A Sweet-and-Sour Christmas Tree

We recently celebrated Scott’s 40th Birthday: A simple affair, really. His only request was that I make all his dreams come true. Or at least the dreams that can be bought or rented for a Saturday night in early November:

  • Four Hours of Dancing in a loft-like art gallery to a soundtrack of 90s electro/pop/hip-hop while Robotech was projected onto a west-facing wall.
  • A Keg of Old-Style™ and a 5 gallons of Whiskey Sours*
  • Ten platters of Egg Rolls, Crab Rangoon and Chicken Wings from the Chinese restaurant at the end of our block.

The party was quite a success, proven by the fact that nobody – including us – bothered to take pictures. Wait, here’s one:


Photo credit Megan Avery

As we quickly learned, it takes a village to throw a party. We had friends hauling kegs up two flights of stairs; older children babysitting younger children; neighbors setting up projectors on top of scary-tall ladders; Aunts and Uncles picking up Chinese food; Grandmas organizing appetizer trays.

Chaos was inevitable, as it should be. Post-party, it took us two weeks to fully excavate and classify the party artifacts.** That’s when I discovered a mysterious brown paper bag stuffed with dozens of ketchup*** and sweet-and-sour packets that the Chinese restaurant had shoved under the appetizer trays.

20151116_091429I detest any behavior that could be classified as “wasting food,”**** so instead of tossing them in the garbage, I hoarded the packets for several weeks. I even concocted a plan to sneak back into the Chinese Restaurant and secretly return the orphaned condiments to their original crates.

I thought, “There must be a way to use these things without actually eating them!”  The breakthrough came this past weekend, when our family put up our little Technical Christmas Tree.*****

As Scott and Max unpacked our “traditional” ornaments, I stared at the bare tree. Then back at the condiment packets. And then this little box of hooks I had just bought for a friend’s tree-decorating party:

20151213_171752The translucent sweet and sour packets – glowing green and gold under the low winter sun – would look so beautiful contrasted against the blue-white shimmer of our technical tree.

I pulled a push-pin out of the bottom of my shoe and carefully punched a tiny hole in the top of a sweet-n-sour packet:

20151213_172133Next, I threaded a hook through the hole and twisted the end shut:

20151213_174447I handed the hooked packet off to a small child to hang on the tree.



20151214_092911Repeat 28 more times:

20151213_173831As I poked more packets, I heard the crash of several delicate glass ornaments, smashed to pieces by a small child. In that moment, I knew that these soft, harmless condiments were not only glamorous, but safe for the whole family.

20151213_172919I had to work quickly, before the Family Christmas Tree Traditionalists figured out what I was up to. As of this writing, they’re still in the basement looking for extension cords:

* Anyone know the plural of whiskey sour? Whiskey Sours or Whiskeys Sour? Or, as your cousin on Facebook might say, Whiskey Sour’s.
** Partifacts! See, I’ve limited myself to only one portmanteau today. Portmanteauday! Damn, I did it again. Portman-Two-Day!  Ahhh… make it stop.
*** You read that right, non-Americans. Ketchup on an egg roll.
**** My children have inherited my disdain for wasting food, as evidenced by their proclivity for eating food off the sidewalk. Which also explains their award-winning immune systems.
***** I reject the label of “artificial” or “fake” to describe a Not-Previously-Alive Christmas Tree. I prefer the term used for Contemporary Activewear, which is called “Technical Fabric” and most definitely an improvement on the Rocky Balboa-style cotton sweatpants of the past. And in this metaphor, Rocky’s sweatpants are analogous to your “real” Christmas tree.


14 thoughts on “A Sweet-and-Sour Christmas Tree

  1. Love this, it looks great!
    And returning condiments is not a bad idea, do you know they do that in McDonald’s in India? When you order at the counter you get a handful of ketchup packets on your tray. When you are finished eating you are expected to put the unused condiments back in a collection basket near the trash. I guess that doesn’t work in America because people might think it’s ‘icky’ but after all it’s no more so than a ketchup bottle shared between tables.


    • That’s a fabulous idea! And now that you mention it, keeping the glass ketchup bottle on the table is way grosser than using someone’s UNOPENED ketchup packet. Because who among us hasn’t stuck their knife into the bottle to liberate a stubborn blob of ketchup?

      My parents have a giant glass jar in their pantry of every condiment packet they’ve ever not used since 1972 (this is my inheritance). I’m hoping to someday open a Condiment Packet Museum.

      Except the FIRE sauce from Taco Bell. I will put that on anything.

      Liked by 1 person

    • We also have a wonderful tradition of ordering Chinese take out on Christmas Day (we borrowed that from our Jewish friends). My husband’s family is Polish Catholic and mine is Irish Catholic, so Christmas Eve is a pretty big deal for both families, but Christmas day — after breakfast of course — is just one long nap, punctuated by cleaning up wrapping paper and eating Chinese food.


  2. Whiskeys sour. Also, that photo has a 1960s-era-newspaper-clipping-of-fringe-revolutionary-rally-moments-before-the-teargas-cannisters-started-flying vibe to it. Looks like Scott is rousing some serious rabble there.
    Anyway – important question: how does that tree look when the tree lights are on?


    • Well, Scott was rousing some rabble — to the DANCE FLOOR! There are a couple other pictures from that night floating around. However, one of them is me showing off my dance moves (AKA, “how low can you go,”) which looks like I’m giving birth in a prom dress. There’s also one where Scott and I are dancing together but if you didn’t know it was a party atmosphere you would assume I’m about to punch him in the sternum.

      And, for the last time — I don’t have a camera anymore! Sam dropped it in a bucket of water when I was painting the front door, three projects ago. I’ve been using my phone to take all these pictures, which are appropriately terrible, and unusable in low light. But a new (SLR) camera is in the works, promise!


  3. I think you should up the decoration quotient with some pretty pale green wasabi packets, interspersed with those little fish-shaped soy bottles with a red or purple top – do you have those, or is it just us? I love the idea that, should some post-festive-binge meal prove to be a bit on the blah side, you can just tweak a decoration off the tree to add a bit of zing. Garnish two ways!


    • Yes! As I was telling Pam, we have a tradition of ordering Chinese take out on Christmas day, since there’s never anything going on in either of our families after Christmas Eve. It would be fun to sit around with our Mongolian Beef or Sweet-n-Sour vegetables and just grab an ornament off the Christmas Tree.

      Somehow, the ketchup packets just didn’t seem right for the occasion.

      And no, we don’t have little fish-shaped soy bottles. Not fair!


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