Friday, December 21, 2012

Best Christmas Tree Ever

You may have heard that Midwesterners picked up a bit of snow on Wednesday and Thursday. It's true:

The official for our area was 12 inches. Pretty spectacular after a bone dry summer and a warmer than usual fall. I spent Thursday digging out at home. While I shoveled (and shoveled, and shoveled) I wondered if this was as bad as the snow storm back in the day: 

The day being New Year's Day, 1942. I'd say the forties still have us beat. While we got crazy amounts of snow this week, that photo above still looks worse. 

The old saw about what doesn't kill you makes you stronger certainly applies to winter in my home state. I can't romanticize much about having sore butt and bicep muscles from shoveling, and anyone who grows up in snow country thinks "plow ridge" are the two most depressing words in the English language (my neighbor helped with mine, bless him). But there are side benefits. Mother Nature left behind the best Christmas tree ever in my front yard. 

Hope your coming days are all unexpected, special, and blessings in spite of the storms of life, just like my tree. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pitcher This: Something New for the Kitchen

Do you ever see something on a vintage store shelf that you instinctively grab, march to the cash register, and pay for without thinking? In mere seconds?

I did that last week while getting some holiday shopping done in our quaint Main Street shopping district.

First I have to back up a bit and confess to the contents of my Etsy favorites account. This item has been hanging out there a looooong time:

Czech pottery cookie jar from Etsy Seller FuzzyMama
It's a Czech pottery cookie jar, probably from the 1920s or 1930s. I love the Art Deco design, the color, well, everything about it. Except the price. $170. I know. Knowing what I know about the item's history and rarity, it's a fair price--- I am not dissing the seller for pricing it the way she has. But one hundred. seventy. dollars. Eeesh. It is not unlike what I say when looking at gorgeous, but several hundred dollar purses-- "If I bought that, I wouldn't have any cash to put in it, so what's the point?" Same deal here. If I bought it, I wouldn't have any money to put cookies in it. And that would be sad.

It would be impractical too. As much as I love vintage cookie jars, they're usually tiny by today's standards. With four boys ranging in age from 8 to 17, I need a cookie jar roughly the size of a 5-gallon bucket to keep this place stocked. It's not funny. They're hungry. It's a challenge to keep up with them.

So, anyway. This cookie jar, lovely as it was, stayed on my Etsy wish list and firmly in my dreams. And then I walked into a new vintage/antique store downtown and found this:

Can you believe it? It was in my hands before I even had time to think. And the price? $18. Very doable for an item I already loved, because I'd fallen in love with its partner cookie jar over a year ago. It's a cream pitcher, and holds a little less than a pint.

It also coordinates fantastically with another loved piece of Czech pottery I have owned for about 10 years:

The oatmeal container actually and for real contains oatmeal, since I'm a big fan of it. I can't help it. I'm adult who likes to eat mush. With brown sugar and whole milk. It's as good as dessert to me, I swear.

I have grown to believe that with few exceptions, the things like this that I buy must have a purpose, or you're just cluttering up your house. It was obvious to me that I was going to buy this and purpose be damned. But I do think I've thought up a good way to have this in my kitchen, earning its keep.

Right next to the refrigerator is a little "breakfast station"-- the toaster, the featured oatmeal container above, and the cupboard above holds the bread, bagels, peanut butter, etc.

If you stop by my kitchen on any given day and check the dishwasher (which probably hasn't been run yet, sorry), it's full of butter knives. The boys make a lot of sandwiches, bagels, crackers with cheese, graham crackers with peanut butter, and for every snack there's a knife involved for spreading. So much so I have complained about the difficulty keeping a clean supply around.

My idea is to keep a stash of (probably thrift store) knives in the pitcher at the breakfast station, since there's no additional drawer space on that end of the kitchen. That way it can hang out with its new partner the oatmeal container and they can look good together. It can provide something at the ready for peanut butter, mayo, and whatever other condiment the boys are busy spreading around, and earn its keep while looking fabulous.

I'm so happy to have found this affordable substitute for something I adored. Have you ever had anything leap into your hands like this?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Little Shiny Brite-ness

I am a raccoon all year round. I like shiny things. At Christmas time that raccoon goes completely off the chain. Candles! Sparkly lights! Glitter!

That's in direct conflict with my struggle with Christmas commercialism, over-consumption, and forced cheer. It's at odds with my inner Christmas Grump. There's your mixed metaphor for the day. Picture a raccoon (with glitter in its fur) duking it out fur and fangs with the Christmas Grump (she's wearing paint-stained sweat pants and a crabby look).

I'm never going to be the person who has a Christmas tree in every room of her house and garland stuck on anything that doesn't move. Okay, I was a little bit about that garland part for a few years. And you know what? It was EXHAUSTING. And dusty. I got over it.

Nevertheless, I and the inner glitter raccoon think there's always room for another bauble on the one tree we do have and I allow myself the fireplace mantel too. So every year I permit myself a few small Christmas things. For awhile it was the vintage bottle brush trees. I loved the kitschy, sparkly, funny things, and I could pick them up for a song at garage sales and off-season at flea markets. Then people got wise to their charms. They went from $5 to $10 dollars up to $20. Did I mention Glitter Raccoon is also a cheapskate? Last year I picked up my last one, a real doll of a number with bananas and oranges on it, for $22 and I was very lucky to find it at that price. This year, everything worth having was $50 and up. Way up.

This year my finds were a bit more modest, made to look way more modest by my hurried and badly focused photo above. Boy do I need a photography class. And a life outside of work that doesn't involve doing laundry and grilling cheese sandwiches. But I digress.

I was taken by the pale blue ornaments and their delicate leafy sprays. The bead garland is about six feet long, which doesn't cover much of the tree but it's pretty twined through the branches. I hope to find it some beaded siblings to join with in the future. It was just a few dollars for the bunch.

Do you have an inner Glitter Raccoon? Do you let it go every Christmas, or do you try to keep it under control? What holiday things do you collect?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Whoops, There Goes Another One

There goes another week, that is. I'm convinced time is actually relative rather than ordered. When did it get to be December? Only two seconds ago, and yet the first week is almost in the bag.

True to my-life-is-nuts form, I promised a regular feature on the first Mondays of the month and blew it right away. Why?


I'll be the first to admit I struggle with Christmas. First, because I get grumpy when I see the first Christmas decor come out BEFORE Halloween at the local Stuff Mart. There oughta be a law. Second, because I prefer Thanksgiving, though that's probably because I prefer pie to cookies, and Thanksgiving just plain OWNS the pie category for holidays. Thirdly, I'm turned off by celebrations of overt consumption. Though I'm a fallen Lutheran (I turned in my casserole dish years ago), I still would rather have a Christmas that concentrates more on the meaningful aspects than the mandatory decking of halls and enforced donning of gay apparel.

Fa-la-la-la-la bawk bawk bawk BAWK!
Last weekend I got the tree put together and managed not to swear or break anything. We have a fake tree, which is a new development since I bought the house. We used to live in Michigan, which has acres of lovely and lush Christmas tree farms, and we had some real beauties when I lived there. In the particular corner of the Midwest that I now live, no one would dare give up a square inch of row crop land for trees, and real trees are shipped from Minnesota, two weeks old, already dry as tinder. It's sad and expensive and fake seemed the lesser evil. I will say it's nice not to have to remember to water, and nice not to have to untangle strands of lights every year.

I've thrown up my vintage bottle brush trees on the mantel, shown above. The little boys think the name "bottle brush" is just hilarious. I gathered them one by one over the last ten years, but I think they've now become too expensive for my taste. It's a collection that doesn't need to get any bigger though. I mix truly old Christmas stuff freely with stuff I call "oldish" (like the ornaments that are mixed in with the trees), meaning things made to look vintage but really aren't. At Christmas time people seem to hunger for a past maybe even they can't claim, so it's easy to find Christmas decorations that fit in with the genuinely vintage.

Last year I made the kids homemade Christmas ornaments from craft leftovers I had laying around the house:

I'll probably do the same this year, but I may have taxed the limit of my skills. I'm out of ideas. And time. Still, I like the idea better than buying LPC (the family acronym for Little Plastic Crap).

This weekend is for cookies, gift wrapping, and shipping the annual box off to my sister in Atlanta. Probably a little music to get me in the mood too. At Christmas I listen to music of extremes, like the  Missa Puer Natus est Nobis from the 16th century, and something like Otis Redding.

Are you ready for the holidays? Are you a relaxed or rushed holiday partier? A last minute shopper or an all year planner? However you do it and whatever you celebrate, have a great December!