Thursday, December 31, 2009

Even The Kitty Brats Deserve Our Love...


I call my kitty cats the kitty "brats" for so many reasons...I'm sure I need not explain ANY to the cat lovers out there!  Both of my cats were street urchins at one point.  Muzzi, the orange tabby, was spied roaming my neighborhood in Providence for several weeks a few years back.  I had thought the family across the street would take him in, as the kids were smitten with him, but, I think they just could not manage.  I started feeding him, and, in less than 24 hours after starting that I decided to bring him in.  He was about 9 months old at the time and a scrappy little bratty boy.  I suspect he was an abandoned housecat who learned to eat from human plates as he was clearly not feral, but resourceful with regard to food, and STILL wants nothing more to eat from my plate today.

When I first brought him into the house, I had to eat standing at the kitchen counter because if I sat down anywhere he would steal food right off my plate.  He was very quick with bread, and, would steal a piece, and, hide under the coffee table to eat it.  If I tried to reach to take it away he would growl and hiss at me.  As an adult, he has mellowed slightly, and, prefers dairy products to all else.  He can hear me remove a package of cheese from the refrigerator from 3 floors away!  I share my vanilla non-fat Greek yogurt with him each morning which keeps us both healthy and happy.

I adopted Carmen from a local shelter when I was living south of here as company for Muzzi.  I was looking for a younger, female cat to not cause a threat to him.  She was perfect, and had the most engaging personality but someone had already selected her for adoption.  I asked the shelter to let me know if the people backed out and they did!  I was able to adopt her and what joy she has brought to all of us!  Carmen loves life. She lives in the moment and holds no grudges.  While she has the curiosity of the Calico (her paws are into everything and she is a climber!) she has never once hissed or swatted in her life.  She does have a little growl, which she reserves mostly for Muzzi, and, occasionally if she is being taken someplace she does NOT want to go.  She loves to climb on people but loathes being picked up.  It took my husband and I three tries - with a pillowcase! - to get her into the carrier to change homes.  She is the most willful cat I have ever known.

I am writing about my cats today, on the last day of the year, as, I am also excited to announce that Carmen and Ginger was able to donate $200 to The Forgotten Cat this year!  Never did I think we would achieve that great of a result by taking 10% of gross profits of Christmas items as a donation but we did!   Thank you to all who made Christmas purchases from both Carmen and Ginger and Hang Out a Shingle this year.  Each one of you contributed to this result. We are so excited to be able to provide this gift to the organization.  It is tiny, and, while $200 seems large to us, it truthfully only pays for a spay, a neuter, some vaccinations and tests and supplies. For the people who usually pay for all of this out-of-pocket, however, and the animals they help, it is a lifesaver.

To read more about The Forgotten Cat click here.

I am posting about this today for a reason.  Carmen and Ginger made our final donation to The Forgotten Cat today so that we can include it in our 2009 tax filing.  Many people in this country also look to make donations by today in order to deduct them from their income taxes for 2009.  I am not a tax expert, so, am not here to advise you about how much to donate or how to file.  What I can tell you is that there is a small amount (I believe $250 for the past few years) up to which you can donate without completing any additional paperwork, then, I think a level beyond that which requires a special form.  I also believe the organization must be registered as a non-profit.  How these donations help you with regard to your taxes varies depending on whether or not you own property, your income, etc.  You would need to look into these details to know how a donation would affect you with regard to taxes.  What I can tell you is that any donation to a worthy cause will both a) help the recipient and b) make you feel better heading into the New Year.   If you are looking for some ideas here are some options:


Alley Cat Allies is a wonderful organization with high ratings from watchdog sites.  Their web-site is very comprehensive and if you are looking to do more than just donate, it can help you to connect with people working with Feral Cat populations in your own area.


   
Lange Foundation - Los Angeles



I used the search and ratings system at Charity Navigator and easily found the three four-star rated organizations in three different areas of the country above.  This site is easily searched and provides ratings of organizations along with their income reporting, a breakdown of how they spend their money, and all sorts of additional supporting information to help you make an informed decision about how to donate wisely.  There are other ratings agencies out there, but this one is exceptionally good, a not-for-profit organization, and, provides data equally to all interested parties and politically slanted media groups.  They have no agenda other then to provide accurate summaries so that people can make informed decisions.
 

I hope you will consider a donation - of money, time, or advocacy - to a cause that is important to you as we head into the new year.  Cats are not for everyone, so, I'll understand if they are not your thing.  But look how cute they are...when sleeping that is!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

O Christmas Tree


Each year I ask my husband to help me decorate the Christmas Tree and each year he declines.  I usually get mad at him and pout, but, as I took photos for this blog post, it occurred to me why this prospect may not seem like "fun" to some...

This table is conveniently beside the tree so that I can layout all my boxes of (mostly) vintage glass ornaments.  To me, this is a wonderful decorating fest.  Which ornament to choose?  Where to place it?  It's like a candy store full of glass confections!  To my husband (and others I am sure!) this is a nightmare!

I tried to piece together three photos above to show what this table looks like full of boxes. This was actually "round two" of what I chose from to decorate the tree!


I started collecting vintage glass ornaments in my early twenties when I had my first "real" apartment (i.e.: not a student apartment in New York City and thus with room for a tree).  I had been trained the "art of the church sale" by my mother and was living in a suburb of Massachusetts that was centrally located to a number of wonderful annual sales.  It was at one of those that I recall heading upstairs from the "white elephant" section to the "Christmas" section where someone had decided to display two boxes full of gorgeous, large glass ornaments.  $1/box.  I bought them both and the rest is history.  (Of course, two years later I awoke to realize our decorated tree was missing and found it laying behind the couch after my roommate's cat had decided to climb it.  Lost some of those original ornaments but a good incentive to find more!)

I know exactly how I came by some ornaments, and, completely forget others.  These above I think I found in a large lot I luckily stumbled across taking some photos for our wedding book a couple of years ago.  These are not the most glamorous of ornaments, but, significant in that they are war-time ornaments.  Note the lack of silvering, the lack of metal toppers and hooks, and, instead, the paper and string hangers!  A wonderful piece of history for the tree...

These beautiful glass acorn ornaments are not vintage but, very important to me.  They were given to me as a housewarming gift by the realtor who helped me find my first house.  She had remembered my admiring them as we were walking the local neighborhood one day, and, went back and purchased them for me as a gift.  Each year when I decorate the tree, I add these beautiful ornaments and am reminded of her thoughtfulness and the excitement of buying that first house all on my own!

I have a thing for stenciled ornaments, and, the faded silvery blue/green color you sometimes find on the mid-century ornaments.  This lovely little one fills both categories.

The bottom of the tree is a special place, especially when you have cats!  Here, I combine some wonderful, Dr. Seuss-like flocked ornaments given to me by the daughter of a friend of mine (they are huge, and fill the open bottom space of the tree wonderfully!) along with foil angels from my childhood (which can be batted but not broken) and what I call "Decoy" ornaments; new silver plastic trees that blend well with the vintage ornaments but, are deliberately hung in tempting cat areas to provide non-breakable decoys...

You see many ornaments sold on-line described as "mercury glass" ornaments but the true mercury glass ornaments are a wonder to behold!

Another new glass ornament provides a sentimental touch.  It was given to us by a very dear friend the year we were married and is just perfect on the tree each year.

A few years ago I spied this little wren's nest in a tree we had selected at a local tree farm.  It was at the very bottom where I was afraid it may get damaged in the trip home so I removed it and add it back into our tree with an antique ornament "egg" each year!  This glass clip-on bird provides the perfect parent to keep watch.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this little tour of our Christmas tree.  This will be my last post before the holiday so I wish you all a Merry Christmas and all the best wishes to your friends and family.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

For the love of...boxes


I've mentioned my affection for vintage Christmas packaging boxes a few times on this blog, but am finally ready to share some photos with you! One of my favorite items is Christmas "Snow" or, Mica Flakes.  The box graphics are wonderful and often you can find the vintage boxes still full of the "snow" which is non-toxic and a wonderful addition to Christmas crafts!  (Note: Mica is a natural silica mineral which is non-toxic.  Take extra care if collecting boxes that may have contained "snow" made from other materials - such as asbestos - which are NOT non-toxic and should be handled with great care!)  Please also note that the box shown in the middle of the bottom row is vintage, but, reproductions from Bethany Lowe are also available.  If purchasing for a collection, be sure you are aware if you are purchasing an original or reproduction box.

"Angel Hair" of spun glass fibers and tree "icicles" were other items that were traditionally packaged in terrifically designed boxes.  Please note that while these items are wonderful for display, they are also items that are not longer manufactured from the same materials for safety reasons.  They should be handled by adults and are safer not used as originally shown!  (i.e. draped from the tree where small hands and pets can reach them...)

Doubl-Glo is one of my favorite brands for packaging.   The designs, often limited to only two or three colors, are typically excellent and wonderful examples of mid-century aesthetics.




Electric lights were always packaged with fantastic graphics from when they were a brand new novelty in the 1920's to the mainstay of the Christmas decoration in the 1950's.  Often the box tops had die-cut sections that allowed for a fold-back display feature; the logic of which is unsure to me.  Perhaps it was part of the store display?  It certainly does make them wonderful for display in your home at the holidays!  While I did not plan to address safety so much in this blog post, I must mention that I rarely plug in any vintage lighting outfits.  First of all, for the first 40 years or so, if one light in the line blew out, you would have to find and replace that one bulb to get them all working again.  This alone, combined with the rarity of finding the correct functioning replacement lights, makes it difficult.  Second, the bulbs - unlike today's lights - generate a LOT of heat and should be watched very carefully.  Finally, many of the vintage cords are brittle and are no longer safe for use.  While it is possible to use some vintage lights, they should only be used indoors, after the cords and plug are all inspected, in an area where the hot bulbs cannot touch or be too close to anything flammable and only when under constant supervision.  Sort of takes the fun out of it, I know, which is why I usually just display the box!




 
Sometimes some of the best things come in the smallest packages, as shown by these great little vintage boxes of ornament hangers.




And if you are curious to see what I do with these boxes, I just set them out alongside everything else!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pancakes!


Ok, I know I said this was NOT going to be a food blog, and, believe me, it is NOT.  I am preparing a few more Christmas posts before the holiday this week, but, on this snowy New England Day, the day after our annual holiday party, I decided to post some pics of some warm, gooey pancakes.

I actually made these pancakes for my husband the day after Thanksgiving but had held onto the pics for a bit.  These are whole wheat cinnamon walnut pancakes.  To create these, I start with the Fannie Farmer Cookbook Griddlecake recipe, and, follow the instructions for whole wheat (use 1/3 whole wheat flour and 2/3 all-purpose flour - more whole wheat flour can actually get very pasty...)  To this batter I add about a cup of walnuts, a teaspoon of cinnamon and  a pinch of ground clove.   I also used brown sugar in place of the white sugar.  Others substitute molasses for a dark sweet taste!

Personally, I am not a fan of cooked fruit, but, my husband is, as are my mom and and my aunt, so, when preparing for others, I slice apples thin, and, sort of saute them in butter and sugar until the butter carmelizes a bit and the apples soften.  To this mix I also added some grated fresh ginger (stored in the freezer).  I leave this part out of my own pancakes but, have been told by my husband that it tastes very good!

With all the butter and sugar in there it seems silly to add a low-fat option, but, I use zero-fat vanilla yogurt (Chobani or Oikos are my preferences) layered between to add some creamy goodness with a little less guilt!  On top of that are the caramelized ginger apples and then, top off with another pancake!  Yup, that is additional butter and maple syrup on top, so, not exactly a low-cal or low fat option, but, the whole wheat flour, nuts and non-fat yogurt make it a little better for you.  (But this is NOT health food - just yummy food!)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter Wonderland


I have collected vintage photos for years and some of my favorite subjects are winter and Christmas season themes!  I decided they would make a nice little blog post for you on this ****brrr!**** quite cold day (in New England, anyway!)  As you sit home with your morning coffee, think of these happy snow sledders!

If snowmen are more your taste, here is one that dates to the 1940's ( I think these may be Brown University students...) and one from several decades before that!

Lest you think those Edwardian women did nothing but loll around in their overstuffed parlours, think again!  Here are a few out playing peek-a-boo in the snow around a Christmas greens decorated column!

For me, nothing goes together for the holidays quite like barkcloth and Christmas decorations!  Here is a fantastic photo of a couple (we assume they have no kids!) with their cat, dog and Putz village collection!  The tropical barkcloth drapes just make the tableau! Below is a mid-fifties Christmas morning complete with small, medium and large bikes, mod lamp, MCM couch and fab abstract barkcloth drapes!

Christmas morning is a time for families and kids never look so happy as they do right after Santa's visit!

If you've seen my wreaths in Hang Out a Shingle then you already know I have a "thing" for these vintage family greeting photo cards!

From another Etsy seller I purchased this great set of photos of a little boy visiting Santa at Hess Brothers in Allentown.  Above is 1952 and 1953.  Below is 1954, 1955 and 1956.  I assume after that he was just too old for Santa...


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bring Me The Head of Santa


There is just something decidedly Salome-like about this girl with her pouty, guilty expression, and, well, the fact that she is carrying Santa's head in her hands.  So when my mom turned to show me this smaller version she found at a Flea Market earlier this year I almost died.  My family has a very quirky take on the holiday as we all refer to this figurine as "Bring Me the Head of Santa."


Although I began with the most "macabre" of our family holiday decorations, the point of this post is actually another "My Credentials" as I was at my mom's house over the weekend and snapped some pics of her holiday decor.  If you love vintage Christmas items keep reading; you are sure to be impressed! (and a tad jealous...)




Believe it or not, this is a pared down version of her collection!  Since my parents have very little storage in their home, all the stuff has to be stored within and retrieved from an attic crawlspace.  A year or so ago she decided to pare down, but, of course, she is still buying new stuff, and, I still find stuff for her (Can't show it until after the holidays though or I'll ruin the surprise!)  The Santas make up the majority of the collection, so, that is what I look for. (Shh!)



What better decor combination than vintage yellow pottery and sassy gnomes in an antique hutch?  Country Living Magazine, eat your heart out!



This arrangement looks amazing at night, with just the Santa lights and lights from the tree lighting the room!

I will leave you with these delightful vintage gnomes on the mantel.  Ahhh...the wonders of vintage Christmas decor!

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