Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas 2015 - Gifts and Finds

Hello! I hope that you and yours had a very Merry Christmas. As the holiday season winds down, I'd thought I'd show off a few gifts and finds of Christmas 2015. 

My husband and I don't exchange gifts any more; rather, we do a "house gift" that we can both use. This year the "house gift" ended up being a new basement freezer - a necessity after the old one, full of food, died right before Thanksgiving. 

But instead of gifts, we give each other with nicely-stuffed Christmas stockings, filled with craft beers or hard cider, books, magazines, gift certificates, candies and more. (needless to say, there's usually overflow and so the stockings are presented wrapped in shopping bags or stuffed into a cardboard box. 

I'll show off a couple of favorites from the stockings:

In my husband's stocking, a pine cone I'd picked up on the campus of Berea College, KY, during an early October trip. As with the other pine cones I'd gathered from other trips in years past, this one  was decorated with glitter and has a gold cord hanger. Attached to the cord is a tag I'd made that states where and when the pine cone had been found.

I've always done a memory-type Christmas ornament for inclusion in my husband's Christmas stocking, such as glittering old watches or car keys, or decorating wine corks from significant events. 

Over the past several years, though, I've stuck with pine cones. By now they've come from all over the US. My husband suggested that maybe next year the pine cone ornaments could get their own Christmas tree since the collection has grown. I think he also made his suggestion because the Berea pine cone ended up being the largest one thus far - it's over 8" long and over 4" wide. It wasn't nearly that big when I picked it up on a chilly, damp day, but opened up to its present size once it came into our warm, dry house. 

In my stocking:

A tiny Nativity scene: a small glass bottle with the Holy Family inside. The figures and the base are made of clay. My husband says he "doesn't like to reveal his sources", but I'm guessing this came from the fair trade shop downtown. It's known this time of year for the variety of handcrafted Nativity sets from around the world. My husband didn't recall where this one had been made; perhaps a Latin American country. 

Its tiny size, by the way, is a mere 1 1/2" l x 1"h x 3/4" w. I would say it took considerable skill to craft those clay figures and arrange them inside the bottle. So sweet though; I love it!

A gift to me from our daughter:

A vintage-style calico cat ornament, in honor of my "little girl" - our nearly 13-year-old calico named Beauty. I promptly hung this ornament on the cat-themed tree in the dining room (the tabletop feather tree whose decor changes with the season). There, this pretty likeness joined various handcrafted cat ornaments, as well as a couple of collars Beauty had once worn.

I visited Ann Arbor's PTO thrift shop two days before Christmas. Although my main purpose was to peruse the huge arts/crafts section,  I was pleased to learn that all Christmas-themed items were 75% off. 

I didn't have time to look at every single Christmas item, as they were found in various sections of the store, but here's what I came home with:

A pattern for a no-sew Nativity set and directions for making vintage-style  snow angels. Behind these patterns is a plastic bag of German scrap vintage-style Santa scenes plus a few pieces of Christmas-themed vintage ephemera. 

Non-crafty, but also on sale at the PTO thrift shop:

10 years ago, this mug had been part of the scene at the Christmas market in Dusseldorf, Germany. Since "Santa Claus' Gluhwein" is mentioned at the bottom, I assume this mug came with the purchase of that beverage (a type of mulled wine). 

I don't know what expense was involved in the mug making its way from Germany to the US, or what the mulled wine had cost at the time of purchase. However, I'm sure that any price connected to this mug was way more than the 12c I ended up forking over for it.

The gifts and finds I've shown off here may seem small in size and/or price, but I feel they all have a big "price tag" when it comes to the amount of pleasure they'll give us in the years to come!


Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!

Hello! Just a quick post this morning to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. It's not a white one here, which doesn't bother me in the least - much better for the Christmas Eve traveling we did for a family gathering elsewhere. We came back in time last night to walk around town for a good hour enjoying Christmas lights. It was a very nice day all around.

A note about the above ornament: it resides on my Santa tree (all the ornaments on it pay homage to that fellow). I got it years ago from a church rummage sale. The ornament consists of a small plastic Santa body for which someone had lovingly crocheted a suit. I think I paid 50c for it. I have much fancier and more expensive Santa ornaments on the tree - but this one is my favorite. Makes me smile every time I see it! 


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Thrifty Acres: Vintage Christmas Pins

Hello! I've read articles in which vintage pins(the costume jewelry kind) are shown off. These pins are often collected by theme, such as flowers or Christmas trees. 

Well, I have a modest collection of pins with a vintage Christmas theme, as seen below:

A few close-ups to follow:

These two pins were half-off Christmas finds at a thrift store, so I paid a quarter for both. They're made of heavy plastic and are labeled as being made in Hong Kong. I'm guessing they're from the 1960's. The Santa is a pull toy in miniature; pull the red bell that dangles down and his arms, legs and eyes move. He holds a gold bell in one hand and a sign saying "Merry Christmas" in the other.

The Christmas tree pin mimics the collectible tree pins I mentioned at the beginning of my post, but the pricier pins aren't likely to be have been made of plastic as mine was. They're aren't likely to be priced under a quarter by savvy sellers either. But I actually like the fact that some company had made my cheapo version. It doesn't look like plastic and adds a bit of bling to my outfits when I wear it. 

The next two pins, though, are of the nicer costume variety type. I don't know how old they are, but they had belonged to my late mother-in-law. They're likely from either the 1950's or 1960's. They're both fun to wear. 

A deer holding a spring of holly and a pretty bow-and-bell combo.

The last pin is in the handmade category:

A small Christmas stocking made of felt, gold trim, sequins, beads, ribbon and a jingle bell. This pin was in a bag of assorted Christmas trims. I wouldn't have purchased it on its own, but I do have a fondness for vintage Christmas crafts, so I kept it. Even though it's small (barely 2 1/4" high), it would have taken its creator a little while to make. I wondered how many times it'd been worn before it ended up at a thrift store. Of course, I'll never know. 

Well, as I'd said, my vintage Christmas pin collection is modest, but it'll be easy and inexpensive to add to it as I see fit.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

10 Favorites: No-Cost Holiday Decor Ideas

Hello! I finally got around to putting up all my Christmas decor yesterday. (I've learned to take a more relaxed approach by doing a bit each day.) However, it's fun to add in a few more decorations, especially if they are easy to make and inexpensive.
Thus, I was interested in a recent post from the Remodelista website entitled "10 Favorites: No-Cost Holiday Decor Ideas", which can be found here. This article, by Justine Hand, includes over 20 project photos - the "10 Favorites" refers to the list of decorating themes.

The term "no-cost" assumes, of course, that one has the necessary supplies on hand. But since there's plenty of variety in the 10 categories of ideas, there's bound to be at least some projects that truly are no-cost. Another bonus is that many of them are easy for children to do, like decorating a bare branch or a chalkboard. 

Speaking of chalkboards, upon reading the article I recalled that we had one sitting down in the basement. The chalkboard is part of a wooden perpetual calendar that had once seen daily use since its purchase 30 years ago. However, the frame got banged up after getting accidentally knocked off the wall, so the calendar was banished from the kitchen.

But why not run with "Chalk It Up" (theme #5) from the Remodelista article? So I dusted and cleaned up that old perpetual calendar, drew a quick design on the chalkboard with art chalk pastels (a vintage set found at a church rummage sale), and leaned it against a wall on the family room floor:

Instant, no-cost decor! And of course, I can change the "artwork" any time I want. Looks like this old perpetual calendar will no longer be relegated to the basement! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Made It: Christmas Ornaments 2015

Hello! I make Christmas ornaments every year for my nieces and
nephews. Last year's ornaments (seen here) seemed to go over very well (at least among the parents, who clearly thought the ornaments were harder to make than they actually were). I knew it'd be hard to top those with this year's ornaments, but I think I came up with something pretty good:

I made a few changes to a pattern called "Nordic House Ornament", designed by Karin Darocha. Her project was among a set of over 100 projects purchased for a couple of bucks at a thrift store a few years ago. As the set wasn't in its original packaging, I don't know what name it was sold under. (the projects were organized as a  calendar, with each project representing several days in a week. The Nordic House Ornament covered Dec. 16-19.)

The photograph accompanying Darocha's directions showed off a red-and-white color scheme, which I guess is the Nordic part. I used a variety of colors. She embellished her ornaments with embroidery; I did that as well, but also added vintage rickrack and vintage buttons. 

A couple of close-ups:

Looks like a blue Christmas. 

The muslin used for the house base isn't vintage, but most of the other fabrics used for this project are. I like the slightly mismatched look I gave these ornaments - more fun than having everything completely coordinated!

And speaking of fun, these were fun to make. My only challenge was to make sure I crafted a few that weren't too "sweet", in honor of my nephews. They are long past the little-boy stage, so no prints with little flowers for them. I do hope I succeeded in appealing to their sensibilities. If not, well at least I tried. 

These ornaments measure about 2 3/4" x 6 1/2". Darocha also included a pattern for a house that's 3 3/4" x 8 1/2". I'm thinking of making one of these in the larger size to use as a small accent piece in my newly-redecorated family room. 

Now all I have to do is pop these ornaments in gift bags and they'll be ready for gift-giving. It's always a good feeling when I get this project done each year. I've been doing this for over 20 years by now!


Monday, December 7, 2015

Thrifty Acres: Another Nativity Scene

Hello! I have a small Nativity collection. It consists of a Fontanini (an Italian company) set and a variety of smaller Nativities that were either gifts, handcrafted by me or found as secondhand. 

Since I'm now up to close to 20 Nativity scenes, I've become choosy about bringing another one home, even if it costs only a quarter. Thus, when I spied a Nativity scene with that price tag at a thrift store last week, I hesitated. Yes, it is vintage, but is plastic. None of my other Nativities are, so I wasn't sure how it would look next to them. 

But after all, the price was minuscule, so I bought it:

This is about 7" long and about 5" high, and was made in Hong Kong. I'm not sure how old it is, maybe from the 1960's?

I suppose it straddles the line between vintage-tacky and vintage-cool, but I'll lean on the side of the latter! It was the profusion of detailed palm trees that sold me on this piece:

The shepherd seen above shows some wear, as does Joseph, but other than that the Nativity is in fine shape. (tried to take a close-up of the Holy Family  but they didn't photograph well). 

Happily, this set goes along just fine with a grouping of fair-trade Nativity scenes:

The other Nativities seen in the photo are made of materials like wood, clay, and a nut (the tiny object seen at the base of the plastic Nativity). They are all charming in their own right - but I'm glad I brought home that vintage plastic one!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Made It: For The Third Baby Boy

Hello! As I'd mentioned awhile back, I was surrounded by neighbor moms-to-be this year. All three women had sons, one after another - September, October and November. This post will be about the last baby. I waited to deliver his gift until our daughter came home from college for Thanksgiving. She wanted to meet the new little guy and also wanted to see his six-year-old big sister, on whom she dotes. 

The parents of the September baby seemed to like the stuffed toy I'd made for their son, so I decided to make another toy from the same vintage pattern set(seen here). And here's how my latest baby toy effort came out:

This time, I chose a dog pattern because the family has a pet dog. The toy is about 9" tall, is made from two blue fabric prints, has an embroidered face and has a blue ribbon tie around his neck.

Of course, I made a card for the occasion as well:

Materials used:
  • white card stock 
  • dark blue scrapbook paper
  • blue/white checked scrapbook paper
  • art paper scrap
  • baby image cut from 1940's craft magazine
  • "Baby BOY" stamped in blue ink on white card stock scrap
  • "Benjamin" cut from vintage library card catalog card (anybody else remember that method of looking up what books were in the library?)
Close up of the baby boy image:

I do enjoy using images from older publications.

I also enjoyed making this toy and greeting card to welcome our newest neighbor!