Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

We wish for a world of peace and joy - a world without fear, or hunger.  A world made new by the resolutions of all of us to improve life for those around us!  Surround yourself with love and know how much we wish for each of you!

Enjoy this year's fireworks from Seattle's Space Needle!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Curiosities

As we searched for Christmas images and folk tales this last month, we came upon a book that shows that Christmas  has not always been the kind and gentle season of "goodwill toward men"!  Christmas Curiosities by John Grossman has some incredible illustrations! 

An overview of the book:  Welcome to Christmas, circa 1800's. Yes, the season of light, joy and gift-giving was once regarded as a time of darkness, danger, and dissipation - and celebrated with all-too-public displays of noise-making, inebriation, and gluttonous overeating.  And though we tend to imagine Victorian- era Christmases as sentimental gatherings around the candlelit tree, blazing hearth and festive punchbowl, the 19th century evidence tells us quite otherwise.

Drawing from his extensive collection of antique postcards, greeting cards, advertising giveaways, and other ephemera, author John Grossman presents a picture of Christmas Past that, frankly looks a lot more like Halloween. Broomstick-riding witches, vampire bat-borne cupids deliver New Year's greetings. Fur-clad fairies gather'round a campfire to roast their Christmas dinner - a huge dead rat.  And Saint Nicholas? He's that skinny guy in the bishop robes who arrives with his dark companion, the Devil-like Krampus brandishing  switches to punish the badly behaved!

Witching you a Merry Christmas!

Glad Tidings to you and yours!  And so's your old man!

There's very little to say about Krampus - here punishing bad children with a switch!  Puts that lump of coal in perspective, doesn't it?

Now, is this guy LEAVING things, or filling his sack?  Santa?  Is that you?

We'll be gone from December 28th to January 4th!  We have family to visit and a New Year to ring in!  You can still order items from our website, and we will fill orders when we return!

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Friday, December 25, 2009

And The Winner Is....

drumroll, please....


Babs, I've sent a note off to you to get your address.  Congratulations - we hope you will enjoy your Blueberry Hill box!

Thank you to everyone who entered - it was a great contest!  We loved reading the Christmas memories and traditions you all posted.  In fact, we are going to save them and maybe post them again around Thanksgiving next year to give folks some ideas of traditions they can start with their families!

I had mentioned that I have a particular Christmas memory of having everything under the tree seeming to be for me!  I found a picture of that Christmas!  You'll see my big brother standing by the tree with a bow and arrow, and there's me on the left, holding a doll I can barely get my arms around!  On the right is the little table and chairs I used for years to play school!  

We have put up a little slide show of some of the Christmas fun here in Seattle.  There are Gingerbread Houses from the Sheraton Hotel display in aid of the Northwest chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and some of the magical lights in the light show at this year's Garden d'Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.  It has been taken down now, but we'll do more special slide shows and youtube movies as time goes on.

We wish for you and yours, a happy and peaceful Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


This was so easy to do - and don't worry if you're not "computer savvy" - before there was "cut and paste" there were scissors and glue!  I colored this card with a photo-editing program, but colored pencils, markers, crayons, etc. will actually do the same job!  :D  The rest was just embellishment that I know you all know how to do, so this will be more about the computer work for those who want to try your hand.  For those who don't - not to worry - I'll point you in the right direction to just get the pictures, print them out and go from there!

First you need to find an image.  This is the only part I have everyone working on the computer for - not to worry - it's easy!  There are a great many sites that offer free and copy-right free clip art.  My favorite is Dover Books.  They have a program for you to sign up for and every week, they send you an email to come get your free samples!  I've been doing this for about 3 years now, and I have a great clip-art library on my computer (backed up on my external hard drive AND another backup program online - I'm not taking any chances!).  Go here to sign up for the Dover free samples.  One caveat:  Dover started this program to sell more books, and it works!  I have lots of their books now.  

If you'd rather not get a weekly newsletter, here are some more sites: This site has some wonderful vintage post cards available - on the main page, click on Antique Postcards and Related Traditions - and then scroll down to see some beautiful old cards.

You will no doubt find more if you Google Antique Clip Art or whatever you are specifically looking for.  In general, the way to capture these images is to select one, right click on the image and choose "save as" from the pop-up menu.  But each site may be a bit different - and they all give instructions on how to get the images onto your computer.  If you're looking at a small thumbnail of a picture, don't save that - click on it to bring it up to full size and save that one.

A word about copyright.  For the most part, these images are copyright-free, but in some cases, they are the work of an artist who has generously offered them up for your use.  Whenever you visit a new site, please carefully read the "rules of use" to be sure you are contemplating using your clip art for an authorized use.

Now that you have some clip art to play with, let's print some and see what we have.  Here's what I printed before I decided what I wanted to do:

Narrowing it down wasn't easy - but I decided I liked the look of that house in the snow, with someone hurrying home in the cold and dark.  But it's in black and white!  Hmmm - well, I could at least make it turn sepia!  Here's a screen-shot of how that looked...

I did that on Publisher - though you could also do it in any photo-editing software.  I just thought I might be adding some other elements with Publisher (in the end, I didn't), so that's where I went.  There are so many different photo editing programs out there, that I couldn't possibly tell you how to change the color in all of them, but if you look through your tools or consult the "help" pages, you'll soon find out how to do it.  In Publisher, you would right-click on the image and a menu will come up that allows you to "change picture".  Select "recolor picture" from that menu and then choose a brown shade.  Click on "apply" and you can see how you like it without closing the color palette.  If you don't like it, you can choose a different color, and keep working at it until you are satisfied.

I decided it didn't look cold enough in the sepia - part of the appeal to me is that the person hurrying home must be cold and anticipating a warm welcome!  I know - I can leave the picture black and white, but put a yellow glow coming from the window!

I did THAT in a photo editing program that allows you to "paint" - again - most will do that, and there are so many.  I used PhotoDraw.  In that program, go up to the tool bar and hover your mouse over "tools" - then click on "paint tools" from the drop-down menu.  A little box will come up that lets you choose the brush, brush size and color.  

So, I put a strong yellow in the two windows I thought should be lit, and then a softer yellow to show the glow coming out the window and reaching to the hurrying person.

Obviously - if you don't want to do this with software, here's where a yellow pencil would come in handy!  

This is more like it - but I think I'd like the moon to be colored, too.

Now it was time to print and decide how to embellish.  I  printed the image on card stock and gathered some things together:

I cut out my card using a cutter for the straight edges and scissors for the curve:

Now comes the really fun part!  I added glitter, and I think I showed admirable restraint here - I HAVE been known to cover the whole picture!  I thought a little white on some of the snow, gold on the moon, and silver for the chimney smoke would be good, but I had some RED glitter....I know!  The person's hat and scarf could be red!

I played with some of the glitter on the other images I had.  After all, I had that RED glitter and I'd hardly had a chance to use it!  

Then, you can see that I tried out a new product to me:  Glimmer Mist - you just spritz this on and get a lovely, pearlized glimmer on the page!  I tried it out on one of my "rejects" - I love it!

I started playing with the buttons, too, as you can see.  Finally, I decided I liked the card I'd been working on as it was, and put some lace around the edges to give it a finished look.  To do that, I used double-sided tape "Terrifically Tacky" tape - it's a really great product - and so much less messy than glue!   I usually end up with my fingers glued together when I use glue!

 And the finished card looks great! I added some red glitter on the edge and it's ready to send!  One down, 67 to go!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Cards

Merry Christmas everyone!  

You probably already knew this, but Becky and I are  very crafty!  We love to make little special gifts and trinkets.  Christmas Cards are on my mind these days - Becky has sent hers out and of course, I keep receiving new cards in the mail every day, but my cards still sit in a stack waiting to be addressed and notes written.  I won't get to them, I know - maybe for the New Year!  Meanwhile, I spent most of today making the card you see above.  I did it with free clip art from the internet, a photo editor, some glitter, double-sided tape and lace!  I put up a tutorial to show you how to make your own!  This is a wonderful project to satisfy your artistic side, and to share some special Christmas memories with any children you know!  It's kind of funny making a craft project and stopping every couple of minutes to take a picture.  Drove my poor husband crazy - just when he thought it was safe to look up again, the flash went off and blinded him.  20 times.  

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that we went to tea in Sumner, WA - that same afternoon, we did some power shopping in a wonderful scrapbooking store, The PaperMuse - oh, my!  We found so many wonderful things in this store, and brought lots home to play with.  The one thing we ALL regret not getting, was the Vintage Glitter - we'll have to go back soon!

I DID get this adorable reindeer "ribbon" though - isn't it wonderful?

Now, you DO have to promise not to laugh at this - I can't find my ribbon that I just bought - so had to hunt it down on the internet to get a picture.  Oh - that's just me!  

We got started on this kick with our post a couple of weeks ago about St. Nicholas - the research took us to a Victorian Era site filled with crafts and ideas for spending Christmas the way Dickens did.  I have so many wonderful Christmas illustrations and thought I'd like to try to make my own Victorian Christmas Card.  

Hand-made cards and gifts are something that many needleworkers love to make.  Here are a few I've received over the years.  As you can see, several of them are mail art - spectacular pieces, and treasured mementos of friends.

When looking at Christmas cards and motifs, we see that there are many motifs that stitchers have loved to include in their  work through the years, and which have wonderful symbolism attached to them!  

The following is from  Sampler Motifs and Symbolism by Patricia Andrle and Lesley Rudnicki .

Angel: The messengers or attendants of God. In recent times, the angel has become a symbol of guardianship. 
Angel with a trumpet: the voice of God; an announcement of the Day of Judgment

Candle or Candlestick: The symbol of Christ as the light of the world; devotion, watchfulness; prayer; hospitality; spirtual illumination of the darkness of ignorance.

Dove:  Peace; charity; mercy and tenderness; innocence; marital fidelity because it was thought to mate for life; humility; simplicity and meekness; the Holy spirit as in "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him" (Luke 3:22)

Hart: Wisdom of God: gentleness; pride and manliness; solitude and purity; Christ as the love of God on Earth.......

Holly: Hope and Joy: winter; the Christmas holidays; the Resurrection.

Ivy: Immortality; tenacity; fidelity; eternal life because it is evergreen 

Finally, we'd love to point you to several blogs that we love to visit.  The creativity of so many people is wonderful, and that we can see what they're doing and share in the excitement through the internet is so terrific!  How did we ever find time to do our research any other way?

Next week, on our appointed publishing day, it will be Christmas!  We will have a pretty slide show to entertain you on that day, as well as the announcement of who has won the contest!  So, after the gifts are all opened, the turkey's in the oven, and everyone else is dozing by the fire, drop by and  see us. 

Don't forget - to be in the drawing for the Blueberry Hill Boxed Set, you must be a follower and post a favorite holiday memory or tradition.  We love to hear your comments, so please, don't be shy!  We will choose a winner on Thursday, December 24th, so please give us your comments before then!

Have the Happiest of Holidays - thoughts of good cheer from our homes to yours!

Becky and Julie

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Contest Rules

NY2TM4PTF7WD This contest is open to everyone - we will choose a name from our followers who leave a comment about their own family traditions or favorite memory.  Everyone is eligible to become a follower.  If you would like to do that, but are having technical difficulties, please contact us at, and we will gladly post your comment for you and enter you into the drawing!

The prize for this contest is one of our special boxed sets!  Blueberry Hill is a lovely set in gorgeous colors, and filled with many needlework toys! (scissors not included)

Blueberry Hill is hand-grain-painted, and all the little toys and treasures inside are hand-crafted by Becky and Julie.  They are a joy to make, and we hope you will find it a pleasure to own!

Good luck!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Traditions

With our compliments of the season - we have been waxing nostalgic of late, and reminiscing about our family holiday traditions.

Julie reports:  "When I was a little girl, we didn't have special Christmas stockings - we hung out our own stockings that we wore!  Now, we didn't just use our socks, though!  I think we used my long stockings (even my two brothers) that were like the full legs of tights!  So it seemed like a very BIG stocking!  We didn't have a fireplace, so the stockings were pinned to our blankets in the morning, and they'd be overflowing with small gifts and treats.  One of the things I loved most was that, right in the toe - at the very bottom, was an orange!  Not just ANY orange, but the strange, delicious fruit only available at Christmas time - a mandarin orange, or tangerine, as we called them.  I realize that all this dates me, hahaha.  But it's a favorite memory.  I realize now that this was all a ploy to keep us kids in bed another hour, as we were strictly told to first open our stockings and play with those toys in bed until Mom or Dad came to get us!

Another cherished memory is that every year, one Friday evening, early in December, we kids would be picked up by our parents in the car at school - something that NEVER happened!  We would all go downtown and have dinner in a restaurant - something else that NEVER happened and seemed so special and exotic.  Then we would do our Christmas shopping.  I grew up in Port Arthur, Ontario in Canada, where we had only two "department type" stores to shop in - Eaton's and Kresge's.  The restaurant was between those two stores, so we piled out of the car and handled everything in about an hour and a half.  Then we went home for hot chocolate, while we listened to the radio playing Christmas songs and wrapped our gifts, at the kitchen table, all while attempting to hide our purchases from everyone else! 

Santa didn't wrap our presents, and when we were little, all our presents were from Santa, so in the morning, you could look under the tree and see everything at once.  I remember one year, when I was about three, it seemed like every gift under the tree was for me.  It probably seemed like that to my brother, too - he was nine and I guess a little old for the Santa routine, and my baby brother would have been just a month old.  When I looked under the tree, there was a small table and chair, just my size, with a blackboard propped up, and with "Merry Christmas" written very prettily in chalk.  A doll about the same size as me was sitting in the chair at the table and a little "TV seat" was there - my Dad had made it out of wood - in the seat was a compartment where I could keep my pajamas, and then I could sit on the seat to watch tv.  It was shaped like a racoon, and I loved it! 

Becky's family also has some lovely traditions.  Tim started the kids sleeping under the tree on Christmas Eve. He said they had done it when he was young, so when our kids were little, we would all sleep under the Christmas tree in our sleeping bags. It made it very hard for Santa to deliver his gifts and fill stockings!!!!!!!!

We open gifts on Christmas Eve with Tim's family and on Christmas day with our immediate family, so the kids never missed out on anything.

One Santa the kids visited when they were small, told them how Rudolph loved onions - so please leave out an onion for him on Christmas Eve, when you leave my milk and cookies. For many years we would leave out an onion for Rudolph, then in the morning there would be a few onion skins on the plate with the cookie crumbs, showing both Santa and Rudolph enjoyed their treats!

Holiday Contest!

Now, we'd like to hear about your holiday traditions!  This contest is open to any followers, so be sure you sign up to be one of our followers - and then leave a comment on this post, telling us one of your holiday traditions, or a treasured memory.  We will choose a winner from the posts and announce the winner of a special holiday present next week!  

Til then, we hope you and yours are enjoying a wonderful holiday season!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Christmas tea!

We just love tea parties - did we mention that already?  A small group of friends got together recently to experience a Victorian Christmas Tea - what fun we had!

Here you'll see just a few highlights.  This is one of our very favorite spots for tea, and if you're ever in the Seattle area, you must go to Sumner, WA for afternoon tea at The Secret Garden!  As you can see from the picture above, the food is beautifully presented - it's also very tasty!  They do it up right, and never more so than at Christmas time, when their dining room is decorated with trees and garlands, and even a "one-horse open sleigh"! 

Wouldn't you love to while away an hour or two here?

And don't forget the beautiful gift shop - looks like Becky's been shopping already!

Jan and Beth, Barbara, and Becky all seem to be enjoying the food and it's lovely presentation!

It was a wonderful day of friendship and sharing and a terrific way to kick off the Christmas season!

Don't forget - next week, we'll be having a special giveaway contest for our followers - sign up to have your chance!

Friday, December 4, 2009


Tradition tells us that some of the earliest beginnings of today’s Santa Claus myth started with Saint Nicolas in Northern Europe! Saint Nicholas was a real person - a fourth century bishop of the city of Myra in what is now Turkey. Over the centuries, he was revered for his good works especially in aid of children, often by secretly leaving money for their care in their shoes as they slept. French nuns began giving candy to children on December 6th, St. Nicholas Feast Day, and the legend began to morph into the Santa Claus we know today, filling children’s stockings hung “in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there”…

Traditional celebrations of Saint Nicholas Day in Northern Europe included gifts left in children's shoes. Good children receive treats - candies, cookies, apples and nuts, while naughty children receive switches or lumps of coal. Sometimes coins were left in the shoes, reminiscent of the life-saving dowries the saint provided. Today - especially in families of German extraction - children still put a shoe outside their bedroom doors on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, and expect to find candy and coins or small gifts in their shoe on December 6th.

In reading about Saint Nicholas, I found a fascinating site which shows a forensically-created image of what Saint Nicholas really looked like, based on the iconographic images available. He DOES look remarkably like Santa!

In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas was known as Sinterklaas, and when the Dutch came to the new world, and settled in what is now New York City, they brought their traditions with them. Sinterklaas became Santa Claus and when Clement Moore wrote “Twas the Night Before Christmas” in the mid-nineteenth Century, Santa Claus was cemented as the image most associated with gift-giving at Christmas, especially for children. (More about this wonderful poem in a later blog).

Gift-giving has now become such a part of Christmas that we can’t imagine not shopping for everyone. There was a time, though, when gifts were small and from the heart – and usually hand-made. There are some wonderful examples of Victorian gifts from needle workers to their friends – tokens of friendship and esteem, which are lovely to behold.  Many people are continuing this lovely tradition today.

The talk of Saint Nicholas filling shoes also put me in mind of the shoe-themed pincushions and thimble-holders, which adorn one of the shelves in my guest room. Here are a few of my favorites.

This little thimble-holder is wonderful!

I love the variety of shoes people used for their pincushions.

Watch next week for an exciting announcement of a contest/giveaway with a holiday theme!  (hint - you must be a follower to win!)

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