Giving Thanks

writing

The “art” of writing a letter seems to be lost on this generation. Personally I send a few letters every Monday; one to grandma and a couple to a few letter writing friends. I know I don’t use “proper” letter form but I use the basics. I’m not sure many people know a “proper” form these days.

I enjoy hand written notes and I save every one I get. Ever since I moved away for college grandma has written me at least one letter a week and I the same. That’s been ten years now, enough to need a large tote to keep them all. I haven’t gone through and reread them yet some day I will. For now I greedily hoard every one she sends because I know all good things must end at some time.

A young man in the army stationed in Germany was able to call home briefly and informed his mother that he loved the hand written letters that were sent. “Email is great because it’s instant, but a letter that was handled by you is worth the wait.”  It’s something that can be carried with you and reread at any moment. Living such a distance from loved ones having the simple envelope to have and hold is like having a piece of home with you.

Technology is great but nothing like doing things by hand. Who am I kidding I hate technology. I do anything to be a homesteader a hundred years ago, preferably in Montana then. We can discuss that later. Email just seems so informal, so lazy maybe or maybe impersonal is more what I am thinking of. Either way it’s missing something. (Usually proper grammar and spelling.)

With Christmas coming to a close thank you notes are on the “to do” list. Today thank you notes are a thing of the past as well these days. If it’s not a wedding or graduation thank you notes are forgotten. (I have to say there are very few thank you notes for such events I have received that have more thought in them as not sending one at all.)

Growing up mom always made us write thank you notes for Christmas, birthdays and any other time we received a gift. Now I write them for things more than material gifts. I have even tried to not send them…I feel so guilty they get sent, usually with an apology for it being late. Yep, I can’t not send them even when I try. I know they just get thrown away (except the ones to grandma) and that’s ok. I just feel better knowing that those who gave me an extra thought know how much I appreciate it.

*The picture above was from a pinterest search and I wasn’t able to follow the link to give credit to the one who took it. Sorry.

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Oh, Christmas Tree

Before Christianity was known people were decorating their houses with greenery around the winter solstice which usually fall around December 21-22 or so. The solstice was a celebrated belief that the sun god ( different cultures had different names for such) who falls ill in the fall was beginning to recover. The hanging of evergreen boughs was a sign that again the days would get longer and warmer and again plants would turn green and full of life. Thus praise and thankfulness to the sun god, god of agriculture ect.

In the 16th century Germans began bringing evergreen trees as we know Christmas trees today. Martin Luther was believed to be the first noted person to add candles to the tree. It is said he was inspired by the stars one night as he was walking through the trees and wanted to share the experience with his family.

The first record of a tree being on display in America was in the 1830’s in a German settlement in Pennsylvania.  Even though Christmas trees were common in the traditions of Christians in Germany they were still seen as a pagan symbol in America through the 1840’s. The German settlements had Christmas trees earlier but they were not a public display. Some Americans were working so had to rid all pagan aspects that any observation of the Christmas holiday aside from a church service was penalized. This by a law passed in Massachusetts in  1659, included any signs of joy, decorations carols ect.

It wasn’t until the 1840’s when Queen Victoria and German Prince Albert were pictured with their family gathered around a Christmas tree that the tree was here to stay.

The trees were mainly decorated with candles and homemade ornaments. Most Germans still decorated their trees with the more traditional marzipan cookies, nuts, apples and strings of dyed popcorn. With the advent of electricity came tree lights allowing the trees to be lighted for days on end and the Christmas trees in town squares began. From there  the tree tradition exploded and so did the size.

In Europe Christmas trees averaged about 4 feet, in America the stood floor to ceiling (we’ve “super sizing” everything since the beginning).  The outdoor trees on display continue to tower above.

I heard both sides of the real or fake tree argument.

One thought is real trees are the tradition and they are “green” as there are always more growing. The wonderful smell of pine and homemade cookies; a warm comforting Christmas feeling.

The other thought is why cut a tree for one month. The cost of the tree, if you don’t have the luxury of having one on your property to cut each year and most don’t. Then there’s the safety aspect. Most house fires over Christmas can be linked to overloading the electrical outlets, Aunt Martha leaving a burner on in the kitchen, then setting something other than a pot on it and dry Christmas trees. Some most people know the tree though now dead still draws water to keep its needles longer. A fireplace that is used often will dry the air in no time and the tree as well. It sometimes slips peoples minds to keep the tree watered with so many other things going on.

Then there’s holiday clean  up:

put the tree in a box in the Christmas closet (the hard to get to spot under the stairs)

or

haul the dry tree through the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the entry way and finally to the yard, where by this time there are no needles left on the tree they are scattered like flower petals down a wedding isle through your house, where it will sit until spring when you decide where your going to dump it. Maybe you live in town where the poor garbage man has to deal with all the Christmas leftovers.

By the pro’s and con’s list the fake tree seems to win. I would prefer a real tree anyway. I like the smell of pine in the living room and the warmth the tree seems to bring. Being from Minnesota I have always taken trees for granted. Having lived in North Dakota for 10 years one would think I would be hugging the trees now that I’m back. I’m still not. I would have no problem clearing a couple few (more than 6 if you get it).

It took a few years to get used to the wide open spaces but when I did I absolutely loved it! (The east side of ND is still flat and boring, sorry) The middle and west is beautiful! The sunrises and sunsets are amazing. I still favor Montana sky above all else but I found lots of beauty in the Dakota’s.

One might also think the my husband being from the wide open wouldn’t mind clearing a few trees around the farm. (especially since we have a nice crop of Christmas trees around part of our hay field, with them gone I could get a few more bails out of it) Wrong again! He likes the trees each and every one!

I’m too cheap to buy a real tree every year, the Mister like the trees where they are on our land and our wood stove in the living room burns all day long. We have a fake tree. Hiding pine scented car air freshener trees in it is not the same, so don’t bother with those.

Never the less the tree is up, decorated and glowing. The room is warm with the stove and well I didn’t do any Christmas baking this year, selfishly because I can’t eat it. But the tea smells good too ( not like cookies but hopefully next year).

So what are your thoughts about the tree debate?

Christmas tree

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Scrappy Stocking

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, well not here. As we decorated for Christmas this year I realized we were one short. I took out the knitting needles and some yarn I had spun previously and began knitting. In no time and had a nice Christmas stocking… that I stuffed back in my knitting basket and plan to unravel and modify the pattern after Christmas. What a disappointment!

After all that we were still one stocking short. I still had my sewing machine and scrap fabric spread over the dining room table from a fall of apron making. So a scrappy stocking was in the works. It turned in to a nice afternoon project and this one I don’t plan to take apart.

First I traced one of the stockings we already had and cut out four pieces out of muslin. Two for the outside and two for the lining.

stocking 1

I gathered all red scraps I had off I went. I used the same technique to make the stocking as I do a crazy quilt.

Start with a piece of muslin to build on. I layer my scraps on the base sewing each new scrap to cover the corner of the previous piece.

Stocking 2

When using a square and smaller pieces you won’t end up with a “fishtail” layering. For the stocking though I wasn’t too worried. I used the green plaid for the top “cuff”. Once the pieces are sewn to the base double check to make sure all the seam ends are covered or will be sewn into the side seam. Then trim the edges even with the base piece. Do the same with the back. Helpful hint: check which direction the toe is facing or you could end up with two fronts and no back. I know from experience. 🙁

Before sewing the back to the front I used embroidery floss and primitive stitched the name.

Then it’s pretty straight forward; right sides together sew the outside together. Again checking the toe direction sew the other two pieces together, right sides together.

Now, I know there is a way to sew the lining to the shell and turn it so all the seams are in and everything looks all nice and finished. But I couldn’t seem to remember how, so I pressed the top in on both the shell and lining and topped stitched around the edge.

Stocking 3stocking 4

Here’s the front and back of the finished stocking. A perfect afternoon project.

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Finally The High Chair (Part 3)

leather strapFinally time for the straps.

The old ones were fine, nylon straps with the plastic clips, but I’ve done so much already I’d hate to put the old ones back on when I could make some new ones.

Another one of my hobbies is leather work. Go figure, right. I cut new straps about 3/4 inch wide out of 6-7 oz. leather.

edge belever

I used an edge beveler on all four edges of each strap. This takes the 90 degree corner off  and begins the rounding of the edges.

 

leather skiver

Then the skiver to shave the under side of the ends that I need to put rivets through. By tapering the end it makes the under side semi-smooth when folded.

 

 

leather  v gouge

The V gouge I use is adjustable for cutting different depths. I used this where the fold will be, right at the top of where I just skived. By cutting this gouge the leather will lay a little flatter when folded rather than round.

 

 

leather punch

I then punched the holes for the rivets, buckle hardware and buckle strap.

Now, if I knew there wasn’t going to be little squash covered fingers touching the straps I would do some tooling on them. So this time I can save myself a few steps now by not tooling and later by not having to try to wipe squash out of the crevices.

wood slicker

To get the edges smooth I use a wood slicker. To use this you must first wet the leather. The is a perfect moisture level you want both when tooling and using the slicker; not too wet and not too dry. In another post about tooling we can go more into that. Then you want to apply a little pressure with rubbing back and forth. This will compress the leather into a smooth, shiny, rounded edge.

fiebrings leather dye

While the leather is still damp its time to dye it. Having the leather damp when you apply the dye will help to end up with a more even color as the dye soaks into the leather rather quickly. I like to use oil base dye. Personally I like the color depth it provides.

Usually I put an acrylic clear coat on my projects after this step. Although it says it’s flexible it always seems to crack after a bit of use so this time I didn’t. We will see how it goes.

leather rivetsI then rubbed all the pieces with the saddle soap. It gives it a nice shine and works as a protectant.

Rivets are next. Using a rivet setter is pretty easy too. The rivet is two pieces, the cap and the post. The cap goes onto the plate and the post through the leather and into to cap. Using a punch and a mallet simply pound the punch and the post will flatten in the cap and hold securely.

High chair

Lastly the straps are screwed to the underneath of the chair. The old ones were fastened with a whole bunch of staples. They might have worked ok with the nylon but not with the leather.

And finally done!

High chair

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Twiggy Wreath and a Soapbox Rant

WARNING: The thought for this post had very little with how it ended up. Somehow each year about this time I get on my soapbox and rant for a bit. I wasn’t going to publish it but, what the heck. Read it at your own risk.

It wasn’t Halloween, hell school hadn’t even started yet and some places where putting out Christmas décor. Now that Black Friday is upon us (which I will be boycotting for the 12th year in a row) it’s almost time to start thinking about Christmas. Personally I wait until the first day of Advent to put up decorations. It drives me absolutely CRAZY that Christmas for most is nothing more than blinking lights, glitter and gifts, God forbid you don’t get a mountain of presents that were purchased in an overcrowded store full of crabby people. (Most of who are crabby because of the crowds, noise and the fact they are so wrapped up in spending money they don’t have to fill what is sometimes an obligation) The service can sometimes be awful because the poor person working has been harassed by many “Scrooges and Scroogets” because the shelves don’t match the ad and so on and so forth. Not to mention those out spoken few who don’t celebrate the holidays and want everyone to know “but get the hell out of the way it’s the last one and they aren’t taking rain checks.”

Just the thought exhausts me. I have no interest.

What happened to Jesus and family? Isn’t that why all this ridiculousness began in the first place? Weren’t families gathering to celebrate the birth of Christ not the ugly sweater Aunt Bertha trampled Sally to get from the sale rack first?

I know some are reading this thinking “yep that’s right” and others are ready to bombard me with anti-religion crap and so much more. Ok, for a brief moment lets go there. (I’m giving you the “I dare you glare” right now if you can’t feel it.)

A super quick over view, way back when, Constantine declared the catholic religion the religion of the empire causing all the pagan priests to become catholic priests bringing with them their pagan traditions. Which is one reason there are a few Catholic traditions that coincide with pagan traditions. There’s a ton of history, changes, reforms ect. That you can google on your own. I’m not here to preach about this at all!

By the way this is not up for comment, debate or rebuttal. It will be a waste of time as I will delete them without reading them. This is so far from the post I had planned.

Now back on track. Jesus is the reason for the season. Yes, I like glitter and lights just as much as the next gal. You can bet I will be putting a little of both out for the season. Growing up our lights outside were blue. A big star on the side of the house with a couple strings leading your eyes down to a manger scene in our back yard. It could be seen both out our window but through the bare trees from the road. Everyone that traveled that road often, knew when the lights were on Advent had started. In the house we had a tree and another small manger scene. The small manger scene was always a privilege to set up. Where to put, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the camels and all the other pieces. That was a constant reminder of what was to be celebrated.

Gifts from my house are done with care. They are mostly homemade with love and thought. The ones that must be bought are done so with care as well. This year my family is doing things a little different then years prior, we drew names for gifts. We are all getting older, we don’t need much and with growing families the cost of gifts can get overwhelming. My sister is working two jobs, going to school full time and just moved into her first apartment. Although gifts are not expect or required to celebrate Christmas there is an underlying obligation to give, even when giving is from the heart and something you want to do there is still the feeling of “I should get something for him and then her and I know I haven’t talked to them lately but I would like to do something to let them know I still think about them ect.” Before you know it your buying a gift for everyone on the Christmas card mailing list! So, in short drawing names relieves the some of the gift stress.

Don’t get me wrong I like to give gifts, I like to see the surprise and happiness that even the smallest gift can bring. Doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas for a rainy day. My problem is I don’t have the funds to give as I would like, even the homemade gifts take supplies. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this feeling either. So more guilt, because I can’t give as I feel people deserve.

For my children I would like to stick to  this for our gifts to them:

Something to Wear, Something to Share

A Need and A Want.

And they choose something they don’t play with anymore to donate.

I don’t want them to go to school and feel like the other kids got way more (which they might anyway) but I don’t want them to get lost in the meaning of Christmas either. Not to mention our house is small and less is usually more.

I will admit I have more Christmas decorations than all other holidays combined and with this being our first Christmas in the new house a bunch of decorations will be donated this year too. Each year I try to get my family to focus a little more on true Christmas and family and less on the commercial side of things. I think more of that is needed by all, but that’s just me.

Well, that was quite the “soap box” I started this post with the idea of telling you about some very plain and simple seasonal decorations not just for Christmas, I had put together with the branched and twigs from the tree in the kitchen. Christmas decorations don’t need to be glittery and overdone.

So here’s the first, nothing fancy  and can be used year round if you please.

Start with one flexible twig. Tie the ends together, this will be the frame twig. Using the jute to secure the twigs in place, wrap the jute around a new twig and the frame twig. Every couple wraps add a new twig. Continue like this all the way around. And there you have it!

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You suffered through my Christmas soap box for a twiggy idea. I promise to keep my preaching to a minimum.

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