New has never really appealed to me.
I have friend that actually believes that she should always be the first person to live in a house. Or own a car. Or a leather jacket.
Where’s the fun in that? Old things have patina, history, charm, and a character that’s all their own.
“New” doesn’t have any of those things…..not by a mile.
Vintage Christmas decorations have something even more special because they were a part of someone’s holiday celebrations for decades. Each and every item was lovingly wrapped in tissue, boxed, and stored in an attic/drawer/garage until that special moment for a few weeks out of every year when it could shine. Usually these pieces were even passed down through generations.
It’s this history that’s sadly missing from the decorative assortment at your local Pottery Barn. etc.
It’s been a non-stop avalanche of accumulating old Christmas decorations for the past 30 years. These things come from garage sales, trash piles, eBay, thrift stores, and gifts from friends. (In fact, most everyone I know is aware of my obsessive tendencies, and has, at some point, contributed to it. “These used to be my grandmother’s,” hands me a shopping bag full of old glass goodies,” No one in my family wanted them, but I knew that you would.”)
Here’s a few of the random far-from-valuable vintage Christmas things I’ve accumulated over the decades.
I know that I’ve already told the story of the first Zip-loc of old Polish glass balls that I scored at a local thrift store. (I passed them up, and returned a full week later to find they were still there. Kismet. They were meant for me to have.) But have I ever mentioned the stockpile I found in a dumpster soon after that? Well, I did. About a hundred weathered, beautiful glass balls that someone in my apartment complex had grown tired of. Can you imagine? These things just seem to find their way to me. Mostly Polish, from companies like Fantasia Glass but there’s quite a few American Shiny Brites too. I have more old glass ornaments than I care to count now…..or could possibly display.
And I still cherish every one.
There’s no denying the complete charm of these vintage lights. My star, which made it to the top of the tree this year was made by the Noma company probably in the 1950’s. My Santa is also from the 1950’s and was manufactured by the Glolite company. He works equally as well as a topper, wall hanger, or just resting on a table top. I got him from another member of my Christmas Support Group. It’s kind of like a 12 step support group, except instead of saying, “Take it one day at a time,” they say things like, “What do you mean you only have a 5 war-time Shiny Brites? I have 5 dozen……in the original boxes.” So I end up with 6 different tree toppers, and only one tree that requires a topper.
Wooden Polish Dolls;
Ok, technically these aren’t really Christmas décor and I think they were mostly made for tourists, but as a little boy I remember my Mother buying two of them at a hobby shop in Indiana. (Our family is Polish and they reminded her of her childhood Christmases.) They lived on our family Christmas tree for every year that I can remember until my mother passed them to me a while back. I usually stick them in a stocking so I can see them quickly from the sofa.
Those first two were my Mother’s, the other three I have rescued from junk shops over the years. It just feels like they should be together.
This passion is mostly Jamie’s. Although, to be honest, they warmly remind me of Christmases at my grandparents who had a row plastic soldiers standing guard over their front porch every December. One year, my family flew from Atlanta to Toledo to spend Christmas day at their farm. I was more than a little distraught to learn that Santa couldn’t locate us that far away from Atlanta….but it more than made up for it when we returned home to find that he had visited while we were in Ohio. (My parents did quite a toddler juggling act to make that happen) And I think of that particular Christmas every time I see a front yard full of blow mold décor.
Children’s Christmas Books;
No, I don’t have any kids. Not that I’m aware of anyway. (Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge) But I still love to dig through thrift store bookshelves looking for these. Especially for only 50 cents each. I can’t imagine how anyone could ever part with a copy of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, but I find them all the time and I’m more than happy to pass the story of the Grinch along to any of the young children in my life……..Or stash one away for myself.
I’ve been charmed by these little houses all my life. I can’t imagine what the Japanese factory workers must have thought of Americans while crafting these tiny houses for our five & dime stores. Dusted with mica powder snow and with cellophane windows that glowed when a light bulb was inserted, they were meant to create a “snow village” under the Christmas tree. But honestly, to me they look even better just tucked into the branches.
Milk Glass Figural Bulbs;
If you’ve never seen these – and I hadn’t until just a few years ago – you have been missing out. In the 1930’s, when electric lights found their way onto American Christmas trees, these kinds of bulbs were all the rage. Usually sold in themed character sets; like Disney, popular cartoons, or nursery rhymes. They all but vanished in the mid-1950’s, probably something to do with the trend for a more “modern” look. Because most of them fit a now un-standard C-6 socket, they were tossed decades ago. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt to find them now, but when I do, – usually for just a few bucks each – most of them……still light up. (I just found that fat snowman today.)
None of these things are what I would consider pedigreed “antiques”…and far from it.
It’s mostly just junk.
But junk with an undeniable Christmas soul………
I’ve never been a fan of Christmas tree skirts.
I mean, they’re perfectly fine for some people. (Ladies mostly) but I prefer the illusion of a potted tree, maybe resting inside of a bucket, or a basket, or crate, or even a whiskey barrel.…
Like we’ve done for the past 7 years.
But, this year; New Christmas tree = new container = new idea.
I started in my slightly hoarded garage. With a stack of wood scraps.
I cut a pine 1X10 into 4 equal sides of 20″ and used a brad nailer to attach them overlapping like so. My tree stand is about 18 inches wide. So 19 inches inside my box should be exactly enough to hide it, and all the ugly extension cords, quite nicely
Once the basic box was made, I found a handful of 1X2 to use a trim. I cut 8 of them at 22 1/4″, with a 45 degree beveled angle.
I used a brad nailer to attach the trim pieces to the bottom edge of my box with the beveled corners lining up over the sems.
I repeated the process along the top edge with the 4 other 22 1/4″ trim pieces.
I wanted a lip on the top of my box, and since I had a 1X3 board……1X3 it is. These 4 pieces I cut to 24 1/4″. Again, I mitered all the edges at 45 degree angles….like so.
And then attached them to the top edge with that handy brad nailer like so.
Looking down on my box, this trim gives it a nice clean finish. I know that you’re thinking; “That thing needs a bottom.” But it doesn’t. Trust me….that’s just extra work.
I used a wood filler to fill all the holes from the brads. This isn’t really necessary, especially if your finished box will look aged. But I would recommend this if you’re going to paint it a solid color. Your choice.
Speaking of painting, Jamie had suggested that it would look really cool if the tree was coming from a stack of old Coke crates…..like these,
Well, it just so happens that I had a quart of what I would consider “Coca-Cola” red……Ralph Lauren “Stateroom Red” actually. In flat latex.
If you’ve never dry-brushed something before, I think the technique is pretty self-explanatory. You simply apply as little paint as humanly possible to the surface with a brush. I want the finished box to look weathered and rough, so this is pretty close to perfect for me.
Well, almost perfect. Just to make it look even more aged, I roughed it up more with some 80 grit sandpaper.
The sandpaper really exposed all the edges to the natural pine underneath, kinda like on my inspiration Coke crates.
And there you have it, a finished box for the bottom of our Christmas tree.
Way more, much better.
Are y’all on Pinterest?
It’s the site where “mommy bloggers” share their ideas.
And me? Well, yes, I have to admit that I’m also guilty of occasionally browsing Pinterest for occasional inspiration. (Or…….PIN-spiration as they call it.)
My latest find; These über charming Black Cat Cookies.
They are soft, cake-like, and super easy to make. The best part; you don’t even need a cookie cutter. (Finally found a decent reason to buy those waxy candy corns too.)
Here’s what ya need:
- 1 Cup Butter – softened
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Eggs
- 3 Tsps Vanilla Extract
- 3 1/2 Cups Flour
- 1 Cup Cocoa Powder
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixer on low untill blended. Sift the next 5 ingredients together and slowly add to the wet mixture 1 cup at a time, while continuing to mix on low. Once all the solids are well-combined, remove the dough from the bowl, wrap in wax paper, and chill for about 2 hours.
Roll the chilled dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and arrange on a Silpat covered baking sheet. I baked 6 at a time because I wasn’t sure how much they would spread. Not too much actually.
Use the bottom of a glass to press each ball flat.
You will ‘prolly wanna powder the glass bottom with a little cocoa to keep it from sticking.
Pinch the tops of the flattened dough circles into ears….
…and use a fork to press in whiskers,
’till they look something like this. Easy, right?
Bake – in a preheated 350 degree oven – for exactly 10 minutes.
When they come out of the oven, immediately press the candies into the warm cookies; 2 candy corn eyes and I used an M&M for the nose. (You could also add the candies before baking, but they will melt a little. It’s your choice…works either way)
Let the cookies cool on a baking rack and enjoy.
Like I said,
PUURRRRRfect with a glass of milk.
Do y’all know Andy Tuohy?
Even if his name isn’t familiar, his graphic design work should be….
Here’s my favorite: “Great Modern Artists from A to Z”
Each artist is drawn in their personal style.
Like Frida Kahlo with decorative flowers in her hair and Diego Rivera resting just above her unibrow;
or David Hockney with a lit cigarette and signature glasses emerging from a swimming pool;
How about surrealist Salvador Dali with marching ants and a melted clock;
And linear primary colored Piet Mondrian;
and Roy Lichtenstein (pronounced like Frankenstein) in all his pixelated glory;
I have to be honest,
most some of these other artists were new to me…..and I took an art history class once, 30 years ago…..but it’s occupied my afternoon learning about them.
Check out the rest of Andy’s work on his site.
It’s hard to write about a trip to Key West without some deja vu, after all we’ve been there (and I’ve written about it) several times. Like here, and here. But Key West is the one place where we both can completely unplug.
Shook thing up a little this time and stayed at The Southernmost Beach Resort. Highly recommend.
So without a lot of boring details, here’s a taste of our week on that weird little island…
Now doesn’t that look relaxing?