Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Memory

My father would do his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve.   Included amongst his purchases would be our small Christmas tree and gifts for my mother and grandmother.

The tree had to be small in order to fit in our living room which also served as my parents sleeping quarters for much of my youth.  We lived in a four room apartment upstairs from my grandparents.  My two sisters and I shared one bedroom, my two brothers shared the other.  There was a kitchen that barely fit a table big enough for all of us and the living room with the pull-out couch.


The tree would be set up before our Christmas Eve dinner downstairs at my grandparents, the decorating to be left for after dinner.  Coincidentally Santa Claus always seemed to arrive downstairs just about the time we were finishing up the tree decorating.

He, Santa, always made such a ruckous.  We didn't have a chimney so he came in through the cellar door on the side of the house.  My grandparents and uncle would be so busy cleaning up the dinner dishes that they would always just miss seeing him run out the door to the next house.

 We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve.  There were ten of us altogether and it didn't take long but it took forever taking turns opening up the few presents we each had.  I remember looking forward to getting another Nancy Drew book that I could read over the school break.  I can still picture the yellow spines of those books lined up on the bookshelf.

I also looked forward to seeing the gifts that my father gave my mother and grandmother.  Each year, on Christmas Eve as I said, he would go down to the local drug store - Ruzycki's Pharmacy where they had a jewelry counter - and pick out a Christmas pin for each of them.  I seem to forget whether they were Monet or Trifari, but I do remember that they were the most beautiful costume jewelry and my mother and grandmother would wear them proudly to church the next day.

When my grandmother died in 1986, my parents still lived upstairs in that house with my two brothers.  It was in early December that she passed.  (My grandfather had passed away about three years before that.)  I remember the day because it was the day that we, our little family of four, were going with our neighbors on the annual Santa Claus steam train ride, only Christopher was sick so HWNSNBP stayed home with him and I went with Rachel who was just about three.

After the funeral we still went on with our usual Christmas celebrations and had our Christmas Eve dinner downstairs in my grandparent's house, which now was my parent's house.  My mother had one of her creative moments and set up a little 2-foot artificial Christmas tree on the telephone table in the corner of the dining room.  She decorated it with my grandmother's Christmas pins and some of her more flashy clip on earrings.  It was beautiful and unique and I wish I had taken a picture though it's as clear as ever in my mind.

Over the years, and more frequently lately, I have seen people using old costume jewelry to create wonderful framed pieces of art.  Keeping this in mind, along with the memory of my grandmother's jeweled tree, I found that I couldn't resist this summer, picking up a box full of clip on Christmas earrings at a church bazaar.  There were 10 pairs in a box marked 25 cents each.  What a start that would be for a tree of my own.

I put that box away and almost forgot about it until a teacher that I work with brought in a bag of some Christmas decorations that she was discarding.  Some people know that I have the crafting bug and like to offer me their cast-offs before they toss them.  I was thrilled to find a small, 12 inch tree in the bag.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.

Merry Christmas!

(pictures include TP Star ornaments made by one of our 4th grade classes, tea light ornaments made for our district office personnel, and a bookmark and candy made for the school staff)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cards and Tags

 I haven't quite yet been able to get my daughter to join me in my stamping hobby.  Ahhhh, one day maybe.  But until then it is encouraging to know that she appreciates what I do (and also knows a good deal when she see's it, ha!).  Who needs to buy Christmas cards when you have a good source in the family!  She gives me her suggestions, her count (25 this year), and let's me get to work.  

We like the blues and cards that do not say only Merry Christmas because they are going to friends of other faiths.  Here are this year's creations.  The first one is based on one of the cards I did for one of the Jingle Belles challenges - the one held during the time around Earth Day.  I changed the position of the trees, used some clear EP on the bottom to better represent water, and used white torn paper for the snow as opposed to the foamy stuff.  The sentiment says "Merry Winter!"

This Peace on Earth card is more striking IRL.  The snowflakes are embossed on White CS and then I added one in Navy over the largest embossed flake.

In the center of that blue flake is a stamped and embossed representation of the Earth.  

I also had a stamping event last week.  Here's a sneak peak at my tag for the tag swap.

I'm frantically putting together some handmades for the ladies at work and the house is a messier mess than usual.  Why do I always get these bright ideas so late?????

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thinking of................Who

As I sat down to post something yesterday I could not find the words to express the overwhelming sadness that has taken the place of what is supposed to be a joyful time of year.  I was reminded of the episode of Star Trek when Spock, a character who shows no emotion, telepathically feels the anguish of his fellow Vulcans who are on another ship that is destroyed.  Who now, cannot feel the anguish and heartbreak of these families and community that are suffering the horror of the situation at the elementary school in Connecticut.  We, as individuals and a country are blanketed in sorrow.  

I pray for those precious angels who lost their lives and their heroic teachers and administrators who sacrificed themselves trying to keep the children safe.  I pray for the children and staff who were there in the building, who witnessed first-hand, if only by sound the horror as it played out.  I pray for the families of them all whose hearts will be forever wounded.  I pray for the community in Connecticut.  For their loss of their loved ones as well as the loss of their peace.  I pray for the education community.  May we never have to be faced with another tragedy such as this.

The card above was created for a teacher in our school who slipped and was injured.  It was made with bits and pieces that I had left from the centerpieces I made for my son's rehearsal dinner.  It is a larger card - a full sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 folded in half, and I added four pages, book style, inside to allow for all of the staff to sign.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Remembering Ben Casey

I remember watching Ben Casey as a child but honestly, I can't remember any single episode to this day.  What does stand out in my mind is the opening of the show.

Dr. Zorba drawing those characters and explaining their meaning, for whatever reason, made a lasting impression on me.  I don't know if it was the artistic part of it or that I've always had a fascination with codes and symbols.  Something made it memorable.

While I was making two cards I needed this week, this kept going through my head because of the events that I was creating the cards for.  

First a birthday (our lovely mail lady at work who loves the color yellow), 

And then a sympathy for a former co-worker who just lost her mother to Alzheimer's.  Her mother was an artist and the co-worker has shared craft supplies with me that her mother no longer used or needed.

Both cards use the same stamp set - Betsy's Blooms, a new SU die set, and a couple of new embossing folders (non-SU) that I've recently obtained.

I wasn't sure about the color combo on the first one, but in daylight it looks prettier than here.  The  flower was stamped in Daffodil Delight and I used a Summer Starfruit marker to give some depth to the petals.  It's not as tedious as you think to add that little bit of oomph.  I also used a marker to highlight the "feathers" on the bird's wing.  

The second card blossom was highlighted in the same way - just a different color combination.  

One of the things that I did during our "storm recovery" was to use some scrap cardstock and make a sample of all of my embossing folders.  I did this for two reasons.  Well, three if you count keeping busy without power.  First, I wanted to have an actual example of the embossing on cardstock to aid me in choosing one when creating.  Also, if you notice in the two cards above (which I have not made samples for yet as I got them after we recovered) although I started with the same size paper, the embossing itself can cause the paper to appear to shrink in size depending on the pattern used.  

The card bases were the exact same size and so were the white panels before embossing, but if you look at the "frame" created from adhering the embossed panel to the base, you will see that it is slightly different.  This doesn't bother me here with these cards, however, if I were doing a different project that I wanted to be more precise, my samples could help me to see which ones might need adjustment in their measurements.  

Gotta run and get some holiday projects finished before HWNSNBP returns from his reffing today.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Under the Tree

So I bet you thought this was going to be a Christmas post!  Gotcha.  

This is our black walnut that was knocked over by the winds of Sandy.  Mind you, HWNSNBP stands 6'1" so this root system is quite extensive.  Behind him you can also see the old cherry that was also blown over.

Here's the rest of the tree.  It has a slight crack running up the trunk.

Now here is a closer look at the roots.   We bought this house when it was 40 years old and this tree was huge then.  We figure the tree to be close to, if not 100 years old.  There are all kinds of interesting things in that root system.  Bottles, jars, pots, cans.  It appears that it took root over an area that was used as a dump.  The tree is very near to the property line and when it rains heavily, that area sometimes looks like a brook coming down the hill.   So we think that people who lived around here may have filled in a natural stream.  

These are some of the bottles that HWNSNBP has pulled out already.  I'm looking forward to seeing what other "treasures" we might find.  

We've been told that the wood from this tree could possibly be of some value to a woodworker/furniture maker, so we will be looking into that before we cut it up.  The cherry wood is earmarked for his brother-in-law who likes to smoke fish and also has a fireplace.  

Sadly, there were so many trees blown over from that storm that seeing the root systems upended in yards is commonplace.  There are some areas where it looks like Mother Nature was playing dominos with them and what remains looks like dark headstones in a very strange graveyard.  Removing stumps is not an easy thing to do yourself or inexpensive to have done. 

As I drive to and from work - a mere 2.2 miles - the neatly stacked and layered branches and logs in front of houses has almost made it look like a rustic wall of sorts.  We are lucky that our township is picking this up.  In some adjoining towns it is the responsibility of the homeowner to transport it to a designated area and if you don't have a suitable vehicle for doing that, it only makes it more difficult.  

Utility companies have estimated over 116,000 trees were downed in NJ alone.  And I think they are counting mainly the ones that have affected power lines on the roadsides.   There were thousands more in parks and backyards.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Other Recycling Project

HWNSNBP was kind enough to bring me back hot chocolates on his trips out to wait in line for gas during our "storm recovery".  Looking at the corrugated cup wraps I was accumulating I wondered what I could do with them.  I had just gotten the Bigz leaf die and decided to use that to die cut some of them into leaf shapes.  Then it occurred to me that it would be nice to add some color so I went through the bag of recycling that we had and pulled out anything that had autumn colors.

There was a red pizza box, some cheez-it boxes, Stewart's orange and root beer soda carriers, a box from some wafer cookies, and others that I don't remember anymore.  I wanted to avoid the lettering so I chose the smallest leaf and set about cutting and rolling and cutting and rolling and cutting and rolling until I had a nice little bag full of the leaves.  

They sat in the bag for a bit because I knew that I would need to use a hot glue gun to use them however that might be.  You know I didn't think that I would be waiting that long to be able to use the gun and then when I could things like oh, Thanksgiving and pre-holiday cleaning  caused me to set them aside.

Finally last week I completed the project.  In my purging I found another piece of lightweight cardboard that was on some bakeware that was purchase quite some time ago.  Why I was saving that I do not know, but because it was already a circle with a hole, all I had to do was make the hole a little bigger.  

I kept to the recycling by using the brown shipping paper that comes in my SU deliveries.  I always fold it up and set it aside and have used some of it on occasion.  Don't worry, we have recycling every two weeks so I don't have an overwhelming pile of this stuff.  I don't keep it forever because I know I can always get more when the next order comes in.

What I did while it was folded was to cut a strip of about 3 inches from the end, ran that through my paper crimper and then used my fingers to make a gather along the center of it.  I added about 2 inches of hot glue to the circle about midway and kept doing that and pressing down the brown paper until it was completely covered.  Then I started adding the leaves.

I like the way it turned out (minus the magnetic clip).  Of course, it wasn't up for long because we're fazing out autumn and bringing out the Christmas/winter decorations.  I've already used some more of the brown paper that way on another project I might be sharing soon.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Calendar and the Story Behind It

Back in 1986 we lived in a four room house on four acres.  We had already outgrown the house and were contemplating what to do when we were approached by a realtor who lived up the hill behind us to see if we wanted to sell off two of those acres.  It took a lot of talking it out before we decided to go ahead and instead of putting the money we would make into fixing up the house for someone else to buy, to add on and up for ourselves.  It was an eventful 8 months of that year between March and September.  

Things kind of fell into place for us in that my grandmother had recently passed away and we were able to move into her part of the two-family house that my parents still lived in.  The four of us slept in one room - HWNSNBP and myself in the bed, Chris on a mattress on the floor, and Rachel still in her crib.  It was cramped but cozy.    

We had hired someone to design the addition and do the framing and we did the contracting of the other work like plumbing, heating, and electric.  The finishing of the inside was done by HWNSNBP and his band of buddies who spent many evenings and weekends putting in the sheetrock and other various jobs.   There was still a lot of "finishing" work that had to be done when we moved back in in September, and truthfully, to this day there are still some things that have not been completed.  But we added out and up and made a comfortable home for our family of four.

Paging through a book or craft magazine (I don't remember exactly where) I came upon and idea for an advent calendar and knew that we had the basic ingredients in the scrap wood pile.

I asked HWNSNBP to cut me a piece of plywood leftover from the subflooring in a rectangle about 20" x 12" and some one inch strips of 1x4 in lengths to frame it.  I did a quick whitewash of the plywood rectangle and painted the frame red.  The tree was dry-brushed with green paint and no pattern in one try - I think I got real luck with that.  One more red strip of wood was needed for the ornament bar.  Tiny brass nails were positioned on the tree and ornament bar - 24 on each.

On the back it was dated with our names as co-creators.

And each year from then until 2002 we kept track of the kids taking turns to start hanging the ornaments on the tree - beginning with the angel at the top.

There was a store called The Pink Sleigh in a town nearby that had all kinds of craft supplies as well as finished Christmas decorations.  It was kind of like walking into an old candy store with bins of this and that and on top of one of the counters was a partitioned box that you could pick out the little "ingredients" for your crafts from.  I had the kids, then 3 and 5, help me pick out 24 of the little wood and plastic figures and at home I meticulously glued the gold thread to the top of each one so they could become ornaments.

They get all lined up on the ornament bar with the angel first and the Baby Jesus last (one of the nails has gone missing which is why everything is pushed over one for now).

On December 1st we put it up and begin by hanging the angel at the top.

We're not keeping track of who goes first any more as the kids have moved out.  It's basically who remembers first for the day that gets to put the ornament up now.

This advent season we are also trying something else that I had read about on someone's blog.  We're trying to do a Random Acts of Kindness Advent.  Beginning yesterday we will try to do something somewhat unexpected for someone each day.  Nothing really big or too expensive.  Just thoughtful.  For instance - donating a book anonymously to the library, or sharing coupons at the store with the person behind us, paying for the next person's coffee, or leaving a little treat for the mailman or crossing guard or co-worker.  We're still trying to come up with ideas, so if you have any, please feel free to share them - or perhaps, if not for the next 24 days, pick out a few days that you might like to RAK someone.