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Archive for holidays

collect . My Childhood Christmas in Vinyl

I don’t remember us having a record player at our house until I got the little green and blue kids version from Santa one year. He brought my eight-track cassette player with the removable speakers too, and my first stereo. The turntable took a back seat to the double cassette deck in that one. But as far as vinyl goes, Christmas music was synonymous with the big white record player at Grandmother’s house – and the small collection of classic Christmas albums we kept there. I can clearly remember lifting the cover of the record player, choosing the speed, moving the arm, and hearing the scratch of the needle, an experience practically lost to my children and their digital world. I’m slowly trying to pique their interest these days with our little orange Crosby.

We’ve been at Mom’s this week, making merry with an updated set of traditions. But, yesterday I pulled out the records from Grandmother’s and found so many of my favorite songs and memories staring back at me. In fact, some of my first memories of music center around this collection of Christmas records. Each year growing up, we spent about two weeks at Grandmother’s house on the farm, and the records served as the background score for a lot of holiday traditions and fun. They are an odd mix of unnamed choral singers, big band crooners, and old school country – with a little pop and folk thrown in, courtesy of Aunt Betty. Most are classics now. Some were already classics in the second release versions we had. And not only the music. The album covers! Like favorite book illustrations, they instantly send me back to childhood Christmases.

The Little Drummer Boy (late 60s?) and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1962) compilations — those illustrations! I don’t know the singers, but I’m pretty sure this is where I learned most of the Christmas carols I know.

No Christmas is complete without Elvis’ Christmas Album (1970 re-release of 1957 classic) and the classics, “Blue Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” in his one and only style. I think everyone in the family took a turn as background singer on this album each holiday season. I’m betting this album is also why I know my mom saw Elvis at the Tupelo Fair before he reached iconic status. Stories just seem to abound around old Christmas albums.

I attribute a lot of my love of show tunes, crooners and the big band sound to Saturday evenings at Grandmother’s watching “The Lawrence Welk Show” on E-TV… and to The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966). For sure, it’s the reason why I sing ” Marshmallow World” every time we make hot chocolate! My grandmother loved the Perry Como (1961 reissue) and Bing Crosby (1973 reissue) albums, with their rich voices. My favorites were “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” and Bing’s iconic rendition of “Adeste Fidelis”.

My Aunt Betty loved records. She always brought new ones home. The old John Denver and Olivia Newton John LPs she handed down to me where my favorite childhood songs. I have most of her records now, but her love of classic country music didn’t really stick. I’m sure she’s responsible for the country and folk albums that were part of our Christmas collection… Tennessee Ernie Ford Christmas (1971), Glen Campbell’s That Christmas Feeling (1968), Christmas in My Hometown (1970) from Mississippi-native, Charley Pride, and Emmylou Harris’ beautiful Light of the Stable (1979). I love Tennessee Ernie’s version of the Negro Spiritual, “Children Go Where I Send Thee”, along with Charley Pride’s “They Stood in Silent Prayer” and Glen Campbell’s cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”. I also remember thinking as a little girl how cool The Partridge Family Christmas Card (1971) was, since it was so obviously a younger sound. I felt like I was a girl in the know listening to it — even though it was really before my time!

Memories, memories! When I look through the issue dates on all these records, I realize what classics many of them already were before I ever heard them in my 70s childhood. I realize it every time one pops in my head in response to some family activity. It’s fun to think about what the sounds added to how we celebrated Christmas. I’m already humming them again!

collect . 13 Jack O Lanterns for the 13th

It’s Friday the 13th, and we’re almost in full spook here! The kids and I been having fun getting our house harvest-ready over the last couple of weeks. The mantle is decorated with turkeys and pumpkins. The Halloween and Thanksgiving books are gathered in our “book basket,” and the wreaths are up on the doors. This weekend, we’re planning to add our little family of scarecrows to the porch along with some pumpkins and colorful crotons, and the decorating will be complete. My kids have never really gotten into trick-or-treating that much. They’ve always been more interested in handing out candy at the door than walking around the neighborhood. But, that doesn’t mean we shy away from “Jack.” It’s not every year that Friday the 13th falls close to Halloween, so in honor of this so-called unlucky day, I wandered around the house and captured a lucky 13 from our jack-o-lantern collection – all ready to lend their toothy grins to the season’s festivities. Enjoy!

sketch journal 070417 . Let Freedom Ring

My country, ’tis of thee,’
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring

~ Samuel Francis Smith (1831)

go . Starting Christmas Vacation in Memphis

Merry Christmas! I hope you have all had as wonderful a Christmas celebration as we have. We are visiting with family and enjoying some down time — and for me, some time away from project work. I’m spending son little time thinking through ideas for 2017 and making plans for where I want to put my focus in the coming year.

This December, we were very excited to visit Memphis again to kick off our Christmas vacation! We spent the first few days of our holiday back in the 901 to catch a production of “Annie” at The Orpheum theater. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to Memphis during the holiday season, and it was fun to be there again this year. Weather for the trip was kind of typical for the South in that the first two days were warm, humid and rainy, and the last two were frigid! So, we were not able to visit some of our old favorite spots. However, we still did at least a little walking downtown, taking in the Christmas lights, enjoying the historic Orpheum, and visiting the Memphis Zoo for the annual Zoo Lights celebration. That zoo visit assure me that the fisherprice code a pillar I purchased will be a hit with the kids. We always love breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe next to Court Square. It’s just a couple of blocks from our hotel in the historic William Len building. They serve breakfast all day, so my favorite french toast is always available. Also, the rain did not stop the hide-and-seek game in Court Square the kids play each time we stay downtown.

This trip, we also discovered a new little cupcakery next to Court Square, Cupcake Cutie, Etc, where you can build your own cupcake — choose your cake type, icing flavor and toppings! It’s been open about four months, and we’re definitely adding it to our list of favorite spots for our next visit. Here’s a glimpse at some of our views from this trip. Enjoy!

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We heard this song today (Silver Bells) during carpool! I can’t believe how very soon it will be Christmas Day.

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I’ve been using Christmas carols as my sketch starters lately, and I think this one is my favorite stanza of all time. We need to recognize its truth more than ever.

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I’m trying to get back into the routine of drawing or painting each day — at least each work day. I guess the holidays aren’t necessarily the best time to begin or renew habits because our days tend to be prone to extra craziness this time of year. But, early decorating escapades around our house, the excitement of my children’s smiles, and some great wisdom I read during the Thanksgiving break from The Artisan Soul by Erwin McManus have me unusually motivated this week. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!

[My 11×14 sketchbook gives me a little room to work more on composition with some of my lettering practice — an area I think I needs work!]

celebrate . Autumn in our Corners

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It’s beginning to look like Fall! It’s even beginning to feel like Fall — especially in the mornings! This is probably my favorite time of year, and I love having small bits of autumn celebration tucked into various corners around the house. We make a production out of getting our “decorations” out of the attic, and I love that the kids know where things are “supposed” to go. They’re getting older, but I still see that gleam in their eye when they see little jack-o-lanterns, pumpkins they made in preschool, and scarecrows. We pull out some of our nature artifacts — feathers and “horse apples” from the farm, driftwood from the coast, cotton bolls from the pumpkin patch — and combine them with trinkets from past years, and hand-crafted items we’ve found in the Smoky Mountains. Dollar store finds from this year mix with dime store items from when I was a child and parts of costumes my mom made for me to wear. I guess those are “vintage” now — ha! We’ve been decked out for fall for a few weeks and will enjoy the warmth and inspiration through Thanksgiving. Here are a few glimpses of our autumn corners. Enjoy!

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make . Paper Pumpkins

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Last week I spent a little time restocking my Small Pond “pop-up” shop with some fall items and a new collection of stationery. The pop-up is located in the Liza Tye & Company shopping mall on Academy Road in Starkville, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to take a look and shop all the great vendors there if you are in the area! Some of the fall items I included are a couple of paper craft pumpkin centerpieces I created from hand-decorated paper, and today I’m sharing a little of the process. They are not difficult to make at home, and are a great way to repurpose already-used paper.

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I found a few colored sheets of paper in various textures, and hand-painted some with patterns. Card stock weight paper works best for what’s required for crafting this piece.

The pattern for the individual pumpkin parts can really be any shape you want, as long as it’s symmetrical. Creating your pattern along a fold helps to ensure it is identical on both sides. For the two sizes of pumpkins shown above, I used 20 pumpkin shapes for the larger 8 1/2″ centerpiece, and 16 pumpkin shapes for the smaller 5″ version. Each pumpkin shape needs to be folded in half to create the centerpiece.

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Once all the paper parts are cut and folded, they are stacked together in the repetitive order you would like to use for your pumpkin. Tie the shapes together tightly with twine at the center point to hold them all together. I chose a small jute twine that could curl around the pumpkin top like tiny vines.

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Hot glue or some other very quick-drying version works best for this project since the pieces will end up fanning out into a sphere like an accordion. For the best fanning look, I alternated gluing tops together and then bottoms of the pumpkins as shown above. Keep going all the way through the stack until the piece forms a full pumpkin.

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Pumpkin definitely needs leaves and vines, which I cut from one of my paper colors. Card stock can be easily spiraled by twisting it around a pencil. To finish out the pumpkin, I used a square of thin, kraft packing material to form the stem. I wadded up the paper first to crinkle it, and then rolled it into a loose tube and twisted for an organic look.

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Make a slit in the bottom of the “stem” and hot glue to the top of the pumpkin. Then, add leaves and vines to suit your tastes.

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For our Thanksgiving table, I’m working on a version of the pumpkins made from all white and off-white paper, some in hand-made flower petal-infused paper I found. I’m hoping to add a little hand-dipped watercoloring for some subtle harvest look. There are so many options for decorating paper to match any tablescape style — from fun craftiness to artisan elegance. You can purchase the pumpkins at Liza Tye or create some of your own!

Happy pumpkin-making!

make . Easter Egg Holders [printable]

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I’ve been getting into cute bunny mode this week since the kids helped me get down the box of our Easter decorations this weekend. I decided to use a couple of the bunnies from this year’s Easter gift tags (plus a few new watercolor illustrations) to create these printable egg holders. Baby Girl and I had a fun time making the samples! Just click the image below to download the printable. Print the designs onto cardstock, and cut along the dotted lines and around the illustrations. Then, cut the slits shown and thread together to create rings. These would probably be cute napkin rings for a little tea party as well! Enjoy!

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