Oldies but Goodies - Bright and happy

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. Time for resolutions for some, time to party for others, time to stay at home and be a rock for three frightened cats for me (ever since the hailstorm a few years ago they don't take fireworks as lightly as they used to).
Time to look forward to a new year, to hope for a better year for the world (and yourself if you haven't had a grand year), for thinking of friends and family.
This week the JAC Oldies but Goodies Challenge is bright and happy and I bring it to you with the hope that your 2016 will indeed be bright and happy.

1 Jewelry Art by Dawn
2 Cat's Wire
3 The Crafty Chimp
4 MC Stoneworks
5 Violetmoon's Corner


Holiday timeout - The twenty-sixth door

I'm aware that not everyone has the chance to take a holiday timeout. I am lucky and do have it.
Of course timeout doesn't mean that I won't have to do my chores, but I'm off work and I'll take a little break from the blog, too. Maybe we'll see each other again next year (doesn't that sound so far away although it's only a few days?), maybe the mood will strike me before that. We'll see.
Enjoy the silence while it lasts! ;-)


Merry Christmas - The twenty-fifth door

As you probably know, here in Germany we celebrate with gifts on Christmas Eve. No stockings for me this morning, no stockings for the cats. Just silence and a relaxed, still slightly full feeling. Remembering that I forgot to take one of my gifts home that I wanted to try out today. Enjoying my little shiny tree. Listening to a song on my favorite Christmas channel. Sipping on my cup of Ovaltine (who is thinking of Ralphie now, come on, admit it) and slowly - in fact very slowly - waking up.
Ah, you will think, so she was too lazy to prepare a post. I like to think it's not so much laziness, but an unwillingness to spend too much time on the computer today. Or laziness. Relaxed laziness which is easy for me to have while someone else is preparing the meals.
Sorry, I'm starting to ramble and falling back asleep at the same time. Enough now.

Merry Christmas, my friends.


Christmas Eve - The twenty-fourth door

Nope. No story today. No interesting traditions, no Christmas crafts, not even a video or picture.
It's time for me to take a little break and no matter where you are, what you celebrate or already have celebrated, I hope you will have a good moment to yourself, too.

Merry Christmas Eve from me and the crazy cats!


Oldies but Goodies, Christmas red - The twenty-third door

When we think of Christmas red, we think of a bright and rich red. The first thing that comes to my mind is the color of the poinsettia or the holly of which I already shared a few examples with you on Monday.
Why is red a Christmas color? Last year I told you about the blood of Jesus which is said to be represented by holly. Then there's the red of the bishops' and noble people's clothes, a powerful and expensive red.
I also told you about the apples, however, that were hung into pine trees because in winter there are hardly any apple trees available for the paradise plays that were popular in older days. Red apples in green pine trees, a color combination that is also probably very appealing due to red and green being complementary colors.
In last year's post I showed you the Christmas green in creations of the JAC members, this year is time for some red. As always you can find all the submitted pictures in the original thread for the Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge.

1 Cat's Wire
2 Jewelry Art by Dawn
3 The Crafty Chimp
4 Violetmoon's Corner
5 MC Stoneworks


Nativity scenes - The twenty-second door

We never had a nativity scene when I was a child. In fact I can't remember anyone at the moment who had one. Maybe I just didn't notice it.
I never contemplated having one of my own. With my crazy cats I would probably have to put it behind glass. Greebo loves to knock down stuff to get my attention and it was annoying enough that I had to pick up Steiff rabbits and puppets almost every day before they went behind glass. I won't even try to think about what Ponder could do. Probably all figurines would have to be screwed down to avoid them being kidnapped.

Then I found the page whyismarko and a list of the worst and weirdest nativity scenes. Now I'm determined to make my own next year. Maybe we should even have a competition! ;-) Or maybe you already have something to share? I'd love to see it! I'm quite partial to the mashed potato one ...

Let's end this post with an all time favorite of mine. Have fun!


Zibbet finds of the week, Christmas plants - The twenty-first door

Last year I told you a little about the history of the Christmas tree and that evergreen plants were used in winter celebrations way before someone thought about putting apples, nuts, and sweets on a tree.
The fir and other kinds of evergreen trees that are put up for Christmas nowadays are not the only plants we connect with this holiday.
In fact there is a whole list of plants of which I only mentioned a few in this old post. There's the mistletoe of course (one of which we have on our door again this year), there's holly, there's ivy, there are poinsettias and Yule logs, there are Christmas cacti and roses and in some countries radishes (have you ever heard of the Mexican Night of the Radishes before?), pomegranates, and more.

You know what comes next ... a little virtual walk through the garden with beautiful finds. As warm and mild as it is here right now, I hardly even need a jacket! ;-)

Stained glass holly wreath candle holder by Passion Flower Glass

Pomegranate charm necklace by Laline Jewelry

Poinsettia bow set for dogs by Bellas Dog Bows

Painting "Pomegranate and Pot" by Kostas Koutsoukanidis Fine Art

"Winter Flowers" felted and knitted alpaca scarflette by Living Loom Weaver

Ornament with painted holly leaves by Family Footprint Designs


Quote of the week - The twentieth door

Do you have an advent calendar? I mean a chocolate one, not one of the really old-fashioned ones with just pictures in it (which I would like to have next year, please) and not one with toys, jewelry or cat snacks in it ;-)
I have one which was given to me by a friend who had got two. It's nothing exciting, but hey, it's chocolate. Unfortunately I have to admit that I cheated and made up for it again, kind of. There was a day when I was craving chocolate so badly and had nothing at all in the house so that I had to go raid the calendar. Only three doors, really. And I made up for it by not opening any door at all after that.

Let's see how others handle that, for example Geraldine who is a vicar in a small British village full of wacky people ....

Clock starts beeping.
Geraldine: Chocolate time. Now then, Alice, tell me. Exactly how many chocolate advent calendars is the maximum a greedy person should have?
Alice: I don't know. I would have thought thirty.
Geraldine: Good! Good! I've got it about alright then.

The Vicar of Dibley, UK, 1994 - 2015


Snowflakes - The nineteenth door

Today's post is stolen. Calm down, I took it from myself, at least part of it, and I had good reasons.
Today is the day I want you to make snowflakes. That reminded me of a post of mine from five years ago in which I talked about Wilson Bentley, Johann Heinrich Ludwig Flögel, and Nancy Knight.
Wilson Bentley took 5,000 pictures of snowflakes and thought that there are no two snowflakes alike.
Although he had been regarded to be the first person to photograph snowflakes, it seems that honor belongs to Johann Heinrich Ludwig Flögel about whom I could not find an English article so quickly.
Nancy Knight has found two identical snowflakes, though, it seems. At least they looked identical under the microscope. Scientists doubt, however, that they would still be identical on an atomic level.

Now why am I telling you that again after five years?
Like I said already, I want you to make your own snowflake/s. Each year I come to the page "Snowdays" and make a few of them. I have been doing that for about five years now, and they are still there. It's really fun, you should try!

This is the snowflake I made today. Maybe you want to try and make an identical one? ;-)


Tackle that stash, Christmas star - The eighteenth door

What a day. It started with the wrong veggie box, so the driver had to come back when he noticed, dropped things, broken beads, and of course Ponder also stepped into one of my bead cups. Yay, bead explosion!
Oh, and I forgot to take pictures of yesterday's baubles which were picked up in the evening. All different patterns, too, that I would have liked to show you!
I decided to try my hand at a Christmas snowflake/star ornament instead, but I just finished that now, and I don't have a story to share together with the picture.
Maybe you are actually glad to not read my ramblings for a day, though ;-)

I should say something about the star, however. The only real stash are the twisted bugles which I had ordered last year. To make a snowflake/star ornament after a tutorial. Which I didn't. Not last year, not this year. I improvised this one and now it looks quite big on my little tree, but I still like it.


Christmas pyramids - The seventeenth door

Last year I told you about the tradition of candle arches and got a comment about a pyramid. I promised to talk about those pyramids this year.
Christmas pyramids - which actually don't have a real pyramid shape, but are more like a carousel - are a very old tradition that comes from the Ore Mountains, just like candle arches.
They are said to be inspired by the capstans that were used to pump water and that were decorated with evergreen branches at Christmas time. Although many of us only connect them with Christmas, there were light pyramids for other occasions as well.

The pyramids are made from wood and often have several levels which show the story of Christ's birth, the nativity scene, the shepherds, the Magi, angels, and more, but there are also pyramids showing woodland scenes or other things.
The heat from the candles rises up and makes the paddles on the rod turn. The rod attached to the propeller is connected to one or more of the plates which then also turn.


Nowadays there are not only the small pyramids that are used as a decoration in the house, but also large outdoor pyramids which are set up in market squares, for example during the popular Christmas markets. One example, the Dresden Christmas pyramid is 85 ft high!

Of course again I have only been scratching the surface with this little post. You'll have to forgive me, but real life wants its part of me, too.
If you want to read more and see pictures, please check out the links below!




Oldies but goodies, Stars - The sixteenth door

To be honest I have never given much thought to the Star of Bethlehem. I guess it was just part of the story for me. There were three wise men and there was a star. If I ever even knew that the star only appeared in the Gospel of Matthew, I am not aware of it anymore.
I have never wondered if it really could have been a star or if it was a comet, a supernova, a conjunction of planets or if that doesn't make any sense at all astronomically. And now that I've browsed a few articles because reading most of them was too overwhelming for a non-astronomically inclined mind like mine, I wouldn't know which snippets to give you because it wouldn't even scratch the surface.
Maybe you want to check out this article if you'd like to know more while I go to things I understand more about like this week's Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge which happens to be about - you guessed it - stars.
I hope you will like my personal selection. I am so in love with this challenge and the items that were shared!

1 Violetmoon's Corner
2 RioRita
3 2 Fab Fristers
4 The Crafty Chimp
5 Cat's Wire
6 MC Stoneworks
7 Jewelry Art by Dawn


Christmas bakery - The fifteenth door

I bet you have already been waiting for this post. Cat in the kitchen baking and making a big mess without guarantee to succeed. Always good for a laugh.
Sorry, but not this year, I think. This time I invited a guest baker, my friend Silvia who actually knows what she is doing and who was willing to take on the task of taking photos when making her annual Christmas Linzer Torte. There was a time way back when I made that a few times myself, but it has been so long that I don't think it would have been a good idea. I already had a sample of Silvia's Linzer this year, though, and therefore I know that it's good.

What is Linzer Torte? Obviously (well, I didn't know it until now) it's a cake made from "Linzer dough" and "Linzer mass". The so-called brown Linzer dough is similar to shortcrust and is made with raw almonds, cloves and cinnamon. There is a also a light version without cinnamon, but with lemon and blanched almonds instead of raw ones, but we will talk about the brown one.
"Linzer mass" is a pipeable mass resembling that of macaroons and it is used to pipe the lattice pattern on top. However recipes vary a lot which isn't unusual for such an old kind of cake and often the same dough is used for both the bottom and the lattice.
In Austria the traditional choice of jam is red currant, elsewhere raspberry jam is used.
Now why did I call it an old kind of cake? In fact a Veronese countess wrote a cookbook in 1653 and mentioned the recipe for the first time which even makes it the oldest known cake recipe.

Back to my guest baker. Silvia makes several smaller tortes, but you can make a bigger one on a baking tray and cut it into pieces afterwards.
These are the ingredients for a batch of 3 to 4 smaller ones:

1 lb flour
3 eggs
5 tsp. baking powder
1 lb hazelnuts
1 lb butter
3/4 lb sugar
4 tbsp. schnapps (in this case Himbeergeist)
4 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch of ground cloves
1 tbsp. ground coffee
raspberry jam
yolk mixed with a little milk

Mix the ingredients (except for the jam and yolk/milk mix) to make a kind of shortcrust dough and put the dough in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (depending on how sticky it is).

Roll out part of the dough until it's thin and put it into the baking tray(s) of your choice. Leave enough for the lattice pattern.

Cover it with the jam. Roll out the rest of the dough and cut strips to put onto the cake. Brush the dough strips with the yolk/milk mix.

Bake at 340° F for 30 to 40 minutes.



Zibbet finds of the week, Have yourself a vintage little Christmas - The fourteenth door

Last week I told you a little about Christmas cards. The next day one of my Facebook friends shared this post about Victorian cards that are slightly different from what we get today. And in the comments I found yet another link about more cards. And THAT obviously made me do an image search for Victorian Christmas cards which led me to more interesting pages and pictures and ... wait, I'm getting distracted here again.
What did I want to say? Oh, I remember. Looking at those vintage cards inspired me to make today's post a completely vintage one. Please enjoy while I'll be going back to my image search ... oh, just look at those frogs and the butterfly and .... *voice trailing off in the distance*

Vintage Christmas card at Vintage Tale

Vintage embossed Christmas card at For Collecting

Vintage 40s Christmas wreath ornaments at Scrap Pantry

Vintage Christmas tin box at Nostalgic by Nature

1908 sheet music "In The Holidays" at Sandy Creek Collectables

Maybe this reminded you of your own vintage decorations or collectibles?


Quote of the week - The thirteenth door

Although today's movie is not really a Christmas movie, it became an annual tradition for many people including myself. Just hearing the title melody puts me in a Christmas mood.

It's the fairy tale of Cinderella with a twist. This Cinderella is bit of a tomboy. She has her own horse that she likes to ride if she can get away from her mean stepmother and stepsister, she climbs trees, and she's an excellent archer. Actually that is how she meets the prince twice before the ball.
The first time she keeps him from shooting a fawn and in the following chase she not only escapes from him and his two friends, but even takes his horse to do so.
The second time she meets him during a hunt. By now she has received the three magic hazelnuts. In the first one she found a hunter's outfit and being such a good archer she wins the challenge of the hunt. The prince doesn't recognize her for the "little girl" he has met before. She climbs up a tree, lets her hair down and talks to him as the girl, then hides from him.
Then Cinderella is at the ball, wearing a lovely gown that came out of the second hazelnut.
The prince is blown away by her, but she won't agree to marrying him until he solves a riddle.

Prince: Answer me. Will you marry me?
Cinderella: First I'll present you with a riddle that you have to guess. The cheeks are smudged with ashes, but it's not the chimney sweep. A hat with feathers, the crossbow over the shoulder, but it's not a hunter.
The prince shrugs not knowing the answer.
King: Whatever can they ...
Queen: Calm down. You will get to know.
Cinderella: Thirdly, a silver brocaded gown with train for the ball, but it's not a princess, my noble sir.
The prince shrugs again.
Cinderella: No? Shame. As long as you don't know the answer to my riddle ... farewell.

What happens then? ;-) I'll give you a hint. There's still the third hazelnut, you remember? Guess what's in it ... a beautiful wedding gown!

Three Wishes for Cinderella, Czechoslovakia/East Germany, 1973


Christmas in Thailand - The twelfth door

I have never been in Thailand myself, but I have a special correspondent there at the moment. Please welcome my friend Dawn from Jewelry Art by Dawn who spent time in Thailand last year including Christmas and does again this year (please click the link to check out her blog for both great jewelry and a travel diary!).

These are the pictures of Christmas trees and decoration Dawn shot last year.
"Approximately 90 percent of the Thai people are Buddhists and don't celebrate Christmas which is a Christian holiday.  However, they like some of the holiday traditions such as decorations, Christmas carols and Santa hats.  I can't help thinking that part of the reason for the holiday cheer is for the benefit of the Westerners who live in or who are vacationing in Thailand."

By now you probably know that I couldn't leave it at that, but had to dig a little more.
Others confirmed what Dawn said. Thai like to celebrate when they get a chance, so why not celebrate Christmas? Why not put up colorful artificial trees? Why not put Santa hats on elephant statues or the miniature spirit houses? Why not be creative and just share the Christmas joy by coming together with the family and have a lovely meal, even if it's not turkey?
Indeed, why not?
I don't think I have said it before, but I am not a religious person myself and still I enjoy the Christmas mood, the carols, the lights and being with my family. I don't know if it's because I grew up that way or if it's just something inside me. Who knows, I might enjoy celebrating Christmas in Thailand, too.

Thank you, Dawn, for sharing your pictures with us!

Please also check out the links below for more pictures and details.



Tackle that stash, More Christmas ornaments - The eleventh door

Almost 30 years ago I bought those glass baubles for my very first own Christmas tree. Silver with a finish that looked as if ice was covering them. Some years when there we didn't have a tree, I just put them up somewhere, so there would be at least a little decoration. I used to put them together with shiny dark blue baubles, but I had given those away long ago.

Now I only have that little tree and even though these glass balls are not big, they are too big for the tree. They became part of the hallway decoration and during the year they were patiently waiting in the hallway wardrobe's drawers.
Years ago I have told you about the history of glass baubles. They were invented in the middle of the 19th century and from what I see they are still as popular as ever even though the acrylic ornament came around in the mid-20th century.
My little baubles have definitely started to show some wear. The "ice" is coming off here and there, and where the glass has been rubbed, the shiny silver comes out underneath.

So I decided to give two of them a new dress, knitted from silver colored copper wire and - here's where the stash comes in - bugle beads.
Now they are ready to take up their spots in the hallway decoration again.

I think I'll have to see if I still have some red bugles around for a candy cane bauble!


Memories of Santa - The tenth door

I'm a collector of different things, but the Memories of Santa Collection is not among them which is not surprising as it was sold in the USA. In fact I had never heard of it before. It's a collection of Santa ornaments from earthenware. The interesting part for me is that it was "inspired by antique chocolate molds, early chromolithographs, vintage advertis(e)ments, and turn-of-the-century post cards" and that "the designs and legends have been carefully researched and historically documented".

Just the other day I stumbled upon this post by Crazy Poppet Creations on Facebook: "I have my very own creepy Santa. It belonged to my Daddy and he would have it on the mantel in the living room. We both used to wonder why the kid was toting around a head....

Do you know the answer? I do. Curious to see who else knows."

That made me curious, too. It does look a little creepy.
Of course it's not a head. The solution to the mystery was on the box.

Now I was even more curious and tried to find out more about the tradition of wearing masks, but alas, I couldn't find anything. I wonder why it has stopped. Could it be because Santa masks are so often incredibly creepy? And what's up with that? Why are they so creepy?
I promise I will try to find out more. Who knows, maybe I'll have an answer to it in next year's advent calendar!
Anyway, I'd like to thank Crazed Poppet Creations again for this contribution.


Oldies but goodies, Out of Africa - The ninth door

Out of Africa is the theme for this week's JAC Oldies but Goodies challenge and you know what that means. I had to look up African Christmas traditions and I wish I had had more time for it. I am fully aware that I have to rely on other people on the web for posts like this one as I can't offer any personal insights on the topic.
One thing that has been mentioned often is that Christmas in Africa is by far not as commercialized as it is in North America and Europe. It's about celebrating, coming together with the family, having good food, going to church, but what else is tradition in some of the African countries?

In Ethiopia and Egypt Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January.
In Egypt the Coptic Christians do what is called "lent fasting". It lasts 43 days and during that time they are not allowed to eat milk, meat, fish, and eggs.
In Ethiopia Christmas is called "Ganna". People fast on Christmas Eve. At dawn of Ganna they traditionally wear white cotton clothes with colorful stripes at the ends resembling old Roman togas. They are called "shamma". In big towns shamma are not obligatory.
In Ghana festivities start in advent. They fall together with the end of the cocoa harvest. On Christmas Eve there's a special church service with choirs singing, hymns, and nativity plays. There's a legend about the midwife Anna who is said to have helped in the birth of the Christ child which is told on Christmas. A traditional part of Christmas meal is a yam paste called "fufu".
In Congo churches host musical events on Christmas Eve. Some churches have several choirs, there's a long nativity play starting with creation and the Garden of Eden and ending with Herod, and there is dancing. Compared to that Christmas Day is usually spent very quietly.
In Liberia the common greeting on Christmas is "My Christmas is on you" which means the greeting person expects to get a good gift or money. Instead of Santa there is "Old Man Bayka", the local "devil" who walks up and down the street and demands gifts.
In Malawi children go from door to door on Christmas Day, sing Christmas carols and dance wearing special clothes made from leaves.
Of course I could only pick out a few facts, but you can visit the links at the end of the post to read much more!

Now it's time to see what the JAC members have come up with for this challenge. Enjoy!

1 and 4 Jewelry Art by Dawn
2 and 7 MC Stoneworks
3 Violetmoon's Corner
5 and 6 Cat's Wire

P.S. If anything of what I tell you is wrong, by the way, please let me know (I know that I'm seriously getting tired of finding the "German" Christmas pickle tradition again and again and I don't want you to feel the same way about my stories)!



Christmas cards - The eighth door

I am old enough to remember snail mail in all its glory. In fact I had six pen pals in different countries from Belgium over England to Ireland, Australia, the USA and of course Germany. Nowadays my wrist is so used to the computer keyboard that it struggles with longer letters, but back then ten pages a day were not unusual for me at all. Oh, the excitement when another letter arrived!
Even though I miss the feeling, I hardly manage adding a hand written note today when I send a gift for example. Often I am shocked at how terrible my handwriting looks now although I have to admit it was never great. No matter how hard I tried, I never made an A in cursive writing in elementary school.

Unfortunately my laziness or lack of motivation also goes for Christmas cards which is made worse by the fact that I have a few packs around.
Who started that Christmas card thing, anyway? Let's see ....
That would be Sir Henry Cole. He was an English civil servant and inventor and facilitated many innovations in commerce and education, for example in 1840 when he played an important role in the introduction of the Penny Post and the world's first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black.
In 1843 he commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to design a Christmas card which was then printed in a small edition of about 2,000 cards and sold for one shilling each. The design wasn't popular with everyone because beside the feeding of the clothing of the poor it also showed a family drinking wine together including the child.

From England the custom spread to other countries, for example the USA where the first Christmas cards were printed in 1874.
In the 10s and 20s of the 20th century homemade cards became popular.

This is a compilation of facts collected by the printing company MOO. Click the picture to enlarge it.

MOO Christmas Cards

So what do you think? Maybe I should get myself a really nice pen, practice my cursive writing a little and write some real paper Christmas cards after all instead of sending e-cards? What about you?