Sunday, January 29, 2012

Having a wonderful weekend - quiet and peaceful.  I've spent the majority of the time in my studio, the first time since before Christmas other than just to throw something in there to get it out of the way, or quickly grab whatever I needed out of there.  Nigel had electricity put in for me as a Christmas present, a monumental extravagance and headache which I won't go into because it was one problem after another.  But I will say it's so wonderful to go in and flip a switch and get light, or flip another switch and get heater, or flip another switch and get music - all without hooking up strands of extension cords all the way to the house!  Thank you so much Nigel! My hero, as always!  And far more than I deserve I do realize!!  But you're stuck with me, so there!

As I said, it's been lovely and quiet.  I've cleaned and put things away and got supplies ready for my next major project.  I might as well tell everyone now what it is because I'm sure to "spill the beans" before the actual event.  Liz and Jake's First Wedding Anniversary is in June and to celebrate it, I'm making them a scrapbook to commemorate their lovely day together.  There's also a little something extra, which will be kept a surprise until June!  Ha Ha! Fooled you Liz, didn't I?  Hey, a Mom has to have some secrets from her kids!  I realized that if I didn't get started soon, it would be June before I knew it. 

The studio is very cozy now and last weekend, Isabel spent several hours in there, all by herself! She loved having the freedom to do whatever she wanted (within reason of course).  All I told her was to put away whatever she used and try not to get the last item of anything in particular, at least without asking me first.  She did great and she created the sweetest piece of art from a covered tin that originally held chocolate cookies from Christmas. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I will later and show it on my sidebar.  Quite frankly, I'm feeling pretty icky now; I've caught a head cold from Nigel. We've been passing bugs and germs around seems like forever in this family.

Yesterday, while she was with my Mom, Isabel made chocolate covered coconut almond balls!  Mom said she (Isabel) did all the work and you can see for yourself what a great job she did! 

Wow!  I'm glad she's inherited the gene for cooking from her Mom; personally I wouldn't have taken the time to do this.  Way to go Isabel!!

I finally got the house back in order after all the decorations were put away a few weeks ago.  It takes me that long (a couple of weeks) to get back into the swing of things but it's a nice feeling.  Sort of like a cleansing of the soul in a way. Things get put up and cleared out; shelves get dusted, pillows get freshened and items get rearranged. Somehow everything has a newness about it, sort of a fresh start, which of course is what January is all about!

And I found the purple silk irises!!  My memory is simply shot to pieces these days, which greatly irritates me because I've always had such a fantastic memory.  My latest bumble involved three vases of purple silk irises and bulbs. The bulbs are in resin which looks like water and they look so real people are constantly asking about them and trying to get a closer look.  Nigel especially likes them because irises are his favorite flower. I keep them in my kitchen garden window so they're constantly in view.  Anyway, in early Autumn, I carefully cleaned them and put them away because I use other decorations in their place during the holidays.  But could I find them anywhere when it was time to bring them back out again??  Absolutely and categorically NO!  Everyone (and I do mean everyone!) looked everywhere!! I even sent e-mails to my daughters, asking if they remembered seeing them when they were here.  But they were nowhere to be found!  After searching the entire house and studio, garage and both attics, all of them twice I might add, I finally gave up.  That was about two weeks ago.

Today, while I was putting something away in one of the attics, I bent over to put something down, then turned my head up and immediately recognized the bags holding them!  In my genius mind, I had decided they needed to be put up high, away from being jostled or broken. To accomplish this, I put each vase inside a large plastic bag, then tied the bags up high on the wall behind a large heating duct thingy, well out of the way of everyone and everything!! And yes, I said thingy because I haven't got a clue what the silly thing is called.  So there!

You can imagine my delight - and frustration - when I saw those bags! I immediately remembered my thought process at the time, though why it eluded me until then I'll never know.  I guess I was just too busy and too caught up in everything else going on to remember it.  But they're now back in the garden window, looking as lovely as ever!  Nigel bought them for me from his Mom's shop.  See what you think!
The little painted pot to the far right is Isabel's latest project from Girl Scouts! 
Another item I found - although it wasn't actually lost; it was just put aside and ignored since Christmas - was my art journal I bought in Washington, D.C. this past summer.  It's really nothing more than a small bound book, with each page marked in half, with a place for the dates and an empty space for "daily art".  The idea is to literally sketch something - anything - every day for a year.  It's actually been a lot more fun that I initially thought.  At first I was concerned I might grow tired of it and leave it half finished.  But it was a challenge to my mind and this hasn't happened so far.  That is, until about a week before Christmas when I lost track of everything, my mind included! But I've pulled it back out and caught up on all my sketches!  I find I sketch often if I have it where I can easily see it and get to it quickly.  I've even drawn some things while having my morning tea before work!! Weird, but true!!  I'm NOT a morning person at all so go figure!  But don't be thinking these are highly detailed pieces of art.  They're not; not in the slightest.  They're just fun and lighthearted and I've discovered it's a wonderful way to unwind and de-stress.  And it's also helped me try out different color combinations together that I normally wouldn't use.  I make myself use an ink pen rather than a pencil; otherwise, I'd spend forever and 16 days erasing and redrawing just to get something "right".  After I draw the sketch in ink, I color it in with these really cool Crayon Twistable Colored Pencils.  You twist them like a mechanical pencil when your lead gets too small!  They don't break like regular Crayons do and there's no pencil sharpening mess to deal with!  Isabel and I both love them!  The colors we found were a bit limited, but I suspect this is only a temporary thing until they catch on, which I'm sure they'll do.  I mean - what's not to like?!

Another project Isabel did this weekend (she was definitely on a roll, wasn't she?!) was making paper dragons!  2012 is the year of the Dragon and Isabel made one for me and one for a dear sweet friend of mine who works with me; her name is Kim and she's Vietnamese.  I can't wait to take it to her tomorrow and see what she thinks!  Here's a picture of Kim's.

 Well......I know I shouldn't begin a sentence with the word "well" but that's how I tend to close things out.  I'm reminded of my math teacher, Mr. Joe Miller.  He knew I hated math and he tried to help me as much as he could, but I must have exasperated him beyond belief.  I simply don't get math!  Now...where was I going with this?  Ah yes....well......(Ha Ha! Pun intended!)  Whenever Mr. Miller would ask me a question I didn't really know the answer to, I'd begin by saying, "Well.....".  I would then lead everyone along an obscure path of explanation which frequently lasted some minutes, after which Mr. Miller would shake his head from side to side, a slightly indulgent smile on his face, then he'd call upon someone else.  At other times, when he was in a more playful spirit, he would immediately respond to my "Well......" by stating, "A well is a mighty deep subject for such a shallow mind Oliver!"  To which I would invariably agree and rather than waiting for my lengthy diatribe, he would immediately ask someone else the answer.  He was an excellent teacher and even though I hated math (still do as a matter of fact), I thoroughly enjoyed his classes!  To Mr. Joe Miller!!

And to All of You  - With Love and God's Blessings!  Jan

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Memories of Christmas 5 - Final Post for This Series! YEA!!!

Correction is needed on this post!  I misspelled the word "boll" when I spoke of a cotton boll ornament.  I hate it when I misspell a word because I'm a very good speller.  But my Mommy is twenty times better and she caught it for me!  Thank you Mommy!  So here's my correction - the word is "boll", not "bole".  Jan

The last post for this series!!  Yea!!!  Thanks to those of you who've stuck it out through all 5 (that is, if there are any of you left! Ha Ha) I've been posting about some of my favorite Christmas ornaments and hoping my children and grandchildren will remember the importance of them when I no longer inhabit this plane of existence (i.e., croak the big one).  Believe it or not, I've deleted at least twice as many as I've posted photos on, and that doesn't even account for all the ornaments which I didn't take photos of!!  I definitely have enough to start my own Christmas store!  Except I couldn't sell them! I have made a HUGE effort in giving both daughters and now my granddaughter special ones now, rather than having them inherit them.  Oh well, let's get started!
My beautiful Angel Tree Topper, inherited from my Dad's Mom, Grandma Hoffman!  This was always on the top of Grandma's silver aluminum tree each year and I LOVED her (and still do!).  Her head is glass and the rest of her is made from gold tin foil, with the exception of the glass ball ornament she's holding!  She has her own special container that she's packaged away in and every time I take her out and look at her, I think of all those wonderful Christmas memories down through the years!   
The first car Nigel and I had when we got married was a little red Volkswagen Beetle, with a black "racing stripe" (naturally!) between the front and back fenders! I admit to taking artistic liberties with the ornament above by marking this same line with a black Sharpie marker. 
This is the "God's Eye" that Laura made for me in school when she was little.  As I mentioned earlier, it's nice having Laura's as well as Isabel's. Like mother, like daughter!
This is one of those ornaments that Laura wishes I'd never bring out.  It's a wooden spool with multi-colored felt pipe cleaners wrapped around it.  I think she was probably in 1st grade when she made it.  What can I say? We Moms love - and save - lots of funny little things!
See what I mean about Mom's saving things?  This is a painted noodle necklace Isabel made for me about two years ago.  I also still have the paper bead necklace that Liz made for me when she was little! See! You can put anything on a Christmas tree!  I certainly do, and it makes it all the more charming and special!
A special ornament made by Liz when she was little! Yes, this is one she'd prefer I never put out, but......... too bad!  Mom's rule!!
I know you think this may be weird, but there's a story behind it (with me, there always is!).  My Dad, who died in 1998, ALWAYS used Old Spice After Shave when we were growing up.  And I do mean . . . ALWAYS.  Later in life I think he changed to something else but I'm not sure which.  But the one we always remembered was the Old Spice.  So when I saw this small bottle, I knew it was destined for our Christmas tree.  It brings back so many memories! And every time I see that bottle, I think of Dad.  That's the beauty of a Christmas Tree for me; they're like microcosms of our lives over the years.  For instance, when Liz was visiting over New Year's a couple of weeks ago, she was going through some boxes of things she'd packed away when she first left home.  She came upon some trophies (which I admit are too big for the tree) which Isabel wanted to keep and two medals she won when she was playing softball, around 8 - 10 years old.  Her plan was to throw them out!  "NO WAY" said I!!!  Guess where they're going to go?  I remember all too well sitting on those hard bleachers, watching her play, rooting for the team, etc.  They'll make a wonderful addition to the tree, as well as bring back happy memories!  
A pine cone angel, also from Liz.  I have more items from Liz than I do from Laura because Laura was always very critical of her work.  And if she didn't like it, she'd destroy it before bringing it home because she knew I'd want to keep it.  The little stinker!! 
A family favorite - our Cotton Bole Angel, made from a real cotton bole. Many years ago, Nigel's sister Marian and her husband, Gary, who are from England, visited us here in Alabama.  They had never seen cotton in its natural state so it was quite a shock for them to actually see a field of cotton growing beside the road, and inside the city limits no less! We still have one or two fields left, but they're dwindling fast, being taken over by new housing developments. Anyway, during their visit we unexpectedly came across these cotton bole ornaments, which we naturally "just had to have"!  I still remember how excited Marian and Gary were when they first saw the cotton.  It was so nice to see something they considered "new" which we'd been taking for granted.  Not only that, but my memories up to that time consisted of when I was very young growing up on a cotton farm.  One summer we had to "pick" the cotton. We didn't have quite the same level of excitement about it then, I can tell you! It's backbreaking work, out in the open fields with no shade, hot humid sun blasting down on you, while the state bird (AKA: mosquito) incessantly feeds on you while your fingers get torn to shreds as you try untangling the cotton from the bole and from the cockle burrs! Now some of you may think this is a bit melodramatic, but to those of you who've never picked cotton, be my guest!
Yes, another Hallmark! Isn't he cute?  It's nothing more than different colored and sized buttons, with a wire wrapped around for the arms and a face "penned" on with ink!  Genius! 
A nod to Nigel's English heritage - the well known, but swiftly disappearing red English Telephone Booth.  Just as they are in our own country, phone booths are becoming obsolete because everyone has a cell phone now.  They were deliberately painted bright red so they could be easily spotted.  Another classic English landmark is the bright red painted mail boxes; sadly, these two are disappearing.  Not all change is good!
Liz' first Christmas ornament - a hand carved, hand painted wooden cradle we bought in Wiesbaden, West Germany, when we were stationed there in 1985.  Yes, I said West Germany.  That was before East and West Germany reunited and became Germany.
This charming little baby buggy was Laura's first Christmas ornament in 1981!  It's actually a Hallmark and the wheels actually move!  I missed it in this photo, but there's a little "baby" underneath the "quilt".
I can hear the moans again! Liz painted this when she was just a few years old and begged me not to bring it out when she got older.  Naturally I completely ignored her and exercises my Motherly rights!
At the same time, Laura painted this ornament!  Yes, more moans!  I'm so glad I persevered and kept them both!!  Although I have to admit at one point I had to hang them in the back of the tree, hidden from sight, because I was afraid both girls were going to take them off and throw them away when I wasn't looking!
Isabel's reindeer, made from Popsicle sticks, last year in 2nd grade!  Or was it from 1st grade?  I can't believe how fast the time flies!!
A special ornament that Laura brought me from Afghanistan.  The detail on this is fabulous!
A favorite cat ornament, in memory of a lovely cat we had years ago.  His name was "Maxwell Smart" because he was just as silly and clumsy as his character's name implied.  And he was forever getting into trouble, not out of meanness, but simply out of curiosity.  We called him Max for short and he'll always have a very special place in our hearts!  We love you Max!!
Gotta L.U.V. cats! We certainly do in the Fursdon Household!  Our dear friend Rita gave me this ornament years ago and I just love it! We even have a Christmas Tree dedicated to cats!  Hard to believe, isn't it?!  Yeah, right!  Okay, I admit it - I like different themed trees!  So any time someone wants to get me something special, a cat ornament is always welcome!  The wheels on this ornament actually turn! Cute!!
Bless his little heart - this sweet little kitty is one my Gran painted years ago and gave to one of my girls; can't remember which one so to be fair, I've decided to keep it for myself! Now isn't that nice of me - to avoid any conflict?  I'm like that, you know!  As for the green wire around his neck, it's the only way I've found so far to hang him to a tree with.  So we're actually pretending that it's a leash.  So there!
Hilarious cat ornament from my Aunt Pat several Christmases ago!  I LOVE the fish bones hanging from it's paws!  And the fact that he's just ever so slightly rotund - just the way I like my cats!
This is actually a piece of jewelry my Aunt Pat gave me years ago!  The little butterfly is on a spring so it moves, as if trying to escape the clutches of the cat!  Isn't it adorable?  There's another piece of jewelry in the family, belonging to my Aunt Von (my Mom's oldest sister).  It's a pewter cat, Siamese I think, and it's pregnant!  I kid you not! It's actually very pregnant, with a little rounded tummy that is so sweet! And the amazing thing is that it's rather old - not something you would have found easily during it's heyday!  The family tradition is that all the females who get pregnant get to wear the pin.  I wore it for both my girls, Laura wore it for Isabel, and so on.  I wonder who will be next?!  Hmmmmm......Hey Von - if you're reading this, try to send a photo of the preggy cat and I'll put it on the blog!
This exemplifies one of our current cats, Dundee (named after the Dundee brand of Marmalade that is delicious, but more importantly, is the color of our Dundee).  He's a lovely slob, happy as can be and LOVES to be cuddled and babied!  He lost his Mother to a car accident when he was too young and hadn't been weaned yet. To this day, he loves to get up against any fabric that happens to be super soft (i.e., t-shirt material, fleece jammies or throws, etc.).  He then proceeds to knead with both his front paws while he literally sucks on the material.  It can last quite some time too and the fabric, whether you're wearing it or not, is quite drenched when he's through.  But he's worth every minute of extra attention we give him!
This ornament accompanied the other ornament above (2 cats in a tub) that our dear Rita gave us.  The wheels on this one also move.  For the longest time, I sat them out in the bathroom, but now they're immortalized on the Fursdon House Cat Christmas Tree!

This little Nativity was made in Mexico from tin!  My Mom found it at a garage sale about 20 or more years ago and paid all of .25 cents for it!  It comes in it's own little tin box to store it in.  Each of the figures has a little device in the back to allow it to stand on its own.  I love it's simplicity.  This is the first year I've displayed it on the old Grandfather Clock.  But I think next time I'm going to create more of a vignette that brings it the attention it deserves. 
My Williamsburg style fruit plaques!  I LOVE these; I made four of them so far.  I got the idea from two places - one was a book on Williamsburg at Christmas, in which they use real fruit to decorate with, and the other was from my mother-in-law, Valerie, who made similar ones for her own home.  Once I saw hers, I fell in love with them and I especially liked the idea that I wasn't using real fruit, which I consider a terrible waste.  I've actually thought of making these and selling them on my Etsy shop. Does anyone out there think this is a good idea? I'd love to hear your opinion!  I also have two larger versions done in red apples, as well as a half-circle of red apples that is displayed over our front door.  Like I said - I'd love to hear if anyone thinks this might be a good idea! 
Isabel's latest artwork!!  I love the reins and the reindeer!  Not that I'm prejudiced, you understand!  Ha Ha
My little Hole in the Wall Gang Christmas Mouse!  He actually came off an ornament that spelled out "Christmas" and he sat on top of it.  But the ornament kept falling and breaking.  So finally I got rid of the words, which were looking pretty sad, and just saved Mr. Mouse.  He's only about an inch tall and I display him in my kitchen garden window where I've created Santa Village, complete with my favorite cardboard houses liberally sprinkled with glitter, as well as multiple tiny Santa's of every description (and species!), with snow and rolling hills and evergreen trees dotting the landscape!  Christmas is such a magical time for me!
Although I didn't include a photo of the whole village I wanted to include this little Santa. Believe it or not, he's one of a pair of earrings made in the 1950's!!!  Our dear friends Pauline and Morgan Lynch gave them to me this Christmas, and I do not exaggerate when I say that only the day before, I'd made a mental note to myself that I needed more miniature Santa's for my village!  And Voila!!  Here they were!  All I did was remove their earring fittings and they worked perfectly!  Aren't they precious!?!?! 
Here are three of the miniature Santa's in Santa Village!  The one in the middle was actually in a little snow globe on the top of a pencil (in place of an eraser)!  Silly place to put a Santa, so I broke the globe, dried him off and he's been with me happily ever since!  The other two Santa's are both from my Aunt Pat who appreciates miniatures the way I do!
Another miniature Santa - and his Reindeer - also from my Aunt Pat!  She spoils me!  And she understands me!  Either that, or she just humors me!  Ha Ha  The neat thing about this ornament is that it's hinged so he reindeer can sit in different positions.  If I'm not mistaken, she bought one for herself too.  Generally speaking, that's our rule - if we like something enough to satisfy ourselves, we know the other one will love it too!
A lovely keepsake from my youngest daughter, Liz! I forget what grade she made this piece of artwork but I framed it several years back because it was beginning to get a bit worn. Some years I leave it out year round!
This hilarious little monkey belonged to my Dad.  I'm not sure how he came across it, or why he kept it.  He usually didn't do this sort of thing, but when I found it in his possessions after he died, I wanted to give it a special home.  For years I think it was with one of the girls, but now I've taken possession.  And remember - possession is nine tenths of the law!
Mrs. Santa Claus - ceramic ornament, created and painted by my Aunt Pat when she was working with ceramics!  It's lovely to have such keepsakes!  I think she gave us this ornament when we were first married.
A very special ornament from a very special lady.  Virginia Douglas Lavender ("Ginny" to us) was a dear friend of the Fursdon family long before I knew them.  And she welcomed me with open and loving arms when I met and became engaged to Nigel.  She took me under her wing and taught me so many wonderful things, including my first loaf of home made bread!  I truly cherish the times I was lucky enough to spend with her.  She passed away a few years ago, but lives on in our lives in a myriad of amazing memories.  She was a fabulous cook, but used simple ingredients that always tasted as if she'd spent hours and hours on it!  I have many recipes from her, but one of my favorites was her home made soup.  She called it "Potage Garbage"! She said she started with a good stock and potatoes (the "potage"), then literally put in every left over from the week's cooking that would suit.  It was never the same, except for the fact that it was DELICIOUS!!!  How I miss her!  Here's to you Ginny!
Ginny was a big fan of the tales of Peter Rabbit, and she bought these ornaments for my girls when they were little.  Ginny was an avid animal rights activist back when it wasn't popular to be so.  And cats were her weakness.  She often teased she had the only "cat house" in town!  One of my favorite memories was when she named one of her latest cats (saved from the pound more often than not) to Purr-ple.  So his name was Purr-ple Lavender! 
Isabel's favorite ornament!  A Hallmark no less, so she has very good taste!  These are little reindeer house slippers and if you push a button in the back,their little lights on the end of their horns light up!
A lovely bit of ephemera, saved from a corsage that had long since seen better days!  They're from Japan; would they be from before World War II?  Maybe not.  Doesn't matter though; they're so sweet!  I still haven't decided how best way to use them.  But one day...... 
Have you ever seen such a sweet albeit rather rotund reindeer?  Especially on snow skies?  Now you know why I had to have it among my collections!  What a physique!!  It lets me know what I'd look like on skis!
A sweet little stocking cross stitched with an angel - another cherished gift from Ginny Lavender.
This is one of my Hole in the Wall Gang ornaments.  I love his look and the fact he's just hanging in there!  It reminds me of how I feel when I'm in the middle of the Christmas rush!
One more funny story! Actually, I have more than just the two Santa's photographed here, but I must have deleted them by accident.  Oh's the story.  When we were in West Germany, in Nuernberg to be precise, we went to one of their department stores called WertKauf (pronounced "Ver Coff").  It's their equivalent of our Wal-Mart (or at least it was back in the 1980's).  Anyway, it was at an After Christmas sale and right about the time of Easter.  We were having a great time, checking out all of the different items and so on when all of a sudden, in the middle of one of the aisles, I noticed a very large cardboard box, about 4 feet square in size.  And it was FILLED to the top with small packages of Christmas ornaments that apparently hadn't sold, as well as hand-painted wooden eggs for Easter!  At the time, they were priced to the U.S. equivalent of about 25 cents a package, and there were 4 Easter Eggs in each package!  So Yours Truly went wild, digging down deep into that box to make sure I got every single one they still had!  In retrospect, I'm sure I looked quite interesting to say the least, with my rear end stuck up in the air as I dug deep down into that box like a true American Shopper, determined to get what I wanted!  Poor Germans - they had no idea what they were in for when we entered their country! Ha Ha  But I have to say - Germans are lovely people and they always made us feel as if we were family!  As a matter of fact, we still  exchange Christmas packages with a family who took us in when we were in Nuernberg all those years ago (1991)! Lovely warm-hearted wonderful people!
Interestingly enough, two years ago, a dear friend of mine gave me one of these ornaments, which was in its original Woolworth's package, which dated back probably to the 1970s!  She'd bought it at an antique shop in town and knew my love for Christmas and antiques!  So they've obviously been around for awhile!

Guess what?  This is it! No more photos!  Whew! I finished it!  I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get to the end! Bet you were wondering the same thing!  That is, IF you mangaed to make it this far with me!  But I hate starting a project and not finishing it.  Something about my anal retentiveness that just won't let me do it, at least without major gnashing of teeth!

I hope I haven't bored you too much, but truth be told - I did this more for me than anyone else. And for my girls and my granddaughter, none of whom will appreciate it much now.  But perhaps in future? 

Anyway, hope you all have a lovely evening.  May God bless, Jan

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Memories of Christmas 4

Yes, I'm still at it!  For those of you just tuning in - LUCKY YOU!!  I've been posting about some of my favorite Christmas ornaments, writing a few lines about each, and hoping that my children and grandchildren will remember the importance of them when I "croak the big one"!  Of course, I could have them buried with me, but they wouldn't be able to lift the casket! Sorry kids! Gotta LUV me! So here we go!!

One of my granddaughter Isabel's baby rattles! She kept it forever before she finally gave it to me about four years ago, "to put on the tree, Gummy, but it's still mine, okay?"  And it's graced the tree ever since!  I like to think of it being on her tree eventually. When she was little we called Isabel our little "Busy Bee" as she was forever getting into everything! Quite the curious one, but curiosity is what it's all about, isn't it?  An inquiring mind will take you far!!   
My Aunt, Pat McCay, used to do wonderful things with her ceramics!  She had her own kiln and made lovely items for the family!  It's been years since she worked on them, but here's a sweet reminder!  We were always in awe of how realistic she made her faces look.  Another artist in the family!  Actually, on my mother's side, I think most if not all the females are heavily gifted in the arts in one form or another! 
This is a ceramic ornament that my Mom made.  Pat taught her how to shade the colors and so on.  Mom always says she isn't as talented as her two other sisters, but I beg to differ!  It's interesting though; every one of us have our own "specialties".  Mom writes poetry and is a very gifted writer.  And she has the patience of a saint!  She had to! She had me for a daughter! 
Although this ornament doesn't belong to my paternal grandmother, Grandma Hoffman, it's the kind she always put on her aluminum tree so when I saw it at a thrift shop, I knew it was destined for my tree!  It has a sweet innocence about it and I cherish it!  Remember kids - it's hard to imagine now, but back in the 1950's, plastic was in its heyday. Before that, it was glass and metal. Grandma Hoffman loved all the ornaments and different items that were coming out.  I remember she had one of those very large, plastic three-dimensional nativity sets.  It was huge! It sat in her front yard, lit up from within by a large Christmas light placed inside.  It was painted "realistically" (or at least as realistically as plastic could be in those days) and my brother Larry and I were always awe-struck when we saw it go up!  She also had plastic "candelabra" she put in each window of her house, lit up to welcome Santa Claus!  At least that's what Larry and I thought!  And of course there's the church music box I showed you earlier that plays Silent Night.  What lovely memories! 
This ornament and the one below were created by the girls' dear sweet Auntie Doreen, who lives in England.  She's a fabulous knitter, crocheter, you name it.  Actually, these ornaments don't do her justice at all.  I have knitted dolls, about 15 or so of them, that she gave to the girls each year as they were growing up.  The detail work is phenomenal!!  Perhaps I'll bring them out in the spring and post about them! You'll be amazed!  But she knew these were for the girls when they were very little, so she made them as indestructible as possible! 
This was the girls' favorite of Auntie Doreen's ornaments.  The lid to the mailbox opens and the girls would put letters to Santa inside, or sweet little notes to Mommy! I have them still! And the flag actually raises up and down, so Santa knew when there was something inside! 
For the life of me, I can't remember if my youngest, Liz, made this, or did Isabel?  Brain dead I'm afraid.  Girls - help me out, will you?  I remember it was made at school and it took pride of place that year, right in the middle of the tree! It kills me that I can't remember as well as I used to, because I've always had a fantastic memory!  Scream!!!  Oh well, I guess it's a great time to start writing all this down now! 
Isabel made this in her Day Care! He's so cuddly and cute and squishable!  This is another one she finally gave to me, but only for the Christmas tree.  I can just hear her, years from now, howling because I've kept it all this time!  Oh well, the rights of Mothers and Grandmothers is NEVER to be questioned! 
Another of Isabel's ornaments, completed in 2nd grade.  This is what we always called a "God's Eye".  She made several that year, which is neat because I still have one that her mother made too!  And yes, that is a Hershey's Bar ornament you see beside it!  Because my Mommy LOVES me and she KNOWS how much I ADORE Hershey's chocolate!!!  You can toss out all the Godiva and Giardelli (sp?) and that other "stuff"; Hershey's is my absolute favorite!!!  I've never visited the factory in Pennsylvania because I don't think I'd come out alive!  But when I was in grade school, I remember reading an article about it and I kept that article, with lots of yummy photos, for years and years! I wonder where it is now? Hmmmmm.........
This brings back fun memories!  In 1986, we were stationed with the Army in Fort Hood, Texas.  Nigel LOVED to water ski and he wanted a pair of skis of his own, but he knew they were expensive and he'd probably have to wait some time before getting any.  Well, Jan decided otherwise because Nigel rarely said he'd like to have something in particular.  His usual response when I asked him what he'd like for a birthday or Christmas present was, "Oh, I don't know. Whatever you get is fine with me.  I'll like it because it comes from you."  This may sound terribly sweet, but I can tell you it gets very frustrating when you're hoping for ideas!!  Anyway, I knew he wanted skis, even though he hadn't asked for any, so I bought him a really nice pair. I think I probably had to put them on lay-a-way for several months, but needless to say, he was ECSTATIC when he saw them at Christmas! Well, right after I found them that summer, he went water skiing with some friends, using borrowed skis.  And the silly goose kept trying to convince me that it was really easy and that I should give it a try!  Yeah, right!  That same summer/fall, I learned how to cross stitch, using little kits I found at Wal-Mart.  So I created my own little design and this is what I came up with!  
I think if I were asked what my all-time favorite ornament was, I'd have to say this one.  It's simplicity belies it's importance!  Gran made it for me, along with several other felt ornaments you'll see below.  I've always loved him, my little Gingerbread Man, and each year I put him on the tree where he looks straight at me. 
Another of Gran's ornaments, made just for me!  How I treasure them! 
I think Gran was always a little frustrated in her later years that she couldn't create what she felt were better or more artistic items. She knew how talented her three daughters were and I remember her saying she didn't know where they got their talent because she didn't have any herself.  But one day Mom told me that even though they were extremely poor when they were growing up, Gran always made sure they had pretty clothes to wear.  She did this by creating them herself, and all the girls in school would comment how pretty my Mom's and Aunts' dresses were. Later in life we would tease Gran about how she always saved everything, even little snippets of cloth and thread (and I'm talking tiny snippets too).  But that was how she was able not only to survive, but actually thrive while raising three girls so few years after the Great Depression.
So here's to you Gran!!  The Artist who started it all!
Little bells Gran crocheted; I think everyone in the family has some of these! So sweet! 
Gran's felt bird.  I love the heart shaped wing! 
A little felt wreath from Gran.  I remember when I was little, Gran would always bring out her "bits and pieces" during the early Autumn. This allowed her to hand make Christmas presents for all her family and friends, which were extensive!  That's my goal - to hand make Christmas presents this year.  Gran - I'll need you to cheer me along the way! I don't have your fortitude! 
Simple, but sweet.  From Gran. 
Although it looks a bit "well loved", this little package was on Gran's tree when my Mom was young.  There's another one too, with faded red stripes, although I don't think I photographed it before putting them away. 
The last photo for this post.  Gran loved Cardinals!  Right after Thanksgiving, Gran and all her daughters, and Yours Truly of course, would go Christmas shopping. One of our favorite places at the time was a store called Importers Warehouse, where Pat found this little Cardinal.  Gran loved it! We so enjoyed these shopping forays, even though we usually took Gran home early because we wore her out!  Then we'd all go back out for several more hours.  Afterward, we'd return to Gran's and show her all our "goodies".  We had so much fun!  That's the kind of fun I want for this coming Christmas - and every Christmas from now on!  Time to do special things with Isabel that will give her the kinds of special memories I have now!

That's it for this post! Hope all of you have a wonderful day! With God's Blessings and Peace, Jan