Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone for following along on our adventures this year.

Here's to a new year filled with love and laughter.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Better-Late-Than-Never Edition of Merry Monday

Happy Holidays!

We have been having such a good time celebrating that time just slipped away.
Then suddenly it was Friday! Then Blogger ate my post and now it's Saturday!
Where did the time go?

Santa was good to all of us, even the one who pooped behind the Christmas tree.
(We had blamed it on Andy's dog, Jeremy but it now appears that Stewart is the real culprit.)

The Christmas cactus even bloomed - at Christmas!
There were just four flowers but that's four more than last year.

We were lucky to have lots of help with the decorating from Spenser.

Then there were the visitors, Burt was happy to see everybody.

This one did a lot of woofing.

He did quiet down eventually, after he got all dressed up. How cruel was that?

There's no celebrating without a lot of eating! Like many families, we have some recipes we always
make at Christmas time. Most of them are cookies and desserts passed down from Norwegian great great grandmothers. There are traditionally supposed to be seven different varieties served at the holidays but I've only managed two. My Mom started making the Polish Tea Cakes after HM and I were married, I guess it was her way of including him in our family. I added the Turtle Brownies because I love chocolate and thought it needed some representation within the basic dessert group.

Then there's the one we make just because we really, really like it.
I guess it's official, cheesecake has been adopted as one of our traditional holiday desserts.

Finally, there is lefse. It's one of those things we make because it's been a staple of Christmas Eve
dinner for as long as I can remember. My grandmothers, aunts and mom would get together and
make boatloads of it in early October. Half of what they made was for a traditional Scandinavian
dinner at our church that raised funds for world relief. The rest we ate! Here's Andy posing with the
lefse he made. I tried to match the photo I took of him in kindergarten wearing his dinosaur costume
and holding a plate of cookies. He's taller now, even though it wasn't that long ago - to me. Ha!

The process begins the night before the baking. Three pounds of potatoes get boiled and then have to be skinned while they're still hot. Ouch! Most of Scandinavian Christmas baking involves burning your fingers. That's my great grandmother's fork on the right, it's missing one of it's three tines but it's perfect for testing the doneness of spuds or poking at veggies when they're cooking.

While they're still hot, the spuds are run through a ricer then mixed with butter, cream and salt.
It's basically mashed potatoes at this point. Then it goes into the fridge overnight.

In the morning flour gets added to the potato mix and it's divided into seven equal portions. There's
that number seven again. Then it's rolled out - with a special rolling pin that's just made for lefse - and baked on a very hot griddle - that's only used for baking lefse! On trains in Norway they sell it individually wrapped, like candy bars. It is tempting to just go out and buy some, it's available at local stores but that wouldn't seem right. Awhile ago I realized that if we were going to keep eating it, I'd have to learn to make it. Luckily, Andy and HM love to cook so between the three of us and some YouTube videos we figured it out. It's really not that hard and it gets a easier every year.

After an exhausting morning it was time for a break so we all headed out to the Bare Bones Brewery (at Burt's suggestion) to sample a couple flights of their beer and recuperate from the holiday baking. Check out the bone shaped flight holders! Andy made a full recovery from his lefse ordeal.

Season's greetings from Burt and Ivy, they will be back soon.

Thanks for stopping by and best wishes to all who are celebrating!

I'm joining Marfi at Incipient Wings for the final Merry Monday and I want to thank her so very much for bringing her own uniqueness and wonderful enthusiasm to the blogging community.
She makes every day a whole lot merrier!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Merry Monday - The Final Installment of Gene's Santas!

Last week's post featured highlights of the dining room Christmas decorations at the home of my friends Gene and Laura. This week we're taking a look at a few more of Gene's fabulous creations in some other rooms of their home. This beautiful tree in their family room is so huge that Bob and Arthur, their Bichons barely made it into this photo!

Gene doesn't limit himself to just sculpting Santa figures. In this mixed media artwork he has applied gold leaf to the stars, border and even the edge of the mat. There's probably a very interesting story behind this creation but unfortunately I forgot to ask him about it. Duh! 

This Santa Claus isn't your typical "fat and jolly old elf" but he does look concerned.
I get the impression that he really cares about delivering toys to children all over the world.

These three tiny Santas are guarding the paint brushes.

Another Santa adorns the top of a curio cabinet that holds even more Santas! He's carrying quite a load of toys in his sack. Vintage cookie cutters along with a sack of pomegranates hang from his belt.

A basket of canvas Santa ornaments.

Moving on to the living room one of Gene's watercolor of two Cardinals decorates the hallway.

No Victorian house is complete without a posh living room or more appropriately, a parlor.  In turn, that calls for some equally fancy Santas. One detail I never noticed before on this guy is the snowman pail he's carrying. At first I thought it was a ghost jack o'lantern treat bucket, but nope. It's definitely a snowman, but he could actually be Santa Claus all ready to go out and Trick-or-Treat on Halloween.  

The gorgeous living room tree is decorated with new and vintage glass ornaments.

In 1992 Gene entered a holiday decoration contest sponsored by the Smithsonian and Family Circle Magazines. As one of the winning entries, his Santa was displayed during Christmas at the White House that year. Amazingly, after the holidays were over they returned it to him! 

Another little cluster of sparkling Santas.

Finally, here's a Santa riding a pig. It's impossible to pick a favorite from all of these but this guy is near the top of my list. Look at him, happily riding into town on a big, old blue-eyed pig! A huge sack of toys to pass out to all the children. He may be a little lost but he will figure it out, eventually.

If my last three blog posts were movies, they would never pass the Bechdel Test. However, there is one female character among the sea of Santas, a foul-mouthed nun puppet. She looks innocent enough but she's probably hiding a ruler up her sleeve! I mentioned last week that Gene's wife, Laura has been performing in musical theatre for many years. One roll that she has enjoyed playing quite a few times is Sister Mary Hubert in Nunsense. So it's no surprise that Gene got the task of making Sister Mary Annette for the play. She hangs around in the living room, mostly acting superior.

I'm joining Marfi at Incipient Wings for Merry Monday.
This week I am finally getting the name right!

Thanks to Gene and Laura for letting me share their lovely Christmas decorations.

Are you managing to stay calm and avoiding the last minute Christmas frenzy?
 I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Merry Monday (on Tuesday) - More of Gene's Santas!

Last week's post was all about the many Father Christmas figures HM and I have received as Christmas gifts from our very talented friend, Gene. Over the weekend we got a chance to visit him and his lovely wife, Laura so this week we're taking a look at their decorations in their dining room!

Gene and Laura's Victorian era house always looks wonderful but at Christmas it's magical!  

Gene doesn't hold back when it comes to decorating, every nook and cranny gets a festive touch. His house is definitely one big Christmas extravaganza so to get in all the highlights, I'm just going to have to take it room by room! Above is one of his earliest Santas and he's dressed in a dusty rose velvet suit and goes perfectly in the dining room. I believe he and his bunny stick around all year.

Of course, no room is complete without a beautifully decorated tree.

Or a giant Santa! Since Gene makes all of his Santas completely by hand they are all unique. No two are identical - unless they're the ones he makes in a mold - but even then, he hand paints each one and they rarely look alike.  

 Like me, Gene grew up on a dairy farm. I'm guessing from the The Animals' Christmas Eve (one of those Little Golden Books) and the Holstein cow, that this Santa was inspired by the tradition of giving the farm animals a little extra food as a special treat on Christmas Eve.    

There are niches between the dining room and living room in Gene and Laura's house. I didn't want to leave you wondering what that other Santa looked like - the one with the houndstooth coat, his back was turned to the camera. Considering the number of oranges in his sack, he must be planning on filling quite a few stockings and it looks like somebody is getting a Polar bear, too.

Gene's wife, Laura has a beautiful voice and has been performing in local musical theatre productions for many years. Naturally, Gene has designed many of the sets.


This was a model he did for the set of Fiddler on the Roof.  

Laura loves that he turned it into a Christmas Mouse Village, complete with carollers.

Over on the other side of the dining room, on the buffet, a Father Christmas and what appears to be a Santa Gnome seem to be a little peeved about the singing mice. 

This is the most recent of Gene's creations. It was a Santa he made last year while dealing with a nasty bout of shingles and I think Laura was performing in a production of Nunsense at the time. So this guy is sporting a bundle of wooden roofing shingles and carrying a set of matryoshka nun dolls. Obviously, Gene has recovered and has even outdone himself in decorating for Christmas this year!

I meant to join Marfi at Incipient Wings for Merry Monday. At least this week I'm only a day behind!

Thanks for stopping by and thanks to Gene and Laura for letting me share their dining room Christmas decorations. See you next week, there's still more rooms left!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Merry Monday, Wednesday Edition - Gene's Santas

Since this was the first Magic Monday of December I thought it would be fun to start out with a look at some of the fabulous versions of Santa produced by our friend, Gene. Last summer he was kind enough to let me share his beautiful garden and I remember thinking I should ask if I could photograph his handmade decorations at Christmas time - totally forgetting that HM and I had a pretty good collection of his masterpieces ourselves!

These were all Christmas gifts that we received from Gene and his wife Laura thoughout the 1990's. I always look forward to unpacking them each year, they are the first decorations to go up and the last ones to get put away. This guy is the tallest, coming in at around 16". His head, hands and feet are sculpted of clay and his beard is made from wool. Those guys in ZZ Top have nothing on this Santa.

Unfortunately, I didn't notice that a bad kitty got a little too curious about the dolly just before this photo was taken. It's fixed now but I thought she looked even more adorable with messy hair.

I forgot to mention that Gene sewed all of the clothing by hand.


Another awesome beard on a soulful face.

This Santa is fashioned out of Sculpey polymer clay and hand painted.

In 1997 he made a coordinating Christmas card featuring Santa in a garden - that looks very familiar.

Finally, there's the Santa dressed in white. He has to live behind glass to stay pristine.

Santa is also the subject of this slightly enlarged, mixed media drawing.
I'll have to ask him if he ever made a Santa dressed like this

Can't forget the ornaments that for the tree. This one is made of painted canvas. In 1992 Gene won The Family Circle/Smithsonian Christmas Tree Decoration Contest with an ornament he made of Santa holding a bubble light. Wonder if he still has the article with the photo of it?

This is the smallest one, just under 3" tall.

One year, Gene made these cute tags to go on the Christmas presents.
There was no way it wasn't ending up on the tree!

Finally, one more Santa ornament. Although he is technically meant to hang on the tree, he has been adorning the top of armoire in our dining room. Everyone can still get a good look at him but his fabulous beard is safe from the entanglement of pine boughs and the reach of curious kitties.

I meant to join Marfi at Incipient Wings for Merry Monday but as usual I'm running behind. Sorry!

Many thanks to Gene and Laura for their friendship over the decades, with luck it will keep going for a few more! I hope everyone enjoyed the visit from Gene's wonderful Santas. Thanks for stopping by.