Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Blogging is Teaching Me

Please note that I am using the present tense and not "What Blogging has taught me." This will be an ongoing process. Thank goodness for free online help for layouts and backgrounds, especially Shabbyblogs.com and the Graphics Fairy. At least my site has a somewhat professional appearance although I am still trying to put together a customized and therefore more personal banner and of course there will be other changes as my knowledge and talent for "artful blogging" increases. I am so grateful to my followers especially those first special few that decided to take a chance on my blog, hopefully recognizing a potential diamond in the rough, in my postings of random thoughts, and family memories. It is this support and encouragement that have helped to nurture my blog. Thank you.

So before we turn the last calendar page of 2009 into 2010, I thought I would share a brief recap of what I have gained, to date, from my blogging friends.

1. A big thank you to Tiff at Folded Gingham who first introduced me to the wonderful world of blogging. A chance conversation one Friday afternoon at the Goodwill store (where else) led me to visit her site. As a side note, maybe that is what I should have titled my Blog .... "A Conversation at Goodwill", it does have a certain ring to it, like "Breakfast at Tiffany's." I found her site to be friendly and charming and I was so jealous of all her found trash to treasures. I thought I was good at rescuing trash. From her site, I visited the sites that she follows as well as the sites of her followers, and so on, and so on. I admit it .... I became addicted. I was almost giddy as I read the postings of these kindred souls .... their words could have easily been written by me. That night, I created my own blog and have ever since felt liberated in my ability to write, to share, to entertain, to post.

2. One of the first sites I started to follow was Gina's at The Shabby Chic Cottage. Her tutorials are clear with easy to follow instructions. Although I didn't have time this year, for Christmas 2010, I will be creating her "Tutu Christmas Tree Skirt". How cute was that!! It will be perfect for my oh so very feminine Victorian Christmas Tree, with an all pink theme, embellished with feathers, fruits, flowers and yards of tulle. Just what it needs. Thank you Gina for showing me how.

3. I just finished participating in the Vintage Christmas Monday Blog Party, that was hosted by Joan at Anything Goes Here. It was a pleasure to meet so many nice participants at this party. Honestly, I was amazed at the ornaments, decorations and figurines being shown that could have come from my own attic. It just shows that first of all, the love of all things vintage is universal and secondly as my own childhood memories mirror those of others, it seems to make the world a smaller and friendlier place. It is no wonder that the movie "The Christmas Story a.k.a You'll shoot your eye out" is so popular. Even though that Christmas took place in the 40's, it was not so dissimilar to the Christmas times of the 50's and 60's which all hearken back to a simpler and more innocent time. Being able to share these memories through our blogs, is like having a hot bowl of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich on a cold winter's afternoon, it is comfort food ........ for the soul.

4. It was through these Monday posts I learned from Judi at Vintage Hope Chest that my candy cane sleigh (purchased at Goodwill for $.99 cents a week earlier) was a Lefton piece. I did not know. I am almost embarrassed to admit this one (but hey, I am sharing today) that I did not know the names of my garish, oh so bright, scary wide eyed and knee clutching little elves were officially called Knee Huggers. It was also reading these posts that I discovered a new collectible, Holt Howard pieces. I am smitten by them and will now be on a vigilant watch for them. (What are the chances of finding any at Goodwill ....... it could happen.) But perhaps the best thing I found through VCM was a new phrase. It came from Suzy at Georgia Peachez and it is "Merry Kitschmas". I have already commented to her that I am shamelessly going to use this phrase next Christmas season, in fact I think I will turn it into a Christmas banner. How clever is that? Her phrase that is, and not my banner idea.

5. Lastly, I must acknowledge Susan at Between Naps on the Front Porch (who has a beautifully designed site) for providing a tutorial post titled "Blogging Secrets". I have it bookmarked on my computer for easy reference. It is obvious that a great deal of time and detail went into preparing this post. Dear Susan, just to let you know, it was greatly appreciated.

So who knows, maybe I will finally become proficient in my camera shots (remember natural light and no flash, easier said than done when you are taking pictures late at night), and I will be better at remembering to do the before shots for the greatest WOW factor when revealing the after shots. My blogging resolutions for 2010 will be: To entertain, To educate, To share, To make you laugh, To make you cry, To make you reflect, To make you stop by for another day and another post. Thank you for joining me on this fabulous and fun journey. Please buckle up, the ride has begun.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve and the trees are decorated.

It is Christmas Eve. The packages are wrapped. The luminaries are ready to be set outside along our walk and driveway. As is our family tradition, we will be going out for Chinese food for supper, reminiscent of the scene from "The Christmas Story". Before returning back home, we will visit some of our favorite neighborhoods for their light displays, again a yearly Christmas Eve tradition. It was on one of those trips, years ago, that we saw Santa. My daughter Elizabeth was three and had been in her carseat enjoying the bright displays of colors and decorations when all of a sudden she yelled out "Santa, Santa, Santa!!!" Sure enough, there was Santa before us, walking down the street, no reindeer in sight. We carefully pulled up alongside him, rolled down the window and asked Santa if he could say hello to our daughter. Of course, he would be delighted, was his reply. He leaned forward into the car and asked Elizabeth if she had been a good girl. She enthusiastically nodded yes! With a Ho, Ho, Ho, and a hearty laugh, he wished her Merry Christmas, and with a blink of an eye, he left to begin his night's travels. You have never seen a happier child than my daughter was at that moment. That had been the first year she wasn't afraid of the big jolly old elf. All was right with the world. Unfortunately, dear old Santa smelled of Whiskey. It was a good thing he was walking, probably not safe to drive a team of reindeer, even with Rudolph's help. But through the innocent eyes of childhood, it was a magical moment. Of course, we still laugh about it.

This is Elizabeth and Santa at Daycare, age three.

Well since it is Christmas Eve, I thought I would recap all of my trees, plus show a few from past years. As I have mentioned before, I used to host an annual open house for a 100 or more. My guests would look forward to what new themed tree would be introduced. A few years ago, the local paper, The Portland Press Herald, did a two page article on my party and trees. The article began, "Sherrie could give Martha Stewart a run for her money." I never get tired of reading that. With the economy being what it is, and my putting a daughter through college, this year's party was just a few close friends, and only 5 trees and not 12. Before Christmas Day arrives and the season winds down, here is a final recap of trees, this year and past years. I hope that you enjoy them.

The article:
The Dart Room Tree: It has a southwestern theme. I spray painted plastic cowboy and horse figurines gold and copper, and hung them on the tree. My daughter and I made "God's Eyes" as ornaments and the tree is lit with chili pepper lights.

This is a tree from last year, The State of Maine tree. Naturally, it has a flocked seagull as its topper. There are lobsters, Santas in Sardine cans, blueberries, boats, bears and fish. I used actual seashells, pheasant feathers, and deer antlers as decorations. The kids loved the tree.

This is the Wedding Tree, posted earlier. Everything on the tree is white or silver. My daughter's first pair of baby shoes serve as an ornament along with a photo of my mother as a 1950's bride.

This is my 1960's Tree which I also posted earlier. I called it the 1960's tree as that was the year I was born and all these ornaments actually could have been on my first Christmas Tree. After participating in Joan's Vintage Christmas Monday, I learned that most of my ornaments are from the 40's. It is a tinsel tree of course. Notice my cat lurking under the tree. What is it with cats and trees?

The Hallway Tree, a new Black and Red theme.

My favorite tree, my Pink Victorian Tree. It has flowers, feathers, fruit, tulle and vintage ornaments, all pink.

The 2009 introduction of the Peacock Tree. With natural decorations and an iridescent glow.

Also in the dining room are the Rose and Cherub Tree and the smaller Tea for Two Tree. The latter tree has miniature cups, saucers and tea pots for decorations. I spray painted spoons with gold paint and hot glued ribbon and little roses on them. I use them as the icicles on the tree.

This white tree is the Bathroom Tree. I am not kidding. Years ago my husband saw a segment on HGTV about making ornaments from toilet paper tubes. He has made 100's of them as gifts and package toppers.

They really are quite pretty.

This is the Americana Tree, a past tree. In this picture it is sitting where the 1960's tree now stands. Notice that this is the old paint and wallpaper of the Family room that is now all beige and cream. (Family room redo is an earlier post). Everything on the tree is hand-made only by friends, bought at craft fairs or made by myself. The bow at the top of the tree is made out of brown craft paper.

This is the 9 foot main Christmas Tree. It sits under the arch that separates the Front Parlor from the Music Room. It has over 500 ornaments.

The Music Room tree with all musically themed ornaments.

The one tree that I do not have a photo for, is our Super Hero tree. My husband has a collection of vintage comics and has collected Super Hero
memorabilia over the years, enough so to create this tree. After 9/11, we added soldiers, policemen and firemen figurines, as the words Super Hero took on a new meaning.

Thank you for letting me share. It is as if I had had my open house, and you all have come to share a Christmas toast with me. Thank you. Your comments have been like little Christmas packages, all tied up with a bow. Merry Christmas friends. Wishing you a joyous, happy and healthy New Year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Peacock Tree

Okay, don't laugh..... this is an addendum to my post, that I already posted today. I didn't like my photos so I quickly added these, this time without the flash. Of course when you add photos, they go to the top of the post and I really couldn't figure out how to quickly rearrange them. So here are all the photos of my Peacock Tree.

This is the original post.
Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men. It is just a few days before Christmas and the house is surprisingly peaceful. The trees are up and the house is decorated, although I still find myself tweaking things here and there, and remembering to take a picture so I can be reminded next year of what I did. The packages are wrapped. I only have a few more little things to do like making the gift tags. I found some terrific images at the Graphics Fairy that I will be using for customized tags (Which are turning out so nice, they could be used as ornaments. I will show you when I finish them.) As promised for today, I want to show you another one of my trees. It is the Peacock Tree and it is in the Front Parlor. The mantle decoration above sets the tone for the room with its chartreuse green flowers and copper accents. Those colors are carried over to this tree.

This is the tree topper, a green bow and gold peacock (you gotta love spray paint!)

I wanted to showcase the colors of the feathers. So you will see different shades of blue, green, copper and gold.

I have gold peacocks and these little copper birds with their tuft of feathers.

I have actual natural elements including twigs and pine cones along with natural looking elements of artichokes and grapes. I found this green and gold ribbon with a rustic feel at Goodwill for $.99 cents and I cut it lengthwise to have enough to go around the tree.

This next photo is off the tree, it does not do it justice. Partly because of my camera, partly because of the lighting, and partly because of me as the photographer. During the daytime, the tree has an iridescent glow. It is perhaps more of a floral arrangement than a tree. I do like how it came out, but it is a tree that is best seen in person to see all the detail that I couldn't get on film.

If by chance you are visiting my post today for wrapping up Vintage Christmas Monday, that post is dated the 20th. Please enjoy that one as well as the one in between of my Hallway Tree. Merry Christmas to all who visit and please let me know, should I keep this tree or is it a one season showing? Thanks.

Monday, December 21, 2009

White to Black: A new Christmas Tree

Okay since I posted a serious Vintage Christmas Post, I thought I would do a second post today of another tree. Here is my Hallway Tree. I love to decorate, especially for the holidays. Every year I always think that I will try something new but I love how the old way already looks. So I tweak things, adding maybe just a new piece here or there .... I ask myself, why tamper with perfection. BUT THIS IS THE YEAR OF CHANGE! With the family room having had a complete makeover (see earlier post) and the addition of new furniture in the front hallway has given me the inspiration and courage to try something new. I thought I would post last year's photos( They are posted at the end because I forgot to bring over the photos in reverse order.) along with the new photos, and you can be the judge.

Today I'm showing my front hallway. My Eastlake hutch got moved from hallway to family room and replaced with a large 9 drawer pine dresser. This piece was hand built by my Dad's cousin and when he moved this summer to a smaller home, the dresser became mine. I immediately painted it black and switched out the wooden knobs for metal. It is a low piece that for as long as it is, fits perfectly under my hallway stairs and makes a great place for my collection of linens, salt and pepper shakers and silverware collections. A hall table was replaced with a small deacon's bench, also painted black. (My parents got this bench in the 60's using S & H Green Stamps.) With the introduction of all this black, my Christmas White theme needed to change. You guessed it .... all to Black. So first this year's photos followed by last year's. Please let me know what you think

My dad's silver reindeer adorn the candlesticks and floral arrangement and are flanked by the mercury glass pieces. I have used red as my pop of color.

This pine dresser is perfect for holding my collection of linens and silverware.

This is a metal basket, black of course, given to me by a friend. I have it filled with fresh greens and red flowers.

This is the deacon's bench that my parents got through S&H green stamps. Remember those? Of course I have presents wrapped in coordinating black, silver and red. The boxes are actually empty.

pine cone wreath on the mirror has been every color. It is now Black. My family just humors me when they see me go out into the garage with object in one hand, and a can of spray paint in the other.
Not the best shot of the tree. It is black with red and silver ornaments.

Now the next pictures are of last year's Christmas with an all-white theme. I used white tulle with lights along the stairway railing.

This is my Wedding Tree. Everything is white. I have had this tree for years, long before White Wednesday.

I love these two gigantic ornaments hanging on either side of the door. My friend found them. Because of their large scale, perhaps they had once been used as a store display.

As always thanks for letting me share and thank you for all your kind comments. We still have a few more trees to go. Maybe I can finally get the photos done in day light and turn off the flash. Hey, I'm still new at this. Be sure to visit my earlier VCM post for today and all the other VCM participants. Thanks Joan at anythinggoeshere for a wonderful time in blog land.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Final Vintage Christmas Monday & Memories

Welcome to the last Vintage Christmas Monday. Thanks again to Joan at anythinggoeshere for the wonderful job she has done in organizing this fabulous blog party. I had hoped for something new for this last date and actually found the felt Santa picture at Goodwill and the green cornucopia at a church Christmas sale, the picture was $.99 cents and the pottery $.50 cents. Around the frame of the picture, is a nice cloth trim piece, and real sticks were incorporated into the design. I meant to add a sprig of berries to the vase, but forgot to do so before I took the picture. Goodwill is seasonal when it comes to putting out decoration so I won't see anything new at Goodwill till November 2010.

For today's post I wanted to share an old memory, a new memory and a memory that seems can not be forgotten, no matter how hard we try. A while back, I was celebrating Christmas with my family. It was 2004 and the family was getting together at my house. Usually I am up at my brother's home for the holiday ..... he has Christmas and I have Thanksgiving. However, that year, my family wanted to see my 12 full size theme trees that I had decorated along with miles of garland, nutcracker collection and gingerbread houses a la Martha. I won't say it was over the top, apparently I just didn't sleep much before the party. I had food everywhere,
after all that is my business. Tables were set up in the front parlor, music room and of course dining room and kitchen. All homemade goodies from scratch except the cheese (Sorry Martha S. I don't own a cow or goat.) Talk, between nibbling on tea sandwiches and scones turned to the topic of Christmas decorating. That was when the menfolk made a hasty retreat to the family room, not before filling up their plates.

We talked of homemade wreaths and bows, which stores would have the best after-Christmas sales ... Christmas Tree Shop or
Michaels, and can you ever have enough candles? Burning questions to be sure (no pun intended - the candle question). However, it was that last question that prompted my mother to ask my sister and I if we saw the December issue of Martha Stewart Living and had we seen the article on the candle carolers? She went on to ask if we remembered the set of Christmas Carolers Candles that she used to have. Every Christmas Mom would get out the candles and arrange them on a mirror that lay on the dining room side table. She would add fresh greens and berries. The appearance of these candles heralded the start of the Christmas Season. We may not have had many family traditions at Christmas, but this was one of them. Like all things of our childhood, that got old, faded, and chipped, the candles were replaced with newer decorations. Mom said she had regretted having gotten rid of them. I came home one day and saw the box in the trash. I was 12. Horrified, I retrieved them from the bin (my first official foray into dumpster diving) and carefully wrapped them up in tissue paper and stored them away.

Until that year, 2004, when Martha's article had reminded me of my treasures. Safely wrapped up as they had been for so many years, they had been a protected memory of my childhood, of a time of innocence, when Santa was real. I knew it was now time to start a new tradition, with my own daughter. I unpacked the sweet little candles and made my own vignette.

Taking my mother's hand in mine, I led her to the family room where the candles in all their worn paint, slightly warped glory were displayed. Stunned, she turned to look at me. "Could these be the same candles? How" When I explained what I had done, she gave me a hug and said thank you. And for a moment we stood there in silence, gazing upon the candles, thinking of those years that they graced the dining room and when my father was alive. He had died when I was 13. And for a brief moment Dad was with us. OLD MEMORIES.

But there are times when it is okay to pass on a family treasure, because it makes you feel good to share. I just received this sweet little angel bell from my friend Cathy. Last week she had placed a beautifully wrapped box on my desk, so pretty you didn't want to open the gift. So after a moment's hesitation I unwrapped the box and there carefully wrapped in tissue paper was this sweet little angel. (I am thinking it was probably part of a set of 4 spelling out Noel, as the stocking looks like an L). It brought tears to my eyes because I knew that this ornament was one of the few things from Cathy's own childhood that she received after both parents had died. I knew the family memories it held for her and was honored that she had chosen to give it to me. She explained that it was the only decoration that she had of this type, everything else was more modern. She couldn't pass it on to her daughters, how do you decide which one to receive it? She knew my love of vintage and deep respect for family memories and could think of no one better than I to give this little angel a home. It sits proudly on my shelf with my vintage ceramic sleigh and elves and it will always remind me of my friend Cathy and NEW MEMORIES.

Awhile ago my daughter found a scrapbook at Goodwill that had
memorabilia chronicling the time spent during the Vietnam War of one young man and his family. Elizabeth thought it was sad that one's memories had been put out for purchase and decided she should buy it out of respect for the soldier. It was only recently that I looked through the pages and found this Christmas Menu, detailing a Christmas Dinner for the 39th Signal BN (S.P.C.)

The menu included assorted relish tray, assorted fresh fruit, assorted nuts and assorted candy.

It wasn't the menu that caught my eye but rather the message from the commanding officer.

"To all personnel of this Command and their dependents, I wish to extend most sincere wishes for a very Merry Christmas. To those of you who are away from your home and loved ones on this day I hope that you may find solace in your knowledge that you are serving the forces of democracy in preserving the peace and freedom symbolized by Christmas Day. It is my prayer that wherever you may be, whether as a Soldier or Civilian, you will never fail to serve your God, your country and your fellow man. May the spirit which prevails here today continue throughout the coming years and there forever will be Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men."

These words were written in
Viet Nam, almost 40 years ago, but they could have been written this week, in Iraq. Some Memories never change.

Perhaps not a proper Vintage Christmas Monday ornament or other decoration, but this does represent a long ago Christmas that is worth remembering. What is the phrase ......"People that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" .... something like that. Let us all hope for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men and that War will someday be only an old memory in the history books. Merry Christmas to all who serve and their families. God bless you and keep you safe.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Music Room Tree

You have seen the 1960's Tree in the Family Room, the Victorian Tree in the Dining Room, this is the Music Room Tree. This little room is off the Dining Room and is separated by a large archway with the Front Parlor. We have our piano, my daughter's saxophone, and 4 guitars. The portrait that you see behind the tree is of Judge Waterman. It was his family that built my home in 1853 and he was born there in 1863. In fact in this very room. It had been used as a birthing room and it was also used for viewing the dead. If only these walls could talk!!!!

The small framed picture is of Mr. Waterman, the dad and builder of my house. As you can see, all the ornaments are musically-themed. Being as we are such a musical family in both instrument and voice, we receive a lot of these ornaments as gifts from friends.

This is a picture looking through the archway into the Front Parlor to the 9 foot family tree. I have fruit laden garlands on either side of this archway.

I wish that we could play you a Christmas Carol ...... so just imagine we are singing "Deck the Halls."