cards, etc., etc....AND, to do a little bit on this blog.

13 December, 2009

A day at the beach - and a call to action!... 13 Dec

Each year sees some change to the village, and this year is no exception.  This year (perhaps due to Global Warming), the villagers now have ocean-front property!

And now for the call to action-         E & T - I need you to paint an ocean!

12 December, 2009

Creative landscaping & roadbuilding... 12 Dec

Now comes the other fun part...building the roads, landscaping the gardens, and populating the farms.
I try to remember while gardening the rest of the year to look for things that can be re-purposed to the gardens here.
These pictures show you some black-eyed susan seed heads, before and after.  I just dabbed green paint on them, then rolled them in some tiny red stuff that my mother had from a miniature craft place.
I saved some dried astilbe blossoms, as with a little paint, they become awesome trees!  An idea I stole from my brother and sister-in-law's village from last year.  Alas, I think at some point along the way, they wound up in the compost, so unless Botanical Friend got me some, that addition will have to wait.
 (While I hate to admit it, J&E's village is quite stunning too!!  Maybe I can post a link to it here...)

11 December, 2009

Earthworks 6 December

Now this is the REALLY fun part!  First, make some glue.  How does one make glue??

Easy!!  Take a saucepan, add 1 part flour, one part water, stir over low heat for about 5 minutes.
Add a little white vinegar, grab a paintbrush, and you're off!

Now you just brush it on the paper, paying special attention to the hills and slopes, and sprinkle the dirt on it...

Now is when you REALLY have to make sure you keep the kitty-kats away... ;)

Electrifying! ... 5 December

Roll out the paper, place the houses where you want them, then run the lighting to each.  Of course, P. steps in again to ensure that the 50 or 60 year-old wiring still works!
The street lights and most of the house lights are from the original train set that Pai (that's Portuguese for Dad) bought!  Even the original light bulbs!

Then tape all those wires down flat in preparation for the next step - the REALLY fun one - earthworks!