>A Look at Christmas


I looked at this tree a lot while over Christmas vacation and all of it’s kissing balls lovingly made by my grandmother for all her family and friends. All the work that goes into making these for a woman of 94 years on oxygen — wow, lots of love! This isn’t even 1/3 of what she made; I took the photo after Christmas when everyone had already grabbed their new one.

tree with kissing balls made by Vavo

This was kind of a unique Christmas for my family. We did go to California although, from a blog point of view, my readers would never have known it because I had the blog on auto publish. Meaning I typed up some things for the holidays well in advance and on the corresponding day they published.

But as for my trip, it was fairly smooth other than we had some major things happen that tilted the family, ie: two deaths three days before Christmas, and a cousin paralyzed also three days before Christmas. None of these events happened together, but all on the same day. My cousin is a young mother; long story short, her little girl needs her mommy to walk and help pay the bills. My cousin is a nurse in a prison and got hurt while trying to rescue another nurse (who just happened to be pregnant, meaning more weight than a normal person, and my cousin is petite). During a prison riot she was in a golf cart trying to pull the other woman into it to get to safety, and she, my cousin, got pulled out and hit the ground got hurt. Now she is in a lot of pain and can’t walk; any prayers for her would be greatly appreciated.

Santa Lucia and baby Jesus and nativity

While at my Vavo’s home we sat by the phone for any news; I spent a lot of time looking at these items since they are in that room. This may sound strange, but I am glad it was Christmas; it just put an entirely different spin on things. The family was already gathering to be together, so we all got to strengthen each other and had the time to do it, too.


The pictures in this post are from my Vavo’s parlor in her home, the home I grew up in and will always think of as home and comfort. The cherubs are up all year. Peace be with you.


>Corn Starch Dough Ornaments

>When I was a little girl my Vova made these one year with all of us (the grand kids). We got to make our own ornaments any way we wanted to. She made very specific ones with hearts to represent each person in the family. Hers looked like little mobiles that hung from her Swedish tree. Over the years they have all become broken which makes sense since there were nine of us children living in that house at the time, and it has been over 30 years since we made them together. But the memory has long out lasted the ornament themselves. So I thought others might like to make some memories with their children or grandchildren this time of year.


  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups wateringredients plus water

Optional supplies:

  • toothpick to poke a hole in ornament
  • food coloring
  • paint
  • cookie cutters ( to cut out if not doing free form)
  • wax paper or foil to lay on work surface for children
  • cookie sheet to lay them on to dry
  • oven not needed but quicker than air drying

How to:

  1. In a large saucepan, mix corn starch and baking soda. Add water and stir until smooth.cook
  2. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is the consistency of slightly dry mashed potatoes.texture
  3. Remove from heat and cover with a damp cloth.
  4. When cool enough to handle, coat hands and surface lightly with corn starch and knead until dough is smooth and pliable.
  5. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with holiday cookie cutters. You can also just form them in your hands for free form shapes (that is what we did as children). You can add food coloring at this time; we left ours white in my youth which I will did today, as well.cut
  6. To dry, place on a baking sheet in a 250 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until hard, or set them on a cookies sheet or wax paper and place in a nice dry place to cool over many days (that is what we did years ago). We placed them on top of the refrigerator ’till dry either way works, one is just quicker than the other.bake
  7. If using oven method, allow to cool and brush loose powder off ornaments before painting. Makes about 16-20 medium size ornaments; if using mini cookie cutters like we did, we got over 70 ornaments.

This is a much smoother dough than salt dough and it is a brighter white, too; it also has a sheen sort of like snow. Hard to explain other than snow sort of has little sparkling spots that reflect light and so does this clay which makes it real nice for snowmen and such because the white is nice and bright.

>Pomander and work


pomander ball

We have a dance at work this weekend, that is why I haven’t posted much new stuff, plus we have been getting Christmas stuff out there, too. I am exhausted from it all, but it means I get to bring to the top of my blog some of my older tutorials that fit the season coming up. As I child we (my sister and I) made pomander balls with my Vavo; as an adult I made them with my kids and posted a tutorial . In time, I hope to make them with my grandchildren; ’till then you can make some with your family and friends.

>letter art from Vavo = vote



This came in the mail today from my vavo. We get stuff like this about once a month from her; just thought it was cute, so I decided to post it.

>December 1


number 1

So what did we wake up to this first day of advent but snow everywhere! We kind of expected it because it was trying to snow when we went to bed. We also had a power outage last night for just a short time.


Check out this advent by Martha Stewart. My Vavo did something like this when I was a kid, but she hot glued them to a wood wreath that my Nono cut out with a jig saw. Once the boxes where glued on to the wreath, she made each box into a Christmas-time scene. She used Christmas cards that she cut up as the back drop in each box. Say it was a tree on the card, then the scene might have some little figure opening a present by the tree or something like that. A sort of mini-doll house with frozen scenes.

>Part 4: On Vacation in Cali, other decorations

>While in California we took a few pictures of about 1/3 of my grandmothers decorations. I memory card got full. Oh well I will show you what I got any way. Just need to realize there is about three times what you are seeing.

The Santas to the left here are on the inside stair case going up stairs. My Vavo painted about twelve of these one year. None of us have them. It is one of the few things she actually made for herself and didn’t give away.

At the Santas feet are some of my Va-vo’s blocks they are scattered about the house and will probably be some where in most photos taken during this holiday.

The next photo you see the beam of kissing balls. These are the real old ones my grandmother made in the 50’s till about the 80’s. The new ones are hanging from chandeliers and a Christmas tree in another room. They are also decorating one of the wood gifts for the year.

In this picture it is still the beam of balls but you can see other decorations too. On the right side you see my Vavo’s little kids tree. Meaning it is made out of wood children. She had my No No cut all those and about 500 more one year and made wreaths and trees and other things out of them and gave them away. I was a kid then so I never got one.

Next to that you can see some little wood houses she had cut by No-No and she painted them. Once again about 500 more than what you see where made. I do own some of those. If you click on the picture to see it bigger you will see a tower of tables that is what she made this year. Store bought and No-No is in heaven. But she painted them all. Also in the blow up you can just see some wood angels in the back of the room at the top of the wall that she made a long time ago. Those where carved and painted. No-No cut them too.
This next item is know as a Swedish tree. When I was a kid it had a lot more hand made ornaments on it. But as you can tell it leans a lot. Over the years growing up it was knocked down a lot and we broke the limbs and knocked it off kilter. Plus we broke a lot of the ornaments too. If you notice the lower branches are metal where as the top ones are painted red wood. My Vavo keeps fixing it. We actually have two of these in the house the other is smaller I just never took a picture of the other.

On top of this tree is an angel bu this one is a Swedish angel made out of straw. There are bread dough ornaments cloth ones pewter, Swedish, store bought, handmade. You name it this tree has it on it.

Below the tree are more blocks waiting to be branded. If you look closely at the picture on the top is what use to be our family sheep brand about 100 years ago by my great grandfather. It has since gone to someone else. We don’t use it as a brand any more just decoration to remember the past.

The next two photos are of this years wood gift. She painted little tables for all of use that are married and have households. Mine is Green with a Christmas wreath painted on it It is one of the round ones as there are two styles. AS there is usually an argument as to who get s which item my Vavo had us draw numbers this year and we picked in that order.

With over 64 people coming to Christmas. It is real fun on the day of Christmas eve, presents just kept coming. At first they where all just stacked in one pile. But if we leave them that way a great big mess ensues trying to find every ones presents and get it to them. So during that day it was my project ( job) to sort out the presents and make stacks of families, so it would be easier.

We choose my generation and the ones above to make stacks out of. If you are younger than that, you have to find who your pro generators is in the previous one or two generations and find that stack. With five generations all together there are lots of us, too many small stacks if we go down to many more generations so we stop at he first three then it is your parents or grand parent you have to find. I hope that made since. We open presents Christmas eve so this is only like this for about five hours.

As people approach the house Christmas eve they are greeted by about six outside Christmas trees only two of my photos came out half way decent so you will only see a tiny bit of it. Click on the photos to see the trees .

>Part 1: On Vaccation In California: Sock hearth

>We went on vacation to my grandmother’s house for Christmas. This is where I lived until I was almost 16 years old. This is what Christmas looks like to me. Other Christmases just never seem quiet right to me, silly but true. When I was kid we had a lot of socks over the hearth upstairs. Now that I am grown up, we have a lot more socks on the hearth downstairs. When I was little there were two for my grand parents, two for my aunt and uncle, one for my mother, and nine for my cousins, my siblings and me. Siblings and cousins were pretty much the same thing because we all lived together in this house.

When I was a little older, my cousins were my grandmother’s neighbors ,so we were always together. Especially in the country where your next neighbor, who is 1/4 mile away, is your cousin, and the next neighbor was 1 mile away and that was your best friend, then there were no other neighbors. That has all changed now; town is in encroaching on my grandmother’s home.

So, when we were kids, there was a grand total of fourteen socks. Now, there are sixty-four of us from those two grand parents. So it is just amazing what two people can produce by having two kids who then have eleven kids between them, and it just goes on ’till there are 64 of us. Quiet the ruckus on Christmas Eve when we all gather at my grandmother’s house.All the wood things, such as blocks, wreaths, Santas and so on, my Vo-va made over the years. Each Christmas we all get a new wood block to add to our collections. This year it had the family brand that is over 100 years old on it.

One of the socks was in major need of repair. So, yes, those are my hands in the photo. Sorry for the bad lighting; I think my husband had the flash set wrong. The sock I was repairing was my mother’s. So, as a favor to my grandmother, I reassembled it. It is actually one of my favorite socks on the hearth, next to the wool ones made by the nuns. The one I was repairing is an old velvet one from over 60 years ago and has real rabbits fur around the top, not like the things you buy today. Actually, this is one of only two socks hanging that were made by my Vo-va; all the more reason to repair it. It uses green sequins for the name. Now it will last a few more years.

>Another Valentine from Vavo and NoNo

>This one my Vavo and NoNo teamed up again to make me another Valentine in 1986. So, actually, this one is older than the other one. I prize these old creations as my grandfather died many years ago. These are some of the only things I have left of him. He was a man that didn’t buy much for himself, so there wasn’t much of his personal possessions to pass on. I also have a pocket watch of his.

>Valentine’s day Heart Swap

>I know New years just happen but the next major holiday is Valentine’s. So, I have entered a embroidery heart swap for Valentine’s Day. I don’t know if I have been accepted yet. If I am, I think it should be great fun. I think I will do Russian embroidery ( needle punch).

Funny, I use to hate Valentine’s Day. I worked in flower shops from the time I was ten till I was in my late 20’s. So all Valentine’s Day meant to me was a bunch of people who professed to be in love, but who forgot they loved someone ’till the last minute. Then they got mad at you for their lack of foresight.

Plus, if I did have a boy friend ( did not happen much on Valentine’s), they always seemed to assume I didn’t want flowers because I worked in a flower shop. Funny that people who work in flower shops tend to like flowers or they wouldn’t be there. So, yep, I only got flowers once on Valentine’s Day, and that was from a guy I wanted nothing to do with, so I gave them to my roommates. Since I have not been a florist for the last 9 years, I have learned to like Valentine’s Day. There is no love for the holiday yet, no pun intended, but here is a sort of like involved.

I can see some good in it now; just not the commercial part of it. I still don’t like males and females feeling like they have to give someone a gift or that person will be mad at them. What type of love is that? Not one I want. I like the old Valentines, hand made to show you loved and cared for someone. So, once again, I joined a group of people at MJF to make Valentines to trade; can’t be store bought, so that should be fun. I will try to post them as I get them made and received.

A little about the two Valentines on this page. First of all, they are actually one; it is the front and back of one my Vavo and NoNo made for me in 1989. Vavo was the painter and designer; my NoNo ( my Italian grandfather) was the wood cutter.

Update: just got email; I get to do the swap and do Russian needle punch, even though the person in charge doesn’t know what it is. She said as long as it looks nice she is fine with variety.

>Vavo’s soft angels


Here are some other angels my grandmother made.

She made these when I was a little girl in the 70’s. For years and years they hung on doors or stair posts. She doesn’t have rails; just two big posts. A few years back she stopped hanging them. I asked what happened to them. She offered them to me since I missed them. I need to re-stuffed them as the stuffing is all gone from their necks, which is probably why she stopped using them. I still remember her sitting at a sewing machine making these. Very few times in my life do I remember my Vavo sewing. These 3 angels a doll and some soft ornaments my cousins and I stuffed are all I remember although I know she sewed a lot when she was younger. I also own some of this same type of ornament (stuffed ones) that my grandmother Campbell made. They are all very 60’s and 70’s in appearance, but I love them all and, wow, she used cotton not polyester; way cool. I hate polyester. I now own all of these items. In time I might make a wreath with the ornaments; have not decided what to do with them. So they sit in a bag in my sewing room.

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