Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas 2010

Back in 2007, I started writing this Christmas blog.  My goal was to share all things Christmas.  I would like to update noteworthy things and continue to add to craft ideas, Christmas stories and all the things that make up this wonderful time of year.

Since opening this blog, I have discovered so many wonderful resources and Christmas blogs.

I hope to continue updating all the wonderful Christmas resources.

I hope that you enjoy browsing, if you would like to be added to my list of Christmas blogs, please contact me.

On the left sidebar you will find links to all kinds of things, and the chapters of this blog. There is more on the right sidebar for you to enjoy.

I have lots of Christmas music on my playlist.  If you scroll down to the bottom, you can choose which song you would like to hear.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Fairy Lake Christmas

Every now and then you get lost in a magical moment and the way you see your world changes a little forever. One Christmas night I went for a ride to see the Christmas lights and I came upon a lovely setting called Fairy Lake. We were living in Toronto at the time and my girls were taking riding lessons at a horse barn nearby. So, I went to get us some hot chocolate in town. There was a lake in the center of the little town of New Market called Fairy Lake, and as I drove passed the lake I was captured by the beauty set before me.

The lake was all lit up with Christmas lights twinkling against the dark starry night. A slight piece of land looking like a fairy size island sat in the middle of the lake. A beautiful Christmas tree all lit up boasted beautiful Christmas lights and was on display right in the center of the island. The lights reflected in the lake and the image of the tree and the island made it look like a beautiful Christmas centerpiece.

To me it looked just the way Christmas is supposed to look. Nothing fancy, just the splendor of lights against the simplicity of nature. All of a sudden my eye caught the sight of what appeared to be a parade of lights in the distance marching towards me. Twinkling lights looking like fairy dust all in a line but getting larger as it got closer to me. I watched and waited for the light of the nearby lamppost to define what I was seeing. There marching in a straight line like baby ducklings was a group of little children and each child carried a lit candle. The leader seemed to be enjoying the moment as much as I was observing it. No one was around, with the exception of this young woman and her parade of lights wearing snowsuits, caps, scarves and mittens.

I sat in silence wanting to share the moment, but finding myself all alone and memorizing each detail so I could tell the girls. I had no camera in the car, just my wishing to embrace this serendipitous moment. The quiet of the moment of that snowy night was only interrupted by the sound of the children’s laughter. The innocence lighting up that Christmas evening was painted into my stash of Christmas memories forever. I believe that Christmas embraces the little ones, but it is the little ones that teach us the true wisdom of Christmas.

I relive that beautiful night every Christmas and bring to life the image that I embraced years ago. It reminds me to observe the splendor that surrounds me each Christmas and to look for the simplicity. To learn to appreciate love, nature and the simple pleasures as the only gifts I truly need. Looking into a child's face at Christmas aglow with believing in the magic of the season, reflects that which we must remind ourselves to embrace, or we risk forgetting to look for that same magic which still lives in our hearts.

If I were to give you my very best gift this Christmas, it would be that you enjoy a Fairy Lake Christmas this season.

To see Fairy Lake in Fabric, click on the image

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Cardinal Christmas

The first Cardinal Christmas I remember was a lovely Christmas my mother made for the family. We had a beautiful real Christmas tree that year flocked with white snow. The base was a musical one and the tree was covered in red cardinal Christmas ornaments. That year my mother told me that she didn't want to go to sleep.

Every one was healthy and my difficult father was even on good behavior that Christmas. My mother stayed up all night embracing every detail. The fire was lit, and she watched the Yule log and listened to the Christmas music on the television. There was plenty to eat in the house and the gifts were all wrapped and underneath the tree.

The following year my grandfather died and things were difficult for many years to follow. But her faith had been strengthened during that miraculous Christmas. The red symbol helped her through many gray days that lie ahead.

When the symbols started appearing last year, beautiful white flocked wreaths given to me by a friend; and boxes of red cardinals made available to me; I used the cardinal as my theme. I made a cardinal covered wreath for my mother and my front door. Christmas cards started coming in from all around the world with red cardinals on the designs. A beautiful red cardinal frequents our bird feeder which I can see from my window as I write.

When I went to Tower Hill, the red cardinal ornaments were everywhere and on every tree. I bought my mother a red cardinal broach to wear on her coat. I was prompted when I arrived home, to look up the true symbol of the cardinal and find its special meaning.

I found the description of the cardinal below. I could not help but notice that the cardinal is bright red to remind us of Christ during the dreary gray days of winter ahead. I also noticed the address of the place that offered this symbol definition. It is 25 Christmas Lane in Frankenmuth, Michigan. I would like to imagine my late father, Frank and my late German Grandmother showering down this reminder from heaven so that I surely remember to memorize its wonder.

Symbol of the Cardinal
"Christened the Christmas bird for its spectacular red color, the cardinal has become a symbol of the beauty and warmth of the holiday season. A glimpse of this brilliant bird brings cheer, hope and inspiration on a gray, wintry day. As nature's reminder for us to focus on our faith, the cardinal's scarlet plumage represents the blood of Christ shed for the redemption of mankind." From Bronners Christmas Wonderland, 25 Christmas Lane, Frankenmuth, Michigan.

The Gift of Giving

A Favorite Doll, originally uploaded by bluebirdsandteapots.

When I was a little girl my mother was given a doll to dress for an orphanage at Christmas. She made all of the clothes and a little fur muff. I thought it was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. I was just four years old, we lived in Queens, New York with my grandparents. Both my mother and father worked, and I stayed with my grandmother. I went to Public School #58 with my Uncle Bobby who was just two years older. We were not poor, because my parents both worked and so did my grandfather. yet we lived very modestly. Bobby and I had nice clothes, plenty to eat and many toys.

The most important life lesson that I learned was on the day that my mother returned from work carrying a beautiful doll. It seemed that her employer had received dolls for a nearby orphanage every year. Every employee was asked to take one home and make doll clothes and dress the doll to be given away.

I watched day after day as my mother carefully made her clothes and even a little fur stole for the doll. When she was finished the doll looked more beautiful than any doll that I had ever seen. Of course the notion that the clothes had been made by my mother made her seem even lovelier to me. I wanted that doll so much, but I trusted that I would have one just like her some day.

My mother had carefully explained to me where the doll was going. It was the first time I recall understanding from my heart instead of my head. I learned from that gesture of kindness that we are required by God to provide for the less fortunate. That doll paved the way for me to continue to give to the poor as a natural way of life. I trusted my mother so much, that I didn’t worry that I would not receive...I trusted her. I believe that these lessons created fertile ground for the day to come when as a young woman I would give my heart to Jesus Christ.

On my eighth birthday my mother and father gave me the most wonderful gift. It was December and my baby sister was due to arrive soon. I sat in the car with my Dad staring at the birthday gift for me sitting next to me. This rather large box wrapped beautifully entriged me, I couldn't even imagine what was inside. We were waiting for my Mom to come out of the doctor's office. As soon as she got into the car my Dad said "Okay Karen you can open your gift now." I opened up this large box only to find a beatuful Revlon Doll.

I was thrilled because she wore stockings and high heel shoes. She looked just like the doll my mother had provided for the orphan all those years ago. She wore a pink organza dress with red hearts and she had real earrings and a pearl necklace. This doll meant more to me than any other gift that I received that year and during the many years to come. In my little girl heart I believed that I had received God’s best as a result of my being a cheerful giver and not begrudging an orphan for receiving my mother’s best.

Looking back I realize that on that day I learned about God’s timing. You see, my mother was pregnant with my sister Susan. Up until then I had been an only child. When I received such a meaningful gift on that particular birthday, I was reminded that I can trust. I welcomed my baby sister into the world five days later. Being reminded that God is faithful helped me to love my baby sister and not to be worried that I would have to share my lovely mom.

We can never out give God. He always stands waiting with open arms to give to us what we lack. Like a smiling parent overlooking an obedient child wanting to reward their good behavior. In his perfect timing He will give us our heart’s desire. God wants to give us His favor for being obedient to His word and being a cheerful giver.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctant or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Corinthians 9:7

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Painting Santa

Vaillancourt Folk Art

I have always wanted to learn how to paint chalkware. I have taken an interest in how these vintage Santas are made by using old chocolate molds. I own a folk art Christmas chess set that my mother gave me years ago. It is my most cherished Christmas treasure and every year I marvel at the detail in the Christmas chess pieces. You can imagine my surprise when I found Vaillancourt Folk Art in the same town where we board our horse. I have wandered through there so many times until one day I discovered the same chess set. Judi Vailancourt designed this and it is in her museum which is part of the workshop.

"Judi's chocolate molds date to the nineteenth century, when a gift of chocolate was a special treasure and every small European village had a chocolate shop. Chocolate was molded in all shapes and sizes — bunnies for Easter and St. Nicholas, snowmen and angels for Christmas. The mold-makers were skilled artisans who sculpted beautiful details into their molds and lovingly passed their craft and their molds down through the generations."

Vailancourt has a Collector's Weekend every year in Sutton, Ma. They open their studios and allow you to paint one of their chalkware Santas made from vintage chocolate molds. I painted this one at their studio during the wonderful event. It was so much fun and I was so pleased to learn how to paint on chalkware.

On the day of the workshop we all sat at the Artisan's art desks and like little gnomes in Santa's workshop painted different designs. Each desk had a lamp, paint, brushes, our piece and written instructions. As I looked around the room I couldn't help but feel that we all looked like we were were working in Santa's workshop. Rows and rows of Santas lined the desktops and we all leaned over our projects and painted with such care.

Vaillancourt Santa design that I painted recently

We had step-by-step instructions which part to paint first and which colors to mix to get the exact match to the model that we had to copy from. The Artisans were at each painting station to guide us through the process. The three side view is of the one I painted. I put it into this little framework to show each side. I learned so much, and enjoyed meeting the people from all over that came to attend the weekend classes and tour. I will cherish this piece forever and mark my calendar for next year.

I have used this new understanding of painting chalkware to design my own Vintage Santas to give as gifts this Christmas. My house is beginning to resemble Santas workshop also, and I am loving it so much.

The World of Santas

I have always loved Santa and when I lived in Manhattan I couldn't wait until the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade when Santa would make his grand entrance ushering in the Christmas holiday. Today we start Christmas preparation even before the Thanksgiving Day Parade, but I love to see all the Christmas decorations, including the different Santas.

Now if you have little ones around your house this Christmas, I found a delightful site where you can visit the north pole, and find lots of cute things for them. Besides so many actitives and treasures they have a reading room in Santa's Toyshop where your child can listen, read or print out a story about Christmas.

I see that The North Pole site also has recipes from Mrs. Claus' Kitchen.

Over the years I have collected quite a few Santas, and I have painted Santas for friends and family. This year I painted a Santa with Vintage sparkles to make him look like he might have stepped our of my mom's generation.

"The Dutch Christmas has a tradition each December 5th, the patron Saint of Amsterdam, Sinterklaas arrives by boat at the harbor, then rides through the streets of the Netherlands capital city astride a white horse. Dressed in red velvet cape and bishop miter, Sinterklaas occupies a dignified place in Dutch folk tradition."

I put Santa all over the inside and outside of the house and each year the collection of Santas gets larger. You can never have enough Santas at Christmas.

I love reading about all the Santa traditions and legends throughtout the world. One of the most fascinating stories to me is the one of St. Nicholas. It seems that according to the stories St. Nicholas was a very Godly and kind man who demonstrated strong Christian faith. Here is part of his story...

Nicholas from Saint to Santa Claus.

"Long ago in Patara, a village located in the country we now call Turkey, lived a couple named Epiphanes and Johane. They were members of the early Christian community. Barely 200 years earlier, their ancestors had been converted by the apolstle Paul as he traveled and preached about Jesus in their country of Lycia. Married for many years, Ephipanes and Johane were content with their lives except for their lack of a child. Finally their paryers were answered and a son was born to them. They called him Nicolas, which means victorious. Even in infancy Nicholas showed signs of being especially devout. During his first bath he stood right up in the basin and raised his hands over his head in an effort to praise the Lord.

Nicholas, servant and friend of God, for your holiness ye shall be bishop of this place." Legend tells of a ship grounded on rocks during a gale. Afraid that the ship would sink and all on board would perish in the turbulent sea, the sailors prayed to the distant Bishop Nicholas. As they prayed, Nicholas appeared flying toward them through the air.

(Perhaps the story gave our modern Santa Claus the ability to fly as he delivers gifts. When the ship arrived at Myra, the sailors were amazed to find him standing in front of the altar.

Nicolas died December 6th around 343 A.D. The day was then set aside in honr of this man whose good works and deeds lived on in the hearts of the people he had served. STories of St. Nnicholas spread throught the world. His fame grew as years passed and his image slowly began to change."

Whether you are lining up with your little one to see Santa, shopping as one of Santa's little elves or just enjoying putting your Santa collection on display...Ho Ho Ho Have a Merry Santa Day!

The Chrismon Tree

A few years ago the music director of our church recommended that I research The Chrismon Christmas Tree, when I volunteered to help make Christmas ornaments. The tree always looked so sad to me, and certainly not a celebration for Christmas. I learned that the Chrismon ornaments represent Christ.

"In 1957, Frances Kipps Spencer began thinking of a way to decorate the Christmas tree in her church that would be more suitable for a sanctuary. She thought that the usual brightly colored Christmas ornaments were just not appropriate for a setting of worship, so she began researching and looking for something that would reflect the Christian faith."

With the help of my daughter Sarah, we made all the ornaments for this tree from paper. We were very pleased the way that it turned out, and learning about the history really made it even more special. It is such a wonderful thing to do with children also, as it teaches us the meaning behind each ornament. I can't even begin to tell you how meaningful it was to make dozens of angels, crosses, miniature bibles and doves made from paper doilies. Each time we completed an image to do with our faith made the spirit of Christmas truly come alive.