Monday, December 26, 2016


Since the two comments I received on the Christmas decorating blog mentioned the Ball Jar Winterscapes, I thought I would share some of my inspiration from Pinterest.
Winter is not yet over, so we can still celebrate with winterscapes (I leave mine out for a month or two) and if you want to do something like this next year you have a whole year to collect the right kind of glassware to work with.  You may even find some great village decor (trees and lamp posts) on sale right now.

All shapes and sizes, upside down, right side up.

Big and Little



Lamp posts and animals

Mayonaise jars

Cookie Jars

I love this one!
Putz houses

Salt Shakers


Simple or Elaborate

Just a couple of tips to leave you with.  I used epsom salts for snow.  Collections of 3 similar jars look great.  Tie some ribbon or even just twine, around the neck of the jar.  Display them in front of a sunny window.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Longest Night of the Year

Tonight is the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, where we have to rely on the greenery and lights we've brought into the house to remind us that spring will come and we can get back to our favorite outdoor pursuit:  gardening.

I love decorating for Christmas.  When I get an area decorated to perfection, I take all kinds of photos and make a bunch of lists and notes so I can duplicate it exactly next year.  Well after a few years, that get's boring.  So every year I try do do something a little bit different but at the same time avoid having to buy all new decorations or giving up my old favorites.  They may stay in the attic a few years in a row but I'm not parting with them!  There is a lot of money invested there.  And you know the biggest bane of Christmas decorators? Unwanted artificial trees.  They're expensive to buy and impossible to get rid of!  Unless you want to throw a winter garage sale.

The Christmas Tree 2015
Straw and Burlap.  Paper poinsettias.  Bleached pine cones.
This year I've revamped my storage system.  Instead of storing by room, I'm storing by color and type so I don't have to pull from three boxes for every new idea.  I'm also ditching as many of the deep tubs as I can because three under the bed size boxes take up the same amount of room as one deep tub, but you don't have to dig through two layers of empty packaging to get to the spare bulbs hiding at the bottom.  Shallow boxes are also easier to move around.

The Christmas Tree 2016
Stage 1
This year the big change is the Christmas Tree.  Instead of gold tones and natural decorations of blown out eggs, bleached pine cones, burlap and straw snowflakes befitting a gardener, it turned out contemporary, deep red and glittery.  That was sort of a surprise and not what I had planned, but I went with it.  

My husband has been frustrated with these two nice artificial Christmas trees we have been storing for years.  Especially since one of them was just too large to fit in this little house anymore without completely removing at least one piece of furniture. However, his mother's skinny little apartment sized tree is easy to tuck into a corner.  So on Thanksgiving morning he came hauling the big box in from the garage along with all the red decorations that went on it and soon I was hunting through all of my decor looking for anything red.  Glass bead garlands, red jingle bells, berries and velvet poinsettias.

With a natural tree, the beauty of it is the tree itself, and it shouldn't be covered up with too many embellishments.  But artificial trees - those are for holding ornaments.  The current style is to cover the poor thing up so you can barely tell there is a tree in there.  It is just a cone shaped mound of festivity.  I sort of split the difference.  But there is not much room for any more decorations.

All of the ornaments are the same shade of red with gold accents. I began to enjoy the glitteriness of it and rummaged through attic boxes to add snowflakes and icicles. The cat was excited to have a bush to hide under here in the house in the middle of winter.   She misses going out to the garden and watching the birds and the bugs.

So I picked up some little cardinals to put on the tree which she, of course, didn't notice but which made me ridiculously happy.

One of my Cardinals
Of course there are some old standby arrangements that I'm not tired of yet.

Nabisco Cracker Box with
burlap poinsettias, vintage sleigh bells, RR Lantern

My kitchen plate rack always has cranberries and this year
 I added dried orange slices with star anise centers
Kitchen Centerpiece
A friend of ours gave Tim a Christmas village service station (because he collects vintage gas station stuff). I haven't put it out for a few years because I don't have a Christmas village so I had merely set it out on a sheet of cotton and I wasn't satisfied with that. So this year I created a base on a tray for it with a gravel drive and a retaining wall and sprinkled snow everywhere which just looks so much better.

Christmas village service station
Mason Jar winterscapes

Tin Steamers full of cinnamon pine cones

Side Porch
Well that's it.  That is my Christmas house tour.
 Merry Christmas from our home to yours.
Next week the mail contents will change from sale catalogs and greeting cards to seed catalogs!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Greens Day

The gathering of holiday greens each year can be a bit of a hassle.  Despite promises to the contrary I have not yet planted any boxwood or holly here for this purpose.  And you cannot make much of an arrangement with all white pine or all spruce, both of which I can scrounge.  I even have some yellow juniper.  But no holly, and little variety.  So, this year, after ordering a box of fresh holly from an eBay seller, I began driving around with a pair of pruners and a plastic bag.

The gas station bordering my office parking lot has a couple of red pines behind it and they have very long course needles.  There are some small scotch pines in the ditch right around the corner here.  And then I was at Wegman's grocery looking through their cut greens when I met my friend Mickey who has a small greenhouse and produce stand.  I confessed to her that I was walking around town with pruning shears in my pocket and she said "oh just go out to the farm.  I cut a Colorado spruce tree for wreaths and I'm done with it.  The butt is laying on the lawn.  Take all you want."
So I ended up with three pine varieties and two spruce varieties, juniper and the mail-order American holly that is loaded with berries.

Over the past few weeks I had staged all the boxes and bowls, equipped them with the necessary oasis or foam blocks, and chosen which set of candles for each arrangement.  I'm telling you, they haven't come up with too many Christmas decorating inventions that can top remote control LED candles!  The funny part is that we discovered last year that every time Tim changes the TV channel, a set of candles turns on or off.

The fake rose hips above, I bought when the autumn florals were on clearance.  I prefer the more muted colors to the standard Christmas red or gold.  Not that I'm short on those.  I brought them in, stuck them in that cream can and I decided I liked it so much just the way it was that I was going to have to use something else for my centerpiece.  I did pull a few berry clumps off the wire stems but refuse to cut the bunches up as planned.  I'll have to remember to watch for more next year,

This year I have a thing for tin.  And I've always liked graters,  This little assortment is actually my favorite ensemble this year.  I have some LED tapers ordered that will fit inside them,  The base is the screen from a cheese mold.  The other part of the cheese mold is holding walnuts

Of course you don't have to use greens everywhere.  Sometimes pine cones do fine on their own,  These tin steamers dress up for the holidays every year.

This Jelke Oleomargarine crate from the 20s was here at this house when I moved in.  It usually stays in the garden shed doing dirty work, but this year I washed and oiled it and brought it in the house.

And of course, the Nabisco cracker box.  This box got fake spruce and juniper limbs that are so realistic I have to look twice to see which I'm using.  Assembling boxes of mixed greens is a surprising amount of work and I feel a bit mangled.  I am not done of course.  I have orange slices drying in the oven and cranberries to string.  And I do have a very nice assortment of greens left but I promised Tim that while I am not completely done decorating, I will refrain from jumping up in the middle of dinner to rearrange something.  For tonight anyway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Lettuce is Still Going

We have had several night in the mid-20s but the lettuce is still surviving.  
It is not growing anymore so I am cutting entire plants.

Sunday we had our last round with the oak leaves.  The ones in the lawn will blow away by spring but the ones caught up in the garden fence refuse to move along and must be forcibly removed

And we're clean as a whistle again

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Last Nice Morning?

This morning was sunny and warm 56 degrees F and knowing that by this evening it may be snowing, I asked the cat if she would like to go out and check the garden with me.  I had a few winterizing chores left to do.

Of course she did.  All she really does is go and sit for a few minutes facing each direction, to make sure the borders are secure, then she demands a treat from the garden shed and heads back to the house.

My lettuce has been doing well under it's frost cover.  We've had a dozen frosty mornings, but nothing approaching the limit of 26 degrees that the frost cover is rated for.  That is about to change.  The weather is supposed to turn today, rain by noon, snow in the evening, and then be rotten until Tuesday finishing up with a night forecast at 22 degrees which will put an end to gardening.

For those of you not familiar with "Lake Effect" snow, let me show you the "Snowvember" storm which hit Buffalo on Nov 18th, 2014.  Cold arctic air passes over warm Lake Erie, picks up a huge amount of moisture, and then immediately dumps it as snow over the cooler land mass.  You can have several feet of snow on one side of the street, and nothing on the other side.

This monster dumped up to five feet of snow over the course of two days.  Now we are lucky enough to live about 20 miles east of the "snow belt" so we may not get the 12 inches predicted tonight into tomorrow, but then again....

It may be days before it will be pleasant enough to go out to the garden again, and in the mean time, the lettuce will have to try to survive a killing frost.  So I've done my best to prepare it.
I picked a week's worth of lettuce taking the whole plants along the vulnerable edges, removed all the dead or damaged leaves, and watered it well.

Then I tucked it under a second layer of frost covering and wished it luck.  Everything I am over-wintering went into the cold frame along with full watering cans to keep things watered until the soil freezes solid..  There are vinca vine, mums, spearmint and cat nip along with some potted tulip bulbs and a tri-colored sweet potato vine.  The frost will kill the foliage by spring, but the roots will be fine.  All my large spike plants are in my office where my boss believes they are multiplying daily.  They may even be too big by spring!

Within the hour the bright sunrise was being over taken by black rain clouds from the west.  The wind is picking up and I've retreated to the house.  And that may be my last nice, warm gardening morning until spring.

UPDATE:  12:00pm

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Adventures in Antiquing

One year ago we had our Chimney Cupboard adventure and we are at it again (and yes we saw our first snowfall - again).  My kitchen collection has grown and I have more than 85 pieces of enamelware.  I've run out of places to display or store them and they are literally accumulating in drifts on shelves and in corners.  Tim has been wanting a double cupboard to go with my Hoosier and two chimney cupboards and he finally found what he was looking for.  

I had been casually watching Ebay for a double cupboard and there was a seller that was selling two double cupboards and a single chimney cupboard on separate listings.  They were in our state but well out of our territory.  Towards the end of the long listing, Tim called the guy up and offered him a bundled price for the whole set.  They had been listed for months and he had a lot of interest, but large items like that are really hard to ship and there was a lot of talk but no action.  Even for us they were a long day's drive on the other end of New York state (and back) but it was worth an antiquing adventure and anything can be done if you put your mind to it.

Things just fell into place too easily.  As luck would have it, the seller had a brother living in Rochester so he was willing to come more than half way and meet us for the exchange.  We have had several adventures like this, meeting sellers in WalMart parking lots (this time it was Lowes) and loading very heavy and cumbersome items into the truck.  Today we traveled up the stunningly beautiful Genesee River Valley leaf peeping and antiquing.  We hit a couple of stores, met up with our seller and had a pleasant lunch talking about collecting junk.

The three cabinets just fit (tightly) into the truck bed and were strapped down where they rode happily with nary a quiver or a flutter.  These cabinets are so light weight that if you can get a hold of one, a single person can easily move it around.

A portion of the enamelware over flow

We knew they were in good condition but the original plan was to paint them to match the other green cabinets.  When we got them home and unwrapped we realized that painting these would not necessarily be a crime against antiques, but certainly a colossal. waste. of. time.
They are not in pristine condition, but the cracks and chips are minor for 80+ year old cupboards and the Ivory color is very complimentary to the collection.  No need to be all matchy matchy.
These cabinets were made by the I-XL Furniture Company in Goshen Indiana sometime in the 1920s and sold by the Montgomery Ward catalog.  The original Montgomery Ward tags with the shipping address is still stuck securely to the back of each cabinet.

Last year's cabinet before and after
And you remember the kind of clean up we are used to dealing with.

Of course there is absolutely no room on the main floor of our tiny house for another stick of furniture.  Until we get the new garage built and my hobby room ready (and the collection out of the dining room, off the porch and up from the basement), these cabinets will have to live down in the basement and make themselves useful.  Now I can store all my collecting overflow neatly inside and free up a whole bunch of shelves for other stuff.  Like canning jars.