Tuesday, December 21, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 21 - Christmas in the Kitchen

We have lots of Christmas in our kitchen -- probably because, like most people, we spend a lot fo time there! Here are some pictures of our kitchen Christmas

A large bottle brush wreath
A shelf with old gift boxes and various Christmas kitsch
The shelf over the stove -- more kitsch
(I wonder how many tinsel trees I have?)
Handmade Christmas tea towels - not easy to find

The top of the hoosier cabinet -- more kitsch
(do you sense a theme here?)

A little pennant from Christmas, Michigan
Lots of angels -- mostly Gurley candles

Monday, December 20, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 20 - Too Much to Do!

Yes, dear readers, I've missed another day of my advent blogs. Which brings me to another time-tested Christmas tradition -- having just too much to do! How does this happen? Christmas falls on the same date every year and I know exactly what needs to be done to get ready, so how do I end up so overwhelmed at the end?

There are just a few things left to do . . . baking, icing 3 batches of cutout cookies, wrapping gifts, cleaning, doing laundry and running errands (while still keeping up with work and scheduled meetings). And, oh yes, leaving time to stop and live in the present (NOT two or three days ahead) and think about what we're doing this for. As a special friend said in his Christmas letter, we celebrate "a humble Birth that blesses us all". That's a good reminder to me (and all of us) to keep our celebration humble, as well.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 18 - A Christmas Baking Miracle

A few years ago, we redid the kitchen and put into motion a Christmas baking miracle. I have just 4 words to describe it:

KitchenAid mixer & convection oven!

Friday, December 17, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 17 - Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

If you live in the lower penninsula of Michigan, you think Christmas when you hear 'Bronner's'. It is, without a doubt, the 'World's Largest Christmas Store' -- their website states that the store is the size of 5.5 football fields!

When I need a special ornament for someone, I head to Bronner's. That errand took my friend, Bargain Hunter and me to Frankenmuth and Bronner's today. These pictures are all compliments of Bargain Hunter, who couldn't stop snapping them the whole time she was there.Want more information about Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland? Visit the website of the World's Largest Christmas Store!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 16 - Christmas Lights

Remember when you were a kid and your parents would bundle everyone into the car and you'd all ride around and look at Christmas lights? (Think choruses of Oooooohhh and Aaaaaahhhhh)! We all loved the gaudiest, brightest and most tacky displays -- there just couldn't be too many reindeer, elves or snowmen!

That was always one of my favorite Christmas activities (and, truth be told, still is). Our own display is modest by comparison to lots that we see, but that's okay.

The wreath on the front of the house was made by my dad about 30 years ago.
The candles by the front door are from the 1960s -- I have 2 sets, but only use one. It's too bad I can't figure out a place for the second set!

The lights on the gate (affectionately called the Divorce-Gate around here because my dragging it home almost led to our divorce!) look great, but aren't very bright because we're good green citizens and they're LEDs.
I made the star out of bamboo sticks, zip ties and lights from directions on Martha Stewart's website. Of course, like everything else here, Santa and the Snowman are old -- both thrift finds that turned out well.

The trees ( to the left) were made by my dear friend Kally out of tomato cages, lights & grapevines (many *thankfully* cut from my yard) and given to me when she moved.

And there is the unwritten (but still mandatory) rule that the Christmas tree MUST be visible through the front window! Okay, so it's over to the side, but you can still see it . . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 15 - Baking

Every December, the Kitchenaid comes out to stay on the counter and the baking begins. I love to bake, but we live in a 'heart-healthy' household, so the good stuff is made only once a year. My sons say I'm 'in the zone', because baking becomes an almost daily activity.

This year we won't be seeing the big family groups that we usually do, so I'm really cutting back:
a triple batch of cutout cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, a double batch of Mexican Wedding Cakes, Spritz cookies, Hermits and some kind of chocolate cookie to be named later.

My grandmother's Hermit recipe -- still great!
A few cut-out cookies, waiting to be iced!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 14 - Precious Friends

Okay, so I know that I went from Day 12 to Day 14! I'm having a hard time keeping up with my daily Advent blog posts.

Today I was able to spend several precious hours with a precious friend whose undergoing chemotherapy. She thought that I was doing her the favor by driving her to her chemo, but really it was the other way around. I was the one who was blessed!

She and I have been friends for 10 years -- we used to be co-workers who shared a cubicle area (cellmates, so to speak), but now work at different places. Since we no longer work together, we just get to spend time and catch up on one another's lives over an occasional lunch (which means there's NEVER enough time)!

Anyway, we got to spend hours and hours together today and I'm just overcome with gratitude! I'm so thankful for my friend and happy that I could help her out, even though I felt like my contribution was just small potatoes.

I always get sad a Christmas time, remembering all the dear ones who have passed away -- parents, grandparents & friends -- but I'm also reminded of how precious relationships are.
Call up an old friend and catch up . . . Write a letter (yes, by hand -- gasp!) to someone far away . . . Tell someone close how thankful you are to have them in your life!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 12 - Snow

This weekend we had the first significant snowfall of the season. It's a good thing because, while many people don't like snow (then why do they live in Michigan, you might ask), almost everyone wants a 'white Christmas'!

I watched 'White Christmas' last night (and would have watched it again tonight, if it wouldn't have seemed excessive). It's one of the items on the must-do-or-Christmas-isn't-Christmas list, along with watching 'Meet Me in St. Louis' (which I also watched last night), listening to Christmas from Kings College and baking cutout cookies.

What's on your must-do-or-Christmas-isn't-Christmas list?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 11 - Gurley Candles

Every kid who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s played with Gurley candles at the holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Easter). They were inexpensive & colorful and easy to find -- sold a Woolworths & Kresge's and all the other five-and-dimes.

The candles were first made in the 1930s by Franklin Gurley and marketed under the name Tavern Novelty Candles, commissioned by Socony-Vacuum Oil Company (now ExxonMobile) as a way to use the excess paraffin byproduct of their refining process. If you have candles with a Tavern sticker or Tavern box, they're older than Gurleys, as Tavern became Gurley Novelty in 1949.

The most collected Gurley candles are the Halloween & Christmas lines, but there are also Easter and Thanksgiving that are gaining in popularity. The candles sold for as little as a dime to a dollar or more -- now you can expect to pay anywhere from $3-15 and as much as $30 for a set, all depending on the rarity and condition. I've been collecting them as I find them for years and never care if the wick has been burnt or they list a little to one side or another -- I just think that shows that they've been loved and have a history!

Angels of all kinds!

Trees, churches, choir singers & elves

Snowmen of all kinds!

Nativity set (not set up right now -- no room!)
Carolers (not set up right now - no room!)

I've intended to sell both the caroler and the nativity sets on Ebay (which is why the pictures look like they do) but every time I get ready to list them, I just can't bring myself to do it! Hopefully, I'll have a place to display them some day...

Friday, December 10, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 10 - 50s Stuff

I just can't seem to get enough of old Christmas decorations! Every time I see them in at an estate sale, flea market or antique mall, I'm drawn to them like a moth to a flame.

This shelf is all from the 1930s - 50s, but mostly the decorations are ones I remember seeing when I was little. Very few of them (if any) are from my childhood.

The top shelf is mostly trees -- I really like the bottle brushes.
The tall one on the left is a truly tacky one that winds up and plays 'Santa Clause is coming to town. I think it's a home-made job (which always makes it better, to my mind) with really tacky elves and decorations glued all over it & glittered.

The light-up Santa is just like one that was my favorite decoration when I was little. He's still one of my favorites!

Santa in his sleigh was my husband's when he was little.
These are all old candy containers and gift boxes.

The building in the center below is an old bank
and the snowman in the corner is a wax candy container.

The light-up Santa belonged to my father-in-law, who loved Christmas as much as I do,
and I was so pleased when he gave his Santa to ME!
I have such wonderful memories of Christmases at their house!
The cardboard Santa & sleigh is from my husband's house, too. I remember when my mother-in-law gave me boxes of old decorations and Christmas bulbs and just laughed and laughed because I was so excited to get them.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 9 - Friends

I'm a 'church lady' -- I've worked in the office of our church for the last 10 years and have developed dear friendships with the other 'church ladies' there. Yesterday I had the blessing of hosting our annual church ladies' luncheon at my house. We had such a good time! It was a potluck and all the food was great -- no one left hungry. There were lots laughs, lots of talk, lots of food and even a trip out to the barn to visit the girls. (Linda K. was the only one brave enough to hold a chicken and found out that Betty could be very gentle & almost friendly). Thanks to all who came -- I'm honored & blessed to be a friend, as well as co-worker, with each of you!

A special thanks, too, to my friend, co-worker & fellow estate-sale-shopper, Bargain Hunter, for coming early to help me get ready and then staying late to do most of the clean up herself!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 8 - Family

Continuing the Christmas family picture theme, today I'll share some from my husband's childhood.

Christmas, 1954
We still have his Christmas stocking
just like the two you can see here on the mantel.
He's one year old here (with his dad & grandmother)
Christmas, 1957
He's 4 here, with his mom, dad, grandmother, uncle & his 2 year old sister
(along with 4 people I don't recognize)
The quintessential Christmas picture, with every 1950s boy's dream --
a toy train and a tommy gun!

I just love this picture
(and wish we had that chair...)
I'm not sure that the kitty looks very happy

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 7 - Family

More pictures from Christmas Past. Yes, I know they're all pictures of my sister. Isn't she stylin' in her cowgirl vest and striped shirt? Where am I, you might ask? Not born yet...(but there aren't any pictures of me later on at Christmas, either).

My grandma, Ningle, and her father

Aunt Gene & little Cindy
Great-grandma, both grandmothers, grandfather & little Cindy

Little Cindy with a firetruck & doll I wish we still had!

Little Cindy with Santa Claus

Monday, December 06, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 6 - Family

Family! I cherish the pictures taken at Christmases past. I think I'll just focus on these for the next few days...
From one of Uncle Lloyd's rare December visits --
he usually came earlier in the year.

Christmas 1980

Charlie's Angels
(you had to be there to get it!)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 5 - Mend a Quarrel

A friend gave me this framed print

when we lived in Chicago and I put it out on the piano every year. I don't know who wrote it, so I can't give credit. I know it's a bit obvious and simplistic, but as our pace of life becomes more hurried and society becomes less civil, these small acts of social graces are forgotten. So each year, as I get it out of the storage box, I read it over and try to remind myself of them. Here's what it says:

mend a quarrel
seek out a forgotten friend
share some treasure
give a soft answer
encourage youth
keep a promise
find the time
apologize if you were wrong
be gentle
laugh a little
laugh a little more
express your gratitude
welcome a stranger
gladden the heart of a child
take pleasure in the beauty
and wonder of the earth
speak your love
speak it again
speak it still once more

Saturday, December 04, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 4 - Make an Ornament

I went to the Christmas open house at Williamston Antique Mall today with some friends from work. We had a great time and I got some neat things (more on that after I take some pictures) .

Anyway, at the open house we saw ornaments made from old Christmas cards that we might want to try to make at the staff Christmas party this year. I remember making these in Brownies a LONG time ago! If 7 & 8 year olds can make this ornament, how hard could it be for adults?I have a feeling that, if the rest of the month turns out like the first 4 days have been, this is the only project I'll get done this season!

Friday, December 03, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 3

Today's picture is an Econolite Christmas tree -- one of my favorite things! Heat from the light underneath warms the tree and makes it turn. It's simple and nowhere near mint, but lovely (and hard to find).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

24 Days of Advent - Day 2

This is the second day focusing on Christmas at our house! I've always loved reading and books in general and began collecting antiquarian books when I was in high school. So it's no surprise that I'd like to collect Christmas books, as well. These are just a few of them -- we put them on the music stand of the piano (out of reach of the dog's mouth)!

The one on the left is a small book from 1913 with beautiful illustrations of the verses of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, published as a gift edition.

The 1912 book on the right is Let Us Go to Bethlehem, a book of essays about the Biblical chapters dealing with Jesus' birth. It's a gift edition, too, but it would be pretty heavy reading!

The blue Christmas Carols book is from the 1952 and each carol page has a great illustration to go with it.

My favorite one, though, is The Golden Christmas Book! If you've never seen it, try to find a copy and check it out. It's full of stories, puzzles, carols, coloring pages & games, as well as the story of Jesus' birth. We had this when I was little and my sister and I worked through every page and activity. I still have my original one, but it's pretty well 'loved'.
My favorite part of this favorite book is right inside the front cover: a tissue paper Christmas tree! Okay, so it doesn't look like much to our tech-savvy eyes. It was pretty exciting when you're just a preschooler, though!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

24 Days of Christmas - Day 1 - Nativity

I'm shamelessly copying another blogger by doing this but, hopefully, she won't mind -- imitation is supposed to be the highest compliment! I'll have a Christmas post each day with pictures from my home or items I'm making for Christmas (if I ever have time!)

Because Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, my first pictures will be of our nativity set. This was a gift to us from my in-laws for our first Christmas -- it's something they did for each of their 5 children. Just as Christ was the cornerstone in their lives, they wanted Him to be the cornerstone in ours.
I've added lots of characters to the set -- one a year for many years. Especially dear are the chicken & other fowl and the dog who follows the shepherd.

The gold glittered pine cone in the stable's loft was a 'gift' for baby Jesus from my oldest son at age 3. The ivory soap, painted cone & pine cone trees around the stable were all made by one of my guys in preschool. As the ivory soap 'greens' and glued on stars have fallen off over the years, each tree has become more precious because of the little hands that made it.
If you look back at the first picture, you'll see that baby Jesus isn't in the manger. It looks a little odd for the whole month of December, but it's our family tradition to put him away and then get him out on Christmas morning and say a prayer of thanksgiving for Him before we do anything else. As a matter of fact, that's not a bad thing to do every day!

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