Friday, December 08, 2006

Red and Green Crotons, Millinery and Angels

Bernie calls them croutons, and I always called them indoor plants.

They do great outside here in Houston and are a "must" for the planters by the front door during the fall. Crotons have green shiny oblong oval shaped leaves with veins in reds, yellows and oranges.

So I'm fudging a little today, the red is orangy red, but the Croton leaf looks like it could have been the inspiration piece for today's millinery item.

It wasn't, but work with me here....

Another Christmas hat, made using the "Jill" pattern!

Usually "Jill" is made with a closed seam in the back. One time I made one too tight and had to leave the seam open.

Turns out that "variation" got rave reviews!

Added bonus: It turns the cap into an "One size fits all" design.

On this particular one, I went full dressy with a bow, and put a gold bead on each line intersection on the side piece and the bow. Then I completely beaded the knot on the bow and added on large green accent bead in center.

The fabric is a sheer organdy, with lame type red, green and gold stripes. I under lined it with a shiny golden cotton fabric.

I love how it turned out.

The golden color doesn't work well on me though, my hair is too silvery by contrast.

The hat has looked fabulous on a friend who has deep auburn hair, and an African American woman tried it on and looked flat out drop dead gorgeous.

I have extra fabric and keep trying to figure out what to make with it. A wrap looks just crazy bright. I tried making a poncho; in it I looked like I was wearing a Christmas table cloth. The fabric is too scratchy to use as a scarf.
Perhaps inserting the fabri as a band in golden velvet would work. Then I could edge the cap in the same velvet. Maybe someday, maybe not...
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More touches of gold: My angel collection!
The brass and glass pyramid display case holds my collection of wooden angels from around the world.

Each Christmas "Santa" always included a small angel in my Christmas stocking. The angel was usually about one inch high, give or take a half of an inch.

I used to have them circling the tiny 1 ft. tall artifical tree I had in my bedroom each year. With multicolored lights glowing, and the roof line lights outside my bedroom window winking away I used to stare at the colors on the angels and think of stories about the angels.

Most of the angels had little trumpets or hymnals, a lantern or a tree. One had a violin made from a sea shell.
I named some of them, and on the bottom of them I wrote their names. There was a Eunice, a Kathleen, and a Pam.

In the lower right corner you can see a little blond angel with a red orange trimmed skirt. In her arms she holds a baby doll. She was one of the angel I named. Written around the edge of her skirt I can still read the name that I printed on her so long ago...the one angel with a child. The angel's name was Laura.

PS to daughter LauraRN: Have fun in Denver today!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Red and Green: Heavenly bamboo, green millinery and a tree

Heavenly bamboo richly deserves its common name; it has white flowers in summer, bright red berries in winter, and the leaves change into flaming shades as well along the way.

It's a very graceful low maintenance plant, with no need of pruning, low water needs, and I've never seen any insect or disease trouble on it either. It has been in my gardens through the years as a fence hedge and as an accent plant. Such a deal!

Now for Millinery:
This heavy green brenton is a fun Christmas wardrobe topper.
I flip the brim at different points to suit my mood; down all around in a mushroom effect for mystery, up on one side for a jaunty look, up just in front, as shown, for a English royalty take (The Queen's Mum favored that look), and up all around for a tailored sensible style.

I have a shawl collar deep green full length coat that goes with this hat. A bright red plaid muffler and I am Christmas!

Mostly though, I wanted to highlight this little trim idea. Just a millinery belting ribbon, with matching buttons sewn across the back.
Posted by Picasa Lastly, another little heartwarming story about my Christmas decorations. Most of my decorations have stories behind them, which is why I often wish I had friends or family with me when I am putting the items out.

It helps a little to be able to blog the stories, and I am enjoying reading other women's blogs about the stories behind their holiday decorations.

I feel like I know people better when I know why things are special to them.

This ceramic Christmas tree is pretty all lit up. The little plastic flames glow from the small single light bulb screwed into its base. There are lots of these kinds of trees, and last night I saw one at the CVS drug store, new, for $9.99.

What make mine so special is the story behind it.

Thirty years ago I was teaching craft classes at a store called Lee Wards. It was a forerunner of today's crafts center, and my job at Lee Wards (a dream job, really...) was to show up in the morning, grab stuff off the shelves and create new craft projects using Lee Ward products.

I know, you are just swooning over the concept of getting paid to just have fun. Pay was ten cents over minimum wage, and I had a spanking new Bachelors degree, so there was some disconnect there. But I admit, it was fun.

The other part of my job was to design and teach craft classes. I taught something like 30 different crafts, ranging from knitting to flower arranging to painting. Again, how fun is that?

After I instructed I would have to wait while the students did their work. And of course, since the classes were mostly women, we all would start talking about whatever it is that women chatter about when crafting.

Now in addition to my spanking new degree, I also had a brand new engagement ring on my finger, and a wedding date set for the week before Christmas. Naturally the topic of my wedding would come up during the chatter time.

One day, around the first of December one of my former students came back to the store, and asked for me. She was an older woman whose name I didn't even really know at the time.
I was paged, and I found her holding a box and waiting for me.

"Here", she said. "I wanted to give you this in honor of your Christmas wedding. Bless you and your marriage".

And inside the box was this lovely tree. She had made it for me, and didn't even sign it.

It has glowed at Christmas every year now for 30 years.

I, and my marriage has been blessed.

And wherever she is today, I hope she is having a Blessed, Merry, and Crafty Christmas as well.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Red and Green Azalea, White Millinery and Tree

There are random azalea blossoms around the garden. They looked really odd when the fall leaves were making the garden a rust and yellow scene.

Now the blossoms stand out in the midst of the bare branches, looking like Christmas tree ornaments.

White fur and white velvet, and a diamond accent; this is such a lovely winter's dress hat. I think of Wallis Simpson when I see this hat. I have no idea why. I really don't know the era for sure, 1950's? Earlier?

It originally belonged to my grandmother, my dad's step-mother, who I refer to as "The Belle of Memphis". She would have looked great in this hat.

Joan looks good in this hat.

I, however, look just horrid in it.

I've tried it on with hair pulled back in a french twist, with my hair short, curly, with and without bangs.

Ever so often I try it on again, hoping that this time it will jive with me.

Hats do that you know.

I've had hats that I swore I would never be able to wear, and then one day, the hat just works. I have no idea how that happens.
I wish it would happen with this hat.
It would be perfect for wearing in a Winter Wonderland!

Posted by Picasa And speaking of Winter Wonderlands, I got one of the little trees up yesterday.

I used all my gold, crystal, and white ornament, most of which have to do with our December wedding, and our theme "Joy to the World" and doves.

Tiggie is mostly interested in the doves part.

This is the first time I've ever put the crystal nativity set under the tree. It turned out to be a nice touch. Presents will be put on the floor under the little drum table.

Knowing we will be leaving on Dec. 19 through Jan. 1, I planned on just doing a little decorating this year.

I put up the mice, the angels, (more about those two items later...) and this tree.
I will do the bedroom multicolor tree today.

It surprised me how exhausting just that little bit of decorating was.

I wanted to have decoration, but I found that it was difficult to not see it as "just work" after a couple of hours. I put on a Christmas radio station, hoping that would help. Instead I now loathe Andy William's version of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" after it was play three times in three hours.

Ditto "Feliz Navidad" ("I want to wish you a Merry Christmas"...all I want to say is: OK then, just DO IT, and stop repeating yourself!!!)

Note to Hispanics: Please, oh please write a better Spanish language Christmas song than that one!
The songs that are written in French, Latin, German, and Italian have more that fourteen words (just 14!) in their songs...get a Spanish dictionary and get going.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Red and Green: Japanese Maple and Millinery!

Japanese Maples are so wonderful!

For such small trees they put on such spectacular colors in autumn, and then after they lose their leaves, they still manage to look fabulous wearing only their bared red branches.

When we lived in San Jose, California there was an article about a man who owned several hundred varieties of Japanese Maples.

He had his maples in huge pots on wheels, so he could move them around according to their sunlight needs.

When it got too hot, he would move them all into shade. Talk about dedication! Since Japanese Maples can be worth a lot (some varieties are in the thousands for a sapling) he wanted to be able to take his maples with him whenever he had to move.

I can almost understand that; after training and shaping a maple for a few years it would be hard to leave it behind.

My assistant Joan has been corking off while I is time to get her back on the job.

I'll be posting not only red and green in nature the next few weeks leading to Christmas, but I will also be posting Christmas inspired millinery as well!

Just my way of saying thank you to my millinery friends for bearing with me during my NaNo writing month.

Here a Christmas "Jill"

I beaded the tree tops on the front of the hat. It is the Glengarry Scottish style hat that my millinery guru Kate
designed at my request. The pattern is available now at the link "Jill" above.

I made the long scarf to match, and wear the scarf as alternately a belt or a scarf. Black pants, sweater, bowed wrapped belt and hat...ready to go to a festive event!

Last Sunday I wore just the hat with a matching red sweater and a black suede skirt. As the lady in the heavily embellished Christmas sweater sitting next to me said; "That is so unusual, what a great Christmas idea!"

It certainly is.

Bring it on, ladies! Wear a festive holiday hat this season!

And please, I don't mean just wearing a red and white Santa hat or reindeer antlers either! Those are fun...let's go for unique!

Posted by Picasa Bonus item: If you haven't yet tried C. F. Burger Creamery Colonial Style Custard Nod, you should do so, and soon.

It is like egg nog, but without the nutmeg and distinctive flavor. More like egg custard. According to the carton, it's made from a colonial American recipe that was common in the 1700's.

At 180 calories for a 1/2 cup, it is a "splurge", but well worth it! I've been adding a dollop on my morning oatmeal, and it is perfect on a wintry morn.

I got mine at either Kroger or HEB.
C. F Burger's website is under construction, so I can't suggest where you might find it in your area.
I also looked for custard nog recipes; no luck, all I can find is the usual egg nog.

I'm going to try to get back into the habit of morning posting.
No promises though.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Red and Green: Coleus and Christmas Dishes

The coleus should be long gone by now, what with the frost at night. But this one, a volunteer seedling from summer seems determined to stay.

And no wonder; with a color combination like that, it has come into its full glory in December!
This is a picture of my Christmas dishes. And as promised: The story behind the dishes.

When the children were very small, back in 1982, Bernie's maternal grandfather Albert Kiester of Homedale Idaho made it down to our home in San Diego for a one time visit.

Following that visit, he began to send $20 a year to us as a family for Christmas.

I needed to dream up a way to use that money. Shopping for four gifts was challenging...until I came upon a place setting of four dishes in a Christmas pattern called White Christmas. The company making the pattern was Sango.
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Back in the early 1980, which doesn't seem all that long ago, the only Christmas dishes available were the fine china sets by Lenox and one other company.

I certainly couldn't afford those settings, but guess what? The Sango place setting of four dinner plates and four cups and saucers were...ta-da-da-dah! Twenty bucks!!!

Something we as a whole family could enjoy!

The next year I bought another set of four, thinking if we had other families over, or both sets of grandparents. Or one day, maybe, (cue up the whiny sound) grandchildren.

The next years I added salt and pepper shakers, cream and sugar set, salad plates and soup bowls. Somewhere along the way I added the ruby edged goblets. I see the goblets in antique stores now all the time, and I skeptically raise my eyebrows accordingly.

We got the last check in 1990. He died one day after his 86th birthday, on Feb. 1, 1990.

He was a tough old bird, and probably would have raised his eyebrows skeptically at the thought that the lovely Christmas dishes remind us of him each year.

He'd be right.

Fancy table settings just wasn't his style.

He'll forever be remembered in our famly for his blue overalls and his simple life, and for being a tough old bird.

PS: The salt and pepper, sugar and creamer are on the counter beside the stove top, hence the timer. The Christmas tree is a ceramic piece made by my mom. Lots of my Christmas things are made by my mom. Lucky me!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Red and Green: Yaupon Holly

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The cedar wax wings love these berries! All it takes in a cold front to push the birds down here, and they will strip the tree of berries in a matter of minutes.

Sunday was nice; I got up early and started putting out my Christmas stuff. The front door now has a green wreath and the kitchen china has been switched out. I'll post a picture and the story behind my Christmas china tomorrow.

Bernie wasn't feeling very well, chills and aches, and I hope it isn't the flu. He laid low all day while I went to church, and fussed around the house, and then went back to church for High Tea at 4, and a concert at 5.

There were several tartan wearers at the tea, including myself. One gentleman had his kilts on.
I complemented him on his attire, and he said it was proper to dress for tea, a chance for socializing and a refreshing cup of tea.

I told him seeing a man in a kilt is always refreshing.

The concert...well...I am not very musical, but I was raised in a church with an excellent organ, and then there is the Spreckles organ in San Diego's Balboa Park.

The concert tonight at church was billed as an organ recital. The church does have a pipe organ, new as of 2000. It is ranked 60th (sixty! why mention it?) and no criteria was given (in Houston? Texas? America?)

As I said, I am not very musical. The rest of the audience seemed to enjoy hearing "New York New York" and "Phantom of the Opera" played, I was underwhelmed. If I go to an organ concert I want to be wow'd.

Anyway, I guess it was more like "There will be some organ music, he takes requests! and then we'll have a drummer and a base guy join with him, and he'll switch to piano, and all the Christmas songs like Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer and Jingle Bells will be played!"

Oh, so NOT hurray. Lots of little jokes, cute. If the guy in the kilt hadn't been there, I would have called the whole thing a bust.

Live and learn.

Then...the TV sequel to "The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mine" was on TNT, with Bob Newhart, Noah Wyle, and Jane Curtain. Nice hokey fun, great librarian jokes.

It is cold, and the cats actually are piling on us as we watch TV. I'd still rather be a bit cold than crank up the heater.

At least it is sweater weather. I have never seen so many 55+ year old women in black pants, red or white turtleneck and a black background Christmas sweater. Last year I heeded my kids and fashion magazines to avoid Christmas sweaters unless you are a grandma type. I'll be wearing sweaters, but no splashy designs!