Sunday, January 31, 2010

Alice Springs angel

Who says penguins can’t fly? Not the Australians. It took me years to find my first penguin angel, but in one short visit to Australia, I found two. This one is from the Outcrop Shop, a gift store in downtown Alice Springs, one of the most unlikely places I’ve ever been. I never would have expected to find such an unusual and fantastic penguin ornament in such a faraway place, even though Christmas was not far off. Look on a map and you’ll see that Alice Springs is about as far away from anywhere as you can get. They even have a post in town with arrowed signs pointing in all directions: Chicago 15,749 km, Johannesburg 10,308 km, Rome 14,281 km, etc. The only reason I was there is because it was somewhat close to Uluru, the mystical monolith in Australia’s Red Center formerly known as Ayres Rock, and I thought I ought to stop by for a look. I’m glad I did.
It was Thanksgiving, which is not a holiday in Australia, and I was feeling a tiny bit homesick about it. A few days before, on the way to Phillip Island, we stopped at a farm that had kangaroos and turkeys in side-by-side pens. That morning, out in the desert at Uluru, one of the cafes at the Ayres Rock Resort had something with cranberries on the menu (maybe a muffin, I don’t remember) so turkey dinner was on my mind. I went to a roadhouse-style restaurant that could have been the real-life inspiration for the décor at Outback restaurants. Looking at the menu, with its expected sampling of burgers and Aussie bush tucker offerings, I found the perfect dish for my Thanksgiving dinner: pumpkin gnocchi. Maybe there was an angel looking over my shoulder.
The Australian Open is over today and, as if I planned it perfectly, I’ve run out of Australian penguin ornaments to talk about. I have a lot more stories to tell about Australia, but I guess they will have to wait for another day on a different blog.

Russ “Celebrate & Decorate” penguin with filigree wings, green and red hat and scarf, sequins and beads
Acquired: November 26, 2004
Number: 253
Price: 12.50 $AUS
Size: about 8 inches tall

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Going to the zoo

You’ve probably heard this one. I know I have. Many times.
A police officer stops a driver in a white convertible when he sees the back seat is full of penguins.
“Where do you think you’re going with these penguins?” the officer asked, as he tried to remember if there was anything he learned back in the police academy about laws concerning the transportation of penguins.
“I’m taking them to the zoo,” the driver replied.
“Well, O.K.,” the officer said, satisfied that everything must be on the up-and-up. “Drive carefully and get them there safely.”
“Thank you, officer,” the driver said as he drove off toward the zoo.
The next day, the officer sees the white convertible drive by, and to his surprise, the back seat is still full of penguins. He pulled the car over, looked in disbelief at the driver, and asked, ”Are these the same penguins you had yesterday.?”
“Why, yes, they are,” replied the driver.
“Well, I thought you told me you were taking them to the zoo,” the officer said.
“That’s right, officer,” said the driver. “And they had such a good time, today I’m taking them to a ball game.”
This is one of only a few penguin jokes I know. It seemed like a good time to tell it with this ornament that I bought at a highway rest stop on my way to the zoo. He’s made of felt and has a music chip implanted in his belly that plays “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” I was staying in Brisbane, which I had added to my Australian journey for one purpose: to go to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo about an hour or two north of the city. They don’t have any penguins at the zoo, but they do have some mighty ferocious crocodiles and other amazing animals for you to enjoy. Crikey, I had a fantastic time, even though I missed Steve himself, because he was back in New York for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Plush musical penguin that plays “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” orange feet and beak, wearing red scarf and hat with green trim.
Acquired: On the road to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, Queensland, Australia
Number: 254
Size: 8.5 inches tall

Friday, January 29, 2010

Odd couple

The colors are unusual for penguins, if that’s what they really are. Any upright bird with flipper-like wings qualifies as a penguin in my book. I think this pair comes from one of the shops in the Queen Victoria building in Sydney, Australia. It was almost Christmas and the Queen Victoria building was decked out for holidays. A huge tree began on the first floor and punched its way through the ceiling as it climbed to the top level of the mall. The QVB is worth a visit any time of the year for its stained glass windows, a huge hanging clock that tells the story of colonization of Australia, a full-size carriage carved in jade, the statue outside of Queen Victoria herself, and, oh yeah, the stores.

Brown and blue ceramic pair with scarves
Acquired: November 2004, Sydney, Australia
Number: 248
Price: unknown
Size: about 1.75 inches tall

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jingle bells

If you don’t have time for a trip to Phillip Island for the Penguin Parade, you can catch a boat ride from downtown Melbourne on the south bank of the Yarra River to see the little blue penguins. I found this ornament in a news shop not far from where the penguin boats were docked. I bought another penguin — not a Christmas tree ornament but a framed ceramic tile of a little blue penguin — at one of the craft market booths that stretch along the river on the weekend. And not far away from all this is Melbourne Park where they’re playing tennis now at the Australian Open.

Small plush musical penguin that plays “Jingle Bells,” red feet and beak, red Santa hat.
Acquired: November 2004, south bank of the Yarra River, Melbourne, Australia
Number: 251
Price: 2.95 $AUS
Size: 4 inches tall 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Angry angel

I have several penguin angels, and I think they’ve all had a turn at the top of a tree, including this one with his angry, yet adorable face. I love the little sewn on buttons and those plaid wings. He was one of the two ornaments I found at the cavernous Christmas Cave in the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. I made use of Melbourne’s wonderful and extensive public transportation system to get to the store, but finding this little ornament made the long ride worthwhile.

Raggedy felt penguin angel with plaid wings and an angry expression
Acquired: November 20, 2004, the Christmas Cave, Melbourne, Australia
Number: 250
Price: 5.95 $AUS
Size: About 4.25 inches tall

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Little blue beanie

During the Australian Open tennis, the Melbourne tourist board is running a TV ad that features a quick glimpse of penguins scurrying across a beach. It goes by so quickly that it took two or three times before I realized what I was seeing. If you blink, or if you’ve never been to the penguin parade on Phillip Island, you’d probably think it was a bunch of mice running across your screen. But they are penguins, little blue penguins to be precise, or fairy penguins as they are also known, the smallest of the 20 or so varieties of penguins on the planet. They live along the south coast of Australia and build their nests in the sand on shore. Some will even burrow under your porch and set up housekeeping there. During the day the parents head out to sea to find food, and at night they come back to their burrows and their hungry chicks.

You can see the penguin parade via a daylong bus tour from Melbourne. After sunset small groups of penguins ride the waves to shore, then run across a floodlit stretch of beach before their predators see them. After watching a hundred or so penguins come ashore, you walk back from the grandstand area to the visitor’s center, stopping to watch them as they head through the brush to their nests, all the while squawking back and forth with their hungry chicks. It is a sight and a sound unlike anything you’ll see or hear anywhere else.

Back at the visitor’s center there are exhibits and information about the little blues and other wildlife on the island, such as the wallabies. There is also one enormous gift shop with just about anything you can imagine with a penguin on it or in it or shaped like a penguin. Ever since I officially became a penguin ornament collector, I’ve had to swear off other penguin items (with occasional lapses), otherwise I would have been broke after a visit to the penguin parade gift shop and I never would have made it through customs. Oddly, in the entire store, with less than 30 shopping days left until Christmas, I couldn’t find a single penguin ornament. Instead I got this little blue beanie, which has a magnet in its right wing, I suppose to hang on a refrigerator. I could turn it into a legitimate tree ornament by sewing a hanging loop onto its head, like the ones on my Ty beanies, but for now I just stick a wire tree hanger, gently, into its neck and hang him on the tree.

Little blue beanie

Acquired: November 21, 2004, Phillip Island Penguin Parade gift shop, Australia

Number: 252

Size: 4.5 inches tall

Price: 3.95 $AUS

Monday, January 25, 2010

Together again

Watching the Australian Open tennis over the weekend reminds me of Melbourne, where I found the Christmas Cave, the largest Christmas store in Australia. It might just be one of the largest in the world. When I arrived, several tourist buses were parked on the side streets in the suburbs where it’s located. There were only two penguin ornaments in the whole place, however, and this one was broken when I bought it. It took me several tries to glue the parent and chick together, because it was difficult to find something that worked well on glass. Also, I think these were broken pieces of two separate ornaments that didn’t fit together easily. Finally, after gluing tissue in between the two pieces, I got them to stick, and they’ve been together ever since.
Santa’s Brand crystal parent and chick with black wings, Christmas Cave, Melbourne, Australia
Acquired: November 20, 2004
Number: 249
Price: 9.95 $AUS
Size: About 3.5 inches tall

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Away we go

This is a massive ceramic ornament, but he looks so light on his feet as his scarf floats in the breeze while he glides across the ice on one skate with the other foot raised in the back. The gold glitter trim on his chest, scarf, hat and skates are a nice touch. But his expression, his puffy cheeks and that raised wing waving to us as he whooshes by are what make him special.
The last few posts have all featured ornaments I found in Stowe, Vt., which I left today after another great ski trip. There are a few more ornaments from Stowe that I’ll post another time, and I hope there will be more penguins from return trips to one of my favorite vacation towns.

Penguin on golden skates
Acquired: Feb. 2, 2005, The Christmas Loft, Stowe, Vt.
Number: 233
Price: $7.99
Size: 4.75 inches tall

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The same, only different

These ornaments are the same, but with different colored scarves, so I’m showing the back of one for the big ribbon bow and the front of the other so you can his enormous gold beak and those big blue eyes.

I bought the first one on a baseball trip to Kansas City and packed it away until Christmas. When I saw the green one at Stowe Mercantile, I knew it looked like the other one, but I wasn’t sure about the color. I knew it was the same, yet somehow it looked different. I decided to buy it, even if it was an exact duplicate, because I liked it.

When I got home I poked around the Christmas tree to find the first one. I was happy and surprised that they had different colored scarves.

Merck Family’s Old World Christmas small glass ornament with red glittery scarf, big orange beak and blue eyes

Acquired: Dec. 27, 2008, Stowe Mercantile, Stowe, Vt.

Number: 609

Price: $8

Size: 2 inches tall

Merck Family’s Old World Christmas small glass ornament with green glittery scarf, big orange beak and blue eyes

Acquired: May 15, 2008, Holiday Magic, Kansas City, Mo.

Number: 463

Price: $6.99

Size: 2 inches tall

Friday, January 22, 2010

All the right moves

It helps to be flexible when you ski and it’s not a bad idea to stretch before your first run. This penguin has what it takes to get ready for the mountain. The enameled pieces of its articulated body are linked together in away that allows the body to bend from side to side. He’s trimmed with gold accents, including his beak and feet, and he has big ruby-colored eyes. The ornament was bought with several others, but I assigned No. 600 to this one, because it’s so different from the others in the collection.

Cloisonne penguin with articulated body, gold accents and red glass eyes

Acquired: Dec. 26, 2008, The Christmas Loft, Stowe, Vt.

Number: 600

Price: $12.99

Size: 3 inches tall

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two happy skiers

It’s Winter Rendezvous ski week in Stowe, Vt., and these two acrylic penguins on candy cane skis would have loved it on Mt. Mansfield today. In the morning the middle of the mountain was wrapped in clouds. On top, the sun was shining on a pure white world of snow covered trees and rocks. The trails were as smooth as silk.
The ornaments are identical. I got the one on the right on a side trip to Williamsburg, Va., and the other almost two years later on a trip to Stowe. It was the first time I bought an identical ornament unintentionally. As the collection has grown, that has happened more frequently.

Clear plastic penguin on candy cane striped skis and block of ice
Acquired: April 3, 2004, The Christmas Mouse, Williamsburg, Va.
Number: 246
Price: $7
Size: 3.75 inches tall

Clear plastic penguin on candy cane striped skis and block of ice
Acquired: Feb. 3, 2006, The Christmas Loft, Stowe, Vt.
Number: 286
Price: $5.99
Size: 3.75 inches tall

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Moving on

Laughing, loaded with gifts and decked out in a glittery green scarf and red stocking hat, this penguin looks like he’s in a hurry to get to the holiday festivities. I have a number of other Merck Family ornaments that will appear in future posts. They have a distinctive tag on the hanging loop with the initials O.W.C. I found this one at the Christmas Loft, which had become one of the regular stops on my ski trips to Stowe, Vt. I'm back again today for a few days, but the Christmas Loft is closed now, although it's still open in a couple of other locations in Vermont and their web site can be found online. The black spot on the front view of the penguin is actually a hole, probably a small blowout. I don’t remember seeing the flaw until this year, so I don’t know how or when it happened.
Merck Family’s Old World Christmas “Perky Penguin” glass ornament
Acquired: Feb. 2, 2005, The Christmas Loft, Stowe, Vt.
Number: 232
Size: About 3.5 inches tall
Price: $6.99

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A penguin of a different color

This glass ornament stands out from the crowd with its red bow tie and distinctive purple coloring. Green glitter adds to the penguin’s sparkle. I bought it and 25 other ornaments during a shopping spree at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City. I missed my train home at Penn Station that evening, and decided to kill time by checking out the Christmas decorations at Macy’s across the street. Two hours and three more missed trains later, I left the store with four Big Bags full of penguins. Lucky for me, most of them were 40 percent off.

Another ornament just like the purple one, but in more traditional colors, was included in the bunch. I guess I didn’t realize they were the same style or I would have assigned them consecutive numbers. I might also have asked the store clerks why one cost $6 and the other one only $4.50.

Little purple glass penguin with red bow tie and green glitter accents. Made in Poland.

Acquired: November 28, 2006, Macy’s Herald Square, New York

Number: 323

Size: About 2 inches tall

Price: $6.00 (40 percent off)

Little glass penguin with gold-trimmed red bow tie, red beak and feet. Made in Poland.

Acquired: November 28, 2006, Macy’s Herald Square, New York

Number: 337

Size: About 2 inches tall

Price: $4.50 (40 percent off)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Southwest style

A Jemez pueblo ceramic penguin is unusal, but it’s not the only southwestern pueblo penguin I own, although it is the only Christmas tree ornament of its kind in my collection. My parents gave me a beautiful ceramic penguin figurine, from Isleta pueblo. It’s about 6 inches tall, and it’s one of the many penguin objects on display at my home year-round.

The tree ornament came from Susan’s Christmas Shop near the plaza in Santa Fe sometime in the 1990s, I think. The artist from Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico signed the ceramic penguin on the bottom: “KSG Jemez NM.”
I was in Susan’s again in the summer of 2009 and saw similar examples, but decided not to add any more to the collection for now. I didn’t leave the store empty handed though. Stay tuned for more about Susan’s Christmas shop in future posts.
Acquired: 1990s, Susan’s Christmas Shop, Santa Fe, N.M.
Number: 0153
Size: about 2.5 inches tall

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Half dozen

One year, the penguin ornament makers conspired against me and introduced several boxed sets. This increased both the total ornament count and the number of duplicates in the collection. The nice thing about duplicates is that they can be spread all around the tree and can be seen from multiple angles. This set came in a box of “12 hand painted baubles,” but only half of them have the penguins in their big red scarves. The other six shiny silver bulbs remain in the box unused.

Set of six painted silver glass bulbs

Acquired: November 5, 2008, Borders book store, Stroudsburg, Pa.

Number: 561-566

Price: $12.99 for boxed set of 12 ornaments, half plain and half with painted penguins

Size: each about 1.5 inches in diameter.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sasha’s penguin

My Penguin Tree has borne its first fruit. When I told a colleague at work that I had started the blog, he said he had something for me. A few days later I found this tiny gray penguin taped to my computer. It was made by Sasha Kolomatsky whose father, Michael, works with me at The New York Times. She used Crayola Model Maker, a kind of modeling clay that hardens when it is exposed to the air. It’s the first new ornament of the year. Welcome to My Penguin Tree, Sasha, and thanks for the penguin.

Acquired: Jan. 13, 2010

Number: 769

Size: About 1 inch tall

Artist: Sasha Kolomatsky

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tiniest penguins

This Hallmark ornament is not the smallest in the collection, but the penguins on the are the smallest because the ice cube they’re standing on is so big. The ornament is so tiny that one year it got lost in the tree while I was trying to hang it near the top. I didn’t find it until after Christmas when I put the tree away. I’m not even sure I knew the baby was holding a fish until I saw the enlarged photo, or even that there was a baby. The ice cube is etched with the year 2001 the year I got it from my friends Jenny and Jason. They grew up with my nieces and they have always called me Uncle Don. Jenny is this blog's first follower.
Acquired: December 2001
Number: 0178
Price: gift
Size: about 1 1/8 inch tall

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eleventh-hour Santa

On my to the Poconos one Christmas Eve, I had to stop on the way for some last-minute gift shopping. I found everything I needed at R.J. Mars a variety and gift store in Clinton, N.J., which is about halfway between where I lived in Middletown, N.J., and Henryville, Pa., where my brother and his family lived at the time (and where I live now). I also treated myself to this little penguin ornament. At first I thought the head had broken off a full-bodied penguin ornament, but there was a bowl full of just the heads and there was no indication that they used to be attached to bodies. Even if it had been a broken-off head, I probably would have bought it anyway. I have a number of broken ornaments that I’ve rescued from clearance tables over the years.

Glass penguin head with oversized red cone-shaped glass Santa hat.

Acquired: Dec. 24, 2005, R.J. Mars, Clinton, N.J.

Number: 284

Size: About 2.75 inches tall

Price: $3.99

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mismatched mittens

These two look like they came as a set, but I found them years apart in two different states with more than 100 other ornaments in between. The small one came from Macy’s in New York City, the large one from Target in Middletown, N.J. Other than the size, the only real differences between them are the holly accent on the smaller one’s droopy Santa hat and the extra gold detailing around the large one’s neck. For some reason, I have a notation on the small one that says “3 in N Pole,” probably part of the branding for Macy’s Holiday Lane line of decorations.

Large penguin in a white snowflake mitten
Acquired: December 2003 Target, Middletown, N.J.
Number: 207
Price: unknown.
Size: about 4.75 inches tall.

Small penguin in a white snowflake mitten
Acquired: Nov. 28, 2006, Macy’s Herald Square, New York City.
Number: 330
Price: $2.99 (40 percent off)
Size: about 3.25 inches tall.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My penguin posse

Thanks to a number of alert and generous friends and relatives, I have a lot more penguin Christmas tree ornaments than if I were doing this on my own. And not just ornaments: you name it and I probably have one with penguins on it. SallyAnn Rogers, a college friend, and her son, Ian, found this glass ornament for me in the early 1990s. I still have the box they used to carefully pack it and send it to me, but sadly, I did not record the year.
It’s very possible that I’ve mixed things up over the years and have the wrong penguin in the wrong box. If so, I apologize for not keeping better track. Whether this is the right penguin or not, I’d like to take this moment to thank SallyAnn and Ian and all the others in my penguin posse for continually surprising me with the penguins they find for me.
Acquired: early 1990s.
Number: 0107
Price: gift
Size: about 4 inches tall.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A gift

Christopher Radko began making Christmas tree ornaments in an Old World tradition shortly after I started collecting them. They are expensive, but I don’t mind the price tag so much considering the detail and quality of each design.
The newer Radko ornaments are more elaborate than this simpler, naturally-colored representation of a penguin. Those eyelashes are something else, however, and the ornament has another striking feature: the entire body is sprinkled with a fine green glitter that catches the light in a very special way.
It was a gift from a friend who should be celebrating today. Happy Birthday, Anne.
Number: 0144
Price: gift
Size: about 5.25 inches tall

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Frosty the penguin

Is it a penguin or a snowman? Those pointed arms look like wings to me, but I’ll concede this one could go either way. This was the only item that looked anything like a penguin ornament at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. I really like the icicle design and I wish I had bought a dozen of them to scatter around the tree.

As I write this, there’s a cold snap in Florida, and the strawberry growers are working to keep their crops from freezing. One technique is to spray water on the plants to coat them with ice that traps the warmth inside. It makes the strawberries look kind of like this ornament with icicles hanging off each one. Keep your fingers crossed. We want them to have enough fruit for the strawberry shortcake booths at the festival this year.

This ornament is the first one with a designated number. I hope to determine an order for the ones that preceded it and assign numbers to all of them.

Acquired: March 10, 2002. Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City.

Number: 194

Price: no record.

Size: about 5.5 inches tall.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Here’s another pair with a mysterious past. Probably both were gifts and maybe the same year. They look like they’ve been rolled in sugar crystals, but they’d be just as sweet even without the candy coating.
Acquired: Unknown.
Number: 0036 0037
Price: gift
Size: about 2.75 inches tall.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Two cute

These little ceramic adelie penguins came to me about the same time in the middle ‘80s. At least one of them was a gift. This was well before I realized I was collecting penguin ornaments as a hobby, and long before I would find out that memory takes an ever-accelerating dive as the years go by. I didn’t start assigning numbers and recording details until I had close to 200 ornaments.
The collection includes about 40 duplicates, triplicates or other multiples, some that I bought myself either intentionally or unintentionally. Others came as part of a set. I always tell people not to worry when they find out they’ve given me a penguin that I already have. I like having backups in case one breaks, and there are often subtle differences that make each one unique.
Acquired: mid 1980s.
Number: 0074 0075
Price: no record.
Size: both about 1.75 inches tall.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

All's fair

This small glass penguin was probably not intended to be a Christmas ornament. I’m not even sure it’s a penguin. Sometimes I take liberties and use my imagination. I found it at the Italian Renaissance Festival at Vizcaya in Miami, Fla. I probably chose this one because the red wings and beak are a Christmas color.
Acquired: March 1998. Miami, Fla.
Number: 0106
Price: no record.
Size: about 2 inches tall.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snow bird

This ornament took my breath away when I first saw it and it still does when I unpack it each year from its original blue box and crisp tissue paper.
It’s silver and white, like a wintry sky in Montreal, where I found it at one of my favorite Christmas shops (Noël Eternel) in one of my favorite neighborhoods (Vieux Montréal) in one of my favorite cities.
Glass ornament, “handicraft from Thuringian artists”
Krebs Glas Lauscha GmbH, Germany
Acquired: May 19, 2001. Montreal, Quebec.
Number: 0155
Price: no record.
Size: about 5.25 inches tall.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Red or green?

It’s the official state question of New Mexico, where waiters ask which type of chile you want with your burritos or enchiladas. Which one is hotter? It depends on the recipe, not the color.
I found these two frosty glass penguins in Albuquerque’s Old Town around 1983, probably after having an enchilada combo plate at La Placita with both green and red chile. It’s hard for me to choose.
These two look like they couldn’t decide either when they dressed up for the holidays. One wears a green top hat and red scarf, the other has a red Santa hat and a green scarf. Those bright red beaks make me wonder if they’ve been deep into a beef burrito with red chile.
The one with the green top hat has a broken wing. It was always that way, although I don’t think I noticed at the time I bought it.

Acquired: around 1983. Albuquerque, N.M.
Number: unassigned 0076 0077
Price: no record.
Size: green hat about 2.75 inches tall, red hat about 2.5 inches tall.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Angel in the outfield

I looked for a penguin angel for the top of my tree for years. I never expected it to take so long, and I never expected to find one in Cooperstown, N.Y., in the midst of all the baseball memorabilia shops around the Hall of Fame.
I was there for the Hall of Fame exhibition game between the Florida Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers, part of the induction festivities in 2001. Hoping to score some rare Marlins souvenirs, I instead walked away with one of my favorite ornaments. It was unexpected — out of left field — the only penguin ornament at the Christmas shop, but just what I wanted.
Debbie Mumm's Holiday Collection penguin glass ornament with checkered angel wings, holding a blue and gold star and wearing a holly necklace. Santa's World, Kurt S. Adler. Handcrafted in China.
Acquired: Monday, Aug. 6, 2001. Cooperstown, N.Y.
Number: 154
Size: About 5 inches tall
Price: $10.00

Sunday, January 3, 2010

All my penguins, 2009

Welcome to My Penguin Tree.

For more than 30 years, I've collected hundreds of penguin Christmas tree ornaments from the places I visit. My family and friends have added more with their gifts. Now I'm going to photograph and catalog the collection and I thought other penguin fans might like to follow along.

Here are a few snaps of my three penguin trees in 2009.

The big tree is downstairs in my living room. It holds all my glass and ceramic ornaments and a few of my other favorites. Here's a closer look at the big tree:

Also downstairs in the tv den is the wood tree. All the ornaments are made of wood or other plant materials.

In the bottom center of the closeup is a penguin with a green scarf holding a gold horn. It's from a set of four musicians, a gift from my mother, that began it all. Watch for details in a future post.

Fabric ornaments hang from pine garland in the dining room and living room windows.

The rest of the penguins are on a tree upstairs in the guest room.

This tree is older than my penguins. It was our tree in Florida in the '60s when I was growing up. We kids hated it at first, but Mom hated sweeping up pine needles even more. Gradually, we got used to the idea of an artificial tree, and we had to admit it looked good — almost real — once it was decorated. Also, it was fun to unpack the branches and assemble the tree every year. Sadly, this may be its last stand. The holes for the branches in its wooden trunk are so worn down that I had to tie some of the boughs to one another to hold them up. I had to prop one leg of the tree stand on a book to keep it from tipping over. The tree was first retired after 2005 when I needed a bigger one, but that only lasted two years when the ornament collection outgrew even the new big tree in 2008. I call it the Bonnie Loch tree, because that was the name of our neighborhood.

The current ornament total is 768 (including four retired because of damage). Now, a new year begins.