And so, it commences…

The brightest, most blessed season of the year. My heart has been leaning into it for weeks, friends. But the miracle of the first dawning of Advent never ceases to catch me off guard–can it really have come again? The earliest tasks of the season always bear with them a certain tender awe. And always the sweetest amazement that He actually came…

Caspian lends his aid to the Advent Wreath

" do Him honor Who's our King, and Lord of all this reveling..."

Puck's already sporting his Christmas best

the Advent Wreath on Sunday afternoon, all anticipation

We fetched home our Christmas tree on Friday, after a jolly search (and I was so overcome with the rightness of the one we found I hugged it on the spot). I’m very particular about Christmas trees–and even more so once we get them home. We have as many traditions for the preparation as for the actual decorating. 😉 But as my tree has to last and be lovely from the first Sunday in Advent right on through to the last waning moments of 12th Night, I can’t be too lavish with my care. For one, we never carry our tree on the top of our car–think of all that wind rushing over it and drying it out! (But I’ll spare you the details of the homeward journey, involving a tree trunk on the console of the Explorer and an eighty-pound dog in my lap! ;)) As soon as we get it home it receives a fresh cut and an instant immersion in what Philip calls my ‘tree brew’: a recipe that has miraculously guaranteed a fresh and fragrant tree throughout the duration of the season. It originally came from the Fermilab website and even though it’s a little extra trouble I absolutely swear by it. Here is the recipe, if anyone is interested:

Two cups Karo syrup
Two ounces liquid chlorine bleach
Two pinches Epsom salts
One-half teaspoon Borax
One teaspoon chelated iron
Hot water to fill two-gallon bucket

Fill a two-gallon bucket with hot water to within one inch of the top and add the remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly, dissolving ingredients. Set aside.

With a saw, cut an inch off the bottom of the trunk of your recently purchased tree. Try to make a level cut.

Immediately stand the trunk of the tree in the solution and leave for 24 hours.

Keep the remaining solution. Place your tree in a tree stand that contains a well for liquid.

When the tree is in its final resting place, use a plastic cup to pour solution from the bucket into the tree well. Fill the well.

Every day without exception, “top up” the well of the tree with the solution from the two-gallon bucket.

(Note 1: We cover the well of our tree stand with a screen of hardware cloth, just to keep any curious kitties from sampling the brew–I can’t think it would be good for them.)

(Note 2: While this recipe is indicated as a ‘fire-retardant’ on the Fermilab website, I am making no such claim-I am sharing it as a preservative and fragrance-enhancer only.)


And so, welcome to Advent, dear ones. My prayer for you all is that it may be the sweetest and the holiest you have ever known.

p.s. Here is a fabulous Christmas piece that I thought you would all enjoy. It’s written by our dear and talented friend (and husband of my darling writing partner), Luke Boggs, for The Sunday Paper last year. Enjoy! 🙂

A Passion for the Season

p.p.s. I just want to take this opportunity to make sure that you all know how very much the mere fact of your being here and reading these words means to me. And the words that you share in return absolutely overwhelm me. I assure you, though I may not be able to reply as extensively as I would like to, I read and cherish every single comment and kindness you have sent my way. I am humbled by your grace and your graciousness and I am inspired to press on by the way that you put me in courage with your words. And I do not exaggerate in the least when I say that you are the best part of this chronicled experience online.

Thank you, friends…

21 Responses to “And so, it commences…”

  1. Michelle Mitchell says:

    Good afternoon,

    I, too, share your excitement for Advent. Would you be able to share the Advent devotional or lesson that you use during the season?



  2. Paige says:

    Lanier – I wanted to write and let you know that although I’ve never commented before, I check your blog for updates every day! I found you a few years ago when I was searching the internet for hope that Victoria Magazine would be revived and have been a fan ever since. I love your writing and photos and have read many books based on your recommendations. Thank you so much for sharing your fabulous talents with your readers.

  3. Lara says:

    I so enjoy your writing–you really help me to see and cherish the beauty of the seasons in this our Father’s world!

    P.S. We are considering getting an Airstream. My husband laughed when I went to your website to show him pictures! 😉

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      No kidding, Lara! That’s fabulous!!

      (And if you need any tips, please just let us know–Philip turned up some great resources when we were looking for ours! 🙂

  4. Gretchen says:

    My friend, you never cease to give me a fresh admiration and appreciation for the season… And I shall have to show my hubby your tree brew–what a great idea!


  5. Meredith says:

    I was introduced to your blog during Advent last year. It is hard to believe a whole year of seasons has passed by and here we are again. Thank you for the year! May your Advent be truly blessed.

  6. I have gone back and re-read your past Advent posts even in the middle of summer. They are so beautiful.

    I wrote on my blog that I’m trying to overcome the Christmas crankies this year. I LOVE this time of year but a perfect storm of circumstances have left me in a down mood.

    However, I will start reading through Come Thou Long Expected Jesus tomorrow morning throughout the rest of Advent and I am starting Christmas decorations today. I will have Christmas music playing in the background.

    If nothing else, I CHOOSE joy instead of blech. Looking forward to your beautiful writing as always.

  7. […] should remind me, too, that Christmas décor traditionally goes up sometime in here.  Reading of my friend Lanier’s delight as the season commences could almost make me want to dig out the decoration boxes.  But so far, I’m quite satisfied with […]

  8. lea says:

    oh my land! how have i never found you before in all
    my blog searching! you are my Christmas tree mentor.
    i am going to make up a bucket of your brew and pray
    my tree lasts this year. thank you!!!!

    “come, thou long expected Jesus . . . “

  9. Kristen Anna says:

    I love your Advent posts, Lanier! (And every other post ;))

    You’ve inspired me to host my own Advent worship service this year! Do you have any advice or resources? I’ve had the idea for a long time, but have been putting off the planning of it.

    Blessings to you and your family this Advent season!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Hello, Kristen!

      One idea might be to use the tradition Anglican setting of the Nine Lessons and Carols, a lovely interchange of Scripture reading and corporate singing that really can lend itself to a more intimate home setting. The readings, or lessons, carry you all the way from the Fall to the Incarnation, and the carols can be selected to suit the text. As an example, here is the program for the service at King’s College in Cambridge (which you can listen to live on NPR on Christmas Eve, by the way ;)):

      Blessings to you and yours, as well! 🙂


      • Kristen Anna says:

        Hi Lanier!

        Thanks so much! I’m going to be planning everything this weekend with some friends and that will be a great resource. (And it would be fun to listen to live on Christmas Eve!)

        We’ll be buying our tree and decorating this weekend and I think I’ll try your ‘tree brew’. Thanks for sharing 🙂


  10. Laura Boggs says:

    I’m mixing up a batch of tree brew tonight. I feel like Harry Potter.

  11. Jodi Lenz says:

    Dear Lanier,

    Thanks for the visit. Reading Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory is a tradition in our house, and I can’t read it without getting choked up every time. If you do make the fruitcake, I thought it would be helpful to tell you that the tin I baked in was 10 inches in diameter and three inches deep. I’ve never tried to bake it in smaller tins, so I don’t know how the cooking time would vary. Hope you give it a try. xo

  12. Josh says:

    Hi, Lanier,

    Your Advent posts are always such a blessing to me. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  13. Mary Beth says:

    Next year I will definitely use your brew to keep my tree alive! This year’s Douglas fir dried up soooo quickly. I was so disappointed, since last year’s tree stayed so gorgeous and fresh right up until the sad day it came down. Thanks for your recipe!!!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      I can’t recommend it highly enough, Mary Beth–we took our tree down day before yesterday and it was SO hard as it was still so fragrant and lovely!

  14. jodi says:

    Well, our advent wreath will remain stationary on the tea table this year. Last year the ribbons hanging from the chandelier caught fire. That had never happened in all the years before. No damage was done, so we all thought it was quite hilarious. Also, I noticed my fruitcake comment from last year was up. That’s strange, but fortuitous! Because I now know the answer to your question. Yes, the cake can be made in smaller tins. Reduce the bake time by 10 minutes.

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Oh, thanks, Jodi–I am determined to do that one of these days.

      And glad that the Advent Wreath Incident was…without incident. 😉

  15. […] precious friend Lanier, a veritable Christmas fairy, has had a collection of beautiful posts about Christmas trees and books and birds on her site lately.  In her latest, she shares two […]

Leave a Reply

Please leave these two fields as-is: