Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Week 52 in Pictures....

I ate me a little of this and a little of that....ok, a lot...of everything.

Sour Patch Kid candy canes and every kind of homemade cookie known to man...

I woke up to this...
That thermometer is a big fat liar. It says 42 degrees but there's no way that's accurate.

I tried to get this to work, but no luck.

Little Orphan Annie, anyone?  I believe this beauty turned 80 this year.  (Oh, it's one of those old-timey radios, in case you never saw one).

I took pictures of Christmas decorations (with me new camera--she's loverly).
A Christmas spider ornament and a fiber-optic village.

I had a quilting lesson.
Bowtie quilt blocks that are crazy fun to make (or maybe that's just me).

And my nephew bought me a "special present:"
...because you can't leave Oakdale, PA without them.

After driving over several rivers, through a few mountains, and enduring endless hours of bored-seven-year-old-stuck-in-a-car-for-a-long-drive craziness, I'm happy to say we're home.  From Grandma's, of course. Pizza Delivery Guy just knocked, so I'm off.  Hope you're all warm and happy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mele Kalikimaka!

"Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused -- in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened -- by the recurrence of Christmas." ~Charles Dickens

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmassy Eclecticness

So it's pretty much zero hour and I'm done-done-done.  We don't really do presents or anything at my work but I get a few gifts each year, and this year they were especially amusing and thoughtful.  They're different from what typical work gifts seem to be so I thought I'd share them here.

...loose tea and tea filters.  I love tea, but I'm very 'meh' about what I drink.  Usually it's plain Tetley or green tea or something, and if I venture into flavors it's usually mint or something simple.  I tried camomille once and felt like I was tripping for the rest of the day.  So in the photo above we have some tea that I have to work for.  But the best part is the name of it (use your best wrestler voice when you say it):
I have no clue why they named this tea such a thing, but it's highly amusing.  The smell would normally make me not want to drink it--it's very earthy, I guess is the word.  But the taste is very mild.  It's extremely yummy with honey in it.  And it has a nice little kick.  It was great on Saturday with all that snow dumping on us.

Next is from a guy in my department at work.  We're usually arguing or finding ways to annoy each other, but it's all in good fun (at least on my end it is--his might be malicious; haven't asked).  Anyway, he gave me a bag of yay!  First we have edibles:
Necco wafers and strawberry chocolate tea.  Mmmmmm....there was more candy but it's working its way along my duodenum now (ew...intestinal humor...gross).  Then, there were these:
One is a book called "Knit Lit" and it's people's personal stories about why they knit, whether it be therapeutic, to carry on something a loved one who has died loved to do, or whatever.  Some of them sound like they might be sad, but some sounded funny too.  I think this is what I'm doing while I'm drinking my hot chocolate later.  The other is a desk calendar, all of designer handbags.  I didn't want to cheat and look at too many, so I only saw the first two, but I'm excited to see if there's anything I could copy in some way, or at least get some creative juices flowing with.

Moving company let us out early today, so I went fabric shopping.  One of the blogs I follow mentioned Harris Tweeds, and showed some in luscious colors, so this put me in a very plaid wool sort of mood.  Once I get an idea in my head it needs fulfillment or I get very annoying (or even moreso) to those around me, so I needed wool in my hands before I could call it a day.  There were limited colors (none of the fun brights like Vivienne Westwood might use) but I found enough to sate my weirdo fabric desires.  I also found some tan corduroy and a great decorator fabric that matches perfecto.
When I look at it this way it looks like I did Al Borland's laundry, but they'll be great bags when I'm done with them.  On the right you can't tell that the top one is corduroy but it is.

Now, it's story time.  Imagine, if you will, that you are a grown man, around 6 ft. 2, muscular, lift heavy weights, have a devil may care attitude, you know the type.  One morning, you are in your home when you hear a strange noise from upstairs. You go to investigate and see that a tiny bird has somehow found its way into your house and is flying around your son's bedroom.  What would you do?  Would you shut the door so it can't get out and then open a window and try to get it to fly out?  Seems obvious.  Would you be a total brute, and grab a broom to show it who's boss? If you chose this answer I hope I don't know you.  Or, would you let it fly by you into the house and spend the day trying to get it out?  The answer: none of the above.  Because I forgot to mention you have a ridiculous bird phobia.  So what actually happens is you run into the bathroom, lock the door, and call your parents' house to tell them you're not coming out of the bathroom until one of them comes and gets rid of the bird.  Good old Dad shows up and lets the bird out.  Like the last time a bird got in, and you ran across the street in boxers and socks in December to a restaurant pay phone with your neighborhood staring at you and called home frantically for help without explaining anything until help arrived.  It's a pretty big phobia.  And you're my brother.  The end.

Finally, a few of my observations for today:
1.  Who the hell ever really wants to say "Sister Susie sitting on a thistle?"
2.  If you don't live near or in Philadelphia, you're lucky--there's a bad driver convention today, and they're out and about showing their (lack of) skills.
3.  You CAN eat too many dougnuts.
4.  December 23rd is the longest day of the year.  Work-wise, of course. Even when you get out early.
5.  I need photography lessons.

Ta-ta for now.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I like how this picture came out warm and fuzzy looking.  The tree this year ended up being a Frasier Fir (it's usually a Douglas Fir).  Frasiers are by nature sturdy things with fragrant branches that are pretty strong, as opposed to Dougie who doesn't really have strong branches but is nice and fragrant.  They're usually much larger than the Frasier, though, and this presents a problem to people who have ornaments from the beginning of time.  Because the tree is usually very Griswold-y in size, every ornament gets a place.  But this year, due to space restrictions, my sister decided there should be a theme, and that theme should be "tacky."  Which means none of those fancy dated balls that go back forty years and are usually the ones that fall off the tree and roll across the floor.  The rest of the stuff isn't necessarily tacky; it's just very eclectic.  So that's what's on the tree this year, and I think it's my favorite tree we've ever had.  Most of these things are pretty old, and at this point it should go without saying that I love them mostest (but I decided to say it anyway).  I don't know where to start so I'm going in the order I went around the tree...

Beadin' around the bush (I'm witty like that).

A set of these came to live with us in between my two sisters being born, so we have six instead of eight.  They're beaded bells and there's not much more to say. One of my dad's aunts that I don't remember ever meeting made them and shipped them to us one year.  They sparkle beautifully (but the stupid camera kept fighting me in getting a shot of it).  They're some of the first ones that go up.

Amputation by snowflake

I shan't lie--this is a terrible picture of a really pretty snowflake.  However, it was a devilish beast to make.  My sister bought a set of beads and wire to string together a few little package toppers; about halfway through she was wondering if she was mentally defective.  Turns out the instructions weren't so hot (go figure--thanks translator guy from China).  Anyway, by the time we figured out the dillio, we had practically cut our fingers off tightening the wire around the beads, had achy necks for a few days, and probably advanced our near-sightedness.  The end result was pretty....there were vows involved to never ever attempt this again.

At this point you should know there is yarn involved somehow.

See that stocking?  It's one of those plastic canvassy things with red yarn cross-stitched.  There used to be cotton at the top but it went bye-bye long ago.  We made these at a Girl Scouts Christmas sleepover when I was about 8.  We had the option of using red marker on it and coloring it in, or stitching with red yarn.  I was the only one who finished mine with yarn (and that is an exact quote of what I say each year when I hang it up--to a reply of "We KNOW.  Sheesh! You say that EVery year!").  Most girls did a few rows and called it quits--but my affinity for unhalf-assed stuff made me keep plugging away.  That other one up there is an Oreo ornament.  I'm not sure if that's abundantly clear, but that was the intent.  I don't know who made these, but it was someone from my father's side because they have these on their tree, too.

Making do with making it.

I wonder if everyone has little bits like this around from their first Christmas in their own place that they hang up decades later, providing early memories for future generations.  My mom's first Christmas on her own she made her ornaments.  I'm not sure how she did those on the left (and she doesn't remember) but they look like red and white flowers with glitter sprinkled on them.  Purdy.  And one day I shall have small boxes wrapped in paper scraps and tied with leftover ribbon to hang on my tree.

"Why, yes the kids made it. How could you tell?"

I used to be jealous that this lifesaver man wasn't something I had made in MY preschool class (because I love kitsch, and I suppose I wanted to be the provider of it, even then).  I am always tempted to perform an autopsy to see just what those life savers have been up to after 30 years, but that would mean ruining the first Christmas present my mom got from her kids (my brother having made this in school).  He, or it, loses a little of its luster each year, but he's still fun.  That blob of something on the right is glue.  Literally.  Another preschool masterpiece. From my brother. Side note: when I was in preschool the ornament I made was a piece of felt with my initials on it. Oooo, snazzy.   Anyway, this used to be in the shape of something.  I think what they did was squirt glue on wax paper and sprinkle glitter on it.  After ages of the dry attic, this is all that's left of it.  And I used to scoff at the paper stocking someone made that gets hung out of sentimentality...but in my crafty knowledge years I can now say "Well, why WOULDn't you hang a Fair Isle styled stocking on the tree, construction paper or otherwise?"

Once upon a time, in Christmasland, someone came up with the idea of the year--putting an ornament inside an ornament.  We have tons of these little guys on the left in various forms--Santas, angels, snowmen, etc.  And on the right we have several little plastic scenes instead a hunk of plastic.  They're all pretty old--some are religious, some aren't...they remind me of those Easter eggs that are made out of sugar and have a little peephole with an Easter scene inside.
These would have been right up my alley...

My dad's brother made these for him I know not when, but it's not like it was recent, lol.  They're basic woodcuts, and the shapes are stickers or decals or something cut to fit.  But the best part is that they're two-sided--when they're turned around you see them from the other side.  There's a set of about two dozen, and we used to fight over who was going to inherit them.

This is where Frasier-strength branches come in handy.

Every Sunday my aunt would take my brother and me to Woodhaven Mall.  He got money for pizza and the arcade, while we shopped for important things like books, stickers, and craft supplies.  Remember Gaudio's?  They went out of business--which is pretty surprising because she dropped enough money there to keep them IN business (a service I try to provide to Joann Fabrics).  But we were in there every week searching for beads and trimmings.  One year, she found the leftover beads from when she and my grandmother made my mom's wedding dress and hand-beaded the train.  The beads on this ball (a piece of styrofoam) are from that dress, with little snowflake sequins.  I'm not sure where the pink and maroon color scheme came from, but my mom calls this her wedding ball.  We made similar ones (without nostalgic beads) for my grandmothers.  They catch the tree lights nicely, but they need a strong branch.

A Christmas two-fer...

One of my mom's favorites and one of my dad's...guess which is whose?  That cheery little warbler has a clip on the bottom that clips onto a branch so that it sits on the tree instead of hanging fom it.  They're (we have 2) very fragile in their old age, but aside from that none the worse for wear.  And, coincidentally my dad's fave ornanent hangs in the background (my mom told me to crop it out but I like it).


I'm ending on this one, my favorite.  We found this last Christmas when we were going through a box of ornaments we had neglected to peruse in previous years.  It's a simple wooden sewing machine, with fabric (that's knitted out of yarn) and a pair of tiny scissors.  This belonged to mother's mother, a seamstress by trade and by hobby.  My mom always says the crafty gene must skip a generation, because she didn't get it, and I seem to get it from both my grandmothers as far as sewing, knitting and crocheting go.  Anyway, we pulled it out of the box and my mom goes "Here...I think this is for you."

That's about it.  Here are a few things I've realized while writing this:
1. I think the George C. Scott version of "A Christmas Carol is my favorite."
2. The movie "Prancer" is pretty cute.
3. I didn't find my Bethany ornament this year.  Having a bit of an odd name meant I never found keychains, pencils, or anything else with my name on it.  Trust me--this was disappointing.  A few years ago, I was shopping and saw a cutesy snowgirl ornament (pink! at that) with Bethany written across it.  I became very excited and plunked down my money.  I hope I find it because I've searched every box, every drawer, every everything to find it and it seems to be gone.
4. My favorite part of "A Christmas Story" is when Ralphie beats up Scut Farkus (always thought his name was Scott, but then I read the book and learned it's Scut).
5. This post is really long and I'm going to shut up now.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When I was a kid we MADE our decorations walking uphill in the snow...

I am so thankful to be sitting for five minutes.  My sewing teacher decided to have a "sew-in" today, which is where you go and sew whatever you want, all day long (or however long you want).  I didn't have last-minute Christmas projects to finish up the way a lot of people did, but it was a nice day out (if you don't count the goofs I made and the air I turned blue with cursing).  Plus there were munchies galore--and heaven knows I can't do much if I can't eat while I'm doing it.  Anyway, I have a few minutes before I have to go make some chocolate-covered yumminess, so I'm continuing my "series" with an investigation into handmade Christmas decorations.

First up...
I'm pretty sure this is a million years old.  My dad's grandfather made him and my mom a set of these when they were first married (the other one is pink with red shiny balls--I snorted a little when I wrote that...out of maturity).  It's pretty much an egg carton cut apart and stapled to a piece of posterboard, with garland and gold balls glued to it.  But, like all of the really old stuff, I lurve it.  It doesn't really go with the rest of everything else (regardless of this blog, a lot of the Christmas stuff is fairly new and non-tacky) but we have to put it out every year.  Everything handmade deserves a spot somewhere, especially something made with someone specific in mind.  Some bally-hooer decided to pinch the balls until they popped (tee-hee), but I think it will still be around every year until it biodegrades.

This handsome couple was made by I know not whom (definitely a grandma, though).  They're the typical granny-craft of plain yarn, styrofoam balls and googly eyes.  SHE has a freakiness factor--her hat fell off once and I saw she only has one eye.  I seem to remember that being traumatic but I'm not sure if that's really true. They're the village elders of the snowman-devoted windowsill in the dining room.  It's a big windowsill. 

It seems that if you weren't crocheting in the seventies, you were enrolled in a ceramics class. 
OK, I admit, the Santa with his tush on the stove was made by the '90s and NOT the '70s but that's an unnecessary detail.  It used to have a specialty lightbulb inside that flickered and looked like an actual flame, but that's long gone.  And, it's not technically ceramics, as it's made of plaster and not fired in a kiln or anything.  BUT the one on the right WAS made in the seventies, and it IS ceramic and kiln-fired.  But it doesn't have a nifty lightbulb--just a plain old regular bulb, so there.  I feel I should throw out there that I wanted to live in this house when I was younger.  It would have been right next door to my gingerbread house, lol.

This here is a testament to the insanity of my second grade teacher Mrs. Gaskin.  Only as an adult did I realize that only a first year teacher would think it was a good idea to give 30 seven year old kids a styrofoam hoop, miles of yarn, and then tell them to wrap the yarn around the hoop and make a wreath.  I'm surprised she didn't go postal because that was one hot mess of an afternoon, let me tell you.  My mom told me to "brighten it up" with some beads. So I chose turquoise, the obvious choice for Christmas.  Those silvery things are styrofoam cups covered in aluminum foil and transformed into bells. My brother made those in cub scouts.  And the other thing is braided yarn.  This is clearly the section to display "crap my kids made that I need to display so I don't hurt their feelings but really isn't too good looking."

Obviously plain acrylic yarn was used widely by my ancestors...we have another one of these with the red and green reversed.   They hang on light switches that for some reason don't operate any lights but are still around.  If you search on the net there are a ton of patterns for whatever that is supposed to be--a dress, an angel, who knows. But my grandma made these at some point and we found them when we were going through her things.  They have no true sentimental value other than that their creator is on another plane of existence, and this little crafty remnant of their being reminds us that someone was once here, and while they were, they crocheted.
And last but not least, this...this.  No idea where it came from, but it's scary as the dickens.  It was crocheted.  There's a lot of yarn involved. It covers toilet paper, toilet paper being such an assault to the eyes and everything. And it has googly eyes that look in different directions.  It doesn't really look like Santa, or any other homonid...but it's amusing, and a great way to end the handmade section:  "Did you make that? I can tell!" (which no crafter ever really wants to hear, lol).

Well, kids, the tree is up and decorated and there's a theme to it this year.  So as soon as I can snap some pics we'll continue with the "fun." Well, I'm enjoying it anyway.  Memories be fun.

Off to dip stuff in chocolate and make a mess!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Give me an old-fashioned Christmas....

The shopping is done. The wrapping is done.  All that's left is picking out the tree.  This may be the earliest I've ever been pretty much finished.  My plan today was to curl up with hot chocolate and a book I've been itching to read--and the book sits there, untouched.  But I do have my hot chocolate now, and I'm sitting all cozy watching TV with all the Christmas lights on, and this oddly puts me in a writing mood.  I haven't added to my Christmas "series" anymore, so here goes part 2: really old stuff.

Some of the decorations around the house are so hold they look like they could fall apart at the slightest touch.  But they're the ones that must needs be put out every year, lest the masses whine...

These creepy looking reindeer were once adorable, and were some of the first decorations my mother bought for her first Christmas on her own about @& years ago.  They used to be made of a soft, velvety fabric, but have been loved until the velvet nap has worn away.  There used to be normal eyes in place of those splotchy things, but they haven't shown up for years.  The best part?  They need to lean up against each other or their heads go wonky and flop over.  It's as though they're two old friends in the retirement years of Christmas decorations, and they help each other keep on keepin' on.

I suppose that, in the academic sense, these are still candles. They are made of wax. They react to heat (which is why they're a bit misshapen--they live in the attic for most of the year--it gets HOT up there).  Oh, and they have wicks on their heads.  These belonged to my great-grandmother, and were one of the things given to my father after she passed.  I was reading an issue of Reminisce magazine last year (the Christmas issue) and looking closely at one of the photos I spotted these same angels under the tree in the picture.  Except that theirs was part of a set.  There was a church-shaped package they came in, and there were about twelve pairs of candles inside; they were all different, but these were there too.  The photo was in color, so I'm going to say they're from some time in the fifties. I like two things about these: one is the little books they're holding.  The other is imagining my dad as a little boy, for some reason taken by a set of waxen choir angels, so much so that when he was an adult someone remembered that and passed them on.
UPDATE: Six pairs of angels.  Six grandkids.  Each got a set.  Ain't nothing nostalgic about it (I learned this over Christmas vacation).  BUT it did inspire my aunt to show her kids they had the same little doo-dads hanging around).

This one comes with a geek reveal, the geek being me, of course.  When my grandma passed some years ago, we were going through her things and giving out decorations.  These went to my mother for some reason.  They're very unsubstantial.  They're made of foam, plastic, and felt, but there's something so old-school Christmassy about them that I just love them.  Reveal:  when I was young and we were watching Christmas movies, they always seemed to be set in a time when there were no electric lights and everyone carried around candles and candlesticks.  My parents had a decorative set of candleholders, and I used to ask my mom to let me carry a candle around at night because it would save electricity if I needed to go to the bathroom or something (I also wanted to wear a sleeping cap--I was an odd one).  I realize now that a kid with matches at night would NOT have been a smart thing.  By the time she got these I was almost seventeen and way too old to be doing such things.  But a part of me wanted to be young enough to be whimsical and play Victorian Christmas without my parents shaking their heads and wondering what was wrong with their child.

This nativity set goes back over eighty years. It belonged to my great-grandfather.  A few years ago, again while reading Reminisce, I noticed some of these same pieces.  The person writing about them said that her parents bought them in the twenties--it seemed quite a splurge at the time, but right now would cost pocket change.  They cost twenty-seven cents per piece then; when you turn them over you can still see the price stamped on the bottom.  There were different styles of each piece available, so it was a mix-and-match set.  There's the Holy Family, a few angels, what I assume are shepherds, and a cardboard barn.  They have held up surprisingly well over the decades, and the only thing that shows any more wear is the barn.  I remember visiting his house and being fascinated by this when I was a tot--our nativity only had three people, and they were glued down.

This one (my parents') was bought some time in the seventies, I believe.  It's very simple, and very rustic, and still gets put out each and every year.  It doesn't get the lights strung around it, but it gets placed in the foyer.  I guess it's really all that's necessary for a creche.  But how do you play dollhouse-style manger scene without movable characters?

THIS was always one of my favorites.  This belonged to my grandparents, and they used to put it out every year, simply placed on the end table in their living room.  It's a plastic music box that plays 'Silent Night' when wound up; the angel plays the pipe organ, and what were once two angels peer down from above.  Right now they're more like Venus-de-Milos with heads....and toga diapers.  But they used to have wings. And arms.  I have no idea when this is from, but I do remember going to their house and laying on the living floor with it in front of me, listening to it play.  And then starting it all over again when it wound down.

I think these things were fascinating to me because they were unlike anything in our house, for the most part, and they weren't like anything that you'd see in stores.  It marks an interesting transition--when my grandparents and their parents before them were selecting Christmas decorations, there was more of a religious aspect to the choices.  As time moved on, things became more secular, and it appears that they've stayed that way.  I don't mean to be all Jesus-is-the-reason about it, but I feel like Christmas was perhaps a more joyful time when people were mindful of its beginnings and less focused on commercialism.  I certainly think that something has been lost, and I'm glad I have these little reminders of times gone by and the way things were. 


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