December 17, 2013

Decking My Halls

Christmas Village on living room shelf.

My daughter putting the final touches on Christmas Tree.

Also the various rooms, the patio and porches, the yard and the garden house...

It is such a busy time of year. I have not gotten around to a post in a while, and this one will mostly serve to show off our holiday preparations here at The House. There has really been no break in the fevered activity around here since the All-Hallows Barn Party we hosted the first weekend in November. It seemed like I was barely cleaned up from that and it was time for Thanksgiving Dinner. We had a family gathering that included all of my children and grandchildren as well as my Mom and Step-dad, my daughter's Mother-in-Law and some significant others. It was fun. I was better organized than last year, but still not where I would like to be. The weather, which has mostly been more like summer than autumn, took a cool turn. It would have been great except for the relentlessly chilly wind. We had moved the picnic table onto the patio in anticipation of being able to dine outdoors—some did, but it was a bit cool for most, so everyone found a spot and ate the buffet style meal in small groupings.

 Lovely as the day was, I realized afterward that I had taken no pictures. I tend to immerse myself in my job as hostess to such an extent that all else goes out of mind. It is not that I am that good of a hostess, but it is my comfort zone I have come to realize. I am never really at ease in social situations unless I am the originator, and then I am so caught up in the process that I never really have time to just socialize. Aah—nothing like a little self-reflection to make the holidays brighter. At any rate, having wrapped up Thanksgiving we dove almost immediately into preparations for Christmas. Actually, I had put the outdoor lights up on the Garden House almost two weeks before Thanksgiving. Last year the power outlet on the front of that small building wasn't working, so I didn't decorate it. I was quite excited to be able to this year.

Peace Moose-- Christmas Decor
 Again, I am better organized than I was last year so soon after moving here, but not yet where I want to be. This year seemed particularly rushed with Thanksgiving coming so close to the end of November. I do not go shopping on Black Friday. Thinking back, I do not recall that I ever have. I understand the pressures on retail businesses, that the holiday season at the end of the year is what makes or breaks them, but I still find that I resent the frenzy and the stupidity that has resulted from this blatantly commercial approach to the Holidays. Having myself worked in retail and even owned my own shop for a time, I have worked on plenty of holidays or days after holidays. However, this extension of hours, opening long before dawn, or the new trend of opening the stores before the turkey can be shoved into the fridge after Thanksgiving dinner, absolutely sickens me. There are few actual holidays left any longer that most of us have off, and getting to be fewer all of the time in this fast paced 24/7 world, but traditionally Thanksgiving and Christmas have remained mostly sacrosanct. While everyone has different customs and traditions, and more often these days none, trying to lure people away from the family table to shop, and worse, making many of those who would love the chance to spend the Holiday joyously dash to work instead, is just another indication of how crass and greedy we have become as a people. We are a culture in dire need of self-reflection and examination.

Merry Christmas- Lights
Welcome
 But enough of my soapbox for the moment. Come on up to The House and see what we have been doing. We will start out front at the patio. I used snow flakes and white lights on the rose trellis, and I love the way they look. It was a challenge getting those lights on there, and I can not help but cringe at the thought of taking them down. Those roses bite.

Christmas-- front entrance




 If you come up the sidewalk to the front entrance, we will go on in. We only ever use this front door for company, so consider yourself our guest for this tour. I am still not happy with the front of the house, but it is much cheerier than last year. I think I still need more lights.











The tree in the front hall is artificial and still a work in progress, but it is so cute. It is covered with lots of handmade ornaments—a number of them made by the kids going back to kindergarten years. There are also ones made by myself or friends. Other ornaments on the tree are vintage or the more primitive styles from among my large collection of Santas.





An elf on the tree



 The elf hanging on this tree is the real deal. My mother had these for many years (and I would be remiss if I did not add that when I was younger I thought that these and several other of her treasured ornaments were tacky and less than chic) before passing them along to my youngest children.




The bench below, a gift from my Dad and Step-mom, found its happy home in the entrance hall. It's a cozy place for Santa to sit down and take a rest.




Prim bench with Christmas goodies.

 

Some of my Santa Claus Collection...

Santa Clause wall plaque
Santa Claus wall plaque
Santa Claus figurines--mantel
Old World Santa figurines- mantel
Santas- made by my sister as gifts over twenty years ago.
Santa on kitchen shelf







These are only a small sample of my Santas. I have been in love with Santa Claus for my entire life, in all of his many guises. Father Christmas, Père Noël, Saint Nicholas and all the rest live in my heart, and at Christmas on shelves, in nooks, on the tree and all over the house.  I like to think that someday I will do an inventory, but I acquire new (or sometimes old) Santas every year.

Lets take a quick look into the dining room before we move on to the living room.







Yes, there are more Santas in here. I haven't done much as far as actually decorating the dining room, but I will do more after I set up a buffet table for the Christmas Eve open house. Much of the contents, both Christmas and otherwise, of the hutch are things I either thrifted or rescued. The Santa figurines in the window as well as the little Santa dish in the hutch are from the townhouse my Mom and Step-dad cleaned out after some tenants moved and left a Hoarder's Paradise behind.



Living room Christmas Tree

Just a quick stop in the living room before we go into the kitchen and back outdoors. The tree in here is real. We went with a smallish one this year because we liked the shape (and I was tired from Thanksgiving). Next year could be altogether different. It is a Douglas Fir. We almost always have gotten Fraser Firs in the past, but last year we chose a Douglas because the tree lot was out of the Frasers until the next day. As it turned out, we were enchanted by the way the tree looked decorated, and since we do not have carpet in this living room, we really weren't concerned that it was a bit more likely to shed needles. It just goes to show that sometimes it is good to change old habits if for no other reason than to bring a little novelty to life.

Thrifted vase and Christmas baubles


View of the top of antique pie safe
I do not have a lot of decorations in the kitchen really, but it is, at least in this household, really the heart of Christmas in many ways. It is, after all, where all the Christmas goodies are kept and where many of them originate. Besides my display on top of the pie safe, there are Christmas knick-knacks on the book shelf, and Christmas tins, some of them vintage and some only vintage styled, litter the counter tops. A bout of the flu or some nasty virus has kept me from making as many Christmas cookies as usual so far, but I need to finish this post so I can roll out the gingerbread dough I made a few days ago and put in the refrigerator. There is still time to make all sorts of Christmas cookies and candies before the big day.

Shelf with tins and antique coffee grinderUltimately, while presents, treats and gifts are nice, especially for the children, it is the Heart and Soul of Christmas that speak loudest to me. The Spirit of Santa Claus—helping those less fortunate, sharing and giving with no expectations of return—is what I keep as the true message of Christmas. The Birth of a Savior, a Son-of-Light to guide us from the Winter Darkness to the Dawn of Spring is a much more fundamental and essential idea than whether one is a Christian, a Pagan or of any particular faith. It is an idea, a spark of Light, that was ignited in the breasts of our remotest ancestors. It is a custom that, one way or another, most of us still keep. While it may change with zeitgeist or paradigm, the core realities surrounding the passage from darkness to light in human experience do not. Though outwardly at least, we, as a culture, have changed mightily, we have not escaped from the cyclical nature of our existence. So I say be damned to political correctness and wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas. Or whatever, in your own belief system, you call it. It is time to get past all the petty judgements and divisions. That, too, is what Christmas is supposed to be about.

Rose Christmas spray





Since we are ending our tour for today in the kitchen, we will just slip out the back door, where, through the magic of time-travel, it is now daylight. Here is one of the two White Rose Christmas sprays I found at a  thrift shop and hung on the patio. Since I had used the white lights and snowflakes at this end of the house, I thought they fit rather nicely.


Metal Stocking with greenery

 

Yet another thrift shop find. A metal stocking that I filled with boughs of greenery and hung by the back door.




Out in the Garden House it is Christmas too. This is Florida, so though the little succulents and more tender plants are tucked in the snug little building in front of the south facing window, we have not yet had a frost. Everything is green and still growing. I found the stocking on a clearance rack last year and thought the botanical motif was perfect for my favorite place on this property.

I hope you have enjoyed the tour. I have certainly enjoyed showing off our lovely home a bit. I do not know if I will post again in 2013, but in any event, I wish you and yours a magical and blessed Christmas, and an abundant and healthy New Year.

Peace to you all...

November 21, 2013

Autumn in the Studio


View of the Glitch in Time Studio-- androidography

I finally get around to cleaning and organizing the roll-top desk

Back during the summer when I was doing my last-minute participation in the Where Bloggers Create 2013 blog party hosted by  Karen Valentine at My Desert Cottage I promised to do a tour of the antique oak roll-top desk which graces the office end of my studio. At the time, I presented a photo of it with the roll-top closed to conceal the extreme case of untidiness beneath.

Roll-top desk-- oak with c-style roll
Cleaning and organizing it has been on my list of To-Dos ever since, but instead of getting better, the clutter situation just kept growing worse. I bought some more clear plastic cases with a view to sorting the heaping basket of beads, possible bead projects, unused beadclass kits, and begun but never completed projects residing in the middle of the desk. I still did not get to it though, and the mess only grew.
Clutter on Oak roll-top desk

Since I usually kept it closed anyway, it was easy to just keep letting the heap of papers, boxes, beads and other strange objects hidden beneath, grow. Aside from the mess, I also most often keep it closed to prevent the cats from making it into another place to sleep. I spend a great deal of time cleaning up cat hair as it is, and do not relish it amongst the nooks and crannies of my desk. One of our cats, Qetesh, also happens to be an inveterate magpie. She likes shinys, tubes of beads or pieces of jewelry, in fact any kind of bauble, especially if it will roll when pushed off of something.

Qetesh-- Bead cat

Though to outward appearance, she is fat, lazy, amiable and innocent, experience has long since taught me not to leave things where she can get to them easily. When we moved this past year, I found a treasure trove of seed bead tubes, larger beads and metal findings hidden away beneath furniture and in out of the way corners of the basement where my former workspace was.




Since it had been a good while between thorough dustings, and now that summer is over and the yard is not being quite so demanding, I no longer had that excuse for my neglect. The time had come. I started sorting through the contents of my desk top. The basket of beads have been organized into raw materials or set aside if they were indeed part of projects I want to finish. Bead bags and containers are put away. The earring cards I had printed but not cut apart are finished and ready for use; however, the pendants I started before breaking my wrist last spring are still waiting to be soldered. Other bits and pieces found places, either in the desk or in other appropriate places around the studio. At some point, I had emptied most of the top of the desk, so I pulled everything remaining out in order to oil and polish the wood.

Empty desk-- drawers, nooks and cubbies
Picture of the back of desk with it's interesting cubbies and drawers.
I have, in the past couple of months, done a bit of research into the desk's possible origins. I cannot be absolutely certain, but it is nearly identical to photos I found of roll-top desks manufactured by the Derby and Kilmer  Co.
The Derby Desk Company was established in Boston in 1870 but moved to Somerville, Massachusetts in the 1880s. By the time this print was made, about 1912, the company was described by the Somerville Board of Trade as "the largest manufacturing industry in the world devoted exclusively to the manufacture of office furniture. Occupying ten acres of floor space, it has made and sold over two million desks, and designed special and artistic furniture for the principal banks, libraries, public institutions, and corporations throughout the United States."





http://www.historicnewengland.org/publications/historic-new-england-magazine/summer-2003/2003SummerPage11.htm

Though the resemblance it bears to their products is undeniable, I can find no definite mark of manufacture. The key-plate on the front of the roll-top should identify it, but it does not appear to be the original and is blank.

Key plate on front of roll-top desk.
The locking mechanism on the bottom is missing altogether. If there were ever keys, I do not have them. My father purchased this desk at least twenty years ago and paid about $700.00. As far as I can determine, its present worth could fall anywhere between one and two thousand dollars. It is not in pristine condition, but very good, and it is constucted from solid oak rather than the more common veneered wood. The joins are dovetailed throughout. All of the original drawers, handles, and dividers are present and in good shape.

Key plate on front of roll-top desk.
Photos and catalogs put the age of this desk at about 100 years. An expert would have to be consulted for a more detailed analysis. However, I just love my desk. The warm glow of the wood— the solidity and the history of this piece of furniture—is reason enough to love it. There is so much character in this desk's style and shape, that I feel privileged just getting to use it.

Roll-top desk-- top shelf

Drawers
Roll-top desk drawers



This desk is very deep. The drawers seem to go back almost forever. The file drawer has wooden dividers. There is an almost hidden compartment behind it. The shallow drawers all have adjustable dividers as well, and the center drawer is large and roomy.






Cubby drawers

I wanted to show a more detailed photo of the drawers from the top cubby. They are very much like scoops. I think they were probably sized for index card type files, but I am not sure. I finally made labels for them. It is my intent to eventually label and organize everything in my studio.


Roll-top desk-- cleaned and organized

Though I am not sure how long this pristine state will last, here is a photo of my lovely and beloved desk, cleaned and organized. It will be nice to have a clear work surface for the time being.  Now, I can start to think about doing something with the pile of unsorted lace, fabric and thrifted Christmas items at the other end of the room.

I will close this post with a picture of the old-fashioned bell that sits on top of my desk. It is not an antique, though all of the other items that show up in this photo are. I actually found it at World Market, and though I seldom buy anything like that new, I had to have it for the desk. Like clerks everywhere, I may or may not respond to its ring.

Have a great day and better week. Until next time...

November 5, 2013

Barn Party 2013

All Hallows Barn Party
Welcome to the after-party post. Another family event out at The House is over and soon to be packed away. Till next year, I think. If Spirit is willing, we will probably do it again and make it a yearly event. I have already promised my young grand-nephew that this will be so. As with any social event, we had near disasters and things that went awry. We learned a lot and will certainly do some things differently next year. We missed those who could not attend, and there were others, thought of at the last minute, that I should have invited. I will do better next year. And since it is already slated, the date can be set even farther ahead for those who need to adjust schedules.


As a first effort, I am all and all pleased though. I know that I was exhausted, but still had a great deal (perhaps more than I should) of fun. I think that everyone had a good time. I was sad that neither of my locally residing sisters could come—one because of work and the other a scheduling conflict, but it was so much fun having all four of my children, their own children, my nephew and his family, and the various friends and significant others who did attend. Costumes ran the gamut from funny to frightening. We had pirates, ninjas, cartoon characters and a goddess; a flapper, a kitty, two wizards, one mostly conventional and the other techno, and perhaps my favorite, a "bag" of Jelly Belly jelly beans.

Costume Collage


Rainbow in the eastern sky just before sunset.The day of the party, with the typical fickleness of weather when plans have been laid, was blustery and wet. After a week of Florida sunshine and unseasonably warm weather, a front was moving through. My hair in rollers, I balanced an umbrella while I made the numerous trips between house and barn required in preparation for the party. Though we maintained the optimistic outlook that it was nearly over all day, the periodic rain and drizzle continued right up until about a half hour before the party was scheduled to begin. As my daughter and her husband arrived and began setting up their tent in the back yard, the clouds parted. I came walking out of the barn in time to see everyone pointing up at the sky. As the sun was beginning to set in the west, the eastern sky was alight with a sparkling rainbow. We accepted it as an omen and a blessing.

Decorated rice crispie bars.




It was an evening of many more treats than tricks. We were busy baking and preparing food for two days before the party, and everyone who attended contributed goodies of their own. I was, as I always am before a celebration, worried that there wouldn't be enough food. My nephew assures me that this is a family trait. We always end up with way too much.
ghostly smores brownies




There were enough baked goods left, even after I sent everyone home with trays, to feed an army. My kitchen counter still looks like a Halloween bakery display. You can find links to the recipes for the cookies, brownies and rice crispie bars pictured here on the All-Hallows Board of my Pinterest  account, as well as all sorts of party, costume and decorating ideas. This site really pulls together content from so many fine bloggers and other websites that you would never find otherwise. It really streamlines planning an event of almost any kind. 

Pumpkin Cookies and Witches Fingers



Besides the sweets, we also had slider sandwiches, chicken wings, stuffed peppers, meatballs, spinach dip in a hollowed bread loaf, layered tortilla salad, and too many other things to list. For beverages we had everything from a punch bowl on the buffet table with spooky cranberry juice frozen hands floating in it, to a large caldron (tub)  filled with ice, sodas, bottled water, apple juice and beer. One daughter made her signature sangria, and the other brought jello shots. There was even a small mason jar of apple pie moonshine made by my nephew. Something for everyone.

Halloween Buffet Table

Aside from eating and drinking, there was much else going on. I had outdoor lights on all around the house, but still there were plenty of spooky shadows. The children dashed around the yard as though it were daylight. All of them were wielding glow sticks and wearing glowy necklaces for ease of location, and their happy laughter echoed through the night. There was a scavenger hunt for them. We found out that the seven and eight year olds are smarter than most of us adults. My son had put together a string of charming rhyming clues to help them locate various treasures around the barn, and the speed with which they progressed from one to another absolutely floored us. Though they are fiercely competitive, we made sure that this game was a team effort and that there were prizes for all involved. There was also a costume contest, and though again, we had prizes for all the children, I did learn another valuable lesson. We voted for costumes, and next time I will count ballots in private. My small granddaughter and grand-nephew, being intensely excited, hung over my shoulder as I counted. Though they did not begrudge her, they were both upset that the youngest among them, with the charming appeal that toddlers have, had gotten all the children contest votes. Though they were both mollified by the location of a couple of "lost" ballots with their names, and gift bags, I wont let that happen again.

Geoff the Skeleton


I did finish the fire pit in the back yard, but after a day of rain, we did not expect to have a bonfire. However, as it turned out, there was a canvas bag of firewood that had been laid aside in the garage after we moved in, and forgotten. With some newspaper and dry wood to use, as well as a more autumnal evening than those we had previously, most of the lawn chairs in the barn were moved around the fire, and inner-children emerged left and right when folks began roasting marshmallows.

Witch refreshment room.

As I end this post, I just want to thank all those who attended and contributed to such a wonderful evening. It was great fun. I think together we managed to light up the Darkness for another year, and though the walls between worlds might have thinned, they held. Love and Joy and Light will do that.


Doorway



I hope that all who read this enjoy the photos and description of our All Hallows Party. Halloween is for many of us the beginning of the busy and hopefully joyous holiday season. If we can all remember to eat and drink in moderation, to keep our expectations realistic, and to just relax rather than trying to do and be everything, it can be a wonderful season indeed.

Blessings to you...

Thank you to Bree and Larry for the Photos. Usually, the photos in this blog are my own, but I was too busy to get much in the way of pictures Saturday night, so I had some help :)

October 29, 2013

Almost All Hallows

Thrifted folk art witch.
Thrifted Kitchen Witch
Greetings to all and sundry. This is just a quick update on our progress toward the post-Halloween Barn Bash we are hosting on November 2nd (Saturday). We are in the midst of a flurry of decorating, sewing and other projects around here. I am almost finished with my steam-punk-goth costume which started out as a black evening gown from Goodwill. Hopefully, it will look alright. I did not think to take pictures before I started, but I will do some of the finished product. My daughter is busily making a saved box she found in the garage into "Luggage". She and her brother decided to do Terry Pratchett characters this Halloween and are coming as Two Flower and Wizard Rincewind from his Discworld series. My daughter and I also made the candelabra pictured below as a joint project. We saw it on Pinterest, and though my Pin did not include instructions, we figured it out as we went. We are quite pleased with the results.

Black Halloween Candelabra




I thought I would put up some pictures and give everyone a peak into these preparations. Hopefully, I will post again after the party with more pictures and information. I will start the brief tour of our party plans and ambitions with the cover of the Invitation. We recently revisited the Rocky Horror Picture Show, so it was in my mind when I designed the invite. The quote and text on the front are from that movie :)








Halloween Party Invitation
Halloween Party Invitation 2013
Before Barn collage

The Barn was dirty and cluttered—and it still is, just less so. It is a barn. We had already put in quite a few hours before I decided I wanted to take pictures, but we still had a good ways to go. That first day was strictly cleaning, rearranging, hauling off garbage. By the end of the day, I heaved a sigh of relief that at least there was a chance that I could pull it all together the way I wanted to.


Main area of barn





It was worlds cleaner. We consolidated all of the odds and ends that could not be moved out, in a back corner, and cleaned the room where the old refrigerator is.





Back room



I put a lot of the sundry items that had occupied the back room shelves in the hanging cabinets and shoved all else in a corner where it could be quite handily covered up.






Work in progress-- firepit

Meanwhile, out in the yard between the house and barn, we are working on constructing a fire pit. I have to go get more materials to complete the project. Hopefully, there will be roasting of marshmallows and such on the chilly fall and winter evenings to come.



Spider Web window at end of barn



Everything is starting to come together nicely, I think. I still have not actually lit it up at night to get the full effect, but I am pleased so far.







Lighting up the barn.

Yes—the tractor and lawn mower are still in the barn. However, they are ready to move out of the way at a moment's notice. I love the lights. Makes me wish I could just leave them all the time. I used orange over the buffet tables, but went with white for the main barn area. Not only are the white lights brighter and cheerier, but I can recycle them in just a couple of weeks when we start decorating for Christmas.

Buffet Table

As I said, I will try to get together more pictures and post after the party. I have lots to do in the meantime. Food to make, and too many projects to finish. Hope you have a spooky, fun and safe Halloween.

Halloween Decorating

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