Monday, December 12, 2011

A Perfect Time

When it got light enough to see, my heart swelled with joy. We had snow overnight, and it was a spectacular morning! Here is what I saw first.

And then I saw this view:

No matter what window I looked out of, it was Mother Nature's masterpiece. What a perfect day to put up the tree.
It's been a while since I put up a Christmas tree, so it took a little while to get everything set up and just so. It was like being on a shopping spree as I pulled things from boxes. My memory of them had faded somewhat over time, due to the length and the ups and downs of my health over the past two years. So, everything, even tiny ornaments, were a joyful surprise as I opened their boxes. Mitch Miller was playing quietly from the studio as I assembled the tree, strung the lights, and debated over which garland to use.
After placing the tree on the bench, I noticed it was horribly bare around the base. Lacking a traditional tree skirt, a huge red stocking wrapped around the base became a tree skirt, with no one the wiser but me. And now you, of course. Hey, it works!

I used all my vintage ornaments, and they were placed very strategically for maximum viewing. It was imperative that they be seen, no matter where you looked at the tree. The bells were first, then the Shiny Brites. The little wood birds fluttered into place, gently swinging from their branches. All the other ornaments came one by one, each finding their own spot on the tree. What do you think?

I needed to dress up the oil lamp bracket on the wall, so I used a candy cane style candle and a garland wrap to fix it right up.

A pretty little bird:

And one with bells for neighbors:

All in all, we have a fantastic tree with bright and shiny decorations throughout the main two rooms of the house. Finally, everything we have collected and bought over the years looks like it should- shimmery and sparkly and merry and bright! Even our fiber optic snowman still works. His subtly changing colors match the tree lights to perfection, and you can't ask for better than that.

I'll close this bragging post with a night shot of the tree surround.

I hope you all have a warm, festive, relaxing Merry Christmas.


Cowland Studio

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Enduring Update

Part I and Part II of Enduring Christmas Ornaments needs an update. I probably should have taken my time, really looking at them thoroughly, but it didn't dawn on me to do that until after I did some major reading on the history of ornaments. There are many interesting markings, but I neglected to look at the most obvious- the cap!!

Here is what I discovered:

The four blue striped bells, two gold bells, and one silver bell in the rear are clearly stamp/embossed 'Czechoslovakia' on the caps. That was a wonderful discovery! Only once in my research did I see a bell that resembled the gold bells.

My favorites are also clearly stamp/embossed 'West Germany' on the caps. They'll hold a place of honor on the front of my tree this year.

These bells proudly proclaim 'West Germany' on their ornate caps.

All of these ornaments are stamp/embossed 'Shiny Brite - Made in USA' on the caps, except for the little one on the lower right. There are no identifying stamps on it, but the cap itself is unique to all the other ornaments.
These, also, are Shiny Brites. I was surprised!

All Shiny Brites! And, there turns out to be another clear lantern, making my grand total- two!

The end of the Shiny Brites, including the top on the far, lower right. I still love that Stagecoach!

That is all the information I have on my ornaments at this time. My Mom told me that the little wood painted birds were given to her by an old friend. I understand they bring good fortune, and will grace my tree this year. Slowly, the decorations are going up. I'm hoping to tackle the tree tomorrow. It's finally snowing, so, that will boost me along! As I put things in their place, I just as quickly bring them to the studio for a splash of glitter. Some things just need glitter! Watch this blog for pictures.

Happy Decorating!


Cowland Studio

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Enduring Christmas Ornaments- Part II

This post is about the rest of my collection of Christmas ornaments. It doesn't include the many I have hand painted this year. By the time I get to decorating the tree, the few in the pictures will seem like a multitude on a four footer, and I intend to fill it up.
As before, if you have any information on the following pictures, please comment below.

These adorable little wood birds hung on my mother's tree. I always thought they were just so cute. Where they came from doesn't matter, but I'd love to know who made them. I think the tiny flocked ornaments were my grandma's.
Looks like the snowman needs some help!

This next batch has me baffled. I can't tell what they were made from. It's not wood, and they are crudely shaped, but they're just different enough to hang on my tree.

Grandma had a thing for Bambi, that's for sure. I remember her huge tapestries that hung on the walls either had a deer scene or a horse scene. With these, I figure the riveted holes on their bellies were there so each Bambi could 'sit' on a post. I could be wrong. And their little heads rotate. You can turn them all the way around, place them in different poses.

These plastic critters totally escape me, but they were grandma's, so I keep them. The stickers on two of them clearly show they were made in Japan and could be had for one thin dime.

It looks like they're trying to tell me something...

Another bell- this one a birdie elf. Just right for my tree.

Along with our four foot tree this year, we have two small trees- one for the bedroom and one for
 the end of the kitchen counter. The tree in the kitchen sports all my itty bitty wood ornaments that I've had so long I can't remember if I bought them  or acquired them. It doesn't matter, because they fit so well with that particular small tree that the whole thing just needs it's own space to be. When all of the decorating is done, I'll post pictures of my handywork.


Enduring Christmas Ornaments- Part I

No matter how old your ornaments are, they are something special, if only to you. Once they're on the tree with the twinkling lights gently glowing, those ornaments are captivating. Memories of long ago, cherished Christmases come to mind, and the smells of those times trigger more. Does it matter how old the ornaments are? No. Does it matter where they came from? Sometimes, yes.
I am one of the lucky people who are in possession of ornaments that came from a family member, or two. Some are from my grandmother, and there are some precious ones from my mother, as in her bell collection. These are the few that are left, and will be on my tree this year:

I just adore bells. Many of the decorations in my kitchen this year are bells- a wreath of bells, bells hanging from ribbon, clusters of bells dangling from the table lamp, and a few left over in case I think of someplace else to put them. But, the bells pictured above are for the tree.
Some bells are glass, some are collectibles, a half dozen are plastic (and still cute), and there are two wood bells (not vintage). The triple set of small brass bells in the center of the picture are affectionately known as the 'Cat Alarm" bells. Mom's Siamese used to love to climb the Christmas tree, with the resulting breaking of ornaments, so this set was always placed on the lowest branch to sound the alert when he was trying to climb! Keeping the tradition, I always place them on the lowest branch, even though my cat won't go near a tree.
The pretty blue bells and gold bells are plastic, as far as I can tell, and they are delicate.
The next picture is of my favorite bells- the lacy kind. There aren't many of them left, and luckily they have their own box.

The bell on the far left of this next picture has me baffled. The bouquet is beautiful, and looks like it might be a decal. Any thoughts? Let me know if you have any information on it.

Now, for the vintage ornaments. I'm sure there used to be many more Shiny Brites in grandma's collection. Some were probably broken by cats and kids over the years. So, here is what I have:

Just recently I learned quite a bit about ornaments and their origins, mostly from one of my favorite sites, She has a number of posts on the backgrounds of Christmas ornaments. I never knew it would be that interesting!
The little stray on the lower right has me stumped. There's almost no pike. Another mystery. If anyone knows anything about it, please, let me know. I find their histories fascinating.
I call the ornaments in this next shot, rainbows, for lack of a better word. I don't even know if they were made by Delta (as printed on the box).

A few indents remain. Those no longer with us were quite large.
The stagecoach ornament is really wonderful. It looks like it has retained all its 'snow'.
This clear lantern was from the World War II era, when silver was not used to coat the inside of an ornament, because the silver was needed for the war. As in all the others, there used to be more in this collection.
The last picture is of lose ornaments that have no box of their own, but do have a home- mine. The blue ball in the rear of the group seems to have a long pike, possibly made in Poland. I'm not an expert in the field of ornaments, so this is only a guess.
The pine cones are cute, aren't they?

These are now, happily, my collection.
If you have any background on these ornaments, please leave your info in the comment section below. I look forward to reading it!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Black Beauty & Home Improvements

Isn't she glorious?
Personally, I think she's the most beautiful machine ever created. And work? She can still crank out the hits without breaking a sweat.
I've always wanted to know how old she was, and any other information that could be gleaned through research. Getting right on it yesterday, I found out she's certified as being from the year 1910 by the
Singer Sewing Machine Company. Her motor, Singer made with all it's numbers, is 1911. Operation is powered by a knee lever (very long and heavy), and she is a shuttle bobbin unit, pictured below:
It has an amazing pop up button on the armature bar, making bobbin replacement quick and painless. As you can see, this beauty has been used quite a bit. The decal is quite worn. I don't care! She's still beautiful to me!
My research tells me she is a LaVincendora, circa 1885, and because of her spoked wheel and bobbin winding mechanism, she originally sat in a treadle cabinet. Oh, what I would give to have that cabinet now. Anyway, she's portable. Her carrying case is simplistically beautiful in itself.
So, the story is still not finished. I'd love to know who had her before, what she sewed, where she's been, how she came to be in a tiny, dirty 'antique' shop, waiting for me to find her.  I'll keep looking. You never know. It was in this same small shop that I found a tall, 2 burner wood/coal stove for my kitchen, that just happened to originally come from my farm house where I was living! It belonged to my great aunt. So, it made its way back to its home where it belonged and was needed. I did a lot of cooking on her!

We put up the 'new' kitchen curtains for the winter. They look like they were made just for these windows.
These are the best windows! I get a wonderful view of all the wildlife here, and right outside these windows are where the deer like to feed and play.
Since we moved here a year ago, I've wanted to put down new kitchen floor tiles, so after the curtains were up and looking marvelous, it was time to start the floor.

It's a work in progress. And my legs made me pay for that little exercise. But, everything is now matching!

With the kitchen getting right cozy, I decided to make soft molasses cookies for a reward, using my great grandma's recipe (as always).
Don't they look yummy?
Recently, a certain variegated skein of yarn caught my eye, so I couldn't pass it up. Getting it home, I realized it exactly matched the colors in the kitchen curtains. Happy day! Out came the hook and a few coasters for the table were born.
Potholders of the same yarn followed shortly thereafter. All of my Fall decorations are still up (until the day after Thanksgiving), and their colors are all in sync with the curtains, floor, coasters, and potholders. It's amazing.

Speaking of turkey day- I hope all my readers have a wonderful day.


Cowland Studio

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Time To Slow Down

Now that the flurry of Halloween is over and the decorations are stowed away, it's time to dig in the heels and power down the jets. A much needed break is called for and the weather installs 'baking' in my brain to the point of overload. So, pizzelles were the first item on the menu.

Have you ever had them? If not, it's worth your time and taste buds to try them. But- be warned! They are highly addictive! I'm serious. I've seen packages with that very warning label on them. And there's so many things you can do to them. Hot off the pizzelle maker, you can roll them to stuff with whatever luscious filling you want. Top with with your favorite jam or jelly. Make up a creamy filling to make them into sandwiches for your coffee break. Mold them into cupcake pans (when fresh off the machine) and fill them with succulent berries topped with whipped creme. My favorite way- just plain old plain.
See why it was time to make them?
You can get about 100 out of the recipe I have, so I froze two bags for those 'I have to have something and I don't know what' days.

One day, when I had come home from dialysis and was having my badly needed cup of coffee (in the mug pictured below), I wanted to do something with my hands to keep them busy, so I snatched up a skein of yarn and a crochet hook and started a heavy potholder.

We use potholders all the time in our house. It always seems like there's something baking in the oven or bubbling on the stove. I like to have a good supply of potholders on hand, but so many times a potholder is just a tad too small for my liking. So, when I started this crocheted potholder, it had to be larger than what I already had.
About ten years into crocheting (roughly 18 years old), I taught myself to read patterns you could buy in the store. I remember the one pattern I had to have was the ripple for an afghan I had in mind. I was surprised how easy it was, and I believe it was at that point that I started coming up with my own way of making squares. The results of the patterns I had were too loose; not clearly defined edges and perfectly square.
After much experimenting, ripping out, starting over (you know the drill), I finally was satisfied with my way.

I like how nice and tight this stitch is and my edges are even and the piece is square. It was done the next day.
Large and in charge! My husband said it could double as a hot pad. Yup. It probably cold. Nice and heavy. Just the way I wanted it.
That little side project satisfied my need to do something, and make it functional, too. And, it got the need to crochet filled.
How can you go wrong with a project like that?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Welcome to My Home

These cuties will greet you at the front door! Come on in...

Here you will see some sewing, a few antiques, miscellaneous recipes I have come up with, and some recipes from my great grandmother and great aunt's collection that were used again and again by them and me. There will probably be some sporadic shots of scenery, featuring our residents- the deer. Some pictures might even surprise me! But be assured- they will be posted for your enjoyment.

A long time ago, I was given an old sewing box (that looks handmade), and inside are the most awesome  treasures. The picture above is of some of them. I don't use them. They are far too wonderful for that. When I feel I need a boost, I open the box and rummage through the contents. They make me smile. They make me wonder. They put pictures in my head of the old days when sewing was done by hand, or if you were lucky, a hand-me-down sewing machine. Do I love old stuff? You bet!

For now, I will leave you with this picture of a sunset at my old farmhouse, where so many generations of my family lived and loved.

Here's to keeping all our farms alive and flourishing!