Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On target

So, I’m doing a little Christmas shopping at Target and I wonder if there might be a penguin or two in the decorations department. What I find is not one or two, not even four or six. No, instead there is a wall of blue magic, seven sets of blue ornaments in a variety of shapes and materials, all with the same theme: three penguins with skates, gifts or snowballs. I wasn’t able to find complete sets of all them, but I did walk out with 21 new penguin ornaments, counting the little damaged No. 208 posted yesterday and the large glass mitten, No. 207, posted in January.  My favorites are the two worst photographs: the stars, which look good enough to eat, and the ceramic balls. I think I took those two pictures late in the evening as the sun was setting and casting an orange glow in the house.

Target blue penguin series
Acquired: December 2003, Target, Middletown, N.J.

“2003” single ornament
Number: 0209

Metal buckets (missing snowball penguin)
Numbers: 0210 0211
Size: 6.25 inches tall (gift), 4 inches tall (skates)

Hollow ceramic or painted glass stars
Numbers: 0212 0213 0214
Size: 3.5 inches tall

Felt squares
Numbers: 0215 0216 0217
Size: 4 inches tall

Standing ceramic figurines (missing skater)
Numbers: 0218 0219

Plush stuffed penguins
Numbers: 0220 0221 0222
Size: 5 inches tall (snowball), 6 inches tall (gift) 4.75 inches tall (skates)

Styrofoam round bodies (missing skater)
Numbers: 0223 0224

Ceramic ball ornaments
Numbers: 0225 0226 0227
Size: 2.5 inches diameter

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I’ve had a pretty good track record with damage control on the ornaments, but last year was my worst. I had to retire three ornaments that are beyond repair, joining a fourth that I retired after I bought a replacement. In addition, I’ve notice a lot of wear and tear on other ornaments. This one shows the most damage, with a lot of its paint chipped away, on the back and some spots missing on the front. I don’t know why I had such a bad year, but it might just be a matter of time catching up with me as the collection has grown. As a precaution, I have the most delicate ornaments stored inside the house now, instead of in my outdoor shed. I think the changing temperature is responsible for some of the breakage, but it might also be varmints from the woods that surround my house. Yeesh, I hope not.

Small glass ornament with blue and green scarf with gold glittery stripes
Acquired: December 2003, Target, Middletown, N.J.
Number: 208
Size: 3.25 inches tall

Monday, June 28, 2010


These two look different sizes in the photo. One is further back, but they’re the same size, and except for the color of their scarves, they’re identical. The white scarf is decorated with glitter and the face paint is slightly different on the two. I bought both ornaments at Macy’s, but not the same store, and not the same year. In fact, I bought them four years apart, the red one in December 2002 at the Eatontown Mall in New Jersey and the white one in a wild shopping spree in Macy’s Herald Square in November 2006. Wait until you hear that story. It’s a doozy. Notice that in these four years, the collection grew by about 128 ornaments. In the four years since then, I’ve added almost 450 more.

Glass penguin with red scarf
Acquired: December 2002, Macy’s Eatontown Mall, New Jersey
Number: 204
Size: 4 inches tall

Glass penguin with white glittery scarf, made in Czech Republic
Acquired: November 28, 2006, Macy’s Herald Square, New York
Number: 333
Size: 4 inches tall
Price: $7.20 (40 percent off)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Job to do

This penguin is off on a mission, but I’m not sure what he’s got to do. Sorry about the dark photo, but if you zoom in, you might be able to make out the tiny shovel, like a garden trowel, in its left wing. Then there’s that little pot by his right foot. Whatever he’s up to — cutting a Christmas tree? tapping a maple? — he’s ready for cold weather with a fantastic looking knit hat. The hat is ceramic, like the rest of the ornament, not yarn.

Ceramic penguin with burgundy knit hat holding a small shovel
Acquired: December 2002, Hazlet Gift Shop, New Jersey
Number: 202
Size: 3.25 inches tall

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beanie babies

When I wrote in “About My Penguin” that everyone gives me penguin ornaments, I forgot to mention my relatives’ and friends’ pets. I bought one of these Ty beanies myself, and got the other one a couple weeks later from Kooki, the loveable Yorkie who lives with my sister Xena and brother-in-law John.

Ty beanie babies
Acquired: December 2002, Hazlet Card Shop, New Jersey, gift from Kooki
Number: 2001, 2005
Size: 4.25 inches tall

Friday, June 25, 2010

I want glitter

Glitter might be a penguin ornament maker's answer to a cake wreckorator's sprinkles as seen on the funny and popular blog Cake Wrecks. Not that this penguin is a wreck. I love the heart-shaped face and that twisted carrot-like nose sticking out from the striped scarf. But it looks like the glitter was added as an afterthought to make the ornament more wintry or Christmassy. In real life, the sparkles look like they have a green tint, but here it just looks like the penguin got a little sloppy eating a sugar-coated cookie. Overall, it’s a neat design: a stuffed denim or canvas body that looks like it might have been painted after it was sewn together. Or maybe it’s just black fabric, though the face is definitely painted on.

Stuffed penguin with a glittery scarf and long red Santa hat
Acquired: December 2002
Number: 199
Size: about 4.25 inches tall

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This is probably not a Christmas tree ornament. For one thing, there’s no place to put a hook unless you bend a metal hangar so that it fits under a crook in the hat. Also, it’s big (about 8 inches tall) and heavy, made from some kind of plastic or ceramic that feels like stone and looks like wood. I know it’s not stone, because one of the arms or legs snapped like a twig (hey, they even look like twigs!) and it was pure white inside. No, this ornament is probably meant to sit on a shelf with its long, hinged legs hanging over the edge. Well, I hadn’t reached the 200 mark, yet, so anything that even remotely looked like a tree ornament found its way onto the tree. Tree ornament or not, it’s a gem. Those long, spindly, unpenguin-like limbs seem perfectly normal. Another great thing about this ornament is that it came from a wonderful person, my good friend and overseas colleague, Grace Frank.

Scarecrow penguin
Acquired: December 2002, gift from Grace Frank
Number: 0198
Size: 8 inches tall

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I brake for penguins

On the ride home from Montreal, we stopped for lunch at Lake George, roughly the halfway mark in the trip. Rather than heading straight back to the New York State Thruway, I was driving through town looking for a gas station or an ATM, I don’t remember which when, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Christmas whizz by. As soon as it was safe, I made a U-turn and, sure enough, pulled in to A Christmas to Remember, a big store with a lot of promise. I only found these two ornaments, but their quality made the stop worthwhile. The skater skillfully balancing a couple armfuls of wrapped gifts and nattily dressed caroler with peppermint cane and top hat are made of plaster I think. They’re very heavy and beautifully painted and decorated. Zoom in to check out the band on the top hat. When I unpack the penguins I'm going to try to take a better detail shot, but you can see how nice it is even on this snapshot.

Skater balancing gifts
Acquired: September 15, 2002, A Christmas to Remember, Lake George, New York
Number: 197
Size: about 4.5 inches tall

Caroler with top hat and cane
Acquired: September 15, 2002, A Christmas to Remember, Lake George, New York
Number: 198
Size: about 4.5 inches tall

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

J oy

A stuffed penguin on a wooden block with a metal sled hanging on its shoulder and a sprig of holly on the tip of its wing: put it all together and it spells J-O-Y. This ornament represents the point at which I started keeping track of when I got a new one, where I got it, who gave it to me, etc. This one came from Noël Eternel in Montreal, one of my favorite Christmas shops. Although I started keeping better records with this ornament, I forgot to measure it before packing it after last Christmas, and I didn’t write down the exact date I bought it.

Stuffed penguin with sled on a child’s block that spells joy
Acquired: September 2002, Noël Eternel, Montreal, PQ
Number: 0195

Monday, June 21, 2010

First day of summer . . . or winter

It’s the first day of summer for those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, but south of the equator it’s winter. This penguin is not only wearing earmuffs and a scarf to ward off the cold, but also the remnants of an Antarctic snowstorm. It’s possible that this is not a tree ornament, but it seemed only natural to use that wire earmuff band to insert a Christmas tree hanging hook. I feel lucky to have this ornament in the collection, because it was the last one on the shelf when I bought it.

Ceramic penguin with red earmuffs and scarf
Acquired: December 2001, Hazlet Card Shop, Hazlet, N.J.
Number: 193
Size: 3 inches tall

Sunday, June 20, 2010


It always makes me a little sad when I see this ornament. I bought it at the Grand Central Holiday Fair in December 2001, not long after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. The fire was still burning below the rubble at Ground Zero in December even as the cleanup was well under way. Our emotions were still raw, but I think Christmas did a lot to help us return to our normal routines. Although things would never be the same, life went on.

New York 2001 ceramic penguin
Acquired: December 2001
Number: 0192
Size: 2 inches tall

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Candy cane holders

Two of my ornaments have holes big enough to slide through, one of them horizontally and the other at an angle. I found one at a card and gift shop near where I lived in New Jersey; the other was a gift from my friend and colleague Grace Wong. I wonder if  there are any other variations in this series. When I bought mine I also bought another ornament that looks similar, but it doesn’t hold a candy cane, and it really isn’t part of the set. Still, it’s close enough that I’ve always grouped these three together. I always put candy canes on my Christmas tree and I wish I had a lot more penguin holders for them.

Angled candy cane holder, label Papel Giftware, Cranbury, N.J.
Acquired: December 2001
Number: 0191
Size: 3 inches tall

Horizontal candy cane holder
Acquired: December 2001, Hazlet Card Shop, Hazlet, N.J. 
Number: 0190
Size: 3 inches tall

Penguin similar to candy cane holders
Acquired: December 2001, Hazlet Card Shop, Hazlet, N.J.
Number: 0189
Size: 2.5 inches tall

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hollow penguin

I probably should have asked for a discount on this ornament because I knew it was broken when I bought it. It’s a nifty metal design that almost looks like it’s made of barbed wire because of those “buttons” on the front. The hollow frame is supposed to be filled with a clear blown glass bulb, which I saw on a similar snowman ornament. Everything had been picked through at Target as it was almost Christmas and this was the only penguin ornament left. I remember seeing shards of glass at the bottom of the display where I found it. Well, it looks fine without the glass, so I didn’t bother to ask for a damage discount at the checkout. It might have already been marked down for clearance anyway. Still, it would have been nice to get an intact penguin, so ever since I’ve tried to hit the stores early while all the sets are complete and the other penguins aren’t in tatters. (This doesn’t stop me from combing the clearance shelves after Christmas to find any penguins, damaged or not, that have been left behind.)

Wire penguin
Acquired: December 2001, Target, Middletown, N.J.
Number: 0188
Size: about 4 inches tall

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rubber legs

Is it good or bad to have “rubber legs” if you are a skier? All I know is that mine usually feel like rubber after a day on the slopes. This skiing penguin is made from glued-together pieces of a rubbery material. It’s not flexible, but has a soft feel to it. Another odd thing about this ornament is that it looks three-dimensional, but it’s almost flat. Even the skis, which look like they stick out in front, are almost flat to the penguin’s body. It’s a nice artistic trick on a nicely designed penguin ornament. I found it at a Christmas store in Old St. Augustine on one of my trips to Florida. It was a big store and I was prepared to fill up a couple of shopping bags, but this was the only penguin ornament they had.

Rubbery penguin skier
Acquired: September 2001
Number: 185
Size: 4.5 inches tall

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Furry friend

I got this penguin ornament from my cousins in New Mexico, John, Holly, Lee and Jackie Truitt.  It has a leathery beak and a burgundy knitted scarf. It’s covered all over with furry feathers so thick that they cover two little beady black eyes.

Stuffed penguin with burgundy scarf and leathery beak
Acquired: March 2001, gift from Truitt family
Number: 0184
Size: 3.5 inches

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Whole lot of heart

One more from the Macy’s shopping spree that I numbered incorrectly. It looks very different from the other wooden penguins and has a unique feature: a heart and star dangling from its foot on a string. This one makes it easy to feel happy.

Wooden heart mobile
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0183
Size: about 5 inches top to bottom

Monday, June 14, 2010

Big red bow

Here’s another one of the Macy’s wooden ornaments that I should have numbered closer to the other ones. The penguin is large than most of those other penguins, but not as large as the one carrying a Christmas tree that I posted on June 1.

Wooden penguin holding a big red ribbon bow
Acquired: 1980s
Number: 0182
Size: about 3 inches tall

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cookie dough

This penguin obviously came from Vail, Colo., but it’s hard for me to pin down the exact time I bought it. I have a number of ornaments from Vail, and I feel like this one came later than the others. Vail was the first place I ever skied, when I took a half-day lesson on a hill that was so small, we walked to the top between runs. Then I was lucky enough to have a friend from college who worked there, so I was able to visit frequently without having to spend too much. It was one of the many big mountains I skied with my friend Linda Martelli. Later on, I went to Vail with my brother Drew, who is a ski instructor among other things, on his first ski trip to the Rockies. Whenever I got this ornament, or my other Vail ornaments, they always remind me of the good times I had there through the years.

Cookie dough ornament, Vail, Colorado
Acquired: unknown
Number: 0181
Size: about 4 inches tall

Saturday, June 12, 2010


This pair of penguins came to me months apart, but I have them together to show them from different angles. They seem to be shaped and carved from the business end of a bottlebrush, with wooden attachments for the feet, wings and beak. The one on the right has been attacked by something — insects, rodents, a cat or dog. You can see the damage on its wing, and its tail has also been gnawed. I don’t know when this happened, but I hope it’s an isolated incident. I’m not sure how the first came my way, but the second one was a very timely gift from Wende Schwingendorf who  came for a visit exactly when I needed a friend most.

Two bottlebrush penguins
Acquired: 2000, May 2001
Number: 0180, 0186
Size: about 3 inches tall

Friday, June 11, 2010

Terry beanie

There’s not much to say about this stuffed ornament except that it’s awfully cute. I had to zoom in on the gift under its left wing, because I don’t remember noticing it until now. This ornament was a gift from my nieces Becky and Jenny.

Gray terrycloth beanie baby
Acquired: December 2001
Number: 175
Size: 4.75 inches tall

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I found this beautiful metal penguin ornament at the UNICEF gift counter in the basement of the United Nations building in New York City. It’s a simple cutout design with a cutout wing and a green finish on the penguin’s back, though it doesn’t show very well in the photo. I have another penguin ornament from the U.N. that you’ll hear about later, but it came from the U.N. gift shop, which is also downstairs near the UNICEF counter. I don’t know why, but penguin ornaments and Christmas cards are scarce at the U.N. gift shop, the UNICEF counter and the larger UNICEF store across the street. I go to the U.N. every year to mail my penguin Christmas cards, where the stamps are usually colorful and often convey a message of world peace. The U.N. operates post offices and issues different versions of its stamps at its facilities in Brussels, Geneva and New York. The rates at the New York office, also downstairs, are the same as the U.S. for domestic and international postage. There’s never a line, even at Christmas time, so I usually make time to visit the gift shops, the bookstore (yes, it’s downstairs too) and then see whatever temporary exhibit is on display in the entrance lobby. One year, a boys’ choir from a British school gave an impromptu concert of Christmas carols in the lobby while I was there. It’s one of my favorite Christmas memories.

Green and gold metal penguin with cutout wing
Acquired: December 2001, UNICEF gift counter, United Nations, New York
Number: 0174
Size: 4.25 inches tall

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Towering trio

I first saw this ornament at a Christmas shop and resisted the temptation to buy it because I thought it cost too much. Those days are over and I will buy any penguin ornament in sight. Lucky for me, Anne Cronin and Mark Bussell saw the same ornament and gave it to me as a gift. It was introduced by Christopher Radko in 1998.

Christopher Radko Arctic Antics glass ornament
Acquired: 2001
Number: 0173
Size: about 5.5 inches tall (that’s what I wrote on the index card, but online it says 9 inches; neither sounds right to me)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dramatic duo

Here’s an exciting pair of penguins. One seems to be midway through a major nosedive while the other is either running and screaming to the rescue or running for its life. There’s a lot of nice detail on these penguins, from their rosy cheeks to their awesome feet. I bought them at a store called Be Seated on Greenwich Avenue in New York City. The store was also known as Tabwa for a while, but they always had the same great exotic gifts and textiles. Every year at Christmas time the ornaments came out featuring a broad variety from the animal kingdom. The store is gone now, which is too bad, but I’ve since discovered a Christmas ornament store (all ornaments, all the time) down the street to keep me supplied.

Two wooden penguins, one running and screaming, the other diving
Acquired: 2000, probably December, Be Seated, Greenwich Avenue, New York City
Numbers: 0171, 0172
Size: running, 3 inches tall; diving, 4 inches tall

Monday, June 7, 2010

Raggedy penguin

I’m pretty sure this isn’t really a penguin ornament, but I decided to make it one when it was given to me. For the last two years it hasn’t been on any of my Christmas trees, but neither have any of the other stuffed ornaments. Two years ago, we ran out of room on the trees and my sister Gale suggested hanging the fabric ornaments on garland in the windows. It was a good idea that we repeated last year because we ran out of room again even though I had expanded to three trees.

Stuffed penguin with patched knit hat and plaid vest
Acquired: unknown
Number: 0170
Size: 8 inches tall

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pyramid power

That strongman penguin at the top of the pyramid is flexing some pumped up wing muscles, but the true tough guys are the dressed up dudes on the bottom who are holding all the weight. This ornament is one of my favorites, not just because it’s so much fun, but because it was a gift from my Aunt Lillian Truitt in New Mexico. I had just moved west and didn’t have a steady job yet, so I was watching my pennies. I was going to pass on this one, but she insisted that I needed it. She and her family, my cousins, are responsible for a lot of the penguins in the ornament collection and a lot of the other penguins that are all over my house. Aunt Lillian was married to my mother’s brother Lee. They were considerably older than her and moved to New Mexico before I was born, so I hardly knew them for the first half of my life, but we were able to make up for lost time later on. You were always welcome at Aunt Lillian’s house and you never went hungry. The food was always good and there was plenty of it. Grocery shopping with Aunt Lillian was an adventure that usually meant going to one or two supermarkets to get what was “on special” or to get a particular brand, followed by stops at one or two local produce markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. She had a great sense of humor, and she loved the outdoors and everything about New Mexico, from its history to its music to its food. She was one of my favorite relatives and also a great friend.

Wooden penguin pyramid
Acquired: probably November or December 1993, JC Penney, Winrock Mall, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Number: 0169

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pulling strings

I think I got two of these in one of my Macy’s shopping sprees and another at a different place. Or maybe one of them was a gift. I’m glad to have all three of them, however they came my way. I’m sorry that the one on the bottom has lost whatever used to be attached to his right wing. Maybe it was gone when I bought it or when it was given to me. I’ve never found a missing thing that looks like it belongs there, but there is a wooden peg where something was attached.

Three wooden pull string penguins
Acquired: unknown
Number: 0166, 0167, 0168
Size: about 5 inches tall

Friday, June 4, 2010

More red lips

Who knew red lips were so fashionable in the penguin world? Here’s another painted papier-mâché penguin, not so glossy as the one in yesterday’s post, but with a similar red liner on its beak.

Painted papier-mâché penguin with red lips
Acquired: unknown
Number: 0164
Size: about 5 inches tall

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Red lips

This ornament is so shiny you might think its glazed pottery, but it’s not. It feels very light, like papier-mâché, but it looks heavier because of the paint and lacquer.

Lacquered penguin with red lips
Acquired: unknown
Number: 0162
Size: about 4.5 inches tall

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Buttoned up

This penguin has no overcoat, but he’s definitely buttoned up and bundled up too in knitted burgundy scarf and hat.

Felt penguin with knitted burgundy hat and scarf and two big, black buttons
Acquired: unknown
Number: 0161
Size: 5.75 inches tall

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Big tree

This is another of the wooden ornaments that I bought at Macy’s in the 1980s. He resembles some of those other penguins, but is considerably bigger. It seems like it should be part of a set, but he’s the only one of this kind in the collection.  It’s nicely assembled and painted, but showing signs of wear and tear.

Wooden penguin in a red jacket carrying a big flat Christmas tree
Acquired: 1980s, Macy’s Herald Square, New York City
Number: 158
Size: about 2.5 inches tall