Friday, April 30, 2010

Snow show

My sister Xena took me and our nieces, Becky and Jenny, to see Slava’s Snow Show, a theatrical evening of clowning around that ends with the audience in the middle of a blizzard of tissue paper bits. If that were not enough, she also gave me this glass penguin from the Museum of Modern Art that has its own snowstorm going on inside his round belly and some penguin gel stickers for my windows. That’s three excellent gifts from one great sister.

Museum of Modern Art hollow, frosty glass penguin with snowflakes inside
Acquired: December 2006
Number: 351           
Size: 5.75 inches tall 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Other side of the pillow

This cool stuffed penguin looks the same on both sides. It’s from my brother Drew’s family. I think my sister-in-law Sandy told me it was a craft kit.

Printed pillow
Acquired: 1980s, gift from Drew, Sandy, Becky and Jenny Parsons
Number: 072
Size: 6.75 inches tall

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where was my head?

I can't believe I forgot to post again yesterday. It was about 2 in the morning when I realized that I hadn't fulfilled my daily penguin obligation. This crafty felt penguin head should have reminded me to use my head. I believe my brother's family found it at a craft fair or church bazaar.

Felt penguin head
Acquired: Acquired: 1980s, gift from Drew, Sandy, Becky and Jenny Parsons
Number: 071
Size: 3 inches tall

Monday, April 26, 2010

A penguin in a pear tree?

I know, I know. No way this is a penguin. But someone brought it to the New York penguin tree party, and I was too impressed with the effort to not make an exception. Hey, at least it’s the right colors, sort of, and the right body shape. I can remember the moment I got this ornament and hear the guest apologizing, but I can’t remember who it was. I wish I could, because I really like having this one on the tree, penguin or not.

Knitted bird, probably a partridge, made in Peru
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0070
Size: 4.5 inches long

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Going to a party

These three gents are all dressed up in their velvet vests and enourmous red bow ties. I’m pretty sure one of them arrived the night of the New York penguin tree party.

Three stuffed felt penguins with red vests and big bow ties
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 067 068 069
Size: 4.75 inches tall

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Good things come in threes

These three all came from different people and at least one of them probably arrived at the New York penguin tree party. I’m posting them now along with the other ornaments that I got that night. It’s easy to see why I wound up with so many of these: they are super cute.

Plush stuffed penguins with red ribbon bow ties
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0064 0065 0066
Size: 4.25 inches tall

Friday, April 23, 2010

Paper penguins

Each year, when I unpack the ornaments, I’m always glad to see this one, because it makes me remember the friend who gave it me. It’s not really an ornament, but the cut off cover of a Christmas card with a hole punched in the corner for a string to hang it. “I couldn’t find an ornament,” Charles explained when he gave it to me at the New York penguin tree party. I knew it was from a Christmas card right away, because I send penguin cards every year and this was the card I sent one year. I was, and still am, impressed that he went to so much trouble to bring something to hang on the tree, even though I never even hinted that everyone should. Charles and I played a lot of bridge over the years. He introduced me to the competitive world of duplicate bridge, where I once earned a miniscule fraction of an international master point with him. Charles also took me on my first trip to Marie’s Crisis, a piano bar on Grove Street in New York City, where you can learn a thing or too about Broadway show tunes. It can be an intimidating place the first time ("how do they know all the words?"), but not so bad with a friend.

Paper Christmas card cover, gift from Charles MeEwen
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0063

Thursday, April 22, 2010


This is one I remember from the 1980s New York Christmas party. Yannick Rice, a colleague at The New York Times, gave it to me. At the time, it was probably the most unusual ornament on the tree, and still stands out from the crowd all these years and hundreds of ornaments later.

Little flat straw ornament
Acquired; 1980s
Number: 0062

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Penguins are covered with feathers, but this penguin looks like it has borrowed a suit of feathers from one of its flying cousins. It makes you wonder if it’s really supposed to be a penguin, but the upright posture and webbed feet make me pretty certain that this is a penguin. It’s part of the 1980s New York Christmas party bonanza, but I don’t remember who brought this gift.

Feather-covered penguin
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0061

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chocolate surprises

These little ornaments were inside chocolates in a gift basket. Sounds dangerous to me, but I’m not sure about the details. It’s possible that they were part of the gift basket, but not actually inside the chocolate candy. My sister Gale sent them to me and I’ll have to remember to ask her about them one of these days.

Tiny surprises from chocolate candy basket
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0059 0060
Size: 1.25 inches tall

Monday, April 19, 2010

Star power

If the bold plaid scarf doesn’t win you over, how about that little grin? My sister Xena found this one for me and it’s always been a favorite. For many years, until I found the angel in Cooperstown, I would hang this penguin at the top of the tree because his outstretched wings and feet give him a kind of a star shape.

Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0058
Size: 5 inches tall

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Birthday surprise

My friend Anne and the Central Park Zoo have done it again. I thought my friends and I were just getting together to play bridge again yesterday, but just before we broke up for the night, it turned into a surprise belated birthday party for me. There was a cake with my name written on a chocolate card on top and a single candle. After I blew it out, I asked if they were going to relight it 59 more times. There were also gifts — a beautiful paisley shirt; chocolate flower petals in rose, jasmine and orange blossom flavors; and this penguin ornament, which also happens to be a snow globe. The baby emperors remind me of Mumble, from the movie “Happy Feet.” This is my second birthday ornament from the zoo and another excellent addition from Anne Cronin. Giving this one a number means I've had to commit to the finger puppets from Mexico as 0770 and 0771.

29 Tonight penguin snow globe ornament, Central Park Zoo New York City
Acquired: April 17, 2010
Number: 0772
Size: 2.25 inches tall

Saturday, April 17, 2010


These two arrived at my penguin tree separately, some time apart from each other, but I’ve assigned them adjacent numbers because they are the same ornament. You can see little differences. The eyes on one are bigger than the other’s, but otherwise they’re identical. The second one was a very well-timed gift from my friend Wende who I worked with in Albuquerque.

Two similar glass ornaments with red around the beak

Acquired: Unknown
Number: 0056
Size: 3.5 inches tall

Acquired: May 2001, gift from Wende Schwingendorf
Number: 0057
Size: 3.5 inches tall

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chicken legs

Somewhere out there is a little toy chicken with no feet. And a tiny door is missing a wreath. Or is that just a frilly green collar? Love the big red sequin eyes.

Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0055
Size: 3.25 inches tall

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax time

There’s still time to get those income tax returns to the post office, even if you’re filing from the South Pole. I mailed mine this morning, which is early for me. You can usually find me close to midnight with all the other procrastinators at the main post office in New York (the one with “neither rain nor sleet . . .” inscribed on it). This year I’m blaming the penguins, who held me, my house and my life hostage until just before Easter. So what was my excuse last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, etc.? Next year, I promise, I’ll do better. I might even file electronically.

Wooden mailman
Acquired: unknown
Number: 0163
Size: about 3.5 inches tall

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Satin doll

Stylish satin, a simple scarf. Says it all.

Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0054
Size: 4.25 inches tall

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This wooden penguin resembles some of the other sets of wood penguins but doesn’t match any of them. I imagine that this one was originally part of a set, but was left over at the end of the season. I don’t remember if I bought it, maybe as part of a big shopping spree at Macy’s, or if someone found it for me. Either way, I’m glad at least to have this one all by itself.

Roly poly wooden penguin with red knit hat, green scarf and candy cane
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0053
Size: 3 inches tall

Monday, April 12, 2010


Even in the early days, I gave nicknames to the ornaments to keep track of them and to help tell them apart. This one was always Little Brownie or just Brownie. When you’ve got several hundred black and white penguins dressed in green and red spread out on the dining room table and the TV room table and half the floor in both rooms, it’s always nice to have one like this that stands out in the crowd. And besides, Little Brownie is downright cute.

Brown wooden penguin with red ribbon bow tie
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0052
Size: about 2.75 inches tall

Sunday, April 11, 2010

One of my poles is missing

This tall skier has lost one of his poles. And after I took this photo, one of the skis fell off. I have an extra ski pole from a different ornament, but I don’t think it’s the right size and it’s white. Maybe the missing yellow pole will show up when I unpack next Christmas.

Tall wooden penguin on green skis with red ribbon scarf
Acquired: unknown
Number: 0051
Size: 2.25 inches tall

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I wonder

My first visit to Canada was in 1986 with my mother and my two nieces, Nikki and Lona. We were going by RV across America via Niagara Falls, Chicago, Wisconsin and Mt. Rushmore, then south to New Mexico where we would meet up with my older brother and sister, who were Lona’s father and Nikki’s mother. I picked up a few ornaments along the way, including this one that came from a souvenir shop in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It’s a mystery why I can remember exactly where I got some ornaments, but can’t remember anything about others that I bought a few days earlier or later. Maybe there’s some magic in this one, like the souvenirs in a short-lived TV series called Wonder Falls. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s worth looking for the DVD.

Metal silhouette ornament with crystal star
Acquired: July 29, 1986, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Number: 0050
Size: 4.25 inches tall
Price: 4.59 $CAN

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Coast to coast

I’m not sure if the penguin ornament collection had already gone international, but with these two stuffed leather pals it officially spanned the continent. My first all-penguin tree was in New York City in 1982 or 1983 when I had collected enough for a small tree to look halfway decent. Not wanting to keep the penguins to myself, I had a Christmas party maybe a year or so later. Everyone brought penguins. It surprised me that everyone was able to find penguin ornaments. Well, one person brought a flamingo, which I allowed on the tree as a very distant bird cousin for a couple of years, and another brought a bird, which I’ll introduce later, that’s still on the tree. One of these leather guys arrived at that party, I believe, but I don’t remember who brought it. The second one came soon after from a friend of a friend who was visiting from Modesto, Calif. I don’t remember if he had seen the penguin tree, but he knew about it and he knew about my other penguins too. It’s nice having two of these. I hope that friend in Modesto and the person who came to the party know how much I’ve enjoyed their thoughtful gifts.

Two stuffed leather penguins with red ribbon bow ties                                                                                    
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0047 0048
Size: 4.25 inches tall

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Triple play

A penguin dressed in Florida Marlins gear on a Christmas ornament. It doesn’t get any better than that in my book. A win-win-win situation. When I saw it online, I jumped all over it. Topperscot comes out with a new line of sports team ornaments every year. You can usually get the same ornament for just about any major sports or college team. I meant to post this Monday on opening day for the Marlins and Mets game and somehow let it slip by. Maybe I was distracted by the Marlins' loss. Instead, this post commemorates the Marlins’ first win of the season. I was afraid to write that last sentence until the game was finally over after 10 innings. Go Fish! 

Topperscot Florida Marlins 2006 penguin ornament, online store
Acquired: Dec. 11, 2006
Number: 0353
Size: 3 inches diameter

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The World Wildlife Federation had a store in Provincetown, Mass., in the 1980s, I think probably because of the whale watching trips that are a popular activity there. I got this emperor penguin ornament on one of my first visits to Cape Cod and still think of it as one of the most beautiful in the collection.

World Wildlife Federation emperor penguin ornament
Acquired: 1980s, WWF store, Provincetown, Mass.
Number: 0046
Size: 3.5 inches tall

Monday, April 5, 2010

Flower power

This smartly attired penguin is made of three puffy black balls trimmed with pieces of felt for the wings, feet, stomach, beak and that white top hat. A bent pipe cleaner is his cane. While not technically a Christmas ornament, it had a string attached and it seemed only natural to hang it on the tree. He came to me on a flower arrangement, I think from my sister Gale, possibly for my birthday, or for a new job, or as a get well gift. It’s hard to remember, because I grew up in a family of florists, and flowers showed up all the time and for all occasions. I spent a lot of time in flower shops doing various odd jobs, including delivery and bookkeeping. All flower shops smell the same and any time I walk into one it brings back good memories. Just like this ornament does.

Puff ball penguin with felt accents
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0045
Size: 4.5 inches tall

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

The penguins might be singing Christmas carols on the inside, but it’s beginning to look a lot like Easter on the outside. The egg shape opens up the opportunity for the nifty sparkly blue star-filled night sky above the carolers.  Hallmark did a nice job on this one, which I found at Kris Kringle in Scottsdale, Ariz., one of my favorite Christmas shops.

Plastic cutaway egg with 1991 carolers, Hallmark, third in a series
Acquired: Sept. 2, 2007, Kris Kringle, Scottsdale, Arizona
Number: 371
Size: 3 inches tall
Price: $9.95

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Birds of a feather

I must have bought these at the same store. They have identical penguins and it looks like the same people made the lamppost and the wreath. I think they came from a trip across Canada and the northern U.S. back in the ‘80s. Let’s just say they’ve been around a long time.

Plastic lamppost and wreath with penguins wearing green hats
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0043, 0044
Size: about 3.5 inches tall

Friday, April 2, 2010


This is more than just another cute ceramic penguin ornament. It’s also a bell. The string coming out of its head has a ceramic clapper attached on the inside that makes a tinkling sound when you shake it. The ring is a little bit clunky, because the string has come loose, probably because the ornament has to hang by the same string. I fixed it once before many years ago, but it probably needs some repair work before next Christmas.

Ceramic bell with red puffy earmuffs
Number: 0042 
Size: about 2.5 inches tall

Thursday, April 1, 2010

No April Fool’s intended

I’m not sure, but I think this penguin is made of wood. It’s very lightweight, which makes me wonder if it’s not papier maché. Either way it’s another classic from the early years with a very nice paint job and nice, welcoming open wings. I really like that brown hat. I didn’t plan to have an April Fool’s theme today, but it’s a little bit funny that ornament No. 41 was next in line to run on 4/1.
Penguin with open arms and brown hat
Number: 0041
Size: about 3.5 inches tall