With a living room ceiling that soars 22 feet above the carpeted floor, no ordinary Christmas tree would do. A standard seven-footer, Daphne Kessler decided, would look "kind of weird," dwarfed by the second-floor balcony and the towering Palladian window.
She needed a tree majestic enough to reach toward the ceiling painted with her family's coat of arms. A tree as grand as the five-bedroom, 6,000-square-foot Great Falls home that Kessler moved into almost four years ago with her husband and two children.
So Kessler bought a 12-foot behemoth that her interior designer decorated by climbing so high up a ladder that, he said, "I feel like a monkey up here."
"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me!"
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free: free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.
As estatelike homes have popped up across the Washington suburbs, they've spawned a must-have seasonal accessory: the supersize Christmas tree. McMansions with their two-story foyers, cathedral ceilings and great rooms are fueling a demand for trees fit for Paul Bunyan with price tags fit for Daddy Warbucks -- from $100 to more than $1,000.
A walk through Joseph Coates's Ellicott City tree lot is like a tour of a magical forest, where even pro basketball players might feel as small as elves. He specializes in 12- to 15-footers that can weigh a few hundred pounds and spread as wide as a Volkswagen.
In the past couple of weeks, he said, "a lot of people, maybe 50 or 60, have driven up and said, 'Show me the biggest one you've got.' "
One of the first drove away in a pickup with a 15-foot Fraser fir that cost $385. "It was a beast," Coates said.
"Mr Scrooge!'' said Bob; "I'll give you Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!''
"The Founder of the Feast indeed!'' cried Mrs Cratchit, reddening. "I wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it.''
"My dear,'' said Bob, "the children; Christmas Day.''
"It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,'' said she, "on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr Scrooge. You know he is, Robert! Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow!''
"My dear,'' was Bob's mild answer, "Christmas Day.''
-- A Christmas Carol
....a holiday party that Kessler, who runs a gift basket company, was throwing with her husband, Rick, the head of a prominent lobbying firm....
In a potential violation of congressional ethics rules, five members of Congress traveled to Ireland in 2003 at the expense of a lobbying firm, disclosure records show.
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), then-Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Reps. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) and Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) attended a four-day international trade seminar at Ashford Castle in County Mayo during the August recess.
Disclosure reports for the five lawmakers show that Washington lobbying firm, Kessler & Associates Business Services Inc., footed the $25,000 bill, even though congressional ethics guidelines bar lobbying firms from paying for lawmakers’ travel.
In response to inquiries from The Hill, the members’ aides confirmed that the lobbying firm had been listed as the sponsor and that they were in the process of checking into the matter.
Ed McDonald, chief of staff for Coble, said Richard S. Kessler, a veteran lobbyist and founder of Kessler & Associates, told him Monday that the lobbying firm’s parent company, Century Business Strategies, an accounting and consulting firm, had sponsored the trip.