What in the world do you give your 102-year-old grandmother for Christmas?
Stepsisters Lori Storer and Tonia Barker know: time and your decorating talents.
"Grandma has everything. She has done everything," said Storer of grandmother Janice Carpenter.
So back when Carpenter was in her 80s, the pair decided they would decorate her Broadmoor subdivision home for Christmas. Some 20 years later, their Christmas tradition continues with lots of family lending a helping hand.
When all is said and done, Carpenter's home is ready to serve as celebration central for her two children, 11 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
The decorations are a mix of old and new, some Carpenter has collected, many handmade by friends.
"We use Grandma's things, some of our things and some that Tonia finds at garage sales," Storer said.
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As the collection of Christmas pieces has grown, so has the display, which started with two Christmas trees and has expanded to as many as seven. This year, the granddaughters decorated five trees spread among the living room, dining room, den and kitchen.
Carpenter loves nutcrackers, which are displayed in the den on a table and on the mantel, decorated with greenery by granddaughter-in-law Judy McLennan, along with a Christmas tree filled with miniature nutcrackers.
One special nutcracker was purchased at a garage sale by Storer's son, David, when he was 5. The asking price was $50, but David only had $5 and ended up bargaining the price down to his $5.
"He wasn't going to leave without that nutcracker," Storer said. "He has helped us put out that collection ever since."
A small bookcase in the den is perfect for Carpenter's collection of Hummel Christmas figurines along with a Hummel church from granddaughter Tina Haulard.
The living room is completely decorated with musical candlelit garland, big ceramic carolers, kissing angels, two family Nativity scenes, a wreath with an original Elf on the Shelf and a tree filled with bird ornaments and angels.
"Grandma loves her birds," Storer said. "She watches them from the window all day long."
Storer's daughter, Sarah, usually decorates the kitchen tree with beaded felt Wizard of Oz ornaments handmade by Carpenter's friend Mary Schmidt and other ornaments purchased on trips by friends and family members.
Snowmen is the theme in the dining room with a snowman tree and two smaller trees with snowmen lights at the top. Centering the table are party favors, which Storer and Barker make every year for the guests who attend Carpenter's Christmas parties. Although in the past Carpenter hosted as many as seven parties, this year she is only having four, one for each her "groups" — her former water aerobics class, her church circle at Broadmoor Presbyterian Church, her garden club and her PEO chapter.
This year's theme is "Nostalgic Christmas," so Storer and Barker, assisted by Barker's daughter, Amelia, and Haulard's daughter, Abigail McLain, filled paper teacups with tea bags, homemade cookies and a candy cane for the favors.
"Grandma gives away at least a hundred favors a year," Barker said. "We make plenty because some people just drop in."
Some of the family favorite decorations are wooden characters, including reindeer and a Santa, made by Storer in her "wood craft phase."
"There are different items from some of our different phases of creativity," said Barker, who drives in from Covington help with the decorating.
She says that her grandmother looks over every item as it is unpacked.
"When she gets gifts, we try to incorporate them into the display because they are very special to Grandma," Barker said.
Carpenter and her late husband, Paul Carpenter, came to Baton Rouge in 1957, when her husband became director of research for Copolymer. He later served as president. She worked for years for the Boy Scouts, all the time doing volunteer work with numerous organizations, including the Girl Scouts, Woman's Hospital and the Woman's Club.