Monday, December 28, 2009

It's a Salvage Christmas.....

Last year I had such a great time working on handmade gifts for our extended family, so handmade was definitely a repeat for this Christmas. One difficulty in chronicling this, however, is that my camera is broken and the kids' newish cameras were in various states of dead battery/lost charger/left at a relative's house during the handmade process. Hmmm. Most of these photos had to be taken on the 'hunk-o-junk only-10-photos-at-a-time-and-many-will-be-blurry' camera. This year's Christmas projects were garden gathered, or shopped for at the salvage/recycling center with a few thrift stores thrown in the mix.....

In early October, El Professor and I dug up and divided perennials such as the campanula that grows in our front garden and potted them for gifts. El Professor carefully researched zones as we have relatives that range from the high Oregon plateau desert to the marine San Juan Islands. El Professor potted Shasta daisies, daisy mums, lamb's ear, pink calla lilies, ground cover rose, butterfly bush (one sister actually wants those), campanula, and purple iris taken from a patch that originated from a tuber that my dear 82 year old aunt gave me. The iris ended up being especially precious because we just learned that this cherished aunt has terminal colon cancer.
The irises are on the far right.
White campanula
Last summer as the days grew shorter and the blue explosion of the hydrangea bush changed to a bluey-green, I cut and cut and cut the blooms and let them dry in vases all over the house.
The dried blooms became wreaths and they really and truly aren't such a sickly green. Thank you camera.

Some of the summer pepper bounty became chili strings. Remember--NEVER rub your eyes when you are working on these.

The apples from our tree and from the local orchard were made into applesauce, but the skins were cooked and jelly bagged and made into apple jelly.

Our raspberries were mixed with some blackberries that were gathered along a nearby bicycle path (El Professor insists you only pick the blackberries that are above the potential dog pee elevation), and the mix made a lovely jam. (We don't have dog, so the raspberries are exempt from the elevation requirement.)
Our friends were in the process of adopting a little boy as well as residing their house at the height of their grape season, so we were given many of their grapes. We gave some of them back as a lovely, dark red grape jelly.
I canned and canned in a one day session; the juices and purees were carefully frozen in late summer and early fall, ready to be made into jam or jelly.
Last summer out in the Oregon high desert, I picked up an oil drum lid that was lying out on the dry landscape. There is all kinds of treasure lying around on my father-in-law's acreage--arrowheads, interesting rocks, dried pinecones, rusty metal this-and-thats. There was something beautiful about that old oil drum lid complete with bullet hole, so I decided to try my hand at sign painting. (I'm not a painter and I don't have nice handwriting, so this was no small task.) The 'bomb' for me? CARBON PAPER!
1. Print text in a cool font
2. Tape cool text onto carbon paper
3. Work over oil drum lid with soapy water and steel wool
4. Tape carbon paper/text onto dry lid
5. Press hard and trace with pencil to transfer the text
6. Paint
The end result was a family sign for one of my sisters.

I got hooked on the idea of painting metal salvage, so I hit the recycling/salvage yard hunting for another piece of cool junk for my other sister. Our local building/recycling/salvage center is another place full of treasure. I found an old tool box with the lid half off, full of machine parts. I dumped out the parts and paid a whopping $4 for the prize.

More steel wool, carbon paper, painting......
...the lid became a family sign and the rest of the scrubbed out box made a great gift box for the jams/jellies, wreath, pepper string, with the transformed lid wrapped and tucked in. (Can you tell I blocked out part of their name? )
The oil drum lid sign/gift ended up in a cool old wash tub found at the recycling center. It really was cool, but the photos are awful. Oh well.
Much creative fun was had..... we'll have to start thinking up ideas for next year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas......

It has been the busiest fall I've experienced in, well, a long time. We have a second year Classical Conversations group in our area and I've been teaching there all day on Tuesdays. Juggling that with homeschooling, learning the content for the classes I'm teaching, prepping materials for class, homemaking, making time for exercise, etc., etc. I love it though. It's been challenging.

I've been getting Christmas things out in stages, beginning with an Advent table. We have been doing Advent activities with the kids for several years now, with each year's Advent candle display being different. This year I decided to dig into the plethora of shells I have in the o-so-famous garage. My mom's side of the family is from the Puget Sound area and I have a lifelong love of shell gathering. My favorite part of this Advent display is that shells aren't flammable. :-)

I inherited these sweet little candles holders from my dad's parents.
When our kids were little, I decided to do Christmas displays that included Nativity scenes. We had a few Santa-ish things, but there were several Nativity related things, books, etc. This year I have three Nativity displays and the pop up Medieval Nativity book out. The kids each have their own little Nativity set to set up in their rooms.
My birthday is the day after Christmas. Between that and Christmas, my parents have outfitted us with the pieces of the Willow Tree Nativity.
I had a bare corner, so I 'shopped the yard'. I love twigs and dried things. This is dried prunings from the Russian Sage plant, and some twigs I've had around for years.
Last Christmas break, El Professor and I tore apart the ugly, gastly, horrible, cedar paneled 'study', whited out the walls to create a lighter space, got rid of the ghastly cedar beam that served as a mantle, and hung old windows on the wall. This room is on the north side of the house and the dark, depressing space has been transformed into my favorite room. I've always gone easy on fireplace/mantle photos so as to spare myself and the world from the ugly scene, so decorating the mantle was a treat this First Mantle Christmas. The 'mystery squash' that sprang up in my garden has evolved into 'the Christmas squash'. I love it. This is the second year it sprang up. After Christmas I'll have to seed save from one to make sure they are back next year.

I found this tin tile board in a treasure shop my sister's mother-in-law operates on Shaw Island in the San Jaun Islands. I collect vintage postcards.
My Hilarious Twin has a curly willow tree in her backyard. Twigs a-plenty!
These wooden Nativity pieces were the first I collected. They were great around little fingers. This year they are on the piano in front of the poppy painting. Joseph fell behind the piano when I was setting up--gotta love those long handled tongs!
Yesterday I canned 78 jars of jams/jellies from juices/berries/purees I prepared all summer/fall and froze. Guess what is ALL over my dining table? :-)
Today we are going to set up our tree. A few years ago we bought a potted Nordmann Fir living tree. 'He' is fondly known as 'Nordmann', and he lives on our back patio. Living trees weigh a TON, I need to do a thorough 'spider check', and you have to 'step' them in so they don't go into shock transferring from the Brrrrrrr to the warm house. Frankly, I think it's all kind of a pain. Last year Nordmann stayed outside and we cut a wild tree from up in the mountains.