Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Off the Beaten Path

Since Monday, I have been at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Spencer, Tennessee. My friend Kim has a timeshare and this was close enough to her home near Nashville for a much needed vacation. She invited me up for a few days and I couldn't refuse her offer. I've even brought my sewing machine with me.

We have plans to go into the park tomorrow and maybe eat at the Fall Creek Falls Inn Restaurant. I have some plans to work on a quilt project, too! It will be the coldest day yet of our visit getting up to only around 40F.

Today, we went into Nashville for an appointment of hers and on the way, we encountered this wonderful painted sign on an old barn on the side of Hwy 30 between Spencer and McMinnville. I love it! Made her turn around so I could take a picture.

I've decided that maybe that's how we should select all our representatives - a bowl-off! Couldn't be any more of a crap shoot than what we do now!

So I had to Google "Bowling for Congress" and found out that Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, TN, made a failed bid for the U.S. House of Representatives back in 2002. She is apparently still in public service back home, but this stands as a reminder of former aspirations. Here's a view from the side...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Last Look

It's that time. Time to take all my Christmas decorations down for another year. The tree has starting throwing off ornaments, so I need to take it down before it destroys them all. Before everything goes back in a box though, I thought I would share a few last looks with you.

Here are our stockings hung on the dining room mantle. A cousin of my dad's made mine when I was just a wee child. You just don't see that kind of beading and felt work anymore.
This is the first antique I purchased for myself It has served as everything from sweater storage to craft display cabinet. It sits in my back hallway now and holds china, hardware, and dog stuff!
I love this little pine cone elf. The little Santa is the smallest of the set of nesting Santas from the tree.
I got these cool really big bags at IKEA in Atlanta back in October. They are great for hauling quilts or lots of Christmas presents. You can tell how big they are as they cover up my fireplace.

Ornamentations

I intended to share these pictures earlier in the season, but I was distracted by other things. So here they are before the new year turns.
This is a tree topper that my friend Bob Wilbanks made for me in college. My senior year, we made ornaments and angels and sold them in a local shop in Oxford, MS. Bob and I were always doing fun, creative things.

The straw reindeer on the left was bought at IKEA, but it is a traditional Swedish Christmas ornament as is the straw star nearby. The little pine straw wreath below the angel was from a family trip to Charleston.

My sister gave me the Lenox Snoopy and Woodstock in the middle. I have collected Snoopy and Woodstock ornaments since I've had Maisy.

The yellow felt woodblock cat is Walter Anderson's Robinson the cat.

The little guy in red pajamas is probably about 45+ years old. My mother used to buy new ornaments every year, one each for my sister and me. We divided those out three years ago when we sold her house and this is the first year I have put them on my own tree.

The cutie little bunny in the kimono was a find in Tokyo in 2003. I love her. She has other Japanese friends on the tree with her.

On the left, tucked in among the branches, is an Elvis angel that Bob gave me just a few years ago.

The ornaments in this picture are scattered about a bit, so you may have to look closely to find them. In the upper left corner is an embroidered felt heart I gave my mother one year for Valentine's. The little girl on the swing is one that came from her tree as well.

On the bottom near the right corner is an eraser I bought in Sweden to make into a Christmas ornament. We were there during Easter, so it was hard to find anything. It is a Dala horse, a folk tradition in Sweden.

In the center at the top of this shot is my binkie. My sister and I discovered our baby things in a box when we went through Mama's house. In the upper right corner is a partial picture of a stuffed lamb that started my whole crafting career years ago.

The temari ball on the left side is one my dad and step-mother brought back from a trip to the Northwest one time. I actually make temari balls myself, but don't have one on my tree. The ceramic egg with the flower behind the temari ball is one I made when I was doing ceramics. It was for Easter.

The Santa has two smaller Santas inside. The little skiing rabbit was a memento from my one and only skiing adventure in Keystone, Colorado.

The little bear in the tutu has to be about one of my favorite ballet ornaments. Her stuffed little feet are even pointed. That's hard to do! And the little red flocked bird at the bottom was another from the home tree.

The darling little mouse in the red ensemble was purchased for $1.00 at an antique store in Memphis. My sister and I went in close to closing time and got a bit lost in the back. They started turning the lights out and we had to yell to get their attention. I'm sure they were thrilled to have to get the little mouse out of the case and make less than a dollar on the sale. But I think she was worth it.

The cup and saucer on the right are a Martha Stewart ornament from K-Mart a few seasons back.

I found the cool metal icicles at Target last year. They are so much fun on the tree.

This is one of my button men. I made these guys back in the crafting days. There is also a short version, but I don't have one of those. I sold them all. Diana Epstein, who wrote the book Buttons and owns the shop Tender Buttons in New York bought a dozen from me many moons ago after my friend Susan Davis, of Grandmother's Buttons, gave her one for Christmas. My biggest claim to crafting fame!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gifts Given

Well, I finished my aunt's wall hanging just in time for Christmas and here it is hanging in her dining room/kitchen. It goes so well with all of her furnishings and just finishes off the room nicely.

The block design is the Louisa May Alcott block from Voices of the Past: Vol. II by Kaye England. My aunt was a reading specialist for many years and I thought this choice most appropriate. It's entitled "Little Women."

Also, I made these crazy potholders for my directors at work. They are from this wonderfully bad ballet home decorator weight fabric that is decades old. Someone donated a huge roll of it and we can't seem to make a dent in it! Last year I made them aprons out of the stuff. Wish I had a picture of those. They turned out so cute! We've also covered a three-panel folding screen at work with it-front and back.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snoopy Goodies Jars

One of my bestest friends gave me this for Christmas! You can't really appreciate how special this is except that I have the next smaller size in this series. I first got it when I was in college. (We won't say how long ago that was.) I kept that thing for years and had it on my desk at my office wherever I worked. This included Briarwood, my current job. Well, it made it through 20 years of my life just to be broken on my desk at Briarwood. Miraculously I found a replacement at the local flea market for only $5. But would you believe this one was broken, too, at work!? No more Snoopy Goodies jars for work!

So I was distraught for quite a while over this until another friend and I went on the Hwy 127 Longest Yard Sale trip. I even had folks praying I would find one. We spent 3 days riding up from Crossville, TN, to Covington, KY, with no luck. At the very last stop, I spotted the top of a jar that might be it behind another jar on this endless table of stuff. When I pulled it out from behind, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a Snoopy Goodies jar. Only this one had a completely different design on it, but then we hadn't been that specific with our prayers. But a Snoopy jar is a Snoopy jar and I never took that one to work!

I eventually replaced the twice-broken one with an eBay find. And now I have the next size up to go with it!

Gift Wrap Party

Almost 20 years ago I started having gift wrap parties. I used to buy pretty stationery, but I never wrote anyone. So, I started buying up pretty Christmas paper after the holidays when it was marked down. I would also buy the 250 yard rolls of Sasheen ribbon at the paper company. (3M doesn't make this wonderful ribbon anymore and I have to go to eBay to replenish my stock.) After a while, I had to find a way to manage my ever-growing collection. Thus the invention of the Gift Wrap Party.

My house allows for three large wrapping stations, four if the weather cooperates and you can go outside. Guests bring their presents to wrap and boxes if they need them. I provide all the paper, ribbon, tags, and other supplies they need. There is also lots of Christmas music and plenty of snacks to go around. We all have a great time and learn new tips on wrapping and bow-making. And its fun to see what everyone has bought to give as gifts.

My tree now looks complete with all my presents in place underneath. Maisy has already tried to open her cousin Peggy Su's gift. She's really pushing it this year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I gave away two fruitcakes last night at my work Christmas party and was reminded that I had promised to post a picture of the final presentation packaging. Years ago I bought these cute little redbirds and gold tinsel pipe cleaners. My Christmas tree had extra branches at the bottom which I trimmed and used little bits at the top of these cellophane bags. I hate that there is glare on the bag. The cake really shows off quite well-very festive.

I'm not surprised that I forgot to take a picture before heading out the door to the party. When I got home from work, there was quite a scene in the kitchen. Miss Maisy had decided that the fruitcakes smelled just way too good to leave them on the kitchen table. Now, understand, this is just a hypothesis, but there must have been a corner of the ziploc bag hanging over the edge of the table and she just got on her tippy-toes and pulled that thing to the floor. Once on her level, she devoured half of one cake and gnawed on the corner of another. There was still one left intact in the bag (good thing for her.) I was quite displeased to say the least. I am now down to five and a half cakes.

But her actions were not without consequences. I left her in the kitchen while I went to the party and after I got home, we sat on the sofa so I could watch her. Twice we went outside so she could throw up. Here she is feeling all poopy curled up on her favorite pillows. After we went to bed, she threw up one more time on a towel. Today she seems to be back to herself. And the fruitcakes have been moved to higher ground.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Pipkin House Christmas

My house looks like it is decorated for Christmas year-round, being green with a red door and all. It looks like a storybook house. So my choice of a theme has been gingerbread and candy. Intentions had been to hang triple-swagged lights from the roofline to look like icing, but it has been too cold and wet to get that done. The wrought iron stakes with hurricane globes, red candles and bows were always lined up down the sidewalk at our home when I was growing up. I think there used to be six of them, but one went awol.

Last year, I found these little pre-lit trees and have chosen red and white for ornamentation. They don't stand out as much as I would like. I think they need more shiny red things. The wreath came from my mother's house. Once upon a time, Mama used to make an elaborate wreath with magnolia leaves, fruit, and nuts - a real della robbia piece. And she always had a spotlight on the front door. One year our house won best Christmas display and all we had out were the iron candle stakes and Mama's gloriously spotlighted wreath.

Miss Maisy Belle Pipkin herself had to pose on the steps, one of her favorite places when mommy does yardwork. She has a worried look on her face here. Maybe she's concerned she hasn't been good enough for Santa this year - what with taking money from one of mommy's friends and such. I think she's forgiven. How could you not forgive a cutie face like that!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

And the Baking Begins...

Last year, my friend Peggy made these amazing fruitcakes. Only she doesn't call them fruitcakes because people would turn their noses up at them just because of the name. And, no doubt, there is reason to suspect these dense holiday creations. But Peggy calls hers Holiday Jeweled Pecan Loaves to disguise their true nature. And they are wonderful! But what wouldn't be with dates, candied cherries and pineapple chunks, and seven cups of pecans. Having just vacuum sealed 40 cups of pecans for my freezer, I already had the most expensive ingredient on hand. In anticipation of this year's baking, I had bought the candied fruit on sale at the end of last Christmas and frozen it at Peggy's suggestion. She usually make fifteen, yes, fifteen batches of this recipe a year. Since each recipe makes seven little loaves, that is 105 cakes!!!

I wish I had taken pictures along the way, but it was rather hard to do since the "dough" was really sticky and I was up over my wrists in my big enameled pan wearing gloves trying to mix well. Somehow, stopping to use the camera was not really an option. As I was stuffing the pans with the gooey goodness, I had to stop and call Peggy for tips. I wish I had called her before I started. She advised that I pack the ingredients into the pans halfway and then fill and pack the top half so as not to have air holes in the cakes. Also, she uses the disposable aluminum pans so it is easier for them to release from the pans. I had bought three more metal pans (non-stick) to go with my four regular pans. I sprayed them well, but hindsight has now taught me to line the pans with waxed paper, even though that is a tedious and time-consuming task. It would be better than putting cakes back together.
So I ran a knife around the edges and turned them over on a rack to cool hoping gravity would do the hard part and coax them out intact. Well, I didn't do too badly for my first try.

Four out of the seven released without harm. Two had minor damage, and only one had some major reconstruction. I have to say the non-stick pans did just as well as the others. (There was concern.)

They are all wrapped in waxed paper now to completely cool and hopefully heal themselves. I'll show them dressed for presentation in another post.

Decking the Halls

I have been trying to take some really cool photos with my digital camera. Photos like those in one of my favorite blogs Posie Gets Cozy. I have a long way to go. And it would help if I knew more about my digital camera. But I've decided to experiment by taking some pictures of my Christmas decorations and giving you some background along the way.

The first photo is of these cute little carolers sitting on top of the chest in my living room. When I was growing up, the little choir girls on the wrought iron stand always sat out in the living room. I guess they represented my sister and me although neither of us has blond hair, at least not naturally. The little trio of singers, which actually has a little container in the back, came from my Dad's parents' home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Glory to the Newborn King

So, how many costumes does it take to put on a Briarwood Ballet Christmas program with guest artists? To be exact - 152 - or more or less exact. That's lots and lots of spandex and tulle and silk. And months of preparation and lots of set pieces and props go into one of these productions, too.
And it all went so beautifully. And the dancers were "graceful, elegant, and enthralling" to quote folks who saw one of the two performances this past weekend.
What a great way to kick off the Christmas season with such a beautiful reminder of what this season is all about - a baby born to save the world who was heralded by all of heaven.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving

Such a crazy holiday week, but the food was worth it. Here's the table. We set it with my paternal grandmother, Rachel Allen's china. We never knew her. In fact, my uncle and dad never really knew her. She died in 1927 before my dad was even two years old. So I think it was kinda neat to use her dishes. They are a Noritake pattern called Regina.
After all the cooking and clean-up was done, this pretty much says it all...